A British judge has dumbfounded legal experts by ordering Thomas S. Monson, the current president of the Mormon Church, to appear in court on March 14 and prove the factual statements that his religion makes.
A former Mormon has sued the church under the Fraud Act of 2006 that outlaws making a profit from false representations. Tom Philips argues that the Mormon church uses statements, such as “that Joseph Smith translated The Book of Mormon from ancient gold plates, that Native Americans are descendants of a family of Israelites, and that death didn’t exist on this planet until 6,000 years ago” to get tithes from its member. He says that these are presented as statements of fact, not opinions, and thus should be substantiated.
Lawyers are doubtful that this move will get very far.
A British solicitor, Harvey Kass, said “I can’t imagine how it got through the court process. It would be set aside within 10 seconds, in my opinion.” Neither Kass nor Addison believes the British government will act upon the summonses and seek to extradite Monson, or that the United States would comply with an extradition request made on anti-religious grounds.
Philips says that he used to be a bishop, stake president, and area executive secretary which I gather made him a fairly serious player in the church.
According to Phillips’ online biography, he converted to Mormonism in 1969 and rose through Church leadership for 33 years. Before leaving the faith in 2004, the biography says, he served as LDS area controller for the British Isles and Africa, and as financial director for corporate entities in the United Kingdom.
Phillips said his belief in LDS doctrines eroded as he began researching questions raised by fellow Mormons. He now describes himself as “a secular humanist or atheist, or whatever you want to call it,” adding, “I do not see evidence of God.”
But it seems to me like a good idea to require leaders of all religions provide evidence in support of their factual statements. Why should they be exempt from truth in advertising laws?
We can start with Jesus rising from the dead.