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Thursday, February 6, 2014

President Monson Accused of Fraud

This week, news that Mormon President Thomas S. Monson has been accused by an English court of fraud went public.  News outlets of all kinds have been reporting the story since it broke a couple of days ago, each providing its own spin on how these charges will (or won't) play out, along with the impact they will have on the Mormon church.

The criminal complaint that levies these charges against President Monson (and Mormonism in general) are the workings of one Tom Phillips, a former member of the Mormon faith who had served the church in a number of positions, including Stake President and Area Executive Secretary.  Long story short, Mr. Phillips withdrew from the church, due to what he calls "the lack of historical evidence, of any kind" to support the church's claims.

Since his departure from the Church, Mr. Phillips has made no qualms about his disdain for Mormonism.  As the managing editor of the Mormonthink website, Mr. Phillips has attempted to bring to light many of the issues that have troubled him (and many other Mormons) and eventually led to his departure from the faith. Mr. Phillips is also a regular commentator on the ExMormon website, where he posts under the name "anointedone."  The clever moniker is the result of his having gone public about receiving the "Second Anointing" within the walls of the London Temple some years ago (you can listen to his very detailed interview with John Dehlin about this experience by clicking here).

The complaint that Mr. Phillips has levied essentially states that since serving as church president, Thomas S. Monson has acted "dishonestly" and has intended to "make gain for himself" by defrauding one Christopher Denis Ralph, who was "misled" and "induced" to pay tithing to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Below is a copy of the actual court document:

The allegations of fraud center on the claims that President Monson knowingly teaches that which he believes to be false (i.e. that the Book of Abraham, Book of Mormon, etc. are fraudulent documents).

Of course, how one chooses to view these accusations depends greatly on how one chooses to view Mormonism.  For the critic, the accusations probably make sense.  After all, the Book of Abraham, which has been hailed by Egyptologists as an outright fraud since the 19th century, is a difficult hurdle to jump for even the most devout Mormons. For faithful Mormons, however, these allegations only serve as further evidence that adversity will always come knocking at the doors of the righteous.

Whatever your personal views may be, the fact of the matter is that this case will be judged based on the rules of law.  Does Tom Phillips have a case?  Has Thomas S. Monson actually committed fraud against Mr. Ralph, thereby enriching himself and the church?

In my opinion, the answer to these questions is a resounding HELL NO!!!

First off the accusations of fraud brought by Mr. Phillips are dependent upon the British Fraud Act of 2006, which "prohibits false representations made to secure a profit or to cause someone to lose money."  Based on this law, Mr. Phillips must convince the British court of two things:
1.) President Monson KNOWINGLY made false representations of Mormon beliefs (i.e. he stated that the Book of Abraham, Book of Mormon, etc. are "true" while knowing they were not).
2.) President Monson made these representations in order to profit from others.  
The first point is virtually impossible to prove.  To ascertain whether or not somebody believes in his/her religious convictions or is simply giving them lip service is completely speculative and hardly a matter for any legitimate court to determine.  And even if President Monson were to say that he didn't believe in the tenants of his faith, it is still virtually impossible to prove fraud. Simply put, Mr. Phillips' accusations are more bark than bite.  In the words of another English citizen, they are "Much Ado About Nothing."

And I am far from being along in that sentiment. Neil Addison, a former crown prosecutor and author on British religious freedom, responded to this criminal complaint against President Monson by saying:
I'm sitting here with an open mouth.  I think the British courts will recoil in horror. This is just using the law to make a show, an anti-Mormon point. And I'm frankly shocked that a magistrate has issued it. 
Harvey Kass, a British solicitor, is also stunned by the summons, calling it "bizzare," and adding: "I can't imagine how it got through the court process.  It would be set aside within 10 seconds in my opinion." I couldn't agree more.  Regardless of how one feels about Mormonism, the right to religious freedom is a fundamental principle that should not be toyed with.

In reality, Tom Phillips' quest to "expose" the "myth" behind Mormonism will probably do more to bolster the faith of Mormons than anything else.  It's hard to see how this accusation could be motivated by anything other than resentment for the faith he has left behind...but can't seem to leave well enough alone.  In my opinion, this accusation will be dead on arrival.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Harvey Kass is "Stunned" by the summons, calling it "Bizarre" If Mr. Kass only knew how Bizarre the Mormon church was, he wouldn't be using the word "Bizarre" to describe the summons, but rather the LDS, Mormon religion.