A former Mormon convinced a British court to issue two summonses to appear against the current president of the Mormon Church on February 5. Tom Phillips filed his complaint against Thomas S. Monson based on the Fraud Act of 2006, a British law that disapproves making profits on false representations. According to Philips, the Mormon Church uses factually untrue statements to obtain tithes from church members.
Court records show that the facts in question are in fact tenets of the Mormon faith. Some of these untrue facts revolve around Joseph Smith translating The Book of Mormon from ancient gold plates, Native Americans being descendants of Israelites and death never having existed until 6,000 years ago.
“These are not statements of mere ‘beliefs’ or opinions or theories. They are made as actual facts and their truthfulness can be objectively tested with evidence,” wrote Philips.
While Phillips hopes to prove these facts untrue with the help of scientific evidence, it is doubtful whether such evidence will have the force of law inside a British courtroom.
Neil Addison, a former crown prosecutor who specializes in issues relating to religious freedom, said he was “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.”
Since 2007, the Mormon Church in England has obtained more than $257 million in tithes. According to the summonses, Monson must come to England and prove that they were not collected on false grounds.
“I can’t imagine how it got through the court process. It would be set aside within 10 seconds, in my opinion,” said Harvey Kass, a British solicitor.
Neither Addison nor Kass believes the British government will act upon the summonses and try to extradite Monson. They also believe that the United States will not comply with an extradition request that has been made on anti-religious grounds.