Wave of Lawsuits Hits Mormon Church Over Alleged Misuse of Member Donations – Sixth Case Filed in California

Wave of Lawsuits Hits Mormon Church Over Alleged Misuse of Member Donations – Sixth Case Filed in California

In the ongoing legal saga, a sixth lawsuit accusing the Mormon church of fraudulently misspending member donations has been filed in California, marking the latest in a series of claims that commenced with movie mogul James Huntsman’s $5 million lawsuit against the church.

Legal experts remain skeptical of the allegations, suggesting a potential motive of disaffected former members seeking refunds.

Proliferation of Copycat Lawsuits

The latest lawsuit, brought forth by Gene and Michelle Judson, long-time members of the Mormon church from California, alleges that church leaders misled them about the expenditure of $40,000 in member donations.

This marks the fifth ‘copycat’ lawsuit since October, triggering a wave of legal challenges across multiple jurisdictions, creating what the plaintiffs’ attorneys describe as a moment of reckoning for the church.

Legal Experts Express Doubt

Despite the increasing number of lawsuits, legal experts question the validity of the claims, asserting that they appear driven by disaffected former members seeking financial retribution.

Sam Brunson, a Mormon and tax law professor, expresses skepticism about the impending judgment day for the church, highlighting the potential challenges in proving fraudulent activities.

Church Denies Allegations

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), commonly known as the Mormon church, has categorically dismissed the claims as baseless.

The lawsuits uniformly contend that the church misrepresented the use of member donations, specifically tithes, and assert that ecclesiastical leaders, including former President Gordon B. Hinckley, made false statements about the allocation of funds.

Claims Hinge on Doctrinal Dispute

At the heart of the lawsuits is a dispute over whether tithing funds, intended for specific religious purposes, were diverted to fund the City Creek Center, a luxury mall in Salt Lake City.

The church contends that only earnings from invested tithings managed by Ensign Peak were utilized for the project. The cases rely on whistleblower David Nielsen’s allegations and a prior SEC fine against the church.

Calls for Financial Transparency

Amidst the legal turmoil, calls for greater financial transparency within the church echo, with Professor Brunson urging the LDS to provide more clarity on its finances.

While acknowledging a broader movement of discontent among some Mormons regarding financial handling, he questions the sincerity of the claims, suggesting they may be perceived as attempts by disaffected individuals to reclaim contributions.

Prospects of Legal Success Questioned

Despite James Huntsman’s successful appeal, legal experts doubt the overall success of the cases, citing internal doctrinal issues as potential hurdles.

The church’s insistence on distinguishing between actual tithing and earnings on invested tithings presents a religious question that could play into its favor, making it challenging for the plaintiffs to prove fraud.

Wealth Accumulation Revelation

These legal battles unfold against the backdrop of revelations regarding the Mormon church’s amassed wealth, estimated at $236 billion, primarily held in its secretive investment arm, Ensign Peak Advisors.

Details of the church’s financial practices have sparked discussions about the utilization of funds and charitable contributions in alignment with the expectations of its followers.

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