SALT LAKE CITY – A former Mormon is using the British judicial system to bring to light what he perceives as fundamental lies in the faith’s tenets.
Thomas Phillips has filed a criminal complaint in London accusing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints President Thomas Monson of fraud. A British magistrate signed the summons Jan. 31, ordering Monson to appear before the court in March.
However, British legal scholars say it’s unlikely Monson will be forced to attend any hearing or that the lawsuit will move forward, according to The Arizona Republic, which first reported the story.
“I’m frankly shocked that a magistrate has issued it (the summons),” said Neil Addison, a former crown prosecutor in England and author on religious freedom.
In the summons, Phillips lays out seven claims made by Mormons he believes are false. They include the beliefs the Book of Mormon was translated from ancient gold plates by church founder Joseph Smith, and all humans descend from two people, Adam and Eve, who lived about 6,000 years ago.
He told The Associated Press by phone from his home in Portugal he took the legal route after trying other methods for years to get church leaders to answer questions about parts of the doctrine. He said he’s protecting children raised in the church and standing up for Mormons who are branded as evildoers for questioning church fundamentals.
Phillips brought the lawsuit under a British law enacted in 2006 that makes it illegal to make false representations for profit.
“The church perpetuates these lies to maintain its tithing stream of income,” said Phillips, who spent 35 years in the church. He served as a bishop of his local congregation and president of a grouping of congregations.
Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said officials occasionally receive documents like these seeking to “draw attention to an individual’s personal grievances or to embarrass Church leaders.
“These bizarre allegations fit into that category,” he said in a statement.
Two separate summons were sent to Monson on behalf of two different men who claim they’ve been paying tithes.
Addison said British law precludes challenges to theological beliefs in secular courts.