Tom Phillips is a former member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He recently brought charges of fraud against President Thomas S. Monson. These charges were on behalf of two complainants. Stephen Bloor and Christopher D. Ralph. Mr. Phillips is the current general editor of mormonthink.com and presented a “private prosecutoral” accusation of fraud in British Courts. Today, it is being reported by the BBC News and Deseret News that a judge has dismissed the charges of fraud against the Mormon leader and the LDS Church in general.
The fraud summons is based on three particular factors. First, between February 2008 and December 2013, two individuals were fraudulent induced to contribute “tithing” to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These men (and those who are disaffected members of the Church that have left) were induced into paying this “annual tithe” on the premise of supposed false teachings of the Church. These teachings were based on the age of the earth, origin of the human species, translation and publication of the Book of Mormon and its origins, and the origins of Native Americans.
The second factor in this fraud summons, as Tom Phillips argues, is based on the fraud act of 2006. The accusation of fraud is summed up in this statement from the actual summons itself:
“That between 3rd February 2008 and 31st December 2013 dishonestly and intending thereby to make a gain for himself or another or a loss or risk of loss to another made or caused to be made representations to Stephen Colin Bloor, which were and which you knew were or might be untrue or misleading and thereby induce the said Stephen Colin Bloor to pay an annual tithe to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints …”
According to BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott, a pursuit of this type of court case would have had “awkward implications” for other religions.
Despite this, the Deseret News reports that Mr. Tom Phillips is not done fighting this particular battle against the LDS Church and is quoted as saying: My legal team will leave no stone unturned.
This raises a question regarding religious freedom – not only in the United States, but also overseas in countries like Europe where religious history and expression are a rich part of the culture. The question is: Will it be allowable under secular law to challenge, prosecute and convict religious beliefs under the pretense of intent to commit fraud?