Lawsuit appealed Mormon church’s use of donations

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — James Huntsman, a member of one of Utah’s most prominent families and brother of a former governor, persists in his argument that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints used the donations that the church solicited for charity for commercial purposes.

Huntsman, a member of one of Utah’s most prominent families, filed an appeal Friday with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. A California federal judge dismissed Huntsman’s suit against the church in September, saying no reasonable juror would believe church leaders made false claims about how the funds would be used.

Huntsman, brother of former U.S. diplomat and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr. and son of late billionaire philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr., said he was defrauded of millions of dollars over the past 24 years of giving 10% of his annual income to the church. He is asking for the return of $5 million.

Contributions to the Utah-based faith, widely known as the Mormon Church, “are used for a wide range of religious purposes, including missionary work, education, humanitarian causes, and site building. meetinghouses, temples, and other buildings important to the work of the Church,” spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement after the lawsuit was filed.

The trial was filed more than a year after a former church investment manager filed a whistleblower complaint with the IRS, claiming the church misled members and possibly violated federal tax rules for religious organizations by using an affiliated investment arm to set aside about $1 billion a year on $7 billion the faith received annually in member donations. The whistleblower’s lawsuit said the church’s investments amounted to $100 billion.

The church reports its largest investment fund held nearly $38 billion at the end of 2019. The report did not detail all of the church’s investments.

Huntsman said he plans to give the millions of dollars in damages he seeks to “organizations and communities whose members have been marginalized by the teachings and doctrines of the Church, including making donations to charities supporting LGBTQ, African American and women’s rights.

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