Media and LDS apologists at FAIRMormon have used catch phrases to describe the Mormon Fraud Case in the UK as an attack on religious belief. In a blog, FAIR contributor and “US Civil Defense Lawyer” aptly named Steve Densely Jr. opined that: "English law does not allow courts to adjudicate on issues of religious belief."
However, I believe the House of Lords (UK Supreme Court) would quite disagree with the media and FAIR that this a case about religious worship. And they do adjudicate on these issues. Have done so very nicely in fact. There’s a strong precedent in a case brought to the House of Lords by the tax agent (Valuator) against the LDS Corporation. The LDS Corporation argued unsuccessfully that its UK temple property should not be taxed. See Judgments - Gallagher (Valuation Officer) V Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for the actual decision, quoted below. (hat tip to Christopher Ralph for finding and providing this link.)
In the decision that was on appeal (dismissed in 2008), the primary counsel for the LDS Corporation (Sumption QC) attempted to define for the Lords that the LDS temple is a public place of worship. The Lords went through each of the candidate definitions of various structures owned by the LDS Corporation to categorize and define the temple. They ruled it is not as a charity (“it would be unwise to regard charity law as a paradigm of rationality” para. 7, 9), not a training center (para. 19-20), not administrative offices (para. 10, 19), not intended to support maintenance of the grounds and buildings (para. 21), not a hotel of “accommodations” to patrons (para. 21), and not a workshop, a daycare facility or cafeteria (para. 1).
So how did the Lords decide to define the temple?
Paragraph 5 is key:
“…the Temple is not a place of “public religious worship” because it is not open to the public. It is not even open to all Mormons. The right of entry is reserved to members who have acquired a “recommend” from the bishop after demonstrating belief in Mormon doctrine, an appropriate way of life and payment of the required contribution to church funds. Such members are called Patrons and the rituals which take place in the Temple are exclusive to them. These facts are agreed.” (emphasis added)
These facts are agreed: not a place of public religious worship. Exclusive “patrons” -- not every Mormon (and certainly not the general public) -- must adhere to strict criteria to enter the temple, including demonstrating belief in Mormon doctrine and paying the required contribution.
The language in this House of Lords decision is a precedent. The LDS Corp lost its appeal to define the temple as a place of public religious worship. The Lords define it as a place of ritual exclusive to paying patrons.
Lord Hope of Craighead tells the LDS counsel: “Temple is not entitled to exemption” (para. 36) and that “I cannot accept Mr Sumption’s primary argument that the Temple is a place of public religious worship.” And this based on an earlier precedent (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints v Henning (VO)  AC 420) in which “Parliament has been content that the words “a place of public religious worship” should continue to receive the interpretation that the House gave to them in Henning.” (para. 26)
Sorry LDS Corp, your temple is not entirely exempt. All the Lords agreed to dismiss, most of them using similar language. It's not a charity either. And worse, the House of Lords has ruled that payment AND demonstration of belief in certain beliefs are the basis for exclusive entry into this non-exempt, non-religious, ritual performing, patron house. Not just the basis, but “required” was the word.
Once again, as I wrote in "Obey, Pay and don't look at Internet-Hearsay" and as Lord Hoffman elucidates a "recommend" giving "right of entry" makes the temple worthiness interview is a key part of how this fraud case comes together. Exclusivity is dependent on accepting beliefs that Phillips argues have been falsely represented and payment is secured before you can go in. The word “required” is used in Lord Hoffman’s decisive precedent. Tithing is “required”.
Mormons have argued that it is not a requirement to believe and tithing is not forced. But the House of Lords seemed to disagree with the Mormons.
Oh double snap!
Sorry, FAIR. Sorry, Monson.
Bloody Brilliant, my Lords. Praise the House of Lords!
Kay Burningham, an American lawyer, and author of "An American Fraud: One Lawyer's Case against Mormonism" told me:
"The UK has no real equivalent to the US First Amendment with regard to religious freedom. The freedom of religion clause has historically been used as a defense by religious organizations whenever fraud charges (whether criminal or civil) have been filed against them in the US. Not a barrier in the UK, though. Some have even characterized the UK as 'hostile' to religions. More accurate to say it does not give organized religions preferential status over other, secular, non-profits."
Also noteworthy is paragraph 13 of the House of Lords decision:
"In order to constitute discrimination on grounds of religion, however, the alleged discrimination must fall “within the ambit” of a right protected by article 9, in this case, the right to manifest one’s religion. In the present case, the liability of the Temple to a non-domestic rate (reduced by 80% on account of the charitable nature of its use) would not prevent the Mormons from manifesting their religion. But I would not regard that as conclusive. If the legislation imposed rates only upon Mormons, I would regard that as being within the ambit of article 9 even if the Mormons could easily afford to pay them. But the present case is not one in which the Mormons are taxed on account of their religion. It is only that their religion prevents them from providing the public benefit necessary to secure a tax advantage. That seems to me an altogether different matter."Pay attention to the words "alleged discrimination" and the Lord's opinion that taxing (and thereby exercising government control over) the Mormons for their teachings and practices in the temple is not discrimination because they still have the right to manifest their beliefs.
Even if the fraud case prevails in showing they use false representations, that will still allow them to preach their sermons from the Book of Mormon. They can believe it. They might not be able to tie a testimony in provably false information to requiring tithing and the temple, however. That is reserved for Patrons of exclusive right, and as such, seems to fall into government scrutiny by this case.
It makes sense. If you get involved in a diet plan, in an investment or any other system that claims to bring you some benefit through membership and strict adherence to its system, you expect that the information used to build that system is as truthful as can be. If the company taking your money provides you with false representations and lures you into their diet or investment system with false information, it needs to be exposed and shut down.
Why should a religious corporation receive an exemption from speaking truth? The House of Lords didn't see a case for tax exemption in the case referenced. They won't see a truth exemption either.