ST. GEORGE — A California man and his organization are asking for documents and information regarding the finances of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The stated purpose is to strip the church of its tax-exempt status.
Gay rights activist, former presidential candidate and Mormon church critic Fred Karger of Los Angeles, the leader of the organization Rights Equal Rights, held a news conference Tuesday at the Salt Lake City Hilton.
Karger debuted a new commercial that will air this week on Salt Lake City cable television directed by noted filmmaker Kristina Lapinski.
Featuring Karger and four 20-something former Mormons, the individuals in the commercial describe what they consider to be misdeeds by the church, including the organization’s treatment of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities and its refusal to consider the ordination of women.
“After this policy that the church came out with calling same sex couples who were Mormon ‘apostates,’ having them leave the church, and disallowing their children in the church until they were 18,” Karger said, “it caused a rash of Mormon teen suicides all over the country, I decided to fight back for those kids who were gone and for many that were suffering.”
Karger said the biggest vulnerability the LDS church has is its tax-exempt status.
“So I started up mormontips.com to seek help from ex-Mormons and Mormons and the general public on any abuse of their tax-exempt status on two fronts,” Karger said and continued, naming those fronts: “The political side, which I’m more familiar with and have a lot of evidence already on all their political activities … and then on the business side, where they have this massive mass business empire which they’re now more emboldened about discussing it.”
Karger said the group will look to see if the church is actually paying taxes on their for-profit companies, the structure of their business interests and if there are actually any tax code violations.
The advertisement scheduled to begin airing in Utah TV markets for seven days, titled “Help Us,” asks people to share any information or documents that may be useful to the group as they plan to file a complaint with the IRS.
Karger refers people with legally obtained documents to ex-Mormon activist Ryan McKnight’s website, mormonleaks.io where tips can be submitted anonymously. Tips can also be phoned in confidentially to Karger’s organization, which will then investigate the claims, he said.
Karger is bankrolling this campaign out of his personal funds, however he has plans to begin crowdfunding the operation.
The LDS church had no comment when contacted about this matter.
“This will be the biggest, loudest and most comprehensive challenge to a church’s tax-exempt status in history,” Karger said. “As we find out information, either by our own investigation or receive it from others, we will publicize that.”
- Mormon Tips – Fred Karger
- Mormon Leaks – Ryan McKnight
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints