Activist group targets Mormon Church tax status in ad campaign

This screenshot shows rights activist Fred Karger in a commercial challenging the tax exempt status of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be released in TV markets in Utah Jan. 11, 2017 | Photo courtesy of Rights Equal Rights, St. George News

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.

Presidential candidate Fred Karger visits Judd's Mercantile in St. George, Utah, June 7, 2012 | Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St. George News
This file photo shows then-presidential candidate Fred Karger visiting Judd’s Mercantile in St. George, Utah, June 7, 2012 | Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St. George News

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.

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 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, 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.”


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  • ScanMeister January 11, 2017 at 6:52 am

    This really might be an issue with a DNC administration. Might have to wait eight years for any traction on this. Supreme court justices will not look favorably penalizing religious organizations for their beliefs.

  • 42214 January 11, 2017 at 8:18 am

    All income should be taxed. Churches of all denominations are businesses. Many have vast real estate holdings and business interests no different than for profit corporations. The only answer to tax equity is everyone pays taxes. We are approaching a country where 50% of the people are paying for the other 50%.

  • theone January 11, 2017 at 9:12 am

    All religions should be taxed. They are nothing more than cults that brainwash people into giving what little money they have to their organization.
    The day man lets go of god is the day we live in peace.

    • comments January 11, 2017 at 3:01 pm

      “The day man lets go of god is the day we live in peace.”

      completely untrue

    • ladybugavenger January 13, 2017 at 1:47 pm

      You are talking about false peace Theone.

      You are confusing God with religion. Don’t do that- God is not a religion.

  • NotSoFast January 11, 2017 at 10:23 am

    You don’t suppose George Sorros is banking this progressive attack, do you? Check Mr. Karger pockets/ books to see where his (quote) personal money and contributions to his cause are coming from. Don’t be surprised at what you learn.

  • Brian January 11, 2017 at 10:34 am

    I think it’s hilarious that they keep leaking these videos and documents that make the LDS church look squeaky clean. “Breaking News: LDS leaders eat cornflakes for breakfast!”.

    All these guys are doing is proving they’re bitter morons with nothing better to do with their time.

  • comments January 11, 2017 at 12:06 pm

    It’s a cute thought but it aint gonna happen.

  • ladybugavenger January 11, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    Why is it important to say this man is gay?

    • ladybugavenger January 11, 2017 at 12:27 pm

      I’m sorry, I was assuming. Here’s my new unassuaming question, why is it important to say, “gay rights activist”

      If I’m ever in the news, I’d like to be referred to as a “not gay, US citizen, white woman that was born in America”

      • dogmatic January 11, 2017 at 3:00 pm

        thats his real issue with the Mormon church. study his history. His motive is vengeance .
        He ran for president in 2008 as a open gay republican.
        does he have to wear a T shirt that reads gay activist for you to get it ?
        read the link, do your home work.

        • ladybugavenger January 12, 2017 at 8:48 am

          No thanks, I don’t want to learn about him. The mormon church shouldn’t be political, and it is, therefore, it shouldn’t be tax exempt.

          When the heads of a church are rich and/or millionaires, there is something wrong with that church. Not just mormon leaders, Joel Oesteen comes to mind. It reminds me of a pay to play scam.

      • .... January 12, 2017 at 1:43 am

        I bought a new lawn mower

  • dogmatic January 11, 2017 at 12:56 pm

    Typical gay activist, organized “Californicaters against hate” while he hates everybody that does not agree with him.
    Instead of hating Mormons he should spend his efforts into promoting his own peaceful religion, Judaism: that is more tolerant to gays. Their is a Religion and a place for everyone in America.

  • Sapphire January 11, 2017 at 1:13 pm

    That’s right, make the LDS church waste the tithing of hard working Mormons on lawyers. This man needs too much attention, and in our hate-filled society will probably get it.

  • peanutz714 January 11, 2017 at 1:25 pm

    The LDS Church should not retain it’s tax status. The reason is that it interferes with the political processes all around the country. I can remember when I was younger there was a ballot measure for para mutual betting. It was going to pass until the church interfered . Proposition 8 in California is another example. Not only did they tell all members not to vote for it, they donated money to the opposition. This is a clear violation of church and state. In Utah , there is no separation of Church and State. They act more as a corporation, lobbying organization then a religious group. Stick to your worshipping and then you can keep your tax status.

    • Mike January 11, 2017 at 10:12 pm

      I fully agree with you. This guy’s argument should be about how political the church is, not what his former Mormons are objecting to, “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.” That’s what a church is allowed to do. No adult is forced to be a member. What they should not be allowed to do is pay for political campaigns.

    • Brian January 11, 2017 at 11:40 pm

      I agree, but not for the same reason as you. I want the LDS church to voluntarily walk away from their 503c status so they’re free to speak their mind on any issue for any reason to any degree they want and can get involved politically on all moral issues they feel the need to defend. Also, I don’t think anyone should be getting tax deductions for any reason. The rates should be far lower, only on sales tax (zero property or income tax of any kind at any level), and April 15th should be just another day of the year.

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