SALT LAKE CITY – James Huntsman, a member of one of Utah's most prominent families and brother of a former governor, sued The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, accusing it of fraud and seeking to recover millions of dollars in contributions.
The federal lawsuit, filed Monday, asserts that the church spent members’ donations that were solicited for charity on commercial purposes. Huntsman alleges the Utah-based faith known widely as the Mormon church has “repeatedly and publicly lied” about the use of billions of dollars in contributions meant to pay for missionary work, temples and other educational and charitable work.
Huntsman, brother of former U.S. diplomat and ex-Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and son of late billionaire philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr., said he was defrauded out of millions during the 24 years he gave 10% of his annual income to the church. He runs a film distribution company in Southern California.
“This is not a case about faith; it is a case about fraud and corporate greed,” the lawsuit said.
Members are asked to contribute 10% of their income to the church. The practice, which is used in other faith groups, isn’t required for church members but is strongly encouraged.
The Washington Post initially reported the lawsuit Monday.
A church spokesman said in a statement that James Huntsman resigned his church membership last year and called his claims “baseless.”
Contributions "are used for a broad array of religious purposes, including missionary work, education, humanitarian causes and the construction of meetinghouses, temples and other buildings important in the work of the Church,” Eric Hawkins said in the statement.