The son of a billionaire industrialist and brother of a former Utah governor and US ambassador is suing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for fraud. James Huntsman, brother of Jon Huntsman, claims the Mormon church spent members' tithes on commercial purposes, rather than charity. This allegation was also included in a 2019 complaint made to the IRS. Former investment manager David Nielsen said the church's investment division, Ensign Peak Advisors, had amassed $100 billion in tax-exempt donations but had not "directly funded any religious, educational or charitable activities in 22 years," per the Washington Post. Nielsen further claimed $2 billion in tithing funds was used to bail out an insurance company and shopping mall in which the church had vested interests. James Huntsman's federal suit, filed Tuesday in California, demands the return of at least $5 million in donations.
“Rather than using tithing funds for the promised purposes, the LDS Corporation secretly lined its own pockets by using the funds to develop a multibillion-dollar commercial real estate and insurance empire," the suit reads, per the Salt Lake Tribune. It adds the church repeatedly refused the return of donations, "effectively taking the position that it could do whatever it wanted with tithing funds," per the Post. Though Mormons are expected to pay 10% of their income to the church, "tithing funds are voluntary contributions … used for a broad array of religious purposes," from missionary work to building construction, church rep Eric Hawkins tells the Post. He adds the suit claims are "baseless," pointing to 2003 comments from former church president Gordon B. Hinckley, who claimed funds for the shopping mall came from "commercial entities" and "earnings of invested reserve funds." (Read more Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stories.)