British court drops ex-Mormon suit against church

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A British court has ruled that the president of the Mormon church doesn’t have to answer fraud allegations, and said a lawsuit brought by a former Mormon leader attempts to manipulate the court to attack the religious beliefs of others.

The decision issued Thursday by Judge Howard Riddle of the Westminster Magistrates' Court closes the case against President Thomas S. Monson.

Riddle wrote that “the process of the court is being manipulated to provide a high-profile forum to attack the religious beliefs of others. It is an abuse of the process of the court.”

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement Thursday saying that it is satisfied with the decision.

“This case was a misuse of the legal system and should never have been brought,” church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement.

The lawsuit was brought by Thomas Phillips, who left the church in 2004 and now runs a website challenging church history and doctrine. Phillips previously talked to The Associated Press by phone from his home in Portugal.

Phillips has argued that the church perpetuates lies to maintain a steady stream of tithing income.

In a statement Thursday, Phillips said he was disappointed with the ruling and will explore other legal options.

“Although this ruling represents a setback for our cause, we remain steadfast in our commitment to bring the LDS Corporation to justice,” he said.

In his complaint, Phillips details seven claims made by Mormons that he believes are false. They include beliefs that church founder Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon from ancient gold plates and that all humans descend from two people, Adam and Eve, who lived about 6,000 years ago.

Monson, the 86-year-old Mormon church president, was not personally accused of committing any fraud in the lawsuit but was listed as a global church representative.

He is considered a prophet in the faith and has served as its highest leader since February 2008.

The church, based in Salt Lake City, has about 15 million members worldwide, including 188,000 in the United Kingdom.

Phillips, who spent 35 years in the church, said he pursued a legal case after trying other tactics to get church leaders to answer his questions about doctrine. He has said he wants to protect children raised in the church and defend Mormons who are stigmatized for questioning tenets of the faith.

He brought the lawsuit under a British law enacted in 2006 that makes it illegal to make false representations for profit.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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