SALT LAKE CITY — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints deceived James Huntsman and fraudulently used tithing dollars to build the City Creek Center mall and other commercial projects, his lawyers contend in a formal appeal filed with a federal court.
In documents filed Friday in California's 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Huntsman points to a "whistleblower" with personal knowledge of it, that he claims a lower-court judge failed to consider with the same weight as witnesses for the Church.
"Of course, since Mr. Huntsman’s evidence and the Church’s evidence are at direct odds with each other, the resolution of this case necessarily depends on a subjective determination of which side is telling the truth. In other words, who is more believable? Mr. Huntsman’s declarant or the Church’s declarant? Such a determination is within the strict province of the trier of fact (in this case, the jury), and cannot be made by a court on summary judgment. And yet, that is precisely what the District Court here did when it granted summary judgment to the Church," Huntsman's attorney, David Jonelis, wrote.
The appeal is Huntsman's effort to revive a lawsuit dismissed by a federal judge in California last year. Huntsman, a brother of former Utah governor (and U.S. ambassador) Jon Huntsman Jr. and a member of the wealthy Utah family, sued the Latter-day Saint church alleging they had misused his tithing money throughout his membership in the faith. He resigned from the church in 2020.
"Because there was (at a minimum) a triable issue of material fact as to whether principal tithing funds (as opposed to only the 'earnings' thereon) were used to develop the City Creek Mall, there was no basis for the District Court to grant summary judgment to the Church. For this reason alone, the District Court’s order should be reversed," Jonelis wrote.
The Church has adamantly denied it used tithing dollars for commercial purposes. Attorneys for the faith will respond to the lawsuit next month. It is unknown if the federal appeals court will hear arguments before making a ruling.
Read the appeal here: