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Judge to rule soon on Huntsman's fraud lawsuit against the LDS Church

LDS Church Temple Square
Posted at 11:34 AM, Aug 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-24 13:38:28-04

SALT LAKE CITY — A federal judge in Los Angeles has canceled a highly-anticipated hearing in James Huntsman's fraud lawsuit against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Instead of hearing oral arguments on Monday as scheduled, Judge Stephen Wilson will rule on papers submitted, the Court said. The Church has asked him to dismiss Huntsman's lawsuit, while Huntsman wants the judge to let it proceed to trial.

The decision came the day after attorneys for the Latter-day Saint faith submitted papers reiterating its claims that no tithing money was used to pay for the City Creek Center project in downtown Salt Lake City, a key argument in Huntsman's lawsuit.

"Huntsman’s opposition ignores the most important fact in the case. The funds for the City Creek project came from 'earnings of invested reserve funds' with additional amounts from the Church’s 'commercial entities,' exactly as President Hinckley said," Church attorney Rick Richmond said. "The 120 pages of financial records provided by the Church prove this is true. Huntsman does not grapple with the documents, but his ignoring them will not make them go away."

The Church has submitted a number of documents under seal, keeping specific financial details out of public view. It has asked the judge to dismiss Huntsman's lawsuit.

Huntsman, a member of the wealthy Utah family and the brother of former governor Jon Huntsman Jr., is suing the Church alleging it misspent tithing money he donated throughout his membership in the faith. He resigned his membership in the Latter-day Saint faith in 2020.

Huntsman recently relied on a sworn declaration by a former employee of the LDS Church's investment arm who filed an IRS whistleblower complaint. Richmond pushed back on that in his filing on Monday.

"Even if what [David] Nielsen says is true, which it is not, none of what he says changes what actually happened. President Hinckley said 'earnings of invested reserve funds' would be used to fund City Creek. The financial documents prove that is what happened. Left with nothing else, Huntsman retreats to an untenable argument he abandoned in his deposition, which is that it is not 'proper' for a nonprofit to invest surplus funds for future use," he wrote.

Read the Church's filing here: