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British judge rejects case, calls it an 'attack' on LDS

Published: Thursday, March 20 2014 7:20 a.m. MDT

The church's position was that Phillips was not authorized under British law to file his complaint. Since that is a criminal offense, the church's filing suggested he was guilty of contempt of court. The church also asked the court to rule that Phillips pay for the church's legal costs.

Riddle's written ruling on Thursday said he did not need to rule on the question of contempt at this time, and that he chose not to do so.

The church's application said it would be similarly inappropriate for a court to consider whether Roman Catholic relics such as the Shroud of Turin are true artifacts or whether relics attributed to the Islamic prophet Muhammad are genuine.

The LDS Church "regards Joseph Smith as a prophet inspired by God and regards the Book of Mormon as Holy Scripture," the application for dismissal stated. "Any question therefore as to the origin, provenance or teachings of the Book of Mormon" isn't appropriate for the same reasons.

Phillips is not a British barrister, but he initiated the case on Oct. 10 by bringing information to District Judge Elizabeth Roscoe under a seldom-used British law that allows for prosecution by a private person. The information alleged that Stephen Bloor and Christopher Denis Ralph were victims of fraud based on LDS religious teachings that led them to pay tithing to the church.

Phillips' statement Thursday morning said, “Although this ruling represents a setback for our cause, we remain steadfast in our commitment to bring the LDS Corporation to justice."

On Jan. 31, Roscoe issued the two summonses for President Monson to appear in court on March 14.

In his own pre-hearing written argument, Phillips asked through an attorney that the prosecution proceed and argued he did indeed have a right to file the case "as a private prosecutor litigant in person."

He said he was not representing Bloor and Ralph, as the church claimed, but was only naming them as victims.

Phillips conceded religious belief may not be an issue that can be judicially reviewed in a civil proceeding, but argued that religious teaching is subject to the limits of criminal law. So, for example, he cited instances in British law where illegal cannabis smoking cannot be shielded from prosecution because of a claim of religious belief.

Phillips contended that certain claims about the translation of LDS scriptures, about the martyrdom of Joseph Smith and about teachings related to the creation of the Earth rise to the level of criminal fraud and therefore cannot be shielded from prosecution.

He argued that rather than dismiss the issues, their admissibility should be held for a trial.

"The prosecution is not vexatious, or otherwise an abuse of the court," Phillips' filing said.

Riddle disagreed.

"It is obvious that this proposed prosecution attacks the doctrine and beliefs of the Mormon Church and is aimed at those beliefs rather than any wrong-doing of Mr. Monson personally," he wrote in his ruling. "The purpose is to use the criminal proceedings" to attack the church.

Email: twalch@deseretnews.com

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