The Corner

Is This the Most Peculiar Court Summons in Recent British History?

Well, in my many years of cataloging British free speech outrages this has to be the most absurd case I’ve come across. Per the Telegraph:

A British magistrate has issued an extraordinary summons to the worldwide leader of the Mormon church alleging that its teachings about mankind amount to fraud.

Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been ordered to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London next month to defend the church’s doctrines including beliefs about Adam and Eve and Native Americans.

In one of the most unusual documents ever issued by a British court, it lists seven teachings of the church, including that Native Americans are descended from a family of ancient Israelites as possible evidence of fraud.

It also cites the belief that the Book of Mormon was translated from ancient gold plates revealed to the church’s founder Joseph Smith by angels and that Adam and Eve lived around 6,000 years ago.

Just take a moment and chew that over a moment: A court has issued a summons to a religious leader on the grounds that his supernatural, scientific, and historical claims may not be true and that he may thus be guilty of fraudulently extracting money from his religion’s adherents. What a precedent that could be!

The principle aside for a moment, I’d be utterly fascinated to learn why Mormonism has been singled out. After all, the part of London in which this court has jurisdiction plays hosts to a wide range of religions, all of which collect money and make unfalsifiable promises. Why not target Christianity, or Hinduism, or Islam? In the eyes of the law, is the Book of Mormon particularly less believable than, say, Hinduism’s contention that all matter was shaped from the mangled limbs of a vast supernatural man named Purusha? How about the Book of Revelation: could that be proven to be a reliable prediction in a court? Or the Quran’s claim that Allah “created for you (the sense of) hearing (ears), sight (eyes), and hearts (understanding)”? Do we just take that one as read? 

As I write seemingly weekly now, how desperately Britain lacks for a First Amendment.

Still, it gets even weirder:

A formal summons signed by District Judge Elizabeth Roscoe warns Mr Monson, who is recognised by Mormons as God’s prophet on Earth, that a warrant for his arrest could be issued if he fails to make the journey from Salt Lake City, Utah, for a hearing on March 14.

In other words, a magistrate in England actually expects Monson to travel to Britain to defend the veracity of his religion in a court — and if he doesn’t, it may issue an arrest warrant.

Astonishing.

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