May 2020 Church & State Magazine | AU Bulletin

A federal court has dismissed a lawsuit brought by a Utah woman who argued that the doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are fraudulent.

Laura Gaddy, a former member of the church, concluded that the online research she performed convinced her that church officials have altered core doctrines over the years. She sued the church last year, claiming racketeering and fraud.

U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby dismissed the case on March 31, ruling that secular courts are in no position to wade into the question of the validity of a church’s beliefs, Courthouse News Service reported.

Gaddy’s research led her to believe that Joseph Smith, who founded the church in 1820 after claiming an encounter with a celestial being, had never been instructed to form a new church. She also asserted that certain allegedly ancient Egyptian documents Smith had translated didn’t say the things he claimed they did.

Shelby ruled that the court could not delve into these matters.

“Each of these alleged misrepresentations directly implicates the Church’s core beliefs,” Shelby wrote.  “Because a statement’s falsity is an essential element of fraud claims, adjudicating these claims would require the court to do exactly what the Supreme Court has forbidden – evaluate the truth or falsity of the Church’s religious beliefs.” (Gaddy v. Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)