A federal court has dismissed a lawsuit against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) brought by a former member who alleges that his donations were used for commercial, not religious, purposes.

James Huntsman filed the lawsuit in March after a whistleblower inside the church claimed that the church had amassed $100 billion and was using donations in the form of tithes to prop up a real estate and business empire.

U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson ruled in September that Huntsman, who sought the return of his donations to the church, was unlikely to prevail. LDS church officials had argued that allowing the government to meddle in its internal financial matters would violate its religious freedom.

In his lawsuit, Huntsman asserted that church officials used tithes to finance City Creek Center, a shopping mall in downtown Salt Lake City. Church officials say no donations were spent on the project, and Wilson ruled that jurors would be unlikely to believe that church officials lied about the source of the funding.

Although Wilson dismissed the lawsuit, he rejected the church’s contention that the First Amendment barred Huntsman from bringing it.

Huntsman’s attorneys said they plan to appeal the ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. (Huntsman v. Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)

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