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LDS Church is underneath fireplace in Australia

(RNS) — Australians are offended about new stories which have surfaced over the previous few days, claiming the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has executed an finish run across the Australian authorities.

As “60 Minutes Australia” reported, it stands accused of “lightening the pockets of the Australian tax workplace by $400 million.” (That’s AU$400 million, which might be simply shy of U.S. $256 million in in the present day’s forex conversion.)

The introduction to the “60 Minutes” report goes on to say, “The church’s members declare very beneficiant tax advantages in Australia whereas different religions go with out.”

In keeping with the LDS Church, there are more than 155,000 members on the membership rolls in Australia. Nevertheless, practically two-thirds of them didn’t declare themselves as Latter-day Saints (Mormons) on the latest Australian census, which recorded slightly below 58,000 members, in response to a website that tracks Latter-day Saint membership statistics world wide.

Of that 58,000 who say they’re members, a smaller quantity could be anticipated to be “lively” within the church, which incorporates the best of tithing 10% of revenue.

It’s what has occurred to these Australian members’ tithing cash that’s the topic of present scrutiny.

The opening of the “60 Minutes” section doesn’t encourage an excessive amount of confidence in its accuracy about Mormonism as an entire. One early sequence exhibits a white-shirted missionary heading to a doorbell on their lonesome (the place is his companion?) whereas gospel music performs within the background (I solely want we had such highly effective and uplifting worship music within the LDS Church). It claims “Mormons are required handy over 10% of their revenue,” which makes it sound like there is no such thing as a selection concerned and that each single member coughs up a full 10% of their revenue in tithing only for the privilege of sitting within the pew.

All of that’s simply throughout the first 4 minutes of the 19-minute investigative section. It’s an inauspicious starting: If the reporters didn’t handle to get these primary information proper concerning the LDS Church, what did they get mistaken about its alleged monetary mismanagement?

From there, although, the report stops attempting to make under-researched generalizations concerning the faith and turns to the specifics of how the church has performed itself financially in Australia.

A workforce from the Sydney Morning Herald, the Canadian Broadcasting Company and The Age has been investigating the church in Australia for months, with the primary of the tales coming out in April. The previous few days have introduced a recent spherical of revelations.

The reporters are claiming the church created what The Age known as “a shell firm” with a purpose to exploit a loophole in Australian legislation. Australia doesn’t give any type of tax exemption for donations to church buildings or homes of worship. But it surely does give a tax exemption for donations to “charity,” issues like homeless shelters and colleges and hospitals.

The stories are stating that the LDS Church created a “charitable trust fund” and directed Australian Saints to ship their tithing and different donations to that belief fund slightly than to the church itself. They might then declare the tax exemption for contributing to a charity.

But when I’m understanding it appropriately, Australian legislation then requires the registered charities to distribute a lot of that cash inside Australia and to have that distribution overseen domestically, with all decisions made by Australians who run the charity from within the country.

As an alternative, what seems to have occurred is that Australians’ tithing {dollars} received centralized in Salt Lake Metropolis underneath the bigger umbrella of the denomination’s charitable arm, which then disbursed the funds because it wished to.

The web site of the Australian Charities and Not-for-Income fee lists the “L.D.S. Charitable Belief Fund” as a registered charity in Australia, reporting in November of 2021 that it had received AU$100,211,557, greater than 99% of which was from donations and bequests. Of that, it spent AU$7,810 for charitable functions and reported no worker salaries or different bills.

As The Age put it,

LDS Charities Australia has no paid employees, Australian web site, bills or infrastructure to run what purports to be one of many nation’s main charities, accumulating extra in particular person donations than Oxfam, Past Blue or Caritas Australia, the Catholic Church’s worldwide support charity.

A display shot of the Nov. 23, 2021, report of the “L.D.S. Charitable Belief Fund” in Australia, which took in practically AU$100 million however solely reported disbursement of lower than AU$8,000. 

The church says it has executed nothing mistaken, and it’s potential that what it has executed will turn into authorized. That’s what has occurred in Canada, the place the church can also be underneath investigation for its use of members’ tithes. The CBC reported final week that the “Mormon Church in Canada moved $1B out of the country tax-free—and it’s legal.”

The loophole in that case is that Canadian members’ tithing, which apparently amounted to almost $100 million final yr alone, went to 3 Brigham Younger College campuses. And since BYU enrolls tons of of Canadian college students annually, that is thought-about a respectable use of the funds, as a result of the cash is (not less than not directly) benefiting the lives of some Canadians.

I’m certain the Australian case will proceed to attract scrutiny, and it ought to. Whereas I’m not persuaded that the investigative stories have all of the information, and I’m open to listening to the church’s clarification, the reporters’ primary story is in line with the numbers that the Australian government is reporting on its web site.

This sort of monetary observe appears to be like horrible for the church. It feels covert and misleading. Making a “charity” that seems to be in title solely is unfair to different religions in Australia which have performed by the principles. It’s unfair to the Australian authorities, which has been shortchanged thousands and thousands in taxes. And it’s unfair to these tithe-paying Latter-day Saints Down Below who had a proper to imagine their tithing was going the place it was alleged to.


Associated content material:

How persuasive is whistleblower’s claim that the LDS Church is hiding wealth from the IRS?

I just paid my Mormon tithing. Why don’t I feel better about it?

 

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