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Tax-Exempt Status 'Achilles Heel' Of Mormon Church?

In this February 2013 photo, the statue of the angel Moroni sits atop the Salt Lake Temple, in Salt Lake City.
Rick Bowmer/AP

In this February 2013 photo, the statue of the angel Moroni sits atop the Salt Lake Temple, in Salt Lake City.

The IRS hasn't revoked an organization's tax-exempt status in almost 40 years, but that isn't stopping one activist from taking his fight against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to the feds. 

In what he's calling the "biggest, loudest, most comprehensive IRS challenge to a church's tax-exempt status in history," long-time gay rights activist and political consultant Fred Karger is in it for the long haul

Karger is the president of Rights Equal Rights, the nonprofit organization leading the charge and pairing a powerful ad campaign to complement the efforts. 

Rights Equal Rights has been staging casting calls for Mormon or ex-Mormon youth who have been effected by the churches' LGBTQ policies

“I’m fighting for, as I have my entire career as a political consultant and the past eight years as an activist, for transparency,” Karger told KNPR's State of Nevada.

Karger said that other denominations publish financial information but the LDS Church does not. He said his group will spend the next year or two gathering information about the church's business dealings as a basis for its complaint.

“We’re going to take that information after a year or two and put a massive complaint together that we’re going to file with the Internal Revenue Service… and we’re going to see what the IRS does,” he said.

Karger is confident the IRS will do something about the tax-exempt status.

Karger is relying on members and former members of the church for financial information about the church, which is one of the reasons they're launching an ad campaign. He said help is already lining up, but he believes the "flood gates" will open with ample information about the church's finances, which some estimate to be in the trillions of dollars.

Karger and his group want people to understand the impact the church as had.

“We want the public, the American public, to know what this church has done," he said, "The impact it has had on people that’s been swept under the rug on sexual abuse, on ordaining women, certainly their treatment of LGBT Mormons”

Karger believes if the church's tax-exempt status is put at risk it will change policies. He said the church changed its position on polygamy and blacks and the priesthood when faced with pressure from the federal government.

“It takes the arm of the federal government to really get the church to change,” he said, “If their tax exempt status is in jeopardy, they’re likely to change their positions on some things to make them more in keeping with the times.”

Fred Karger, president, Rights Equal Rights 

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Prior to taking on the role of Broadcast Operations Manager in January 2021, Rachel was the senior producer of KNPR's State of Nevada program for 6 years. She helped compile newscasts and provided coverage for and about the people of Southern Nevada, as well as major events such as the October 1 shooting on the Las Vegas strip, protests of racial injustice, elections and more. Rachel graduated with a bachelor's degree of journalism and mass communications from New Mexico State University.