Gaddy v. Corporation of the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Becket Role:
Case Start Date:
August 5, 2019
Deciding Court:
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
Original Court:
U.S. District Court for the District of Utah
Practice Area(s):

Case Snapshot

Three former members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are suing the Church in federal court, accusing it of propounding false beliefs and misrepresenting its religious history and practices to defraud members of donations. Becket filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the Church at the Tenth Circuit, arguing that religious groups have the freedom to decide matters of church faith, doctrine, and governance without court interference.


On March 7, 2024, Becket—along with Noel J. Francisco of the law firm Jones Day and The Hugh and Hazel Darling Foundation Religious Liberty Clinic at Pepperdine University School of Law—filed a friend-of-the-court brief at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit in support of the Church. Becket’s brief explains how allowing the former members’ lawsuit to continue would undermine all religious institutions’ ability to make internal religious decisions in accordance with their faith.

Case Summary

Church taken to court over its religious beliefs 

Laura Gaddy was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for most of her life. In 2018, she found information on the internet that she believed conflicted with the Church’s teachings on its founding and history. As a result, Gaddy left the Church. She then filed a federal lawsuit in 2018 making fraud and racketeering claims against Church leadership.  

Former members challenge the Church in federal court 

In her lawsuit, Gaddy accuses the Church of misrepresenting its history and beliefs as a ploy to increase membership, which she says resulted in more tithes. She also levied a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) claim against the Church, accusing it of making false statements about how it would spend members’ tithes. A federal district court in Utah dismissed her case at the outset, ruling that her lawsuit could not move forward because it would require the court to decide whether Church teachings about religious matters are true or not. Gaddy, together with two other former members, is now appealing the lower court’s decision to the Tenth Circuit.  

Becket defends the Church against court inquisitions  

On March 7, 2024, Becket filed a friend-of-the court brief at the Tenth Circuit in support of the Church. Becket’s brief explains how the law bars courts from getting involved in religious disputes between religious organizations and their former members. Religious institutions have the right to decide for themselves matters of faith, doctrine, and internal governance, free from government interference.  

The law also protects the Church’s teachings concerning its members’ tithes. Tithing is an important spiritual calling for members of the Church, and determining how to encourage and spend these funds is a matter of immense religious significance –often involving prayer, deliberation among religious authorities, and the use of sacred text. It is no business of courts to interfere in these decisions.

Importance to Religious Liberty: 

Religious Communities: Religious communities have the right to build and lead their ministries according to their beliefs free from governmental interference