The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Thursday sued a Canadian polygamist for using the Salt Lake City-based church’s name.
The LDS Church filed the lawsuit in a British Columbia court against Winston Blackmore, who leads a community that formerly followed the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints there. Details of the lawsuit were first reported by the Vancouver Sun.
The lawsuit claims Blackmore registered his sect’s name as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Inc. in 2010. The LDS Church alleges Blackmore “misappropriated the names, identity and reputation” of the Utah-based faith. The LDS Church wants the court to order Blackmore to surrender the corporate name.
Both the LDS and the FLDS follow teachings of Mormonism founder Joseph Smith, but the former abandoned polygamy as a tenet in 1890.
The lawsuit claims the public confuses the two churches and that defames and harms the LDS Church.
“The defendant is depreciating the plaintiffs’ reputation and good will by its wrongful registration and activities,” the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit also says it’s likely the confusion has allowed Blackmore to collect donations intended for the LDS Church. No examples or evidence of that was given.
Alan Herrington, director of British Columbia public affairs for the LDS Church, declined to elaborate and referred a reporter to the lawsuit.
Blackmore was the leader of the FLDS in Bountiful, British Columbia, until Warren Jeffs excommunicated him in 2002. About half of then-1,000 or so FLDS faithful stayed with Blackmore.
According to a statement from LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins, the lawsuit “asks that a small polygamous group change its name to avoid confusion. ...There is no affiliation between the Church and the polygamist group.”
Hawkins added that the LDS Church is “a worldwide faith with more than 15 million members across the globe. The name change is misleading and has caused confusion.”
There are more than 30,000 members of the LDS Church in British Columbia, and over 190,000 in Canada, he said.