In the Season Three finale of “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City,” cast member Heather Gay says that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is suing her over her autobiography, “Bad Mormon.”
That’s not exactly true. The church is not trying to prevent the book from reaching bookstores as scheduled on Feb. 7. It’s not suing over anything between the covers. It’s suing over what’s on the cover: The title.
And it isn’t really about the title; it’s about Gay’s attempt to trademark it.
In the Season Three reunion on “RHOSLC,” Gay expresses trepidation about how her autobiography will be received by people in Utah. It’s the story of a woman born into a devout Latter-day Saint family, who attended Brigham Young University and served a mission to France, married in the temple and raised three daughters to have the same goals. That is until her marriage ended and she found herself questioning her faith — and doing it in the most public of ways on the Bravo series.
“I’ve just been schooled to never talk about these things,” she said in Wednesday’s episode. “And if I did talk about these things, I would be condemned. I’m in litigation with the church. And if The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is suing me, I can only imagine the reaction that my community and friends and family are going to have when they actually read the book. Because I’m talking about the things that are unspoken.”
Yes, she is in litigation with the church. But she is not being sued because she’s “talking about things that are unspoken.” The church is arguing that she cannot trademark “Bad Mormon.”
(Gay has talked about the litigation being a trademark dispute in other interviews. That may have been edited out of the “RHOSLC” episode.)
Although church President Russell M. Nelson has counseled against the use of the word “Mormon” to describe Latter-day Saints — calling that “a major victory for Satan” — the church’s foundational scripture remains the Book of Mormon. And the church retains its trademarks on multiple variations of the term “Mormon.”
The church declined to comment on the ongoing dispute, but, according to Mandour & Associates Intellectual Property Law, the church’s lawyers filed an opposition to Gay’s proposed Bad Mormon trademark, arguing it “would create a likelihood of confusion, trademark dilution, falsely suggest a connection to the church, and be otherwise deceptive.”
The filing went on to allege that the “applicant’s use of the generic word ‘bad’ is deceptive in that it falsely represents ... the Church or its members are bad or otherwise behaving immorally … with an intent to advance its false suggestion of connection or by conveying stories of alleged former or existing members of the Church behaving immorally.”
Again, this isn’t going to stop the publication of the book. But it could prevent Gay from selling merchandise emblazoned with “Bad Mormon.”
On Wednesday’s reunion episode of “Real Housewives of Salt Lake City,” Gay said that the thing she’s most nervous about with the book is “my family. Coming on the show was big enough for my family.”
Because becoming a “Real Housewife” made her disillusionment with the Latter-day Saints church so public.
In her book, she writes about how she believes breaking with the church made her a better mother to her three daughters. Whereas she long raised them to get into BYU and find a husband, “The KPIs (key performance indicators) that I now follow for my daughters are them leaving the state, going to college, going to graduate school. It’s not being virginal and getting married at 19,” she said in an interview with The Tribune. “That was a paradigm shift for me, and I’m just slowly getting comfortable with it.”
She said writes that she wasn’t just faking her faith all those years.
“I was a missionary in the south of France telling people to pour their wine out, put their cigarettes away — and their lovers — because I had a new better plan,” she said. “And I believed that. I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I didn’t truly believe it.”
“Bad Mormon” recounts her journey from childhood through her teenage years and adulthood. “I was a devoutly spiritual religious woman for the majority of my entire life. and none of that leaves you overnight,” Gay told The Tribune. “But at the same time, there’s a liberation and an acknowledgement of everyone outside of our tiny, insular circle also has a relationship with God that they believe is really valid. And I can no longer just dismiss that.”
Many members of her immediate family have not gotten comfortable with her leaving her Latter-day Saint identity behind.
“The people I love — my mother, my siblings, my aunts, many of my cousins, so many people — this is what’s most sacred to them,” she said in an interview with The Tribune. “I never forget that, even though it’s no longer sacred to me. And I feel like I still have a place at the table to say, ‘I love you. … Can we not still break bread together?’ And we have not been able to.”
Heather Gay will be appearing in person to discuss her memoir, “Bad Mormon,” Saturday, Feb. 11, at Milk+, 49 E. 900 South, Salt Lake City. The event runs from 6 to 8 p.m.; doors open at 5 p.m. Tickets are $35 per person, and include an autographed hardcover copy of the book. Because Milk+ is a bar, all attendees must be 21 or older. Tickets are available at The King’s English’s website, kingsenglish.com — go to the “events” tab.