As I am hardly the model of mental health myself, I am generally loathe to describe others as crazy. However, one cannot read all of the American court opinions involving the Mormon Church – as I have been doing over the last year or so – without being struck by how many of them involve individuals who seem a little off. Judging just by the four corners of the written opinions, either these people have problems, or they are getting advice from some very bad lawyers. It raises the question that might be difficult for some Mormons to face: does the LDS Church bring out the delusional is some people who might be predisposed to such syndromes? If so, because these are such sad stories, how can it be prevented?
Let’s start outside of the Mormon enclaves of Utah and other parts of the west, where there is less basis to be paranoid about the power of the LDS Church.
First, let’s go to Minnesota. A man named John Anderson became obsessed with the Mormon Church and Marie Osmond. He claimed to be Jesus, and that the public library was bugged. His sister successfully commissioned for his mental commitment . A man named Ted Zimba experienced a similar fate. He claimed at his commitment hearing that he was a Mormon and had three wives, though he alternatively claimed to be an African-American woman . A man named Neng Por Yang filed a rambling complaint which alleged a conspiracy between the Mormon Church and the federal government, with the Mormons falsifying “information against Plaintiff with the US Federal Government by means of corrupted, dirty undercover work … without an end to the falseness of the conspiracies”.
Now let’s move eastward to Philadelphia. Leslie Ann Kelly alleged a conspiracy to steal her property involving the Catholic and Mormon Churches . Darlene Schmidt brought a lawsuit which alleged that members of the LDS Church were minions of the devil and in cahoots with the State of Utah to violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. She sought one billion dollars in damages from the Church, and a requirement that all Mormons be branded on their foreheads and hands . A few years later, she filed another similar lawsuit in South Carolina .
Moving back to the Midwest, Mark Sato filed a lawsuit in Chicago which alleged treason by Presidents Bush and Clinton and a conspiracy involving the Mossad, Fidel Castro, the British Masons and high officials in the Mormon Church .
Ready to move back to the western enclaves of Mormondom? After all, we are just getting started.
In Idaho, Detsel J. Parkinson filed a lawsuit in which he claimed that the IRS was involved in a grand Mormon conspiracy . John Bach sued a number of people for defamation and conspiracy, prominently mentioning their Mormon membership . From Arizona, a woman named Leda O’Brien sued the Department of Justice and the LDS Mormon Church along with several well-known celebrities – Barbara Bush, Ted Kennedy, Andy Williams, Neil Diamond, Johnny Mathis, and others – alleging harassment by them . Next door in New Mexico, a man named Alexander Shapolia alleged that the Mormon Church and the federal government were conspiring to allow the Mormons to take over Los Alamos National Laboratory .
Now back to Utah. In 1980, an IRS employee in Ogden alleged a conspiracy between the Mormon Church and the City of Roy to confiscate her property . There were several other lawsuits in Utah (and one in Nevada) like this against the Church and its officials which were dismissed without much elaboration .
The Utah courts have handled some real pros when it comes to vexatious litigation in the last few years. Aaron Raiser filed a lawsuit against the LDS Church and BYU, claiming they had illegally leaked his psychiatric history . He went so far as to seek recusal of the judge who dismissed his action . He was eventually placed on the list of restricted filers, meaning the courts got fed up with him . Lester Jon Ruston of Massachusetts claimed in his action that the Mormon Church was trying to torture and murder him, destroy his small business, and brainwash him . Stephen Shane Vance filed a lawsuit asking for control over the Mormon Church “so that me, Jesus Christ” could establish world peace . Frank G. Fox, a Louisiana resident, filed a lawsuit in Utah claiming that the citizens of Texas and the Mormon Church were threatening him. His lawsuit alleged that Henry B. Eyring was communicating with him by phone and computer, and asked the Mormon Church to intercede . A Utah convict named Bojidar George Bakalov filed a habeas corpus petition which claimed that the Utah state judges entered into a Mormon conspiracy with the Utah Governor, United States Senators, the state prosecutor, and a University of Utah professor to convict him . Are these cases slowing down? Just last month, a court issued an opinion in a case involving Roland Cooke, who filed a lawsuit claiming that the Mormon Church and the FBI conspired to steal his house .
This phenomenon seems unique to Mormonism, when compared with similar faiths, though it’s not a complete monopoly. It is more a matter of extent. The Adventist have had a few of these , as have the Jehovah’s Witnesses . Neither, however, seems to bring paranoia out of the woodwork as much as the LDS Church. Then again, neither have geographic enclaves they seem to control (though I bet it is fairly hard to get a pork sandwich in Loma Linda, California on a Saturday).
Overall, these are sad cases, indeed. Why do they happen? Is there anything the LDS Church can do to avoid engendering such animosity? Doubtful. As I have written elsewhere, the Mormons have, for better or worse, become The Man. Burdens come with benefits.
(Yes, it did occur to me that merely writing this article would open me up to some vindictive lawsuits. After some reflection, I decided that if someone gets sued for shining light on this problem, it might as well be someone who can represent himself. Besides, I have no assets ….).