SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — An advertising-technology billionaire has formally resigned his membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and rebuked the faith over social issues and LGBTQ rights in an unusual public move.
Jeff T. Green has pledged to donate 90% of his estimated $5 billion advertising-technology wealth, starting with a donation to a LGBTQ-rights group in the state, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.
In an unusual public step, Green said in a Monday resignation letter to church President Russell M. Nelson that he hasn’t been active in the faith widely known as Mormon for more than a decade but wanted to make his departure official and remove his name from membership records.
“I believe the Mormon church has hindered global progress in women’s rights, civil rights and racial equality, and LGBTQ+ rights,” he wrote. Eleven family members and a friend formally resigned along with him. He will donate $600,000 to the group Equality Utah.
The church didn’t immediately return a message from The Associated Press seeking comment Tuesday, but in recent years has shown a willingness to engage on LGBTQ rights that is unusual for a conservative faith. While it maintains its opposition to same-sex marriage, the faith didn’t block a 2019 ban on so-called conversion therapy in Utah and in November high-ranking leader Dallin Oaks said in a speech that religious rights and LGBTQ rights can coexist.
Green, for his part, said most church members “are good people trying to do right,” but he also worries about the faith’s transparency around its history and finances.
Green, 44, now lives in Southern California. He is the CEO and chairman of The Trade Desk, an advertising technology firm he founded in 2009.
He also mentioned concerns about a $100 billion investment portfolio held by the faith. It was the subject of an Internal Revenue Service whistleblower complaint in 2019, from a former employee who charged the church had improperly built it up using member donations that are supposed to go to charitable causes.
Leaders have defended how the church uses and invests member donations, saying most is used for operational and humanitarian needs, but a portion is safeguarded to build a reserve for the future. The faith annually spends about $1 billion on humanitarian and welfare aid, leaders have said.
The church has also come under criticism for conservative social positions. Women do not hold the priesthood in the faith, and Black men could not until the 1970s.
In recent years, though, the faith has worked with the NAACP and donated nearly $10 million for initiatives to help Black Americans. It has also worked with Equality Utah to pass a state LGBTQ nondiscrimination law, with religious exemptions.
Another prominent onetime Latter-day Saint sued the faith this year, accusing it of fraud and seeking to recover millions of dollars in contributions. James Huntsman is a member of one of Utah’s most prominent families and brother of a former governor. The suit was later tossed out.
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