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Mormon Church Accused of Stockpiling $100 Billion in Donations

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  • A whistleblower complaint obtained by The Washington Post alleges that the Mormon Church has amassed 100 billion dollars in accounts intended for charitable purposes. 
  • The complaint came from a Mormon who worked for Ensign, the investment division of the Church that is allowed to operate as a nonprofit. 
  • According to the complaint, Ensign has not fully operated as a nonprofit and could be in violation of tax laws. It also alleges that by stockpiling the money, the Church was defrauding its members.
  • The complaint cites Ensign’s President allegedly saying that the money was being put aside for the second coming of Jesus.

Allegations in Complaint

The Mormon Church has accumulated close to $100 billion in accounts intended for charity, according to a whistleblower complaint obtained by The Washington Post

The complaint was given to the Internal Revenue Service on November 21 by David A. Nielsen, a Mormon who worked for Ensign Peak Advisors, the investment division of the Church. His twin brother Lars helped him write the complaint and assemble accompanying documents. They claim that in amassing this money, the Church defrauded its members and potentially violated federal tax law. 

According to the complaint, the Mormon Church asks its members to donate 10% of their income to the Church, which is part of a common religious practice called tithing. Annually, they make $7 billion in contributions from members. It allocates $6 billion to operating costs, and the remaining one billion to Ensign. 

Nonprofits are exempted from paying taxes on their income, including religious organizations like the Mormon Church. Because of this, Ensign, which is classified as a supporting organization of the Church, makes money pretty much free from U.S. taxes. 

The Post said that Ensign’s portfolio started at $12 billion when it was formed in 1997. That portfolio now stands at $100 billion. Nielsen claims that despite its tax-exempt status, Ensign does not operate exclusively for religious, educational or other charitable purposes.

“Ensign has not directly funded any religious, educational or charitable activities in 22 years,” The Post’s report says. No documents specifically supported this claim, however, the complaint says this comes from information Nielsen learned while at the group. He is asking for Ensign to be stripped of its tax-exempt status, as well as alleging that they could owe billions in taxes. He is also seeking a reward from the IRS, which would be a portion of the unpaid taxes recovered.

Money Saved for Second Coming of Christ

According to the Post, the complaint cited Ensign’s President, Roger Clarke for the reasoning behind stockpiling the money. Clarke allegedly told people that, “the amassed funds would be used in the event of the second coming of Christ.

In the complaint, Nielsen expressed frustration that the church had all this money but continued to ask its members, some of whom struggled financially, to keep donating.

“Would you pay tithing instead of water, electricity, or feeding your family if you knew that it would sit around by the billions until the Second Coming of Christ?” the complaint asked. 

The complaint claimed that some of Ensign’s money had been used in the past, but not for charitable reasons. It alleges that $2 billion had been spent in the last decade improperly. The Post wrote that this sum was spent over the course of two instances to “bail out a church-run insurance company and a shopping mall in Salt Lake City that was a joint venture between the church and a major real estate company.”

Comments From Those Involved

David Nielson did not speak to the Post but his brother Lars did. 

“Having seen tens of billions in contributions and scores more in investment returns come in, and having seen nothing except two unlawful distributions to for-profit concerns go out, [my brother] was dejected beyond words, and so was I,” he said.  

The Post also reached out to the Mormon Church, however, their spokesman Eric Hawkins did not answer specific questions about the allegations at hand.

“The Church does not provide information about specific transactions or financial decisions,” he said. 

When the Salt Lake Tribune reached out for comment, they were referred to a Q&A about the church’s finances, as well as an accompanying article. 

Church members are taught to ‘gradually build a financial reserve by regularly saving [a portion of their income],’ the Q&A says. “The Church applies this same principle in its own savings and investments. In addition to food and emergency supplies, the Church also sets aside funds each year for future needs.”

The Q&A also largely plays down the wealth of the Church. One question asks “Is the Church a rich church?” Their response states that “the strength of the Church cannot be measured by its financial holdings or real estate assets.”

“The only real wealth of the Church is in the faith of its people,” it continued.  

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Salt Lake Tribune) (Forbes)

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Medical Workers Sign Letter Urging Spotify to Combat Misinformation, Citing Joe Rogan

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The letter accused Spotify of “enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research.”


Doctors and Medical Professionals Sign Letter to Spotify

A group of 270 doctors, scientists, and other medical workers signed an open letter to Spotify this week urging the audio platform to implement a misinformation policy, specifically citing false claims made on the “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast. 

Rogan has faced no shortage of backlash over the last year for promoting vaccine misinformation on his show, which airs exclusively on Spotify. Most recently, he invited Dr. Robert Malone on a Dec. 31 episode that has since been widely criticized by health experts. 

Dr. Malone was banned from Twitter for promoting COVID-19 misinformation. According to the medical experts who signed the letter, he “used the JRE platform to further promote numerous baseless claims, including several falsehoods about COVID-19 vaccines and an unfounded theory that societal leaders have ‘hypnotized’ the public.”

“Notably, Dr. Malone is one of two recent JRE guests who has compared pandemic policies to the Holocaust,” the letter continued. “These actions are not only objectionable and offensive, but also medically and culturally dangerous.”

Joe Rogan’s History of COVID-19 Misinformation

Rogan sparked swift criticism himself in the spring of 2021 when he discouraged young people from taking the COVID-19 vaccine. He also falsely equated mRNA vaccines to “gene therapy” and incorrectly stated that vaccines cause super mutations of the virus. He took ivermectin after testing positive for the virus in September, despite the fact that the drug is not approved as a treatment for COVID.

“By allowing the propagation of false and societally harmful assertions, Spotify is enabling its hosted media to damage public trust in scientific research and sow doubt in the credibility of data-driven guidance offered by medical professionals,” the doctors and medical workers wrote. 

“We are calling on Spotify to take action against the mass-misinformation events which continue to occur on its platform,” they continued. “With an estimated 11 million listeners per episode, JRE is the world’s largest podcast and has tremendous influence. Though Spotify has a responsibility to mitigate the spread of misinformation on its platform, the company presently has no misinformation policy.”

Rolling Stone was the first outlet to report on the letter from the medical professionals. Dr. Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois Chicago, was among the signees. She told the magazine that Rogan is “a menace to public health.”

“These are fringe ideas not backed in science, and having it on a huge platform makes it seem there are two sides to this issue,” she said. “And there are really not.”

Spotify had not responded to the letter as of Thursday.

See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Deadline) (Insider)

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Data Shows Omicron May be Peaking in the U.S.

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In some cities that were first hit by the surge, new cases are starting to flatten and decline.


New Cases Flattening

After weeks of recording-breaking cases driven by the highly infectious omicron variant, public health officials say that new COVID infections seem to be slowing in the parts of the country that were hit the hardest earlier on.

Following a more than twentyfold rise in December, cases in New York City have flattened out in recent days. 

New infections have even begun to fall slightly in some states, like Maryland and New Jersey. In Boston, the levels of COVID in wastewater — which has been a top indicator of case trends in the past — have dropped by nearly 40% since the first of the year.

Overall, federal data has shown a steep decline in COVID-related emergency room visits in the Northeast, and the rest of the country appears to be following a similar track.

Data from other countries signals the potential for a steep decline in cases following the swift and unprecedented surge.

According to figures from South Africa, where the variant was first detected, cases rose at an incredibly shocking rate for about a month but peaked quickly in mid-December. Since then, new infections have plummeted by around 70%.

In the U.K., which has typically been a map for how U.S. cases will trend, infections are also beginning to fall after peaking around New Year’s and then flattening for about a week.

Concerns Remain 

Despite these recent trends, experts say it is still too early to say if cases in the U.S. will decline as rapidly as they did in South Africa and the parts of the U.K. that were first hit. 

While new infections may seem to be peaking in the cities that saw the first surges, caseloads continue to climb in most parts of the country. 

Meanwhile, hospitals are overwhelmed and health resources are still strained because of the high volume of cases hitting all at once.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (The Wall Street Journal)

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COVID-Driven School Closures Top Record Highs, But Many Remain Open

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While some districts have implemented protective measures, many teachers say they fall short.


Schools Respond to Omicron Surge

U.S. COVID cases, driven by the omicron variant, are continuously topping new record highs, posing difficult questions for schools resuming after winter break.

According to Burbio, a data firm that tracks school closures, at least 5,409 public schools canceled classes or moved to remote learning by the end of last week due to COVID — more than triple the number at the end of December.

That is still only a fraction of the nation’s 130,000 schools, and many of the biggest school districts in the country are still insisting that students come into the classroom.

Los Angeles, which is home to the second-biggest district, is requiring that students at least test negative before they return to school this week.

In the biggest district of New York City, classes have already resumed following winter break. Although the city has said it will double random tests and send home more kits, students were not required to provide negative results.

Teachers Protest In-Person Learning

Teachers in other major districts have protested the local government’s decisions to stay open.

One of the most closely watched battles is in Chicago, where students on Monday missed their fourth consecutive day of school due to a feud between the Chicago Teachers Union and Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D).

Last week, the union voted to return to remote learning in defiance of a city-wide order mandating they teach in-person, citing inadequate COVID-19 protections. Lightfoot claimed the conditions were fine and that students were safe, despite record surges, instead opting to cancel classes altogether while the fight plays out.

On Sunday, the union said it was “still far apart” from making any kind of agreement with public school officials after Lightfoot rejected their demands.

Lightfoot, for her part, has said she remains “hopeful” a deal could be reached, but she also stirred up the union by accusing teachers of staging an “illegal walkout” and claiming they “abandoned their posts and they abandoned kids and their families.”

Meanwhile, teachers in other school districts have begun to emulate the tactics in Chicago.

On Friday, teachers in Oakland, California staged a “sick-out,” promoting 12 schools serving thousands of students to close.

See what others are saying: (The Chicago Tribune) (CNN) (The New York Times)

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