SALT LAKE CITY Utah (Reuters) - The Mormon church has sued a Canadian polygamist for using its trademarked name, saying its reputation was damaged and that donations intended for the denomination were misdirected, a lawsuit filed in a Canadian court said.
Attorneys for the Utah-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints argued in the suit that Winston Blackmore copied its name by registering his religious polygamist community under the moniker Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Inc.
The church uncovered the similarities in January, when it tried to register with the Canadian government and was blocked. Court papers filed on Wednesday in the British Columbia Supreme Court said Blackmore had refused to voluntarily make a change, in an attempt to trade on the church’s reputation.
No hearings are set in the case and an effort to reach Blackmore on Saturday was unsuccessful.
“(Adopting the name) is yet another attempt of the Blackmore Sect to convey a false impression of affiliation with the Church,” court documents said.
Blackmore is head of a religious community in Bountiful, British Columbia, which has traditionally practiced polygamy. Once known as the “Bishop of Bountiful,” Blackmore was formerly the head of the Canadian arm of the Warren Jeffs-led Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
He was ousted a decade ago, and hundreds of Jeffs’ Canadian followers left with him.
With some 15 million members worldwide, the mainstream Mormon church rejects any association with fundamentalists and polygamy, a practice it abandoned in the 1890s.
In court papers, church attorneys said Blackmore’s use of a similar name caused public confusion and damaged its reputation of supporting religious worship, assisting families and providing humanitarian aid.
Blackmore’s registration also resulted in the diversion of charitable donations meant for the Mormon church, court papers said.
Church attorneys said Blackmore’s group was formed to further polygamy and had arranged for the underage marriages of young girls - acts renounced by the Mormon church.
Documents obtained by Reuters from the Canadian Registry of Services showed Blackmore twice registered corporation names in 2010 that included the word “fundamentalist.” The current name, which was registered in late 2013, dropped the word.
Reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Peter Cooney