I few years ago I wrote about the Church’s penchant for keeping things “Secret”. I work in an industry that has legitimate reasons to keep things secret. These involve National Security issues that require secrecy. I go through yearly training to learn which things should be “secret” and which things can be released to the public. One thing that is hammed into us in this training is that we cannot make something secret just because it is embarrassing, or we don’t want the public to know because it would make us look bad. The exact wording from the directive for the reasons you cannot make something SECRET are:
1 Conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error;Office of the Director of National Intelligence Classification Guide (ODNI CG)
2 Prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency;
3 Restrain competition; or
4 Prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of the national security
Last week the Church made a court filing in which they argued that they should not have to release financial data because it contained “Extremely Sensitive” information. The case is the lawsuit where James Huntsman wants his tithing money back because he says the church used it to build the mall. The Church showed the court documents that they said it demonstrated that tithing was not used for the mall. Those records were sealed. Huntsman wants them unsealed so that everybody can see where the money came from to build the mall in downtown Salt Lake City. The Church claimed that of the sealed documents contain “confidential information that provide undue insight into strategic decisions.”
So what possible reason could the Church have for keeping the financial records of the mall secret? What is so “extremely sensitive” about them? Since these documents have already been giving to the court, there is probably not anything in there that is a direct violation of the law (item #1 above). I think #2 is the most likely reason: “Prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency”.
Now most businesses have reasons to keep things secret when it involves trade secrets or “strategic decisions” (such as the acquisition of another business). Is the LDS church ready to do a leveraged takeover of the Sothern Baptists? Are they planning for a hostel takeover of the Catholic Church? Huntsman’s lawyer summed it up in a court filing: “What we have here is a tax-exempt organization that claims it did not mislead the public as to how it used its tax-exempt funds, and yet is fighting hard to prevent the public from seeing how it actually used those funds.”
What are your thoughts on why the Church is fighting so hard to keep the funding of the mall a secret? What could the “strategic decisions” be that the Church needs to keep secret?