The Mormon Church joins Julius Baer and The Church Of Scientology in the fight to promote online censorship

Online censorship is generally condemned by the public, but some groups are hard at work trying to promote it.  The Chinese government invests massively in censoring blogs and news sites to prevent what it feels are subversive materials.  Violators are oft jailed.  Outside China, banking giant Julius Baer fought unsuccessfully to try to shut down Wikileaks when the site released documents implicating it in numerous international crimes including money laundering and tax evasion.

In the past, the Church of Scientology sued and threatened legal action against Wikileaks for publication of embarrassing church documents.  And more recently there was the famous incident where the Church of Scientology tried to censor leaked online videos of Tom Cruise explaining the religion in a humorous manner. The Church was subsequently rocked by hacker attacks and international protests from people angry at its assault on free speech.

Despite this example of the public unpopularity of such moves, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS),  appears to be following in the Church of Scientology's footsteps, attacking Wikileaks for release a handbook of secret church procedures made for its leaders.  According to a report posted on Wikileaks, LDS sued Wikileaks for copyright infringement in an attempt to silence it.

Wikileaks first received its copy of the Church Handbook of Instructions via a URL link. The two-volume work was received from an anonymous whistleblower on April 16.  Wikileaks says the leak was significant as, "The book is strictly confidential among the Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, aka LDS in short form) bishops and stake presidents and it reveals the procedure of handling confidential matters related to tithing payment, excommunication, baptism and doctrine teaching (indoctrination)."

Wikileaks offered the document on the document sharing website Scribd.  Scribd now offers this little tidbit on the books, which are no longer available:  "This content was removed at the request of copyright agent B. S. Broadbent of the Intellectual Property Division of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."

On May 5, the LDS' legal representation contacted the Wikimedia Foundation charging the site with copyright infringement and requesting that the material be removed -- the site complied with the request.  No Digital Copyright Millennium Act (DCMA) notice has been filed as of yet.

The material had been released partially online previously in 1999 when Jerald and Sandra Tanner posted part of it.  In the case Intellectual Reserve v. Utah Lighthouse Ministry, the Church won a controversial injunction from the U.S. court banning the Tanners from releasing the material online.  The church eventually dropped their suit when they forced the Tanners to agree to destroy the books.

The LDS has recently been increasingly in the public spotlight due to former Republican presidential candidate front-runner Mitt Romney, an LDS church member, speaking publicly about his beliefs.

Wikileaks, despite the legal action, as of May 13 has refused to remove the book, which is still available from the site.  It can be found here for those curious.

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