Mormon Church v. United States

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In Mormon Church v. United States (official title: The Late Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints v. United States),[1] the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the Edmunds-Tucker Act on May 19, 1890. Among other things, the act disincorporated The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church; see also Mormon).

Chief Justice Fuller's dissent asserted that though congress has the power to criminalize polygamy, "it is not authorized under the cover of that power to seize and confiscate the property of persons, individuals, or corporations, without office found, because they may have been guilty of criminal practices."[2]

The ruling in Late Corporation would have directed federal escheat of substantially all the property of the legally disincorporated LDS Church, which was estimated at $3 million. Following the decision, the U.S. Attorney for Utah Territory reported seizing only $381,812 in assets.[3] Real property, including LDS temples, was never seized although the ruling authorized it. Within five months, the LDS Church officially renounced polygamy in the 1890 Manifesto. On October 25, 1893, a congressional resolution authorized the release of assets seized from the LDS Church because, "said church has discontinued the practice of polygamy and no longer encourages or gives countenance to any manner of practices in violation of law, or contrary to good morals or public policy."[4]


  1. Mormon Church v. United States Complete text of Court decisiion
  2. 136 U.S. 67 (1890)
  3. Paul G. Kauper & Stephen C. Ellis, "Religious Corporations and the Law," 71 Mich. L. Rev. (1972-1973), 1499, 1517. This figure includes seized stock and cash in bank accounts as well as $10,000 "credits due on sheep."
  4. Jt. Res 11., 53d Cong., 1st Sess., 28 Stat. 980