This Church Is Trying to Change the Law to Keep Its Creepy Secrets From Getting Out

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently spoke out in support of a law requiring two parties’ consent when recording conversations. Currently, only one party must consent to recording in that state. With the exception of the Mormon leaders, many Utah residents think the law should stand. The religious leaders want to change the law on the heels of recent Mormon Church leaks, some of which look pretty shocking.

1. Private citizens strongly oppose the bill

Law concept open book with wooden judges gavel on table in a courtroom or law enforcement office, blue background.

The Mormon Church wants to lock down sensitive information through a new bill. | Getty Images

That legislation, called HB0330, would make Utah one of about a dozen states with two-party recording consent laws. Under those rules, all parties involved in a conversation must consent to recording. Exceptions exist, but Mormon elders say they do not protect the institution well enough. According to a statement by a Mormon Church representative, they want to protect “sensitive private conversations, including those between ecclesiastical leaders and their members.” That makes many question what they want to hide.

Next: These other states do require two-party consent.

2. Here’s where you can’t record conversations

a microphone in front of a recording studio screen

The secrets of the Mormon Church can legally get recorded in certain situations. | iStock/Getty Images

In California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington, all parties must agree to recording beforehand. Federal law also regulates recording conversations, full-stop. According to the Wiretap Act of 1968, a person may not secretly record any oral, telephone, or electronic communication that the other party considers private. For example, if you and your partner argue in your bedroom, with the door closed and the shades drawn, both parties can expect that to stay between them.

Next: Exceptions to the rule abound, though.

3. Two-party consent does not work in these situations

Job interview

You can record conversations under pretty specific circumstances. | Robert Daly/iStock/Getty Images

Exceptions do exist, particularly in the case of suspected criminal activity.  For example, in some states, one party can record a conversation if they believe it reveals a serious crime. In order for one-party consent laws to take effect though, the recording party must participate in the conversation.

In addition, laws permit recording in places where no “reasonable expectation of privacy” exists. For example, a conversation at a legislative hearing could get recorded without informing all parties, because of the open nature of those meetings. The same goes for speeches, public events, and even talking loudly in public places.

Next: The laws also differ for video and audio.

4. Laws protect video recordings more strictly

Male Driver Photographing

If you want to record both video and audio, like the Mormon Church wants to prevent, exercise caution. | iStock.com/AndreyPopov

Federal law permits recording video in pretty much any public space. That said, recording audio gets a little trickier. Even though you can record video of a private conversation in a public park, you might have to redact the audio. Some states also forbid recording video on private property. Others argue that just inviting someone into your house or business nullifies your expectation of privacy. That means, for example, YouTube videos of Mormon Church leaks earn legal protection. But if the two-party law gets passed, the audio likely would not.

Next: The law does protect these types of sensitive interactions.

5. Yes, you can record officials in public

Blue police light on top of a police car at night.

If you want to record interactions with police, you usually can. | Chalabala/iStock/Getty Images

If you get stopped by a police officer and want to record the interaction for your safety, go ahead. Traffic stops count as performing official duties in a public place. You may only record the interaction if it does not come as part of violating other laws. For example, if an officer asks you to put your hands up and you do not do so, then you are no longer officially protected. Mormon Church elders argue that they want their own official conversations to remain private, much like some police officers dislike getting their interactions recorded.

Next: What secrets of the Mormon Church are they trying to protect?

6. Why the Mormon Church wants two-party consent

a screenshot of a youtube screen

A YouTube user uploaded some Mormon Church leaks that it wants to prevent. | screenshot via YouTube

Church elders likely support changing consent laws to protect itself from damaging leaks. In recent years, some of the dark secrets of the Mormon Church came to light as a result of recorded services and conversations. In 2016, Ryan McKnight started the nonprofit MormonLeaks, along with help from Scott K. Fausett, Ethan Dodge, and other anonymous volunteers. The site receives and distributes leaked information about the church, in pursuit of greater transparency. It also enables whistleblowers to securely upload documents, audio, and video that reveal information church elders do not want distributed.

Next: Some of the secrets sound pretty shocking.

7. Mormon Church secrets reveal a range of issues

Praying hands

The leaked Mormon documents reveal some shady things. | Mario Tama/Getty Images

The dark secrets of the Mormon Church come out in a variety of ways, many due to anonymous leakers. Church employees also sign non-disclosure agreements, preventing them from sharing potentially damaging information. Some of the leaked material reveal Mormon leadership discussing the Iraq war, prejudice against homosexual members, and marijuana. Experts say the Mormon leadership’s support for greater privacy comes as no surprise.

“Mormonism has a reputation for secrecy and political power. I think these tapes probably fit that story,” said Kathleen Flake, a professor of American religious history.

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