Forcing Nonprofit Transparency: Mormon Church Ends Up with Its Own Wikileaks

December 20, 2016; The Independent

NPQ has been saying for some time that even the most insular nonprofit organizations may find transparency and public accountability increasingly forced on them by stakeholders with new technology based tools and models.

Take the case of Ryan McKnight, who used to belong to the Mormon Church but is now the founder of a Wikileaks-inspired website that will be used to make the church more transparent, whether it wants it or not. The site, like the original Wikileaks, will receive documents and videos from tipsters (who can remain anonymous); it will then validate and potentially disseminate the information.

McKnight got a taste for facilitating transparency on the church’s inner workings in October, when he helped leak videos of senior church members at a twice-yearly conference. Since then, he has reportedly been “bombarded” with other materials. He says he wants it all, not just the negative stuff. “I’m not interested in exposing a list of members or…of people who go to the temple. It’s all things that are done on an institutional level,” he said. “A lot of it is policy and procedures.”

On the other hand, he says, “If someone has information and it eats at their conscience and they feel it needs to be shared with the public we’re here to help them.”

McKnight has volunteers that will help vet the material and a lawyer at the ready. The site will probably need that counsel; last April, the Mormon Church charged the original Wikileaks for infringement of copyright after the group published their handbook. Also, Wikileaks wants the new group to change its name, though it is not trademarked.

McKnight, who left the church at 32 after finding out about its “racist and perverted past,” says, “I would say a nonprofit and a religion has a responsibility to be open…I don’t think [the LDS church] meet the proper standards. If a website like this can promote that, I think we can do some good.”The church has not yet commented about McKnight’s project.—Ruth McCambridge