A billionaire, originally from Utah, said he was leaving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints this week in a letter that specifically called out the church’s stances on LGBTQ+ rights and other human rights.
Jeff Green, 44, runs the advertising tech firm the Trade Desk and is reportedly one of the richest people from the state. He now lives in California.
Although he did not say what drove him to make a public exit from the church, Green wrote a letter to the Mormon Church’s president, Russell Nelson, about the church’s history, finance, and activism, according to The Salt Lake Tribune, which first reported it.
A copy of the letter was dated December 23, which is the birthday of the founder of the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith.
“While most members are good people trying to do right, I believe the church is actively and currently doing harm in the world,” he wrote in the letter, the paper reported.
He added that he stopped believing in church doctrine more than 10 years ago, but he had been reflecting on his problems with its teachings.
“I believe the Mormon Church has hindered global progress in women’s rights, civil rights and racial equality, and LGBTQ+ rights,” Green wrote.
Green asked in the letter that his records been removed from the organization and that he only be contacted again with the church’s acknowledgment that he was no longer a member. He said that one of his friends and 11 family members were leaving the church too.
“This money comes from people, often poor, who wholeheartedly believe you represent the will of Jesus,” Green wrote. “They give, expecting the blessings of heaven.”
He wrote that he would be donating $600,000 to the LGBTQ+ rights advocacy group Equality Utah, which will be the first major donation from his family foundation's giving arm, Dataphilanthropy.
The contribution will be Equality Utah's second-largest one-time donation, according to The Washington Post.
Part of that money will go toward a scholarship program for queer students in Utah, including students at his alma mater, Brigham Young University, who might have to leave due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“We made this investment sizable and publicly to send a message that Equality Utah isn’t going anywhere,” Green wrote.
The advocacy group’s executive director, Troy Williams, told NBC News in an email that the organization was “incredibly grateful for Jeff’s generosity and support.”
“In Utah, we have made enormous strides forward toward LGBTQ equality," Williams said. “The two most important elements of our success has been the support of allies and the willingness of state and religious leaders to engage with us. We don’t always agree, but great things happen when we seek common ground. Jeff’s financial support will ensure that we will remain a prominent force in Utah politics for years to come.”
Green, believed to have a net worth of about $5 billion, said he would donate 90 percent of his wealth to philanthropy before he dies.
He wrote, “But I will also give of my time, my most precious commodity, to allocate those funds deliberately, and to be personally engaged.”