Tech billionaire quits Mormon church, gives $600K to Utah LGBTQ+ group

a photo of Jeff Green standing at a podium
Jeff Green has asked the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to remove him from its membership. Courtesy / Giving Pledge

Frustrated over what he believes are harmful actions toward minority and racialized groups, a Utah billionaire has rebuked his former church and donated more than half a million dollars to an LGBTQ+ group.

Jeff Green, CEO of Trade Desk, a software marketing company, wrote a letter to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) president Russell Nelson this week, asking that the Mormon church remove his records and confirm he is no longer a member, reports The Salt Lake Tribune.

“I believe the Mormon church has hindered global progress in women’s rights, civil rights and racial equality, and LGBTQ+ rights,” Green wrote in the letter, according to the Tribune.

“Although I have deep love for many Mormons and gratitude for many things that have come into my life through Mormonism, I have not considered myself a member for many years and I’d like to make clear to you and others that I am not a member.”

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Green, 44, is considered to be one of Utah’s most wealthy businesspeople. In addition to his $600,000 donation to Equality Utah, he wrote in a giving pledge that he plans to donate 90 per cent of his estimated US$5-billion fortune.

“Government money (long before mine) has been thrown at the very problems and suffering that I intend to address through data-driven philanthropy. Being deliberate, focused, smart, passionate, and collaborative is the only way to make an outsized impact and create leverage with the wealth I plan to donate,” he wrote.

According to The Associated Press, 11 of Green’s family members and one friend resigned from the church alongside him.

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The church did not immediately return a request from The Associated Press seeking comment on Tuesday, but in recent years has shown a willingness to engage on LGBTQ+ rights that is unusual for a conservative faith.

It maintains its doctrinal opposition to same-sex marriage and intimacy, but did not block a 2019 ban on so-called conversion therapy in Utah, and in November its leader, Dallin H. Oaks, called for a recognition of both religious rights and LGBTQ+ rights.

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However, the church has taken positions over the years that have been deeply painful for many in the LGBTQ+ community. Green, for his part, said most members “are good people trying to do right,” but he also worries about the faith’s transparency around its history and finances.

Green’s letter also explained that his donation is the first major donation from his family foundation’s philanthropic arm, Dataphilanthropy. He said half the money will go to a scholarship fund for LGBTQ+ students, including those who might want to leave Brigham Young University – Green’s alma mater, which is sponsored by the Mormon Church.

Tory Williams, the executive director for Equality Utah, told NBC News that the organization is “incredibly grateful for Jeff’s generosity and support.”

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“In Utah, we have made enormous strides forward toward LGBTQ equality,” he wrote in an email.

“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.”

— With a file from The Associated Press

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