Truth & Transparency is a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to religious accountability through impact journalism. Founded upon the belief that increased transparency results in fewer untruths, less corruption, and less abuse the organization provides sources and whistleblowers the technical ability to anonymously submit sensitive documents and other vital tips to assist in exposing abuses of religious power.
In order to produce the most impactful stories, Truth & Transparency concentrates on the following areas:
Donors deserve to know how their donations are being spent. Further, the great wealth of many religious institutions allows them to deeply influence society.
Policies that are not widely disseminated leave room to oppress the most vulnerable of a religion's membership.
Religious constituents can be better protected from abuse and harassment if essential details surrounding previous incidents and investigations are well known.
Truth & Transparency was founded in November 2017 by Ryan McKnight and Ethan Gregory Dodge. It has contributed to constructive commentary related to religion in various news outlets around the world including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Independent, NPR, ABC News, CBS News, Aljazeera, Slate, Gizmodo, and many other major and independent outlets.
Despite being officially organized in 2017, the work of Truth & Transparency began in December 2016 with a website known as MormonLeaks. MormonLeaks had early success, publishing the first publicly available documents to detail the salary of top Mormon leaders. Soon after, the Mormon Church legally requested the removal an internal slide deck published by the site. One slide portrayed what the media later dubbed an "Enemies List". DocDroid, the third party used to published the document, complied with the request. MormonLeaks responded by posting the document again on its own server located in Switzerland.
These efforts and successes soon caused McKnight and Dodge to expand their whistleblowing and transparency efforts to all religions, forming FaithLeaks. In January 2017, FaithLeaks released 33 documents and letters detailing an internal investigation of sexual abuse within a Massachusetts congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. Later, thousands of documents that had previously been published on the popular site, AvoidJW.org, were removed but republished with the help of FaithLeaks. This resulted in another four legal requests, this time from Watch Tower, the governing organization of Jehovah's Witnesses, to remove dozens of documents published on FaithLeaks.
Up to this point, McKnight and Dodge had simply released documents without commentary or reporting, allowing the public and the media to decide their implications. However, in May 2018 when MormonLeaks compiled public documentation tying $32 billion to the Mormon Church, it was apparent to McKnight and Dodge that deeper, investigative reporting was necessary to truly accomplish their mission of promoting transparency within religious institutions.
Thus, in January 2019, Truth & Transparency, originally formed as an umbrella 501(c)(3) organization to accept tax deductible donations from the supporters of MormonLeaks and FaithLeaks, was converted in a nonprofit, investigative newsroom dedicated to religious accountability through impact journalism.
Since then, Truth & Transparency has broken many stories, including the story of Sean Escobar who confronted a man who molested him, Sterling Van Wagenen, a prominent Mormon filmmaker and co-founder of the Sundance Film Festival. Originally known as "David", Escobar recorded a conversation between himself and his perpetrator in which Van Wagenen admitted to Escobars accusations. This story, featured in the New York Times, empowered another survivor to come forward and Van Wagenen later pled guilty in the courtroom. He is now behind bars as a direct result of Truth & Transparency's reporting.