The Truth & Transparency Foundation (TTF) is a non profit newsroom founded on the belief that increased transparency results in fewer untruths, less corruption, and less abuse within religious institutions. The organization was originally founded to provide sources and whistle-blowers the technical ability to anonymously submit sensitive documents for use by professional and citizen journalists for starting and expanding news reporting, public commentary, and criticism related to various religious organizations. It’s mission has since expanded to contribute to said news reporting.
The TTF 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.
The TTF was founded in November 2017 by two ex-Mormons, Ryan McKnight and Ethan Gregory Dodge. Prior to that, they worked together to launch the website MormonLeaks. Their efforts and success would soon cause them to expand their whistleblowing and transparency efforts to all religions, forming FaithLeaks. Soon, it became increasingly apparent that deeper, investigative reporting was necessary to accomplish their mission. This is the story of that process.
In November 2015, TTF Executive Director Ryan McKnight played an instrumental role in bringing to light a policy within the Mormon Church stating that children of gay parents could not be baptized until age 18, a whole ten years after the typical age of Mormon baptism, and only after disavowing their parents’ relationship. This revelation led to the mass resignation of thousands of members from the Church, formally known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
When it became known on the popular ex-Mormon forum, Reddit’s r/exmormon, McKnight became the de facto middle man between sources with internal Church documents and the public. McKnight released several series of documents on r/exmormon which were greet with excitement from other members of the forum.
In October 2016, McKnight came in possession of several video recordings showing closed-door meetings of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the First Presidency, the Mormon Church’s two highest bodies of leadership. Members of these bodies were shown listening to presentation on current affairs. One presentation was given by former Oregon Republican Senator and active Mormon Gordon Smith. In it Smith admits to being “church-broke” and voting to invade Iraq in hopes that American presence in the Middle East could benefit the Church. The release of these videos and their content garnered national attention, including a story in the New York Times.
Following the release of the videos, it was evident that a dedicated organization and website was needed in order to facilitate demand. Dodge, a digital forensics professional, suspected McKnight would need help protecting sources and contacted him via Reddit messaging, assuming the identity of Privacy P. Pratt.
Dodge offered to deploy the proper infrastructure and help McKnight implement the proper procedures in order to keep sources as anonymous as possible. In December of 2016, with the help of several other volunteers, MormonWikiLeaks.com was launched. After receiving feedback from WikiLeaks, the site was changed to MormonLeaks.io just weeks later.
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 slidedeck 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.
With MormonLeaks’ continued success came requests from other individuals from many different religions and across a spectrum of beliefs to expand and make a similar website for other religious organizations. Seeing the need and potential, McKnight and Dodge founded the TTF in November 2017 and launched FaithLeaks.
Since then, both MormonLeaks and FaithLeaks have contributed to raise awareness around many problems that exist in various religious institutions, specifically surrounding the topics of finances, policies, and abuse. As a result, in January of 2019, McKnight and Dodge expanded their efforts and began to not simply release documents, but also engage in investigative reporting the issues presented in the documents.