12 Jun 2011

US 1st Amendment was not intended to protect crimes but religious institutions say it gives them the right to protect child abusers

Huffington Post   -   June 11, 2011

Churches Use 'Free Exercise' Defense To Block Abuse Cases

By Cecile S. Holmes  |  Religion News Service

(RNS) Jeremiah Scott was 11 when the abuse and molestation began in 1990 at the hands of an elder in his Mormon church in Portland, Ore. After the man died in 1995, Scott's mother sued the church in 1998 for putting her son at risk.

His mother said when she reported the abuse of Brother Frank Curtis to church authorities, she was told they already knew about it. Digging deeper, her attorneys discovered molestation claims against Curtis that stretched across state lines and went back decades.

But the church employed a unique legal defense: As a religious institution, church leaders said they were protected by the First Amendment's separation of church and state from having to surrender personnel files, victims' complaints or other documents.

Attorneys representing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints argued its records were protected by clergy-penitent privilege and the First Amendment's protection of the "free exercise" of religion.

Though the case was eventually settled in 2001, journalist Lisa Davis says the case represents a profound misuse -- and misunderstanding -- of the freedoms afforded to religious institutions under the Constitution.

And while a $3 million settlement may have ended the case for Scott and Curtis, it did not resolve the sticky First Amendment issues, Davis argues in her recent book, "The Sins of Brother Curtis."

"Everything was a fight in the case," said Davis, who teaches journalism at Santa Clara University and who has written for media outlets in Phoenix and San Francisco.

"Most states have a provision for clergy confidentiality. The idea being that we want to allow people to unburden themselves to their religious leader. It's designed for a confessional situation. It's not designed for a person coming to any church leader saying I'm worried about my child."

Legal scholars say that nearly 10 years after the Catholic abuse scandal highlighted the depth and breadth of the abuse of minors, the lines of authority between church and state remain murky when it comes to criminal acts.

"As important as the constitutional grounding is, there is rarely a complete prohibition for wrongs committed within the four corners of the church," says Brent Walker, an attorney and head of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.

Legal scholars say church bodies -- from Catholic dioceses to entire denominations -- often try to use the First Amendment to block victims' attorneys from accessing internal documents. In a case now headed for the U.S. Supreme Court, a religious school has tried to use the First Amendment to stave off an employment discrimination suit filed by a teacher.

"There hasn't been much written about these First Amendment issues because the focus has been on the victims and the abuse," said Marci Hamilton, legal scholar at New York's Benjamin Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University.

Church attorneys tried to use the First Amendment to block prosecutors in several ways as the Catholic clergy sex abuse web unwound, said Leslie Griffin, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Houston.

"There were claims that a lot of the documents were protected and then we go into litigation," Griffin said. "Their reading of the First Amendment is that it allows no government interference of religion, no government intrusion, no government review."

In the Curtis case, other legal arguments emerged around the idea of redemption -- an idea that is as central to religious teaching as private confessions made between a priest and his bishop.

"Frank Curtis had been found out (as a molester) in the 1980s and had been excommunicated by the church when it was found out," Davis said. "But he went through a process of repentance and was re-baptized."

That redemption process again gave Curtis access to children as a Sunday school teacher and Scout leader. In court, LDS lawyers said the church had a constitutionally protected right to believe in Curtis' redemption.

"This became known as the clean slate argument. The idea was he had emerged after baptism with a clean slate," Davis said.

Citizens are free to believe whatever they like, Davis said, but actions are governed by the law. And while the Constitution protects belief, and sometimes practice, it does not protect criminal actions.

One question that courts will have to wrestle with, scholars say, is whether putting someone in a position of authority is an extension of belief. Up until about 20 years ago, most states assumed the First Amendment barred anyone from bringing a claim against clergy, said Hamilton, the New York scholar.

"That theory was ... you could not go after the church because of one bad apple," she said. "But the more we've learned about clergy abuse cases, the more we're learning about the role the churches have played in covering up abuse and furthering that abuse."

"As the courts have become more educated, they have come to understand that religious institutions have to be held liable, and that the First Amendment was never intended as a protection for this kind of behavior."

This article was found at:


Mormon church leaders claim clergy privilege and say they had no duty to report sex abuse of teen to police

Children's rights lawyer criticizes Mormon church's child protection policies, but church claims it has gold standard

Summary of US State legislation on the issue of clergy as mandated reporters of child abuse and neglect

Nevada Supreme Court considers liability of churches in abuse suits; 1st Amendment not a defense in most other states

Child protection policies vary from church to church, but spotty compliance continues to endanger children

Book reveals Mormon church protected known pedophile priest, aggressively fought victims in court

Mormon leaders won't be charged with failing to report baby molester because of Idaho's clergy privilege law

Trapped in a Mormon Gulag

Order to release financial data has LDS Church, courts on collision course

Phoenix pastors charged for not reporting incest to authorities, told girls to make amends with their father


  1. New EU guidelines on religion and belief make plain that no religion is entitled to special rights

    by Terry Sanderson, National Secular Society
    June 27 2013

    The EU Foreign Affairs Council this week adopted a report with 71 Guidelines to promote the right to freedom of religion and belief worldwide.

    Below are some choice quotes from it that should give pause to those Christians who imagine that they have special rights and privileges because of their "traditional role" in the nation:

    · "All persons have the right to manifest their religion or belief either individually or in community with others and in public or private in worship, observance, practice and teaching, without fear of intimidation, discrimination, violence or attack. Persons who change or leave their religion or belief, as well as persons holding non-theistic or atheistic beliefs should be equally protected, as well as people who do not profess any religion or belief."

    · "The right to freedom of religion or belief, as enshrined in relevant international standards, does not include the right to have a religion or a belief that is free from criticism or ridicule."

    · "There are no rights exclusive to holders of any particular religion or belief: all rights whether in regard to the freedom to believe or to manifest one's religion or belief, are universal and are to be respected on a non-discriminatory basis."

    · "The EU does not consider the merits of the different religions or beliefs, or the lack thereof, but ensures that the right to believe or not to believe is upheld. The EU is impartial and is not aligned with any specific religion or belief."

    · "Coercion to change, recant or reveal one's religion or belief is equally prohibited. Holding or not holding a religion or belief is an absolute right and may not be limited under any circumstances".

    · "Freedom of religion or belief protects every human being's right to believe or to hold an atheistic or non-theistic belief, and to change religion or belief. It does not protect a religion or belief as such. Freedom of religion or belief applies to individuals, as right-holders, who may exercise this right either individually or in community with others and in public or private. Its exercise may thus also have a collective aspect. This includes rights for communities to perform "acts integral to the conduct by religious groups of their basic affairs". These rights include, but are not limited to, legal personality and non-interference in internal affairs, including the right to establish and maintain freely accessible places of worship or assembly, the freedom to select and train leaders or the right to carry out social, cultural, educational and charitable activities."

    continued below

  2. · "Certain practices associated with the manifestation of a religion or belief, or perceived as such, may constitute violations of international human rights standards. The right to freedom of religion or belief is sometimes invoked to justify such violations. The EU firmly opposes such justification, whilst remaining fully committed to the robust protection and promotion of freedom of religion or belief in all parts of the world. Violations often affect women, members of religious minorities, as well as persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In dealing with possible violations, use will be made of existing EU human rights guidelines, notably the guidelines on the promotion and protection of rights of the child, on violence against woman and girls and combating all forms of discrimination against them, on human rights defenders, on torture and on the death penalty, as well as the forthcoming EU guidelines on the enjoyment of all human rights by LGBTI persons, and on freedom of expression on line and off line."

    · "When critical comments are expressed about religions or beliefs and such expression is perceived by adherents as being so offensive that it may result in violence towards or by adherents, then:

    · If there is a prima facie case that this expression constitutes hate speech, i.e. falls within the strict scope of article 20 paragraph 2 of the ICCPR (which prohibits any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence), the EU will denounce it, and demand that it be investigated and tried by an independent judge".

    · "If this expression does not rise to the level of incitement prohibited under article 20 of the ICCPR, and is thus an exercise of free speech, the EU will:

    1. Resist any calls or attempts for the criminalisation of such speech;

    2. Individually or jointly with States or regional organisations, endeavour to issue statements calling for no violence to be committed and condemning any violence committed in reaction to such speech;

    3. Encourage state and other influential actors, whether religious or non-religious, to speak out and to engage in constructive public debate concerning what they see as offensive speech, condemning any form of violence;

    4. Recall that the most effective way to combat a perceived offense from the exercise of freedom of expression is the use of freedom of expression itself. Freedom of expression applies online as well as offline. New forms of media as well as information and communications technology provide those who feel offended by criticism or rejection of their religion or belief with the tools to instantly exercise their right of reply.

    continued below

  3. · "In any case, the EU will recall, when appropriate, that the right to freedom of religion or belief, as enshrined in relevant international standards, does not include the right to have a religion or a belief that is free from criticism or ridicule".

    · "International human rights law protects individuals, not Religion or Belief per se. Protecting a religion or belief may not be used to justify or condone a restriction or violation of a human right exercised by individuals alone or in community with others."

    · "States have a duty to protect all persons within their jurisdiction from direct and indirect discrimination on grounds of religion or belief, whatever the reasons advanced for such discrimination. This includes the duty to rescind discriminatory legislation, implement legislation that protects freedom of religion or belief, and halt official practices that cause discrimination, as well as to protect people from discrimination by state and other influential actors, whether religious or non-religious."

    · "Individuals, have the right to decide for themselves whether and how they wish to manifest their religion or belief. Limitations to this freedom have to be strictly interpreted. Manifestation of one's religion or belief can take many forms. This includes the right of children to learn about the faith/belief of their parents, and the right of parents to teach their children in the tenets of their religion or belief. It also includes the right to peacefully share one's religion or belief with others, without being subject to the approval of the state or another religious community. Any limitation on freedom of religion or belief, including regarding places of worship and state registration of religious or belief groups, must be exceptional and in compliance with international standards."

    · "Frequent restrictions by States include the denial of legal personality to religious and belief communities, the denial of access to places of worship/meeting and burial, the punishment of unregistered religious activity with exorbitant fines or prison terms, or the requirement for children from religious and belief minorities to receive confessional education in the beliefs of the majority.

    Several states do not recognize the right to conscientious objection to military service as part of the legitimate exercise of the freedom of religion or belief, deriving from article 18 of the ICCPR25."


  4. Jehovahs Witnesses use 1st Amendment to hide child sex abuse claims

    By Trey Bundy / Reveal News February 14, 2015

    The leadership of the Jehovah’s Witnesses – one of the world’s most insular religions – for 25 years has instructed its elders to keep cases of child sexual abuse secret from law enforcement and members of their own congregations, according to an examination of thousands of pages of documents in recent cases.


    The religion’s parent organization, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, issued the directives in at least 10 memos dating back to 1989. Although the memos were anonymously written, Watchtower officials have testified that the organization’s Governing Body approved them all.

    The most recent letter, dated Nov. 6, 2014, instructed elders – the spiritual leaders of local congregations – to form confidential committees to handle potential criminal matters internally.

    “In some cases, the elders will form a judicial committee to handle the alleged wrongdoing that may also constitute a violation of criminal law (e.g., murder, rape, child abuse, fraud, theft, assault),” the directive stipulates. “Generally, the elders should not delay the judicial committee process, but strict confidentiality must be maintained to avoid unnecessary entanglement with secular authorities who may be conducting a criminal investigation of the matter.”

    Within the organization, the Watchtower has final say over who is considered a serial child abuser. According to a 2012 Watchtower memo: “Not every individual who has sexually abused a child in the past is considered a ‘predator.’ The (Watchtower), not the local body of elders, determines whether an individual who has sexually abused children in the past will be considered a ‘predator.’ ”

    The directives are part of a pattern for the organization, which has more than 8 million members worldwide and preaches that Armageddon will soon release the world from Satan’s grip. In the U.S., the Jehovah’s Witnesses operate more than 14,000 congregations with about 1 million members.

    Internal documents obtained by Reveal show that the Witnesses have systematically instructed elders and other leaders to keep child sexual abuse confidential, while collecting detailed information on congregants who prey on children.

    Having successfully leveraged the First Amendment as a defense of their right to not serve in the military or salute the American flag, the Jehovah’s Witnesses now are using a similar legal strategy to defend policies that shield serial predators from law enforcement.

    continue reading the full article at:


  5. Did leaders of Jehovahs Witnesses cover up child sex abuse?

    PBS NewsHour February 16, 2015


    GWEN IFILL: Next: an investigation into child sexual abuse among Jehovah’s Witness and accusations that religious leaders led a cover-up within inside some of the group’s 14,000 U.S. congregations.

    Our colleagues from the Center for Investigative Reporting obtained confidential memos shedding new light on the revelations.

    Special correspondent Trey Bundy has the story from Reveal, a new Web site, radio show, and podcast run by the center.

    TREY BUNDY: At a convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in California, new members are taking the plunge.

    MAN: At your baptism, you said yes.

    TREY BUNDY: They’re joining more than eight million members worldwide.

    Believers are taught to renounce secular society because it’s controlled by Satan, and not to socialize too much with outsiders. But charges of sexual abuse have brought this insular community under greater scrutiny. And now, in this San Francisco courtroom, the first child abuse case against the Jehovah’s Witnesses to go to trial is under way.

    Candace Conti is suing the organization for failing to protect her from a known child abuser when she was 9 years old.

    CANDACE CONTI, Plaintiff: If I were to sum up our goals in this case, it was to attack the policies and procedures that where in place that let a serial molester continue to molest children.

    TREY BUNDY: Conti’s lawyer says instructions from Jehovah’s Witness leaders have enabled child molesters.

    MAN: The instructions were, you keep these pedophiles secret.

    TREY BUNDY: The case hinges on letters from Jehovah’s Witness leaders to the heads of local congregations. For almost 20 years, they have ordered them to send reports like this one for every known child abuser, to hide these cases from their congregations, and not to cooperate with law enforcement or the courts, unless instructed to.

    They have refused judges’ orders to turn over these abuse reports, so no one knows how many cases like Conti’s are out there.

    JAMES MCCABE, Jehovah’s Witnesses lawyer: Jehovah’s Witnesses abhor child abuse of any form.

    TREY BUNDY: The Jehovah’s Witnesses insist that they comply with the law. And their lawyers argue that the First Amendment gives them the right to set child abuse policies as they see fit.

    JAMES MCCABE: Religious beliefs and standards of Jehovah’s Witnesses were at play in this case from start to finish.

    TREY BUNDY: The religious beliefs come from the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society in Brooklyn, which has often used the First Amendment to defend its policies of separation.

    In 1943, it even won a Supreme Court case arguing that schoolchildren shouldn’t be forced to pledge allegiance to the flag.

    TREY BUNDY: Watchtower lawyers, who refused to speak with us, are again claiming a First Amendment defense to keep child abuse in its congregations secret.

    JAMES MCCABE: And the elders are counseled in that letter to give special heed to the counsel, do not reveal the confidential talk of another, quoting from the Bible, Book of Proverbs, Chapter 25, Verse 9.

    TREY BUNDY: Candace Conti was part of a Jehovah’s Witness congregation in Fremont, California. She was often grouped with adults to go knocking on doors including this man, Jonathan Kendrick.

    CANDACE CONTI: He was very dominating, very domineering, very — he commanded a presence.

    TREY BUNDY: She says Kendrick would take advantage of their time door-knocking to find ways to be alone with her.

    continued below

  6. CANDACE CONTI: Jonathan Kendrick molested me as a child. I really kind of pushed everything down and tried not to think about it about much as I could.

    TREY BUNDY: What no one in Conti’s family knew was that Jonathan Kendrick had admitted to molesting another child a year earlier.

    Michael Clarke, an elder in the congregation, was asked about it in this deposition.

    MAN: Do you recall becoming aware of a report of sexual abuse of a child by Jonathan Kendrick?

    MICHAEL CLARKE, Elder, North Fremont Congregation: Yes.

    MAN: When did you become aware of such a report?

    MICHAEL CLARKE: He had called us to his home to discuss a — or to confess to an incident with his step-daughter.

    TREY BUNDY: Clarke never called the police. He followed Watchtower protocol. He wrote to New York headquarters, asking how to deal with Kendrick’s confession. They told him not to investigate the matter further.

    Instead they said, “Provide him with strong scriptural counsel to avoid a repetition of such a serious offense.”

    MICHAEL CLARKE: We don’t make that public to the congregation. It’s confidential.

    TREY BUNDY: The elders didn’t warn other members that one of their own was a child abuser.

    MAN: And that’s the policy and the practice of Jehovah’s Witnesses that you learned as an elder, correct?


    TREY BUNDY: Clarke says the elders told Kendrick not to be alone with children. But he was still allowed to join in congregation activities that included minors. A year later, one of those minors was Candace Conti.

    CANDACE CONTI: And I don’t think it ever left. I know it never left me. You know, it’s always there. And it was just probably one of those days that I just felt it.

    TREY BUNDY: Conti kept quiet about the abuse, until years later, when she discovered on a sex offender registry that he had gone on to molest another young girl. She decided to sue the Watchtower.

    CANDACE CONTI: I think, after I had found that out, I had this sense of guilt. What if I did something? What if I hadn’t been such a coward? What if I had done something to maybe protect this other child? I knew what he was capable of, but I didn’t do anything. And then now look what happened.

    TREY BUNDY: I drove to Oakley, California, where Kendrick had moved when he left Conti’s congregation. I met the girl Conti had found. She agreed to talk to us if we didn’t show her face.

    WOMAN: When I was a little girl, probably about 6 or 7, Jonathan Kendrick abused me.

    TREY BUNDY: She blames the Watchtower’s secrecy for enabling Kendrick to marry into her family and target her. The family sued the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    WOMAN: They knew that he had a past, and they kept it from us.

    TREY BUNDY: When Kendrick moved to the Oakley congregation, no one was told he was a child molester, not even Roger Bentley, who served as an elder there for 30 years. He reviewed this letter of introduction from Kendrick’s old congregation.

    continued below

  7. ROGER BENTLEY Former Elder Oakley Congregation: There’s no indication at all that he’s guilty of child abuse.

    TREY BUNDY: So no mention of child abuse, but any mention of children?

    ROGER BENTLEY: Well, if you read it, it very specifically says he’s a very interesting individual who has taken the lead with some young ones in the congregation and helped them from veering off course.

    That’s not a child abuser. That’s a recommendation. That’s a very specific recommendation: Oh, relax. He’s good with kids.

    TREY BUNDY: I have spent months trying to interview Watchtower leaders, but they wouldn’t talk to me. Instead, they sent a statement, saying they comply with reporting laws, they do not shield abusers from law enforcement, and are committed to preventing child abuse.

    And in one of the dozen lawsuits I have been following, Watchtower supervisor Richard Ashe was asked if the organization has a responsibility to protect children from abuse.

    RICHARD ASHE, Watchtower Supervisor: Well, within the congregation, ours is a spiritual protection. When we’re talking about physical protection, that’s up to the secular authorities to provide.

    TREY BUNDY: He was asked about the Watchtower’s Bible-based directives to keep child abuse cases confidential.

    MAN: It states, in paragraph three, there is a time to keep quiet, when your words should prove to be few.

    Do you see that?


    MAN: I’m going to object to that. It’s a violation of the First Amendment, freedom of religion, freedom of association.

    TREY BUNDY: The courts continue to grapple with the question: Should freedom of religion outweigh the responsibility to protect children?

    In Candace Conti’s case, the jury overrode the First Amendment claims and decided the Watchtower and the North Fremont congregation were negligent and didn’t adequately protect her from abuse.

    Kendrick maintains he never molested her. Pending appeal, she was awarded more than $15 million in compensation and damages. It’s the first time a jury has ordered the Watchtower to pay for its child abuse policies.

    But for Kendrick’s other victim, her case against the Watchtower was thrown out. Even though Kendrick confessed to the abuse in this deposition and served about eight months in jail, the judge affirmed that the Watchtower’s policies were protected by the First Amendment. It wasn’t liable because the abuse occurred at home and not in the course of religious activity. The Watchtower had no obligation to warn the family about Kendrick’s past.

    Kendrick is now free and still an active member of the Oakley congregation.

    CANDACE CONTI: The fact that Jonathan Kendrick is still a member in a good standing is absolutely ridiculous. It’s scary. The fact that he still has access to children — and, really, my parents didn’t have the power to know that Jonathan Kendrick was a child abuser.

    Let’s give the parents the power to be able to protect their children. And that’s what these organizations are hiding.

    TREY BUNDY: Despite the huge verdict against the Watchtower, the organization is sticking to its policies. In fact, it just released another confidential memo reminding elders to keep quiet about child abuse.

    I’m Trey Bundy from Reveal for the NewsHour.


  8. Mormon statement on child abuse: Move along, folks; we don’t have a problem

    by Jana Riess, Blog - Flunking Sainthood | Religion News Service February 2, 2016

    Yesterday the LDS Church added a resource to the Mormon Newsroom called “Effectiveness of Church Approach to Preventing Child Abuse.” (* See end of post for an update on this resource.)

    It has ignited something of a firestorm.

    The statement was apparently first written in 2010 by Von G. Keetch, who was at that time chief outside legal counsel for the Church and is now a Seventy. Elder Keetch has represented the Church in several cases about child and sexual abuse.

    We might think that such experience would position him to speak frankly about the problems that the LDS Church, like many other religious organizations, has experienced with members and leaders abusing children. Given that the Mormon-dominated state of Utah now ranks fifth in the United States for cases of child abuse—and the highest of any state for child sexual abuse—it’s clear that there is a real dilemma here.

    Yet you wouldn’t know that from the statement. Some choice lines:

    --“No religious organization has done more” to prevent and respond to abuse.
    --“The Church’s approach is the gold standard.”
    --“While clergy-abuse cases continue to grab headlines, the Church has had almost no child abuse problems with its clergy.”

    Really? That’s what we’re going with?

    If Mormons are setting the “gold standard” for the rest of society in how to confront child abuse, then the rest of society is in trouble.

    Why is the Church recycling this statement now? My guess is that the alarming case of the San Diego abuser “Mr. Wonder,” which has been in the news over the last week, has put the Church on the defensive. This man fled Louisiana in 1979 when officials there had a warrant for his arrest on charges of child sexual abuse. He has eluded capture for nearly four decades, first in Brazil and then in California.

    I’m not sure how the LDS Church in California could be expected to know this man’s history and discipline him for it, since he changed his name and forged an entirely new identity after fleeing Louisiana. I don’t think it’s really fair to accuse the Church of mishandling this.

    But the question is: if the Church had known the history in this particular case, what would it have done? There have been enough examples of local LDS leaders—who are not, like other clergy members, professionally trained in how to deal with child and sexual abuse—sweeping matters under the rug that it’s entirely reasonable for us to wonder.

    What’s especially weird about the “Effectiveness” statement is that it’s factually incorrect on several key points. These are enumerated blow by blow in an excellent response on Feminist Mormon Housewives, but let me recap a few of the most glaring errors.

    continued below

  9. No, Mormons are not leading the charge here. It’s disappointing that an LDS statement would make sweeping and self-aggrandizing generalizations to the effect that “child abuse by clergy may be a problem in other religions, but it’s never a problem with us, no sir! And if it were, our church has the absolute best practices and policies in place for addressing it.”

    This is just insulting. Many other faiths are way ahead of us on this score: See here for the 2012 PC(USA) policy statement “We Won’t Let It Happen Here: Creating a Child Safe Church,” building on earlier General Assembly resolutions dating back to 1991. Here is the policy in Reform Judaism. Here is the Child Protection Policy in the ELCA. Heck, even the Southern Baptists, that loosest of confederations, have now adopted a centralized policy on child abuse. We could go on and on about the proactive ways that other faiths are getting out in front of this issue.

    Note one feature that all of these religions have urged to bolster child protection: background checks for every person who works closely with children and youth. So far, Mormon leaders have not followed this lead.

    No, “preventing and responding to child abuse” is not “the subject of a regular lesson during Sunday meetings.” Where does this assertion even come from? I’ve never been in a church meeting that was devoted to issues like learning the signs of abuse, counseling victims, documenting cases, and reporting suspicions to the police. And I sure don’t see this in our Sunday curriculum.

    No, we don’t have a policy that prohibits an adult male from ever being alone with a minor. The so-called “two-deep” policy the “Effectiveness” statement boasts of isn’t mentioned anywhere in the 2010 church handbook for bishops and stake presidents, and in fact that handbook states that “worthiness interviews should be private” (7.1.1). In the section for youth, there’s a mention that parents are encouraged “to stay close to their children and counsel them,” but it’s not clear whether that parental involvement is specifically supposed to occur during a teen’s worthiness interview with the bishop or is just general advice about parents being involved in their kids’ lives (7.1.7).

    In practice, I don’t see Mormon parents accompanying their teens for their annual interviews; if this has begun to happen, that’s good news that I’d love to hear more about. (Here’s a powerful post at Doves and Serpents about how inappropriate youth interviews can be, offering concrete recommendations for change.)

    continued below

  10. No, we don’t always call the authorities. On the contrary, some of the documented cases of Mormon abusers show church leaders keeping quiet about the abuse and encouraging victims to handle it privately, if at all. That’s one of the most disturbing facets of the Frank Curtis case, for example. There’s no record that LDS leaders reported Curtis to the police for the abuse and pedophilia that caused his excommunication. And it gets worse: when an apparently penitent Curtis was later rebaptized, he was given another calling with children!

    Overall, it’s strange to me that the “Effectiveness” statement insists on the one hand that there’s nothing to see here, that abuse rarely or never occurs in the Church, while on the other puts forward an equally vociferous insistence that LDS authorities have addressed the problem dozens or even hundreds of times from the pulpit.

    The second part of that is correct: even a cursory search of the General Conference archives shows the tremendous uptick in mentions of abuse from the 1980s onward.

    [see graph at link below]

    But the reality is that issues only get addressed that often when they are, in fact, issues. Mormon leaders haven’t begun to speak frequently about child abuse because it’s a phantom issue affecting other people in allegedly inferior religions far away; they do so because the problem is already right here in our midst. There are wolves among our sheep.

    I would like to see a different kind of statement from the Church, one that acknowledges the real pain of survivors of abuse.

    One that says, “Yes, we understand there have been serious problems in the past, which is why we are implementing the following best practices gleaned from the wisdom that modern psychologists, social workers, religious leaders, and police have to offer.”

    Instead what this statement offers is flat-out denial coupled with a blame-the-victim mentality and inexplicable claims about all the great things we’ve done to prevent a problem that — did we mention? — never existed among our people anyway.

    Update: After posting this I [Jana Reiss] was made aware that the Newsroom just added the following qualifier to this statement:

    “The following article was published in 2010. Some bloggers have written that the Church ‘re-released’ this article on February 1, 2016. The article was not intended to be re-released. Because of a technical error on the website, some past articles have been showing up with the current date. Because of that issue, some understandably saw this as a current release from the Church.”

    I’m glad to hear that this was a mistake, and I applaud the Church for admitting it. Now can we just take this damaging statement off the official LDS website altogether?


  11. Child sexual abuse is a world wide problem and perpetrators target churches and organizations where children are likely found. I have completed a document which is a compilation of quotes from Public Documents which include Legal Complaints; Appellate Court Rulings; Rulings on Legal Motions; Newspaper accounts; and the Boy Scouts of America Ineligible file documents on this issue. All links are provided.

    Transparency is the only way children will be protected.

    Although this document is very disturbing, there is nothing more upsetting and tragic than coping with the aftermath of abuse in someone you love. My hope is that this document will raise awareness so that children will be better protected.

    This is the first Church I have researched and I intend to continue this type of research with other churches and organizations. The document is a living document and to add an instance of sexual abuse by leaders or members of the Mormon Church to this document, please email me at: LDSLivingDocument@gmail.com