TW: sexual abuse, child pornography
This is not an easy article to read. I have included some less distressing bits from the piece in this post. Should you choose to click here and read the entire article, please do so with awareness. Please do not read this if your mental health cannot take it.
In summary, this investigative piece by the Associate Press which is considered a centralist view (neither predominantly left or right politically leaning) in their work. In summary, the article highlights a handful of horrific child sexual abuse cases wherein LDS leadership (predominantly bishops) refused to report the abuse, even when the law allowed or required them to do so. Further, the article addresses the bishop’s hotline as being a poor resource for these bishops as the caller is only identified by first name, so state law or any legal issues (such as if the state that they live in requires them to report the abuse to the police) cannot be addressed.
It is a shocking look at how wickedly and poorly children in the US church are protected by the church, and how well the policy can enable abusers.
Less distressing points from the article:
“Who’s really responsible for Herrod not disclosing?” McIntyre asked in an AP interview. “Is it Herrod,” who says he followed the church lawyers’ instruction not to report the abuse to authorities? “Or is it the people who gave him that advice?”
The lawsuit filed by three children accuses The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and several members, including Bishops ABC and XYZ, of negligence and conspiring to cover up child sex abuse to avoid “costly lawsuits” and protect the reputation of the church, which relies on proselytizing and tithing to attract new members and raise money.
“The failure to prevent or report abuse was part of the policy of the defendants, which was to block public disclosure to avoid scandals, to avoid the disclosure of their tolerance of child sexual molestation and assault, to preserve a false appearance of propriety, and to avoid investigation and action by public authority, including law enforcement,” the suit alleges. “Plaintiffs are informed and believe that such actions were motivated by a desire to protect the reputation of the defendants.”
Very few of the scores of lawsuits against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints mention the help line, in part because details of its operations have been a closely guarded secret. The documents in the sealed court records show how it works.
“The help line is certainly there to help — to help the church keep its secrets and to cover up abuse,” said Craig Vernon, an Idaho attorney who has filed several sex abuse lawsuits against the church.
Vernon, a former member, routinely demands that the church require bishops to report sex abuse to police or state authorities rather than the help line.
The Protocol instructs those staffing the help line to tell callers they are to use first names only. “No identifying information should be given.” Under the heading “High Risk Cases,” it also instructs staffers to ask a series of questions, including whether calls concerned possible abuse by a church leader, an employee, or abuse at “a church-sponsored activity.”
The protocol advises those taking the calls to instruct a “priesthood leader,” which includes bishops and stake presidents, to encourage the perpetrator, the victim, or others who know of the abuse to report it. But it also says, in capital letters, that those taking the calls “should never advise a priesthood leader to report abuse. Counsel of this nature should come only from legal counsel.”
(my livid, indignant emphasis is added in bold)
“There is nothing inconsistent between identifying cases that may pose litigation risks to the church and complying with reporting obligations,” church lawyers said in a sealed legal filing.
But one affidavit in the sealed records which repeatedly says the church condemns child sexual abuse, also suggests the church is more concerned about the spiritual well-being of perpetrators than the physical and emotional well-being of young victims, who also may be members of the faith.
Bishop ABC, in his recorded interview, said church officials told him he had to keep what [the abuser] told him confidential or he could be sued if he went to authorities.