Does the Mormon Church Conceal Child Sexual Abuse
Does the Mormon Church Conceal Child Sexual Abuse and
Give Sanctuary to Known Sexual Predators?
Franklyn Richard Curtis – High Priest, Primary Teacher, Blazer
Leader, Home Teacher and for fifteen years known to the First Presidency
to be a Predatory Child Molester. Curtis sexually abused dozens of Mormon
children in five states. Yet he represents just the ‘Tip of the Iceberg.’
Curtis was undoubtedly a sick individual. But what can you say about
an organization that covered up for his crimes over and over for eighteen
This Church’s Policies and Practices Make it a Haven for Child Molesters
Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse: The Case of Mormon Women,
Gerdes, Beck, Cowan-Hancock and Wilkinson-Sparks, Affilia, Vol. 11, No.1, Spring 1966 (Journal of Social Work)
Study on 71 Mormon women survivors of abuse in their dealings with church leaders. Revealing high percentage were counseled to forget abuse or were disbelieved; and of eighty perpetrators, only 3 were disciplined by church in any way. Survivors of abuse were punished more harshly than was the sexual abuse of children by male priesthood holders.
Affilia, a Journal of Social Work 1996 434-458
Church Shunned Sex Abuse Study/95 Report Faults Mormon Clergy for Handling of Victim Complaints, Paul McKay, Houston Chronicle 5/10/99 454-59
Mormons Hit by Child-Sex Lawsuits
by Bob Van Voris National Law Journal
Mormons Caught Up in Wave of Pedophile Accusations/Church Deals with Abuse Cases without Reporting them, Critics Say, Houston Chronicle 5/09/99 326-334
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Emphasizes Personal Propriety and the Value of Children. The Same Church Has Protected Serial Child Molesters Across the Country, by Lisa Davis, Phoenix Times 12/10/94 334-369
Keeping Mum on Mormon Sexual Abuse by Marion Smith The Event, Vol. 15, No. 23
Salt Lake City, UT 3/28/96 370-376
Nowhere to Turn, the Lavar Withers Case (Church hierarchy ignore years of complaints of sexual abuse of female patients of Dr. Withers, a Stake President of the LDS church in Rexburg, ID. he Idaho Statesman Special Report
The Fairfield Wives
(Article about sexually abusive gynecologist and Stake President in Fairfield, CA whose abuse was ignored and covered up by Mormon Church leadership for years.) San Francisco Weekly, 8/5/98 398-433
The Darker Side of Virtue, Corruption, Scandal and the Mormon Empire, by Anson Shupe
Ch. 5: Child Abuse in Utah: The Family Secret
Discusses interviews with Utah Social Services workers, prosecutors and child welfare advocates who report a problem with LDS bishops covering up child sexual abuse by attempting to counsel with pedophiles without reporting them. Also discusses interviews regarding church leaders lack of cooperation in prosecution of LDS sexual abusers. Prometheus Books, Buffalo, NY 1991 376-382
From Deposition testimony of Dwayne Liddell, Risk Management Director for LDS Church on Church Child Abuse Safe Practices and Risk Management:
…No Screening out of child molesters
The church does not use screening forms with respect to church members who are called to work with children. They do not screen “because the church is founded on religious tenets and is governed by ecclesiastical leaders. It is not part of the program.”
…on combatting Child Sexual Abuse within the priesthood and by missionionaries
“Sexual abuse is a moral transgression and is dealt with in an ecclesiastical manner. It is a risk that is managed by the ecclesiastical leaders according to the scripture and tenets of the church. The actions the church leadership has taken with respect to the loss ultimates are adequate.”
…on the Extent of Child Abuse in priesthood
The Risk Management department has never conducted a survey to determine the extent to which child sexual abuse happens within the church membership. Liddell is not aware of any such surveys. He is not aware of any database or central registry that tracks members or ex-members who have been accused of sexually abusing children. He is aware that the Boy Scouts maintains a database of individuals who have been rejected or dismissed as scout leaders as a result of child sexual abuse. Risk Management has never done any surveys to see if the churchs reporting policies in the area of child sexual abuse are being complied with. Liddell, Dwayne 69-70
…on Flagging of Membership Records
“If a member had been disciplined for child abuse, the membership record would be flagged. The flagged membership record would travel with the member until the ecclesiastical leader felt the flag should be removed.” Liddell testifies he has never, even once, seen a flag but knows it is on the membership certificate. He does not know if the flag gets removed if a member is re-baptized. Liddell, Dwayne 76-79
…on Tracking known Pedophiles within the church
because of design flaws in database indexing system it is impossible for church to know whether a current member was previously excommunicated for child sexual abuse. This is because a new membership number is issued upon re-baptism and the record does not show any prior record reference numbers.
…on Expert Consultations re: Child Sexual Abuse
Church leadership has not consulted with anyone outside the church relating to problem of child sexual abuse risk management.
….on the Church Help Line
Its for clergy only, not for victims. Liddell was not responsible for setting up the help line. He has no input into how it is staffed or its mission. Risk Management does not receive any information re: frequency of use of the help line. Liddell, Dwayne 79-80
A pedophile who is excommunicated gets a new membership record upon rebaptism which has no reference to the prior history of abuse.(‘Clean-slate’ doctrine at work.) No method of locating prior membership records because individual given a new membership number. System will not permit searching prior records without prior reference number. Affidavit of Dwayne Liddell Re Records Retention Policy
… on Tracking Pedophiles who are merely disfellowshipped for child sexual abuse following a church court
Membership record with notation (red-flag) need not be transmitted to Church Headquarters if only Disfellowshipped. Liddell Affidavit of May 28, 2001
1. Use of term homosexual for sexual abuse of male children in church discipline.
2. No place on form to track whether local leaders reported incident to civil authorities, or if not why.
3. Disfellowship vs. Excommunication for sexual abuse of children: basis for differentiation for sexual abusers?
4. How track individual for whom allegations of sexual abuse made for which no discipline imposed? i.e. membership records only red-flagged if ex-communicated. What about all other circumstances?
…and from Church lawyer Von Keetch and General Authority Harold Brown Interviews with Salt Lake Tribune October 17, 1999:
Brown admits that the church has no mandatory, regularized training program for its clergy on the proper handling of sex abuse complaints.
Admits church has no idea how extensive the problem is – all they do is count the number of lawsuits filed against it, divide by the number of congregations in the USA and guesses that it is below the national average for churches in general.
Asserts that in almost all instances bishops are able to get a confessing perpetrator to turn himself in to the police eliminating the dilemma of the clergy-penitent privilege. Also claim that state law in many states “require clergy to keep the confidences that they receive in confidential communications…that is clergy are faced with breaking the law if they were to divulge confidential information”
Harold Brown is a General Authority (Quorum of the Seventy)
Von Keetch is partner at Kirton McConkie Law Firm and counsel to church.
…on the church Helpline
Keetch says the 800 Hotline and occasional seminars on sex abuse for lay clergy is the church’s exclusive strategy for dealing with the problem, which they also claim is now fixed. Keetch claims there have been no lawsuits yet alleging negligence post-1995 when the Hotline was established.
Admits that church keep no records of the number or nature of calls that come in on the hotline. It rings into LDS social services and is manned by an individual (who was a former stake president ).It call forwards after hours to his cell phone. If there is a reporting issue he conferences-in Von Keetch.
Acknowledges that church does no background checks on members involved with youth.
Concedes that there are no reporting resources for victims and their families within the LDS, just clergy.
Protocol sheet for Helpline reflects:
Clergy are urged not to report abuse directly to police.
Helpline is not for helping victims or getting child molesters reported to police but is about church claims management and scandal control.
Other statements by Church Authorities on Child Sexual Abuse:
from Healing the Tragic Scars of Abuse, Ensign Magazine, Official Monthly Magazine of the Church to its Membership.
“Victim must do all in his power to stop the abuse. Priesthood leader will help assess responsibility so that it can be addressed.”
“No matter what degree of responsibility, the healing power of atonement can …can provide a complete cure.”
“Forgiveness can be obtained for all involved in abuse…As a victim do not waste effort in revenge or retribution against your aggressor.”
“I caution you not to participate in two improper therapeutic practices that may cause you more harm than good. They are: Excessive probing into every minute detail of your past experiences, particularly when this involved penetrating dialogue in group discussion; and blaming the abuser for every difficulty in your life… should be done privately.”
“There is no need to pick at healing wounds to open them and cause them to fester…The repair of damage inflicted by abuse confidentially, with a trusted priesthood leader and, where needed, the qualified professional he recommends.” The Ensign, May 1992, Apostle Richard G. Scott 32-33
…what the churchs pamphlets instructs its clergy about reporting
“Any required reporting of child abuse should usually be done by the offender or by others having knowledge of the problem.” Child Abuse Helps for Ecclesiastical Leaders.
Overtly discourages clergy reporting by advising its lower clergy that reporting of child abuse through others and only where local reporting laws make it mandatory.
…how the church defends its practice of recycling child molesters in court
Church lawyers acknowledgement that church’s policy is to forgive and recycle child molesters in their priesthood:
“The punished him under church law, he was forgiven, he repented, and he was rebaptized. And the church believes that he becomes a new person and you start from there.”
“After the Church disciplined Curtis, Curtis repented for his sin…A rebaptism can cleanse a person of his previous transgressions and in the eyes of the Church…all can be forgiven.”
Stephen English, Attorney for Church at hearing on Motion for Summary Judgment in Scott v. Mormon Church, Portland, OR: 3/22/01