SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has responded following an investigation by the Associated Press (AP) into the allegations of sexual abuse against the church and their abuse help line.
In the article published earlier this week, the Associated Press obtained court documents that allegedly show the complaints reported to the church’s helpline were instead diverted to the church’s attorneys, who “may bury the problem, leaving victims in harm’s way.”
The article references a particular incident in which an Arizona bishop with the Church learned that a church member, Paul Douglas Adams, was abusing his 5-year-old daughter.
He then followed church policy and reported the information to the Mormon Abuse Help Line.
“The bishop later told law enforcement that church attorneys in Salt Lake City who staff the helpline around the clock said that because he learned of the abuse during a counseling session the church considers a spiritual confession, he was legally bound to keep the abuse secret,” the article reads.
The AP alleges that Adams, a U.S. Border Patrol employee, continued to abuse his daughter for seven more years until his death, eventually abusing a second daughter without any intervention by the church.
Another case highlighted in the report is out of West Virginia, in which documents from a child sex abuse lawsuit against the church which allege the church “implements the Helpline not for the protection and spiritual counseling of sexual abuse victims…but for (church) attorneys to snuff out complaints and protect the Mormon Church from potentially costly lawsuits.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint released the following statement, disputing the claims made in the article:
“The abuse of a child or any other individual is inexcusable. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believes this, teaches this, and dedicates tremendous resources and efforts to prevent, report and address abuse. Our hearts break for these children and all victims of abuse.
The nature and the purpose of the Church’s help line was seriously mischaracterized in a recent Associated Press article. The help line is instrumental in ensuring that all legal requirements for reporting are met. It provides a place for local leaders, who serve voluntarily, to receive direction from experts to determine who should make a report and whether they (local leaders) should play a role in that reporting. When a leader calls the help line, the conversation is about how to stop the abuse, care for the victim and ensure compliance with reporting obligations, even in cases when the law provides clergy-penitent privilege or restricts what can be shared from private ecclesiastical conversations.
The help line is just one of many safeguards put in place by the Church. Any member serving in a role with children or youth is required to complete a training every few years about how to watch for, report and address abuse. Leaders and members are offered resources on how to prevent, address and report abuse of any kind. Church teachings and handbooks are clear and unequivocal about the evils of abuse. Members who violate those teachings are disciplined by the Church and may lose their privileges or membership. These are just a few examples.The story presented in the AP article is oversimplified and incomplete and is a serious misrepresentation of the Church and its efforts. We will continue to teach and follow Jesus Christ’s admonition to care for one another, especially in our efforts related to abuse.”
To read the full article from the Associated Press, click here.