By Kent Larsen
LDS Church Fighting Judge's Order to Provide Child Abuse Records
PORTLAND, OREGON -- A judge in Multnomah county, Oregon has ordered
the LDS Church to provide her with records of all child sexual abuse
complaints and disciplinary actions in the Portland area over the
past 25 years, and the Church is fighting the order. Judge Ellen F.
Rosenblum issued the order January 24th in the case of Jeremiah
Scott, now 21, who says that he was abused at age 11 by a Church
member that the Church knew was an abuser. The LDS Church plans to
file an appeal of the order with the Oregon Supreme Court.
The Scott case is one of several public cases in which the LDS Church
is bein sued by victims and their families for failing to let them
know that a Church member was an abuser. In the Scott case, the
abuser, Franklin Richards Curtis, who was 87 at the time of the
abuse, had been excommunicated by the Church in Pennsylvania for
previous abuse. Court records indicate that he was rebaptized in
1984, but as a member of the Rocky Butte Ward in Portland he then
abused five additional children. Although the Bishop of that ward
confronted him, and Curtis confessed, the Bishop never reported the
abuse to the police, and only reported the abuse to Salt Lake City
when parents in his ward complained.
Curtis then moved to the Brentwood ward, where he told then-Bishop
Gregory Lee Foster that he had repented of previous abuse. Bishop
Foster kept that abuse quiet, and later called Curtis to teach Sunday
School. He eventually met Scott's mother, and came to live with
Scott's family, and Scott says that Bishop Foster still remained
silent about the abuse. As a result Scott was abused on a daily basis
for about six months, the lawsuit alleges.
Like in other cases, this case raises issues of priest-penitent
confidentiality, and the LDS Church's appeal of the decision claims
that the order violates the US Constitution's First Amendment and
confidentiality laws about the confessional. Under the
priest-penitent privilege doctrine, a member of the clergy, such as a
Bishop, can't divulge to others what a Church member tells him. And
the LDS Church is arguing that Judge Rosenblum's order does just that
-- for everyone that has confessed abusing children in Portland over
the past 25 years.
But child advocates argue that the safety of the child should
outweigh these concerns. Similar issues have been raised in similar
cases involving the LDS Church in West Virginia, Texas, Chicago,
Washington and Utah.
Judge orders Mormons to provide sex-abuse records
Portland OR Oregonian 9Feb01 N1
By Michael Wilson of The Oregonian staff
The ruling is the result of a lawsuit filed by a man who says he was molested by a high priest
LDS Church must release abuse records
Deseret News 10Feb01 N1
Judge Orders LDS Church to Release Files of Sex-Abuse Complaints
Salt Lake Tribune 10Feb01 N1