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For week ended September 26, 1999 Posted 26 Sep 1999

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Mormon church wants to compel Fairbanks teen to join lawsuit

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Mormon church wants to compel Fairbanks teen to join lawsuit
West Virginia News (AP) 22Sep99 N1
By T. A. Badger: Associated Press Writer

ANCHORAGE, ALASKA -- The LDS Church filed suit yesterday against a Fairbanks, Alaska teenager to force him to take part in a $750 million West Virginia lawsuit against the Church. The lawsuit, brought in 1996 by the boy's mother and younger sister, accuses the Church of remaining silent after the boy's father confessed to sexually abusing his children. The father is now serving a 184-year sentence for the abuse.

The Church's action has confused the boy and his family, all of whom have been given aliases by the courts. His mother, given the name Rebecca Doe in court papers, says, "He's wondering why they're picking on him."

The Church claims that the children's claims against the Church would be "virtually identical" and is seeking to prevent the boy, called Frederic Doe in court papers, from filing a separate lawsuit. The Church's Anchorage lawyer, Kevin Clarkson, said that a second suit would waste time and money, calling a separate suit a "calculated waste of judicial resources and forum shopping. The manuever is solely intended to maximize the family's potential recovery and to magnify costs for (the church)."

The issues in the lawsuit were already argued in a West Virginia court in August 1998, when the Church also sought to force Frederic to join the suit. At that time, West Virginia Circuit Court Judge H. L. Kirkpatrick III ruled that Frederic's case was unique and that he therefore couldn't be forced to join his sister's suit.

Kirkpatrick threw-out the Church's First Amendment claims in December last year, saying that the state's interests in protecting children from sexual abuse outweigh religious protections in the constitution and the doctrine of priest-penitent privilege.

Columbia, South Carolina attorney Michael Sullivan, who represents the girl in the lawsuit, says that these issues weren't the relevant to the lawsuit, "This is a (civil) case where the defendant happens to be a church. Our purpose in this is we hope the church will re-evaluate the way it responds when their clergy learns about children being abused."

Sullivan also says that the boy suffered much more than the girl from the abuse, and that his claim is therefore different, "The boy suffered an enormous amount more abuse than the girl did -- physically much more and sexually much more frequently." He sees the Church's action as an attempt to delay the start of the trial, which is scheduled to begin next month.

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information