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.