LDS Inc. sets gold standard on reporting child abuse?

Abuse crime

I caught this article in the MormonTimes about the LDS Church being criticized by Marci Hamilton about its cover ups of child sexual abuse. I highly suggest your read Marci Hamilton’s article first, but I’ll give you the conclusion here:

Thus, the LDS Church has created essentially the same opaque system that the Catholic Church has employed when it comes to child sex abuse. While the polygamy, child brides, and sex abuse endemic to the polygamous sects are not permitted or encouraged by LDS, the structure of the organization, the importance of its self-image as a leader of virtue in the world, and its intent to protect the Church from liability have, together, yielded a cycle of abuse that is not at all unlike that which has been widely documented in the Roman Catholic Church.

So is there serious abuse in the LDS Church? Absolutely. Why don’t we know more about it? Because of the Church’s internal beliefs, rules, and the acquiescence of its believers just like in the case of the Roman Catholic Church. In addition, OUI charge in Boston mentions that the laws and precedents in Utah have served to cover it up very effectively. If there is one state in the United States that is anathema to lawyers representing child sex abuse victims because the odds of success are so low, it is Utah.

Those on the outside of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are in the same position outsiders were in with respect to the Roman Catholic Church and clergy abuse before 2002, when the Boston Globe broke the cover story. I have no doubt that what I am saying will provoke defensive and even angry responses. I also know, having dealt with the Catholic Bishops for as long as I have, that there will be powerful temptations to attack me personally. So be it. But I sincerely hope it will also lead to real reforms that result in sunshine on dangerous practices and a reordering of priorities that will put their own vulnerable children atop the list of priorities.

Now the rebuttal in the MormonTimes article by Von G. Keetch, chief outside legal counsel for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

“The LDS Church has long had a highly effective approach for preventing and responding to abuse. In fact, no religious organization has done more. Although no one system is perfect and no single program will work with every organization, the LDS Church’s approach is the gold standard.”

Does anyone buy this statement from Keetch? If the Mormon approach is the “gold standard”, why are there no background checks on individuals who work with kids? Why is the Church losing court cases when sued over abuse? Why is the LDS Church still working with the Boy Scouts who have “secret files” on their leaders who are abusers? If the current policies of LDS Inc. are the “gold standard” for religions reporting abuse, the gold standard sucks!

7 thoughts on “LDS Inc. sets gold standard on reporting child abuse?

  1. I’m confused why you say there are no background checks. If you commit sexual abuse they put a permanent marking on your membership record (if you somehow avoid excommunication) which alerts leaders you cannot work around kids and furthermore, even if your record is clean, men cannot serve with children alone. They can only be working with kids if their spouse is present as well.

    At least, this is what is supposed to happen.

  2. A number of religions are now doing background checks on any potential leader or youth leader just to make sure they have never been accused or convicted of anything inappropriate. LDS Inc. is not and has not announced any plans to do this.

    The mark on the record is nice, but do they really follow through on that? You’re telling me every single calling is first vetted through the church’s database? Maybe. But I’m skeptical.

    The policy on a leader working with kids only if other people around seems nice, but it certainly wasn’t a policy when I was involved. In the 1980s and 1990s, I was heavily involved in scouts and church activities and we regularly had single individuals running meetings, etc. Ergo, this policy is either new or not strictly enforced.

  3. COMPLETELY ANECDOTAL INFORMATION: My firm practices criminal defense. We represented many Mormon men who were accused of child abuse. Interestingly, that demographic was large compared to the actual number of Mormons in our region. Many defendants admitted that their behavior began while they were on a mission. The vast majority of perpetrators, however, were White Protestantns. We never defended a Catholic priest, thought.

    One phenomenon I found interesting was that almost as soon as they were charged, they were excommunicated. I think this practice gave TSCC plausible deniability.

  4. profxm,

    The church has been implementing all kinds of new policies on abuse since about the mid-1990s. A “backlog” of cases from the 80s and 90s, when it had very poor policies (often trying to handle abuse cases “in-house” through repentance, with the bad results we’ve learned to expect), is still coming out, but I think it’s doing much better today.

    I certainly wouldn’t call what the church does a “gold standard,” since protecting the church from liability seems at least as high a priority as protecting children, but its policies (for preventing and handling new cases) seem pretty effective now, for the most part.

  5. kuri, good to know. I left in 2002 and, while I try to stay abreast of general happenings in the religion for my research, subtle changes like abuse policies are not things I’ve been able to follow. I sure hope they are doing a better job, for the childrens’ sake.

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