Sex Abuse Lawsuit Blames LDS Church, Bishop
BY STEPHEN HUNT
THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE
3/26/98, Page B2
jimA lawsuit filed last week in Oregon claims that an 11-year-old boy was sexually molested by a Mormon Sunday School teacher because the LDS Church has a policy of refusing to tell authorities of child sex abuse by church members.
jim"Preposterous," said church spokesman Don LeFevre on Wednesday.
jim"On the contrary, the church has a clear and long-standing policy regarding assistance to child abuse victims . . . including that church leaders should obey the law regarding abuse and cooperate with law enforcement."
The lawsuit claims church leaders and an Oregon bishop, in particular, knew 87-year-old Sunday School teacher Franklin Richard Curtis had sexually abused children, but never told police or church members.
And Bishop Gregory Lee Foster remained silent about Curtis' misdeeds when the 11-year-old boy's mother informed the bishop of her plans to take in and care for the elderly man, the suit claims.
In about 1990, Curtis was living in a Portland re-tirement home when he told the boy's family he would like to live out his remaining years in a family environment, according to the lawsuit.
After consulting with the bishop, the family invited Curtis to live with them. Curtis moved in and stayed for about a year.
For about six months of his stay, on almost a daily basis, Curtis sexually abused the victim, the suit claims. In 1993, the boy's family moved to Washington state and the victim disclosed he had been molested.
The boy's mother called police, and Curtis was arrested, charged and eventually pleaded no contest to a sexual abuse charge. Because of his age, he received probation. He died in a nursing home in1995.
Meanwhile, the victim's mother had contacted Foster to warn him about Curtis. But [Bishop] Foster revealed he had been aware - from Curtis himself, and from other church leaders - that Curtis had sexually molested other children, the lawsuit alleges.
Indeed, years before the Oregon incident, Curtis was excommunicated from the Mormon Church in Pennsylvania for sexually abusing children - information which was communicated to Oregon church leaders, the suit alleges. He was later re-baptized and had similar troubles in another Portland church ward, where he allegedly molested five children who were members.
The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages from the Mormon Church and Foster.
LeFevre said the church "categorically denies any liability" to the Oregon plaintiffs.
"The church deplores child abuse in all its forms," he added. "It was not involved in any way in the abuse, which occurred in the plaintiff's own home by a man the family invited to live with them."