In December 2020, seven sexual abuse survivors in Arizona sued the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). The lawsuits allege LDS covered up years of sexual abuse in the Boy Scouts. The lawsuits were filed before Arizona’s child sexual abuse “look back” window ended on December 31, 2020.
Mormon Church Sponsored Boy Scouts For Decades
Before 2020, LDS was an ally of the Boy Scouts and its largest sponsor. In January 2020, LDS pulled more than 400,000 children and young adults out of the Boy Scouts. The church moved the former scouts to its own global youth program that places a larger focus on faith and spirituality.
According to The Associated Press, LDS parted ways with the Boy Scouts due to a lack of alignment on values, such as the acceptance of homosexuality.
Lawsuits Claim Mormon Officials Covered Up Abuse
Seven lawsuits have been filed against LDS on behalf of seven male victims. The lawsuits accuse church officials of covering up child sexual abuse in church-sponsored Boy Scout troops.
The abuse allegations span from 1972 to 2009.
According to public records, scouts in the church-sponsored troop reported their abuse to Mormon church bishops. The lawsuits claim these bishops told victims to stay quiet. One victim maintains a bishop threatened to excommunicate him if the abuse was reported to anyone outside the church.
The bishops did not report the alleged abuse to authorities. In turn, accused troop leaders and volunteers were allowed to remain in their roles or assigned to other troops.
Church Officials Deny Knowledge Of Abusive Scout Leaders
LDS officials say they did not have access to the Boy Scouts “perversion files,” a list of troop leaders and volunteers accused of sexual abuse. Church officials also denied seeing the public reports of the abuse allegations cited in the lawsuit.
“The church learned about the details of those files at the same time as the general public. These claims will be carefully evaluated and appropriately addressed.”
Penrod also claimed the church has zero-tolerance for abuse and the allegations would be thoroughly investigated.
Boy Scouts Face 92,000 Sex Abuse Lawsuits
The Boy Scouts of America have faced thousands of child sex abuse lawsuits. In 2020, the Boys Scouts filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy while facing a growing number of costly lawsuits.
In order to pay out abuse victims, the Boy Scouts will create a victims’ compensation trust. A deadline of November 16, 2020 was established for any victim of Boy Scout abuse to file a claim.
More than 92,000 lawsuits were filed against the Boy Scouts before the deadline.
Lawsuits Filed Before Arizona “Look Back” Window Closed
The lawsuits against the Mormon church were filed before Arizona’s one-year “look back” window for child sexual abuse cases expired.
Arizona’s “look back” window allowed anyone in the state to file a childhood sexual abuse claim. Included in that group are survivors who were unable to file child sexual abuse cases according to the state’s statute of limitations.
A statute of limitations (SOL) is a legal deadline. SOLs vary based on the jurisdiction, the crime and the intended legal action (criminal charges versus a civil claim).
The law that created Arizona’s “look back” window also allowed survivors to sue individuals or organizations that knew of the abuse and failed to report it.
The Arizona “look back” window closed on December 31, 2020.
However, there are some drawbacks to victim compensation programs. Program claims can result in lower monetary awards compared to lawsuits. Additionally, when victims accept a settlement offer, they waive their right to sue.
A knowledgeable lawyer can help a survivor weigh the benefits and drawbacks of litigation versus a compensation program to determine the best option for the survivor.
Coleman, J. (2020, January 30). Alleged Boy Scout sex abuse victims sue LDS church, accusing leaders of cover-up. The Hill.
Tang, T. (2020, December 28). Mormon church sued for alleged role in Boy Scouts sex abuse. The Associated Press.
(2021, January 14). Man says Mormon church threatened expulsion for abuse report. The Associated Press.