Sex Abuse Lawsuits Against LDS Church

On this page, our lawyers will discuss sexual abuse lawsuits against the Mormon Church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). We will explain the legal requirements for bringing a sex abuse lawsuit against churches and we will also examine the average settlement payout value of these cases.

LDS Church Sex Abuse News & Updates:

June 7, 2024 – LDS Leade Won’t Be Charged With Failure to Report Abuse

The Dauphin County District Attorney’s office publicly announced today that they will not be pursuing criminal charges against LDS church leader Rhett Hintze for failing to report child sex abuse allegations made against a fellow church leader. Hintze was accused of having knowledge of specific acts of sexual abuse committed by a fellow LDS member, but neglecting to report it to the police.

March 15, 2024 – New Law on Mandatory Reporting

The debate continues over whether a new bill awaiting Utah Gov. Spencer Cox’s signature adequately protects children from abuse, as experts remain divided on mandated reporting for clergy. HB432 shields faith leaders from civil or criminal liability if they report ongoing child abuse disclosed during a confession but does not require them to do so.  This bill promotes opportunities to intervene in abuse cases, but the problem is it does not fully address the need for mandatory reporting to protect children.

This is all a reaction to some high-profile sex abuse cases, including a woman whose case was dropped after her abuser’s bishop declined to testify due to fear of legal repercussions. The woman believes the bill could encourage clergy to report abuse without fear of retribution and hopes it will lead to broader changes in handling child sex abuse within the LDS Church and beyond. Meanwhile, a similar bill failed to advance, highlighting ongoing legislative challenges in addressing clergy reporting requirements.

January 5, 2024 – How the LDS Church Suppresses Sex Abuse Claims

In 2017, an attorney from the LDS Church’s Risk Management Division met with a woman and her mother after she disclosed that her father, a former bishop, had sexually abused her as a child.

Audio recordings of these meetings reveal how the attorney while expressing concern, discouraged a lay bishop from testifying against the father by citing clergy-penitent privilege laws. This legal strategy led to the dismissal of the charges against the father, despite his confession to the bishop. The church then offered the woman and her mother $300,000 in exchange for a confidentiality agreement and the destruction of their recordings.

Despite the church’s attempts to manage the situation internally, the woman and her mother recorded multiple conversations with the father, and he admitted the awful things he had done.

These recordings were handed over to the police, leading to the father’s arrest. So far, so good. But without the bishop’s testimony, the prosecution could not proceed, and the father faced minimal consequences. The case highlights the church’s practice of using legal strategies and nondisclosure agreements to handle allegations of child sex abuse internally at the expense of justice and transparency.

December 15, 2023 – Recordings Reveal Sex Abuse Cover Up By Church

Several news outlets, including PBS, are reporting that audio recordings obtained by the Associated Press reveal how the LDS Church, with the help of a Salt Lake City attorney, concealed evidence of sexual abuse by a prominent church member. The story highlights how the LDS Church employed a “risk management” strategy in response to evidence of sexual abuse, rather than reporting the evidence to the police.

December 1, 2023 – Case Dismissed in Arizona

An Arizona judge dismissed a high-profile child sexual abuse lawsuit against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ruling that church officials who learned of the abuse through a spiritual confession were not obligated to report it to authorities due to the state’s clergy-penitent privilege.

Cochise County Superior Court Judge Timothy Dickerson stated that the privilege excused two bishops and other church officials from the mandatory reporting law, as the knowledge of the abuse came from confidential communications. Despite excommunicating Paul Adams, the church’s decision to withhold his abusive behavior from civil authorities allowed him to continue abusing his daughters for seven years, during which he recorded and posted videos of the abuse online. The abuse only stopped when Adams was arrested by Homeland Security agents in 2017. Adams died by suicide while awaiting trial.

This interpretation of the clergy-penitent privilege essentially provides a shield for perpetrators of child sexual abuse, enabling them to continue their crimes without fear of legal repercussions. The decision undermines the effectiveness of mandatory reporting laws designed to protect vulnerable children and could potentially lead to more instances of abuse going unreported and unchecked. You lose the right to religious confidentiality when you molest children.

March 15, 2023 – LDS Bishop Arrest on Sex Abuse Charges

A former bishop in the LDS Church, John Goodrich, was arrested this week and being charged with sexually abusing his daughter while on a school trip. A grand jury in Virginia found probable cause that Goodrich committed four felonies, including rape by force, threat or intimidation, forcible sodomy, and two counts of felony aggravated sexual battery by a parent of a child.

Sex Abuse Within the LDS Church

The Mormon Church is officially called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. The LDS Church boasts a worldwide membership of around 15 million, with more than 6.5 million adherents based in the United States.

Comparable to other religious institutions like the Catholic Church, the Mormon Church has confronted its own sequence of sexual abuse controversies that have emerged in recent times. Although the Church openly condemns all types of abusive conduct, including sexual, physical, and verbal mistreatment, families have expressed apprehensions regarding the Church’s reluctance to effectively address this matter.

Lately, multiple complainants have accused the Church and various officials of neglecting to protect their children from instances of sexual abuse. Despite some civil trials concluding with undisclosed settlements, the Church’s leadership consistently denies any wrongdoing, seemingly prioritizing safeguarding the institution over attending to the needs of abuse victims.

Should anyone encounter abuse or witness a loved one affected while affiliated with the Mormon Church, seeking legal counsel might present a potential path to resolution. Engaging with an attorney specialized in cases of Mormon Church sex abuse could offer invaluable guidance and support.

Sexual Abuse Lawsuits Against Churches

Recently, victims of sexual abuse within a church or involving clergy had limited recourse. Often, filing a civil lawsuit was unfeasible due to the expiration of the statute of limitations, as too much time had elapsed.

However, contemporary laws are easing this situation. Many states have revised their laws to either remove or extend the statute of limitations for sexual abuse claims in civil court. Some states have completely abolished the statute of limitations in lawsuits concerning child sexual abuse. Furthermore, the mounting evidence indicating that church authorities were aware of the abuse and attempted to conceal it has led to the churches themselves becoming viable defendants in such cases.

The spotlight has primarily focused on sexual abuse claims associated with the Catholic Church. While the Catholic Church has been the subject of a significant number of sexual abuse lawsuits, clergy sexual abuse claims extend beyond Catholic institutions. Numerous other religious denominations and organizations have encountered allegations of clergy sexual abuse. Revelations of sexual abuse within the United Methodist Church and the Southern Baptist Convention have brought to light similar issues within these institutions. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints faces similar challenges in this regard.

Who Can File a Sexual Abuse Lawsuit Against the LDS Church

Anyone who has been the victim of sexual abuse connected to the Mormon church has the right to bring a civil lawsuit and will be entitled to financial compensation if they can prove the allegations in their case. To successful sue the LDS Church in a sexual abuse case, a victim would be required to prove that he or she was sexually abused by a member of church, or at the church or a church function, and that the church was negligent in some way in connection with this abuse (e.g., church officials knew about the abuse and covered it up or failed to do anything).

Anyone who brings a successful sex abuse lawsuit against the LDS Church can get financial compensation for the pain and suffering resulting from the abuse. Plaintiffs in church sex abuse cases can be awarded money damages for:

  • Medical Expenses: damages can be awarded for past and future medical expenses incurred as a result of the trauma caused by the abuse. This includes things like medications, therapy, etc.
  • Emotional Pain and Suffering
  • Punitive Damages (in some states)

Settlement Value of LDS Church Sex Abuse Lawsuits

So how much compensation can victims expect to get in a successful sexual abuse lawsuits against the LDS Church? Sex abuse lawsuits against churches and other institutions generally have a high average settlement value. The Catholic church in the U.S. has paid out over $3 billion in compensation to sexual abuse victims over the years. The average settlement payout in church sex abuse cases is $275,000 to $350,000.

How the Church of Latter-Day Saints Deals with Sex Abuse Settlements

We all recently got an up-close look at how the Latter-day Saints deal with sex abuse cases.  In audio recordings related to a child sex abuse case in Idaho, a director of risk management from the Morman Church allegedly offered the victim a $300,000 confidentiality agreement, as reported by the Associated Press.

What happened was a dentist and ex-bishop of the Mormon church was arrested in Mountain Home, Idaho, following accusations by his adult daughter of childhood sexual abuse. The dentist had been brought before his church bishop by family members for confession and was subsequently excommunicated.

A criminal case ensued. But the daughter supposedly did not want to pursue it. So the dentist went back to being a dentist.  The dentist’s daughter and wife claimed that prosecutors indicated they needed the bishop’s testimony about the confession for their case.

The church helped. It reportedly discouraged the bishop from testifying, citing Idaho law which exempts clergy from reporting crimes confessed in a religious context.

Then in tried to settle any sex abuse lawsuit quietly. In an AP-released recording, the church’s risk management director is heard offering the Idaho dentist’s family $300,000 to avoid suing the church or revealing the payment. This recording was made by a church member who was present to support the victim and had not agreed to confidentiality.

This is a bad look. The church tried to defend itself – on Twitter of all places – that only the perpetrator could waive the privilege that prevented the bishop from testifying.

Settlements and Verdicts in Church Sexual Abuse Cases

$2,280,000,000 Verdict (California 2023):  A California jury awarded $2.28 billion to a woman molested by her stepfather from age 5 to 14. The lawsuit implicated her mother and the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, alleging the church ignored reports of abuse and used intimidation to silence her. The stepfather, arrested in 1997 and imprisoned for three years, failed to appear at the trial. The church and mother settled for $1.2 million combined. The jury awarded $836 million in damages and $1.44 billion in punitive damages against the stepfather.

$1,000,000 Settlement (California 2023): In this case, the plaintiff alleged that her stepfather subjected her to sexual abuse during social gatherings, meetings, and while on the property of the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, where they were members. The lawsuit claimed that, despite notifying the church about the abuse, no steps were taken in response. Ultimately, the church opted to resolve the matter through an out-of-court settlement, reaching a sum of $1 million.

$95,000,000 Verdict (New York 2023): An individual in upstate New York received a $95 million settlement after alleging that a Catholic Priest sexually abused him in a car back in 1979. The compensation comprised $50 million in punitive damages imposed on the church for its role in concealing the abuse.

$19,200,000 Settlement (Pennsylvania 2021): The Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese set up a $19 million fund to provide compensation to victims of clergy sexual abuse. More than 200 individuals filed claims and agreed to the settlement offers within the fund, resulting in an average payout of approximately $86,000.

$1,000,000 Settlement (Ohio 2020): The victim in this case claimed that a priest sexually abused him six times while attending a Catholic high school causing him lifelong depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

$34,960,000 Verdict (Montana 2018): A pair of women in this case alleged that a member of their Jehovah’s Witness church congregation sexually abused them as children for a period of over 13 years. They sued the church for covering up the abuse and not reporting the church member to the authorities.

Contact Us About Sex Abuse Lawsuits Against the LDS Church

We are currently seeking new sexual abuse lawsuits against the LDS Church. Contact us today at 800-553-8082 for a free consultation.

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