LDS Church Should Throw Its Resources into Making Mandated Reporting Universal in US

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has officially lost its temper. Yesterday, the Church’s Newsroom released a strongly worded rebuff of the Aug. 2nd AP article titled “Seven years of sex abuse: How the Mormon officials let it happen,” written by Michael Rezendes. Its initial statement (offered last week) asserted the article misrepresented the help line which bishops and stake presidents are required to call upon learning of abuse, hoping to recast it as a tool to end abuse without addressing why the help line is staffed through its legal-centric risk management office. Many, myself included, were stunned by the inhumanity of the initial response if not by its legalistic hedging of responsibility. But this second response makes the first PR failure look tame, not only because of its continued defensiveness, but also for its misrepresentation of the article. I won’t rehash that. Follow the links above to read each for yourself. Instead, let’s chat a bit about this line from the second official response:

“We [the church] are constantly striving to be better and do more [to end child abuse], and we invite others to join us in such efforts.”

I accept this invitation. And so will most LDS. We saw hundreds, if not thousands, of LDS women join in social media efforts to combat child sex trafficking as they promoted Operation Underground Railroad (OUR). The point is, LDS people in general and parents in particular despise child abuse and are very willing to fight this good fight. In the same spirit, I have a recommendation for the LDS Church: put the power of your bankroll into the fight to make mandatory reporting a legal requirement everywhere.

I live in Texas, a state that, of late, has dangerously overstepped its bounds regarding reproductive rights and the rights of the parents of transgender children. However, Texas exempts no one, not even clergy, from being mandatory reporters. Many states do exempt clergy. Utah exempts clergy in spite of recent efforts to remove the exemption from Utah law. If the LDS Church expressed a desire to have clergy made mandated reporters in its home state, it’d happen. But there’s no evidence I can find that suggests it has interest. That’s problem #1. No one is arguing that upper church leaders condone abuse. No one says they haven’t publicly condemned abuse. Yet, if the Church were truly interested in protecting victims first and foremost, it’d express support for legal moves to require clergy reporting in its home state. But it doesn’t.

The LDS Church claims it is committed to political neutrality, but that neutrality extends only to refusal to endorse political candidates. Political issues are a wholly different thing. I joined the LDS Church in 1978 when it was actively using ward meetings (especially Relief Society) to organize and encourage women to advocate against the Equal Rights Amendment. Though still a teenager and a new convert, I witnessed this firsthand. Clearly, the local organization of the LDS Church stands ready to serve the needs of abuse victims by advocating universal mandatory reporting in states and foreign countries where it doesn’t currently exist. 

Its no secret that the formal church has devoted enormous resources to denying marriage rights to homosexual couples. Again, it used members of California wards to mount its campaign against Proposition 8, spending its own money and advocating for donations from Church members. Over and over again, it has used its legal arm to file amicus briefs in an effort to thwart and then overturn the Supreme Court’s Obergefell decision which requires all states to legally honor all same sex marriages.* The point is, the LDS Church may not support candidates, but it clearly supports political positions on moral issues, both in terms of paid and voluntary man hours and through dipping into its own coffers. Most LDS will support the political activity their Church undertakes.

So here it is, the perfect opportunity for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to demonstrate their commitment to put action behind their denouncements of abuse. It could write one of those letters that are read over the pulpit in every Sacrament Meeting, announcing that members are to organize in locations in which clergy are not mandated reporters and then give direction as to how. Send general authorities out to do media interviews about how mandatory reporting must exist universally if innocent victims are to be protected. Funnel necessary funds that you’ve been saving for the millennium into protecting children in the days of tribulation that precede the second coming. And do it now. That’ll prove where the Church’s heart is much better than taking a defensive and angry stance via the Newsroom.

LDS Church members in the US need the Church’s permission to advocate for universal mandatory reporting. After all, the Church excommunicated Sam Young for publicly asking the Church to reduce the odds of church-centric sex abuse. Its reasonable for members to wonder what might happen to them if they take it upon themselves to advocate that their own bishops and stake presidents be made mandatory reporters through the force of law. Fear of formal discipline often inhibits members from acting according to their consciences.

And legalistic responses like those made recently by the Church’s Newsroom do nothing to convince members that the Church has any interest in making its clergy mandatory reporters. Mandatory reporting saves victims from abuse. Mandatory reporting does not eliminate the opportunity for a perpetrator to contritely repent and redirect their life. Quite the contrary. The act of rallying the LDS people to ensure universal mandatory reporting–either through a federal law in the US or on a state-by-state basis–would give license to dedicated LDS to do the right thing and better protect abuse victims.

Perhaps the LDS Church doesn’t want clergy to be mandatory reporters, but, rack my brain as I have, I can’t understand why, considering over and over LDS leaders rightly condemn abuse. One thing is clear, neither of the official responses to the Rezendes article explain why it’s more important to comply with the technicalities (and loopholes) of a given state’s clergy reporting requirements than it is to change those requirements to a universal standard that would require their bishops and stake presidents to report. 

If the LDS Church wants me to believe its rhetoric about ending child abuse, it can throw its weight behind efforts to make universal mandatory reporting a reality, starting with the state that hosts its headquarters. Use the LDS people to help achieve this wherever clergy are not mandatory reporters. Organize the mothers and grandmothers of the Church through the Relief Society to create petitions and apply pressure to lawmakers in the same manner you used LDS women to combat the ERA. And make sure the men are equally actively engaged.

I personally think the men who lead the Church abhor abuse, just as they say. But having that emotional reaction without putting its weight behind efforts to change mandatory reporting laws is as dead as faith is without works. That work is long overdue. This is a moral and ethical issue. And members of the LDS Church are a force to be reckoned with. We’ve proven it over and over.

So how about it? Give us official sanction to advocate that mandatory reporting become a legal requirement for clergy throughout the United States and then the world. Lead us forward in this action. Assign your lawyers to the work of helping members enter the world of political advocacy for a righteous cause. We will be there for you as you are there for the victims of abuse. We accept your invitation.

~~

Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works… James 2:20

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*RECOMMENDED READING: Gay Rights and the Mormon Church: Intended Actions, Unintended Consequences, by Greg Prince, PhD., provides a thorough discussion of the Church’s historic efforts and financial commitment to arresting gay marriage.

6 thoughts on “LDS Church Should Throw Its Resources into Making Mandated Reporting Universal in US

  1. Freedom Wins

    I don’t know anything about the abuse case in Arizona.

    I do know quite a bit about the ‘fact-checkers’ at the AP. They don’t exist. They have an agenda and their so-called ‘fact-checkers’ figure out how to lineup with that agenda.

    Having been a victim of the AP I can attest they are extremely far left.

    Like

    1. Emily Harrison

      Of course there is media that is unfair. There are also news stories that are factual and fair. I encourage you to read the AP article as well as the rebuttal articles the church wrote. To sum up, under AZ law clergy CAN report abuse. Clergy have wriggle room if they don’t want to, but if they report abuse in AZ then they are immune from legal repercussions. The church hotline advised Paul Adams’s bishop NOT to report the abuse. According to the bishop, the church told him that if he reported the abuse, the bishop could face legal repercussions. Is that true? Technically, yes. Paul Adams’s wife could have sued the bishop for reporting her husband, stating she could not afford a house payment without him, but the bishop would be immune from legal repercussions and the lawsuit would be dropped. The bishop did nothing to report the abuse, probably because he was scared of being sued. According to the article published by the church, Paul Adams confessed late in 2011 and he was excommunicated in 2013. If he was excommunicated that much later, it means the abuse was ongoing. We would expect the abuse to be ongoing because sexual abuse is a compulsive behavior. It rarely, if ever, happens just once. Furthermore, it means that 17-21 church leaders were aware of the abuse (two bishops, possibly their counselors, the stake presidency and the 12 high council members). None of these men reported the abuse! It’s shocking!! In 2017 someone found the disgusting video online of Paul molesting his girls. It wasn’t until then that the abuse stopped.

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      1. Freedom Wins

        Emily,

        The more I find out about this story the sicker I become.

        I’m a survivor but I’m going to have to bow out of this conversation. Even five decades later the triggers never end.

        God will comfort all of His children if we will allow Him to. In addition, God will not be mocked. What goes around comes around. Woe be unto him who offendeth a child.

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  2. Hi Freedom Wins. If you’d like to share some of that personal story, feel free. But of course, I respect your choice to withhold any personal info.

    I’m curious what you think about the penitent clergy privilege and having all clergy as mandated reporters. Regardless of the AP and any bias they may have, do you think mandated reporting by clergy would help victims?

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    1. Freedom Wins

      QUESTION:
      “I’m curious what you think about the penitent clergy privilege and having all clergy as mandated reporters. Regardless of the AP and any bias they may have, do you think it’d help victims?” ~Lisa

      Greetings Lisa,

      I can’t imagine how any Bishop (let alone two Bishops) could send this man home to continue abusing his daughters. By law, a therapist has to report abuse of a minor to authorities immediately. Apparently, in the state of Arizona, clergy confessions are protected.

      Two Sides:

      Had the Bishop turned the abuser(s) into the authorities the children would have been taken out of the home.

      Could the minors then have been put into a worse foster care situation? Possibly. We’ll never know the answer to that.

      Personally, I’d error on the side of the children. My heart breaks for these two girls now suing. I’d like to see The Church settle with them out-of-court with a solid non-disclosure agreement. I would not want them to suffer one more humiliation. Sexual assault victims are typically in therapy the rest of their lives. It’s a grueling roller coaster of emotions that often affects every decision you make; even decades later.

      The Church can’t change what happened in retrospect. Forgiveness and restitution can’t change the past — they change the future.

      Once the monetary agreement was settled I’d reevaluate Church policy worldwide.

      My deepest sympathy goes out to the victims.😔

      Liked by 1 person

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