278: To Win at All Costs: The LDS Church and its Heartless Legal Machine: Craig Vernon

Plaintiff McKenna Denson and Lawyer Craig Vernon

Craig Vernon has represented clients in several high profile church and clergy perpetrated sexual abuse cases including cases involving the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Litigating cases against the LDS Church shows them to be formidable adversaries who are motivated to win at all costs – after all – they are defending the Kingdom of God.

But, what puzzles Craig Vernon, like so many other others, is where is the pastoral care for the victims of LDS church and clergy related sexual abuse?  

Why is the defence of the institution more important than the care of the abused?

And, why do the LDS Church’s public statements about their zero-tolerance for sexual abuse not square with how they handle sexual abuse cases involving their own members?

Comments

comments

11 comments for “278: To Win at All Costs: The LDS Church and its Heartless Legal Machine: Craig Vernon

  1. January 28, 2019 at 8:51 pm

    Showing how the LDS / Brighamite church is using the same playbook as the bad guys in Batman Begins
    https://seekingyhwh.com/2018/10/25/mckenna-denson-a-force-for-good/

  2. January 28, 2019 at 8:52 pm

    Although there is a statute of limitation in the state courts, there are no scriptures for a statute of limitations when a sin or a crime was committed in church courts, and since we are to use “[God’s] SCRIPTURES for a LAW” and this “LAW to GOVERN [God’s] church” D&C 42:59, I propose that McKenna Denson‘s rapist be put on trial in a church court using God’s laws to govern it and not man’s policies found in the Church Handbook of Instructions. This is assuming that McKenna is willing to be one of the multiple witnesses required, which considering she has continually tried to have this taken care of through the years, I have no doubt she is willing to come forward as a witness at a real church court according to God’s words. I personally know of no other witnesses but am confident that McKenna or someone else can find one other witness. I suggest if we want to root out this wickedness from the church we need to do this and sadly to so many others, as commanded in D&C 42:79-93, D&C 107:68-78 and many others we have looked at.
    https://seekingyhwh.com/2018/09/09/bishops-are-judges-of-israel/

  3. Heather
    February 28, 2019 at 11:52 am

    This aligns 100% with my experience. The LDS church protected a pedophile church leader who was reported to them, who then later sexually abused me and many others. In the midst of our abuse, this pedophile was again reported to the church, but still they did nothing until years later when one victim went to the police. Then they convinced all the families who came forward to stay quiet.

    When the statute of limitations was about to run out in my 20’s, I tried to bring a civil case against the church. I was suicidal, struggling with severe trauma and emotional issues, without any financial resources to actually bring a successful case.

    Instead of looking at their role in what happened to me and other victims, and having any compassion, they used every tactic at their disposal and their significant resources to find arguments and technicalities to get my case dismissed before I could ever present any evidence. My attorney was stunned and said he’d never seen a religion behave in such a way toward a sexual abuse victim.

    When my case was dismissed, I fell to the floor sobbing in the courtroom and my attorney begged the church’s attorneys to help me, telling them I was suicidal and at least needed help with therapy. They said nothing and walked right past me like I was a piece of trash. If that’s how “the one true church” treats the people it’s harmed, then I’d rather end up in hell.

    • Gina Colvin
      March 3, 2019 at 4:08 pm

      I am sorry to hear this. You aren’t alone.

    • Wendy
      April 26, 2019 at 12:24 pm

      I am so sorry. My heart is with you.

  4. May 5, 2019 at 2:43 pm

    My daughters rapist is currently serving a mission despite a full report given to the church months ago. His father is a bishop and his family are very prominent Mormons. We have a meeting today with an Area Authority to talk to us about how “God will help us feel better about this”. We have asked continuously for information as to why the rapist is being kept on a mission, but all we get is “love” from our leaders and no clear answer. I have a feeling if we push for answers we will be ostracized from the church. I pray for the people of Alaska who have a rapist amoung them wearing a missionary tag.

    • Gina Colvin
      May 5, 2019 at 2:58 pm

      This happened in our stake as well. I’m surprised that with all of the talk about missionary standards someone who raped gets to go when someone who touched his girlfriends breasts about her clothes consensually wasn’t permitted. I guess its a case of who you know’ right?

      • May 5, 2019 at 8:01 pm

        The meeting went as expected. “We Love you, sorry we don’t have any answers” When I asked who does have the answers all I got was a bunch of crap amounting to “don’t ask that”. Oh and the classic “well the stake president prayed about it and felt like he should go on a mission”. Ok, that makes it all right. Especially since the stake president is good friends with his dad. It is all a big joke. The church hotline truly is just a bunch of lawyers protecting the church.

  5. May 8, 2019 at 2:31 pm

    I really like how careful Vernon is in this interview to identify when it’s his beliefs versus the facts. He makes a strong argument. He’s clearly good at what he does. Some of what he relates is so painful.

    It appears to me the Church is changing its policies. The quotes Vernon made were from Handbook 1 2010. However, here’s what’s out there now. I don’t have access to the current Handbook 1, but letters from the First Presidency supersede what’s in the handbooks. It suggests to me some important changes have been made.

    CURRENTLY ON WEBSITE – Handbook 2
    https://www.lds.org/study/manual/handbook-2-administering-the-church/the-ward-council/the-ward-council?lang=eng#title_number15

    4.7

    Preventing and Responding to Abuse

    In stake and ward council meetings, stake presidencies and bishoprics regularly review Church policies and guidelines on preventing and responding to abuse. They teach the key messages in “Preventing and Responding to Abuse,” an enclosure to the First Presidency letter dated March 26, 2018 (see ministeringresources.ChurchofJesusChrist.org). They invite discussion from council members. Leaders and council members should seek the guidance of the Spirit as they teach and discuss this sensitive subject.

    Council members should also watch and discuss the video Protect the Child: Responding to Child Abuse (see ministeringresources.ChurchofJesusChrist.org).

    Council members then discuss this material in their presidency meetings and, as needed, with others.

    Often a report of abuse will come to a trusted teacher or adviser. Members of stake and ward councils help leaders, teachers, and members take proper steps in preventing and responding to abuse, including reporting the abuse to appropriate civil authorities.

    END QUOTE

    Note the last line. Also, the key thing there is the direction to study the First Presidency letter.

    THE LETTER
    It’s provide on the website to anyone.

    https://providentliving.lds.org/bc/providentliving/content/content/english/ministering-resources/PreventingandRespondingToAbuseInstructionOutline.pdf?lang=eng

    You can navigate to the section on the website by going to lds.org>Families and Individuals>Hope and Help>Abuse>Protecting Members and Reporting Abuse

    EXCERPT 1 FROM FIRST PRESIDENT LETTER – FROM THE SECTION “WHAT IS ABUSE”
    What Is Abuse?
    Abuse is the mistreatment or neglect of others (such as a child or spouse, the elderly, or the disabled) in a way that causes physical,
    emotional, or sexual harm.

    Abuse causes confusion, doubt, mistrust, and fear in the victims and sometimes inflicts physical injury. Most, but not all, allegations of abuse are true, and should be taken seriously and handled with great care. Abuse tends to become more severe over time.

    The Lord condemns abusive behavior in any form—including neglect and physical, sexual, or verbal abuse. Most abuse violates the civil laws of society. (See First Presidency letter, “Responding to Abuse,” July 28, 2008.)

    END EXCERPT 1

    EXCERPT 2 FROM FIRST PRESIDENCY LETTER – FROM THE SECTION “RESPONDING TO ABUSE”
    Church leaders and members should follow these guidelines when responding to abuse:

    • When abuse occurs, the first and immediate responsibility of Church leaders is to help those who have been abused and to protect
    vulnerable persons from future abuse. Members should never be encouraged to remain in a home or situation that is abusive or unsafe.

    • Church leaders and members should be caring, compassionate, and sensitive when working with victims and perpetrators and their families.

    • Church leaders should never disregard a report of abuse or counsel a member not to report criminal activity to law enforcement personnel. Church leaders and members should fulfill all legal obligations to report abuse to civil authorities.

    • Priesthood leaders should help those who have committed abuse to repent and cease their abusive behavior (see Isaiah 1:18; Doctrine and Covenants 64:7).

    • Professional counseling may be helpful for the victims and perpetrators and their families. It is almost always advised in cases of serious abuse.

    END EXCERPT 2

    EXCERPT 3: FROM THE SECTION “POLICY AND LEGAL ISSUES RELATING TO ABUSE”

    The following guidelines will help Church leaders handle policy and legal issues relating to abuse:

    • Immediately call the help line when addressing situations involving any type of abuse.

    • For guidelines on handling situations Involving abuse, stake presidents and bishops should refer to Handbook 1, 17.3.2.

    • For guidelines on handling confession, restitution, investigation, communication with aggrieved victims, and confidentiality in
    situations involving abuse, stake presidents and bishops should refer to Handbook 1, 6.4 and 6.5.

    • For guidelines on handling Church discipline in situations involving abuse, stake presidents and bishops should refer to Handbook 1, chapter 6.

    • Church leaders should not testify in civil or criminal cases involving abuse without first conferring with the Office of General Counsel
    at Church headquarters. For specific guidelines, see Handbook 1, 17.1.26.

    END EXCERPT 3

    So it clearly states leaders should never counsel a member not to report abuse to legal authorities. Leaders and members should fulfill all legal obligations to report abuse. And leaders may testify but should call the helpline first.

    Those are important changes and clarifications.

    it’s also true that other changes in policy have been made, including a change on how bishop interviews are handled soon after Sam Young began protesting. You can see it in excerpt 4.

    EXCERPT 4 FROM FIRST PRESIDENCY LETTER – FROM THE SECTION “HOW CAN ABUSE BE PREVENTED AT CHURCH”

    Church leaders should follow these guidelines to help prevent abuse at Church:

    • A person must not be given a Church calling or assignment that involves working with children or youth if his or her membership record is not in the ward or if it has an annotation for abuse (see Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops [2010], 17.3.2).

    • When adults are teaching children or youth in Church settings, at least two responsible adults should be present. The two adults could be two men, two women, or a married couple (see Handbook 2: Administering the Church [2010], 11.8.1). Where it may not be practical to have at least two adults in a classroom, leaders should consider combining classes.

    • At least two adults must be present on all Church-sponsored activities attended by youth or children. All adult leaders participating in Scouting must be registered with the Boy Scouts of America (see First Presidency letter, May 12, 2017) and comply with guidelines in the BSA publication Guide to Safe Scouting.

    • When a brother participates in a ministering visit to an individual woman, he should go with his companion or with his wife.

    • When a member of a stake presidency or bishopric or another assigned leader meets with a child, youth, or woman, he or she should ask a parent or another adult to be in an adjoining room, foyer, or hall. If the person being interviewed desires, another adult
    may be invited to participate in the interview. Leaders should avoid all circumstances that could be misunderstood (see Handbook 1, 7.4).

    • On Church-sponsored overnight activities, a child or youth may not stay in the tent or room of an adult leader unless the adult is
    his or her parent or guardian or there are at least two adults in the tent or room who are the same gender as the child or youth (see
    Handbook 2, 13.6.12).

    • If adult leaders and children or youth share other overnight facilities, such as a cabin, there must be at least two adults in the facility
    and they must be the same gender as the children or youth (see Handbook 2, 13.6.12)

    END EXCERPT 4

    I know that the policy changes might not satisfy everyone. But I think it’s important to be accurate about what the policy currently is. It says to me that the Church is working to do better.

    As for the legal cases and what leads them to settle outside of court and what leads them to litigate, I don’t know. I wish we could hear an extended interview from someone who makes these decisions in the Church.

    BTW, here’s the Church’s public statement that Vernon referred to.
    “How the Church Approaches Abuse”
    https://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/how-mormons-approach-abuse
    8

  6. May 9, 2019 at 5:22 pm

    Perhaps my last comment had too many links in it and that’s why it didn’t show up. I’ll try another sans links to all the sources.

    I really like how careful Vernon is in this interview to identify when it’s his beliefs versus the facts. He makes a strong argument. He’s clearly good at what he does. Some of what he relates is so painful.

    One of the things he has asked is that the Church change its policies. It appears to me the Church is indeed changing them.

    The quotes Vernon made were from Handbook 1 2010. However, there’s new material. I don’t have access to the current Handbook 1, but letters from the First Presidency supersede what’s in the handbooks. It suggests to me some important changes have been made.

    I know that the policy changes might not satisfy everyone. But I think it’s important to be accurate about what the policy currently is. It says to me that the Church is working to do better on reporting and preventing abuse.

    As for the legal cases and what leads them to settle outside of court and what leads them to litigate, I don’t know. I wish we could hear an extended interview from someone who makes these decisions in the Church.

    CURRENTLY ON THE CHURCH WEBSITE – HANDBOOK 2
    4.7

    Preventing and Responding to Abuse

    In stake and ward council meetings, stake presidencies and bishoprics regularly review Church policies and guidelines on preventing and responding to abuse. They teach the key messages in “Preventing and Responding to Abuse,” an enclosure to the First Presidency letter dated March 26, 2018 [link to resources provided in letter]. They invite discussion from council members. Leaders and council members should seek the guidance of the Spirit as they teach and discuss this sensitive subject.

    Council members should also watch and discuss the video Protect the Child: Responding to Child Abuse [link to resources provided in letter].

    Council members then discuss this material in their presidency meetings and, as needed, with others.

    Often a report of abuse will come to a trusted teacher or adviser. Members of stake and ward councils help leaders, teachers, and members take proper steps in preventing and responding to abuse, including reporting the abuse to appropriate civil authorities.

    END QUOTE

    Note the last line. Also, the key thing there is the direction to study the First Presidency letter.

    THE LETTER
    The letter is on the Church’s website, available to anyone.

    You can navigate to the section on the website by going to lds.org>Families and Individuals>Hope and Help>Abuse>Protecting Members and Reporting Abuse

    EXCERPT 1 FROM FIRST PRESIDENT LETTER – FROM THE SECTION “WHAT IS ABUSE”
    What Is Abuse?
    Abuse is the mistreatment or neglect of others (such as a child or spouse, the elderly, or the disabled) in a way that causes physical,
    emotional, or sexual harm.

    Abuse causes confusion, doubt, mistrust, and fear in the victims and sometimes inflicts physical injury. Most, but not all, allegations of abuse are true, and should be taken seriously and handled with great care. Abuse tends to become more severe over time.

    The Lord condemns abusive behavior in any form—including neglect and physical, sexual, or verbal abuse. Most abuse violates the civil laws of society. (See First Presidency letter, “Responding to Abuse,” July 28, 2008.)

    END EXCERPT 1

    EXCERPT 2 FROM FIRST PRESIDENCY LETTER – FROM THE SECTION “RESPONDING TO ABUSE”
    Church leaders and members should follow these guidelines when responding to abuse:

    • When abuse occurs, the first and immediate responsibility of Church leaders is to help those who have been abused and to protect
    vulnerable persons from future abuse. Members should never be encouraged to remain in a home or situation that is abusive or unsafe.

    • Church leaders and members should be caring, compassionate, and sensitive when working with victims and perpetrators and their families.

    • Church leaders should never disregard a report of abuse or counsel a member not to report criminal activity to law enforcement personnel. Church leaders and members should fulfill all legal obligations to report abuse to civil authorities.

    • Priesthood leaders should help those who have committed abuse to repent and cease their abusive behavior (see Isaiah 1:18; Doctrine and Covenants 64:7).

    • Professional counseling may be helpful for the victims and perpetrators and their families. It is almost always advised in cases of serious abuse.

    END EXCERPT 2

    EXCERPT 3: FROM THE SECTION “POLICY AND LEGAL ISSUES RELATING TO ABUSE”

    The following guidelines will help Church leaders handle policy and legal issues relating to abuse:

    • Immediately call the help line when addressing situations involving any type of abuse.

    • For guidelines on handling situations Involving abuse, stake presidents and bishops should refer to Handbook 1, 17.3.2.

    • For guidelines on handling confession, restitution, investigation, communication with aggrieved victims, and confidentiality in
    situations involving abuse, stake presidents and bishops should refer to Handbook 1, 6.4 and 6.5.

    • For guidelines on handling Church discipline in situations involving abuse, stake presidents and bishops should refer to Handbook 1, chapter 6.

    • Church leaders should not testify in civil or criminal cases involving abuse without first conferring with the Office of General Counsel
    at Church headquarters. For specific guidelines, see Handbook 1, 17.1.26.

    END EXCERPT 3

    So it clearly states leaders should never counsel a member not to report abuse to legal authorities. Leaders and members should fulfill all legal obligations to report abuse. And leaders may testify but should call the helpline first.

    Those are important changes and clarifications.

    it’s also true that other changes in policy have been made, including a change on how bishop interviews are handled soon after Sam Young began protesting. You can see it in excerpt 4.

    EXCERPT 4 FROM FIRST PRESIDENCY LETTER – FROM THE SECTION “HOW CAN ABUSE BE PREVENTED AT CHURCH”

    Church leaders should follow these guidelines to help prevent abuse at Church:

    • A person must not be given a Church calling or assignment that involves working with children or youth if his or her membership record is not in the ward or if it has an annotation for abuse (see Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops [2010], 17.3.2).

    • When adults are teaching children or youth in Church settings, at least two responsible adults should be present. The two adults could be two men, two women, or a married couple (see Handbook 2: Administering the Church [2010], 11.8.1). Where it may not be practical to have at least two adults in a classroom, leaders should consider combining classes.

    • At least two adults must be present on all Church-sponsored activities attended by youth or children. All adult leaders participating in Scouting must be registered with the Boy Scouts of America (see First Presidency letter, May 12, 2017) and comply with guidelines in the BSA publication Guide to Safe Scouting.

    • When a brother participates in a ministering visit to an individual woman, he should go with his companion or with his wife.

    • When a member of a stake presidency or bishopric or another assigned leader meets with a child, youth, or woman, he or she should ask a parent or another adult to be in an adjoining room, foyer, or hall. If the person being interviewed desires, another adult
    may be invited to participate in the interview. Leaders should avoid all circumstances that could be misunderstood (see Handbook 1, 7.4).

    • On Church-sponsored overnight activities, a child or youth may not stay in the tent or room of an adult leader unless the adult is
    his or her parent or guardian or there are at least two adults in the tent or room who are the same gender as the child or youth (see
    Handbook 2, 13.6.12).

    • If adult leaders and children or youth share other overnight facilities, such as a cabin, there must be at least two adults in the facility
    and they must be the same gender as the children or youth (see Handbook 2, 13.6.12)

    END EXCERPT 4

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *