A terrible bombshell of a case dropped into Multnomah County courts today: lawyer Kelly Clark is suing the Church of Latter Day Saints for $5 million on behalf of a local Mormon man who says a church leader in the 70s sexually abused him, causing severe emotional and psychological damage.
The case in Multnomah County is actually part of a three-city lawsuit against the Mormon Church, stemming from sexual abuse accusations against three separate perpetrators in Seattle, Portland and San Francisco.
According to Clark, his client moved into the Woodburn ward of the Mormon church when he was about 12 and was a talented musician. The church organist there took the kid under his wing and proceeded to sexually abuse him in "dozens, maybe 100 incidents."
The teenager eventually got up the courage to tell his bishop about the abuse and the bishop said he would resolve the problem. But the bishop never told police about the abuse and the alleged victim never received any counseling. "If law enforcement is involved, the kid gets counseling, the kid gets help," says Clark. "He has really, really struggled. He has been in an out of jail, dealt with drug issues. The emotion and the sadness just oozes out of him." Clark's client in Portland is gay and that adds to his isolating relationship with the church, says Clark. "He says he's too gay to be a Mormon and he's too Mormon to go to any other church."
"The Mormon church will tell you that they have a mandatory child abuse reporting policy, but in all three cases it was reported to the local bishop and in none of those cases was it reported to law enforcement and in none of those three cases did the victims get any help," says Clark, who will argue in court that these cases qualified as situations where the clergy was bound by law to report abuse to the police. Though they're not pursuing criminal prosecution of the church bishops, Clark says his clients are hoping that the hefty civil penalties will get the Mormon church to take notice of abuse within its ranks.
In San Francisco and Seattle, the abuse victims are also suing the Boy Scouts, since the alleged perpetrators were not only church leaders, but Boy Scout leaders as well.