A barrage of lawsuits were slapped on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on Monday for allegedly concealing and covering up hundreds of incidents of sexual abuse for decades among boy scouts troops in Arizona. The lawsuits claim that church officials never took the initiative to notify authorities about the cases of child abuse over the years.
Instead, they have been accused of covering up the incidents of sexual abuse that is rampant in the church. This is the latest litigation before the state's end-of-year deadline for adult victims to sue. The victims of the sexual abuse in their lawsuits have now asked for monetary compensation for the pain and suffering they had to go through.
The church was hit by as many as seven lawsuits accusing it of willfully covering up incidents of sexual abuse and failing to report them to higher authorities for timely action. Incidents of sexual abuse among boy scouts have time and again come up in the United States, with victims often suing church authorities of being negligent in protecting the rights of minors.
The church "must be held accountable in order to bring healing and closure to Mormon victims of childhood sexual abuse," Hurley McKenna and Mertz, a law firm that focuses on church sex abuse, said in a statement.
According to a report in The Salt lake Tribune, public records show that Boy scouts sponsored by the church who had been sexually abused had repeatedly complained to church bishops about their horrifying experiences. However, the bishops instead of taking it up with higher authorities asked the boys to keep quiet and not discuss the incidents with others. Instead, the bishops promised to conduct independent investigations but never did that also. On the other hand, volunteers and troop leaders would continue to sexually abuse the boys and would also be allowed to continue with their roles.
Who Will Take the Responsibility?
All the seven victims who filed the lawsuits on Monday have now asked for a jury to give them justice and at the same time compensate them with an award of an unspecified sum for medical expenses, trauma, pain and sufferings. They have also demanded for damages for "outrageous conduct" by the church officials.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sponsored seven troops in Arizona in metro Phoenix and Tucson and all the seven suits were filed this month — six in Maricopa County Superior Court and one in Pima County Superior Court.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the largest sponsor of Boy Scouts of America troops and has been its biggest ally. However, the partnership between the Boy Scouts of America and the Utah-based faith known more popularly as Mormon church ended in January this year following which, 400,000 young boys were pulled out.
The boys were then moved into the Mormon church's own global youth program that focuses on spiritual development. However, declining membership saw the Boy Scouts of America openly welcoming gay youth members and adult volunteers as well as girls and transgender boys, while the Mormon church believes that same-sex intimacy is a sin.
Till date more than 9,000 sexual abuse claims have been filed against Boy Scouts. In a move to create a compensation fund for the victims of sexual abuse by troop leaders and scoutmasters, Boy Scouts of America filed for bankruptcy protection earlier this year.
Last year, the state of Arizona joined several others in extending the rights of now-adult victims to sue the alleged sexual predators and any churches or authorities who turned a deaf ear to their complaints and failed to notify higher authorities about the alleged incidents.