FLAGSTAFF, Ariz., March 24, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — Two Navajo siblings have filed a lawsuit against the LDS Church alleging they were sexually abused decades ago as children while they were in a church program that placed them with Mormon foster families.
The lawsuit against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints seeks unspecified damages; changes in church polices regarding reports of sexual, including the practice of telling leaders not to testify in cases involving abuse; the creation of a task force to address social and cultural harm to Navajos who were in the Indian Student Placement Program; and a written apology.
The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Navajo Nation court.
Attorney Billy Keeler said the brother and sister, his clients, told at least two leaders about the abuse, but nothing to protect the children while they were in the program, in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Keeler said his clients’ mother put them in the Indian Student Placement Program in the hope it would give them access to a better education.
The children, who were 10 and 11 when they were baptized into the Mormon Church, were sent to live with foster families for the school year, Keeler said.
Thousands of children, from age 8 through high school age, participated in the program when it was active, from 1947 to 2000. Participating children had to be baptized into the LDS Church, and were sent to live with Mormon families.
The siblings’ lawsuit claims the sexual abuse started in the first foster home, and continued as they moved to other homes, Keeler said.
The LDS Church on Thursday released a statement regarding the lawsuit, through spokeswoman Kristen Howey:
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has zero tolerance for abuse of any kind and works actively to prevent abuse. This lawsuit was filed earlier today. The Church will examine the allegations and respond appropriately.”