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LDS Church Sued by Fourth Navajo for Alleged Sexual Abuse in Foster Program

Andrea Smardon
David Clohessy, Director of SNAP, holds a photo of the LDS Church attended by plaintiff "L.K." while particpating in the Lamanite Placement Program.

A new sexual abuse lawsuit was filed this week against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The plaintiff is the fourth member of the Navajo Nation to come forward since March with accusations of childhood abuse in the church’s Indian Placement Program.

In the complaint filed in Navajo Nation District Court, the plaintiff identified as L.K. claims he was sexually abused by his foster father while attending 7th grade in Roy, Utah in the late 1970’s. The alleged perpetrator is deceased, but the LDS Church is accused of failing to protect L.K. while he was participating in the Lamanite Placement Program.

“The program while no doubt well-intentioned would have to be considered a pedophile’s dream,” says David Clohessy, the National Director of SNAP, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Clohessy spoke at a press conference in Salt Lake City on behalf of L.K. and other members of the Navajo Nation who claim they were abused while enrolled in the Indian Placement Program. He believes there are other survivors than the four who have come forward with lawsuits.

LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement that there is zero tolerance for abuse of any kind and they work actively to prevent abuse.

Meanwhile, attorneys for the church have asked a federal court judge not to allow a Navajo court hearing in a lawsuit filed in March. They say the case should be tried in Utah. The plaintiff’s attorney Billy Keeler says the case would not be decided on its merits because it falls outside the state’s existing statute of limitations.

“We would file it, and it would be thrown out of court before the ink even got dry,” Keeler says.

Whatever the judge decides will likely determine where the other Navajo lawsuits against the Church will be tried.

Andrea Smardon is new at KUER, but she has worked in public broadcasting for more than a decade. Most recently, she worked as a reporter and news announcer for WGBH radio. While in Boston, she produced stories for Morning Edition, Marketplace Money, and The World. Her print work was published in The Boston Globe and Prior to that, she worked at Seattleââ
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