Seven alleged Boy Scout sex abuse victims filed lawsuits in Arizona this week against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), accusing its leaders of covering up decades of abuse.
The seven lawsuits, one for each victim, allege that church officials informed of the abuse did not alert the necessary authorities, instead instructing victims to stay quiet while the church investigated, The Associated Press reported.
But the lawsuit says Boy Scouts of America leaders involved in the allegations were permitted to stay in their positions or switch to another troop.
The allegations took place between 1972 and 2009 and involve seven troops that the church sponsored in Phoenix and Tucson, the victims' attorneys told the AP.
Hurley McKenna & Mertz, a firm that focuses on church sexual abuse, released a statement to the AP saying the church “must be held accountable in order to bring healing and closure to Mormon victims of childhood sexual abuse.”
The seven alleged victims are asking to be awarded an unspecified sum for their medical expenses, pain and suffering as well as punitive damages for the “outrageous conduct” of the church leaders.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spokesman Sam Penrod said in a statement that the church has no tolerance for any abuse, adding that the lawsuit’s accusations demand examination. But he disputed that the church had access to lists of alleged abusive Scout leaders or had seen "public records" cited in the AP report.
“The claim that the church has had access to the [Boy Scouts of America] ineligible volunteer files for many decades is simply false,” Penrod said. “The church learned about the details of those files at the same time as the general public. These claims will be carefully evaluated and appropriately addressed.”
The attorneys filed the lawsuits ahead of Arizona’s deadline for the end of the year for current adults over 29 to file lawsuits against their alleged abusers and organizations that did not appropriately respond to abuse. Those under 30 can still take legal action after 2020 as long as it’s before their 30th birthday.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had been the largest sponsor for the Boy Scouts until officially breaking off its 105-year-old union last year. The cancellation of the partnership came as the Boy Scouts opened up to gay members and leaders, girls and transgender boys.
In the meantime, the Boy Scouts has been dealing with about 90,000 sexual abuse claims, according to the AP, leading the organization to file for bankruptcy protection in February.
Updated 6:20 p.m.