Aug 8, 2022 - News

Mormon church issues vague rebuttal on sex abuse hotline

The steeples of the temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are backed by a blue sky with clouds.

The clouds clear after rain at the historic Mormon Salt Lake Temple on Temple Square on Oct. 3, 2015 in Salt Lake City. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said an Associated Press story "seriously mischaracterized" its protocols for child abuse reports — but officials did not say what precisely the AP got wrong.

Catch up fast: The AP on Thursday reported that sealed court documents show the church used its 24-7 sex abuse "helpline" to stop a bishop from reporting a confessed child rapist to police in Arizona.

  • The bishop said when he called the hotline, he was connected with church lawyers who told him — wrongly — that he could "absolutely do nothing" because Arizona law required him to keep the man's confession confidential.
  • The man's children are now suing the church, and a prosecutor is investigating church officials' actions.

The latest: The church on Friday refuted the AP story, but without pointing to any specific inaccuracies.

  • The church said the help line "is instrumental in ensuring that all legal requirements for reporting are met" as states have varying laws on the obligations of clergy to report information they receive, especially in private confessions.
  • The church statement said the AP story is "oversimplified and incomplete" and "a serious misrepresentation of the Church and its efforts."

Yes, but: The AP story quotes church documents stating that abuse shouldn't be tolerated and the first responsibility of the church is to help victims.

What's happening: The church repeatedly posted and deleted its statement on Twitter that "Abuse of a child or any other individual is inexcusable."

  • The church tweeted its entire statement in a thread and eventually blocked replies — but only after someone had responded to the first post, "You are full of s---."
  • The church deleted and reposted the first tweet with replies blocked, and shared the rest of the thread under it — which opened the original posts to a slew of comments criticizing their handling of sex abuse. 
  • The church then deleted all of its tweets on the AP article and reposted its entire statement with replies blocked.

Zoom in: Although the church's official statement reads "Our hearts break for these children," its attorney called the children's lawsuit a "money grab" in the AP story.

What's next: State Rep. Angela Romero plans to revive a 2020 bill requiring all religious leaders to report child abuse, she told FOX 13.

  • The bill failed after the Catholic League and House Speaker Brad Wilson opposed it.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Salt Lake City.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Salt Lake City stories

Salt Lake Citypostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Salt Lake City.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more