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Lawyers in sex abuse lawsuits push judge to order deposition of LDS Church president

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Posted at 10:45 AM, Aug 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-16 13:04:32-04

SALT LAKE CITY — Lawyers for four people suing the LDS Church alleging sex abuse while in a church-run program for Navajo children have renewed their request to depose the faith’s top leader.

In court papers filed last week and obtained by FOX 13, lawyers for the four insist the deposition of Thomas S. Monson, the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is necessary to their case. They are responding to a motion by LDS Church attorneys to quash the subpoena.

Four people — identified in court documents only as RJ, MM, BN and LK — have sued the LDS Church in Navajo Tribal Court, alleging they were sexually abused while in the church’s “Lamanite Placement Program” or “Indian Student Placement Program” in the 1960s and ’70s. Some of the alleged victims claim they disclosed the abuse to church officials, but nothing was done about it.

President Thomas S. Monson speaks at the 2010 First Presidency Christmas devotional. © 2010 Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

President Thomas S. Monson speaks at the 2010 First Presidency Christmas devotional. (Image © 2010 Intellectual Reserve, Inc. and provided by MormonNewsroom.org)

The LDS Church has filed to have the case moved to federal court in Salt Lake City, arguing that if the alleged abuse occurred in Utah, it should be litigated here. The demand for a deposition of President Monson was first disclosed by church attorneys in a court filing in federal court, who argued that even before he became leader of the faith — he did not have knowledge or oversight of the ISPP.

Craig Vernon, the lawyer for the alleged victims, insists in the latest filing that President Monson may have some knowledge of other LDS general authorities’ activities or church relations at the time with the Navajo tribe. Besides, they claim, he should be able to speak to it.

“According to Church policy, ‘The prophet [President Monson,] is not required to have any particular earthly training or credentials to speak on any subject or act on any matter at any time,'” Vernon wrote, adding:

“He has unique personal knowledge because of the reasons stated above; additionally, Church policy states that because of his position as President and Prophet, President Monson’s knowledge is unique and superior on ‘any subject, at any time’.”

The original subpoena served to the church pushed for an August 4 deposition, which came and went. A hearing has been scheduled for Monday in the case.

In other lawsuits leveled against the LDS Church, legal experts have said it is not uncommon for attempts to depose leaders of the Mormon faith. However, it is rare for them to actually give any testimony. Civil litigation rules allow for a corporation to designate someone to provide testimony — not the leaders.

The LDS Church has said that it has toughened its abuse reporting requirements, including methods of tracking people accused of abuse.

Read the filing here: