In the past, there may have been doubt as to how committed the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was in rooting on child abuse and sex abuse within its ranks. Not any more. Upon learning that Lone Peak High School seminary principal Michael Pratt had been arrested on suspicion of having a sexual relationship with a 16-year-old female student, the Church promptly took action. Here is their statement:
"The Church condemns abuse of any kind and expects the highest moral and ethical standards of its seminary employees.
"The Church terminated Michael Pratt's employment as soon as allegations surfaced and immediately reported the matter to law enforcement.
"Our hearts go out to the victim and family members. Counseling and other resources have been offered to help the victim in the healing process."
The Church did not, and probably will not, publicly disclose whether or not Pratt's basic membership status in the Church has changed. Most likely it won't (although his temple recommend might be pulled) until he either confesses or is convicted in court. At that time, Pratt's stake leaders would likely convene a disciplinary council, out of which the penalties of disfellowshipment or excommunication will be levied. Excommunication is particularly nasty; an excommunicant is not eligible for reinstatement for a minimum of one year, and it may take an excommunicant as much as five years or more to work his way back. Reinstatement requires approval by Salt Lake. You do NOT want to get excommunicated. Read my September 2008 post on church discipline for more information and additional links.
The KSL Channel 5 news video embedded below provides the story:
Summary: Incorporates additional information from the Deseret News, the Provo Daily Herald, and the Salt Lake Tribune. Michael Pratt was a teacher and the principal of the LDS seminary at Lone Peak High School in Highland, Utah. Seminary consists of instruction in church doctrine, and students are allowed one hour of released time each day to attend. It was at seminary the Pratt, who is a husband and father, first became acquainted with the 16-year-old girl.
Authorities state that the relationship began with text messaging, which in itself became sexually explicit, then by the first part of May 2009, escalated into a sexual relationship. Many different types of sexual activities are believed to have taken place.
Pratt checked the girl out of school without her parents' knowledge at least three times and took her up Provo Canyon to Bridal Veil Falls, where he touched her breasts and genital area and kissed her. They were in a boxcar next to Vivian Park. But the actions grew to include more sex acts at various times and in different locations around the county, including a ravine next to the girl's home, in an unoccupied home in her neighborhood, back to the boxcar in Provo Canyon, in Rock Canyon, in a mine in Eureka and in Warm Springs near Goshen, where they were observed to be skinny-dipping.
Sgt. Matt Higley of the Utah Valley Special Victims Task Force said that the acts were consensual, meaning that there was no coercion used. However, under Utah law, a 16-year-old in this situation is not considered competent to give consent, which is why the word "forcible" appears in some of the charges outlined in the next paragraph. Unlike the so-called "victim" in the Jose Fanjul case, this girl does not have a record as a troubled teen. Pratt has no prior criminal record, and there is also no indication of other victims.
Pratt was booked into the Utah County Jail for investigation of aggravated kidnapping, unlawful sexual conduct with a 16- or 17-year-old, aggravated forcible sex abuse, 10 counts of forcible sodomy, object rape, lewdness, burglary, criminal trespassing, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and 10 counts of enticing a minor. A judge set bail Friday at $20,000 cash only. Pratt is scheduled to be in 4th District Court at 8:30 A.M. on Monday July 13th.
The evidence against Michael Pratt appears quite damning on the surface, nonetheless we observe the presumption of innocence and express faith that the justice system will work successfully, as it still does in many cases. The Church reacted promptly and properly.