Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Serial Litigator Kelly Clark Files $5.2 Million Suit Against Boy Scouts On Behalf Of Alleged Sex Abuse Victim; LDS Church Previously Settled With The Victim

Serial litigator Kelly Clark has carved out a comfortable niche for himself targeting the Boy Scouts and various religious organizations with lawsuits relating to childhood sex abuse. The victims suddenly make an issue of the abuse 20-30 years after the fact, and retain Clark's services. Clark discusses his motives and previous cases on his website. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been the defendant in a few of these suits, but it does not appear that Clark has a personal axe to grind against the Church.

On February 15th, 2011, Clark struck again. The Portland Oregonian and the Courthouse News Service report that Kelly Clark filed a $5.2 million lawsuit Tuesday against the Boy Scouts of America and the Cascade Pacific Council on behalf of an unidentified Portland man (although identified by CNS by the initials H.M.) who claims he was continually abused during a seven-year period in his childhood. Clark claims the organization had plenty of evidence that the offending troop leader, identified as James F. Hogan, was a serial child molester, but the Boy Scouts did nothing to keep him from harming others. The plaintiff's brother reportedly was also abused, but chose not to file suit. The plaintiff is unwilling to settle out of court because "he wants to get the word out so that others don't have to suffer in secret".

The plaintiff, now in his 30s and a member of the Armed Services, was a member of Cub Scout Den No. 312, which was a part of the Boy Scout program. Clark claims the plaintiff was sexually abused to include fondling, anal sodomy, oral sex and masturbation hundreds of times from 1981 to 1988 by James F. Hogan, who served at various times as a Scout volunteer, assistant Scoutmaster and Scoutmaster.

One reason why Clark maintains the Boy Scouts should have known Hogan was suspect is because in 1974, Boy Scout leaders confronted Hogan over reports he had been kissing and hugging boys he oversaw through a troop sponsored by the Portland Stake of the LDS Church. A file recounted one formerly enthusiastic Scout's reaction to a meeting with Hogan; the Scout immediately dropped out of the troop. The file said Hogan had repeated questionable contact with Scouts, but contains no record that Boy Scouts reported him to police. They did ban Hogan from Scouting, but only for a limited time. In 1981, church leaders asked that Hogan be reinstated because they concluded the earlier accusations against him weren't true. The Boy Scouts relented and restored Hogan as a volunteer. Nine years later, they put him back on their list of banned volunteers after he abused two boys he met at the church and pleaded guilty to sodomy.

In a prepared statement, Deron Smith, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts of America, said that "abuse is – and has always been – unacceptable and the Boy Scouts of America extends its sympathies to the victims." Smith said Tuesday was the first he'd heard about the suit. The Boy Scouts now screen prospective volunteers locally and nationally, prohibit unsupervised one-on-one contact between adults and youth members, and provide abuse recognition training.

The LDS Church earlier settled with the plaintiff out of court; the details of the settlement are sealed. A Portland lawyer for the LDS Church, Steve English, confirmed there had been a settlement. The church, he said, condemns abuse and, where possible, tries to resolve cases to end the victim's suffering.

Analysis: While we are justifiably outraged, we must remember that back in the '80s, awareness of child sexual abuse was much lower than it is now. We were also not aware of the long-lasting psychological consequences. So we must resist the temptation to judge the actions of that time by the standards prevalent today. The LDS Church has since implemented stiffer measures to identify and deal with this problem.

The Church Handbook of Instructions, Volume 1 (not currently available online by request of the Church although I did download my own personal copy of the PDF file when it was briefly online) spells out the prescribed disposition of child sex abusers. Chapter 6.7.3 lists child sex abuse as one of the factors mandating the convening of a disciplinary council. Excommunication is the usual penalty for those guilty of child sexual abuse, although disfellowshipment is possible. However, Chapter 6.10.2 specifies that in the event of a criminal trial, a disciplinary council will not normally be convened until after a final judgment is reached, in concordance with the judicial presumption of innocence.

Chapter 6.12.10 specifies that the approval of the First Presidency is required before a child sex abuser can be restored to full fellowship or membership. In addition, chapter 6.13.4 specifies that the Church records of a child sex abuser will be permanently annotated, so that wherever the person goes, the bishop or branch president will be aware of it and not extend a youth calling to the person or permit them unsupervised contact with children on Church premises or at Church functions.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is certainly disturbing that the church was instrumental in reinstating this individual, resulting in additional abuse. And it makes me question whether church officials notify authorities when church members confess abuse of minors. Since this website quotes the church handbook of instruction, perhaps the author can answer this question. What guidance does the handbook provide to Bishops? Do bishops notify police when someone confesses to abusing a child? If not, the abuser's behavior is supported by the church. Thus, Kelly Clark's advocacy shouldn't be vilified when he is exposing criminal acts that are allowed to continue.