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The Mormon Church, or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has a special 24-hour helpline for presidents and bishops regarding crisis and emergency situations or difficult social and emotional situations. When some member from the Mormon Church has a problem he is supposed to talk to local bishop and if the bishop has doubts how to solve the problem – for example sexual abuse problem – he calls 24-hour welfare helpline.
Asked by VICE News about what percentage of those calls are referred to child protection authorities, Eric Hawkins, a Mormon Church spokesman, said, “The Church does not share information about the helpline.” He declined to say why. Since the early 2000s, when the Catholic Church became engulfed in the pedophile priest scandal, an affiliated group has annually published the number of abuse-related reports that Catholic bishops make to authorities.
But the Mormon Church’s refusal to disclose helpline data is only the most visible symptom of a system that appears to place church interests ahead of abuse victims’.
Before calling the Welfare Helpline, bishop should “prayerfully seek the inspiration of the Spirit,” as website lds.org suggests. According to a new report from VICE News, the helpline is a way “to shield the Mormon Church from potential lawsuits that pose a financial threat to the Church.” That’s because it does not automatically tell bishops to report the abuse to local authorities.
Part of the problem is that the calls go directly to the law firm, Kirton McConkie, that includes the LDS Church as a client.
“… several experts said they could not see any benefit for abuse victims in having defense lawyers screen calls about such incidents before authorities are alerted.
Catholic bishops have been instructed since 2002 to alert the police about suspected abuse before contacting church lawyers. “If you are just looking at it from the outside, you might say to yourself, ‘Are they trying to find a way not to report [incidents]?’” says Kathleen McChesney, a former top official at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who consulted with the Catholic Church on its new reporting policies…
Directing abuse-related calls to church lawyers, legal experts said, lets the Mormon Church classify them as “attorney-client” communications and so protect them from disclosure in lawsuits and other forums. The Church’s maintenance of secrecy is so absolute that staffers at LDS Family Service who take notes during helpline calls are required to shred them at the end of every day, said [Timothy] Kosnoff, the plaintiffs’ lawyer.”
Link to the video: