A couple of weeks ago, the website MormonLeaks posted a recording of a woman interviewing 85-year-old Joseph L. Bishop, a man who used to run the Mormon Church’s main Missionary Training Center.
The woman alleged that, in 1984, Bishop attempted to rape her in the basement of that center. He didn’t admit to that, but he did later confess to molesting another woman in a similar position.
The interviewer said at one point: “I don’t know how many women there are, but if this story went public, you would be the Harvey Weinstein… of the Mormon church.”
The Mormon Church has tried to put a stop to the outrage, saying they had investigated the first woman’s claims in 2010 but found no evidence in support of them.
All of that led to a protester yelling out, “Stop protecting sexual predators!” during a general conference for members of the Church this past weekend. The protester said later that she was reacting to the leaked interview.
And now another shoe has dropped.
Last night, the woman whose voice was heard in that interview, McKenna Denson, filed a lawsuit against both the Mormon Church and Bishop himself.
Jim Dalrymple II of BuzzFeed News explains:
The suit argues that the church “knew or had reason to know, or was otherwise on notice of prior sexual improprieties against women” that Bishop allegedly committed. The church also “failed to take reasonable steps and failed to implement reasonable safeguards to avoid acts of unlawful sexual assault” by Bishop, the lawsuit states.
Denson suffered a variety of mental, physical, and economic hardships as a result of the alleged assault, the suit argues. She is asking for an undisclosed amount of money, as well as a change in church policies regarding the reporting of criminal activity.
The only relevant policy change that has been issued so far is that the Church now says “leaders should never disregard a report of abuse or counsel a member not to report criminal activity to law enforcement personnel.” It’s not clear if that’s enough for Denson, but this lawsuit comes a week after that revision was announced, so the answer appears to be no.
She may have a case, though. Brigham Young University police said they were alerted by Denson about her claims back in November, but they couldn’t pursue anything since the statute of limitations had long expired.
The lawsuit itself includes many details about his alleged assault. I won’t go into all of them, but when Denson finally kicked him off of her body and left the room, he reportedly suggested “no one would believe her, saying ‘Look at you, look at me.'”
Denson’s suit includes charges of sexual assault and battery, and the Church itself is implicated because she says they had been informed about Bishop’s “prior sexual improprieties against women” yet didn’t take action to prevent him from assaulting other women. She also accuses them of both negligent and intentional “infliction of emotional distress,” because she reported the assault 10 times to various Church leaders, only to watch them do nothing. There’s also a charge of fraud against the Church, for holding up Bishop as “a beacon of faith, morality and religious leadership,” even though they allegedly knew otherwise. Denson says she trusted their recommendation and later paid the price for it.
The Church didn’t issue any new statement in response to the lawsuit. They just pointed to an older statement about how they take seriously the responsibility to hold “members accountable for their conduct.” Their actions, however, tell a different story.