Federal judge refuses to dismiss claim against Mormon church in rape case

McKenna Denson speaks with reporters during a news conference April 5, 2018, in Salt Lake City. A judge refused to dismiss Denson's lawsuit claiming she was raped after the Mormon church allowed a man to oversee young missionaries in the 1980s despite a history of sexual misconduct. | Associated Press file photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A woman’s lawsuit claiming she was raped by a Mormon church leader who was allowed to oversee young missionaries despite a history of sexual misconduct will go forward, a judge decided Monday.

The decision will allow McKenna Denson’s lawyers to investigate whether there are others who claim to be victims of Joseph L. Bishop, who oversaw hundreds of young people as president of the Missionary Training Center in the 1980s, or others in leadership positions, attorney Craig Vernon said.

McKenna Denson stands next to her portrait following a news conference April 5, 2018, in Salt Lake City. | Associated Press file photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

“The church represented to McKenna and everybody else that he was good guy, he was safe and he was trustworthy, he was not a sexual predator, he was not a sexual addict,” Vernon said. “We believe there is evidence the church in fact knew that was not true.”

The Associated Press doesn’t usually name people who say they are victims of sexual assault, but Denson has said she wants her story to be public.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has disputed the allegations. Spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement Monday they are “confident in the legal system to evaluate these claims and determine the truth. As the Church has repeatedly stated, there can be no tolerance for abuse.”

The church had wanted the case dismissed because the allegations are 34 years old, meaning key witnesses are dead and evidence has disappeared.

U.S. District Judge Dale Kimball did dismiss three of the four claims, including those that could have forced the faith to change how it handles abuse complaints, Vernon said. Kimball allowed a fraud claim to stand because Denson said she only discovered the cover-up when she confronted Bishop in December 2017.

Bishop told her that he’d confessed “incidents of sexual predation” to church leaders in the 1970s, before he was named to the role that gave him authority over hundreds of young Mormons preparing to go on church missions, Denson said.

Kimball also dismissed the claims against the now-85-year-old Bishop because the statute of limitations has passed. Bishop has denied assaulting her, but he acknowledged he asked her to expose herself when she was 21, according to police documents.

Denson said she reported the assault several times over the past three decades, but the church failed to take action. The church has said Bishop wasn’t punished because he denied the allegations and church members could not verify them.

The case emerged with the release of a conversation Denson secretly recorded with Bishop in December. He is heard apologizing to Denson after she confronts him, though he didn’t specify what happened.

Written by LINDSAY WHITEHURST, Associated Press.

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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19 Comments

  • Melodi August 14, 2018 at 11:18 am

    Hey @FOX News, did you get the memo? THIS☝️ is real reporting! And the photos chosen are the appropriate photos given the subject matter, not a photo where she looks like she wasn’t asked to the dance! Thank you for real reporting!! And as for McKenna, who went through years of suffering, and finally gets a chance to have her voice and many many other voices heard, congratulations. Thank you for refusing to silently go away with a non-disclosure agreement! We who will never get Justice against Goliath, hope to stand by and see Justice for you! As for Bishop and those protecting sexual predators, there’s still possibly the next life for your judgment.

    • Happy Commenter August 14, 2018 at 12:19 pm

      What does Fox News have to do with this article? That’s a pretty irrelevant and unrelated comment. Please show us how this is connected to Fox News. I think you have a personal problem! Like maybe you’re a delusional liberal!

  • Nobody August 14, 2018 at 2:36 pm

    YES! This ^^^^^^^^^

  • comments August 14, 2018 at 7:23 pm

    Well, the one and only, HOLY PROPHET OF THE LORD, Prophet Brother Warren Jeffs will be on his way back to the holy land of UT to testify in court. I for one am pretty darn excited!

    • Happy Commenter August 14, 2018 at 7:57 pm

      Where do you get your misinformation? Bathroom stall?

      • comments August 14, 2018 at 9:42 pm

        A TRUE PROPHET OF THE LORD returning to the glorious land of zion! Brother, are you not elated as well?!

        • Happy Commenter August 15, 2018 at 7:21 am

          And i suppose you’re a prophet also? There is no mention of that in the story, therefore you are making it up! Get back in your can, Oscar!

          • comments August 15, 2018 at 9:27 am

            “There is no mention of that in the story, therefore you are making it up!”

            That’s a hilariously absurd thing to say. You aint the sharpest knife in the drawer are ya? haha 😉

    • mesaman August 14, 2018 at 8:29 pm

      You may be excited, but life’s jury is still deliberating on the “pretty” part.

      • comments August 14, 2018 at 9:41 pm

        Well, we all can’t be pretty, right? 😉

        • Happy Commenter August 15, 2018 at 10:24 am

          We know you aren’t! And you aren’t very bright either!

        • Happy Commenter August 15, 2018 at 12:18 pm

          You’re the one imagining things…LOL

    • Happy Commenter August 15, 2018 at 10:50 am

      “There is no mention of that in the story, therefore you are making it up!” And you aren’t very bright are you? Or is it that you just can’t read? FLDS and Jeffs are not mentioned anywhere Mr “delusional comments”. Put that in your can and smoke it Oscar!

      • comments August 15, 2018 at 1:05 pm

        Why are you quoting your own statement? I already know what you said. Because it isn’t in THIS story means I’m making it up? Explain your logic there, buddy. I think it’s hilarious 😉

        • Happy Commenter August 15, 2018 at 2:26 pm

          You are making it up moron! In your dreams your prophet jeffs is coming back!

          • comments August 15, 2018 at 4:01 pm

            LOL. Since you’re this dull I’ll clue you in. Prophet Jeffs will be summoned from texas prison to testify in a civil trial against the FLDS mormon church here in UT. Man, you are thick aren’t you. Hilarious, hahaha 😉

          • Happy Commenter August 15, 2018 at 4:44 pm

            Let’s see some proof dreamer!

          • Happy Commenter August 15, 2018 at 5:32 pm

            Your prophet is locked up and is not going anywhere! Dream on Oscar! You have an immensely overactive delusional imagination!

  • bikeandfish August 15, 2018 at 10:48 am

    Glad to see the courts are giving less deference to the church. Justice is finally catching up to reality. Given yesterdays Grand Jury’s release of reports about the PA Catholic church conspiracy to cover up severe and coordinated child abuse I would wager we will see more of these cases make it to trial.

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