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Claims Of Sexual Abuse Continue To Haunt LDS Church

Monument Valley at dawn on the Navajo Nation.
Erik Neumann / KUER
Monument Valley at dawn on the Navajo Nation.

This week The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints meets in Salt Lake City for its bi-annual conference. Meanwhile a report in the Salt Lake Tribune says a new lawsuit claims the Church turned a blind eye to the sexual abuse of children in one of its programs.

The Indian Student Placement Program ran from the 1940s until 2000, during which Navajo children were placed with Mormon foster families. Elise Boxer is an assistant professor in history and Native American studies at the University of South Dakota.

“The purpose of the program was to provide educational, social, cultural opportunities for American Indian children,” Boxer said.

But a number of lawsuits alleged sexual abuse — Nine were settled at the Navajo Nation District Court in Window Rock, Arizona in August, according to an attorney familiar with the cases.

The Tribune reported on Monday that one Navajo woman is refusing to settle. The woman says she was raped by her foster father while she was in the program and her pleas for help were ignored.

Elise Boxer said the LDS church has a history of refusing access to information about these alleged sexual abuse cases.

“I think one of the biggest issues is the lack of transparency by the LDS church,” Boxer said.

Representatives from the Mormon Church declined to comment for this story.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Copyright 2021 KUER 90.1. To see more, visit KUER 90.1.

Erik Neumann is a radio producer and writer. A native of the Pacific Northwest, his work has appeared on public radio stations and in magazines along the West Coast. He received his Bachelor's Degree in geography from the University of Washington and a Master's in Journalism from UC Berkeley. Besides working at KUER, he enjoys being outside in just about every way possible.
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