In a lawsuit where a Colorado woman had claimed that she was raped while working as a missionary 34 years ago, a federal judge threw out all but one claim. The woman had sued LDS Church and a former president of the Missionary Training Center at the church, whom she accused of raping her.
According to US District Judge Dale Kimball, the fraud, sexual assault, and emotional distress charges that McKenna Denson brought against Joseph Bishop had expired under the statute of limitations in Utah. Kimball, on the same grounds, dismissed claims of sexual assault and emotional distress against the charge. He also refused to issue an injunction that would force the church to review its policies on sexual assault and abuse.
The judge further found that the statute of limitations on Denson’s claims that the church had hidden Bishop’s behavior only began in December 2017, when she confronted him. Denson had reported the case to Elder Carlos E. Asay, who had been an authority at the church from 1976 until he died in 1999.
Although Asay had assured Denson that he would investigate the matter and get back to her, he never did. This means that, despite her efforts, she never proved that the church knew that Bishop was a sexual predator.
Craig Vernon, Denson’s attorney, expressed his disappointment at the case being dismissed on the grounds of the statute of limitations. However, he said he respects the decision and looked forward to the next phase where fraud claims against the church will continue.
On his part, LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins pointed out that judge Kimball had terminated three of the four claims made against the church. He said that the claim had remained to give room for further investigations, saying that they had faith in the legal system and were out to find the truth since the church does not tolerate abuse.
Although Bishop has denied the accusations, Denson, 55, alleges that Bishop, of Arizona, raped her in 1984 while she was a missionary. She sued both Bishop and the Church for sexual assault, battery, fraud, infliction of emotional stress and fraudulent concealment.
According to the lawsuit, Denson had reported the incident to various LDS leaders at least 10 times. When she did not learn of any effort to conduct investigations, she posed as a reporter, getting Bishop to reveal his sexual history and addiction. This taped conversation was later made public through a website.
Both the accused parties asked Denson to drop the charges since the statute of limitation on some of them had expired in 1985 and 1988, after the alleged rape.
David Jordan, the church attorney, and Andrew Deiss, Bishop’s attorney both argued that after the alleged rape, Denson had known that Bishop was not “honorable, safe, trustworthy or a godly man”. Deiss said that the rights of the accused have to be protected despite the statute of limitations appearing to be harsh. He said Bishop, 85, was now old and the main witness in the case was dead. He went on to say that documents were not available and memories change or fade over time.
Vernon, however, argued that both Bishop and Denson were alive, and so was Elder Robert E. Wells, an authority of the church to whom he claimed Bishop had confessed his sexual behavior in 1977.