LDS Church settles sex abuse lawsuits

SALT LAKE CITY -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has settled a series of lawsuits filed by a group of people alleging they were sexually abused within a church-run program for Native American children.

Craig Vernon, a lawyer representing some of the alleged victims, said in an email to FOX 13 that his clients asked for their cases to be dismissed in Navajo Tribal Court after reaching agreements with the LDS Church.

The settlements involving up to a dozen people came as a result of mediation. Terms of those settlements remain confidential, he added.

"Our clients felt that this settlement was a recognition that what happened to them, never should have happened; that resolving this case was an important step in continuing to heal from the scars of the past," Vernon wrote.

A spokesman for the LDS Church said they had no comment.

A series of lawsuits were filed in 2016 and 2017 by people claiming they were sexually abused while participating in the LDS Church's "Lamanite Student Placement Program" or "Indian Placement Program" in the 1960s and '70s. They claimed they were taken from their homes on the Navajo Nation, baptized into the Mormon faith, and placed with foster families across Utah.

In some lawsuits, the plaintiffs claimed they disclosed sexual abuse to people within the church, but little or nothing was done about it.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs repeatedly sought to depose then-LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson, which was consistently rebuffed by judges. The LDS Church has repeatedly said it has toughened its abuse reporting requirements and has a system in place to track abusers.

"Our clients recognized that settlement is a compromise considering the risks both sides faced if this litigation continued. Recognizing this, our clients are pleased to achieve justice for the harm caused them and move forward with the rest of their lives," said Billy Keeler, another attorney representing the plaintiffs.