Idaho Press Tribune and The Associated Press
BOISE — A man has filed a $5 million lawsuit against the Boy Scouts and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, contending they didn’t do enough to stop a Scout troop leader from sexually abusing children.
Scout and church officials said the organizations take such allegations seriously and will investigate the claims even though they happened decades ago. But an LDS church spokesman criticized the plaintiff’s attorney for going to the media before taking the claims to church.
The plaintiff in the suit, only identified as “Tom Doe” in the legal documents, is a 53-year-old man who was born and raised in Nampa, according to his attorney, famed sex abuse claims attorney Kelly Clark.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday morning in Malheur County Circuit Court in Vale, Ore., which is where Clark said the majority of the abuse took place. The plaintiff alleges that Larren Arnold, a leader of his Nampa Boy Scout troop, sexually abused him for about three years, when the victim was between the ages of 10 and 13, and that the abuse left him with debilitating physical, emotional and mental injuries.
“My client worshipped Arnold; (he) thought the sun rose and set on him,” Clark said. Due to the sexual abuse his client received, Clark said his client has suffered a loss of respect for authority figures, of trust in others, and of his spiritual faith.
“He was a very devout person. He grew up in a devout family and had a testimony,” Clark said. “What is loss of faith worth? I know what it’s worth to me, and you can’t put a price on it.”
Scouts, church react
Arnold could not be immediately reached for comment. A recorded message for a Pocatello listing under Arnold’s name said the number had been temporarily disconnected at the customer’s request.
David Kemper, the Scout executive for the Ore-Idaho Council, said he had not yet seen the lawsuit and so couldn’t give specific comments. However, Kemper said, the Boy Scouts take any allegation of child abuse seriously.
“No matter when it is made, the issue of child abuse is serious and the organization is committed to making sure children involved in the program are able to do so in a safe environment,” Kemper said. “The Boy Scouts’ child abuse program is extensive. We have training for our adults in youth protection, and we’ve taught our youth the three Rs — recognize, resist and report.”
J. Craig Rowe, spokesman for the LDS church in Idaho, said the church also takes the allegations seriously.
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a zero-tolerance policy for child abuse and does all it can to help victims and report abuse. It will seriously investigate these decades-old allegations,” Rowe said in a prepared statement.
While Arnold was never convicted of a criminal act against his client, Clark said Arnold was convicted of sexual abuse of a minor under 16 in 1985, “a good 15 years after what happened to my client.” Arnold received a sentence of three years in prison for that offense, Clark said.
Arnold was listed as a registered sex offender in Bannock County several years ago for that unrelated offense but is no longer on any Idaho sex offender registry, according to public records.
Bannock County probation officials would not release any details of the case or Arnold’s current sex offender status.
The accuser alleges that the Nampa ward of the LDS church “called” Arnold to serve as a Scout troop leader to educate and minister to LDS families and their children. The troop was jointly operated by the Boy Scouts and the LDS church,
The accuser maintains that leaders of the Boy Scouts Ore-Ida Council, the national Boy Scouts of America organization and the church knew they had “institution-wide child abuse problems.”
At least one church official, who served as the troop’s assistant scoutmaster, knew the abuse was occurring, Clark alleged.
“My client knows for sure that one of the assistant scoutmasters witnessed the abuse,” Clark said.
“He was in the same tent. So he should have reported it and it should have stopped right then. We know, unfortunately, that this guy was allowed to go on and abuse kids for several more years.”
The plaintiff reported he was abused during scouting trips and outings in eastern Oregon and in Nampa, Clark said.
Despite the abuse claim and lack of criminal conviction against his client, Arnold is not included in the lawsuit.
“My client holds the organizations responsible,” Clark said. “Mr. Arnold has paid his penalties and his dues.”
Clark added: “We will prove that for at least five or six years after that, he was still on the Boy Scout rolls, and we think still serving.”
The attorney said he hopes that through this lawsuit, and through several other he has filed in the past, that the organizations will be stronger and safer, preventing abuse of other innocents.
“It’s not my view to shut them down. I believe it helps change good institutions and make them better. That’s my hope.”