Home teacher has denied allegations of 1980s incidents

Associated Press from Deseretnews.com

PORTLAND, Ore. — A $45 million sex-abuse lawsuit against The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be mediated by a judge in an effort to reach a settlement instead of going to trial, attorneys said Thursday.

Kelly Clark, a Portland lawyer whose client is suing the LDS Church, said the mediation is set for August 9 and 10.

The dates were confirmed by Stephen English, a Portland attorney representing the church.

If the case is not settled, a trial date has been scheduled for Oct. 18, Clark said.

The lawsuit claims that a home teacher, Kenneth I. Johnson Jr., sexually abused a Beaverton boy as many as two times a week from 1987 to 1989.

The church is responsible because Johnson was authorized to act on its behalf, giving him access to the boy, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit claimed the duties authorized by the church included "educational and tutorial services, counseling, spiritual and moral guidance, religious instruction, and other duties" that would put Johnson "in a position of trust and confidence with LDS members and their children."

Johnson has denied the allegations in court documents.

English has said Johnson was acting as a family friend, not a church official.

The church later excommunicated Johnson, claiming that church officials had not been told about the alleged abuse at the time.

As part of the mediation agreement, the alleged victim — identified only by the initials "D.I." — has asked the church for reforms, Clark said.

"My client is absolutely committed to achieving some changes in the child abuse policies of the Mormon church as part of his settlement," Clark said.

Clark recently won an Oregon Supreme Court ruling in a pretrial motion asking the church to disclose detailed financial information for the first time since 1959.

The ruling could set the course for a larger legal battle over the rights of the church if a settlement is not reached, attorneys said.

"We have a motion in which we’re challenging the constitutionality of access to our confidential records," English said.

Clark sought the ruling to determine if $45 million in punitive damages was a reasonable request.

A book co-authored by Richard Ostling, a former Associated Press and Time magazine religion writer, titled "Mormon America: The Power and the Promise," estimated the church’s net worth at between $25 billion to $30 billion in the late 1990s.