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.
The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Malheur County Circuit Court in Vale, Ore., by a 53-year-old man identified only as Tom Doe.
Doe alleges that Larren Arnold, a leader of his Nampa, Idaho, Boy Scout troop, sexually abused him for about three years, starting in 1967, and that the abuse left him with debilitating physical, emotional and mental injuries.
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.
Arnold was listed as a registered sex offender in Bannock County several years ago for an 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.
Doe, who grew up in Nampa but now lives in the Portland, Ore., region, 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, Doe said.
Doe 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."
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 Scout’s 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."
At least one church official, who served as the troop’s assistant scoutmaster, knew the abuse was occurring, said Doe’s attorney, Kelly Clark.
"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."
Doe was abused during scouting trips and outings in eastern Oregon and in Nampa, Clark said.
Arnold was convicted of sexual abuse of a child under 16 in Bannock County in 1985, Clark said.
"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."
J. Craig Rowe, spokesman for the LDS Church in Idaho, said the church takes the allegations seriously. He criticized Clark’s approach to the case.
"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.
"However, the way in which this case was filed raises a serious issue of which both the court and the public should be aware. The plaintiff’s attorney contacted media before the lawsuit was even filed knowing the church could not respond, in an attempt to create headlines rather than discover the facts. This approach trivializes the seriousness of child abuse and its tragic consequences."
Clark said he has brought dozens of similar cases against the Roman Catholic church and is currently litigating seven cases against the LDS Church.
"Based on my experience I would expect to find a long, ugly, broken trail of child abuse," he said. "I’m conscious of where we are and I would say that these both are rightly respected institutions, but the fact is in the 1960s and 1970s they were not doing their job."