A 24-hour helpline that the Mormon Church touts as part of an innovative model for reporting sexual abuse has been used instead to shield the church from potential lawsuits, Vice reports, citing court testimony and other documents.
Helpline calls are not immediately transferred to authorities so they can take action. Instead, they are funneled into a law firm that created the Mormon Church’s abuse reporting system in 1995 and now defends it in abuse-related lawsuits. That firm, Kirton McConkie, counts the church as its largest client, to which it provides litigation defense, policy advice, and legislative advocacy services. Several experts questioned having defense lawyers screen abuse victims’ calls, a practice that lets the church classify the abuse reports as attorney-client communications. One Kirton McConkie lawyer acknowledged during a pretrial deposition that the firm uses information gleaned from helpline calls to identify cases that pose a high financial risk to the Mormon Church.