Mormon Wife Sues LDS Church For Reporting Her Rapist Husband To The Cops
For several decades now, churches have been criticized for protecting rapists and child molesters. Obviously the Catholic Church, yes, but other denominations have had their share of scandals as well. Like the Mormon Church, which has been criticized for having done absolutely nothing about reported sexual abuse and for treating victims like "sinners." We don't hear a whole lot of stories about churches of any flavor doing the right thing when it comes to rape and child sexual abuse in general.
But we've got one now!
When 47-year-old Timothy Samuel Johnson of Turner, Oregon, confessed to church leaders at the Church of Latter-Day Saints that he had been regularly sexually abusing a girl under the age of 16 — rather than acting like he'd just taken the Lord's name in vain or had an impure thought and assigning him whatever the Mormon version of a few Hail Marys and Our Fathers is, they actually reported him to the police.
Coincidentally this was also what they were supposed to do, legally, as Oregon is one of the 28 states in which clergy are mandated to report child sexual abuse.
After the church reported him to the police, Johnson was charged with first-degree sodomy, sexual abuse and unlawful sexual penetration for sexually abusing a girl under the age of 16. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
But not everyone is happy with that situation.
Timothy Johnson's wife, Kristine Johnson, is very mad about it and is now suing the LDS church for $9.54 million — claiming that they were required to keep her husband's rape habit a secret, and that by not doing so they have ruined her life and that of her children.
According to Johnson, she found out that her husband had "engaged in inappropriate conduct" with a minor and, as a couple, they decided to go to church clergy to "repent," believing that the church represented to them "that whatever the scope of Mr. Johnson's evil transgressions, the Church and its clergy will spiritually counsel Mr. Johnson to bring peace within his life and family." Which, surely, would have been of great help to the child he was raping.
The family's attorney, Bill Brandt, told The Statesman Journal that this whole thing has been just "devastating" for the family, and not because Daddy is a child rapist.
The lawsuit accuses the church of "breach of fiduciary duty, negligence and interference with prospective economic advantage." It also claims that the church leaders, by reporting her husband to police, deprived Kristine Johnson and the couple's four children — also named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit — of his "companionship, society, love and income." Johnson wants $5.5 million for herself for loss of his income and for "extreme emotional distress," as well as $1 million for each child and $40,000 for attorney's fees.
The basis of most of Mrs. Johnson's lawsuit is that the church leaders should have just let her husband keep on raping an underage girl because it was a financially beneficial situation for her. Really? Get a job! Sorry you married a child rapist, Kristine, but get a job!
Thankfully, it seems unlikely that this case will be at all successful. For one, if "priest and penitent privilege" were to apply in this situation — which it does not, because clergy are required to report child sexual abuse — it would apply to Timothy Johnson, not his wife. For another, I think most sane people can agree that the most important thing here is that Timothy Johnson's victim feels safe, not that Kristine Johnson has to get a job and her children won't get to spend as much time with their rapist father.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse