The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can refuse to answer questions or turn over documents under a state law that exempts religious officials from having to report child sex abuse if they learn of the crime during a confessional setting.
The ruling was issued April 7 but not released to the public until Tuesday. A lawsuit filed by child sex abuse victims accuses the church, widely known as the Mormon church, two of its bishops, and other church members of conspiracy and negligence in not reporting church member Paul Adams for abusing his older daughter as early as 2010. This negligence, the lawsuit argues, allowed Adams to continue abusing the girl for as many as seven years, a time in which he also abused the girl’s infant sister.
Lynne Cadigan, an attorney for the Adams children who filed the lawsuit, criticized the court’s ruling.
“Unfortunately, this ruling expands the clergy privilege beyond what the legislature intended by allowing churches to conceal crimes against children,” she said.
In a statement, the church concurred with the court’s action.