Woman Sues Her Ex and the Mormon Church

     KANSAS CITY, Mo. (CN) – Two years after state prosecutors dropped lurid charges against a woman’s ex-husband and family, she claims in court that the Mormon church covered up clerical sexual abuse of children and shamed the victims.
     Jane Doe and her present husband sued the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, its Bishops Paul Tonga and Grant Bench, Stake President Gordon Goodman, Minister and Elder Burrell Edward Mohler Jr. (Jane Doe’s ex-husband), Mohler’s father Burrell E. Mohler Sr. (a pastor in the RLDS/COC Church), and the Community of Christ Church (RLDS/COC).
     Doe claims in Jackson County Court that she and her children were sexually abused by the Mohlers.
     The Mohlers were arrested in November 2009 on charges of sexual abuse and child endangerment. Prosecutors dropped the charges in 2011, according to the Kansas City Star.
     The Star’s March 8, 2012 story began: “Too much to believe or too much to prove.
     “On Wednesday afternoon, the Lafayette County prosecutor dropped all charges in the incest case that more than two years ago shocked the world with bizarre stories of barnyard ‘weddings’ of children to older relatives, rape, sodomy and secrets buried in fruit jars.
     “Those who had faced dozens of counts of sexual abuse were family patriarch Burrell Mohler Sr., then 79, of Independence, a sometimes preacher, and his four adult sons, Burrell Jr., David, Jared and Roland.
     “All were scheduled for trials later this year, including a June 4 date in Clay County for David Mohler.
     “‘We’re just so glad it’s finally over,’ said the Lamoni, Iowa, resident, the only one of the formerly accused to be reached Wednesday night. ‘The fact that these false charges were brought in the first place has forever changed our lives. Horrendous kinds of things were being said.
     “‘But I never lost confidence,’ he said by phone. ‘I assumed that we’d get this cleared up as to how they (his nieces and a nephew) might have come to believe these fantasies.'”
     In the new, civil complaint, Doe claims that Mohler Jr. (referred to as Ed in the complaint) became verbally and physically abusive to her while they were married. She claims she found out that one of Ed’s brothers had molested one of her daughters in 1988 and that two years later Ed had another daughter sit on his lap while he attempted to touch her genitals.
     “As a devout Mormon, plaintiff again went to her bishop,” the complaint states. “She told Paul Tonga of the attempted molestation. Bishop Tonga answered ‘is that all?’ and indicated that since Ed did not penetrate the girl, that it was not a major issue.”
     Doe claims Tonga then became abusive toward the child and shamed her for the child’s father’s actions.
     Doe claims she went to Goodman, the Stake president, to discuss Ed and Tonga’s actions. Instead of protecting the child, Doe says, Goodman told her “to focus on the child remaining strong, reading her scriptures and saying her prayers.”
     Tonga then promoted elevated Ed to a higher position in the church, Doe claims. She says Ed became more violent with her and the children and that no one in the church – despite her pleas – reported her accusations to authorities though they are required to do so by Missouri law.
     In 1992, another daughter told Doe that her grandfather, Mohler Sr., made her watch a movie about prostitution and tried to French kiss her, the complaint states. At the time, Doe says, Mohler Sr. was a pastor of the Bates City RLDS Church.
     After that, Doe says, the church removed her from her calling as Young Women’s President in the Independence Third Ward. Doe’s supporters were also shamed, the complaint states.
     Doe says she separated from Ed in 1997. She says she talked with Bishop Robert Bischoff because according to the Mormon faith if a wife leaves her husband, she may forever be separated from her eternal family.
     “Plaintiff told him of the sexual abuse, he did not believe plaintiff,” the complaint states. “He asked plaintiff to write down the testimonies of her children, which she did. Despite the testimonies of the children, no immediate action was taken by the Church. In approximately the fall of 1997 President Gordon Goodman held a church court. In that proceeding, plaintiff and her family were treated with disrespect and disbelief. Instead of reporting these incidents as required by Missouri law or supervising their clergy, President Goodman emphatically called for forgiveness, effectively silencing these victims.”
     Grant Bench became bishop of the Odessa Ward in 1998. Doe claims that Bench interviewed her children without her knowledge “and asked them if plaintiff was following the Word of Wisdom, asked about whom she was dating and asked if she was wearing her temple garments, or underwear, which she had been given at the temple.”
     Doe claims those interviews “followed a pattern of humiliating and undermining plaintiff’s position with her family, children and church as a result of the complaints she made and her leaving Ed Mohler.”
     Bench held a hearing at Ed Mohler’s request, according to the complaint.
     “As part of that ‘trial,’ which is not sanctioned by the LDS Church, Bishop Bench had Ed Mohler appear and describe their sex life as a married couple during the trial,” the complaint states. “Plaintiff was also grilled about the allegations she made against Ed and was made out to be a liar. This trial had no ecclesiastical basis or setting and was done solely to humiliate plaintiff and prevent her from understanding that she had been the victim of tortious activity.”
     Doe claims that in 2008 she found out that the abuse of her children was worse than she feared.
     “Plaintiff learned for the first time that Defendants Burrell and Ed Mohler, as well as David Mohler, Jared Mohler, and Roland Mohler had savagely beaten her children on numerous occasions, terrorized them, used their positions of trust as both elevated ministers and pastors of the Churches to silence them, and engaged in horrific and repeated sexual abuse of them including rape, sodomy, oral sex, sado-masochistic behavior, requiring the children to watch the humiliation, degradation and physical and sexual abuse of their siblings,” the complaint states. “Burrell Mohler [Sr.] also used his position of trust as a Pastor and Minister to condone his act of performing marriage ceremonies for his young granddaughters to himself and his sons in order to gain the compliance of these children who had been taught from an early age that sexual contact should be reserved only for marriage.”
     After the state filed charges against the Mohlers in 2009, Doe claims, the church kept the Mohlers in positions of trust, and promoted Mohler Sr.’s wife, Sandra, to pastor.
     “This occurred despite the fact that Sandra Mohler had purposefully hidden pornography that included incest pornography from law enforcement,” the complaint states.
     “Additionally, the Lamoni, (Iowa) congregation allowed David Mohler to have access to children despite a consent agreement with law enforcement that he would not be in the presence of children under the age of 17 during the pendency of the cases against him. The Lamoni Congregation set up a special service for David Mohler to which anyone who chose to attend with their children would be welcome,” the complaint states.
     Doe claim the church tried to cover up its actions through false statements, falsely claiming the Mohler men had no access to children and that had Tonga reported her complaints to his superiors, that they would have told him to go to law enforcement.
     “For approximately a year and a half, the RLDS/COC Church also knowingly assisted David Mohler in breaking his bond agreement,” the complaint states.
     “At all times, the Churches used their position of trust and confidence to prevent plaintiff and her children from taking action against the Mohlers or the Church for its choice in refusing to report or otherwise protect the plaintiff or her children.”
     Doe seeks punitive damages for intentional failure to supervise clergy, breach of fiduciary duty/confidential relationship, fraud, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress and invasion of privacy.
     Doe’s husband seeks damages for loss of consortium.
     They are represented by Rebecca M. Randles of Randles, Mata & Brown.

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