I first picked up this book because I was curious as to how a child predator could continue for years to molest youngsters under his care as a Sunday school teacher, and avoid going to jail. 

This first book by veteran journalist and Santa Clara University instructor Lisa Davis, covers the protracted legal battle to hold the Mormon Church (LDS) responsible for sexual abuse of pre-adolescent boys within three different church wards.  In 1997, Seattle attorneys Tim Kosnoff and Joel Salmi took on the case of 18-year-old Jeremiah Scott, who, at age 12, was repeatedly abused by Brother Frank Curtis, an elder in Scott’s Portland, Ore., Mormon community. When Scott’s mother reported the abuse to her Mormon bishop, she was told the church was aware of Curtis’s problem. So though Curtis had since died in 1992 and was buried in an unmarked and unvisited grave, the Scotts wanted to sue the church for failing to protect Scott. Attorneys Kosnoff and Salmi soon discovered Curtis’s pattern of molestation stretched back decades and across state lines.

The account of numerous cases of abuse almost become secondary to the vicious pretrial battles between Kosnoff’s team and the lawyers for the LDS, who said the church’s records were protected by clergy-penitent privilege and the First Amendment freedom-of-religion clause. The million-dollar settlement in 2001 brought an end to the case but not the issue of a large religious organization using its monetary power to cover up criminal behavior on the part of individuals acting in the name of the church.

Frank Curtis was able to prey on pre-adolescent boys from 1977 to 1991 because of a belief within his church that if an individual is excommunicated, then undergoes a period of repentance, and is re-baptized, then previous bad behavior would be forgotten, and this person would start with a “clean slate.”  Curtis was also able to continue his criminal behavior because local church officials were not forthcoming when asked by lay members of the church if he was an individual who was trustworthy around children. 

As Attorney Timothy Kosnoff reflected years later, the church officials forced parents of abused children “to be religious zealots who will place their need to belong to this religious organization over the safety of their children.” 

Books about legal battles would normally put me to sleep, but Lisa Davis wrote in a very descriptive manner about the places and people involved in this case, and it was hard to put this book down. 

I think this book is a strong reminder that parents of young children have to be willing to trust that their children will normally tell the truth about abuse and that parents must not have blind faith in authority figures.

This book and books dealing with preventing child abuse can be found in your Alameda County Library System.  Among them are:


The sins of Brother Curtis : a story of betrayal, conviction, and the Mormon Church / Lisa Davis                                                                261.83272 DAVIS

Betrayal : the crisis in the Catholic Church / by the investigative staff of The Boston Globe

                                                                    253.2 BETRAYAL

Overcoming sexual terrorism : 40 ways to protect your children from sexual predators / Jake Goldenflame                                           362.7672 GOLDENFLAME

Protecting your children from sexual predators / Leigh Baker         649.4 BAKER

Safe passages : a guide for teaching children personal safety / Karla Hull    362.7044 HULL