An Oregon woman is suing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormon Church, for about $10 million claiming it reported her husband’s crime to police after he confessed to clergy, according to a Statesman Journal report.
Kristine Johnson is suing the Church for $9.54 million for allegedly violating her husband’s “priest-penitent privilege” by notifying authorities about something they believe should have been confidential information: He had repeatedly sexually abused a minor, the report states.
Johnson’s husband, 47-year-old Timothy Samuel Johnson, allegedly “engaged in inappropriate contact” with a child whom they knew, according to the report, which cites the lawsuit.
The couple’s attorney, Bill Brandt, told the news outlet their local church branch “totally violated church policy.”
"It's been devasting on the family," Brandt said, according to the Journal. "They lost a husband and a father."
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spokesperson Eric Hawkins told FOX Business in a statement that protecting victims is of the utmost priority.
"The Church teaches that leaders and members should fulfill all legal obligations to report abuse to civil authorities. In some circumstances, those obligations may be governed by their professional duty and in others by their role as clergy," the spokesperson said. "We are grateful for the efforts of law enforcement and prosecutors to investigate and pursue justice for those who were abused."
The Church is based in Salt Lake City and boasts a worldwide membership of more than 16.3 million people, according to its website.
The clergy allegedly indicated 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,” according to the report. But they reportedly neglected to warn him they would notify police if he told them about the crime.
Johnson, who reportedly pleaded guilty to multiple counts of sex abuse following his 2017 arrest, is serving a 15-year prison sentence, state Department of Corrections records show.