Lawyers for LDS church ask judge to throw out lawsuit filed by alleged sex assault victim

McKenna Denson speaks with reporters during a news conference Thursday, April 5, 2018, in Salt Lake City. Denson, who accused a former Mormon missionary training center director of raping her in the 1980s and the church of failing to take her allegations seriously, has sued the man and the church in a move that could bring more scrutiny to the religion's handling of sexual abuse reports. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

(KUTV) — Lawyers for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints asked U.S. District Court judge to dismiss a lawsuit against the church filed by McKenna Denson, who accuses the church of fraud and inflicting emotional distress after she says she was raped by a Missionary Training Center president in 1984.

After a one-hour hearing, Judge Dale Kimball took the matter under advisement.

In her lawsuit, Denson claims the LDS church knew that Joseph Bishop had a history of sexual assault accusations for years before he assaulted her, but did nothing about it and continued to let him rise through the ranks of church leadership.

David Jordan, a lawyer for the Mormon Church, said Denson’s lawsuit comes too late — long after the statute of limitations for fraud claims expired.

He said her lawsuit suggests that she knew of Bishop’s history soon after she was raped and she should have filed her claim back then.

Denson said she only learned of Bishop’s history of being an alleged sexual predator when she recorded a conversation with him in December 2017.

“Everything that was in that recording was very new to me,” she said.

An attorney for 85-year-old Joseph Bishop argued it’s unfair to proceed with a case against him when Carlos Asay, the Mormon church leader to whom Denson reported the assault, died years ago and can’t provide testimony.

He also said documents useful to the case are gone and witnesses who can provide testimony have "fading" memories.

Craig Vernon, Denson's attorney, said the key people in the case — Denson and Bishop, are still alive, as are other important witnesses.

See the lawsuit below and the motion to dismiss at the end of the story.

“Fraud, fraudulent concealment or intentional infliction of emotional distress — that’s the law, that’s what the court enforces. That’s why we are here,” said Jeff Oritt, also an attorney for Denson.

Jordan also told the judge that if this lawsuit proceeds, it would invite government “entanglement in the policies of a religious organization,” which is a violation of the constitution.

Denson said she feels “cautiously optimistic” that her lawsuit will survive — even though the church will likely appeal the decision.

Denson hopes the lawsuit inspires other victims to share their own stories so they can heal.

She filed the lawsuit for herself and other victims, she said.

“This is about sexual predatory behavior and victim-shaming and people not feeling like they have a voice,” she said.

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