was a Mormon church member in Pennsylvania and Oregon; excommunicated in 1983 in Pennsylvania for sex abuse; rebaptized in 1984; molested five boys in Oregon; local LDS bishop knew but didn't report to police; convicted in 1995 in Oregon of sexual abuse; died in 1995

Case Summary

Frank Curtis was a Mormon church member who sexually abused as many as 20 or more boys. He died in 1995.

In 1983, Curtis was excommunicated from the LDS church in Pennsylvania for sex abuse.

In 2001, the LDS church settled a civil suit for $3 million in which a sexual abuse victim said it failed to warn his parents before they took Curtis into their home.

 

“Church attorneys have told Scott the church is able to pay punitive damages of $162 million, or twice the amount of the largest punitive damages award in Oregon history. But they say his request that the church produce any documents it has detailing income and financial interests, including tithing revenue and property values, goes too far. The church, which stopped releasing financial information in 1959, contends such disclosures would violate its First Amendment right to operate free from government entanglement.”

01/01/70 Oregon

LDS Franklyn Curtis abused “Plaintiff Jeremiah Scott, 22, of California and Jeremiah, sued the church in Oregon state court after an LDS ward Sunday school teacher was convicted of repeatedly sexually abusing him in Portland when he was 11 years old. The suit alleges negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress, claiming church officials knew Franklin Richard Curtis was a pedophile, but did not warn Scott’s parents before they took Curtis into their home.

Church attorneys have told Scott the church is able to pay punitive damages of $162 million, or twice the amount of the largest punitive damages award in Oregon history. But they say his request that the church produce any documents it has detailing income and financial interests, including tithing revenue and property values, goes too far.

The church, which stopped releasing financial information in 1959, contends such disclosures would violate its First Amendment right to operate free from government entanglement.

A Multnomah County judge in May allowed Scott to seek punitive damages, after his attorneys argued Scott’s case and others like it showed a pattern within the church of failing to report, warn members about and prevent the sexual abuse of children. “This case is about making the church live by the same laws the rest of us have to in protecting children,” said lawyer Jeffrey Anderson of St. Paul, Minn., who represents Scott together with Bellevue, Wash., attorney Timothy Kosnoff….The lawsuit claims Foster knew Curtis had a history of sexually abusing children dating back to the 1 970s, but gave him access to young children as a teacher and did not warn parents, including Scott, because Curtis had repented. He died in 1995.”

“The ruling stems from a 1998 lawsuit by Jeremiah Scott, now 21 , of Washington state. He accused a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints high priest of sexually abusing him repeatedly in 1990 and 1991, in Portland, when he was 11. The high priest was later convicted of the charges.

The high priest, Franklin Richard Curtis, was 87 at the time of the abuse and has since died. The Oregonian typically does not name sex-abuse victims, but in this case, Scott consented. At issue is what the church knew about Curtis’ past and when. Scott’s lawsuit claims that the church knew of Curtis’ past sex abuse when Curtis moved in with Scott’s family but didn’t warn them. When he moved to Oregon, Curtis had been excommunicated from a ward in Pennsylvania for sex abuse. Curtis was re-baptized in 1984, according to court records…. Curtis became a member of the Rocky Butte Ward in Portland, where he sexually abused at least five children, according to the plaintiff’s lawsuit. He was confronted by the Rocky Butte bishop and admitted the molestations. The bishop kept it quiet until parents began to complain, and then he only reported to Salt Lake City superiors of the church, not police, the complaint states. Then Curtis joined the Brentwood Ward, where he told then-Bishop Gregory Lee Foster that he had abused in the past, and Foster kept it quiet because Curtis said he’d repented.”

LISA DAVIS, an investigative reporter wrote about Curtis and the case against the Church. “The other narrative is a real-life legal thriller. As Davis shows, Kosnoff and his partners tirelessly assembled the case against the church, sifting through records, tracking down victims, and convincing them to testify about Brother Curtis’s acts. What began as a case of one plaintiff turned into a complex web stretching across multiple states. Joined by what would become a team of attorneys and investigators, Kosnoff found himself up against one of the most insular institutions in the United States: the secretive and powerful Mormon church.”

Sources
  1. Book: The Sins of Brother Curtis
    view source details | 13 Dec 2023 | Lisa Davis
  2. LDS Church must release abuse records
    view source details | 10 Feb 2001 | Deseret News
  3. Mormons Paying $3 Million To Settle Sex Abuse Case
    view source details | 5 Sep 2001 | New York Times
  4. Mormons pay $3 million in sex-abuse settlement
    view source details | 17 Sep 2001 | East Side Journal
Sources excerpts
  • Book: The Sins of Brother Curtis
    Source type: News article
    Publisher: Lisa Davis
    Date published/accessed: 13 Dec 2023
    archive 1 | archive 2
  • back to online sources list
    LDS Church must release abuse records
    Source type: News article
    Publisher: Deseret News
    Date published/accessed: 10 Feb 2001
    archive 1 | archive 2

    PORTLAND, Ore. — Hoping to uncover what the LDS Church knew about a high priest convicted of sexually abusing an 11-year-old boy, a Multnomah County judge ordered the church to release internal records of sex-abuse complaints and discipline actions.

    The church has filed an emergency appeal with the Oregon Supreme Court.

    The ruling stems from a 1998 lawsuit by Jeremiah Scott, now 21, who accused a high priest in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints of sexually abusing him repeatedly in 1990 and 1991 in Portland, when he was 11.

    The high priest, Franklin Richard Curtis, was 87 at the time of the abuse. He was convicted of the charges and has since died.

    At issue is what the church knew about Curtis' past and when. Scott's lawsuit claims the church knew of Curtis' past sex abuse when Curtis moved in with Scott's family but didn't warn them.

    Curtis had been excommunicated from a ward in Pennsylvania for sex abuse when he moved to Oregon. Court records show he was rebaptized in 1984.

    The lawsuit claims that Curtis sexually abused at least five children in the Rocky Butte Ward in Portland, where he became a member. A bishop confronted Curtis, and he admitted the molestations.

    But according to the complaint, the bishop kept it quiet until parents began to complain and then reported only to church superiors in Salt Lake City, not police.

    Curtis joined another ward, where he told then-Bishop Gregory Lee Foster that he had abused in the past. Foster didn't report him because Curtis said he'd repented, the lawsuit states.

    In 1989, Scott's mother, Sandra, invited Curtis to live with the family and informed her bishop, Foster.

    Foster told Sandra Scott that "it was not a good idea" because of Curtis' advanced age but said nothing about Curtis' history of sex abuse, the woman said in a 1999 deposition in the case.

    Curtis abused the boy almost daily for about six months, according to the suit.

    Jeremiah Scott came forward after his family moved to Washington. Curtis was arrested and convicted of first-degree sex abuse and given probation in 1994. He died in 1995.

    The current lawsuit names the bishop and the church. A summary judgment hearing is scheduled for next month, but the fight over the church's internal documents could set it back.

    On Jan. 24, Multnomah County Circuit Judge Ellen F. Rosenblum ordered the church to produce not only all records of Curtis, but all records of reports of sex abuse made against anyone in the Portland or East Portland wards.

    The church has argued that the material is protected under the First Amendment and confidentiality laws between a church and a penitent.

  • back to online sources list
    Mormons Paying $3 Million To Settle Sex Abuse Case
    Source type: News article
    Publisher: New York Times
    Date published/accessed: 5 Sep 2001
    archive 1 | archive 2

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints disclosed yesterday that it would pay $3 million to settle a suit by an Oregon man who said he was sexually abused as a child by a church member. The suit said Mormon officials had known well in advance of that abuse that the accused man had also faced child molesting allegations before.

    The case is unusual not only because the church disclosed the amount of the settlement, in advance of news conferences by the plaintiffs' lawyers today, but also because it centers on alleged abuse by a man who held no ministerial or leadership role. That man died in 1995.

    In an interview, Von G. Keetch, a Salt Lake City lawyer representing the church, said it strongly believed that the case ''lacked merit'' and had settled only out of concern that the litigation, already a decade old, could continue for years more, at high cost.

    Mr. Keetch said the decision was made after a number of rulings against the church by a county judge presiding over the case in Portland. Among the rulings were that the church could be held liable for the conduct of one member against another, and that the plaintiff could argue that the abuser was a clergyman because he held the title of high priest, which the church describes as a common lay designation.

    The settlement follows by two weeks the disclosure of another settlement by a religious institution in a sexual abuse case. In that instance, two Roman Catholic dioceses in Southern California said they had paid $5.2 million to a man who maintained that as a high school student a decade ago, he was molested by a priest.

    The Oregon suit was filed in December 1998 by a Portland man, Jeremiah Scott, who eventually sought $1.5 billion in damages from the church. He accused its authorities of withholding knowledge from his family that another member, Franklyn Curtis, had previously been accused of molesting children.

    His lawyer, David Slader, said Mr. Scott was abused in 1991, the year he turned 11, after his mother invited Mr. Curtis to live with the family. Mr. Curtis, who was 88 and had been living in a group home, was a member of the same congregation as the Scotts.

    Before bringing Mr. Curtis into her home, Mr. Slader said, Mrs. Scott sought advice from a local Mormon bishop, who advised the family against it because it would be too much work, but who did not inform them of the earlier accusations.

    Mr. Slader noted that Mr. Curtis had been previously excommunicated after being accused of molesting children. But when he came to live with the Scotts, his membership had been restored and he held the title of high priest. He had not been criminally charged with abuse at that point, but later pleaded guilty to molesting Mr. Scott, Mr. Slader said.

    ''It's the institution that knew,'' Mr. Slader said, referring to church authorities. ''A church,'' he added, ''owes a very, very special and high duty to the children of its parishioners, the children whose souls it has taken responsibility for.''

    Mr. Keetch, the lawyer for the church, quoted the bishop who advised the Scotts as saying in a deposition that he had known of no abuse accusations against Mr. Curtis.

    Mr. Keetch said Mr. Curtis had been excommunicated in the 1980's in Pennsylvania, where he lived before moving back to Oregon. The decision to excommunicate, Mr. Keetch said, followed another Oregon bishop's notifying church authorities in Pennsylvania that Mr. Curtis had been accused of having ''inappropriately touched a child'' in an Oregon congregation different from the one where he and the Scotts were later members together.

    Mr. Curtis was readmitted to membership ''after a fairly lengthy period of repentance,'' Mr. Keetch said, but never had any supervisory position over Mr. Scott and in fact had no leadership position at all. According to the church, the title of high priest is bestowed on Mormon men in good standing over the age of 40.

    Mr. Keetch said he believed there was ''no church that does more either to protect children or to provide assistance to children'' who have been abused.

  • back to online sources list
    Mormons pay $3 million in sex-abuse settlement
    Source type: News article
    Publisher: East Side Journal
    Date published/accessed: 17 Sep 2001
    archive 1 | archive 2

    by Noel S. Brady

    The Mormon church recently settled a lawsuit by paying $3 million to a Kirkland man who was molested repeatedly by a church elder when he was 9 and 10.

    Jeremiah Scott, now 22, still has nightmares and attends counseling sessions to help him deal with the trauma he suffered as a child, said his mother, Sandra Scott.

    ``When he was younger, my son had periods when he seemed lethargic and withdrawn,'' Scott said recently. ``I asked him what was wrong, but he'd never say.''

    In fact, it wasn't until 1995, when Jeremiah was 16, that he told his mother what a frail, elderly Sunday school teacher did to him.

    While living in Oregon in 1990, the Scotts took in Franklin Richard Curtis, then in his mid-80s, so he could live with a family rather than in a nursing home.

    Five years later, Curtis, a Mormon high priest, was convicted of sexual abuse charges. He died the same year.

    For Sandra Scott, the criminal conviction might have sufficed had she not learned that her church knew that Curtis had a history of molesting children.

    He had been excommunicated from a Pennsylvania ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for sex abuse in 1983, and before that he had spent some 40 years of his life in prison for crimes ranging from forgery to attempted murder and armed robbery. He converted to Mormonism in the early 1970s.

    Soon after the 1983 incident, church records state, Curtis was rebaptized and offered a second chance. He joined the Rocky Butte Ward in Portland, Ore., where he sexually abused at least five children, according to the lawsuit.

    Parents complained

    When confronted by a bishop, Curtis admitted to the molestations. The bishop kept it quiet until parents started to complain. Then he reported it to his church superiors in Salt Lake City, but not to police, the suit states.

    Curtis then entered the Brentwood Ward, also in Oregon, where he confessed his abusive past to then-Bishop Gregory Lee Foster. Foster said nothing because Curtis had repented, according to the complaint.

    Foster knew Curtis also had abused his own stepchildren, but he still invited the man to teach Sunday school, the lawsuit states.

    Tim Kosnoff, the Scotts' Bellevue attorney, said the church intentionally hid the man's history and allowed him to work with children for years.

    Steve English, an attorney for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said the church has taken steps to alert ward leaders when one of their members has a history of abuse. But the attorney didn't know if the church has begun doing background checks on its teachers who work with children.

    English said Curtis' history was kept confidential because church leaders learned about it through his confession.

    ``If a church gets information by confession, they're required by law not to reveal it,'' he said.

    English denied the Scotts' allegation that Curtis taught 8- to 10-year-olds in Sunday school. And he said the man's title of ``high priest'' vested him with no authority. The title is given to every church member of 40, he said.

    Curtis was 87, in declining health and living in a nursing home when he befriended the Scotts slightly more than a decade ago, Sandra Scott said. At the time, the family lived in Portland, Ore., and Sandra Scott, like her ex-husband, was a devout Mormon. She's since left the church.

    Advice ignored

    Scott said Curtis quickly became close to the family. His weekly visits to their house soon became daily. That's when he asked them to take him in so he could spend his final years with a loving family.

    When Scott and her husband consulted with Bishop Foster about the idea, Foster discouraged them, but only because of Curtis' health. He said the man would become a burden to the family.

    The Scotts ignored the advice, and Curtis moved into their basement, where he lived for about seven months. But one day, with no warning, he left. The Scotts didn't hear from him for several months, until he called around Christmas time and asked to return.

    By then, the family had dismantled the bed Curtis had slept in, so Sandra Scott invited him to sleep beside her son in his queen-size water bed. That arrangement continued for half a year.

    ``I didn't at the time see any harm in them sleeping together,'' the woman said. ``I literally kicked myself for doing that.''

    Curtis abused the boy almost daily for about six months, according to the complaint.

    Jeremiah Scott later came forward after his family moved to Kirkland in the mid-1990s. Curtis was arrested and convicted of first-degree sex abuse and given probation.

    Sandra Scott said her son didn't want to comment on the civil lawsuit or the abuse. Currently, Jeremiah is attending a film school in Santa Barbara, Calif., and trying to put the traumatic experience behind him, his mother said.

    The settlement was disclosed earlier this month by Mormon officials, who also revealed the $3 million figure.

    The family refused to sign a confidentiality agreement as part of the settlement, she said, because they want the world to know what the church did.

    ``I'd really like to see the police get involved with checking out people who work with children,'' Scott said. ``They have no security checks, and you don't speak out, or if you do you're considered to be with Satan.''

Mormon Sexual Abuse Map

International map of locations where active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints perpetrated or allegedly perpetrated sexual abuse or other sex crimes, or where LDS leaders failed or allegedly failed to help abuse survivors.