A couple of weeks ago, we received e-mails from representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, chastising us for having the audacity to ask questions about LDS church policy and positions regarding child abuse. The senders, Mr. Dale Bills, church spokesman, and Mr. Michael Otterson, director of media relations, were particularly upset at what they regarded as an “accusatory” tone in the wording of those questions by freelance writer Andrea Moore Emmett. Prior, Emmett was getting stonewalled while working on a story about an alleged cover-up of sexual assault by male leaders within the LDS church.
Here’s what Otterson wrote: “We have long wondered whether it is even worth returning calls to City Weekly, since your stories seem to be pretty much conceived and written ahead of time. If you doubt this, then ask yourself why we would provide our top people to the Salt Lake Tribune and the Houston Chronicle for extensive features on the evils of child abuse, but give a curt response to you.
“If the City Weekly behaved as if it were a newspaper and not an underground scandal sheet, it might find a more ready response.”
Gee, Mrs. Lincoln, other than that, how was the play?
Mr. Otterson asked us to talk to ourselves about the situation. Only two things came up: 1. Where was the Deseret News on that story? and 2. Where do you get off calling us an underground scandal sheet?
The answer to the first is easy—the Deseret News gave faint coverage to the topic; even the Utah Supreme Court ruled in favor of the defendants. No surprise there—not talking about this issue was the issue. On the second matter, Mr. Otterson is up in the night, simple as that. But his statement is telling beyond measure, and classically answers why the LDS church—the one, true church—continually finds itself in the middle of public relations nightmares: He’s one arrogant dude.
One wonders if that arrogance is inherited or institutional. We’d like to think it’s isolated, but regarding the very same story, Dale Bills also provided us with a response. It began, “No organization does more to prevent abuse, to be sure its ecclesiastical leaders are aware of and obey reporting laws, to encourage sensitivity to child victims and their families, or to mitigate the effect of child abuse than does The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
No organization does more to prevent abuse? You know, guys, if you’d get off your high horse fewer people would be asking you hard, “accusatory” questions. But, hey, they’re your Olympics…