SALT LAKE CITY — The LDS Church has asked the U.S. District Court to quash a requested subpoena of its top leader, President Thomas S. Monson, by attorneys for two Navajo siblings who sued the church in March.
The church's motion was filed Thursday. It calls the issuance of the subpoena, which would require President Monson to testify in the civil case, "improper."
"(The attorneys') subpoena should be seen for what it is — a tactical maneuver calculated to burden the apex leader of the LDS Church in a misguided attempt to create leverage in the litigation," the motion states.
Attorneys from the Idaho-based James, Vernon & Weeks requested in June to take President Monson's deposition in court, claiming that he has "unique information about allegations" in the lawsuit.
The Navajo tribal members who sued The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in March alleged they were sexually abused in the late 1970s and early 1980s while being raised by foster families in Utah.
The lawsuit asks for changes in LDS Church policy regarding sexual abuse, the institution of a task force assessing whether other Navajos were negatively affected by the since-discontinued Indian Student Placement Program, written apologies and other, unspecified damages.
Attorney Craig Vernon argues the church's president knows important information about George P. Lee, a onetime general authority who was excommunicated from the LDS Church in 1989 and pleaded guilty a few years later in a child sex abuse case. Lee spent his years as a church general authority "resid(ing) in large part within the Navajo Nation and spent extensive time working for the church's Indian Placement Program within the Navajo Nation," he wrote.
Attorneys for the church counter in their new motion that President Monson has no semblance of privileged information about the issues raised in the lawsuit or the administration of the Indian Student Placement Program.
"The only connection President Monson has to this case is that he happened to be a senior leader of the LDS Church during the time period (the Navajo siblings) allege they were abused," the motion states.
"(The other side of the case does) not claim that President Monson, in his role as an LDS Church leader, had responsibility for the administration of the (Indian Placement Program). Nor do defendants suggest that President Monson has personal knowledge of their participation in the ISPP or of their alleged abuse. In fact, President Monson has no knowledge of facts bearing on the Tribal Court’s jurisdiction."