A spokesman for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Tuesday lauded a Salt Lake judge's decision to dismiss all causes of action against a bishop of the LDS Church accused of "clergy malpractice."
Richard P. Lindsay, managing director of Public Communications for the church, praised 3rd District Judge John A. Rokich for recognizing the charitable intent of the bishop to assist a family.In his memorandum decision, Rokich said that the bishop's actions "appeared to be motivated by two things one being charitable and two, bringing the family together."
The judge said further, "The court believes that to impose legal standards upon the religious teachings of the various denominations would undermine the religions of the world and violate the constitutional freedoms of speech and religion."
In October 1986, Pat White filed a civil suit against Paul Blackburn, bishop of the Taylorsville 43rd Ward, and the LDS Church. White contended that the bishop had given her 17-year-old son church money to purchase an airline ticket in May 1986 for a trip to North Carolina without her consent. The teenager was escaping what he claimed were bad conditions at home.
The civil suit alleged that Blackburn acted without consulting with the teenager's mother and without contacting government agencies that get involved in parent-child conflicts.
White accused the bishop of "clergy malpractice," contending that Blackburn went beyond the reasonable bounds of decent societal conduct.
Not only did Rokich determine that Utah law does not recognize an action for clergy malpractice, he concluded that even if such a cause for action were recognized, Blackburn's actions "would not rise to that level."
The judge dismissed all other related allegations, including: intentional interference with parent-child relationship, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence.
The judge concluded that the bishop's actions were to assist the teenager in bringing his brother to Utah to be with his mother when the 17-year-old enlisted in the armed services.
Rokich further determined that the bishop relied, in good faith, upon a note that contained the forged signature of the teenager's mother. The bishop did not realize the note had been forged until after the youth had left the state.
Blackburn did not attempt to advise the 17-year-old "in matters that should have been referred to a professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, physician or even a spiritual leader," the judge said.