Woman Confronts Arizona Congregation With Rape Allegation; Church Responds
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — A Colorado woman suing The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints because she claims it covered up her alleged 1984 rape by a former Missionary Training Center president, stood up Sunday during a fast-and-testimony church meeting in Chandler, Arizona, to record and publicly restate her allegation against the man in his home congregation.
The church responded Tuesday, expressing disappointment that McKenna Denson had disrupted the worship service.
“Once each month, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints participate in a worship service that includes an opportunity for members to share their testimonies of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and his gospel,” spokesman Eric Hawkins said. “It is disappointing that anyone would interrupt such a worship service to bring attention to their own personal cause.
“Recording and posting of these disruptions on social media to seek public attention and media coverage, sadly, shows an unfortunate lack of respect for others,” he added. “We respectfully request that those with personal grievances find other means to communicate their messages than disrupting the sanctity of a worship service.”
Denson’s statement was videotaped by her supporters and fellow critics of the church and posted on YouTube.
During the meeting, as seen on the video, Denson directly criticized church leaders and said, “In order to keep the church safe, we need to hold sexual predators accountable, whether they are pedophiles or whether they are rapists like Joseph Bishop.” Bishop was in the congregation with his son.
Last month, a federal judge dismissed Denson’s lawsuit against Bishop because her claims had expired under the statute of limitations. The judge also dismissed three of her four claims against the church. Her final remaining claim is that the church allegedly hid Bishop’s predatory sexual behavior. The judge ruled that the statute of limitations on that allegation did not begin until she confronted him in December 2017 and learned of the alleged concealment.
Her lawsuit claimed Denson made 10 reports about the sexual assault to various LDS leaders over the years without learning if any investigation had taken place.
The church again denied that allegation last week when it filed a response to the final charge with the court. The church again asserted that Denson’s claims are barred by the statute of limitations, the long delay in asserting her claims and the First Amendment.
“He allowed one claim to remain so the parties can investigate its merits,” Hawkins said last week. “We remain confident in the legal system to evaluate these claims and determine the truth. As the church has repeatedly stated, there can be no tolerance for abuse.”
The YouTube video posted Monday began by showing Denson and church critic Mike Norton sitting on a couch. Norton said, “McKenna, want to do anything fun today?” Denson responded, “Well, it is fast Sunday.” They both smile and clink their mugs.
The video then cuts to them walking up to the chapel and singing a “Mister Rogers'” song with Norton saying they don’t want Bishop to be their neighbor.
The video later showed Denson standing in the meeting. After she expressed love and confidence in Jesus Christ, she claimed the church protects sexual predators and pedophiles.
When a local church leader stood to ask her to leave, she said, “My name is McKenna Denson. I approve this message.” She also claimed the leader assaulted her when he steered her from the podium while saying, “This is not the place for you to share this. Come on.”
KSL News Specialist Ladd Egan contributed to this report.
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