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AZ Article Re: Former Bishop Accused of Abuse, Won't Be Charged


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Here:

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No charges, but a history of abuse allegations against Arizona teacher, LDS bishop, volunteer

Records obtained by 12News reveal sexual misconduct allegations against a former teacher and former bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Years ago a friend of mine, a fellow attorney, in a moment of both discouragement and optimism, said something like this: "Boy, just think about how wonderful the world would be if we all decided, whether for religious or non-religious reasons, to keep the Law of Chastity and the Word of Wisdom."  We would still have problems, of course, but far fewer and and less serious.  I think it would be an interesting exercise to ask criminal defense attorneys and divorce lawyers about their work and how often their cases involve, as a central component or causal mechanism, A) some form of sexual misconduct, and/or B) the use of some sort of addictive / mind-altering substance.  Financial and physical/mental health issues are also quite pervasive.

Disparaging stories about misconduct by local leaders in the Church, such as this one, almost always include sexual misconduct.

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PHOENIX — A former school teacher arrested last year for the alleged assault of two Phoenix junior high students will not be criminally charged, 12News has learned.

Glendon Templeton, 62, previously a bishop for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), was accused of groping the teen girls when he was their volleyball coach at Canyon Springs STEM Academy in Phoenix.

The allegations are the latest in a history of allegations against Templeton dating back to the early 1980s, the 12News I-Team has learned. Interviews and court records reveal allegations ranging from molestation, unwanted touching to sexual assault made by five girls and seven women while Templeton was in a role as either a babysitter, LDS bishop or teacher.

I note that the article characterizes Templeton in a pretty fair way.  As you will see below, there is a nexus between his status as a bishop/teacher and his alleged misconduct.  If a person uses his position as a teacher, his proximity to and relationship with students, to engage in misconduct.  That is an explanatory and newsworthy component of the story.  Same goes if a person uses his position in the Church to engage in misconduct.

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“Why has he not been prosecuted? It’s a pattern that’s happened again and again. It should not have happened this many times over this many years,” said “Ashley”, a woman who requests her identity not be revealed because she alleges she is a victim of Templeton.

Sex crimes are pretty difficult to prosecute.  I say this to explain the relative lack of prosecution, not to justify it or diminish the seriousness of it.

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In multiple phone conversations, Templeton tells 12News he has never committed a crime and he declined to be interviewed on the record for this story. Although Phoenix Police have received three separate complaints about him dating back to 1994, he has never been charged with a crime.

A civil deposition interview and police investigative records show when interviewed, Templeton has consistently denied accusations made against him.

“I would hope law enforcement would stop and take a second look, a harder look. Look at his patterns. Look at what he has been doing for 40-plus years,” said Liane Daniels, a niece of Templeton who also alleges he molested her on more than one occasion when she was a child.

I empathize with this person, but it may well be that law enforcement has taken a second/harder look, and that the evidence needed for a conviction is just not there.

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Allegations while Templeton was a teacher and coach

In October 2021, two 13-year-old girls accused Templeton of groping them while he was their volleyball coach at Canyon Springs STEM Academy, a K-8 public school in Phoenix. According to the Phoenix Police probable cause statement, the girls alleged Templeton:
 

  • Routinely grabbed their butts during volleyball practice while instructing them
  • Touched and grabbed one of the girl’s butts while they were isolated in a storage closet
  • Grabbed one girl by the back of the neck and pushed it down while instructing her
  • Made inappropriate comments to the girls such as discussing boys they were going to make out with on the weekend
 

Several witnesses provided corroborating statements, according to the police statement. Teachers at the school also alleged Templeton “grabbed them at their waists and their arms without their permission,” the report states. 

Police arrested Templeton on suspicion of two counts of aggravated assault involving the two girls and cited “a pattern of behavior of inappropriately touching women he is responsible for and worked around,” the statement shows.  

During an interview with police, Templeton denied “making physical contact with any of the victims’ butts,” according to the statement.

“The defendant stated he made comments that could have been perceived as inappropriate now but did not intend for them to be during the time,” the report states.

Police forwarded the case to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (MCAO) for prosecution. The MCAO returned the case to the police, telling 12News in a statement “the facts did not establish the elements of a felony offense.”

Phoenix Police then submitted the case to the City of Phoenix Prosecutor’s Office to be considered for misdemeanor charges. The city declined to pursue charges in May.

“After a thorough review of all available evidence, the City Prosecutor’s Office declined to file a complaint as there was insufficient evidence for a misdemeanor criminal charge,” said Ashley Patton, Deputy Communications Director at the City of Phoenix.

Oi.  Either this guy is A) completely or nearly-completely innocent, or B) he is really good at tailoring his predatory behavior to be just obscure enough to avoid detection/prosecution.

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Allegations while Templeton was an LDS bishop

Templeton served as the bishop of a West Phoenix LDS congregation from 2014 to 2019, according to church officials. Congregations are known as “wards.”

Templeton was the bishop of the Maryvale Ward. Bishops are unpaid clergy members.

“He’s very charming, outgoing, funny, and likes to be the center of attention,” said “Ashley.”

Five women in his ward told the church that Templeton touched them inappropriately or assaulted them dating back to 2012, according to 2019 police incident reports.

 
The accusations came to light when Templeton’s superior, known as the Stake President, was investigating inconsistencies in church welfare expenditures, according to police.
 

Phoenix Stake President Steven Johnston documented allegations by five women who accused Templeton of unwanted touching and sexual assault. Leaders in the Phoenix Stake held a disciplinary court for Templeton and ex-communicated him in 2019.

“Mr. Templeton was promptly confronted by Church leaders about his behavior and action was taken, resulting in his loss of membership in the Church,” said Sam Penrod, Media Relations Manager for the LDS Church, in a written statement to 12 News.

This may be the most probative piece of information (for me, that is).  I have participated in some dozens of disciplinary councils (n/k/a "membership councils," right?), which are structured to, if at all possible, avoid loss of membership.  Moreover, the people running the council are, if anything, predisposed - perhaps too much so - toward preserving the individual's membership in the Church.  Also, membership councils virtually always proceed under the auspices of confidentiality, which in turn tend to induce confessions as to the misconduct, which in turn eliminates the need for the members of the council to weigh evidence, hear witness statements, etc.  

Here, not only were the foregoing considerations likely in place, the stake president - much to his credit - did his job.  He listened to and documented allegations, took appropriate action (which, I assume, included calling Templeton to confirm/deny the allegations), and convened a council.  For me, it is significant that

  • A) the SP fulfilled his duties appropriately (despite the likely difficulty in doing so) and compiled evidence (including, I suspect, a confession from Templeton),
  • B) that as a result of the SP's efforts, Templeton lost his membership,
  • C) that the Church is apparently conceding his misconduct ("Mr. Templeton was promptly confronted by Church leaders about his behavior and action was taken..."), and
  • D) that all this apparently happened while he was functioning as a bishop.

Also, I can't help but remind myself that some critics of the Church take a schizophrenic approach to "Church discipline," condemning it wholesale in some instances, while demanding it in others.  See, e.g., here:

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It's mind numbingly crazy to me to see people like Sam Young who collect all these stories, true or not, but say we need change, 'we have pedophile bishops and stake presidents interview kids' and i'm like you want people like that in leadership callings? if someone is a pedophile or molested someone, as you say, then excommunicating them seems to follow, to me anyways. There's has to be some sort of discipline in place 

Yes, the irony of critics demanding excommunication when they like it (such as those who think Joseph Bishop should lose his membership in the Church), but deploring excommunication when they don't (John Dehlin, Kate Kelly, Sam Young, Bill Reel, etc.) is acute. 

Perhaps it comes down to a difference of opinions about the relative seriousness of apostasy.  It seems like critics and disgruntled members think that members of the Church engaging in apostate behavior is No Big Deal, such that excommunication is wrong.

So . . . special pleading.
...
 

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This comparison is actually, quite abhorrent. 

What comparison are you referencing here?

I assume you are objecting to a comparison of how the Church should treat Joseph Bishop (accused of sexual assault) versus how the Church should treat John Dehlin, Kate Kelly, Sam Young, Bill Reel, etc. (accused of unrepentant apostasy).

I did not intend to compare the morality of sexual assault to the morality of apostasy.  But my point was essentially three-fold:

First, the folks objecting to excommunication often object to it altogether.  The objection is that excommunication is an outdated and archaic practice that should not be utilized by today's Church.  

Second, the foregoing objection does not account for situations where excommunication clearly should be on the table.  And not just "does not account for."  The objection argues against the excommunication of a person for any sin.  And yet that across-the-board objection gets thrown by the wayside when the chips are down.

Third, this seems to be a bit of a rhetorical sleight-of-hand by the critics.  They don't (and, I think, can't) account for the foregoing inconsistency, 'cuz if they do, if they acknowledge that excommunication is a valid and appropriate measure to be deployed in the Church, then that pretty much undermines their objections to excommunication as applied to apostates (who, I should note, are only subject to excommunication because by definition they are in an unrepentant and rebellious state).  The propriety of excommunication becomes a judgment call.  Something about which reasonable minds can disagree.  And I don't think the critics want to go there.  So they stick with the sleight-of-hand inconsistency in completely objecting to excommunication in some contexts, and then completely demanding it in others.

Hope that clarifies things.

Clearly the Church needs to retain mechanisms to regulate membership in the Church.  This story about Templeton is a case in point.

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The LDS Church notified police

The Church declined an interview with 12News. Penrod also states in writing the church provided “multiple reports” to law enforcement in the summer of 2019 about the allegations against Templeton.

According to Phoenix police records, attorney Joseph Osmond of the Salt Lake City-based law firm Kirton McConkie, which represents the church worldwide, contacted Phoenix police by phone in July 2019 to provide information about the five women with claims against Templeton.

“Mr. Osmond was calling to provide information about several sexually related incidents involving a former bishop, where he coerced and/or forced at least five women who were members of his congregation to engage in some type of sexual activity,” wrote Sgt. Bryant Rockwood of Phoenix police in the incident report.

What?  How on earth did that happen?  Isn't there some sort of indisputable narrative about the Church conniving to cover up just this very sort of thing?

And how could Osmond have known about any of this?  Likely because . . . the stake president called the much-maligned helpline maintained by the Church's local leaders to use to navigate the often complex legalities associated with allegations of sexual assault.

So the helpline . . . helped?  In bringing allegations of abuse to the attention of law enforcement?  What does that do to the narrative being told elsewhere about how the helpline is intended to help the Church cover up abuse?

In the end, though, the allegations of abuse - though reported to law enforcement - are not going to result in prosecution (let alone conviction).  As I have noted previously: "Reporting abuse is not a panacea.  Abuse allegations are frequently left uninvestigated and/or uncharged and/or unprosecuted."

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Phoenix police sent letters to the five women to launch an investigation. Two of them responded by phone. 

One spoke with an investigator and alleged Templeton “asked her out, would touch her leg or hug her too long” when they were alone. The other said Templeton touched her underneath her clothes without her consent on two occasions; once while they were sitting in a van on a church-sanctioned trip and another time while they were in the bishop’s office together.

 

Both women declined to participate in prosecution, according to a police member. Phoenix police sent letters to the three other alleged victims but never received a response, according to their records. 

The department closed the case regarding the five women in 2019.

“It’s very common for an allegation to be made by a female victim who then changes their mind and then they don’t move forward. That may due to fear, due to embarrassment, it can be due to fear of not just the charges, but maybe they exaggerated,” said Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorney David Cantor, who handles sex crimes cases.

This appears to be one of those (IMO fairly rare) instances where a bishop directly exploits his position as bishop to engage in abusive behavior ("while they were in the bishop's office together...").  

As for the allegation of abuse "while they were sitting in a van on a church-sanctioned trip," I wonder if they were alone (if so, that would be a pretty serious deviation from the "two deep" leadership rule).

Also, note that law enforcement contacted five purported victims, and only two responded.  And the two who responded "declined to participate in prosecution."  This is one of the primary reasons sex crimes are so difficult to prosecute.  (I say this only to explain likely factors in a prosecutor's decision to not prosecute, and not to condemn or censure the women for declining to participate in prosecution.  It is not for me or anyone else to judge such a decision.)

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According to Penrod of the LDS Church, church leaders encouraged the five women to “report the allegations to police, cooperate with the investigation and pursue charges.”

But, but . . . the narrative!  Isn't the Church in the business of hiding abuse from law enforcement, right? 

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Five girls and women accuse Templeton of misconduct between 1980-1989

According to civil deposition interviews obtained by 12 News stemming from a 1997 lawsuit, five women alleged Templeton groped, sexually assaulted, or molested them, including when three of them were minors, between 1980 and 1989.

I'll skip the articles recitation of allegations against Templeton.  Pretty grim.

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An imbalance of power

“Ashley”, who grew up in the LDS Church, says she felt “complete disgust” when she learned as an adult that Templeton later became a bishop.

“I felt this pit in my stomach. Why and how?” she said.

Her concern is the amount of time Templeton would have spent with women and children behind closed doors in the Maryvale Ward. She wants parents whose children have had contact with Templeton in the past to have conversations with them about Templeton.

That is a valid concern.  But then, the same can be said for concerns about family members, teachers, therapists/doctors, etc., all of whom may be situated to exploit "behind closed doors"-type situations to engage in abusive conduct.  

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Sgt. Rockwood noted in his 2019 incident report that as a bishop, Templeton would have had occasional private interviews with children. LDS bishops hold one-on-one “worthiness interviews” with adults and children typically beginning at age 12. These interviews may involve questions about the child’s past “sins” and acts of a sexual nature.  Bishops also conduct interviews with 8-year-olds before baptism.

In recent years, activists have lobbied the church worldwide to end the practice of one-on-one worthiness interviews.

The same interviews that were almost certainly integral to A) the stake president finding out about the allegations of abuse, B) the review of the allegations with the helpline attorney, C) the helpline attorney reporting the matter to law enforcement, and D) the Church removing Templeton's membership?

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“By virtue of the calling (of the bishop) that they have, they are regarded as representatives of God to their LDS wards, and that gives them a tremendous amount of power,” said Reverend Katie Langston, a Utah-based pastor and mother. Langston was a participating member of the LDS Church until 2015.

I think it's as much (or more) about access and influence and predation.  There are orders of magnitude more instances of abuse by family members, teachers, etc.  And yet nobody is suggesting that we split up families, or that we shut down schools.

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As reported by the Salt Lake Tribune, a  former LDS bishop was excommunicated in 2018 after leading a campaign to get the church to end all one-on-one interviews between clergy and youths. That same year the church revised its policy to encourage church leaders to invite a parent or other adult to sit in an adjoining room when holding one-on-one interviews with women and children. 

The change included the option for the interviewee to ask a witness to sit in as a witness to the interview, according to the Tribune.

I'm still sort of ambivalent about this change, but I defer to the Church on it.

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“Don’t hesitate. Go to police”

Daniels, who also grew up in the LDS Church, believes Glendon Templeton’s story reveals a lesson for the LDS community and churches in general.  She wants alleged victims of abuse to know they should go straight to law enforcement with their accusations.

“When I told my dad and my stepmom, of course, my dad flipped out,” Daniels said. Her dad reported the accusations to church leaders and the issue was handled internally, Daniels said.

“Glendon was scolded or something along those lines which is absolute bull crap,” Daniels said. “I guess I felt I was not that important. I felt for so many years that it was my fault.”

Daniels is elsewhere reported as being 49 years old, and that the alleged abuse took place "in the early 1980s when she was around six to seven years old" (which could have actually put the abuse as early as 1979).  

The Church has come along way in the intervening 40+ years, including A) training local leaders re: handling allegations of abuse (which, as we have seen here, resulted in the stake president detecting and addressing the abuse, including having it reported to law enforcement), and B) maintaining the helpline (which, again, we have seen here as facilitating the detection of abuse and reporting it to law enforcement).

I appreciate and respect that Daniels is upset about what happened to her 40+ years ago and how the Church (mis)handled it.  Both the Church and society in general have changed a lot since then.

It is, of course, entirely appropriate to "go straight to law enforcement with their accusations."  But I sense that Daniels is suggesting this as an alternative to talking to the bishop.  If so, I think that's bad advice.  See here:

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Templeton’s other niece who alleged molestation had a different experience. She told her bishop in 1994 about the allegations against Templeton and he drove her and her mom to the police department to file a report, according to the 1997 deposition interview. Local church leaders conducted an internal investigation of that claim against Templeton. It’s unknown if he was disciplined by the church. During the deposition interview, Templeton said he was a Sunday School Teacher in his local ward.

By the time Templeton was elevated to the position of bishop of the Maryvale Ward in 2014, he was living in another part of the city where it’s possible his church leaders there were unaware of the previous allegations against him.

She told her bishop, and her bishop not only received the information but drove her and her mother to report the matter to law enforcement.

This happened in 1994, nearly 30 years ago, so things had apparently started to change by then.

Thanks,

-Smac

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2 minutes ago, Tacenda said:

I'm starting to wonder if this meme is true!

May be an image of text that says 'Fact: Your kid is statistically significantly safer around a drag queen than a member of the clergy.'

If I have to choose between having my child at Provo’s drag picnic or being quizzed about their sexual habits by a man behind closed doors, I’m going with the drag show. 

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It's math.

# of clergy / # of clergy abuses = % risk
# of drag queens / # of drag queen abuses = % risk

If you go by media accounts to get these numbers, you're basically ensuring you don't ever have # of drag queen abuses.  Because media doesn't cover that.  Goes against too many narratives.  Makes reporters look like homophobes or anti-trans or whatever buzzwords occur to folks.  And the media always covers clergy abuses.  Outrage like that drives clicks and likes and ratings.

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11 minutes ago, LoudmouthMormon said:

It's math.

# of clergy / # of clergy abuses = % risk
# of drag queens / # of drag queen abuses = % risk

If you go by media accounts to get these numbers, you're basically ensuring you don't ever have # of drag queen abuses.  Because media doesn't cover that.  Goes against too many narratives.  Makes reporters look like homophobes or anti-trans or whatever buzzwords occur to folks.  And the media always covers clergy abuses.  Outrage like that drives clicks and likes and ratings.

Are you serious? There are plenty of right-wing media outlets who would be thrilled to report on drag queens who molest children. Totally fits their narratives. 

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2 hours ago, PeaceKeeper said:

I'll take the clergy. Any sexualizing of children is child abuse. Not to say all drag queens sexualize children but drag queen activities are adult activities, not for children.

I know it's kind of not put into context for sure. How many children are around drag queens on a weekly basis or daily basis. I guess I've seen far too many clergy sexually abusing children or young women and many boys and young men as well. And not aware of the statistics of drag queen abuse out there. It's a meme, and I had seen it earlier elsewhere and couldn't help my old usual self of being quick to react to things that upset me. 

Edited by Tacenda
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If the only place my child ever encounters a drag queen is at a drag show or "drag queen story hour" at the local library (read, "over my dead body" regarding both of those) I have no problem conceding the truth of the meme.  (Only the stupidest of horny drag queens [and I'm not saying that there are no stupid horny drag queens, but ...] would attempt to assault my child in a public setting.)  Would I concede the truth of the meme in any other circumstance ... ?  Yeahhhh ... not so much.

Edited by Kenngo1969
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49 minutes ago, Kenngo1969 said:

If the only place my child ever encounters a drag queen is at a drag show or "drag queen story hour" at the local library (read, "over my dead body" regarding both of those) I have no problem conceding the truth of the meme.  (Only the stupidest of horny drag queens [and I'm not saying that there are no stupid horny drag queens, but ...] would attempt to assault my child in a public setting.)  Would I concede the truth of the meme in any other circumstance ... ?  Yeahhhh ... not so much.

I guess I don’t see drag queens as that threatening. After hearing some of the awful things my kids experienced in bishop’s interviews, drag queens seem like comparatively safe harbors.

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2 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

I guess I don’t see drag queens as that threatening. After hearing some of the awful things my kids experienced in bishop’s interviews, drag queens seem like comparatively safe harbors.

I suppose you can ignore my caveat if you want to, but I thought it was rather central to my thought and to the conversation, otherwise I wouldn't have bothered including it.  Here it is again: No, I don't think that even the horniest drag queen is stupid enough to assault children in a public setting such as a drag queen story hour at the local library or at a drag show.  (Hint: That's why they're not threatening! ;))

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11 hours ago, Tacenda said:

I know it's kind of not put into context for sure. How many children are around drag queens on a weekly basis or daily basis. I guess I've seen far too many clergy sexually abusing children or young women and many boys and young men as well. And not aware of the statistics of drag queen abuse out there. It's a meme, and I had seen it earlier elsewhere and couldn't help my old usual self of being quick to react to things that upset me. 

Quoting myself to add, clergymen of all religions not just the LDS. But Nehor posits a very good point of the reality of a relative abusing than a stranger. 

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On 11/4/2022 at 11:27 AM, smac97 said:

I empathize with this person, but it may well be that law enforcement has taken a second/harder look, and that the evidence needed for a conviction is just not there.

I wish we could assume that, but unfortunately, we can't.

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