Lawyers: Deal unlikely in Mormon church sexual abuse case

FILE - In this April 5, 2018, file photo, McKenna Denson speaks with reporters during a news conference in Salt Lake City. Denson, a woman who sued a former Mormon missionary leader claiming that he raped her in the 1980s, went to his congregation in Arizona and said church leaders are covering for a "sexual predator." (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Mormon church lawyers said this week it’s unlikely they will reach a settlement with a woman who accuses the faith of covering for a former missionary leader who she says raped her in the 1980s.

Attorneys for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints requested a trial date for March 2020 in a court filing that came days after McKenna Denson went to the man’s church in Arizona and told his congregation there was a “sexual predator” among them.

The attorneys said chances of resolving the case are “poor.” Denson’s attorney, Craig Vernon, confirmed that’s what the church attorneys told him during a recent status conference.

“So, yes, I agree that settlement is looking unlikely,” Vernon said.

Denson accuses Joseph L. Bishop of raping her in 1984 in Provo, Utah, where he oversaw hundreds of young people as president of the Missionary Training Center.

A judge recently dismissed part of Denson’s lawsuit against the church because the statute of limitations had passed, but allowed a fraud claim to stand because the alleged cover-up was discovered recently.

Screen grab of a video posted on YouTube when McKenna Denson approached the podium at a meeting of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Chandler, Arizona. Denson accused the church of protecting Joseph L. Bishop, a member of that congregation and a man Denson has accused of raping her at the Missionary Training Center.

All the claims were dismissed against Bishop, 85, who denied the accusations but acknowledged in a police interview that he asked the woman to expose herself when she was 21, according to police documents.

Denson, 55, of Pueblo, Colorado, was ushered away from the podium at Bishop’s Mormon church in Chandler, Arizona, on Sunday shortly after she began talking during a monthly segment in Mormon services when church members are invited to share their testimony, shows a video posted online.

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,” said Denson, before being removed.

Mike Norton, an ex-Mormon who went with Denson and filmed the incident, said Bishop was in the back of the church as Denson spoke. She didn’t talk directly to him, but did speak with one of his sons, he said.

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