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The LDS Church is asking a federal court to quash a subpoena requiring President Thomas S. Monson to testify at a deposition concerning the alleged sexual abuse of four Navajos.
The motion, filed Thursday, states that Monson has no special knowledge of the church-sponsored Indian Student Placement Program (ISPP), which operated from 1947 to the mid-1990s, nor the experiences of the two female and two male Navajos who say they were abused in its care during the 1960s, '70s and '80s. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints asks U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby that Monson, instructed to attend an Aug. 4 deposition, be absolved of the request and issued a protective order barring his future participation.
The voluntary program, also known as the Lamanite Placement Program, put thousands of Navajo children in Mormon foster homes in Utah, Idaho and New Mexico to teach them about the church and assimilate them, according to court documents.
Attorneys for the four Navajos alleging assault referred to by the pseudonym initials RJ, MM, BN and LK say Monson has "unique information" about the program and the allegations of rape, abuse and molestation because he was an apostle in the church starting in 1963, according to their request for the subpoena. They believe his deposition could shed light on alleged misconduct of leaders who worked with LDS Social Services, which operated the program.
The four Navajos seek apologies from the church, as well as unspecified financial damages and requests for policy changes within the religious organization.
Billy Keeler, a Gallup, N.M., attorney representing the Navajos, had no comment on the church's motion to quash the subpoena, but he said he will respond to its request for a protective order.
The church's motion says Monson's responsibilities in the religion's senior leadership did not include oversight of the program and that requiring his deposition is "unduly burdensome." The 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 church's response reads.
Church spokesman Eric Hawkins deferred comment to David Jordan, an attorney representing the church, who said: "There's nothing I would say that's not in the motion itself."
The motion also says the attorneys representing the Navajos failed to seek a lower-level employee's input on the program before targeting Monson. The church offered the deposition of Roger Van Komen, manager of LDS Family Services (formerly LDS Social Services), which it says was declined by the Navajos' representation. Komen, the motion states, has "personal knowledge of how the ISPP was administered in the past."
The LDS Church also maintains in the motion that the case should be heard in federal court, rather than Navajo Tribal Court, because the alleged misconduct occurred away from the reservation.