The Desperate Need for Background Checks in Religious Organizations
A lifetime registered sex offender in Utah, who went on to serve as a Mormon congregation leader in Minnesota, has been convicted of child sexual abuse, for the 4th time.
Michael Davis, the 37-year-old Elders Quorum President at the Mormon church in Kasson, Minnesota, was found guilty of 2 counts of 1st degree and 2 counts of 2nd degree criminal sexual conduct, and 1 count of indecent exposure in front of a minor by a jury on May 13th. This is Davis’ 3rd child sexual abuse case, and 4th conviction, not including a prior probation violation.
The Current Case and Trial Testimony
On February 17, 2019, a Dodge County, Minnesota Sheriff’s Deputy pulled Davis over because he saw a child moving around the front seat while not wearing a seat belt. The deputy ran Davis drivers’ license and discovered he was a lifetime registered sex offender in Utah.
A restraining order against Davis was filed by the victim’s mother in May 2019, and outlines concerns she had with Davis being around her and her son. The Order also mentions meetings between the family, Davis, and Brent Larson, the Church President of the congregation. Specifically, according to the Order, Church President Larson was even concerned about Davis’ relationship with the victim and thought it was inappropriate. Larson had at least two meetings with Davis, once before the traffic stop and once after, according to the mother, who also testified church members had talked to her about concerns they had regarding Davis spending time with her son.
The victim’s mother testified during trial that Davis showed up at her house twice, once to give the alleged victim boots and once to drop off cookies, after she had told him to stay away from her son.
According to court documents, the victim considered him [Davis] family. Davis would give him guy hugs, and gifts including a cell phone, cowboy boots, and a key to Davis’ home. Prosecutors argued during trial these actions were part of Davis grooming the boy under the auspices of being his mentor.
Prosecutors argued Davis had used his position in the church to gain access to the boy, who would visit his home regularly in late 2018, staying over several times. The victim said whenever he visited Davis’ home, they would never actually talk about church, but instead would play Fortnite and pet rabbits. They would also play wrestle, which the boy said would lead to Davis groping him. This eventually escalated into explicit sexual assault. The boy told the court that the first two assaults lasted five minutes, but it felt like an eternity. On the third occasion, Davis ordered the boy to undress and then tried to rape him. He didn’t tell anyone initially what Davis had done, saying: I was scared and embarrassed. According to the victim’s trial testimony, these assaults took place over the course of a week over Christmas break December 2018 in Davis’ home.
The Prior Cases and Convictions
Unfortunately, Davis’ prior convictions are considered inadmissible in court under Minnesota statute.
When Davis was 19, he befriended a boy, whose family were neighbors and fellow church members. The boy’s mother said that Davis bought him gifts and showered him with attention. According to the criminal charges, Davis exposed himself to the boy 10 to 20 times. This happened in both a church bathroom as well as a church camp. The boy’s mother stated, in part, We had approached our bishop about it. But he said, ‘please don’t go talking to a lot of the neighbors about it…’ As part of a plea bargain in 2003, Davis pled to a misdemeanor and was sentenced to 30 days home confinement and 18 months of probation.
Two years later, Davis was charged with sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. Police reports again indicated the local bishop was informed. In 2006, Davis pled to 2 felony charges of forcible sexual abuse. Davis received 6 months of home confinement, 3 years of probation, and lifetime of having to register as a sex offender. Davis has never served any prison time.
The Desperate Need for Multi-State Background Checks
The Mormon church does not require criminal background checks for church leaders unless it’s required under state law. In Utah and Minnesota, background checks are not.
Separately, all states have mandated reporter laws requiring clergy members to contact law enforcement upon reports of child sexual abuse.
Sam Young, a former bishop in the Mormon church and the founder of Protect LDS Children, was excommunicated 3 years ago after criticizing so-called worthiness interviews, when a bishop meets one-on-one with a child, and may ask sexually explicit questions. Young said, I was not aware how common it was for bishops to really conduct an inquisition into a child’s sexual activities in specific detail that can cause great harm. He believes it’s an opportunity for grooming and desensitization, techniques used by sexual predators.
The fact is these tragedies are avoidable! Multi-state background checks must be conducted for every person in a position of power, especially over children. A background check should be conducted in not only the state where the person current resides, but all states they have lived in for a certain number of years, according to your state law.
There is no excuse to not have one. Davis’ background could have been easily and quickly caught.
Let us help you avoid these crimes from taking place. We understand employers are busy. To help with the time burden of conducting a thorough background check, ePlace has compiled a first-of-its-kind, one-click, multi-state sex offender and criminal registry database search.
Email SMLHelp@eplaceinc.com to secure risk management services and help protect your organization.
- 1595: Mormon Church Defends Minnesota Leader of Sexual Assault – Mormon Stories
- Former Mormon church leader convicted of sexually assaulting boy, 13 – Bring Me The News
- Minnesota Sex Offender Records | StateRecords.org
- Utah sex offender who became Mormon Church leader convicted of sex abuse again | KATV
- From registered sex offender to church leader (fox9.com)
- Alleged victim testifies in trial against Kasson LDS church leader accused of sexual assault – Post Bulletin | Rochester Minnesota news, weather, sports
- Utah Department of Corrections Sex and Kidnap Offender Registry OffenderWatch® sex offender management, mapping, and email alert program (icrimewatch.net)
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Keeping Yourself Safe from Sexual Violence at a Massage Parlor
Given the personal and intimate nature of this industry, interactions like this are unfortunately common in spas, chiropractor offices, and other businesses where massage therapy is offered. Steps can, and should be, taken by both businesses and customers to prevent these occurrences. Below are tips and items to be aware of when booking and attending a massage.
Before Scheduling a Massage:
- Acquaint yourself with the laws and licenses required to operate a massage business and offer various massage services. Which type of service are you seeking, and does the business you are looking into offer these services with accredited professionals and services?
- Ask around or get recommendations on a spa or therapist from close friends, family members, medical professionals, etc.
- Check on the business or therapist’s reputation online. A simple Google search may yield articles or stories on various news sites, social media. Helpful websites include:
- Check any available public state registries for massage therapy licenses to make sure the business is fully accredited. Clients have access to a state-by-state list of these databases with clickable links.
- Visit the facility beforehand and ask for information or a tour if possible. Check for private changing rooms, private massage rooms, cleanliness, adequate lighting, and adequate means of ingress and egress.
Things You Can Request, and Should Expect, to Have Accommodated at a Massage:
- Privacy. The massage should be in a private room or have a curtain drawn. You should also have a private place to change your clothes before and after the massage.
- Undress to your comfort. You should only need to undress the parts of your body which are being massaged, or only undress to the extent outlined beforehand and/or discussed by you and the person offering the massage. You should not be required to undress or redress in front of anyone and need not stay undressed long before or after the massage.
- Schedule or ask for a massage from a person of the gender you are most comfortable with. You can ask to be seen by someone of another gender if it makes you feel more comfortable
- Ask questions and have them answered. If you ask the person massaging you what they are doing or why they are doing it, they should answer you immediately and truthfully. Your masseuse should only be touching certain parts of your body in certain ways outlined beforehand and in line with the answers to your questions.
- Respect for your religion. You should be able to continue to wear religious jewelry or garments unless it prevents you from getting the massage.
- Be honest and clear with your masseuse. Let them know if certain actions are uncomfortable, painful, or pleasant.
- Keep your phone and other belongings in the room with you. The massage therapist should not insist you leave your phone, bag, or most other personal belongings outside of the room or away from your access.
- End the massage at any time. If anything about the massage makes you uncomfortable, tell the person giving it to stop immediately.
Proper and Improper Conduct of the Masseuse
- Proper Conduct for the Masseuse
- Explains each part of the massage before and/or while it is happening.
- Encourages you to tell them if something feels wrong or uncomfortable.
- Only requires you to undress the parts of your body being massaged.
- Improper Conduct for the Masseuse
- Refuses to answer your questions or tells you to be quiet.
- Refuses to tell you what they are doing or why they are doing it.
- Insists you undress parts of the body they are not massaging or are not a body parts exposed during the massage.
- Asks you inappropriate questions that are not relevant to the massage.
What if I am a Victim of Sexual Misconduct or Violence by a Medical Professional?
Use your voice and speak up. The sad reality is if this massage therapist is engaging in sexual misconduct or violence towards you, they are likely engaging in the same behavior with other customers or have in the past. If they are not reported, the conduct will continue and likely escalate.
If you think you have experienced sexual misconduct or violence by a massage therapist professional, take all of the following steps and report it immediately:
- Call 911 to make a report to your local law enforcement agency
- Contact the business where you experienced the abuse
- Report the abuse to your state’s relevant licensing board for the spa, therapist, etc.