Seventh-Day Adventists sued over 1970s sex abuse

Men say they found out in 2012 the church knew about the child molester

The men on the sides are suing the Seventh-Day Adventists over sex abuse in the 1970s. Their attorneys, Peter Janci and Steve Crew, are in the middle. Aug. 26, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
The men on the sides are suing the Seventh-Day Adventists over sex abuse in the 1970s. Their attorneys, Peter Janci and Steve Crew, are in the middle. Aug. 26, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) – Two men are suing the Seventh-Day Adventist Church for $13.5 million alleging the church put a convicted child molester in charge of its youth program in the 1970s, and left him there even after learning he was abusing a child in that program.

The men filed suit in Oregon on Tuesday, seeking millions from the Maryland-based church and its Oregon branch, alleging sexual battery, inflicting emotional distress, fraud and negligence.

The men say they were abused in the 1970s but only discovered in 2012 that the church knew it had a convicted child molester in its ranks and did nothing.

The case

Les Bovee in undated photos provided by the law firm of O'Donnell, Clark & Crew in Portland, Aug. 26, 2014
Les Bovee in undated photos provided by the law firm of O’Donnell, Clark & Crew in Portland, Aug. 26, 2014

In the late 1960s, Les Bovee was indicted and convicted for child sexual abuse and spent two years in jail before he was hired by the church.

Bovee was an adult youth leader in the Pathfinder Club Program, which was overseen by the church.

The two men, who are using the pseudonyms DM and FD, came forward now because they were both witnesses in a case “three to four years ago,” they said at a Tuesday morning news conference.

Since that time, they learned the church was complicit in Les Bovee’s behavior.

DM and FD attorneys

The attorneys for DM and FD said they will prove the church knew it when they let him take over the Pathfinder program.

“At the time of the abuse my clients were 10-years-old to 13-years-old,” attorney Steve Crew said. “They were both abused several times during that time period.”

“They put the fox in charge of the hen house,” attorney Peter Janci said. “This is a situation where they knew this guy had abused kids and they didn’t just let him in the church — they put him in charge of the youth program”

One of the victims told church officials about the abuse while it was happening, and they refused to believe him, he said, and denied it could be happening.

Bovee was indicted while he was part of the church and the Pathfinder leader.

Church attorney

Richard Whittemore, an attorney for the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, told KOIN 6 News by phone “the church feels very compassionate toward these gentlemen.”

DM and FD both made past claims against the church that never were settled.

“We’re certainly disappointed that they’ve chosen to go ahead and file, but that is certainly their right.”

FD and DM

FD left the church because of the sex abuse, but DM is still an active member. However, he does not help with the Pathfinder program to this day.

Bovee is now free and did not have to register as a sex offender.

Asked how he felt about that, FD said, “Violated. Let down not just by the church but also by the justice system.”

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