As a church, we frequently try to dismiss and overlook the damage inflicted upon marginalized groups within our community by ignoring the long-term affects of the harm caused by discriminatory policies. These past policies expand beyond individuals and into the communities that continue to confront the deep and longstanding embedded issues. When we support the marginalization of a group, we take away their power and voice, and racism becomes the veil that conceals all manner of violence and harm suffered by the powerless.
The Navajo Nation Court is providing a venue where the atrocities suffered by some of its members can finally be voiced. Two lawsuits were filed against The Church in the Navajo Nation Court by people who participated in the now defunct Indian Student Placement Program. The lawsuits allege repeated sexual abuse and mistreatment. The Navajo Nation Court is calling for issued apologies and Church-wide changes that would protect children from people previously accused of sexual abuse and mandate reporting to state officials.
The Mormon Church is challenging the jurisdiction of the Navajo Nation Court as well as questioning the Court’s ability to call for change throughout the entire Mormon Church.
Regardless of the legal ability of the Navajo Nation Court to impose church-wide policy changes, I would hope that the Church would embrace this call to action as a chance to vigorously defend and protect the “least of these” by championing the protection of the previously unprotected.