Survivors’ Group Calls for More Action from Church Officials in Cheyenne

Several weeks ago, we learned about potential charges being filed against a former Cheyenne, Wyoming bishop. Today, we are urging law enforcement officials to update the public and for church officials in Wyoming to take punitive action against their former leader.

In Mid-August, law enforcement officials recommended charges in a vague announcement that appeared to be referencing the former Bishop of Cheyenne, Joseph A. Hart, as well as one other person that was “seeking membership” in the clergy. Now we are calling on Cheyenne’s prosecutor to announce whether he will follow the recommendation of police and charge Bishop Hart with child molestation. While we are glad that charges were recommended against Bishop Hart, we know that children and vulnerable adults will be safer once those charges are acted on. We hope that law enforcement officials in Cheyenne will take action soon and update the public when they do.

While Bishop Hart waits for the other shoe to drop, we believe that current church officials in Cheyenne can take steps that will help protect children while also preventing Bishop Hart from fleeing from justice. We call Bishop Stephen Biegler to both order Hart to turn over his passport so he can’t flee the country, and to disclose the name of the second church figure that police are recommending should be charged.

When parents and parishioners are informed, children are safer. Bishop Biegler can help create this safer, more informed community by sharing information with the public that can help others recognize abusers and can encourage victims, witnesses and whistleblowers to come forward and make a report to police. And while police in Wyoming are prevented by state law from identifying suspects, church officials are not. Bishop Biegler should identify the second person who was investigated by police and share that information with his flock.

Similarly, Bishop Biegler can help ensure that that communities elsewhere are safer too by ordering Bishop Hart to turn in his passport so he cannot leave the country before law enforcement officials in Wyoming decide to act on the charging recommendation.

These steps can both ensure that future crimes are prevented while achieving justice for survivors in Wyoming today. We hope that law enforcement and Cheyenne church officials will act quickly.

CONTACT: Zach Hiner, Executive Director (zhiner@snapnetwork.org, 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)


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