- Associated Press - Thursday, January 23, 2014

HONOLULU (AP) - A lawsuit claims a Mormon church camp coordinator molested two boys who were sent to Maui to pick pineapples decades ago.

The lawsuit filed Wednesday on Maui says the church recruited hundreds of teen boys from Utah and southeastern Idaho to live and work in Maui pineapple fields in the 1970s and 1980s.

Jacob Huggard, 41, and Kyle Spray, 42, both of Pleasant Grove, Utah, claim in the lawsuit that they were sexually abused by a coordinator who oversaw hundreds of boys at a camp from 1986 to 1988.

The Associated Press does not normally name people in sex abuse cases, but Huggard and Spray said they wanted to be identified.

Defendants named in the lawsuit include the church and Maui Land and Pineapple Co., which owned the land and housing.

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has zero tolerance for abuse of any kind and works actively to prevent abuse,” church spokesman Eric Hawkins said in a statement Thursday. “This case was filed yesterday, and many details in the legal complaint are unclear. The church will examine the allegations and respond appropriately.”

Representatives of Maui Land and Pineapple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The AP withheld the name of the counselor accused of abuse because no criminal case has been filed.

The boys were paid to pick and grow pineapples, while receiving schooling and training in Mormon missionary life. The camps closed in the 1990s.

A 2012 Hawaii law allowed the filing of civil suits in sex abuse cases in which the statute of limitations had passed. The law suspends the statute of limitations until April.

Craig Vernon, an Idaho attorney representing the plaintiffs, said they are hoping the lawsuit inspires other possible victims and anyone with knowledge of sexual abuse at the camps to come forward before the window closes.

“We all believe there were other people who were abused,” he said. “Time is of the essence.”

Huggard said they are grateful the Hawaii law allows them to “confront our abuser and try to hold him accountable for the things he did to us.”

The lawsuit is asking for relief that includes changing the church’s corporate policies and procedures regarding reporting suspected child sexual abuse and ensuring that alleged sex abusers are immediately removed from exposure to children.

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Follow Jennifer Sinco Kelleher at https://www.twiter.com/JenHapa .

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