Attorneys also filed similar lawsuits in Washington and Oregon on Monday, representing other plaintiffs against the Mormon Church and the Boy Scouts.
The men in the San Francisco case moved away from the South Bay many years ago, but filed here because they claim the crimes happened in Northern California.
In the most public of places, outside San Francisco City Hall, three brothers held a press conference revealing the most private and intimate issue of their lives.
"Child sexual abuse is a crime committed in silence, covered up through secrecy and shame," said plaintiff John Doe No.1.
In the civil case filed in San Francisco Superior Court on Monday, they're identified only as John Doe No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3.
All three are suing the Mormon Church and the Boy Scouts of America for allowing Bill Knox to molest them while serving as their church bishop, scoutmaster and later as their stepfather when they lived in Sunnyvale in the 70s and 80s.
They say the Mormon Church is liable because they complained of the abuse and the church covered it up.
"We told our childhood church leaders. They did nothing. They hid it," said John Doe No. 1.
"We are alleging that the Mormon Church and the arm of the Mormon Church, the Boy Scouts of America, and several other individuals are negligent and they also have responsibility under what we call vicarious liability," said attorney Lisa Sapcoe.
The Boy Scouts of America said they could not respond to the charges because they had not seen the complaint.
An attorney for the Mormon Church described the allegations as "serious, but the law does not impose responsibility on the church for the kind of claims that are made on this."
All three men live out of state now, two of them in Georgia. They finally came forward and filed the suit when Mr. Knox moved near them.
"When I realized he was in my community and I saw him in a car when I drove by, I literally shook. I am a 44-year-old man. I literally shook at his presence," said John Doe No. 1.
"We decided together that we can no longer let other children suffer through what we have suffered through," said John Doe No. 2.
The men's mother still lives with Mr. Knox. They said she was aware of the abuse and trusted the church to fix it.
Two of the men filing suit are dentists and the third is an FBI agent.