Sixteen Child Sex Abuse Lawsuits Against Jehovah’s Witnesses Are Settled
Largest Deal Ever in Denomination’s History Includes Controversial Gag Order
One of the Predators is A Fugitive & Was Profiled on “America’s Most Wanted”
Two Organizations Urge All Faith Groups To Stop Requiring Secrecy in Settlements
The Nation-wide Support Groups Prod Witnesses & Victims To Come Forward & Get Help
At a sidewalk news conference, clergy sex abuse victims will disclose and discuss a child molestation settlement (allegedly in the millions of dollars and the largest-ever) against the Jehovah’s Witnesses. One of the predators was recently on ‘America’s Most Wanted.’
They’ll also discuss a nationwide outreach effort to find and help more men and women who have been sexually abused by Jehovah’s Witness officials, and publicly urge all faith groups to stop requiring abuse victims to sign gag orders.
Thursday, May 10, 10:00 a.m.
Outside the Davidson County Courthouse (in courtyard), 200 James Robertson Parkway in Nashville, TN
Several clergy molestation victims and advocates from five states, including – a Kentucky man who is the founder of a nationwide support group for Jehovah’s Witness victims & Tennessee leaders of SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests,
Over a five day period in February, 16 civil child sex abuse lawsuits against Watchtower (the Jehovah’s Witness headquarters in New York City) were quietly settled in three states (CA, TX and OR). The victims involved were essentially coerced into signing ‘gag orders’ that prevent them from discussing the cases. (Copies of the 16 dismissal notices and of 1-2 of the actual lawsuits will be provided.)
One Jehovah’s Witness elder who was sued was long time San Diego resident Rick McLean who was featured on America’s Most Wanted in March. He is suspected of molesting more than 30 children.
Victims groups and veteran clergy sex abuse attorneys (like Jeff Anderson who has filed 1,500 such lawsuits in the past 20+ years) are highly critical of gag orders because they keep the identities of predators secret and make it harder for victims to heal from the devastating effects of childhood trauma.
Attorneys for the victims in these cases are Greg Love and Kimberly Norris of Ft. Worth Texas (817 560 5600). Jehovah’s Witness officials JR Brown and David Semonian and church lawyers Philip Brumley and Mario Moreno can be reached at 718-560-5600 or
The denomination was prompted to settle the cases because of an adverse court ruling last October in California that would require them to turn over deeply-held secret records about abusive Jehovah’s Witnesses.
A similar news conference is being held today in San Diego at 1:00 p.m. (Pacific time) outside a downtown courthouse there. (For details: Mary Grant 626 419 2930, Paul Livingston619 847 3998)
Six years ago a Kentucky man – William H. Bowen – reported to fellow Jehovah’s Witness church officials that another elder was in fact a confessed child molester and remains a Jehovah’s Witness in good standing to this day. Bowen was then ostracized
by fellow church members, went on to start a now 6,000 member support group for those abused and silenced by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. That group, SilentLambs.org, now has 6,000 members.
Contact: William H. Bowen of Paducah KY, founder of SilentLambs.org 270-703-2257 cell, 270-527-5350
Mary Grant of Long Beach CA, SNAP western regional director 626-419-2930 cell
David Clohessy of St. Louis, SNAP national director 314-566-9790 cell
Statement by Bill Bowen:
Sex abuse survivors through litigation have forced Jehovah’s Witnesses to admit their policy on child abuse is not working. Watchtower policy has silenced thousands of victims and continues to strangle their ability to cry for justice and healing.
One month ago, we were informed about settlements in some of the more than forty recent civil sex abuse lawsuits against the Jehovah’s Witnesses. We learned that 16 victims were paid the largest settlement in history of Jehovah’s Witnesses but forced to sign a gag order that forbids them from speaking about their abuse. We find this bittersweet. On one hand, we’re glad a few victims are finally getting some financial help. On the other hand, we’re sad and worried because they’ve essentially been forced to give up their right to protect others by speaking out about their abuse to the public.
In 2002, US Catholic bishops publicly promised that the church would never ask for gag orders when compensating abuse survivors. Five years later, Jehovah’s Witnesses do just the reverse. They keep putting innocent kids and unsuspecting families at risk of horrible crimes because they value their secrecy and reputations more than they value children’s safety. Jehovah’s Witness kids that experience abuse need to have freedom to speak. It is time to step up and do the right thing instead of protecting the reputation of the church.
Watchtower’s secrecy and recklessness gives dangerous men like Rick McLean continued access to youngsters. McLean was recently featured on America’s Most Wanted as one of the 15 most wanted fugitives in this country. Four of his victims were part of the sixteen lawsuits recently settled and silenced by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Because Watchtower officials never reported McLean and his crimes to law enforcement, he remains on the run and in fact might be molesting kids right now. Watchtower has a long-standing and ridiculous policy of not reporting molesters to police, requiring two eye witnesses before an abused child is believed and insisting that untrained individuals do internal investigations. This keeps kids vulnerable and predators free.
Watchtower has attacked and ousted members of conscience who have spoken out on to protect kids. They have protected child molesters by maintaining a secret database of more that 25,000 molesters that they do not shared with law enforcement. Finally, when a few victims find the courage and strength to speak up, get help, warn others, and seek justice in court, church officials silence them with hurtful gag orders.
Why did they settle? Last fall, a California court ruling would have required Watchtower to open their pedophile database. To prevent this information from becoming public, church officials chose to settle these 16 cases. They do not want anyone to know how much damaging information the database contains.
This is an international problem that needs to be addressed by one of the wealthiest religious groups in the world. At silentlambs.org, we want victims to know that, now more than ever, they can speak out, get help, expose molesters and protect others. Now more than ever, the legal climate has changed and is changing, so they have a better chance to get justice in court and deter others from hiding sex crimes.
We are announcing a worldwide campaign to reach Jehovah’s Witness sex abuse victims. We are asking that this downloadable “Service Bulletin” be placed in every Kingdom Hall (JW CHURCH) around the world and delivered to any Jehovah’s Witness that you may come in contact with. By doing so you can help victims find healing and protect children.