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Watchtower Society/Jehovah’s Witnesses GUILTY – Must Pay Millions in Punitive Damages in Child Sex Abuse Case

Watchtower Society/Jehovah’s Witnesses GUILTY – Must Pay Millions in Punitive Damages in Child Sex Abuse Case

I am overjoyed to see some traction on this issue at last.

The jury found that the elders who managed the Fremont congregation in the 1990s and who were under the supervision of Watchtower knew that Kendrick, a member, had recently been convicted of the sexual abuse of another child, but they kept his past record secret from the congregation, said Simons. Kendrick went on to molest the plaintiff, who was a Jehovah’s Witness member in Fremont, over a two-year period beginning when she was 9 years old, the lawsuit contended. Kendrick was eventually convicted in 2004 of the sexual abuse of another girl, and is now a registered sex offender in California, Simons said. He has not been criminally charged with abusing the plaintiff, but Simons said the case is under investigation by law enforcement.

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ legal entity, is responsible for the entire punitive damages amount and 40 percent of the compensatory damages, said Rick Simons, attorney for the plaintiff. Sixty percent of the compensatory damages was assessed against Jonathan Kendrick, the man accused of abusing her.

Yes, the Watchtower Society (along with their other “arms,” aka the “Jehovah’s Witnesses,”) have a policy of secrecy, as has been proven through the elder’s manual, “judicial” correspondence, the database of abusers that a Bethelite discovered, and numerous court cases that show that they neither notify the congregation nor even attempt to protect children when they are aware of sexual predators and violent abusers in their midst.

The key issue in the case, according to the victim’s attorney Rick Simons of Hayward, was the written policy of Watchtower New York, Inc., which instructed all Elders in Jehovah’s Witnesses Congregations in the United States to keep reports of child sex abusers within Jehovah’s Witnesses secret to avoid lawsuits. The case is believed to be the first in the nation to directly address the policy of secrecy, adopted in 1989, and still in force today.

Yes, they have a policy of requiring two witnesses to any act of abuse (any attempt by a victim of any kind of abuse to get help from the elders, even with support from someone else, is considered “slanderous.”) They have to twist a rather obscure bible verse out of context to support this doctrine. And – of course – they encourage spying and reporting for all kinds of other things, some of them rather trivial.

Yes, they have a history of discouraging members from seeking help from any “worldly authorities” such as police or therapists. Such “worldly authorities” are believed to be ruled by Satan and therefore cannot be trusted. This effectively cuts off all possibility of help for those who wish to remain “in good standing.”

Yes, they have a policy of lying in court, which they call “theocratic strategy.” They comply with the law only just as far as they have to, but prefer to be the only authority in their member’s lives. They hide their totalitarianism with “servant” language, but some people might have a better historical idea of what a “circuit overseer” or “district overseer” might really be.

They need to change these policies, and others (such as the demonizing and shunning – even by their families – of those who eventually choose a different path in the freedom of conscience that they freely claim when trying to convert others).

In 2007, 17 victims shared a $13 million dollar settlement from church officials. It involved victims in three states California , Texas and Oregon and six Jehovah Witnesses perpetrators.

To those who have been making unfounded accusations about Candace Conti’s motives, please note that she requested 144,000 cents in punitive damages, and the jury instead granted 21 million (plus one!) dollars. I hope that his case – and the financial costs to Watchtower Society, including those of the many others who were silenced with settlements including gag orders – will force whatever section of the legal organization currently responsible for “new light” (changes in doctrine) to be less paranoid, misogynistic, and uncaring when they exercise their “guidance” as “God’s only channel.”


144000 cents requested, 21 million +1 awarded in punitive damages
Punitive Damages: 144,000 (!) cents Requested – 21 million plus 1 (!) dollars Awarded. Thanks to Steven Unthank at JWNews.net for the graphic.

“Until now, a jury has virtually never held the JW national headquarters responsible for repeated heinous child sex crimes and cover ups by church members or officials,” said William H. Bowen of Nashville, TN, who founded and heads a support group for those molested by Jehovah’s Witnesses. “This is a ground-breaking case and a watershed award against an especially callous group of church bureaucrats.”

The Watchtower legal troops haven’t given up yet:

“We’ve got a long ways to go yet before this one is resolved,” he said of the planned appeal. Simons said Jehovah’s Witnesses has sufficient resources, including valuable real estate, to cover the judgment but an appeal could drag out for years.

Whether Jehovah’s Witnesses are correct in their humble claim that they alone possess “the TRUTH” or not (and personally speaking, I don’t believe theirs is a very spiritually mature view of the divinity), they have a responsibility under the law to be less destructive.

“Nothing can bring back my childhood,” Conti told the Oakland Tribune. “But through this (verdict) and through, hopefully, a change in their policy, we can make something good come out of it.”

More! Added 6/17/2012:

Roundup of JWs in the News

Roundup of JWs in the News

Recent conversations in the comments have reminded me that I haven’t done my posting of recent news related to Jehovah’s Witnesses. The purpose in doing this is simply to highlight, over time, the kinds of issues that the JW mindset and set of demands can create or intensify in some. It is meant to encourage more compassionate and ethical policies and behaviors within the Watchtower organization and to help former JWs understand some of the clusters of danger that may be worthwhile to (even further) transcend.

Ex-JWs: Use What You’ve Got

First off, there is a very humorous treatment of growing up as a JW in a new book by Kyria Abrahams called I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah’s Witness Upbringing. It’s on my wishlist, and I’ll let you know what I think of it once I’ve had the chance to read it. It looks promising as a bit of comic relief.

Given that Abrahams is now a stand-up comic and spoken-word poet, it makes perfect sense to begin her very funny memoir with her performance debut at the Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Kingdom Hall, at age 8 (her presentation was about freedom from demon possession). She describes the children’s books she read as a child as a cross between “Dr. Seuss rhymes and tales of how sinners would scream and gnash their teeth at Armageddon.” In her world, Smurfs were “little blue demons” and yard sales were enticements from Satan. As a bored teenager with OCD, she didn’t know what to do with herself or how to make sense of the world. On the verge of 18, she married a 24-year-old part-time college math teacher because, even if his interest in her was, at best, halfhearted, she wanted a boyfriend and didn’t know any other Jehovah’s Witnesses who liked her. Anyway, she reasons, “this is what adults did, and I was an adult.” It wasn’t long before she longed to be out of the marriage.

Author Lisa Foad writes in a fractured, variable, and somewhat surreal style – trying to say the unsayable takes you on some funky roads sometimes. She thinks her approach to writing might be a side effect of her Jehovah’s Witness upbringing.

“After an assembly where they were talking about the folly of music,” Foad recalls from her early childhood, “I went home and broke records with my dad. We broke Led Zeppelin, Cream. But I had this Wham! record I really liked. I didn’t want to break my Wham! record but then he reminded me that in the paradise I would have a pet tiger, a pet lion. What are you going to do? It was a trade I was willing to make. There’s so much fodder in that.”

Check out her book: The Night Is a Mouth

In other, depressing but illuminating JW book news, get a child’s eye perspective on Jehovah’s Witnesses by reading William Coburn’s The Spanking Room: A Child’s Eye View of the Jehovah Witnesses.

I had stopped vomiting, but still shook and sobbed. Mom returned to the room to sit on the edge of my bed. Again she asked, “Billy what’s wrong?” “That was my bus route,” I whispered when I could get words out. “What if someone I knew came to the door?” “So?” “They’d find out I was a Jehovah’s Witness.” Mom’s hand met the side of my head in a flash of brilliant white light and an explosion of pain. I collapsed onto the mattress while she flailed at me, her rage-clenched fists thudding into my eight-year-old body. “How dare you?” she shrieked. “You awful, rotten child! How dare you be ashamed of Jehovah? I hate you! I hate you!”

The Spanking Room is the true story of a young boy’s upbringing, and how the unorthodox doctrines of the Watchtower Society encourage violence against its most helpless members–the children.

Artist Lindsay O’Leary’s piece “Pedaling Backwards, Moving Forward: How to Lose 100 pounds in 365 days” is part of an exhibit in the opening of “Gestures 13” at the Mattress Factory. She has created a scaled model of her childhood home that is controlled by a stationary bicycle to represent her “old self and old habits.”

“Inside my childhood home, there’s a silhouette of me praying,” O’Leary says. “All of the silhouettes of me (except the biking one in the garage) are of me when I was obese. I was a Jehovah’s Witness from birth to (age) 21. We had to pray every day and attended five ‘meetings’ at the Kingdom Hall each week.

“It’s a really strict religion, so, to say that it has had a huge impact on who I am today would be an understatement,” she says. “From not being able to recite the Pledge of Allegiance throughout elementary school to not celebrating birthdays to being forbidden from participating in any competitive sport, again, the imprint it has had on my life was/is massive.”

O’Leary says the real irony is in where she has found her new home. The Mexican War Streets is where Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the precursor to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, lived and preached.

Media Talk

Katherine Jackson has been taking Michael Jackson’s three children to the meetings at the Kingdom Hall (of Jehovah’s Witnesses) to “help them deal with the death of their famous father.”

Michael stopped being a Jehovah’s Witness 1985 but reportedly resumed attending the Church’s meetings throughout his child molestation trial. Katherine and the eldest child Rebbie are the only two remaining Jehovah’s Witnesses in the family.

I would prefer to remember Michael for his music and performances, and his work to help fight AIDS. I wish I’d gone to talk with him as I felt called to do.

Oh, and this season of Big Brother features a former JW, Kevin.

He is a 30 year old graphic designer who was excommunicated at 21 from his Jehovah’s Witness raising. Therefore has lost contact with his family and friends. However, he has chosen to work through it instead of letting it tear him down. He is of Japanese/ African-American heritage. Adversity is something he is used to overcoming so the prediction is he will do well in the house.

Murder

The most horrific story in the news right now has to be about the Texan JW Otty Sanchez, 33, who decapitated, dismembered, and partially cannibalized her 3-1/2-week-old baby, Scott Wesley Buchholtz-Sanchez. She claims the devil told her to do it. She told him Scott W. Buchholz, the infant’s father, that she was schizophrenic a week before the slaying. She was diagnosed, however, with depression. Buchholz, who said he is schizophrenic, has announced that she said that she was going to leave him, and he wants her to receive the death penalty.

McManus, who appeared uncomfortable as he addressed reporters, said Sanchez apparently ate the child’s brain and some other body parts. She also decapitated the infant, tore off his face and chewed off three of his toes before stabbing herself.

In Bielefeld, Germany, an 82-year-old man who blames the Jehovah’s Witnesses for making him lose contact with his daughter, stormed a gathering of some 80 Jehovah’s Witnesses. He was wearing a mask and was armed with a machine gun. No-one was injured; the gun didn’t fire. He was seized by two congregation members as he headed back to the car. Officers also found a samurai sword, three clips of bullets and a knife in the man’s car, parked nearby.

In the tiny hamlet of Porth Kea, near Truro in England, Jonathan Cock – a 24-year-old RAF veteran from Moor Vue Fram, Penzanze – murdered his girlfriend’s Jehovah’s Witness father (41-year-old Adam Hustler) and shot her mother (Amanda Hustler) in the back in revenge for ending the couple’s “forbidden” love affair. Ex-girlfriend Danielle Hustler, 20, (are they for real with these names?) had a minor injury in the arm from a bullet graze. Mr. Cock was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Jonathan Cock blamed Jehovah’s Witnesses Adam and Amanda Hustler for thwarting his romance with their daughter Danielle because the religion bars relationships with outsiders…. The court heard Cock and Danielle fell in love while working for her dad’s drain clearing firm. He converted to her religion, but she later split with “controlling” Cock. He carried out the killing three weeks later.

Estranged JW husband Michael Smith, 37, is on trial for first-degree murder of Eugena Smith. Eugena had written a letter of disassociation from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, saying that her decision was final. The letter, which was read aloud to a trial jury, was found by investigators “lying among a pile of clothing on the floor of Eugena Smith’s bedroom, shortly after the 33-year-old St. Thomas woman was found murdered.”

The Crown argued in an opening statement Tuesday that Eugena Smith was trying to leave both her husband, and her church, just days before she died on June 7, 2007. Michael Smith, the Crown says, thought she was having an affair.

After JW William Redman murdered his 12-year-old daughter, he told a 911 operator that she was dead because that was “…the way Jehovah does things.” Evidently he “fell on her” with a knife.

Police arrived at the Roadrunner RV park to find the father covered in blood in front of the home, the mother, Rosemary Redman, screaming, “What did you do to my baby?” Inside, their daughter was lying in a pool of blood, a knife lying under her chest and her neck deeply gashed.

Sexual Violence / Pedophilia

New Hampshire resident JW, Robert Matheson, pleaded guilty repin Salem Superior Court to four counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14. He had been planning to run away to Plum Island with a girl he had been molesting at his beach house for the last three years. The JWs alerted authorities (this must be a state where it’s required to do so).

Matheson told police that he began molesting the girl during a time when he was struggling with unemployment and disconnected from his faith, and said he was “persuaded” by Internet pornography. The sentencing was pushed to Friday in order for Matheson to face sexual assault charges on a “compatible case” in New Hampshire.

Wigan Today reports that Daniel Simonetti, a 31-year-old Jehovah’s Witness, let himself into the home of an 89-year-old woman and brutally assaulted her. He denied rape, which was dropped, but admitted assault by penetration. Jailing Simonetti indefinitely, Judge John Roberts branded him “dangerous to vulnerable females.” Simonetti had previously assaulted a 4-year-old girl, for which he was never prosecuted.

Francis Gandhi a Jehovah’s Witness elder/ministerial servant (the article says “pastor”) was detained at the Kailahun Police Station for the alleged rape of an 11-year old student of the SLMB Mission in Kailahun.

On 4th of April 2009, she said that they came home from work and discovered that the girl has not returned home and immediately they contacted her grandmother who told them that the young girl had left for her home around 5pm. “We went in search of her moving from one place to place, relatives to relatives we could not find her and we returned home as it was getting close to 10pm” she said while in bed somebody knocked on her window and when asked she heard the voice of her daughter. “I jumped out of my bed and enquired from her where she was coming from only to tell me that she was in the room with a man of God.”

Robert Edward Bill, 54, a former teacher, businessman and “senior Jehovah’s Witness” attempted to abduct a five-year-old and was sentenced to six years in prison.

He has been found guilty at separate trials of the attempted abduction of the girl in Holywell two years ago, of indecently assaulting a seven-year-old 10 years ago, and of possessing 730 pornographic images of children. … Mr Medland said Bill of The Roe, St Asaph, Denbighshire, had been driving slowly around areas where he was likely to come into contact with children that same day. He’d claimed that he was trying to fix a mechanical problem with his car.

His wife and son were also sentenced:

Jacqueline Bill, his 51-year-old wife, received a suspended six-month jail sentence after pleading guilty to trying to pervert the course of justice by destroying a laptop hard drive, and must do 250 hours unpaid work. Bill’s son David, 24, of Mount Road, St Asaph, must do 150 hours unpaid work after also admitting that he tried to pervert the course of justice.

Thirty-five-year-old JW Shane Thomas Thorne had a child pornography collection of more than a thousand images, many of which involved children as young as five years old. He was sentenced to two years, but is due to be released on November 16, 2010.

Evidence was heard that Thorne grew up in a violent family environment and was sexually abused as a teenager. …”There is nothing to indicate that he has acknowledged the injury caused by his actions,” Mr Johnson said. “There is no realisation expressed or reported of any acknowledgement of the harm done to children in child pornography.” He told Thorne that a sentence must be imposed that would reflect the community horror and the disgust for the use of children for sexual gratification.

Selective Clampdown on Freedom of Religion, or “The Persecution Justification for Claims of JW Righteousness”

Novoshakhtinsk prosecutors from the Rostov region in Russian have sent case files to an investigative body to consider a criminal prosecution local members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization for preaching in public places, propagating the exclusivity and supremacy of the Jehovah’s religious doctrine above all others and promoting refusal from civil duty, voting at elections and serving in the army. The regional prosecutor also asked the Rostov regional court to order the closure of the organization in Taganrog for extremist activities, including the incitement of religious hatred and human rights violations. This situation is heating up…

The deportations of four lawyers since March strike at the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ already pressed defence against attempts to ban their literature as extremist, one of those deported, Mario Moreno, has told Forum 18 News Service. The lawyers – two Americans and two Canadians – were defending in four out of seven simultaneous local extremism cases against Jehovah’s Witnesses. A recent police detention allegedly involving torture and a raid on a Sunday service – after which one worshipper had a miscarriage and another was sent to a children’s shelter – suggest the law enforcement agencies continue to view Jehovah’s Witnesses as religious extremists even without a ban.

In Israel, the Human Rights Report for 2008 shows that police needed to be reminded (again) that it is their duty to fully investigate crimes against minority religious communities:

Members of Jehovah’s Witnesses reported an increase in assaults and other crimes against their membership in 2007 and during the year and noted the difficulties their members faced convincing the police to investigate or apprehend the perpetrators. Between September 2007 and September, members of Jehovah’s Witnesses filed 46 criminal complaints against antimissionary activists, most of whom belong to the Haredi antimissionary organization Yad L’Achim. The crimes ranged from harassment to assault. Police responded to 15 of 35 calls for assistance during the same time period, according to the Jehovah’s Witnesses legal department. The JIJ noted a similar increase in crimes and violent assaults against members of the congregations it represents.

JW Disappearance

Eridania Rodriguez, a 46-year-old married mother of three, disappeared from her night job as a cleaning woman in Manhatten. Police found her cleaning cart on the eighth floor and her street clothes and purse in her locker.

“I think she was kidnapped,” said Figueroa. She said she was suspicious of a DOT worker who her mother often saw on the eighth floor. “She was really terrified of him,” she said.

Rodriguez’s brother, Cesar, 28, ruled out the possibility of a jealous lover. “My sister is not like that,” he said. “She does not have a boyfriend. She is a Jehovah’s Witness.”

Money, Money, Money

Securities industry regulators report that say Kenneth George Neely, a Jehovah’s Witness stockbroker from St. Peters, MO ran an eight-year ponzi scheme in which he swindled brokerage customers, fellow church members and a cousin. It seems that Neely ran up some bills buying dinners and drinks for clients and friends at his country club just at a time when his personal income had declined.

“It was during this period of personal financial stress that (Neely) conceived and effected his ponzi scheme,” FINRA said in its order. He invented the “St. Louis Investment Club” and the equally phony “St. Charles REIT,” promising 20 percent returns. He made up investment “certificates” for the club and REIT to give to clients. His first investor was a cousin who invested $30,000, expecting returns of up to 10 percent.

Neely portrayed membership in the investment club as exclusive. He told a retiree, a longtime friend and fellow church member (Neely is a Jehovah’s Witness) that he would tell her when “openings” occurred in the club. “Seven or eight” other church members invested in the scam, said James Shorris, executive vice president at FINRA.

Maxine Kennedy, the JW school secretary for Scotlandville High School in Lousiana, ran amok with the school’s credit card. For some 28 months, she bought groceries and furniture, paid bills, and got cash advances. She also allegedly allowed her daughter, Toni, to use the card, including for large cash advances, and a Jehovah’s Witnesses convention.

Legal News

Lawrence Hughes abandoned his Jehovah’s Witness faith to fight for a blood transfusion for his daughter, Bethany, who had acute myeloid leukemia. He has since lost his daughter and been disfellowshipped. But he’s still fighting, even after divorce and bankruptcy.

What it most clearly does not say is that Mr. Hughes is necessarily wrong in claiming that his daughter received problematic advice from lawyers working not just for her, but also for a religious body intent on seeing her denied the blood she needed. “If I was advising [the Watchtower Society and its lawyers] I would now say, ‘At some point, this is no longer going to work out for you,’ ” Ms. Woolley says.

When Bethany Hughes died in the summer of 2002, her story was national news; the girl, just turned 17, had been diagnosed earlier that year with acute myeloid leukemia, but had fought, legally and physically, blood transfusions prescribed by doctors on religious grounds, her resistance abetted by lawyers from a firm that, by all available evidence, is a branch of the Watchtower Society itself, retaining the church as its primary client – a “captive law firm” as one judge described Glen How and Associates, employer of Bethany’s lawyers David Gnam and Shane Brady. The firm is even located within the Watchtower Society’s Georgetown, Ont. compound.

Armageddon’s Gonna Git-choo

A sweet blog post on the moon landing reminds us that on the day in 1969 in Chicago, 38,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses, who had crammed into Comiskey Park, saw the landing as “a sign that our universe is in its last days.”

I get the sense that there has been a serious effort towards positive PR. To a current JW, this must be a little bit humorous, in a macabre sort of way. Here’s the new approach:

JWs “don’t mean to scare people,” they say, but just to “provide believers with a revelations roadmap. A spiritual survival guide to emerge from Armageddon intact.” The May assemblies offered guidance on how to “avoid Satan’s snares. Because we know that the goal of Satan is to hamper people from surviving.”

The summer assemblies deny that JW’s approach Armaggeddon in a “fanatical way” but only to use “careful judgment in everyday life.”

Along with spiritual gains, he added that avoiding negative behaviors has very real benefits: money can be spent in better ways and a greater focus can be on family, for instance.

“People are being barraged all the time by different viewpoints of morality, different concerns for the economy,” West said. “We know by trusting God that we can cope with the most difficult situations in life and it gives us a positive hope in him.”

By lunchtime on Friday, the thousands of Witnesses and others who packed the Convocation Center, Northern Illinois University’s sports arena, had just finished listening to the keynote speaker. Darien Hanson called on the group to be “watchdogs” and to be alert to the signs of Jesus’ presence. A slackening of Christian expectations, he said, is detrimental to this.

Hanson also announced a very exciting offer: A DVD on creationism was being released that weekend, and each family in the audience could take home a copy. This is what Jean West was most excited about, as it would help illustrate God as a creator, she said.

“It tells us we have a maker who’s intelligent,” her husband added.

Though the Bible teaches that God both created the world and will someday end the world, neither the 24th chapter of Matthew nor Jehovah’s Witnesses know when that will be.

“We feel that there is going to be this change,” West said.

As written in Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples that preceding this time will be wars, famine, false prophets and the like. This makes the 2009 district convention theme very “timely,” West said, noting how much has changed since the onset of World War I.

Research

The Pew Forum comparative study on religious beliefs and practices is very interesting and worth a read.

Serial Child Predator JW Walks

Serial Child Predator JW Walks

A Jehovah’s Witness pedophile elder (called an “evil monster” by his own sister) was spared prison today.

Michael Porter, 38, of Barnet, north London, admitted to abusing his position of trust, and was convicted of 24 counts of indecent assault and gross indecency on children, including one on an 18-month-old baby.

“He abused dozens of children and even a baby. But he’s still free.”

JWs are discouraged from reporting abuse to police because they are told that all worldly authorities are ruled by Satan – what an interesting negative publicity control mechanism!

Within the organization, victims of abuse are told to subject themselves to the headship of men and elders, and that Jehovah-God will take care of the problem.

The Crown Prosecution Service was not prepared to comment at this stage, but it is understood police officers were disappointed that only four victims were prepared to make statements against Porter. One of the problems was that most of the victims were not prepared to make statements or give any kind of evidence.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ policies on sexual predators and abusers need reform. Discouraging victims from seeking help from “worldly authorities,” requiring two witnesses to the abuse before even internal investigating takes place, allowing known abusers to interact with children (unsupervised), not informing congregations of potential issues or problems when predators transfer to other congregations, not reporting criminal behavior to the police despite having no tradition of confession to back up a confidentiality clause – are these defensible positions for religious leaders to take?

Rick McLean, another JW pedophile, is on the US Marshalls Most Wanted List.

Over a five day period in February, 16 civil child sex abuse lawsuits against the Watchtower Society (the Jehovah’s Witness official organization) were quietly settled in three states (CA, TX and OR). The victims were bribed or coerced into signing ‘gag orders’ that prevent them from discussing the cases.

See Silent Lambs for more on this issue.

Russian JWs Awake(n) – A Beginning?

Russian JWs Awake(n) – A Beginning?

It is possible that internal discussion about Watchtower policies has begun, at least among some Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Internal discussion or debate is very rare – those who attempt to initiate such are quickly disfellowshipped so that their “unsheep-like” attitude does not “infect” the congregation. The Watchtower Bible and Tract publishing empire/religious group is totalitarian – very much a “top-down” organization. They believe that their Governing Body is literally God’s earthly representative. Disagreement with the Governing Body or the Watchtower publication’s interpretations are not tolerated. Members do not hold them accountable for anything.

To be honest, I can’t tell if this is from any organized group of people or not. There is a forum and a site, but I don’t know how many people may be in agreement with what it says. I don’t know how many among them might actually be active JWs, either. But when I got this via a news bulletin from Silent Lambs (where it was submitted) this morning, I saw it as a hopeful sign that some JWs might be opening their eyes on this issue.

To the people of Russia and of the world

D E C L A R A T I O N of active members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses International Organization

We are compelled to write this Declaration because of recent events in the United States that have to do with established incidents of sexual abuse of minors involving some appointed servants (including elders) of the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious organization. We want to express our opinion about the situation and about the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society position in this regards.

Our organization’s leadership — the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses — remains silent and pretends that nothing extraordinary is going on. Nevertheless we cannot remain silent any longer, because we see it all, we face these problems in our everyday lives and we feel confused and ashamed when others point us to such incidents. Thus we in Russia feel very uneasy about these facts.

We do recognize clearly that the present internal policies of our organization are favorable and conductive to concealment of such transgressions against law and morals. All who attempt to press for just punishment of the offenders will themselves come under condemnation unless they have enough evidence against an accused person – oftentimes presence of two or more eye-witnesses of a given incident is requested, whereas one-man witnesses of crimes committed against close kin are dismissed. Therefore a criminal often goes unpunished and privately continues to commit felonious acts against his victim.

We do not know of any single instance when elders of a congregation would turn to the law enforcement agencies with a request to investigate claims of sexual abuse, although crimes of such kind should be investigated by experts.

This probably happens because the elders themselves, as we know, are often involved in similar transgressions (including, to be sure, not only sexual sins, but also deceit, licentiousness, rudeness etc,). Praise God, we do not know of any instances of pedophilia in Russia, but in other situations actions of elders are being portrayed in such a way as if nothing has happened — elders being often “shielded” by fellow elders and/or regional overseers. All this gives rise to feelings of indignation and aversion. We have enough examples to prove our case, but it is not our goal to publish these.

Unfortunately it turns out that it has become more important for Jehovah’s Witnesses to maintain authority of the elders and of the organization in general than to maintain biblical ethics and morals.

We’d be glad to find ourselves mistaken, but thus far all facts speak in favor of such conclusion.

On behalf of all Jehovah’s Witnesses indignant with the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society policies we would like to make apologies to those who have suffered from such actions on part of Jehovah’s Witnesses. We are truly ashamed of their actions. We do this because we recognize that the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, with its usual practice of improper “pudency”, will never do it. Public should know that among Jehovah’s Witnesses both in Russia and in the world there are hundreds and thousands of honest people — they see all the lawless deeds of their organization and sincerely mourn it.

We also do recognize that many policies of our organization are not biblical, but rather based upon dogmas put forth by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. One result of such unchristian position is their “policy of concealment” as applied to various crimes committed by members of the organization. Rank-and-file Jehovah’s Witnesses are mostly unsatisfied with this policy, but they remain silent for fear of being repressed by the leadership which has only one interest: to maintain a positive public “image” of the organization.

We do not want to be condemned by God along with those who stubbornly persist in their delusions (2 Thes. 2:11-12). Having put our hope in His mercy and submitted everything under His mighty hand (1 Peter 5:6), we pray for our brothers that God may open their eyes (Rom. 10:1). Members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses International Organization

E-mail: mnenie00@mail.ru
Forum: http://jwforum.org
Website: http://allistinawt.by.ru

I see here open criticism – and it seems to me that it may come from a grounded integrity that feels compassion and sorrow, a sense of priorities, and a more evolved form of ethics. An apology to victims – because the Governing Body will never do it. An acknowledgment that JWs will not refer these cases to the police for investigation. The practice of “shielding.” An understanding that the dogmas exceed biblical justification. (Side quibble: I don’t even want to know what they mean by pudency. It is a word, ranging in meaning from modesty to shame to prudery (as you might guess, it refers to pudendum). Do they mean “prudence”, perhaps?)

I keep hoping that – for the sake of JWs themselves – they will learn how to begin local discussions and debates, and that they find within themselves the wherewithal to step outside the controlling structures and think things through for themselves.

In order to prevent such discussions from happening (or to deal with them if they start), I am speculating (if not outright predicting) that before too long the Governing Body will be forced to announce that they have “received new light from Jehovah” on some of these issues. (I have always wondered about the specific mechanism of the new light delivery system – is there a receiver near the Brooklyn Bridge?)

I know that some Jehovah’s Witnesses have to have noticed the steep decline of compassion and kindness (among other things) among their “sisters and brothers,” their “friends” over the last several years. JWs often quote the scripture about the “fruits of the spirit” as a way of arguing that only they are the true religion. Protecting predators while ignoring victims is not a comfortable stance for people who do their best to conduct their lives in the way they believe God wants and is asking of them.

It is my feeling that the greatest change would occur when JWs find the courage to start having local discussions on some of these issues, rather than simply parroting the talking points sent over from Brooklyn on how to answer questions at the door. True friends and sisters and brothers share their insights, and each one’s gifts contribute to the body as a whole. Spirit does not reside only in the head (so to speak). The fact that almost no JWs partake of the wine and bread at the Memorial, and that even those who consider themselves of the 144,000 never meet with the Governing Body, could make them think about what kind of “communion” or “network” they might really be involved with, but it doesn’t happen.

Some of them know, deep inside, that there are more important things than maintaining the image of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the eyes of the world. Reform is long overdue.

JWs Protect Known Pedophiles and Abusers

JWs Protect Known Pedophiles and Abusers

Jehovah’s Witnesses have a strange way of handling pedophilia and other forms of sexual and domestic abuse. They require at least two witnesses to testify to the abuse before they will take it seriously. Since they are also loath to involve “worldly authorities,” they often don’t report abuse to the police. Sometimes they even punish the messenger – the victim of abuse – for speaking.

If you are a Jehovah’s Witness that has been abused, sexually assaulted, or beaten – don’t bother trying to seek help from the elders. JW elders have no special training or insight. They simply follow rules, and the instructions that they have been given are not written for your benefit. Seek help and refuge outside the Kingdom Hall. You are so much better off finding help elsewhere!

If you are a kid – of any religion! – who has been abused, talk to some adult that you trust. Or call a hotline, contact social services, go right to the police station – whatever you feel safest doing. Do it! Do not hesitate! The person who abused you is the one who is in the wrong. Seek help. Please.

JW elders, who completely rule the congregations at the local level, will take the word of the (usually male) abuser much more seriously than any testimony from women or children. The man is the head of the household, and elders are elevated even further – whether that status is merited or not. One of America’s most wanted was protected for years, and is most likely still being protected since he can blend in to any congregation with the right JW-speak. Known pedophiles have switched congregations when things got awkward. That congregation isn’t warned, and such a person is often left unsupervised with children for bible study, door-to-door work and so on.

Even pedophiles and other abusers deserve their basic human rights. Christian congregations ought not to bar any sinner. The priorities here are seriously skewed, however. I think it very strange that JWs can be disfellowshipped for bad attitude, for celebrating Christmas, or for smoking – but abusers can remain in good standing just as long as only one person has the courage or ability to testify to their bad conduct and victimization of others.

Given their doctrines and mindset, it’s not really very surprising that they create abusers, but you would think that the average JW would have seen enough people disfellowshipped to wonder why the 2-person witness rule only seems to apply in this situation.

Other christian denominations – the Catholic church most visibly – have had to face their problems in this area. Jehovah’s Witnesses have made no changes to their policies.

So far, there has been no debate or discussion on this topic in Kingdom Halls. Why? Because debate isn’t allowed. The ideal is to be a sheep of the organization. Independent thinking, as any JW can tell you, is against their religion.

Even if it hurts or kills people, their members will obey without question the “divinely inspired guidance” of the Watchtower leadership at corporate command in Brooklyn. Why? They believe that Armageddon will happen at any time, and they want to survive it – no matter the cost in loss of freedom, destruction to families and individuals, and even the squelching of basic kindness. A disfellowshipped (shunned) JW is cut off from their family and most if not all of their friends – they are said to be ruled by Satan. They believe that God prefers people who prioritize orders from their publishing empire to common sense, basic ethics, or empathy for others. It never stops amazing me, what fundamentalists of all stripes can do to a message of love and forgiveness.

So now the leadership makes noises about educating their people – but they still discourage reporting to authorities. They still discourage seeking psychological help, too. They haven’t changed their rules or procedures at all – they’ve only invested in restructuring efforts, real estate scams, and an army of attorneys. I don’t expect much to change.

I’m guessing that they had to shell out some serious cash to settle all these cases with gag orders attached. Maybe that will start some people thinking. One can hope.

Many JWs are decent, good people. They are trying to do what they believe God wants of them, and many of them do so at personal sacrifice. Their mistake is in substituting the direction of a few flawed men at the head of a publishing empire for a relationship with God.

Sex abuse victims challenge Jehovah’s Witnesses – By ROSE FRENCH, The Associated Press

NASHVILLE – A victims’ rights group released documents Thursday that showed the Jehovah’s Witnesses recently settled civil suits with 16 people who claimed they were sexually abused by church elders or that church officials failed to act on the allegations.

The group, called silentlambs, held a news conference in Nashville to demand the denomination change its policy for responding to abuse reports.

Settlements were reached in late February and early March, according to court records obtained by silentlambs and posted to the group’s Web site. Fourteen of the cases were filed in California; the other two were in Oregon and Texas.

Details about the settlement terms could not be disclosed under confidentiality agreements negotiated between the parties, said Stephen Owens, a plaintiffs’ attorney involved in the California cases. Other cases are still pending, according to silentlambs, which couldn’t say how many.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose headquarters are in Brooklyn, N.Y., said Thursday that they were pleased to see the lawsuits resolved, declining further comment.

“Our loving heavenly Father makes it clear in his Word, the Bible, that he abhors child abuse,” a statement from the denomination said.

“As an organization, we will continually strive to educate families and congregations with sound Scriptural teachings that they can use to protect their children from child molesters. And we will continue to do our utmost to protect children from this horrible crime and sin.”

William Bowen, silentlambs’ founder, was a Jehovah’s Witnesses elder from Kentucky who quit the denomination after he said it took no action against a molester. Bowen said the settlements were bittersweet.

“On one hand, we’re glad a few victims are finally getting some financial help,” he said. “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.”

Bowen’s group has criticized the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ policy that if an accused abuser denies the charge, two credible witnesses are required to establish guilt – due to literal application of such Bible verses as Deuteronomy 19:15 (“only on the evidence of two witnesses, or of three witnesses, shall a charge be sustained”).

If two witnesses are lacking, the accused is deemed innocent, charges remain confidential and – silentlambs says – parents who warn others are subject to disfellowshipping for slander.

Disfellowshipping is an extreme penalty that means a total cutoff of relationships by family members, friends and business associates who are Witnesses.

There are about 1 million Jehovah’s Witnesses in the United States, and followers are known for distributing Awake! and Watchtower magazines door-to-door.

Bowen also said Jehovah’s Witnesses have a long-standing policy of not reporting molesters to police. He claims that the denomination has a secret database of accused abusers that they have not shared with law enforcement officials.

“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,” Bowen said.

Since establishing silentlambs in 2001, Bowen says about 7,000 people who claim they were abused have contacted his group.

Associated Press reporter Allison Hoffman in San Diego contributed to this report.
On the Net: www.silentlambs.org

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