A new compact disc containing over 5,000 pages of damning court documents about suppression of accusations child abuse within the Watchtower Society has been made available for sale by researcher Barbara Anderson:
Primarily of interest at this point are the nine lawsuits settled in early 2007 between Jehovah’s Witness victims of molestation and Defendants’ Jehovah’s Witnesses, et al. However, also included are the court records from two other lawsuits that were settled by Watchtower, one in 2000 and the other in 2006. Court records from a third lawsuit, filed in 2004 by a victim of molestation, were included only because the information contained in the records are another example of the pervasive cover-up of molestation in the Watchtower organization when the predator holds a supervisory position within the group. (In this particular case, the molester was given a life sentence in prison.) The lawsuit was dismissed in 2004 without prejudice, meaning the plaintiff can file the matter again.
Over all, the facts are common to all of the nine lawsuits involving sixteen victims which were settled in 2007. These cases were filed from 2003 through 2006 by the law firm, Love & Norris, located in Fort Worth, Texas. The primary defendants were the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.; one Oregon congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses; one Texas congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses; six Northern California congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and one Southern California congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. There were eight abusers, all Jehovah’s Witnesses, who were co-defendants. The Jehovah’s Witness Defendants, unlike the Catholic Church, secretly settled these nine lawsuits. The majority of the nine were settled at the end of January and then dismissed in mid-February and a few in early March, 2007.
In October 2006, I was given the impression that cases involving sixteen victims would soon be settled. In early February, I, as well as Bill Bowen (silentlambs.org), learned that these cases had been settled. We were provided with no additional information other than learning that Plaintiffs and Defendants were not in favor of any publicity. Bill and I had a verbal agreement not to go public with the information at that time because I wanted time to peruse court records for more information to offer the public about the lawsuits. Inasmuch as Bill did not want to wait any longer to announce the settlement, he held a press conference on May 10, 2007 and the Associated Press carried the story on May 11, 2007. Jehovah’s Witnesses confirmed the settlement. However, Bowen had few facts to report, although, he did provide proof each case was settled by posting on his website, silentlambs.org, a copy of a dismissal notice for each of the nine cases. These documents proved all cases were dismissed with prejudice, which means that both sides agreed that no more legal action could be taken. Such an agreement usually indicates a financial settlement paid by Defendants, in this case, Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Like the Catholic Church, the Watchtower Society willfully and knowingly protected child molesters (child abuse was not reported to police), gave them continued access to children, transferred rather than prosecuted them, and insisted on a “two-witnesses” rule before reporting or pursuing cases of molestation (from promo copy for the court transcript disc):
It is the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses who establish the policies and who dictate practices for Jehovah’s Witnesses. That Body operates through various corporate entities, primarily Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., and Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, Inc. The Plaintiffs charged in their lawsuits that the Jehovah’s Witnesses assumed a duty to protect children in their organization but they failed to exercise reasonable care and common sense policies in fulfilling that duty. For example, they failed to enact a policy forbidding unsupervised one-on-one contact between elders or ministerial servants and children. They permitted children to go out in door-to-door ministry alone with male members and encouraged parents in the congregations to allow their children attend un-chaperoned Bible study with adult males (elders/ms) and allowed these men to “counsel” children without any supervision. See how Plaintiffs’ attorneys presented these assertions in a factual way.
The Watchtower undertook the responsibility to instruct Jehovah’s Witness elders as to what to do when they received allegations of child sexual abuse. They promulgated policies directing elders to call Watchtower’s “Legal Department” for direction about whether to report allegations of sexual abuse to law enforcement. However, these policies were designed to avert cooperation with secular investigators. For example, elders were sometimes instructed to make anonymous calls from telephone booths so that law enforcement authorities would be unable to contact them for more information. Never before have we actually seen this discussed in a document before, but you can see the documents for yourself.
The Defendant Watchtower required Jehovah’s Witness elders to investigate allegations of child sexual abuse. Elders were required to apply the “two witness rule” which under Jehovah’s Witnesses’ internal policy and doctrine, relegates allegations of child molestation to a notation written in a confidential file, if the perpetrator does not confess the crime, but pleads innocence. See a secret Watchtower form that is filled in with the name of the molester who, the document said, was disfellowshipped, not because he confessed, but because there were two witnesses proving the factualness of this rule, yet there is no record of the sexual abuse being reported to the authorities.
Elders were required to gather evidence, question witnesses and render judgments about what internal punishment, if any, would be imposed on a child abuser. They were forbidden from revealing the results of their investigations to law enforcement authorities. Read from the deposition of one highly placed Watchtower official admitting there was no policy in place to report child abuse.
See secret forms which contained questions elders were to be asked by staff in the Watchtower’s Legal Department. The questions on this form are indicative of the investigative nature of the process elders were to go through when there was an accusation of child molestation. Shockingly, one inappropriate question asked was if any of the elders believed the child victim of molestation was “somewhat at fault” for their own sexual victimization.
Religious authorities should not be allowed to operate outside the law. Punishment should be swift and severe. When they demonstrate such blatant and brazen disregard for the law, I think it would be appropriate for the government to use RICO to shut them down, and possibly seize their assets. Knowingly harboring child molesters isn’t on the list of RICO offenses. But when it involves a willful and well-documented conspiracy, it should be.
This victimization of children is shocking but not surprising. Though the WTS is much smaller, its conduct possibly exceeds the outrageous behavior of the Catholic Church during their pedophile scandal, based on the sheer hubris and flagrance of the violations, and WTS’ shameless attempts to cover them up with secret out-of-court-settlements.
Earlier this year, I posted another example of JW’s reckless disregard of the welfare of children, in this case church member Eunice Spry, who was able to systematically torture three foster children in her care for nearly 20 years, without anyone in her church congregation taking the slightest notice (previous post).