Secrets of Pedophilia in an American Religion
Approximately 5,000 pages of court documents have been amassed from twelve court record depositories in four states. These court documents are the result of twelve lawsuits that Defendants Jehovah’s Witnesses, et al. were involved with since 1999, although there have been many more lawsuits settled out of court by Defendants in the past decades. The records for the twelve cases along with commentary are being offered on a CD named “Secrets of Pedophilia in an American Religion, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Crisis” by Barbara Anderson, through the print-on-demand company (POD), Lulu.
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 a copy of a dismissal notice for each of the nine cases on his website. 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.
In the ensuing months since the settlement, I am now able to provide many important details about the nine lawsuits, along with many extraordinarily interesting documents, secret material that Defendants’ Watchtower and Jehovah’s Witnesses expected would remain confidential for perpetuity.
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.
When allegations were concealed from secular authorities, the perpetrators often received no punishment except for that meted out internally by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Sometimes the offenders were disfellowshipped or expelled from the organization, but other times their punishment was secret reproval or they had restrictions put upon them. But congregation members would not know a dangerous child abuser was in their midst. Watchtower would usually reinstate a disfellowshipped molester or remove his restrictions after a shockingly short period of time. Documents are now available to support this claim.
Victims and their families were told not to inform secular authorities or other members. Secrecy was emphasized above all other concerns. They were discouraged from receiving appropriate medical and psychological care. Read documents where victims testify to this happening to them.
The Watchtower instructed the elders to make written reports to their “Service Department” about allegations and judicial committee actions. They maintained a computerized database containing such information and negligently concealed the information not using it to help identify sexual predators and protect children. They undertook the responsibility to compile this information to protect congregation members. However, despite having information that would allow parents, law enforcement authorities and elders to identify predators and actually take steps to protect children, the Watchtower concealed this information. See the letter introduced to the court where a Watchtower spokesperson admits to their keeping such data.
The Watchtower’s Legal Department made the Watchtower’s Service Department its client (attorney/client privilege) so plaintiffs and the courts could not easily obtain documents to substantiate the scope and depth of sexual child abuse within the Watchtower organization. Read a declaration of one Watchtower attorney explaining how it works.
Communiqués between Jehovah’s Witness supervisory people and the Watchtower are rarely, if ever, seen. Not only does attorney/client privilege enter into the picture, but to publish a letter without permission is not allowable by copyright laws. However, now a secret letter from one long-time United States district representatives of the Watchtower can be read where he discusses a little-known rule which allowed molesters to stay in their positions of authority and continue molesting. (This letter, along with other confidential material, was found among public domain records in an Oregon courthouse.) The letter writer asked for a change to this little-known policy where it would not extend leniency to sexual child abusers. This was back in 1994 when he was monitoring an especially egregious situation in a Witness congregation where the predator, who sexually abused many children, was not going to be removed from his position as elder, nor was there to be a judicial hearing or any discipline because of this rule. Yet, that policy was still in effect in 2000. In addition, there are other letters to the Watchtower from Witness elders attached as exhibits to filed court documents which are now available for public scrutiny.
Watchtower has the ability to know when a “known pedophile” moves from one congregation to another, yet they chose not to monitor the movements of predators so that appropriate warning could be issued. Read more about Watchtower’s lax attitude in this matter.
One known predator was appointed Ministerial Servant by the Governing Body and the other WT defendants in 1991. He abused four children, who were plaintiffs in one case, from approximately 1991 to 1999. The facts are that he was confronted a number of times over the years by those he molested, but since JWs judicial committees required two witnesses to an event of molestation before taking any kind of disciplinary action, he was never disciplined. By moving from one congregation to another over the years, he was able to keep his crimes mostly hidden for 25 to 30 years. Parents told the press they had no clue that an alleged sexual predator was amongst them even though church elders had prior knowledge of complaints against this molester from another congregation.
Does it interest you to know where some of the elder/ms/predators are now? Think prison. One is serving a life sentence. See where another one is.
The name of one man in the Service Department surfaces in a document who had reappointed a molester over and over again to an authority position since 1964.
Think about the $50,000 secret payment paid in 1996 from the Watchtower to a California congregation where one of two molesting elders were. Also, read the shocking reason for the payment. Learn the facts about Defendants’ insurance provider.
Instead of offering victims in these nine cases settlement money as soon as possible as they had done in the past in other lawsuits, the Watchtower stubbornly fought through the courts to have these lawsuits dismissed. This turned out to be a legal nightmare for them because California, Texas and Oregon High Courts ruled against the Watchtower in their quest to keep documents from the plaintiffs claiming clergy-penitent privilege. In the future they will have it much more difficult to hide behind their so-called First Amendment right not to disclose information to secular courts because they are a “religion.” This was only one of a number of excellent rulings in favor of the plaintiffs who had been forever harmed by this religion’s actions. See those rulings.
Trace through Defendants’ Watchtower briefs for nearly a year their reasons for refusal to abide by a lower court’s decision requiring them to produce communiqués between Defendants and the predator, and between Defendants and the victims. The court refused to recognize their claim for clergy-penitent privilege which ruling they appealed. Within one month after submitting an appeal, the Court of Appeal of the State of California denied their petition which subsequently forced them to produce the documents. Many of those documents have surfaced and can be found in the material presented.
Included with the thousands of pages of documents, the reader will read my commentary explaining the issues that led to Defendants’ Watchtower unprecedented, out-of-court multi-million dollar settlement.