In the wake of their stunning legal setback last week, the Watchtower has issued a press release on their media website.
Jehovah’s Witnesses will appeal the decision of a California jury in a court case involving alleged acts of child abuse.
The jury rendered a multimillion-dollar damage award to a woman who claimed that she was molested as a child by a member of a local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. At trial, the plaintiff claimed that the policies of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society contributed to the alleged abuse. “We respectfully disagree with the jury’s decision. This is the first time that an organization was found responsible for the alleged misdeeds of a member who held no position of leadership or authority,” states James McCabe, an attorney representing Watchtower in the case. “We are very sorry for whatever harm this young lady may have suffered. However, the organization is not responsible. We now look to the Court of Appeals for a thorough review of this case.”
J. R. Brown, a spokesman at the world headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses, commented: “The fact that Jehovah’s Witnesses abhor child abuse and strive to protect children from such acts is well-known. The individual members of any organization must ultimately bear the responsibility for their own actions, particularly when the acts are so flagrantly against the morals and principles of the organization and society.”
The Watchtower Society has become like many large corporations today that are run by lawyers. And lawyers are highly skilled at shaping statements to bend and shade the truth. The Watchtower has become expert at this practice too. The Society’s lawyer said that this was “the first time that an organization was found responsible for the misdeeds of a member who held no position of leadership or authority.”
But is that statement true? In lawyer-speak I suppose, yes, technically it is true. Although I am not an expert in matters of law and cannot say if such a precedent may ever have been set with regards to any other organization, in regards to the Watchtower organization, yes, this is the first time the organization was found responsible. The key word of legalese (rhymes with sleaze) here is “found.” In other words, a jury “found” the Watchtower Society was responsible.
However, a few years ago the Watchtower paid an out-of-court settlement to multiple victims of sex abuse in order to avoid being “found” responsible.
I am not familiar with all the cases in the lawsuit, but one of the plaintiffs in that case was Amy B. (Her case is briefly considered in an open letter I distributed to thousands of congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses back in 2006, entitled: A Conspiracy of Silence, Soon to End.) Briefly, Amy was molested by a brother who had recently moved into her congregation from another area, where he had admitted to sexually abusing a child. The elders forwarding his publisher records to the new congregation made no mention of his admitted indecency with a child. This is typical Watchtower policy. Consequently, Larry Kelly befriended Amy and sexually abused her too.
Larry Kelly was not in any position of leadership or authority either, at least not technically what Jehovah’s Witnesses would consider a position of authority, unless Bethel now considers leading a group in field service a “position of authority,” which might be an amusing angle considering that sisters often fill that role. But, in reality, Kelly was in a position of authority from the standpoint that children naturally look up to adults. So, Kelly was allowed access to the children of the congregation in spite of the Watchtower’s service desk in New York knowing full well that he posed a potential threat to children.
No doubt the reason the Watchtower settled out of court was in order to avoid being “found” responsible by a jury, as in the most recent case of Candace Conti.
But the Watchtower’s press release is intended to give the impression that the Watchtower has never been held responsible before, but the fact that the organization has been forced to pay out millions outside of court speaks otherwise.
Bethel’s press release twists the truth in another aspect as well. The Watchtower claims it is being held responsible for the misdeeds of an individual. That is shamefully misleading. The Watchtower and its appointed elders were not found guilty of pedophilia. They were found to be negligent in their duty to protect a nine year-old child from a man whom they knew had already sexually abused his stepdaughter. (You may read the legal motions filed by the plaintiff here Note: due to laws protecting children from unwanted publicity Candace is “Jane Doe.”)
As shocking as it may seem to uninformed Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Watchtower has routinely claimed in legal motions and arguments that the elders of the congregation have no fiduciary duty to protect the members of their flock from the crimes of a fellow congregant. (See the article: Do Elders Have a Fiduciary Duty)
This is basically what J.R. Brown, the Watchtower’s public relations spokesman, is saying here again, that the pedophile is solely responsible and no one else. The jury saw it differently. And more importantly, Jehovah does too.
As all of Jehovah’s Witnesses will surely agree, the Watchtower Society wields tremendous power over the congregations. They provide a whole range of instructions for congregation members as well as elders. And the Society has inculcated into Jehovah’s Witnesses the notion that they are within the safe and secure confines of what they have termed a “spiritual paradise.” The Governing Body insists that there are no animalistic individuals within their “spiritual paradise.” Here is a quote from the October 15th, 2004, issue of the Watchtower, which states:
Think, too, of the changes in traits as sincere ones of all backgrounds have striven to understand and apply God’s Word. Basically, they have worked to put away animalistic traits that used to characterize them. Perhaps you have done that with significant results, and so have your spiritual brothers and sisters. Hence, as you associate with a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you are with people who have become more peaceable and pleasant. No, they are not yet perfect, but they could hardly be described as ferocious lions or rapacious wild beasts.
But how would you describe a man who pretends to be an upstanding Christian, who takes a Bible in hand to go preach God’s word in public, and he takes along with him a nine year-old little girl? She feels safe. Why shouldn’t she? He is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, right? Surely the elders would not knowingly allow a pedophile to roam freely within the congregation, would they? But this man, this Jonathan Kendrick, and many other predators just like him, merely use their respectability within the congregation – made possible by Bethel’s legal department – to gain access to unsuspecting children in order to cunningly groom their intended victims, to win their trust and get them into a situation where they can take advantage of them. If such men are not like cunning, animalistic predators who devour the innocents, what are they?
(What is the the real meaning of the concept of spiritual paradise? CLICK HERE)
So, this is another aspect of the Watchtower’s perverse dishonesty. On the one hand they disarm Jehovah’s Witnesses by convincing them that they are in a predator-free environment. While on the other hand the Watchtower boasts that it “abhors child abuse” and claims to vigorously work to educate Jehovah’s Witnesses. But consider, again, the underhanded way the Society works. Yes, it has published a number of articles on child abuse and offered parents suggestions on how to protect their children. Take, for example, this excerpt from the April 8, 1999, AWAKE!
At all times know where your children are and who is with them. Who are your child’s close friends? Who are your child’s caregivers during your absence? Can they be trusted? That does not mean, of course, that a parent has to be suspicious of everyone. Make a proper assessment of the adults in your child’s life, looking beyond outward appearances.
Think of the heartbreak of parents who have discovered, too late, that their children have been abused by trusted clergymen, teachers, or even close family members. It would be good for you as a parent to ask yourself, ‘Does my church tolerate or cover up child abuse? Is my religion holding firmly to high moral principles?’ Answers to such questions could help you to make wise choices in protecting your children.
The Watchtower’s hypocrisy is absolutely stunning. It is highly improbable that the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses would ever be in a position to be sexually abused by a trusted clergyman. Come on! But how many children of Jehovah’s Witnesses have been sexually abused by trusted elders and ministerial servants, and other men in good standing in the congregations? One is too many. But, sadly, it is many more than one.
If the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses were serious about protecting the children in the congregations from sexual predators wouldn’t they be more straightforward and lay it out there, telling parents that many thousands of children have been harmed by men right within the congregations? That would certainly be the truth. Jehovah and Jesus know it to be true too. But Bethel has never, and will never make such a forthright statement. For one thing, the lawyers would never allow it. It might be used against them in court. Secondly, it might cause some of Jehovah's Witnesses to begin to question the whole notion of the Watchtower's spiritual paradise, and who knows where that could lead?
Can Bethel honestly claim to abhor child abuse and be doing everything to protect children when it refuses to use its authority and freeness of speech to set the matter more squarely before Jehovah’s Witnesses, especially in situations where known pedophiles are members of a specific congregation, such as in the case of Candace Conti? Apparently the jury of Alameda County judged the Watchtower to be false to their claim.
This week has been a busy news week for individuals and organizations facing accusations of child abuse and child endangerment. After last week’s verdict against the Watchtower and the Freemont congregation elders, a Roman Catholic monsignor in Philadelphia was convicted of the felony of covering over the crimes of pedophilic priests. Monsignor, William Lynn, could face up to seven years in prison for being found guilty of endangering a child.
And as I write this article early Saturday morning, a jury has just convicted Penn State football coach, Jerry Sandusky, on all counts of child sexual abuse.
So, here we have representatives of the Watchtower Society, the exclusive institution on earth that bears the personal name of the Most High God before the world, having the ignominious distinction of sharing the limelight with a high ranking Catholic clergyman convicted of crimes of endangering children and a prominent football coach who has been convicted of grooming and sodomizing dozens of boys. By the way, Sandusky’s lawyers said they were going to appeal the decision – just like the Watchtower. Also, Penn State University itself is facing massive litigation for looking the other way - just like the Watchtower. (I suppose that the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses can at least find some consolation that none of the Watchtower’s officials were led from the courthouse in handcuffs under a blaze of media attention.)
Up until now the Watchtower’s lawyers have been able to buy off abuse victims to prevent this sort of glaring public relations disaster that has now engulfed them. But brave young Candace couldn’t be bought. She didn’t want Bethel’s money. In her filing she asked for, get this now: $1,440.00! She merely wanted the truth to be heard – the truth that Bethel and a few elders in Freemont knew a child predator lurked within her congregation and they did NOTHING. By Bethel’s own admission, it is not their responsibility to protect the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses from the criminals they welcome into the congregation. They allowed a pedophile to befriend her and take her with him in service and they did NOTHING to alert her parents of the potential danger. Thankfully, the “worldly” jury had more respect for truth and decency than the lawyers representing “Jehovah’s visible organization.”
Paul exhorted anointed Christians in Corinth to set matters right among themselves, reminding them that one day they would even judge angels. Yet, here we have those representing anointed Christians on earth today waging legal war against their own abused children before a court of outsiders. Could anything be more shameful? As Paul said, is it not altogether a defeat for you?
The men in power in the Watchtower Society would have been much better off to have simply closed the doors of 25 Columbia Heights and emptied their treasury to compensate the many children who have been abused under the oversight of the Governing Body. No doubt they would have gained Jehovah’s approval by doing so.
It is over for the Watchtower Society! Bethel is finished!
Instead, they have shown a shocking disrespect for Jehovah himself and brought reproach upon his holy name. By publicly denying they have any obligation to protect their own children from pedophiles they have repudiated Christianity itself. There are consequences for bringing reproach upon Jehovah. What this means simply is this: It is over for the Watchtower Society! Bethel, which means “house of God” in Hebrew, is finished. They have lost any spiritual authority they may have had. As Jesus said of the spiritually bankrupt Jewish arrangement: “Your house is abandoned to you.”
And this is not the end of it by any means. As Paul said, it is a trivial thing to be examined by a human tribunal. $28 million is nothing. We all must eventually stand before the judgment throne of God’s appointed Christ. But apparently the leading men of Jehovah’s Witnesses do not really fear Jehovah. Why should they? After all, Christ came and judged the house of God back in 1918 and gave the faithful slave his irreversible approval, right?
In the 82nd Psalm God stations himself to pass judgment upon those whom he has bestowed godlike powers of judging in behalf of his people. Those whom God adversely judges are in fact “sons of the Most High.” And God rebukes them due to their refusal to be judges in behalf of the lowly and afflicted. Their failure causes the very foundations of the earth to totter and it obligates Jehovah to intervene and take possession of the nations in order to set matters straight.
This is exactly what has occured. Those whom Jehovah has appointed to positions of responsibility and whom he expects to judge in righteousness have failed to do justice. Is it not now time for Jehovah to speak in judgment? Indeed, it is time.
God is stationing himself in the assembly of the Divine One;
In the middle of the gods he judges:
“How long will you keep on judging with injustice
And showing partiality to the wicked themselves?
Be judges for the lowly one and the fatherless boy.
To the afflicted one and the one of little means do justice.
Provide escape for the lowly one and the poor one;
Out of the hand of the wicked ones deliver them.”
They have not known, and they do not understand;
In darkness they keep walking about;
All the foundations of the earth are made to totter.
“I myself have said, ‘you are gods,
And all of you are sons of the Most High.
Surely you will die just as men do;
And like any one of the princes you will fall!’”
Do rise up, O God, do judge the earth;
For you yourself should take possession of all the nations.