It is being called an unprecedented ruling. And it has gone against the Watchtower Society.
A California jury has ruled against the Fremont North congregation elders, and also against the Watchtower in New York, and awarded damages totaling $28 million to Candace Conti, who was sexually abused by a congregation member when she was nine years old.
Jim McCabe, the losing attorney for Jehovah’s Witnesses, said he was stunned and called the ruling “outrageous” – vowing to appeal. However, in a press release Bill Bowen, the founder of Silentlambs, called it “a watershed moment for children’s safety in the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
According to Bowen – a former elder who has worked tirelessly for more then a decade to hold the leadership responsible for their policies – never before has a jury ruled against the Watchtower Society in a child abuse case. It is said to be the largest judgment ever awarded in a single case against any religious organization.
Typically the Watchtower quietly settles these unseemly matters out of court. For example, several years ago the Watchtower wrote a check for $16,000,000 to be divided among 16 victims. So, the 28 million dollar award to one victim is huge and a stunning setback for the Watchtower.
To put things in perspective, the Watchtower is in the process of selling off its prized Brooklyn Heights properties in order to build a plush new headquarters in the New York State countryside. One real estate company is handling the sale of three buildings valued at around $18 million – ten million less than the judgment against them.
In one of Christ’s parables he likens himself to a master who gives his slaves differing amounts of money, with the expectation that they must invest it wisely in his absence. One slave was condemned, not because he lost his master’s money or gambled it away, but simply because he did nothing with it.
Although Jesus was merely using money metaphorically, still, according to the Watchtower, the faithful slave has been appointed to oversee all of the master’s belongings, which also includes the physical assets of the Watchtower Society. That sounds reasonable.
Of course, the Watchtower insists that there is no future day of reckoning for them since the master came decades ago and settled accounts already; but imagine, let’s say hypothetically (*wink*), if there were a future day of accounting and the master looks over the books and questions certain men about the stunning loss of 28 million dollars. After all, according to Bethel it belongs to God and he has every right to require an accounting.
Is it a trivial matter that the Watchtower has been ordered by a jury to hand over millions of dollars that hard-working Jehovah’s Witnesses have lovingly donated to finance the worldwide work of announcing Jehovah’s kingdom? Is anyone at Bethel accountable?
In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus advised his followers to be quick about settling matters with a complainant at law before it ever goes before a judge. Jesus warned that if matters were not settled expeditiously that the judge might require that you hand over every last penny.
Instead of following Jesus’ wise counsel the Watchtower has gone to battle, and not against the clergy or politicians who, in times past, may have sought to shut down the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses. No! Bethel has been waging a legal war against their own children, the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses; children who have suffered humiliation and torment after being sexually abused by Jehovah’s Witnesses; children who depended upon their elders to protect them; children who wanted to serve Jehovah and be good Christians. And Brother McCabe has the temerity to call the ruling “outrageous”?
Over the decades Jehovah’s Witnesses have been embroiled in dozens of court cases and have usually won. Those hard fought victories are considered to be evidence of God’s favor and blessing. That being so, what does this stunning defeat indicate?
Surely we know that God is long-suffering and kind, slow to anger and he is gracious to the weak and erring. Could it be, though, that Jehovah himself has finally become sickened with Bethel’s serial hypocrisy?And if such is the case, to whom will the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses appeal?