As current and former Jehovah’s Witnesses digest the news that Watchtower’s appeal against the Candace Conti verdict has faltered, albeit with the punitive element of the judgment reversed, Candace has reacted for the first time by telling me: “We are not done yet.”
News spread on Monday that the State appeals court in San Francisco had upheld the $2.8 million compensatory damages in the original June 2012 verdict, but overturned the $8.6 million punitive award against Watchtower.
The court decided that, though Watchtower had neglected its responsibility to supervise known pedophile Jonathan Kendrick in field ministry, a “church-sponsored activity,” the organization had NO duty to warn parents in the congregation that a pedophile was in their midst or report him to authorities.
An insightful report by investigative reporter Trey Bundy has suggested that the court reached its decision because the precedent set by the Conti verdict might be too burdensome to enforce.
“The burden would be considerable because the precedent could require a church to intervene whenever it has reason to believe that a congregation member is capable of doing harm, and the scope of that duty could not be limited with any precision,” the judges wrote.
Candace’s attorney Rick Simons responded by pointedly telling Bundy: “They think in public policy terms that there’s too much risk in broadening the church’s responsibility and liability so that it burdens what churches do. We think there’s too much child abuse in these institutions.”
Simons has also gone on record with the Contra Costa Times / Bay City News Service saying: “This is really a public policy issue, and of course we disagree as to what is the best public policy. Ms. Conti is of the view that public policy should favor requiring churches to do all they can to prevent further abuse by identified child molesters from happening, rather than just requiring that they pay money to victims after the abuse occurs.”
Now Candace has herself spoken out, indicating that she is prepared to take this matter all the way to the Supreme Court if she must in order to see children protected and justice fully served.
Referring to the ruling on Monday, Candace told me: “This is just another step. It will not change the amount of money but it might help change the laws. And you know me, I’m all about the laws. We have the chance to make positive changes in the Supreme Court for how children are protected. We may have another year and a half to go.”
When I pressed her on whether she is definitely taking her case to the Supreme Court, Candace replied: “It’s questionable now but we are trying to make the best case, and we might only take it to the Supreme Court if Watchtower takes it there. Other than that we are waiting. The ball is still unfortunately in their court.”
During our exchange I couldn’t help but wonder whether Rick Simons shared Candace’s optimism. After all, it is one thing for Candace to shrug off the financial aspect in such a convoluted legal struggle in favor of pursuing justice, but lawyers are known to be a little more cautious and pragmatic.
“Oh Rick, is the energizer bunny. He is just ready for whatever comes, and is willing to take it as far as I am willing to go!” – Candace assured me.
Whether the case ends up in the Supreme Court remains to be seen. And as Candace indicated, it will depend largely on whether Watchtower is content to lick its wounds and consolidate its losses, or fight to the death under the delusion that Jehovah will carry them to victory against Satan’s hoards.
Before our conversation ended, Candace assured me that she would keep me posted on future developments once the next step in her long journey becomes clear.
Whatever happens next, it is encouraging to see that Candace’s appetite to see justice served is unwavering, and is matched by her lawyer. Let’s hope that political concerns over burdensome “adverse social consequences” yield to basic common sense, and it is finally recognized that, irrespective of local reporting laws, parents deserve to know if a pedophile is in their church and has access to their children.