Jehovah’s Witnesses Found Guilty of Malice And Negligence: Victim Awarded $35 Million in Montana Lawsuit
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On September 26th, 2018, a Montana jury of seven men and two women handed down the largest-ever punitive damages award for a single abuse victim. 

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, together with the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses were found guilty of both negligence and malice in connection with the intentional failure to file police reports on behalf of plaintiff Alexis Nunez and two additional victims. A combined total of 35 million dollars was assessed following detailed instructions given to the jury by Judge James A. Manley. 

Four million dollars was awarded to plaintiff Nunez on the count of negligence, followed by a 31 million dollar punitive verdict, the result of the jury’s decision that Watchtower and its affiliates acted out of malice. 

The case, originally filed November 2016, was placed in the hands of a Montana jury after multiple pre-trial attempts by Watchtower to have the case dismissed. In the September 11th, 2018 filing with the court, Watchtower claimed that they are an institution, and institutions are not individuals, or persons – and only persons are mandated reporters. By making this claim, Watchtower used semantics to misdirect the court. It was an outright attempt to avoid accountability for the policies which directed elders to remain silent when they discovered allegations of horrific and repeated sexual abuse of three members of the congregation by one perpetrator.  

The statute lists persons (i.e., members of the clergy) as mandated reporters, Montana Code Annotated § 41-3-201, but does not include religions or entities religions use to perform their operations. – September 11, 2018 Motion by Watchtower attempting to halt the Montana trial 

This article is the first in a series of articles documenting the events of the trial which might prove to be among the most significant child abuse trials in modern times. 

I would like to thank Neil Smith, Ross Leonoudakis, and Tracy Rector of the law firm of Nix Patterson LLP, whose dedicated efforts on behalf of victims of abuse have sent a powerful message to the corporations whose flawed policies have not only broken laws, but broken lives. 

 

Attorneys for the Plaintiff, Neil Smith, Jim Molloy, and  Ross Leonoudakis

Attorneys for the Plaintiff, Neil Smith, Jim Molloy, and Ross Leonoudakis Smith and Leonoudakis represent the Texas-based Nix Law Firm  in cooperation with Gallik, Bremer & Molloy of Bozeman, Montana

 

The Opening Statements

 

[The following account combines the opening statements of this trial with the visual aids displayed by the plaintiff’s legal team for the jury. Every effort was made to reproduce this portion of the trial with extreme accuracy]

Monday, September 24th, 2018

Attorney for the plaintiffs, Neil Smith:

“If it pleases the court, thank you your honor. Ladies and gentlemen, if you’ll remember, I told you this morning about the different parts of the case. And I told you that during jury selection, that is not the opportunity for us to talk about the evidence (when) you hear the evidence. We are now at opening statements and opening statements provide me with an opportunity to tell you about the evidence that you will hear, and what the evidence will show, during the trial of this case. The evidence in this case will show that this is the case about a church that knew about a known child molester. When I say that the church knew about a known child molester, the church knew who he was, they knew who his victims were, and the evidence will show that they knew the sick things he did. Now, what do we all know about child molesters? We know that child molesters prey on children.

That is their victims. And if we do not protect children, from people we know to be a child molester, children will get sexually abused. You’re going to hear in this case, about how Montana law requires clergy members to report child abuse to the authorities. But in this particular case, the church you’re going to hear about, and their clergy, refused to follow the law. And they refused to follow the law because they favored the secrecy of their church over the safety of children. Now we talked a lot about the mandatory reporter law and what it is, and I want to be clear, the judge will ultimately instruct you on what the law is. And you will see that at some point in the case, you’ll see it come from the court. So I’m gonna put up right now what I expect the court will instruct you as to what the law is. This is what I expect the court will instruct you is Montana’s mandatory reporters’ statute. And here’s the reason I put this up here: I put it up here because sometimes when we talk about the law and what the law is, we get a little intimidated by it, and think “ah, that’s for lawyers.”

By putting it up here right now, so that you can get familiar with it, and you’ll recognize what this is when the court instructs you on the law. So let’s just walk through it – This is what you’ll see. It says:

Montana Code 41-3-201 Requiring Elders to Report Child Abuse

Montana Code 41-3-201 Requiring Elders to Report Child Abuse

When the professionals and officials listed in subsection 2, and down here in subsection 2 it says professionals and officials required to report are clergy.  All right. There’s some other folks who are reporters, but for purposes of this trial, you need to know, you need to look for this when the court instructs you that it applies to clergy.

It says, when those professionals know or have reasonable cause to suspect, as a result of the information they receive in their professional or official capacity, that a child is abused or neglected, they shall report the matter promptly to the department of public health and human services or its local affiliate.

Alright let’s break that down and look at what the elements are of this lawsuit. We see it, you can look at it and say ok – I know what the elements are that Mr Smith talked about. First element, is that it applies to clergy. And we’re going to talk about in this case who are clergy, who meet that legal definition. The next element you’ll want to be familiar with is when is the law triggered. And that’s this part where it says “when professionals know or have reasonable cause to suspect” and it talks about a child being abused or neglected. So it’s triggered when a clergy member knows or suspects child abuse. The next element, it’s the third one,  – there’s three parts to it – it says “what happens when the law is triggered?” And notice I have underlined, it says: They shall report.   And the reason I underlined that language is because it’s really important because it doesn’t say you might report, or maybe report – it says “You shall report.”

It’s mandatory, and that’s the reason why this is called the mandatory reporter law. It requires that the abuse be reported to the department of public health and human services or its local affiliate. And that makes sense, we report it to someone who can take action. We report it to someone who can take action, and so that kids are protected. Let’s talk specifically about what happened in this case.

You now know in hearing about this case, that this case is about the Jehovah’s Witnesses. You see, the Jehovah’s Witnesses knew that a church member was molesting children. Now Neil, I know you’re thinking – what do you mean when you say that the evidence is going to show that they knew? I want you to listen for these things. The evidence is going to show that the victims reported to the church and to its clergy. They knew because it was reported. I want you to listen to how the church conducted an investigation and confirmed themselves that the abuse took place. The second way they knew.

And then the third thing I want you to listen for (if the evidence comes in this case???) is that the child molester actually admitted to the church that he was a child molester and he molested children. And then another thing I want you to pay attention to, is when you heard somebody say “this is a molester that wasn’t part of our organization” – I want you to listen for this: that known child molester was a member of the Jehovah’s Witness church, and attended that church with his victims. So listen for that as well.

Ok, we’re going to get into the details of what happened, and I need to give you just a little quick background about who the Jehovah’s Witnesses are. We don’t cover everything about them, just what’s important. Alright- So some of you noticed I have a typo here. First of all, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are a worldwide global religion. They have eight and a half million followers worldwide. They have a hundred twenty thousand churches. And the organization is run by people who are called “elders” – real important term, you’re going to hear a lot of talk about that, and we’ll talk about who the elders are, and what they do. Here’s what the most important thing you need to know about elders is: Elders are clergy. That’s the most important thing you need to know. And we’re going to be talking about elders; we’re going to talk about the law that applies to clergy, and the thing you need to know is that elders are clergy.

Ok, let’s shift gears, and talk about who are the defendants in this case. Right. You say hang on Neil, I thought we were talking about the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and now you’ve got some different names up here. Let me explain why this is the case. There are three defendants, and I’m going to walk you through who they are and tell you why they are defendants.

The Defendants

The Defendants

The first one is Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York Incorporated – that is their full name and it is a mouthful. So everybody abbreviates that they are Watchtower, or Watchtower New York. So when you hear that term, I want you to know we’re talking about one of the defendants. OK, the next one, and you already heard Mrs. DeSoto mention this, is a defendant called the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Another mouthful, and so we abbreviate that as CCJW. When you hear talk about CCJW, that’s another defendant. And the last one is Thompson Falls Congregation, that one’s easy to understand, that’s the local church, here in Thompson Falls, the local Jehovah’s Witness church.

Ok, so you’re next question is, Hey Neil, why are you talking about the corporations when this is about the Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s a good question. You see, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are a big organization, and they have office building headquarters in New York. The evidence will show they have dormitories where they house their elders and feed them and provide them for all their needs. They have to be able to enter into contracts, they have to be able to open bank accounts, and to do that, they had to set up these legal corporations – and that’s their choice. That’s how they choose to run their religion, through these corporations, and that’s why these corporations are defendants. And you’re going to hear, and I’m going to show you and outline, and explain to you how these two corporations, Watchtower and CCJW, and I want you to hear this: These two specifically knew about Max Reyes, right here in Thompson Falls, what he was doing, and who he had been with.

These corporations, all the way in New York, had the exact details, the evidence will show, of what was happening in Thompson Falls; who the victims were. And the evidence is going to show that there were elders in these corporations that knew these things.

Ok, that’s who the defendants are. Now I need to just very briefly talk to you about some important beliefs that the Jehovah’s Witnesses have. Now remember, people can have beliefs, but this case is about the actions they took, the decisions they made, and their failure to follow the law. Two important beliefs you need to know about, of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, first one you need to know about is called the two witness rule. The two witness rule is a belief that they have turned into a policy, and it is their belief that their church can take no action against a member based upon the testimony of one witness. You gotta have two.

I’m bringing this up to you now because the evidence is going to show they applied that rule even in an instance of child sex abuse. When one child is coming forward saying “I’m a victim, please help me”  – the two witness rule says “sorry – you’re only one witness.” That’s why I bring that up, so listen for it.

The Two Witness Rule, And Elders Keep Secrets

The Two Witness Rule, and Elders Keep Secrets

 

The other important belief that you need to know about is that elders – they keep secrets. They keep secrets, even when the information they know is about a known child molester. So as we go through this case, you’re going to hear, and I’m going to walk you through how this happened, how there is a policy that comes down all the way to the elders right here in Thompson Falls, and it says: You know about child abuse, the very first thing you do – you call the legal department. That’s the first thing you do. And the legal department up in New York, it’s going to tell you what to do. And if the legal department tells you you don’t have to report – you better keep it a secret.

“The other important belief that you need to know about is that elders – they keep secrets. They keep secrets, even when the information they know is about a known child molester.”   -Neil Smith, attorney for the plaintiffs

And that is their policy that elders keep secret. So listen for that as we go through it. We don’t have to get into all their beliefs – those are the two important ones to know about. Okay – now: I want to get into the exact details of the facts of this case, so if you have an outline and an understanding as we go through the witnesses, and to do that the first thing I need to do is tell you who some people are. Don’t be overwhelmed by this, okay – don’t feel like you need to memorize it,

This is a board we’re going to use throughout the trial You’ll always be able to look back on and and go “Oh I forgot who Joni is, I forgot who Max is – you’ll be able to look at this board…

Ok, this is a family tree. And I’m laying this out so when we talk about these names, you understand the family structure. At the top we’ve got Joni and Peter Sr, a married couple. There’s three layers, so we’re going to talk about them as being the grandparents. They had three children, Ivy, Holly, and Peter Jr…

Family Structure of Pedophile And his Child Victims

Family Structure of Pedophile And his Child Victims

The third level is the grandchildren, and that’s where we have Lexi. So this is a family unit over here – grandparents, children, and grandchildren. Over here to the side is Max. He is the known child molester. Why do I have him to the side connected with the dotted line? Joni and Peter divorced. Joni remarried Max. And Max attended the Jehovah’s Witness church with his children and grandchildren. OK – so that’s the family structure that some of the names- don’t worry, every time we come back to these folks, we’re going to put this chart up so that you can remember where everybody is.

Here in green, are some of the victims. When I say victims, it’s the people that Max sexually abused. We’ve got Holly- Max sexually abused her. Jehovah’s Witnesses knew about it. Max sexually abused Peter Jr. He’s not a plaintiff in this case, but he was a victim. You’ll hear evidence the church knew that Max sexually abused him. Then we have Lexi – I introduced you to her today, she’s sitting over here – she was a victim that Max sexually abused.

So, that is the, kind of the background, who we’re talking about, and you know what – I’m going to keep that one up there so as I walk through that, this, you can remember who it is.

All right- now – Neil has been saying that the church knew that Max Reyes was sexually abusing [kids]. They knew because twice- twice they were notified. We’re going to talk about the two times they were notified. saying that

One time they were notified was in 1998. Alright, so in your mind, put it in those compartments – we’re going to talk about the 1998 report; we’re going to talk about the 2004. Those are the two times – alright. As we go through those, let me start by talking about – first- about when and how they learned Max Reyes was a child abuser, in 2004. Start down here at the bottom. This is one of the times they were notified, you start down here at the bottom with Peter.

First thing that happened, you’re going to hear evidence, is that Peter went to elders at the Thompson Falls church, and told them “I’m being sexually abused- I’ve been sexually abused by Max Reyes.” But remember, Jehovah’s Witnesses have the two witness rule, Peter’s just one guy. Peter says  – you know what? Holly – that’s his sister over here – one of the plaintiffs in the courtroom, Holly can be a second witness, she can back this up.

And you’re going to see this board when I walk through this with people involved – they’re going to confirm this. The Thompson Falls Elders, after they heard from Peter, they reach out to Holly, they place a phone call to Holly. And Holly tells them there’s another person Max Reyes, a member at your church, sexually abused me. Not only did she tell them that, she puts it in writing. And I think, you’re going to have a chance, during this trial, to see that letter.

Alright, so now we’ve got two people that have notified the elders in the local church. And this is very, very important right here, it’s over here in red, and I want you to pay very close attention to what happens here. And the reason I want you to pay close attention is you’re going to hear a bunch of talk during this trial from the defendants about confidentiality.

After Peter and Holly tell the elders what happened, the elders go to the child abuser. They go to Max Reyes. And they tell him what the kids have said. They alert him, they tip him off, they share that information. That’s really important, because they don’t keep the information confidential – they go tell somebody else. It’s also important because Max admits to the elders that he’s a child molester. Keep in mind why I’m telling you this. I’m telling you this because we’re talking about a statute that says clergy shall report abuse. Alright so if we go through this, listen to all the times that clergy know about this. Alright, so we’ve got elders at the local Thompson Falls church that have heard these reports from two victims, Peter and Holly. In 2004 they have an admission from Max. What did I tell you is the very first thing they are taught to do? Call the legal department. And that’s what they do.

They place a call to the legal department. Now, when I say the legal department, I’m not talking about calling the law firm, my firm, or a lawyer here in Thompson Falls for advice. They call the in-house lawyers at Watchtower. Watchtower is their national organization. It’s the people that control the elders and give them their instructions, tell them what to do, control whether they have their position. It is required that the elders do what the legal department says to do.

And the evidence you will hear in this case is that the legal department says “You don’t have to report.” Not only do you not have to report, remember we’ve got our secrecy policy, so if you don’t have to report, you keep it quiet. That’s what the elders do. And they then are instructed to document what they know with their administrative offices over here at the other defendant, CCJW.

So you’re going to hear witnesses talk about witnesses calling watchtower and being told not to report. And you’re going to see, I think, some of the documents that goes to the other defendant, a defendant run by elders, where they document what they know and when they know it.

Through this lawsuit, we’ve been able to obtain some of the defendants’ secret documents, and I think you’ll have a chance to see those as evidence in this case. And as you look at those documents, these are the things I want you to watch for, as you see them. I want you to watch for, does it have the identity of a child molester? Does it have dates? Does it have details about what the guy did? And I think you’ll see that they have that information. Now, this is what happened in 2004. We all know what somebody is supposed to do next. With a law without a law, what do you do? You know, you’ve got a known child molester – you report him. You report him to the authorities so you can prevent other kids from being sexually abused by him.

But that is not what they did. Instead, these three defendants chose, the evidence will show, they made a conscious decision that they were not going to report him. They made a conscious decision to not follow the law. Now, if you heard, during the court’s instructions, one of the instructions that he gave you was that the court has already ruled on 2004. He instructed you during those instructions that the defendants violated the law, and they are liable.

You’ll be asked to decide what damages they caused, by failing to report this guy and for choosing not to follow the law. That is 2004. Ok – talking about two elements…

1998 Abuse Report, Disputed by Defendants

1998 Abuse Report, Disputed by Defendants

Of course, the defendants dispute what they knew, and when they knew. And you’re also going to hear about a 98 report, In 1998 the evidence will show Holly, she was 12 years old at the time. She went to elders at the local church, the local Thompson Falls church, and she told them that Max was sexually abusing her, but she’s just one witness. And so the church took no action, and of course they now say that that never happened.

The reason I put this up here is you’re going to hear that in 1998, CCJW over here did not exist. That’s why we break these into 2004 which the court has already ruled on, and you’ll just be deciding damages, and we talk about 1998 separately,  because in 1998, you only have Watchtower. And what the evidence will show is that Watchtower sent the policies to the elders in Thompson Falls, that told them what they had to do, and they had the ability to kick these elders out if they didn’t follow their rules. Ok, And I put this up here because these elders in Thompson Falls were the people that were the agents, the evidence will show, for Watchtower.

 

 

 

The Abuse Timeline

The Abuse Timeline

 

 

That is the 1998 report. Let’s tie this all together and put it in a big picture real fast with our timeline. This is a timeline that begins in 1994, and it goes to 2007. Here’s what I’m showing to you on this timeline. On this timeline, you have first the window of time when Holly was sexually abused. She is sexually abused from 1994 until 1999, that is from the time when she is aged 15, I’m sorry, aged 10 until 15. Her abuse involved every kind of touching, and penetration you can imagine. It occurred on a regular basis. It was intercourse, it was oral sex, it was fondling, from the time she was aged 10 until the time she was aged 15.

The reason I have this up here is so that you can see that during the time that Max Reyes is sexually abusing her, that is when she made the 1998 report.  That’s when it occurred.

Over here, between 2002 and 2007, we have the window of time when Lexi is being abused – that’s our other plaintiff. This is from the time she is aged 6 until age 11. Here’s how she was sexually abused.

Max Reyes fondled her, he forced Lexi to fondle him, and to pleasure him. She’ll give you the details of it. The reason this is up here, report #2 happened while Lexi was being abused. The 2004 report happened during that window of time. And the court has ruled the defendants violated the law right here, and you’ll be asked ‘what damages occurred after, and as a result of them violating the law?’

I point all this out to you because the law is very clear on what clergy members must do when they know a child has been sexually abused. But this law is only enforced through a trial like this, by a jury like you. That law that you’re going to hear about, it has to apply equally to all religions. And it must protect all children from known child molesters.

Thank you your honor.”


[Following opening arguments by plaintiff’s attorney Neil Smith, Watchtower attorney Joel Taylor addresses the jury in defense of Watchtower and the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses]

 

The Defense Opens

Watchtower Attorney Joel Taylor

Watchtower Attorney Joel Taylor stands in the parking lot of the Sanders County Courthouse

 

Attorney for the Defense, Joel Taylor:

   “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, my name is Joel Taylor. I have been in the courtroom for voir dire, sitting alongside Katie, but I have not yet addressed you. So let me first begin by saying thank you, thank you very much for taking this responsibility to be jurors so seriously. And thank you for having the wherewithal to hear these serious allegations. Now, I just want to express my appreciation for your sacrifice, but also describe a little bit to you who the defendants are in this case. Now, I don’t have a lot of charts, but I am going to use this whiteboard, and hopefully between the whiteboard and the evidence, you won’t need a fancy chart. Ok? And so first let me talk to you about the Thompson Falls Congregation.

The Thompson Falls Congregation was established in the 1950s, and in fact we see some of the members here right now in this courtroom. These are regular Montana folks, they work in the mill, some of them are loggers, and some of them do home repair, some are carpenters, and they’re trying to care for their families, and they decide that they want to draw close to God, and they accept the faith known as Jehovah’s Witnesses. And then they formed this congregation, and they fellowship and worship together.

Now, I don’t have a lot of charts, but I am going to use this whiteboard, and hopefully between the whiteboard and the evidence, you won’t need a fancy chart. – Watchtower Attorney Joel Taylor 

Now one of the hallmarks of what the Thompson Falls congregation does is that they go door to door. And they knock on people’s doors, they knock on may of your doors, you know, sometimes it’s at an inconvenient time, but they do it only because they love you. And they do it because they believe that salvation is through Jesus Christ. And they want to tell other people about it. Many of you are bible readers, and you know that when Jesus was on the earth, that’s what he did. He talked to people who were not of his faith, about his own faith. And that’s what Jehovah’s Witnesses here in the Thompson Falls Congregation endeavor to do. They come from T Falls, Plains, they also come from Trout Creek, and Hot Springs.

Presently as I mentioned, the congregation has about 70 members. Now in addition to the congregation, you’ve heard about two corporations. One of them is called Watchtower, and the other is called Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, or CCJW. Those corporations assist the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses. And so, just like some of you might be Pentecostal, or otherwise you might be Baptist, you might be Catholic, so Jehovah’s Witnesses is a faith, but then there are corporations that assist the faith. And those two corporations, Watchtower and CCJW do that.

CCJW did not exist prior to 2001, but today CCJW is primarily used as a non-profit corporation that communicates with congregations. Watchtower is primarily the owner of property, and is also a printer. That’s probably why you’ve seen those journals that the friends here from the Thompson Falls congregation are often putting out and asking you if you’d like to read them. So those are just a few of the defendants, and a little bit about them. I should tell you this though, that as with most religions, the structure of many religions is confusing. And so, throughout our conversation and throughout this trial, you may hear terms that you don’t understand, and I’m going to do my best to make sure that I explain those religious terms to you.

In fact, there may be occasions even when counsel for the plaintiff uses a term incorrectly. And you may hear me object. But that’s only to make sure that we identify which victim that we’re talking about. You may even hear from the witnesses, some of whom are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they may confuse which corporation…sometimes these things are confusing, but ultimately at the end of the day, you’re going to know who did what, and when.

Before we go any further, I think it’s important that we acknowledge the harm that the two plaintiffs have suffered. It is beyond question that child abuse is an abomination. It’s beyond question. It’s a serious and gross sin, against God, and against the victims. There’s no question about that. That is a bible teaching. While we acknowledge the heinousness of the sin, Thompson Falls, Watchtower, CCJW, deny responsibility.

And as we go throughout this trial, you’re going to see that the responsibility really does lie, not with these individuals. So what are we asking of you jurors over the next two or three days? We’re simply asking, not for the benefit of the doubt, My clients, they don’t need the benefit…of a doubt. They just ask that you reserve judgment until you’ve heard the entire story.

Sometimes when we hear stories, for example, you might hear a story that begins “Once upon a time…” And right away your mind can take you to the end, and you say “well, they lived happily ever after.” Well, this trial is not really like a fairy tale. It’s more like a complex novel. It’s going to take a number of turns and twists, and all we ask is that you reserve judgment until you’ve heard all of the evidence. And then at that point, the judge will charge you as to the law, and you will be able to… make a decision.

Joel Taylor, for Watchtower, quotes Proverbs 18:17

Joel Taylor, for Watchtower, quotes Proverbs 18:17

And that’s in line with something the Bible says. In the book of Proverbs, the Bible says that “The first to state his case seems right, until the other party comes and cross-examines him.” So you need to hear the whole truth. And unfortunately in that opening, you did not hear the whole truth. And as you listen to the plaintiffs, although they’ve been injured, you’re not going to hear the whole truth. What you’re going to hear is embellishing around the edges. And it may even go to the point of outright spin. And you’re going to hear facts taken out of context You’re going to hear memories that were not what it were, what they were, when they occurred. And you should reject it.

You know, today there’s a lot of misinformation out there. If you watch the news media, they take one fact, and depending on their political leaning they take that fact and they change it. Some people refer to that as fake news. We don’t listen to fake news when it comes on the television, and we ought not listen to it in this courtroom…  

Watchtower Attorney Joel Taylor compared the victims’ account of abuse to the storied exaggerations of catching a fish. (photo © http://www.prawnsoda.co.uk)

And you should hear the whole story before you make any decision. In fact, sometimes people can just exaggerate because of the passage of time. For example, maybe you’ve been fishing down in the reservoir, right – and you go down fishing in the reservoir with your buddies, you catch a ten-pound pike. And then five years later that ten-pound pike is now 20 pounds. Ten years later that pike is now 30 pounds. But lo and behold, someone says, “you know I have a photograph of when we went fishing.” And when you compare the photograph to the story, you realize that the person, their memory has been affected by the passage of time. And in this case, we have documents, we have evidence to show that memories have been affected by the passage of time.

For example, Let’s go back to the chart they talked about – 1998. The weight of the testimonial evidence will show that the meeting in 1998 didn’t occur. Holly claims that in 1998, she went to Mr. Herberger’s home, to complain about sexual abuse at the hands of her stepfather. That’s what she claims. She says that when she went to Don Herberger’s house in 1998, she went to him as an elder, in the summer of 1998, and she also claims that she took her sister Ivy with her as well. She claims that she took her younger brother Peter as well. She also claims in her testimony that her aunt Iris drove her over to Don Herberger’s house.

“You know, today there’s a lot of misinformation out there. If you watch the news media, they take one fact, and depending on their political leaning they take that fact and they change it. Some people refer to that as fake news. We don’t listen to fake news when it comes on the television, and we ought not listen to it in this courtroom…” – Watchtower attorney Joel Taylor

So now, let’s unpack this 98 meeting. Here are the problems with the 98 meeting. In the summer of 1998, Mr. Herberger was not an elder in the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He wasn’t. He just wasn’t an elder. What is more, you’re going to hear from Peter,  Holly’s sister, he’s going to say he never went over there. What is more, You’re going to hear from Iris, and Iris is going to say that never happened. They’re going to say that. Now in 1998, Holly alleges that after going over Don Herberger’s house, he took her to meet with two elders. And then the three of them met at the Kingdom Hall after one of the meetings. You’re going to hear the congregation testify that that meeting never occurred, and that no one ever met with Holly.

They’re also going to testify that their church practice would have been to make a notation of any meeting involving serious sin, and that there is no documentary evidence. You’re also going to hear the representative for Watchtower testify that in 1998, if an allegation of abuse had come up, they would have called the legal department right away. And that the legal department has no records related to any call from 1998. And that’s because…the 1998 meeting never happened.

And of course, CCJW could not have participated in the 1998 meeting – it didn’t exist until 2001. Now, let’s talk about 2004. They are correct, the elders were alerted to a serious sin in the congregation. In 2004, Peter came forward to the elders. At the time, and you did not hear this in the opening, at the time, Peter was 17 ½ years old when he came to the elders in 2004. And he told the elders in a confidential setting, that he will testify himself, that he intended the communication to be confidential. That his stepfather, Max, had abused him four and a half years earlier. That’s what his testimony will be.

See, we don’t want you to operate under the impression that some little children came to the elders, and they were told about the abuse and the elders looked the other way. No, no – Max was 17 ½, I’m sorry, Peter was 17 ½ when he came to the elders. He’s going to tell you that he wanted elders to handle the sin, that’s what he wanted. But child abuse is unique, and I’ll explain it to you this way.

(Joel Taylor writes on whiteboard)

Unlike some sins that happened, and we’ve all made mistakes, child abuse is a sin and a crime. It’s both. It’s both a sin and a crime.

(Taylor continues to write on whiteboard)

And this is what the plaintiffs will confuse repeatedly, and they’re not going to want you to understand this, but as it relates to the crime, Jehovah’s Witnesses follow the law. As it relates to the sin, they follow the bible. Now some sin is not a crime. For example, you’re drinking in your home to an excess, and you get drunk a lot, and it’s always in the privacy of your home, why it’s a sin, you just follow the Bible, elders might give you some scriptural guidance and counsel. But other sins are both sins and crime. And when Jehovah’s Witnesses deal with child abuse, they follow the law. So when Peter comes forward in 2004, the elders contact the legal department.

You have to ask yourself, why would they contact the legal department? Well, they contact the legal department because they want legal direction. These reporting laws are quite complex. And they change often. So there is one central location to call and ask and find out what my obligation is under the law. And so elders called the legal department, and they got direction on the law.

Now, it is true, it is true, that the judge has ruled that the exception does not apply. But this explains why the elders did what they did. And I’ll read to you the exception under Montana’s law. You might have noticed a chart that had Montana’s law – well it did not include the exception. This is the actual language of the exception. “A member of the clergy or a priest is not required to make a report under this section if the communication is required to be confidential by canon law, church doctrine, or established church practices. Now we all have our own individual beliefs what should happen when there’s an allegation of child abuse. We might feel, “well look-  report everything.”

Well honestly, that is an oversimplification of a very complex problem. One, not every victim wants it reported, because victims are concerned about being re-traumatized by a criminal justice system that at times doesn’t even believe them. And so, you can over-simplify and say “We must report.” But I tell you, anyone who says that has never spoken to a victim.  Because victims are individuals, they all have their own feelings on the matter. And so, here’s what happens in the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses: If the law says report, Jehovah’s Witnesses report. In the absence of a law that says report, Jehovah’s Witnesses follow the Bible. And the Bible says that parents have the right to choose what’s in the best interests of their children. Parents have that right.

Well at 17 ½, Peter was already capable of determining what was in his best interests. After he made his report in 2004 to the elders, he moved out. In fact, he moved into the home of another member of the congregation. And then about a couple months later, he moved in with his sister Ivy. That’s what happened in 2004. When that occurred in 2004, there were no children in the home. It was Max and his wife Joni. Now in addition, in connection with this 2004 meeting, contact was made with Holly. Indeed it was. And in the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses, it differs somewhat from the Catholic model. The Catholic model, there’s a priest and a penitent. But in the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses, we have a communal approach to handling serious sin.

And what do I mean by ‘communal approach’? Well the Bible says that in the multitude of counselors there is wisdom. And Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t have a paid clergy. So Don has a regular job. And he volunteers as an elder for four or five hours of each week. Don has a secular job. The other elders in the congregation have secular jobs. They are not paid clergy. And so, we make sure that in the multitude of counselors there is wisdom, so that we bring at least three other elders together to make sure that they handle the serious wrongdoing in the congregation properly. And so, when we do that process, it’s considered confidential. Except, if the law requires a report. If the law requires a report, we report. But in the absence of a directive saying report, we defer to parents and victims to know what’s in their best interests.

We do not try to insert ourselves into their decisions. We respect their individual right to choose. It’s not a policy of secrecy. It’s about respect, and understanding that not all victims are the same.

Now, interestingly, you’ve heard testimony today that when Holly came forward in 2004. It was because she wanted it reported. Well, you know, interestingly, the elders asked Holly to write a letter so that they could confront Max with those allegations, with a view to removing his membership in the congregation, because he had committed serious sin. And we have the letter, and I’ll show you the letter.

(Neil objects, discusses whether or not that letter has been admitted)

Joel Taylor: This is not evidence

Judge: discusses contents …Do you anticipate objections?

Joel Taylor: There was no objection on the uh…

Neil: I have no objection, the jury’s seen it now

Judge: As long as you’re not going to oppose it…

Joel Taylor continues:  

“And so this is the letter that Holly wrote to the congregation in 2004. And it speaks to this issue of whether or not the 98 meeting actually occurred. So in 2004, obviously at this point, you weren’t told this, but in 2004, Holly was 20 years old. And she was living in Nebraska when it came to the elders’ attention. So Peter was 17 ½ moving out, Holly was 20 years old. Now Peter said, when he came forward, that the abuse had happened four or five years ago. And Holly admits that her abuse that happened ended in the 90s. And so this is 2004. She addresses the letter to the body of elders in the Thompson Falls congregation. She was asked by Don Herberger to write the letter. He called her in Nebraska and asked her to write the letter because they were evaluating Max’s membership in the congregation. They were doing so in a confidential setting.

In the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses, we hear from the accused, we hear from the accusers, and any eyewitnesses. And those communications are established church practices that we maintain confidentiality on, unless, unless, the law says report. Otherwise, we defer to the parents. Now look at this letter, it says: “As you are aware, I have recently disclosed information regarding the sexual abuse received from my stepfather Max.”

“Recently disclosed” – see, when she wrote this in 2004, the fish was this big. (Shows hands)

When she filed this lawsuit, the fish is now this big (shows hands spread wide)

She’s saying, she’s going to tell you now that when she says she recently disclosed, she meant 1998. Now, all it takes is the smell test. She says ‘I have recently disclosed that Max was abusing me.’ Going further, she says it started when Max and Joni got married. That’s when it started, 1994. And he began to do these horrible things, she says, ‘being as I was too embarrassed to tell anyone…’ – too embarrassed to tell anyone; now you heard Mr. Smith say that in 1998 she was telling the elders. But her letter in 2004 says “being too embarrassed to tell anyone.”

So now, what you’re hearing today, is that pike weighs 60 pounds.  But in 2004 when her memory was fresh, before she had any idea of suing, for money damages, it was ‘I have just disclosed this.” That’s what she says. And then she goes on to describe the abuse. She explains that “many times I have tried to tell my mother what was happening, but she was quick to defend him.”

In addition, on the last page, she says “I want to thank Jehovah’s shepherds” – shepherds is another term for elders – “I want to thank the elders for looking after his flock, and for taking care of this situation.” The language and tone of this letter is very different from the allegations you heard. In fact this letter was the first notice that the congregation in Thompson Falls had ever heard of Holly being abused by Max. Because the meeting in 1998 didn’t happen.

Now, why would you ask this question, why does there need to be a 1998 meeting? Here’s why: Because Holly’s abuse ended in 1999, and the law says, generally speaking, that you need to know something is wrong in order to prevent it. So, according to her testimony, the abuse ended in 1999. Now, if the congregation did not learn of it until 2004, which is what her own words suggest, then there was nothing the congregation had to do, could have done, or otherwise. So this 1998 meeting is for one singular purpose, one singular purpose.

(Joel Taylor writes on the whiteboard, 1998 at the top, 2004 in the middle, and $$ at the bottom. He circles 1998, then draws an arc from 1998 down to $$)

Re-Creation of the handwritten whiteboard “exhibit” used by Joel Taylor

That’s what it’s for, that’s what it’s for. It didn’t happen, it didn’t happen. And her own words show evidence of that. Her own words. She never disclosed that abuse before, and at the time she disclosed it, she was already an adult, living in another state, and married. And, as a result, the elders handled Max, and removed him from the congregation, in accord with following the Bible, in connection with the sin.

So this case is not about Bible principles, or a two-witness rule, it had nothing to do with that. By the time the elders learned of the abuse, they had already been four years removed from Peter, and at least six years removed from Holly. Just keep those things in mind as you deliberate and as you hear evidence in this case.

Now, let’s talk a little bit about Alexis, or Lexi. Lexi’s here too, and Lexi is a victim. There’s no question about it, that Lexi’s step-grandfather took advantage of her. And her testimony is that from 2002 to 2007, her step-grandfather abused her. That’s her testimony. We have no reason to doubt the truthfulness of what she says. We don’t. But here’s what you were not told. According to Holly’s testimony, and according to Ivy’s testimony, Ivy has always known, since 1998, that Max attempted to fondle Alexis, or Holly rather.

So, now understand, Ivy is Alexis’ mother. And in 1998, she says “I knew that Max attempted to fondle my sister.” And in 2002, she lets Alexis go and visit with Max… Mom does that. And then, it continues from 2002, 2003, and then in 2004, Peter comes forward to the elders for the first time, and explains what happened. And Holly comes forward to the elders for the first time – and then Max is removed from the congregation. Peter goes to live with Ivy, tells her “Look- step dad abused me too!” Of course, Ivy is already aware that Holly has been abused by Max. And, Ivy continues to let Alexis go and visit with Max, for three more years. Three more years. Mom- fully aware that Max had a propensity to abuse children, and she just lets her go and visit with him. Ivy had the ability, Ivy had the knowledge, but more importantly, Ivy had the responsibility to Lexi to stop this abuse. All she had to do was not allow her to visit with her step-grandfather.

But she continued, and as a result, Ivy is responsible for the harm that came to Lexi. I think all of you would agree that parents have to care. And in this case, a parent did…not…care. And as a result, the child was harmed. Now, there’s much more to this story, that we will discuss. You’re going to hear testimony about the statute of limitations, and the judge is going to instruct you as to the law. And you’re going to become aware that sad and as tragic as it may be, Holly has always known about her abuse, and the connection between it and her emotional challenges.

You’re going to hear from Holly’s first husband; he’s going to testify…

(Objection)

Neil Smith: Your honor, object based on spousal privilege, her husband cannot testify

Judge: It does sound like privileged communication counsel

Joel Taylor: Your honor I’m sure he was in Nebraska, which law are we applying?

Judge: Well, we’re applying Montana evidence law

Joel Taylor: Your honor, he can testify as to what she told him before they were married

Judge: Let’s not get into..

According to Watchtower, the victims’ stories were grossly exaggerated, like a 10-pound pike growing to 60 pounds     © http://internationalfishingnews.blogspot.com

Joel Taylor: You will hear evidence that Holly has always known about the connection between her abuse and her emotional damages…  Even if you could come up with some type of claim at law, the statute of limitations has long since expired. So, pay attention for those details. Just allow yourself to hear the whole truth, and as you sit there right now,ask yourself, how much did I just learn that the plaintiffs did not tell me. Ask yourself that. Because you will hear more, because we’re determined to tell you the whole truth, the pike really was just ten pounds.

And then you will see, that neither Thompson Falls, Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, nor Watchtower, is liable for the injuries that these plaintiffs have sustained.”

By mid-afternoon, Monday, September 24th, the selection of a jury, along with opening statements from both sides was complete. The stage was set for the remainder of the trial. As the burden of evidence lay with the plaintiff, their witnesses were called first. The first witness to be called was Watchtower representative Doug Chappel. 

Check back for future JW Survey articles for a detailed account of witness testimony and the ensuing jury verdict.

When laws are broken, lives are broken. 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Additional Media Coverage and reports:

https://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/montana-jehovah-s-witness-sex-abuse-case-underscores-church-s/article_fddc41e5-536b-5843-af30-200cc14892d8.html

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6224251/Jury-awards-35-million-woman-says-Jehovahs-Witnesses-covered-sexual-abuse-child.html

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/35-million-verdict-puts-spotlight-insular-jehovah-s-witness-community-n914841

https://www.greatfallstribune.com/story/news/2018/09/27/montana-jury-jehovahs-witnesses-must-pay-34-m-abuse-survivor/1443995002/

http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2018/sep/27/jury-jehovahs-witnesses-must-pay-35m-to-abuse-surv/

https://m.washingtontimes.com/news/2018/sep/27/jury-jehovahs-witnesses-must-pay-34m-to-abuse-surv/

https://www.scledger.net/story/2018/09/27/news/35-million-judgment-in-jehovahs-witnesses-case/1823.html

https://nypost.com/2018/09/29/jehovahs-witnesses-must-pay-35m-to-sex-abuse-survivor/

https://helenair.com/news/state-and-regional/jehovah-s-witnesses-accused-of-mishandling-abuse-in-montana/article_094e6570-0ac2-59fe-9eb1-8068a6213b76.html

Jehovah’s Witnesses Must Pay $35 Million to Abuse Survivor

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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74 Responses to Jehovah’s Witnesses Found Guilty of Malice And Negligence: Victim Awarded $35 Million in Montana Lawsuit

  1. david reece says:

    as a victim in australia i will state that they ignore what I say and think I will forget

    • Patrick says:

      Did you see that the Australian government have now apologized to victims. The Catholic Church did the same.
      Does this mean that the witnesses are the only ones not to apologize?

  2. shonaford says:

    I am very grateful for the insightful, respectful, empathetic and logical reports that John does. I wish that when these cases come up we are informed so that we can sit on the side of the victims and balance out the courthouse filled with very emotionally dead witnesses. Again thank you for the time you have devoted to let the rest of the world know what is happening.

  3. Phoenix says:

    Oh, how much the Watchtower lawyers like to minimize sexual abuse allegations! To them, the fish was just a minnow. :/

    I’m really glad that the jury could see through the propaganda and the spin of Watchtower. Child sexual abuse needs to be validated, and the court validated the abuse with their decision. Thank you @jwsurvey.org for covering the story! Bravo!

  4. david reece says:

    mormons owe me big time for abuses as a kid

  5. tranquillo says:

    Thank you John,
    it was worth the wait, very sad story that has to be made known. Brillant report.

  6. david reece says:

    funny how mormons will not talk to me regarding their childhood abuse to me looks like legal action and exposure only option

  7. alan viney says:

    John you are amazing. Im not interested myself in all the details of the case, but I know many are. That article must have taken you so much of your time. Thank you on behalf of all ex JWs.

  8. david reece says:

    can you tell me where is JW head office in Australia so I can seek legal options ?

    • Ricardo says:

      Check jw.org
      All the info can be found there.

    • messenger says:

      Watchtower won’t help you with legal help for abuse you suffered as a Mormon. There was a woman lawyer representing at least one of the ex-Jehovah’s Witness victims at the Royal Commission. Why don’t you google those videos online, view them to get the lady’s name and then look her up.

  9. thinkngal says:

    Reading the WT lawyer I felt my bile coming up into my throat. Comparing a victim’s account with a fish that gets bigger with the telling? OMG…the three survivors must have been dumbfounded. Well it didn’t work WT! Thanks you John for your diligence in bringing this to us, much appreciated.

    • scotwmg says:

      The Watchtower defence lawyer told some great fish stories. But none of them even comes close to this one: Jonah is swallowed by a large fish and spends three days and three nights in its belly. While in the great fish, Jonah repents as he prays to God, who then commands the fish to vomit Jonah out.

  10. L Abraham says:

    Member’s hard earned contributions are used in this way. Also they sell Kingdom halls and money is used for compensation.

  11. Ted says:

    Thanks John for the amazing detail, simply explained
    I felt I was right there in the courtroom.

    When a child is known to be in danger from criminal
    conduct it puts a ‘”moral” responsibility on us to act
    on their behalf. Just because some states may not
    enforce mandatory reporting of abuse that does not
    mean one is banned from doing so. The Moral obligation
    still stands.

    For jw lawyers to claim they leave it up to victims or
    parents to inform the law, well that’s the real rotten
    fish story, We all know the emotional pressure put
    upon them to put the org’s interest first before their
    own, and to leave things in JHVHs hands.

    Going outside the congregation for help makes you
    a spiritual leper. Two elders in Ireland who obeyed
    their conscience and contacted the law were
    disfellowshipped and classed as of unsound mind.

    • Jer says:

      Hi. Just to clarify Two elders in Ireland were deleted and not disfellowshiped. But they were branded disloyal and not sound in mind.
      Why doesn’t the lawyers ask the obvious question.
      All the correspondence from WT says the victims and their families have the right to report abuse.
      Ask them why they won’t say everyone has the right ???

      • Ted says:

        Thanks for the clarification Jer it’s appreciated.
        What happened in Ireland sends out a clear
        warning to all elders. Cauterise your conscience,
        in a cult it’s not needed. The overriding demand
        is conformity, unquestioning obedience,/ or else!

    • Robin Kish-miller says:

      Thats horrible that the two elders were disfellowshipped for reporting what they should have to authorities. they did what was moral and right.

  12. david reece says:

    They owe a duty of care to victims abused by JW in any country or language

  13. outandabout says:

    I see three things wrong with WT regarding child abuse…..one is all the scripture so thoughtfully provided by God to block and stifle allegations of abuse, another is the the outlandish claims they have about themselves which must then be maintained to keep up the charade, so – “no child abuse here!, we’re too clean! you must mean those filthy Catholics!”, and the other is money.
    With their claims of superiority they’ve gone and removed any wiggle room. Only stupidly deluded people would do that.
    So glad they got stung with an enormous amount for malice. So deserved.
    Bet WT wish they had of settled out of court with this one.

    Thank you for your hard work, John Redwood.

  14. Amy says:

    Thanks for the update

  15. Sam says:

    I would have always believed the organization was right in the way they handled matters. Now it is clear they truly do cover up issues and lie about child abuse

  16. AwakeToTruth says:

    What would happen if a congregation member confessed to murder? Would confidentiality prevail in this case? Would it be wrong not to report it to the authorities? Would you be considered an accessory to the murder if you did not report it to the authorities? The organizations own policies punish those who keep another persons sins confidential that are not reported to the elders.

    Both murder and child abuse are serious sins and crimes.

    Just trying to make a valid point.

    • Big B says:

      Your point is a valid one AwakeToTruth. Another fine article and great summation John.

      One of the Society’s lawyers has said that they are “a hierarchy just like the Catholic Church.” I suppose that means they have the same problems and same methods of covering up abuse as the Catholic Church. The Watchtower wants to have the same priest /penitent confidentiality that the Catholic Church has during a confessional. Well with a judicial committee of three it just doesn’t work that way. Sometime more than one congregation is brought in on these abuse cases and soon the entire Circuit is abuzz with the news. No confidentiality there for sure.

      What is truly troubling to me, and I’m sure others are troubled as well, is even if the perpetrator confesses his crime, as in this instance, the elders still did not REPORT their findings to the authorities, thus ignoring and breaking the law. The elders are, and by extension the Watchtower, guilty of the sin of omission. Knowledge of laws being violated and crimes committed without coming forward to the proper authorities is tantamount to criminal cover up and could be viewed as being in collusion with the perpetrator.

      And mom (Holly) and grandma (Joni) took the granddaughter Lexi to grandpa Max to make sure his warped desires were sated? Knowing beforehand what he was capable of? Seems to me that there is room in prison for those two morons as well as grandpa Max. What an absolutely insanely ridiculous situation this is! Truly this case is unbelievably pathetic by anyone’s standards of right and wrong. Ignominious shame to all who allowed this pervert to operate with impunity for years!

      Big B

    • Andy says:

      Until they send an elder to prison for not reporting abuse nothing will change.
      Money is easy for the Org. Also makes the world look bad. But send an elder to prison and they will
      All wake up. This will prove it’s against the law contrary to what they are told and elders will see it is the law to report and consequences for not obeying the law and Rom 13:1&2
      Why don’t they arrest elders who haven’t reported abuse ??

      • Big B says:

        It staggers the imagination doesn’t it Andy?

        I know why the elders are not sued or imposed financial penalties, as they haven’t the treasure the Watchtower has. Why they aren’t prosecuted and jailed for their collusion in the coverups by their refusal to report to the authorities is something I don’t quite understand.

        Why the Governing Body, who runs the operations of the Watchtower, as well as their “legal department” has avoided jail time is also puzzling! Is this why their is a separate entity of Christian Congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses (CCJW) as an insulation layer for members of the Governing Body, et als?

        The Nuremberg defense of “I (we) were only following orders” does not hold water with me anymore than the Nazi criminals for their lame excuses of war crimes committed against humanity.

        • outandabout says:

          What annoys me, Big B, is the FBI not storming the WT and seizing everything once there was even a whiff of child abuse. I know it’s because WT is a religious organisation and it’s time this sort of nonsense stopped and religion received the persecution it’s been gagging 2000 yrs for. If a local football club or whatever was doing what WT does, they would be pounced on immediately by the authorities. Why didn’t Harvey Weinstein just declare he was a religious organisation and then enable himself to get away scott free.

          • Big B says:

            How infuriating it is outandabout!

            The last prison sentences handed out against the Governing Body was 100 years ago, after the death of Russell, during the U.S. entry into the Great War.

            The Watchtower has, like the Mormons, found refuge in a country that protects “religious freedom” even at the cost of protecting harmful cults such as Heaven’s Gate, Scientology, Jim Jones, David Koresh, and other fringe groups.

            As long as the Constitution (the First Amendment) continues to be misinterpreted to allow anyone to practice anything and call it religion, the Federal Government will continue handling the Watchtower with kid gloves. That being the case, it now falls to the state courts to handle the child molestation cases as a civil matter as messenger mentions below.

            However, with Leah Remini bringing Jehovah’s Witnesseses to task this month, and sites like this continuing to badger the Organization it won’t be long before public opinion will demand their Congressmen to investigate this harmful, family destroying cult.

            And as usual the Watchtower will cry persecution at the hands of ‘Satan’s system of things’ with the ignorant, uninformed sheeple with their heads firmly planted up their own behinds; hearing nothing, seeing nothing and most importantly, saying nothing. The ‘wise monkey’ syndrome will be firmly applied with diligence by the unfaithful and indiscreet slave using their ‘yes men’, their flying monkey dupes, the spirit directed congregation elders. “Fly my pretties”, fly!”

        • David says:

          Yes. Let them go to jail. So what if it’s a different entity. It’s the message it sends. And show they are not being protected.
          We should get enough money together to pay a lawyer to find a criminal case to file so someone goes to jail

          • Big B says:

            To all,

            Is it any wonder why these crazy quilt cults operate with impunity here in the states? Weren’t most of the thirteen colonies founded by dissidents who were “escaping” their homelands to live and practice their beliefs without hindrance from governmental authority.

            That’s how the Puritans, the Amish, the Mennonites, the Church of Latter Day Saints, Christian Scientists, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientology, Jim Jones Peoples Temple and David Koresh and the Branch Davidians have had no difficulty establishing organizations here. Once firmly established here, in a secure base, they are free to spread their “message” worldwide.

            Thus, the U.S. has made religious freedom and toleration, no matter how weird, sacrosanct. Poor (read: stupid) interpretation of the founding fathers ideas of “no state (government) established religion” has allowed anyone to establish anything, no matter how unconventional, and call it religions worship.

            Only if adherents lives are in imminent danger does the government take some sort of action. That’s what happened to the Mormons being persecuted and chased out from New York to Utah. When the practice of polygamy was abandoned by the Church of Latter Day Saints only then was Utah allowed statehood.

            The same can be said for Jonestown, as a U.S. Congressman died investigating that nut house with the end results of cool aid dispensed to the adherents at gunpoint.

            So only if enough people bring cases to court showing the destructive practices and policies (ban against blood transfusions, shunning, child molestation, two witness rules, etc.) being administered by Jehovah’s Witnesses will the federal government step forward and jail the Governing Body as they did during WW1.

            Unfortunately it falls to the local states to try these cases one at a time with appropriate fines and penalties being applied.

          • messenger says:

            The District Attorney decides who to prosecute criminally. We can only sue in civil cases.

  17. Robin Kish-miller says:

    JOHN – thank you so much for all the information. I am just beyond words. Will this be on the World News (ABC? CNN?)

  18. Whip It says:

    It staggers me how the WT legal team sleep at nite, i know they are thoroughly convinced they have done nothing wrong & believe the victims are liers, hope this makes news in Australia.

    • outandabout says:

      Absolute belief will enable them to sleep smugly, Whip It. They probably view the whole thing as a test of faith and are enjoying the flagellation. They’re fighting for God and the more they hurt the better they feel. They probably sense the end is near because of this ‘test’. Never mind all the ‘testing’ that’s been going on for 2000 yrs and experienced by thousands of people every single day during that time and all of them feeling special and thinking “this is it”. A game for fools.

    • Robin Kish-miller says:

      ALL THESE VICTIMS CANT BE LYING. ITS LIKE THE SITUATION WITH BILL COSBY.

  19. messenger says:

    John you finally wrote as long, or maybe even longer than dee2.

    I scrolled down here before reading just to add legally malice is defined essential as negligence. Our most common use brings forth thoughts of intentional harm. But that is not how it is defined in tort cases.

    Now I’ll scroll up and read. If I was this plaintiff I wouldn’t take a settlement of WT appeals but hold out for all the money.

    I’m directing some of the folks from topix to your Site. I was surprised they didn’t know of it.

    • tranquillo says:

      sorry messenger, I don’t understand what you mean by “legally malice is defined essential as negligence”. The legal definition of malice is the INTENTION to do injury to another party. It is not negligence, it is the deliberate intention to break the law.

      • messenger says:

        Black’s Law Dictionary :
        Malice in it’s common acception means ill will towards some person. IN IT’S LEGAL SENSE IT APPLIES TO A WRONGFUL ACT DONE INTENTIONALLY WITHOUT LEGAL JUSTIFICATION OR EXCUSE.

        So you do not have to intend to harm a person to be found guilty of legal malice. If you break a law in reckless disregard for the safety of others, and someone suffers because of your action you can be found guilty of malice.

        Example: A company factory shooting dangerous pollutants into the air ; nearby neighborhood children get sick; that’s malice even though the company’s intent was not to harm the kids.

        • messenger says:

          This explains why WT was found guilty of malice. The congregation nor WT had an intent to harm the victims. Instead they were found guilty of intentionally committing a wrongful act that hurt them. Like an idiot driving 150 miles per hour down a street, runs over someone, then says, “But I didn’t mean to do it. ”

          Or with WT’s stated defense more like, “But the person stepped in front of my car. ”

          WT: We let the victim and parents decide about reporting. I’m a mandated reporter and I would probably get arrested for that. The law is written where I could, and serve jail time, plus a fine, plus a civil lawsuit, plus lose my teaching license.

  20. George says:

    Thanks John for your efforts. So good all of this stuff gets into the open.

  21. joe jantz says:

    Thank you for your work in this case. My wife and oldest son are Witnesses and they are so brainwashed that this they consider this material to be unworthy of their consideration. I have told my wife not to give any money to these fools and support their criminality. Footnote: recently I observed a post by “Bathsheba XJW”. In it she mentions a biblical reference to Satan using organized religion’s leaders as his spokespeople to confuse and undermine humanity. I can only wonder about the GB.

    • outandabout says:

      The thing is, joe, humanity is not confused or undermined. We continue to move forward and improve our lot when and where we’re able at any time and in the face of all religious negativity about ourselves, in other words, Satan is losing, or should I say, the idea of Satan because he doesn’t exist. Satan and evil are just ways of describing our inbuilt leftover animal instincts we’ve inherited but which also have been key to our survival. Without our ‘sin’, we wouldn’t be here.

    • Bad Penny says:

      Don’t know if you have ever been a JW Joe, but just to give you some hope for your wife and son …..
      My husband found out about the child abuse within the organisation and immediately stopped attending meetings. As a devout JW, I continued, along with our son, to attend and contribute my time and effort to the ’cause’. My husband was patient with me, but our relationship was becoming strained. I thought he had got a demon as he was starting to get very vindictive towards the org. and was cursing a lot.
      One evening we sat down to talk things through. He said that if indeed JWs had the truth then I needn’t be afraid to examine the facts … after all truth will stand up to scrutiny …. it would surely not undermine my ‘faith’ if my faith was strong, as I truly believed it was. I felt awkward and somewhat disloyal to Jehovah, but I agreed to look at some of the things he had discovered. Oh, my God!! This lead me to investigate the org. I had to know the truth.
      I had spent thirty years of my life in this religion, I was about to discover it had all been a waste of precious time and precious life! I found out how Watchtower had mislead us with false teachings and dates …. the whole can of worms was opened … child abuse was just a part of it. I stopped attending meetings immediately, our son soon followed.
      We are now all free from the mind control. We are shunned by the ‘brothers’, but are learning to live without them. So gently, gently…. your wife and son may wake up given time and patience and maybe just a little persuasion. Good luck.

  22. Freedom says:

    I think a name change is in order for the JW.Org if it is not already in the process, so that further legal challenges may be avoided and to distance itself from its past.

    • Big B says:

      @ Freedom,

      Yes, I can see a change in their name as well as a change in the name of their corporation
      The Watchtower and Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. Could a name change involve going back to the IBSA (International Bible Studens Association)? That’s what it was before Rutherford changed it. Removing Russell’s influences /teachings (such as they were) and inserting his own twisted, drunken beliefs instead was molding the Society in his own image. Watchtower certainly has left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth and distancing itself from that and Jehovah’s Witnesses would be, in my opinion, a smart move.

      I’ve noticed a bunch of cart witnessing and the using of devices since my leaving in 2013. We were told to use the Bible at the door and be proficient in doing so. Not so much now, it seems. Instead of the phonograph played at the door, portable hand held devices are used instead. The more things change the more they remain the same. I guess that a testimony card will be handed to the householder with the latest message of warning will be next. Truly a pitiable sorry situation, that.

      • tranquillo says:

        I approached recently two young girls in their mid-twenties, cart witnessing. we had a bit of conversation and one of the girls said that the bible is bilions of years old. I laughed and then pressed them to tell me when it was written. They had no idea of that!! They were cart witnessing and addressing me to their website, but had no idea of when, where and by who was written the bible. The CD is doing a fine job of keeping the sheeps as ignorant as they can, while making them feel to have a superior knowledge of the bible.

      • Freedom says:

        Big B, what name change that may take place it will still be same poo different toilet

        • Big B says:

          Absolutely Freedom,

          The Watchtower has no intention of changing their policies or their twisted doctrines. Like the Catholic Church, whom they try desperately to imitate, its money in and nonsensical doctrine out.

          However the Watchtower wants to spin it numbers don’t lie. They are losing respect, credibility, money, and followers through natural attrition (death) and adherents; they’re leaving without being replaced. Thus the reason for the discontinuation of their Year Book. Nobody wants to hear or read bad news or see their time is being wasted in a lost cause.

          Stick a fork in them because they’re done!

  23. scotwmg says:

    According to the Watchtower, the testimony of one witness isn’t good enough.
    “You gotta have two.” This quote sounds like it came directly from Anthony Morris III.

  24. Whip It says:

    My previous comment didn’t work, so here goes again, Some interesting info on Financials was recently told to me by a Elder Friend, he had attended a 3 day coarse at the assembly hall to learn about new maintenance guidelines, the society claim that the worldwide $save is going to be $100 Million dollars, i know why they need that, they must be bleeding.

  25. Pat says:

    I noticed how few comments are on this post compared to many others before. I think it goes to show how everyone is complacent about how easy it is for the society to just hand over money. We just say here we go again another payout with no retribution.
    They even sold one (just one) of the buildings in Mill Hill London and it covered all the costs of the new bethel in Chelmsford. So they have millions to spend, invest and squander from all other property sales.
    If we ever get a story of an elder or GB member being done for contempt of court or a criminal offense then everyone will listen.
    The more they payout the more they will be getting donations to cover it or wills made out to them because it’s the world against them.
    Until they go to prison it will always just be that satan is twisting the truth.
    Can we start an online petition to have them on a criminal trial ?
    Anything is better than them just buying silence.

    • Ricardo says:

      @Pat, a CO told me that he was amazed the GB continues to cover this up. He said, “Don’t the GB know that no organization or company that tries to cover things up is successful? It just makes things worse in the end.”

      The Weinstein moment is coming, and the more the GB keeps quiet, the worse the damage will be. Of course, we feel badly for the victims. But the more damage done to the org, the less victims there will be in the long run.

      Just be patient. The time will come.

      • Holy Connoli says:

        @Ricardo. Just curious When did a CO tell you that? What country was he in? That is amazing a CO would say something like that to a regular publisher. If the word ever got out that he said that he would be in BIG TROUBLE with WT Borg. They pretty much have to follow the line.

        So now that you are no longer an official JW what is happening with your kid you would take to the Kingdom hall with you? Hope things are getting better.

        • Ricardo says:

          @Holy Cannoli, I think I have mentioned in the past that I have this CO friend who is very switched on. We have had a little group for about 20 years now who let off steam complaining about the elders. Funnily enough, the CO called the group Korah’s Corner, because anyone hearing us talk would think we are apostate. Funny, because now two of us have been d’fed as apostates. This CO had many, many stories of shocking things happening- abuse of power, etc. The worst story he ever told was about a brother who was disfellowshipped in Japan for disciplining his children excessively, where the elders announced to the congregation from the platform that his separated wife was innocent but the husband was the guilty party (an announcement not normally made). This announcement shamed the brother so much he threw himself in front of a train and killed himself.

          Although this CO friend is aware of all the rot, he says that the same things he sees in the congregations were also happening in the times of the Israelite kings and in the Jewish religion among the Pharisees etc at the time of Jesus. He says abuses have always happened amongst Jehovah’s people, so the abuse he sees today doesn’t surprise him. The fact that the Witnesses are doing the preaching work and do not get involved in wars convinces him that although there are abuses, the org is still basically doing God’s will.

          This led onto the discussion about the child sex abuse cases, which I mentioned above. I said I expect the org to go bankrupt, and he said to wait and see if Jehovah saves the org.

          So, he is enlightened, but somehow can excuse the abuse he sees happening. I suggested to him that perhaps the reason he can excuse the abuse is because he gets paid by the org, but he said no, he views things in a different light.

          Something he has said to me for many many years is that the elder arrangement is not wrong, because it is based on the Biblical arrangement. But the way it is implemented is wrong, in that there is no scrutiny made of the elders to see that they are not abusing their position. He says that the GB are very very aware of the abuse of power that the elders are doing, but because the GB relies on the elders for their support, the GB is reluctant to make any changes. Thus, he says, the GB are responsible for the abuse that the elders are doing. His advice to me was to find a safe place in the org and stay there quietly. This advice I did not take, and because I was outspoken and could not stand seeing my friends getting abused, I was d’fed.

          This CO friend did graciously help me to put together a presentation for the Appeal Committee. He said a fair-minded person would understand that I wasn’t a follower of Korah as the elders were saying, but rather a victim of elder abuse who cared about others who were being abused by elders. The response he helped me to put together was quite masterful, and he gave many suggestions about how to present my case. But obviously the elders in the Appeal Committee were not fair-minded. Oh well. This CO still has me on his contact list, but we communicate together through my son.

          I have said to the CO in the past that he must be careful that he doesn’t get into trouble, but he says it isn’t that easy to knock down a CO.

          Which country he is in I don’t wish to say, but it isn’t where I am now- Australia. I have never met another CO, or even another elder, like him. But just as there are CO’s who leak things to JWsurvey, there are CO’s like my friend.

          What is happening with my son? Well, can you believe that since I was d’fed the elders have not shown a speck of interest in him. Although he is a publisher, a spiritual orphan you could say as both his parents are d’fed, the elders have not asked for his report, have not contacted him, nothing. I was d’fed 6 months ago. Both my brother and my son’s mother’s brother are elders, but both of these elders could not care less about him.

          While in Asia I could associate with quite a large group of d’fed members as well as present JW members who didn’t mind mixing with us ‘apostates’ because they were quite disgusted with what they have seen happening in the congregation. Now I have returned to Australia, most of my former friends, although mentally in but physically out, limit their association with me out of fear, but they mix with my son. And there is one victim who doesn’t care if he gets d’fed or not, so he talks freely with me. Mum talks freely with me, although I have warned her that if my brother finds out he will probably report her and she could find herself d’fed also, and so noone will come to her funeral. But she says she doesn’t care if noone comes to her funeral.

          My uncle used to be a Herbert W. Armstrong follower (The Worldwide Church of God) and he has beliefs very similar to the Witnesses, but he doesn’t believe we need to be a part of an organization to worship God. So he and I have been talking a lot lately.

          I am trying to sort things out in my mind. What is Jesus up to? What does he want us to do? My CO friend said to wait for a couple of years to see what Jehovah will do. So I am waiting to see if the passage of time explains anything about the mess we see in the congregations.

          That’s about where it is at the moment. Unlike my CO friend, I cannot dismiss the abuse I see in the congregations. When I was pioneering, I would bring up the child sex abuse exposures with any Catholic return visits I had, hoping to find one who was disgusted with what was happening in the church. Now I find the same situation in the religion I was once proud of, the Witnesses. If you can’t trust your religious leaders, who can you trust? I am disgusted.

          • Holy Connoli says:

            @Ricardo. Well, I hope your son finds happiness and he has extended family take care of him. HE is a smart child and he will see the hypocrisy and he will not stick around the WT and he will see what they did to his family as he gets older. I am surprised about the CO you mention. All the CO’s I ever knew were pretty strict nd towed the party line to the T! If I was a CO and expressed those Ideas I doubt that he will be around that long as a CO if word gets out. Also , he probably does just cant stay a JW for that long unless he is confused and I doubt that. Funny you mention Herbert Armstrong I knew some of his followers and I use to listen to him on the Radio occasionally and felt guilty after I did lol bur he was similar and very strict and controlling like the WT is maybe even more bc he preached tithing.

            After they WW church of god split and I read what happened I thought same thing will happen to the WT and it still may. One JW friend of mine who now lives in Sweden told me he thought in about 10 years the JW will become like the Baptist church on the corner. Just another religion that n blends in with the rest of them. That is hat happened to the WW church of god but there some that still hold firm to Herbert Armstrong teachings/ Religion is a strange thing.

  26. Maxwell says:

    Is there any way to nail down just where the funds come from to pay for settling child abuse cases? It is my understanding that legal payments (Court ordered as well as out-of-court settlements) are made from the Global Assistance Arrangement (GAA) which is funded annually by levying a per publisher amount on each congregation. The amount in the US this year is $8/publisher. However, what is to stop WT from transferring money from the Worldwide Work or from the sale of properties into this GAA fund? It would probably require the assistance of an insider in the finance department to find the answer.

    • Patrick says:

      There is no way there is enough money from the GAA to cover the payouts. 8 million publishers @ 8 per person is only 64 million. That would only cover two payouts. So they are using money donated. Surely this is against charity laws. They should lose their charity status but only if everyone knows it’s because they are using the funds to pay for child abuse claims and hush money. Whatever happens needs to be made clear and in writing so they can’t twist it.

      • Geoff says:

        Totally agree.
        Dedicated funds ????

        • Tell says:

          When will a newspaper or lawyer in a courtroom ask the question about their statement. It says “the family and the victim of child abuse have the absolute right to report it to the police “
          Why won’t they say everyone has the right to report it. Or even say everyone has the obligation to report it???!
          That is the question I would love to hear being asked in public. Even the next time a reporter contacts the society will they please ask this question.

          • Ricardo says:

            @Tell, wasn’t that question asked at the Australian Royal Commission to Geoffrey Jackson? (Or was it another brother?) His reply? He asked: “Why don’t you make it compulsory in law so we have to do it?”

            Personally, I find such reasoning disgusting. In Australia, due to the ARC, even an allegation of child sex abuse must be reported now. If this was unscriptural, we know that the brothers would not do it. But the policy in Australia has changed, and the brothers are allowed to report even allegations (as brought out in the Child Protection Document which was released under pressure of the ARC). When I asked for a copy of the Child Protection Document from the COBE a few years ago, I said that I was surprised that this policy was only for Australia and not worldwide. The COBE agreed, saying it should be implemented worldwide.

            So why isn’t it? Because a conspiracy of silence is being implemented instead. Perhaps compulsory reporting would result in too much exposure of the rampant child abuse taking place in the congregations.

          • Tel says:

            Ok. Why not send an open letter to as many newspapers as possible asking why JW HQ won’t say everyone has the right to report child abuse?
            Ask them to make this a requirement of being a JW.
            Open letter to the GB and all branch offices to circulate this directive to all congregations or ask them to give the world a reason why they won’t do it.
            This has nothing to do with 2 witness rule. Just ask to report all child abuse.
            Who is capable of doing this. It needs someone with a contact in media to support this.

  27. david reece says:

    Just love the way JW ignore complaints about childhood abuses and show they are not interested n negotiations

  28. Whip It says:

    When we had the Royal Commission here in Ozland, a Elder friend of mine said, So much reproach on Geova, i said whose fault is it!

    • Ricardo says:

      @Whip It, and the stupid CO told me that the Royal Commission was a satanic attack on Christianity. What are we hearing now? That Satan is attacking the organization via the court system! Blooming wonderful, isn’t it, that Satan was also attacking the Catholic Church via the court system. Maybe the Catholics are also true Christians.

      • Big B says:

        Maybe Ricardo, just maybe the true Christian Church hasn’t appeared as yet. I personally do not ascribe to an earthly “Jehovah’s Organization” concept. Salvation is not attained by belonging to any religious group but by individual salvation. Jesus saves individuals, not groups as the Watchtower would have you believe. Remember the Great Crowd, that supposedly survives the Great Tribulation, can’t be numbered for the multitude, but Jehovah’s Witnesses sure as hell can be numbered.

        Just a thought; maybe we aren’t in the “Last Days” at all or if we are they could last centuries. What did the beasts of Revelation represent in the19th century, or the 13th century or the 5th century? Everyone during those times felt they were in the “Last Days”.

        Christian Rome was besieged by barbarians, the Empire, such as it was, was a shadow of distant memory, Atilia the Hun paid off by the Pope to take the money offered him and leave. Who did the beasts represent then? I bet they had identity’s but have been lost to history.

        How about during the 100 years war between France and England, didn’t those people living then think they were in the “Last Days”? The population of Europe decimated by the Black Death, famine, poor harvests, unprecedented lawlessness, family break downs, the faithful praying for relief in Church and receiving none. Were the four horsemen riding then? I bet many poor souls thought so.

        Question: How many dumb asses believe, without any proof, that the angel Moroni gave Joseph Smith golden plates for him to translate into the Book of Mormon. Answer: Probably as many dumb asses, without a shred of evidence, that believe Jehovah chose the IBSA (later Jehovah’s Witnesses) as his representative organization on earth in 1919. Having faith is one thing but credulity that’s a totally different matter.

        Soon, in the distant future, Jehovah’s Witnesses will be long gone and will appear only as a footnote in the history books or in the Encyclopedia under crazy, money hungry, delusional, Adventist, doomsday cults. And you know what, I won’t be alive to know about it as my problems will long be over with.

        Hundreds of years from now people will still be a-watching and awaiting for signs of the second coming of Jesus Christ. The year 2033, the two thousandth year of the death and resurrection of our Lord, will come and go and with its passing another millennium without Armageddon, or our absentee savior. Come Lord Jesus, please, oh pretty please!

        I wonder if people will finally figure out that ALL religions, especially Jehovah’s Witnesses, is man made mythology by then? Not a snowballs chance in Hell; not as long as there are ignorant, stupid “sheeple” that can be misguided, misled, cheated and exploited. Religion will still be around as big a business, unfortunately.

        Big B

        • messenger says:

          Jws might stay around because I heard that Scientology shrunk from a large number of members to about 50,000, but it hasn’t disappeared.

          Luke 21:8 The sign of Christ’s presence will not be seen until he comes and appears to the world. Just like there was no sign proceeding Jerusalem’s destruction until it was surrounded by an army. There were no big food shortages, wars, or any of those other things Christ said not to worry about because the end is not imenent. At least no events that were significantand a composite sign of SIGNIFICANT events. The direction he was giving was these things must happen but the end is not yet. Him calling them pangs of distress is temporally insignificant.

          It would be totally idiotic for Christ to give so many parables and direct statements that he is coming at a time his own disciples wouldn’t recognize, so be ready (all the time), and at the same time give them a sign revealing the approximate time of his arrival. Or exact time according to WT(1914).

          Also See dragnet parable. Christians are not separated until Christ comes. They could be in any denomination and most likely are in all denominations with various beliefs. People don’t separate them. An organization doesn’t separate them-angels do.

  29. Whip It says:

    Ricardo, its the same with the Russia situation, yes lots of JW’s in trouble, but Puttin is going after all Religion except the Russian Orthodox, their is a rumour that at the next Brach Zone Talk, they are going to name the King of the North, my money is on Vladamire,

    • Ricardo says:

      @Whip It, at the annual meeting this year the GB already explained that the king of the north is Russia. However, they did not state this in the new book about Ezekiel’s prophecies. You can see Cedar’s Watchtower In Focus about it.

  30. Whip It says:

    Ricardo, thanks

  31. messenger says:

    In California, United States the Leah Remini special on JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES will be aired on A&E tomorrow night for the first time. That special is buried in the middle of a lot of her other shows about Scientology, so be careful to pick the right one.

  32. messenger says:

    Great job on the Leah Remini special Lloyd. The personal experiences in it were the most emotionally moving I’ve heard to date. Hopefully Leah will revisit WT soon. Again, great job with your contribution.

  33. Freedom says:

    After reading much of everyone’s comments, I can only say one thing “I want my life back” the many hours and years I spent obediently doing the will of a group of men sitting on their throne pretending to be so godly and righteous. All those times that I and all of us could have spent on productive and useful endeavours – like genuinely helping those really in need out and not knocking on doors and spreading more lies and false agenda. Almost of 10 years of pioneering – how dumb was I

    • Big B says:

      Freedom, you’re not stupid nor ignorant.

      You, me and others were duped and then once taken in exploited. The Watchtower has found a flock of Sheeple; and like sheep easily led and controlled. Also their flock won’t or can’t do research and as a result believe anything they’re told by the Faithful Slave. No questions asked, really cannot ask questions can we?

      The Leah Remini show aired last evening and was truly eye opening and tastefully done. I pity anyone that meets someone at the door who had seen the show. Are the Witnesses in for some tough times now. Lloyd was brilliant as were the other guests. Sad experiences but very informative.

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