Tag Archives: child abuse

AUSTRALIA | Jehovah’s Witnesses annual reports to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia annual child protection compliance reports for 2018 and 2019

The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (CARC) recommended that, at a minimum, eleven institutions that were the subject of relevant Royal Commission hearings should provide annual progress reports by the end of 2018 and again in 2019. The National Office for Child Safety worked with these institutions to facilitate their public reporting in 2018 and 2019. Jehovah’s Witnesses were one of those eleven institutions.

Summary of 2019 report submitted by Jehovah’s Witnesses

762 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia

67,816 Jehovah’s Witnesses

Jehovah’s Witnesses claim they “are fully compliant with each of the recommendations” of the CARC.

Every elder and ministerial servant has a Working With Children clearance in those states where this is legislated.

Recommendation 16.28: Regarding the involvement of women: “we confirm that women can be and are fully involved in receiving and submitting evidence of child sexual abuse and in providing support to a victim. It is the Scriptural responsibility of congregation elders to determine whether the alleged perpetrator should remain one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Recommendation 16.29: Regarding shunning: “we confirm that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not shun victims of child abuse but treat them with compassion, understanding and kindness.”

DOWNLOADS

Jehovah’s Witnesses Child Abuse Royal Commission Annual Progress Report – 2019 – pdf

Jehovah’s Witnesses Child Abuse Royal Commission Annual Report – 2018 – pdf

Image by Commonwealth of Australia. 2019. Used under CC BY 4.0 licence.

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About JW Leaks

JW Leaks is about openness, transparency and accountability within the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watch Tower Society.

JW Leaks exposes and holds accountable the Watch Tower Society and those leaders within the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization that disregard or violate the laws of the land, and that cause religious harm to sections of the community.

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Jehovah’s Witnesses . . . Proclaimers of “soon” since 1879

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AUSTRALIA | Newly registered Jehovah’s Witnesses legal entity issues elders letter to destroy records

The recently registered Australian company “Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Australasia)” has issued a body of elders letter, dated August 28, 2019, instructing elders to destroy judicial hearing records and certain congregation records.

>> DOWNLOAD: CCJW (Australasia) BOE letter – 28 August 2019 – PDF <<

Background: a new corporation is formed

On 12 April 2019 a new Jehovah’s Witness company, “Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Australasia) Limited” (CCJWA) was formed in Australia to administer congregations, congregation charities, and bodies of elders.

On 15 April 2019 CCJWA commenced formally trading in Australia under the business name “Jehovah’s Witnesses” despite that trading name being registered to Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia Limited (Watchtower Australia) since 31 July 2000.

Also currently operating in Australia is another legal entity called “Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses” (CCJW) which was registered as a business on 3 December 2012.

On 5 November 2013, Watchtower Australia sent out a body of elders (BOE) letter instructing all congregations to form as independent legal entities and charities and to register with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission << ACNC >>. By the end of the month over 800 congregations within Australia had become their own legal entity trading under the business name “[NAME] Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Under this legal arrangement congregation records, including judicial records and membership records, are the property of the individual charity and not CCJWA.

These 800 congregation charities and their corporate structure will be discussed in detail in a follow up post on JW Leaks, along with copies of all internal documents and correspondence issued by Watchtower Australia to each congregation on how to set up each new legal entity and charity.

CORPORATE DOCUMENT DOWNLOADS

Corporate documents for new Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Australasia) 2019 – PDF

Corporate documents for old Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Australia) – PDF

Corporate documents for Watchtower Australia – PDF

Body of Elders letter dated August 28, 2019:

In one of it’s first issued body of elders letters, the newly formed CCJWA, issued instructions to all elders to review congregational records, their personal computers, hard copy files, and their meetings bags for the purpose of record destruction.

[EXTRACT] Review of Current Records: 

After discussing this letter as a body of elders, we would like the secretary along with the coordinator, or another assigned elder, to review what is currently in the congregation’s confidential file. They should examine the contents of all sealed envelopes in the file to confirm that they contain only the documents mentioned in the Shepherd book, chapter 22, paragraphs 22-23. The assigned elders should adhere to the direction in paragraph 26 when determining if the entire contents of the envelope should be destroyed. If the elders are not sure if a particular document needs to be retained, they should feel free to contact the Service Department for assistance.

Please ensure that all records kept in the file are in harmony with what is outlined in the Shepherd book, chapter 22, and our comments above. Additionally, we ask that each elder check his personal computer, or hard copy files, and even his meeting bag, to ensure that no confidential correspondence is retained outside the congregation’s confidential file. We would like the secretary to confirm with each elder that this has been done.

Destroying congregation records

Over the past few months in Australia, various congregations, and Watchtower Australia have received written requests from individuals for lawful access to documents, including judicial hearing records, as held on them. These records as requested included child abuse records and personal records. The right to access your personal information and congregational records is granted under the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988 and the Australian Privacy Principles. See the link below for more information.

LINK: Office of Australian Information Commissioner

In addition, a number of law enforcement actions and investigations have commenced into various legal entities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia as well as into individual leaders of the religion.

The documents referred to in the above cited body of elders letter to be destroyed, as sent out by the newly formed CCJWA, are among the documents currently being sought for both criminal and civil cases. As such the destruction of them may constitute the destruction of evidence.

For the purpose of assisting individuals so as to protect information held on them, the body of elders letter sent out by the CCJWA, dated August 28, 2919, is available for downloading below:

>> DOWNLOAD: CCJW (Australasia) BOE letter – 28 August 2019 – PDF <<

LINK to elders book “Shepherd the Flock of God” as referred to in above letter

NEW: AUSTRALIA disfellowshipping records form and confidential summation guide

How to protect your right to access documents on yourself

For Australians, below are copies of two letters, in MS word doc format, that some individuals have recently used for the purpose of protecting their records; and so as to access information held on them from the Jehovah’s Witnesses:

AUSTRALIA ONLY – generic request for access to information from Watchtower

AUSTRALIA ONLY – letter TO CCJWA instructing the keeping of records

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POST SCRIPT

Current Watchtower Australia Document Retention Policy

Please note this is not the document retention policy for CCJWA and individual congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia who are registered as a charity.

WATCHTOWER DOCUMENT RETENTION POLICY

The primary purpose for recording and retaining this information is to enable Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia (“the Society”), which is responsible for the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia, to supervise the religious activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the country, individually and collectively. This includes:

(1)  Being aware of anyone who is no longer a member of the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses;

(2)  Knowing what spiritual help and assistance has been given to the individual concerned;

(3)  Providing whatever direction is needed to ensure that the Scriptural standards, as set out in God’s Holy Word, the Bible, are maintained in the Congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses; and

(4)  Ensuring that the individual concerned is given whatever spiritual help and assistance is needed if he or she wishes to again become a member of the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the future.

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About JW Leaks

JW Leaks is about openness, transparency and accountability within the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watch Tower Society.

JW Leaks exposes and holds accountable the Watch Tower Society and those leaders within the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization that disregard or violate the laws of the land, and that cause religious harm to sections of the community.

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Jehovah’s Witnesses . . . Proclaimers of “soon” since 1879

 

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Watchtower v JW (a minor) Supreme Court documents (2019)

JW Leaks has published a full single volume of documents filed in the US Supreme Court in the matter of Watchtower v JW (a minor)

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DOWNLOAD: Watchtower v JW (a minor) Supreme Court documents (2019)

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Plaintiff and respondent J.W., through her guardian ad litem, sued defendant and appellant Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. (Watchtower) and others for (1) negligence; (2) negligent supervision/failure to warn; (3) negligent hiring/retention; (4) negligent failure to warn, train, or educate J.W.; (5) sexual battery; and (6) intentional infliction of emotional distress. In January 2014, J.W. filed a motion to compel further discovery responses. On February 11, the trial court granted the motion in part. The trial court’s order compelled Watchtower to produce all documents Watchtower received in response to a letter sent by Watchtower to Jehovah’s Witness congregations on March 14, 1997, concerning known molesters in the church (1997 Documents).

By November 2014, Watchtower had not produced the 1997 Documents, and J.W. moved for terminating sanctions. At a hearing on the sanctions motion, the trial court offered Watchtower four days to produce the 1997 Documents. Watchtower declined the offer and refused to produce the 1997 Documents. The trial court granted the motion for terminating sanctions and struck Watchtower’s answer. The trial court clerk entered Watchtower’s default. After considering evidence, the trial court entered judgment in favor of J.W. and awarded her $4,016,152.39.

On appeal, Watchtower raises four issues. First, Watchtower contends J.W. failed to allege proximate cause in her first amended complaint (FAC). Second, Watchtower asserts its right of due process was violated. Third, Watchtower contends terminating sanctions were excessive because lesser sanctions may have been effective. Fourth, Watchtower contends the trial court erred by denying Watchtower’s motion for relief from the terminating sanctions.

A central thesis of Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.’s (“Watchtower”) petition is that if it, as a religious corporation, claims that a document is protected by the clergy privilege, the courts are powerless to come to a different conclusion; indeed, powerless to even inquire as to the viability of that claim. (Pet. at 15.) According to Watchtower, the mere act of conducting judicial proceedings related to the claim of privilege results in excessive entanglement with religion. (Pet. at 20.) This radical position is directly at odds with hundreds of years of judicial precedent adjudicating—sometimes applying and sometimes rejecting—state law claims of clergy privilege.

Applying its thesis to this case, Watchtower argues that it is constitutionally entitled to affirmatively invoke the clergy privilege and seek court rulings upholding that assertion, but simply ignore any adverse rulings. As it had done in two prior cases involving similar orders to produce documents evidencing child molestation by its members (“Molestation Files”), Watchtower employed this “heads I win, tails you lose” approach in this case. (See, e.g., Lopez v. Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., 246 Cal.App.4th 566 (2016); Padron v. Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., 16 Cal.App.5th 1246 (2017).) It gambled that it could disrespect the judicial process and ignore court orders while the court lacked the authority to take meaningful action to correct its disobedience. It lost that gamble and was defaulted.

The First Amendment does not exist to provide religious institutions with a free pass to operate outside of the law.

MEDIA LINK

The Jehovah’s Witnesses want the Supreme Court to help them cover up sex abuse

POSTSCRIPT

In its Reply Brief filed this week in the Supreme Court, Watchtower claims it “is the ideal litigant to champion federal constitutional rights.” As evidence Watchtower cites a total of eight court cases in which it claims to have championed constitutional rights before the Supreme Court. An examination of those cited cases shows that Watchtower was not the plaintiff, defendant, petitioner, or respondent in seven of those eight cases.

Those eight cases cited by Watchtower are:

Schneider v. State of New Jersey, 308 U.S. 147 (1939)

West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943)

Martin v. City of Struthers, 319 U.S. 141 (1943)

Murdock v. Pennsylvania, 319 U.S. 105 (1943)

Fowler v. Rhode Island, 345 U.S. 67 (1953)

Wooley v. Maynard, 430 U.S. 705 (1977)

Thomas v. Review Board, 450 U.S. 707 (1981)

Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. v. Village of Stratton, Ohio, 536 U.S. 150 (2002)

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Watchtower of Britain found liable for actions of child rapist Peter Stewart

Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Britain, the Body of Elders in the Loughborough Blackbrook Congregation, and the Body of Elders in the Loughborough Southwood Congregation have been found liable for the actions of child rapist Peter Stewart.

FROM THE HIGH COURT JUDGMENT OF  THE HONOURABLE MR JUSTICE GLOBE

[2015] EWHC 1722 (QB)

19 June 2015

3. The claimant, who is now 29 years of age, claims damages for personal injury and loss arising out of being sexually assaulted by Peter Stewart, now deceased, between 1989 and 1994, when she was between about the ages of 4 and 9. Quantum has been agreed subject to liability.

4. The first defendants are the over-arching body of the second and third defendants. It is common ground that, if the second and/or third defendants are liable, then the first defendants will satisfy the judgment on behalf of the other defendants. The Blackbrook and Southwood Jehovah’s Witness Congregations are the direct or indirect successors of the congregation that was originally known as the Loughborough Limehurst Jehovah’s Witness Congregation, then split into two congregations known as the Limehurst Jehovah’s Witness Congregation and the Garendon Park Jehovah’s Witness Congregation, which congregations are central to the factual matrix of the case…

Vicarious liability

124. That leaves the issue of vicarious liability for the elders. As summarised earlier in paragraphs 10-18, the elders had additional responsibilities to those held by ministerial servants. They were even closer and more integrated with congregational issues than were ministerial servants. They had a spiritual role and partly exercised that role, via the judicial committee, and decisions of the body consequent upon decisions of the judicial committee. The decisions that emanated from the judicial committee and thereafter from the body of elders were a fundamental part of the role of the elders within the organisation. The second and third defendants are the trustees and successors of the Garendon Park and Limehurst Congregations. They are unincorporated associations who have taken over the responsibility of the congregations. In circumstances where, having applied the two-stage test, I have already found they are vicariously liable for the actions of Peter Stewart, I also find they are vicariously liable for the actions of the elders in relation to the above breach of duty arising from the findings of the judicial committee in 1990.

Decision

125. For all of these reasons, I am satisfied that the defendants should be held responsible for what Peter Stewart did between 1989 and 1994. The claim succeeds. Judgment should be entered for the claimant. An order will need to be drawn up to reflect the agreement as to quantum.

Download Judgment:

A v Watchtower Britain and Loughborough Blackbrook Congregation – [2015] EWHC 1722 (QB) – pdf

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Jehovah’s Witnesses . . . Proclaimers of “soon” since 1879.

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Jehovah’s Witnesses Ordered To Pay $13.5 Million In Child Abuse Case

Documents relating to the court hearing available for download –

Declaration of Gerrit Losch (Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses) – 4 February 2014 – pdf

Lopez – Judgment filed 10-29-14 – pdf Lopez First Amended Complaint filed 03-01-13 – pdf

Motion to Amend to Allege Punitive Damages 2-5-1 – pdf

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PRESS RELEASE ISSUED BY ZALKIN LAW FIRM Superior Court Judge Joan M. Lewis has entered a judgment against the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. (Watchtower) for $13.5 million in punitive and compensatory damages in a civil lawsuit filed by the Zalkin Law Firm on behalf of a victim of sexual abuse who was a child member of the Linda Vista Spanish Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1986. Irwin Zalkin led his firm’s team of sexual abuse attorneys in this case.

The case involved child sexual abuse by alleged child molester Gonzalo Campos within two local San Diego congregations of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Zalkin Law Firm filed this civil lawsuit in February of 2013 (Case No: 37-2012-00099849-CU-PO-CTL). The plaintiff, Jose Lopez, was a minor child whose family was active in the congregation at the time of the alleged abuse.

“Mr. Lopez has suffered for years as a result of this abuse and we are pleased that he will finally receive justice and compensation as a result of Judge Lewis’ strong ruling against the Watchtower,” said Irwin Zalkin, attorney representing Mr. Lopez. “This ruling may hopefully awake the Jehovah’s Witnesses leadership to the standards of morality and care for children that our society demands.”

Judge Lewis entered a default judgment against the Watchtower, the corporate head of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, after it refused to obey court orders to produce any documents they may have regarding the problem of sexual abuse of children within congregations of the Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the United States. In addition, Watchtower also refused a court order to produce the longest serving member of its governing body for a deposition. Both the Fourth District Court of Appeals, and the California Supreme Court rebuffed Watchtower’s efforts the reverse Judge Lewis’ orders on these matters. Despite the decision of the Appeals Court and the California Supreme Court, Watchtower still refused to produce the documents or the witness.

California law permits the court to strike the answer of a defendant that refuses to abide by a court order and to enter a default judgment against them. After giving Watchtower every opportunity to comply with her order, Judge Lewis issued the terminating sanction and entered a default judgment against Watchtower. She then ordered the Zalkin Law Firm lawyers for the victim to prove their case by putting on evidence to support the allegations of the victim’s complaint.

After hearing six days of testimony and presentation of written evidence, Judge Lewis was satisfied that the Plaintiff had more that adequately proved his case. Accordingly, she issued a judgment in favor of the Plaintiff in the amount of $13,500,000.00 that includes an award of $10,500,000 in punitive damages intended to punish Watchtower for its reprehensible conduct.

The case itself involved an alleged serial child molester by the name of Gonzalo Campos, who confessed to this molestation in a deposition which was part of the evidence in this case. At the time he sexually abuse the plaintiff, Jose Lopez, in 1986, who was only 7 years old, he was an ordained minister of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and had already abused four other children. Evidence in the case showed that Elders of the Linda Vista Congregation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses were aware as early as 1982 that Campos was a child molester but chose to take no action against him. Further evidence showed that Church leaders did not report him to law enforcement, they did not warn other parents of the congregation, they never checked to see if he might be abusing other children of the congregation, they allowed him to give Bible study to young children and ultimately recommended him to Jose’s mother as someone Jose should study Bible with.

According to the evidence presented in the case, after Campos spent months grooming Jose and sexually molesting him, Jose reported the molestation to his mother. She and her mentor, a senior female member of the congregation, reported the sexual abuse to a congregation elder appointed by Watchtower. That elder and another elder confirmed that the sexual abuse occurred. Both Jose’s mother and her mentor were told by church leaders not to say anything that it would get handled. Nothing was done, and ultimately, Jose and his mother disassociated themselves from the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Case evidence presented in the trial further showed that despite the reports and confession by Campos of abusing a child in 1982 and Jose in 1986, he was allowed to remain in the congregation and over the next twelve years was actually elevated up the organizational ladder ultimately becoming an elder himself in 1993. During this time frame he has confessed to sexually abusing at least eight children.

Documents and testimony in the case showed that elders and the Watchtower took no action for almost a year after receiving a written complaint in April of 1994 from a mother of one of the victims whose son was molested by Campos in approximately 1984. During this time as an elder, he continued to abuse young Jehovah’s Witness children. Even after he was expelled as a known and confessed child molester, he was reinstated within a few years without any warning to parents of children within the congregation.

“Rather than reaching out to victims with support, the leadership of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in this case treated the victim as an adversary”, said Zalkin, who has filed cases in five other states on behalf of other Jehovah’s Witnesses childhood sexual abuse victims. “This court ruling is a clear condemnation of the disgraceful conduct of this organization, conduct that is totally contrary to what one would expect from a religious institution that promotes itself as living in the Truth.”

The Zalkin Law Firm With offices in San Diego and New York, The Zalkin Law Firm (www.zalkin.com) is one of the premier sexual abuse and personal injury law firms in the country. The firm’s lawyers have represented hundreds of survivors of childhood sexual abuse and achieved groundbreaking results in numerous high-profile clergy abuse cases across the United States.

The Zalkin Law Firm has aggressively represented hundreds of survivors of child sexual abuse, including former Boy Scouts. The firm has negotiated over $200 million in settlements in Catholic clergy sex abuse cases. The firm currently has more than 20 active lawsuits against the Jehovah’s Witnesses in five states, representing victims of childhood sexual abuse.

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Jehovah’s Witnesses . . . Proclaimers of “soon” since 1879.

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