AP Story on Abuse Cover Up

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    New Jersey couple excommunicated from Jehovah's Witnesses for speaking out against abuse
    Sat May 11,12:30 AM ET
    By BETH CAMPBELL, Associated Press Writer

    LOUISVILLE, Kentucky - A woman said she and her husband have been excommunicated from the Jehovah's Witnesses after speaking out against the church's handling of their daughter's allegations of sex abuse by another member.

    Barbara and Carl Pandelo of Belmar, New Jersey, had been awaiting a decision since Monday, when a judicial committee of the church met in New Jersey to consider ousting them, a practice which the denomination terms disfellowshipping.

    "They've just made it official now," she said Friday night in a telephone interview.

    They are among four Jehovah's Witnesses who were threatened with disfellowship for sowing discord in the faith by speaking out against the church.

    One of them, William Bowen, a 44-year-old former church elder from Draffenville, Kentucky, has complained that child-sex allegations are generally not reported to secular authorities by the Jehovah's Witnesses because of the church's closed nature and insistence on handling problems internally.

    Anthony Valenti, an elder in the Pandelos' church, did not immediately return phone calls Friday night.

    But J.R. Brown, a spokesman for the denomination, said earlier this week that parents are not punished by the church for going to the police first in cases of child molestation. He said anyone found guilty of molestation by a church judicial committee is removed from all positions of responsibility.

    The Pandelos' dispute with the denomination dates to 1988, when their 12-year-old daughter said she was molested by her paternal grandfather, also a member of the faith. The grandfather has returned to the denomination.

    Carl and Barbara Pandelo have not been active in the church for some time, she said, but she regrets losing the friends they made.

    "To take someone and shun and abandon them is the most psychologically damaging thing you can do," Pandelo said.

    Barbara Anderson of Normandy, Tennessee, has also been summoned to appear before a committee. Anderson has said she learned about the church's handling of abuse cases while working at its headquarters in New York City.

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