New Hampshire JW Child Abuse (Berry) Court Case Hearing Coming Up
http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/Main.asp?SectionID=25&SubSectionID=377&ArticleID=80032 Hearing slated for suit against church
Sunday, May 11, 2003
By ANDREW WOLFE, Telegraph Staff , email@example.com
NASHUA – A hearing will be held this week in the case of two sisters who have sued the Jehovah’s Witnesses and their former congregation in Wilton, charging that church elders ignored complaints of sexual abuse.Filed in August 2001 in Hillsborough County Superior Court, the case has spawned six files worth of court documents without coming close to being ready for trial.On Monday and Tuesday, Judge William Groff is scheduled to hear evidence and arguments on whether Jehovah’s Witness elders are akin to ministers, so their communications would be covered by the state’s “religious privilege” confidentiality rule.Groff previously ruled against the church on a number of requests for “summary judgment,” seeking to have the case thrown out on purely legal grounds.The sisters’ suit stems from the case of Paul Berry, 46, formerly of Greenville, who was convicted of 17 counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault after a trial in 2000.Berry was convicted of repeatedly assaulting his stepdaughter, Holly Brewer, 24, of Berkeley, Calif., while she was between 4 and 10. He was sentenced to serve 56 to 112 years in prison, one of the stiffest terms ever imposed for a sexual assault case in New Hampshire.Berry also had been charged with assaulting his biological daughter, Heather Berry, 20, of Charlestown while she was between 3 and 6, but those charges were dropped after Berry was sentenced, in effect, to life in prison in the first case.The Telegraph ordinarily doesn’t identify victims of sexual abuse, but the Berry sisters opted to go public when they filed the suit in 2001.The sisters said they learned around the time of Berry’s trial that their mother had told church elders of the abuse while it was happening and asked for their help. Their mother testified that the elders told her to keep quiet, pray more and strive to be a better wife.The sisters’ suit names Paul Berry, the Wilton congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the national organization, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Groff previously rejected the church’s arguments that the suit should be dismissed on constitutional and other legal grounds, finding the elders’ alleged failure to take action could be construed as negligence, given the risks and consequences of sexual abuse.The church disputes the sisters’ claims, however, and its lawyer, Donald Gardner of Manchester, has said church elders didn’t know about the abuse until long after it had stopped and police were investigating.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses also argue the elders to whom Berry’s mother reported the abuse were ministers of the church, and thus her communications with them are confidential under state law.Groff found that issue required further hearing. Groff has ruled in the church’s favor on a similar issue in a criminal sexual abuse case involving a Hollis man convicted of sexually assaulting several girls. In that case Groff found that elders in the man’s Jehovah’s Witness congregation couldn’t be forced to testify about disclosures the man made while the elders were investigating abuse charges.The sisters argue their mother was trying to report the abuse and had no desire or intention that it remain confidential.Another pending issue has been scheduled for a hearing in June. The church argues Heather Berry’s testimony of alleged abuse shouldn’t be allowed as evidence without a hearing to look into the reliability of her memories.The sisters argue state law requires such hearings only in cases of “recovered memories,” retrieved through therapy, and not memories that were simply repressed and recalled independently.Andrew Wolfe can be reached at 594-6410.
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This week we are going to court to present arguments in the Berry case. Watchtower is bringing in Legal Department, local elders and everything but the kitchen sink to protect their described "religious right" to continue a policy that hurts children.
There are those working behind the scenes that you will never know of the sacrafice and determined effort to overcome the hundreds of frivilous motions and manuevers along with millions of dollars in paid henchmen to win this "right" to hurt children.
We will be in court on Monday and Tuesday fighting to set a course and precedent legally that will lead to the end of this maddness. Think about those that are standing up for the silent lambs. Send them a prayer of support if you feel you can.
We need all the help we can get.
But how can we help?
Good Luck! I am hoping that all goes well! Please, keep us posted... I will try to save that link and check in daily.
Please tell the silent ones that we are behind them.
The thread states "The Jehovah’s Witnesses also argue the elders to whom Berry’s mother reported the abuse were ministers of the church, and thus her communications with them are confidential under state law."
Would Judge Groff be interested in the Watchtower's own admission that they AREN'T clergy, which would mean they weren't ministers and then ther commnications wouldnt be confidential under state law? The first quote is from the February 15, 1994 Watchtower. The second is from the Knowledge book, printed in 1995, page 137.
*** w94 2/15 7 Are Jehovah's Witnesses a Cult? ***
It is precisely because of this close adherence to Bible teachings that the veneration and idolization of human leaders so characteristic of cults today is not to be found among Jehovah’s Witnesses. They reject the concept of a clergy-laity distinction. The Encyclopedia of Religion aptly states about Jehovah’s Witnesses: "A clergy class and distinctive titles are prohibited."
*** kl 137 14 Whose Authority Should You Recognize? ***
20 Regarding Christian elders, Paul wrote: "Be obedient to those who are taking the lead among you and be submissive, for they are keeping watch over your souls as those who will render an account; that they may do this with joy and not with sighing, for this would be damaging to you." (Hebrews 13:17) Wisely, God has entrusted to Christian overseers the responsibility to care for the spiritual needs of those in the congregation. These elders do not constitute a clergy class. They are servants and slaves of God, ministering to the needs of their fellow worshipers, just as our master, Jesus, Christ did."
The prosecuting attorneys might love getting their hands on these quotes. I hope this helps!!!
Woohoo!!! You go girls!!!
This is the last of the summary judgement motions.
The rest were tossed in February.
I cannot really get into the specifics of what has been given to counsel etc. for this upcoming hearing but I can tell you that the folks in Canada have given them what they need to kick some god damn a$$.
If we can toss the privilege argument, then the WTS has no choice but to start reporting in ALL 50 states.
Thanks for the information and I will be hoping for Holly and Heather to continue to have the courage to go thru all of this again and again. They are very brave for what they are doing, and no doubt it is so stressful for them to have to keep going over their abuse.
Let them know they are in our hearts and prayers, and that they are making things happen........maybe one day , by their standing up agaisnt the ignorant WT rules,,,,,,other little children will not have to suffer.
We are 100% supporting them !!!!!!!!!
Another pending issue has been scheduled for a hearing in June. The church argues Heather Berry’s testimony of alleged abuse shouldn’t be allowed as evidence without a hearing to look into the reliability of her memories
I see the "motion squad" is just going to keep this going forever. What a bunch of friggen jerks. It is but one of the main problems taking on the WTS. They motion you to death and if legal counsel does not have enough money, it can really cause problems.
I still say, as long as this clerical privilege motion for dismiss is tossed (and that of course is a big "if"), then the whole issue boils down to the mother. The buck stops with the mother's testimony seeing she is the one who apparently reported the abuse to the elders some 10 or more times.
Want to take "character assassination 101" at University? As a prerequisite, you need to watch the Watchtower lawyers "ad hominem the hell" out of the Berry girls' mother in the deposition and at trial in Court. I assure you that is what is going to happen and it will NOT be a pretty site. Jeff Anderson, if you are listening - prepare her well.
What about character assasination of Paul Berry? He is not squeaky clean. I know some things about him that can be verified. And since he's reportedly "in good standing" (even tho in jail), I am supposing that he has not revealed himself to his good old elder body.