AP Article: Jehovah's Witnesses ask court to reverse $35M abuse verdict

by AndersonsInfo 16 Replies latest watchtower child-abuse

  • AndersonsInfo

    Jehovah's Witnesses ask court to reverse $35M abuse verdict

    by The Associated Press

    Posted Sep 13, 2019 12:34 pm PDT

    BILLINGS, Mont. — An attorney for the Jehovah’s Witnesses asked the Montana Supreme Court on Friday to reverse a $35 million verdict against the church for not reporting a girl’s sexual abuse to authorities.

    Last year, a jury awarded $4 million in compensatory damages and $31 million in punitive damages to a woman who said she was abused as a child in the mid-2000s by a member of the Thompson Falls Jehovah’s Witness congregation.

    The abuse came after the congregation’s elders disciplined the man over allegations of abusing two other family members in the 1990s and early 2000s, the woman’s lawsuit said.

    The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ appealed the jury’s verdict, and attorney Joel Taylor said during arguments Friday that church elders handled the allegations internally in accordance with church practices. State law exempts clergy from reporting if church doctrine or practice requires confidentiality, he said.

    The church has been painted as lawbreakers who are callous toward child abuse, Taylor said.

    “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “All Christians, all people, abhor child abuse and our sympathies lie with the victim in this case.”

    But the large jury award trampled on the constitutionally protected beliefs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, he said.

    The woman’s attorney, Jim Molloy, says the church doesn’t qualify for the clergy exemption to the state reporting law because Jehovah’s Witness officials testified that an elder can choose to report a child abuser to authorities under church practice.

    “Local authorities are instructed to contact the national organization when they learn about a child abuser,” Molloy said. “That’s what they did. They were instructed not to report, and (the girl) continued to be abused.”

    The jury’s $35 million verdict goes against a Montana law that caps punitive damage awards at $10 million or 3% of a company’s net worth, whichever is less. Molloy is asking the state Supreme Court to strike down that cap as unconstitutional.

    The court did not make an immediate ruling.

    The lawsuit claims the man sexually abused three family members in Thompson Falls in the 1990s and 2000s. Two of the victims say they reported the abuse to church elders, who handled the matter internally after consulting with the national organization.

    The elders expelled the abuser from the congregation in 2004 then reinstated him the next year, the lawsuit states, and the abuse of the younger victim continued.

    The Associated Press generally does not identify victims of sexual abuse.

  • stillin

    Wow. "They were instructed not to report, and (the girl) continued to be abused."

    what's left to deliberate about?

  • Finkelstein

    It seems the WTS attempt to cover up incidences of child abuse to save and protect the image of the organization is now back firing..

  • Crazyguy2

    It would seem as though the high court wants to hear the whole case all over again.

  • tiki

    Why can't they just come clean and accept their responsibility. Their internal workings obviously are detrimental to justice and ethical behaviors in these abuse situations. They could make their religion look a lot more respectable if they would bite the bullet and call on proper legal, law enforcement and social service agencies to deal with such cases. Their shroud of arrogant secrecy does little to commend them as godlike or Christian.

  • Finkelstein

    The WTS/JWS have been propagating how righteous and clean their organization is above what is seen in all the other so called Christian faiths.

    Why ? because of the self supporting propaganda of being chosen by god as his earthly arrangement.

    That's why they were irresponsible in dealing with child sexual abuse within their organization.

    They even pointed out the fault of other religions for their internal cover up such as the Catholics.

  • flipper

    " The elders expelled the abuser from the congregation in 2004 THEN REINSTATED HIM THE NEXT YEAR, the lawsuit states, AND THE ABUSE OF THE YOUNGER VICTIM CONTINUED. "

    Bingo. And the words I capitalized are why this judgment should NOT be reversed.

    Peace out, Mr. Flipper

  • Vidiot
    tiki - "Why can't they just come clean and accept their responsibility?"

    Because it would reveal to the rank-and-file just how wrong and irrevocably flawed the WTS's "Biblical" system actually is...

    ...and therefore...

    ...too strongly call into question their claim as "God's exclusive Earthly organization".

    Something that - at this point in the game - I think the GB would be willing to literally sell their souls to prevent.

  • blondie

    Who has ever had an elder apologize to them, sincerely, not saying "I'm sorry you feel that way," putting the blame on you.

    Although the WTS said this in 2012.


    We may need to ‘humble ourselves’ by sincerely apologizing to another person if we are unable to honor an agreement because of circumstances beyond our control. Although he may be able to assign a measure of blame to the other party, the humble Christian concerns himself with his own failings and is willing to admit them.​

    Further comments, not followed by jws in authority though.


  • Finkelstein

    So the laws and social standards created by the ancient Hebrews to which the JWS try to emulate are wrong and inadequate ?

    Shocking, how can this be ?

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