Court denies summary judgement for Laurel Jehovah's Witnesses congregation

by OrphanCrow 161 Replies latest watchtower child-abuse

  • Fisherman
    DD all you have to do is READ. Obviously you have not done that.
  • the girl next door
    the girl next door
    Reading and reading comprehension are two very different things and knowledge of litigation and judgements doesn't hurt either. Fisherman, you are completely and vacuously wrong with your assessment. Stop trolling.
  • JWdaughter
    Fisherman said: You mean the Court is wrong because that is what they decided in their "Opinion". They get to decide, and they determined that IT DOES APPLY TO THEM.

    My post correctly represents the Court's decision.

    I disagree. The court pointed out, in detail, all the reasons that even IF in a sense (being liberal with the interpretation) that the clergy privilege could be applied to religions other than the churches that actually have clergy and penitential confessions, NONE of what happened would have applied since one of the confessors was a victim and under 18, one or both were there speaking to the elders under duress, and both were disciplined publicly, not given any kind of absolution. Nothing about that situation, even if the law was applied in a broader sense, would come under privilege. Which is why the decision was made. It does not mean that the issue can't be discussed further in the actual trial though. I think the WT will make sure that it all goes away before that happens.

    I read the ruling and if the court somehow gets the entire law struck down as unconstitutional, then the LAW will not exist to even be argued about unless the court makes ANOTHER law. NO CLERGY or RELIGIOUS personage of any kind will have sacramental confession (won't break my heart a bit!) privilege. If the law is struck down, the WT is really up a creek. If they interpret it in ANY way at all as other religions qualifying (which they usually do), there still has to be other conditions for the thing to apply and the WT doesn't meet any of them. There is NO way in any scenario that the WT can prevail on this one w/o payoffs. There is no privilege, no voluntary meeting instigated by the confessor, no absolution and the WT is just tough out of luck. The best they can do is have a law struck down, but while it is on its face seemingly unconstitutional, it was the straw they were grasping at in this case.

    Fisherman, I'm curious about how you feel about this as a person, possibly a parent and possibly as a elder or just a JW? Do you think they are picking on JWs? Do you think the WT policy is great, ok or acceptable? I'm curious about the JW on the street, here. You seem to still be one.

  • Mephis
  • JWdaughter
    Mephis, don't you think the WT would rather this just went away? If it goes to the Supremes, it will only be struck down or upheld as a law. If struck down, we do not live any longer in a culture or society that would accept them writing one that would exclude clergy in any religion from reporting. In no way would that law ever cover that particular situation or really any JC, so it is a lose-lose scenario from what I can discern (I could be missing something!). As long as they never push it that far, they can continue to play stupid every time and try to get away with it. I can't wait until Law and Order addresses this issue with the JWs and names religions directly like they have with other religions (catholics and ultra orthodox jews, for two examples) They have no clergy and it is a judicial committee, not a confessional, even if confessions happen. Not one JW has any expectation of privacy when there are two or more elders present and that is amply demonstrated here as people are constantly wary of being in the presence of two of them after they have faded or otherwise left the congregation without any formalities.
  • the girl next door
    the girl next door

    Judge refuses to dismiss lawsuit against Jehovah’s Witnesses

    February 3, 2016 · by Craig Anderson · 61 Comments

    DOVER — With a precedent-setting determination regarding confidentiality among some church members last week, a Superior Court judge continued a lawsuit against a Sussex County congregation.

    Judge Mary M. Johnston did not dismiss a lawsuit filed by the state of Delaware against the Laurel Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding whether it should have reported child abuse allegations in 2013.

    The state is suing the congregation and two elders for allegedly not disclosing knowledge of a reported sexual relationship between an adult member and juvenile member, according to court documents. The complaint was filed on July 10, 2014, in New Castle County Superior Court.

    The congregation filed a motion for summary judgment on Nov. 9, 2015, which was denied on Jan. 26 by Judge Johnston.

    The motion centered around the application of the “priest-penitent in a sacramental confession privilege” and whether conversations among Jehovah’s Witnesses leaders and members were covered in Delaware Code.

    According to court papers, the state alleged two elders met with a juvenile and his mother, both congregation members, in January 2013 and a disclosure of a sexual relationship was made.

    Also, according to documents, the elders then spoke with the adult member in question, who confirmed the relationship had happened.

    Both the juvenile and adult member were excommunicated from the congregation in February 2013, papers indicated.

    Also named as defendants in the lawsuit were Joel Mulchansingh and William Perkins.

    In papers, the Department of Justice said it is seeking a civil penalty against each defendant not to exceed $10,000, costs, expenses and attorney’s fees incurred awarded to the state, and “such other and further relief as the Court deems just and proper.”

    With the civil action pending, the Department of Justice declined comment on the matter.

    From 2012 to 14, the Department of Justice said, other entities such as a charter school, public elementary school and medical practice were named as defendants in similar cases regarding all abuse and neglect and the matters “were settled and dismissed without trial, with settlements generally consisting of training on mandatory reporting and other penalties.”

    Officials said the mandatory statute regarding abuse and neglect has been active since at least 1971; before 1997, only attorney-client communication had privilege.

    The criminal case

    On Nov. 6, 2013, Katheryn L. Carmean pleaded guilty to third-degree rape, fourth-degree rape and endangering the welfare of a child, according to the Delaware Department of Justice. She was sentenced to six years in prison on Feb. 21, 2014, followed by six months at Level IV work release, followed by two years Level III probation. She is also registered as a Tier II sex offender, according to officials.

    According to the Delaware State Police at the time of her arrest, Ms. Carmean, of Berlin, Maryland, was 35 and the allegedly involved male was 14.

    The state police said investigation found encounters occurred over 10 months from November 2011 to August 2012 when the teen occasionally would stay at Ms. Carmean’s residence on Mount Zion Road near Laurel. She later moved to Maryland, authorities said.

    In court papers regarding the civil suit, the defendant in the criminal case was identified as Katheryn Harris Carmean White.

    The civil suit

    In the civil suit, the state responded to the motion by citing Delaware Code Sections 903 and 904 which required “Any person, agency, organization or entity who knows or in good faith suspects child abuse or neglect shall make a report …” and “Any report of child abuse or neglect required to be made under this chapter shall be made by contacting the Child Abuse and Neglect Report Line for the Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families” as obligation to report suspected child abuse.

    According to papers, the court examined the constitutionality of whether the congregation was exempted by Delaware Code Section 909 to report privileged communications.

    Section 909 states “No legally recognized privilege, except that between attorney and client and that between priest and penitent in a sacramental confession, shall apply to situations involving known or suspected child abuse, neglect, exploitation or abandonment and shall not constitute grounds for failure to report as required by 903 of this title or to give or accept evidence in any judicial proceeding relating to child abuse or neglect.”

    According to court documents, the congregation maintained that all communications between elders, juvenile and adult members are covered by clergy/penitent privilege. Additionally, the congregation argued it had First Amendment coverage through the United States and Delaware, and were exempt from a reporting duty.

    Ultimately, the court ruled that since the congregation had called a meeting with the adult member to discuss the issue, the member could not be deemed a “penitent” and the meeting to investigate allegations not a “sacramental confession.”

    Also, the court found the juvenile’s subsequent excommunication indicated he might not have willingly met with the elders, and did not consider the meeting as a form of repentance as part of absolution and a “sacramental confession.”

    The elders’ beliefs

    The elders submitted signed affidavits, which included the premise that, “In accordance with the beliefs and practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses, confidential information is kept confidential so as to uphold the elders’ role as spiritual shepherds of the congregation, to maintain respect for the position of elders and congregants, and to allow congregants to feel comfortable fully disclosing information to the elders …”

    The court noted no reference was made to why the General Assembly used the language in Delaware Code Section 909 “between priest and penitent in a sacramental confession” instead of more ecumenical religious terms.

    Thus, the court turned to Black’s Law Dictionary to define “priest-penitent privilege” and determined it to be “In evidence, the recognition of the seal of confession which bars testimony as to the contents of a communication from one to his confessor.”

    Also in Delaware Code, the court noted, “A person has a privilege to refuse and disclose to prevent another from disclosing a confidential communication by the person to a clergyman in his professional character as a spiritual adviser.”

    A clergyman was described as a “minister, priest, rabbi, accredited Christian Science practitioner or other similar functionary of a religious organization, or an individual reasonably believed so to be by the person consulting him.”

    According to the court, a priest and penitent communication in a sacramental confession cited in Section 909 “is a narrow exception to the duty to report abuse or neglect.

    “The obvious purpose of these privileges is to balance free and candid communications with legal or religious advisers, with the public mandate to prevent and prosecute child abuse.”

    ‘Genuine issues exist’

    In conclusion, the court ruled that a narrow interpretation of Section 909 “is unconstitutional on its face” and the terms “priest,” “penitent” and “sacramental confession” apply to only select denominations if taken literally.

    “The Delaware Constitution prohibits laws that give preference to any religion,” the court wrote.

    “However, Section 909 can potentially be read to apply to all religions.

    “Regardless of the constitutionality of Section 909, genuine issues of material fact exist that prevent summary judgment.”

    Delaware Code states that Section 903 violators “shall be liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $10,000 for the first violation, and not to exceed $50,000 for any subsequent violation.” Costs and attorneys’ fees may be awarded as well.

    Attorneys James Liguori and Francis McNamara represented the defendant congregation in the motion, along with the Watchtower Legal Department, the Jehovah’s Witnesses legal advisers. Deputy Attorneys General Janice Tigani and Valerie Farnan represented the state.

  • talesin
    Yeah...just wait until that case in Newfoundland moves ahead.

    Yes, that's right @ OC. I was wracking [what's left of] my brain, because I knew there was something. Still waiting to see names (or may have missed info), since I knew quite a few in that area, back in the day. Very sad, but I am always glad to see the secrets come out (that is healthy) and the Tower exposed for what it truly is. Not a Paradise, but a Dungeon.

    I have no more to say to the troll, and I see that D-D,(ahahaha, love Nelson!) already said it best.

  • talesin


    reading comprehension

    Yes, I have found this skill sadly lacking in some posters; either that, or they are being remarkably disingenuous. : P

  • Fisherman
    Funny remarks about what I posted. Now here is my opinion about the Court's findings that I posted. I disagree with part of the decision that states that the priest penitent setting in the related case should meet certain requirements not met by the JW spiritual setting in this case. Although the Court concluded that 909 potentially can apply to religions in general, I think that the Court is still using a Catholic Church confession setting as a standard and wants to impose that setting on other religions. If 909 applies to all religions (if it don't it's unconstitutional) then the Court is in error because it wants JW to change the way they practice their religion in order to qualify for 909.

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