Reveal article: Jehovah’s Witnesses settle suit alleging cover-up of child sex abuse
Simple fact remains:
If the plaintiff didn't have a case, the Watchtower wouldn't make a settlement. It's an admission of - at least - partial responsibility, which stems from their official policies. Even if the parents ALSO failed to show due diligence.
...I am still a little surprised however that the WTS did not push down the legal line further and try and establish this case as a precedent for limiting their liability and culpability...
I honestly think Watchtower would have pushed farther if it hadn't been for the Candace Conti case a few years ago. More damage was done to Watchtower from the negative publicity and exposure than from the financial loss.
Conti was followed by the Jose Lopez (the victim) case vs Gonzalo Campos (the abuser). That case included Watchtower defying court orders which went to appeal. The trial, plus the appeals that followed, brought even more negative attention to Watchtower.
From the linked article in the OP:
The Watchtower maintains a database of alleged child abusers in congregations across the U.S. going back two decades and has violated court orders in at least three California lawsuits to hand it over to the courts.
It could provide a road map to thousands of accused child molesters living freely in communities across the country.
The same court orders that were defied previously, involving the database mentioned above, likely would have come into play in this trial too, leading to even more sanctions against Watchtower and more negative press. Watchtower will spend lots and lots of money to protect its database of child abusers.
I think the Organization is in damage control mode at this point. The financial losses are minor compared to the public thrashing they are receiving which causes a loss of both members and a great deal of money. After 4 days of trial Watchtower came to court on Monday prepared to up it's initial offer of $100,000.00 significantly, realizing their chances of winning were slim.
If I recall correctly the victim was only asking for $1.9 million, and there would have been a punitive damage phase to the trial - for failing to report child abuse in a mandatory reporting state, and for failing to properly protect the victim from further abuse after knowing about it - which could have amounted to more than the compensatory award.
It has been suggested that victim Fessler's case wasn't going well and that she decided to give in and accept the initial low offer, but I believe that is unlikely. Watchtower needs a win over which it can boast, and if it thought there was a possibility of winning it would have stuck with the trial to the end.
When the report on days 2, 3, and 4 of the trial are in we might possibly have a clearer picture of which way the trial was leaning, but at this point I believe Watchtower was prepared to get out by paying the victim a substantial amount of money.
I wonder if they are actually more keen to silence the noise than have a very public fight?
IMO, you nailed it.
You make good points ScenicViewer and the more I think about the more I agree that ultimately they must have calculated that the potential bad press was not worth the effort even though IMO the WT lawyers could probably have made a good job of minimising the WT liability in this case.
I'd also not taken into account their continued refusal to abide by court orders to submit their database. I assume the mere fact they are prepared to do this prejudices their arguments about doing everything they can to protect children from abuse even if court action is not in the same jurisdiction.
You are right that the WTS needs a win of which it can boast and it is encouraging that even in this case they seem to have assessed it was not worth it.
Never a Jw:
State Legislatures, as well as the US Congress, has recognized that there are certain professions and groups that are entitled to more confidential communication than others. They have recognized the inherent need for lawyers to speak freely with their clients, without the fear of being compelled to testify of what they learned from speaking with them. It also makes the client feel safe and secure that whatever their lawyer finds out about during their conversations that it will be kept confidential. The right to an attorney in criminal cases and the need of one in civil, family and other types of laws makes it a public policy issue that attorneys and clients must be able to speak freely and openly. Married couples privilege also has a public policy concern, the fear of married individuals keeping things from each other out of concern that they will be forced to testify against the other. Married couples also receive many other benefits that unmarried people receive because of the law. That is why the supreme court was able to strike down laws that barred gay couples from marrying.
Married couples privilege also has a public policy concern, the fear of married individuals keeping things from each other out of concern that they will be forced to testify against the other. Married couples also receive many other benefits that unmarried people receive because of the law. That is why the supreme court was able to strike down laws that barred gay couples from marrying.
Doctor and patient confidentiality, again has a public policy interest that must be taken into account. The fear that a person's medical information being released to others would stop some people from seeking proper treatment. If a woman is afraid that her family will find out that she received an abortion, she may not want to seek that type of treatment. And communication is key for doctors and other medical professionals to understand and plan proper medical treatment and diagnostic services. Again if a woman or a man comes from a family or community where premarital sex is something that can cause severe issues, a doctor knowing that they had unprotected sex will allow them to determine what tests to run because of a symptom that they are exhibiting, whereas if the patient didn't feel free to tell the doctor that they had sex, the recommendations for tests may be different.
And finally clergy-penitent privilege, here some may agree and some may disagree but unfortunately, in many states and in the US Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 505, it is spelled out that the inherent need of humans to receive some form of spiritual counseling needs to be protected. The need for humans if they choose, to receive spiritual counseling must be free from governmental intervention, such as forcing the counselor within a faith to reveal information that was gained through their official sessions. Of
Of course, the clergy-penitent is the most controversial form of privilege because not everyone believes in a spirituality or the need for organized religion. But there are some people that don't believe in going to seek medical help from psychologist or psychiatrist or there are Christian Scientist that don't believe in many forms of medical intervention, so does that mean that the doctor-patient privilege should be revoked as well? Some individuals don't believe in marriage, so should the marital privilege be revoked? Just because you don't believe in an aspect of something doesn't mean that the government should take that privilege away from others.
And should privilege be there for everyone? Should I be able to go up to my friend Joe and tell him that I just stole a car and if the police question him, should he be able to say, what me and Richard talked about is privilege? No. Because that is not in the public's interest. Just like, if Joe is a minister and we were talking about the game last night, and I told him that I just stole a car, he would be compelled to reveal that information if asked about it, because he wasn't serving as a minister when I revealed that information to him, he was just my friend.
Now in cases of child abuse or neglect, has the states said that some of the above privileges don't apply? Of course they did, that is clearly evident in state statutes. In many states the only privilege that applies is attorney-client and in some states they also allow for the clergy-penitent. Married couple and doctor-patient privileges don't apply in a majority of states. The legislatures in those states weighed the benefits and the dangers of allowing some privileges and disallowing other privileges. It is certainly a matter that requires great discussion and can be changed, but the forum to do that is to get state legislatures to make those changes. It is clear that courts have agreed that there are professions and groups of people who can have additional confidential communicaiton privileges with others.
You have to realize that it is not what the Watchtower says that is determinate in these issues. Watchtower does say that they don't have a clergy and laity class and that they view themselves as a congregational religion and not a hierarchical religion. But that is not how the law views it. Even in this case the complaint calls watchtower a hierarchical religion, with a top-down system of governance. Court after court has determined that they are a hierarchical system. Also, courts have recognized that they are entitled to clergy-penitent privilege, even when matters are shared during a judicial committee and transmitted to the branch office. Not all states and all courts have found the privilege exists in all cases but there are cases where it does exist.
It's what Eden One stated, " If the plaintiff didn't have a case, the Watchtower wouldn't make a settlement. " End of story. Pretty simple. Some pontificators on the thread try to make it more complicated than it is in order to muddy the waters of who is responsible.
Bottom line is this : Since the WT Society is raking in millions $$$ right now from sales of real estate properties and consolidating kingdom halls across the planet- naturally these funds are going to be used in part to settle thousands of child abuse lawsuits around the world out of court with accompanying gag orders on the victims to make sure the Internet or any news media online or via television won't air it that much to " preserve " the alleged " reputation " of the WT Society to the general public and it's own members. WT leaders don't want to be on the mainstream news every night about child abuse - so they'll take whatever financial maneuvers possible to avoid that scenario. Pretty twisted- but accurate. They don't want hundreds or thousands of Candace Conti type fires to have to put out in the mainstream media. That's a criminal organization in action to preserve it's 138 years worth of delusion of themselves AND the public. Peace out, Mr. Flipper
I keep reading here and on other sites where Watchtower just uses technicalities to get out of their responsibilities in court. Court, is all about technicalities, whether it is when a case can be filed, or who the case can be brought against. It even comes down to what was exactly said and how it was said, these are what the law is about, it is about the details. Everyone has the same rights under the law, whether you like them or not, and Watchtower has every right to defend themselves, with any means that are at their disposal.
Also in the Pardon Case, the data that the US Branch has been transmitted to Pardon and his counsel. The personal information of third parties have been redacted, which is what the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals of California, says can occur. The current appeal is, whether the level of redaction is acceptable.
RO: Everyone has the same rights under the law, whether you like them or not, and Watchtower has every right to defend themselves, with any means that are at their disposal.
You are absolutely right. And in this case, the WT took advantage of what was at their disposal: they settled with the plaintiff. They paid out. They defended themselves by reaching in their pockets.
And that is what the legal system allows for - the defendant has the option to defend themselves with a settlement that is satisfactory to the plaintiff.
Thank you for your response. I certainly can agree with the husband-wife, attorney-client, doctor-patient privileges. However, as you suggested implicitly, many of us find quite troublesome how religion uses and abuses the clergy-penitent privilege, especially in cases of child abuse, where it has become very clear that the so called spiritual leaders are bent of protecting their material, earthly possessions and have no regard for the well being of children. Their greed takes them as far as protecting known pedophiles, who in many cases will go on to abuse more children. You see why this religious privilege is hard to justify when you set it against the other three categories, attorney-client, doctor-patient and husband-wife. I hope that, as the distaste for religion grows and its political influence wanes, law makers reconsider this undeserved privilege for religion.
Richard, regarding your last post.
You are right, the Watchtower becomes an extraordinarily worldly organization in the secular courts. Truth, honesty, humility, cooperation and the pursuit of the greater good for the community are qualities that are left outside of the courtroom. But when it comes to dealing with the flock, the Watchtower leadership demands those qualities like tyrants who are ready to apply the harshest punishment to anyone who dares question their views or orders.
One word: Hypocrites!
Ah Jehovah's Witnesses, a disgusting organization that hides behind laws when they can and skirts them when convenient, that exploits technicalities with the same deftness that they exploit their members, that allows pedophiles to abuse children because they are God-directed and Jehovah forgot to include anything in the Bible about that precludes sexually abusing those most vulnerable. An organization that is about the letter of the law, not the spirit of the law, that would take even that so far as to keep dangers to children hidden. They are filthy, and so are those that would defend them. If it makes you feel better to be technically "right" more than acting in the best interests of children, feel free to join the cult and feel morally superior while allowing immoral things to go on with impunity.
Every settlement is yet another loss for the Borg. I love that donations are going to this (well, I actually wish they never had to, but if they have to go somewhere, might as well help someone). I hope that more and more do whether technically legal or not because I hate organizations that would systematically leave children vulnerable, and if you have any morals you should care more about that than any technicality or legal jargon. Jehovah's Witnesses exploit everyone from children to adults and any hit to them is a win for humanity, morality, love, and goodness.
Some care about kids, and others care only about legal technicalities and it's pretty sad and speaks to their character.