“JehovahÂ’s Witness kids grow up knowing that if they ever mess up, their parents will leave them Â— and thatÂ’s scary,Â” Sawyer, now 38, said in a recent interview from her home in Pascagoula, Miss.Â Â“The shunning is supposed to make us miss them so much that weÂ’ll come back. Â… It didnÂ’t work.Â”
Sawyer and many others like her are now denouncing the church's shunning practicesÂ in the wake of a recent murder-suicideÂ in Keego Harbor that killed a family of four ex-JehovahÂ’s Witnesses who were ostracizedÂ afterÂ leaving the faith. The deaths sparked outrage among scores of ex-JWs nationwide who took to Facebook, online forums, blogs and YouTube, arguing the tragedy highlights a pervasive yet rarely-publicized problem within the church: Shunning is pushingÂ the most vulnerable people over the edge, they say, and tearing families apart.
In the Michigan case, aÂ distraught mother shot and killed her husband, her two grown childrenÂ and herself in theirÂ Keego Harbor home, shockingÂ the small and quiet Oakland County community.
The shooter was Lauren Stuart, a part-time model and personal trainer who struggled with depression and spent much of her time working on her house, her friends say.Â She and her husband, Daniel Stuart, 47, left the JW faith more than a decade ago over doctrinal and social issues. Among them was their desire to send their kids to college, which many ex-JWs say is frowned upon by the church and viewed as spiritually dangerous.
Â“University and college campuses are notorious for bad behavior Â— drug and alcohol abuse, immorality, cheating, hazing, and the list goes on,Â”Â a 2005 article inÂ the Watchtower, the church's official publication, stated.
But the Stuarts sent both their kids to college: Steven, 27, excelled in computers, just like his father, who was a data solutions architect for the University of Michigan Medical School.Â Bethany, 24, thrived in art and graphic design. Â After the parents left the faith, the Stuarts were ostracized by the Kingdom Hall Â—Â the churchesÂ where Jehovah's Witnesses worship Â—Â community in Union Lake and their families, friends said.
Lauren Stuart, whose mother died of cancer when she was 12,Â struggled with mental illness that went untreated;Â isolation and fears that the end was near, said friends and officials familiar with the case. One friend who requested anonymity said she believes the killing was the result of depression, not religion.
"This is a tragedy that has to do with a disease. Depression is so prevalent, and when it goes untreated this is what happens," the friend said. "She needed medical help."
Longtime family friend Joyce Taylor believes depression, shunning and religion-based doomsday fearsÂ all played a role. She said that about six weeks before the killings, Lauren started getting religiously preoccupied andÂ telling her "'It's the end times, I know it is.'"
Weeks later, Taylor saw her friend again. Lauren had a vacant look in her eyes. She was emotionally distressed.
A week later, with her home decorated for Valentine's Day, Lauren Stuart killed her family. She left behind a suicide note.
"She said in the suicide note that she felt that byÂ killing them it was the only way to save them," recalled Taylor, who said police let herÂ read the letter. "She said she's sorry that she has to do this, but it was the only way to save them all."Â
Taylor, a former Jehovah's WitnessÂ herself who left the faith in 1986, explained: "Jehovah's WitnessesÂ believe that if you die on this side of Armageddon, you'll be resurrected in paradise."
In Lauren Stuart's case, Taylor believes her friend never deprogrammedÂ after leaving the church Â— a stateÂ she describes asÂ Â "physically out, butÂ mentally in." She believes that Lauren'sÂ indoctrinated doomsday fearsÂ never left her, and that the shunning helped pushÂ her over the edge.
Had she not beenÂ excommunicatedÂ by her tight-knit community that wasÂ once her entire support system Â— left with no one to share her fears with Â—Â Lauren Stuart may not have done what she did, Taylor believes.
"People do things when they are desperate," Taylor said. "And that was an extreme, desperate act."
ShunningÂ "can lead to great trauma among people because the Jehovah's Witnesses are a very tight-knit community,"Â saidÂ Mathew Schmalz, a religious studies associate professor at the College of Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.
"If you're separated out, you're really left to your own devices in ways that are very challenging and very painful," Schmalz said. "Once you leave a group that's been your whole life Â— letting that go is a kind of death."
Police have not yet disclosed details about the death of the Stuart family besides calling it a murder-suicide.
The tragedy has emboldened many once-quiet ex-JWs to speak up. Many sayÂ they suffered quietly on their own for years until they discovered an online community full of isolated, ostracized people like themselves Â— people who had lost someone to suicide or attempted suicide themselves because their families, friends and church community had written them off for making mistakes, for being human.Â
The church calls it being "disfellowshipped." Members can return if they repent, change the behavior and prove themselves worthy of being reinstated. But unless or until that happens, members are encouraged to avoid the sinners, especially those who leave the faith.
Mothers go years, even decades, without talking to their children. Siblings write off siblings. Friends shun friends.
An estimated 70,000 JehovahÂ’s Witnesses are disfellowshipped every year Â— roughly 1% of the churchÂ’s total population, according to data published by the Watchtower. Their names are published at local Kingdom Halls. Of those, two-thirds never return.
Within a faith representing 8.4Â million people worldwide, however, many members believe the religion is pure, good and loving. Those who are speaking against it,Â current members argue, are disgruntled and angry people who have an ax to grind because they were disfellowshipped. Or, they are lost souls who have misinterpreted the meaning and love behind the faith. Members say they believe the shunning accusations are exaggerated andÂ that the suicides are often more about mental illness than ostracism.
The departed disagree. Â
In the world ofÂ ex-JehovahÂ’s Witnesses, they maintain, the shunned are considered dead to their families, just like the suicide victims.Â
These are their stories:
Â‘A dangerous cultÂ’
It was a difficult conversation to wrap her 8-year-old brain around.
Â“Â‘You know your sister was being bad, right?Â’Â“ Sawyer recalled her mother telling her after her sister's suicide.
Â“ Â‘And what she did was stupid, right?Â’ Â… To take your own life is very wrong,' "Â the mother continued.
Â“I didnÂ’t understand what was going on Â… and I said, Â‘Oh. OK,,Â’ Â“ recalled Sawyer. Â“In my 8-year-old brain I was thinking, Â‘When I mess up, my momÂ’s going to hate me.Â’ "
And so began her painful journey with the JehovahÂ’s Witness faith, the religion she was born into and grew upÂ in in Pascagoula, Miss., where her fears of abandonment took hold at the age of 8.Â
Sawyer believes the shunning drove her sister to suicide. After the church disfellowshipped her for getting engaged to a non-JW, theÂ fiancÃ©Â left her sister, who was thrown into depression. Her sister tried turning to her mother for consolation, but her mom would read scripture and tell her, "until you start acting right, youÂ’re going to have these bad things happen to you.Â“
Bad things happened to Sawyer, too. At 30, she sought a divorce from her husband because he wasÂ abusive and cheating on her, she said.Â But the church elders and family pressured her to save her marriage.
Â“I showed them the holes in my walls,Â” Sawyer said, referring to the damage her ex-husband did to the home during fights. Â“They told me to pray more Â… and sent me back home to him.Â”
Sawyer took up smoking to handle the stress, which got her disfellowshipped becauseÂ smoking is not allowed. She also went through with the divorce.Â She ended up losing her home to foreclosure and turned to her mother for help as she had two children to raise.
Â Her mother took her in temporarily, but when the church elders found out, they threatened to disfellowship SawyerÂ’s mother Â— who let the grandkids stay, but not the daughter.Â
Sawyer ended up homeless for six months, living out of her car in a community college parking lot. She landed on her feet with the help of a student loan. She got an apartment, a job as a hospice nurse and her children Â— now 10 and 18 Â— back. She found herself, but lost her family along the way.
Her mother doesnÂ’t speak to her; she said she canÂ’t recall the last time they spoke.
Her sister in Alabama hasnÂ’t spoken to her since Sawyer got divorced in 2010.
Â“She was on my porch, with my parents Â… My sister looked at me and said, Â‘YouÂ’re abandoning me just like Donna didÂ’ And left. And that'sÂ the last thing she ever said to me."
Sawyer has kept silent about her pain for decades.
Â“This is a dangerous cult,Â” she said of her former religion. Â“ItÂ’s important for people to realize Â— Â this is serious.Â”Â
Read the rest of the story here:
By Guest Nicole
A lawsuit is now settled between a former victim of sexual abuse and Jehovah's Witnesses. According to the court's website, the case is under a "conditional settlement." The terms and conditions of the settlement are not public.
José Lopez filed the lawsuit back in 2012, nearly 20 years after church elder Gonzalo Campos molested him and several other young children who were members of the Linda Vista congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.
As reported by the Reader, Campos, who fled to Mexico to escape criminal charges, admitted to committing the acts to Lopez’s and another victim's attorney, Devin Storey, while giving testimony in one of the cases.
“I touched him in his private parts,” Campos testified.
Attorney Storey: “Did you touch his penis?”
Storey: “Did you penetrate him?”
Campos: “Yes. Yes.”
Storey: “How many times?”
Campos: “More than once. I don’t know.”
In 2009, five other alleged victims sued the Watchtower and Bible and Tract Society of New York, the governing body of Jehovah's Witnesses, over the molestation by Campos and the Watchtower's refusal to act.
That case settled for an undisclosed amount in 2012, the same year that Lopez filed his lawsuit and a year before another victim, Osbaldo Padron, filed his.
Then, in 2015, a state court judge ruled that the Watchtower had failed to cooperate with discovery in the Lopez case. The judge awarded a $13.5 million judgment in favor of Lopez.
The Watchtower later appealed the decision and managed to get the decision rescinded and promised to produce the requested documents.
Meanwhile, a fight over documents was also occurring in Padron's case, the one filed shortly after Lopez’s lawsuit.
At issue was Watchtower’s refusal to turn over a letter from headquarters that asked for the names of alleged sexual abusers in the church.
But at the same time other documents had been released by the Linda Vista congregation, which showed the congregation and headquarters were aware that Campos had sexually assaulted young boys and a girl but still considered him eligible to return to the congregation.
“In our meeting with him he said he was very repentant for what he did,” wrote an elder at Linda Vista's congregation to Watchtower headquarters in New York in 1999.
“He stated that he wanted to return to Jehovah. He is willing to face the victims and ask their forgiveness. He now wants to obey Jehovah. Before, when he would speak to people on the platform he would not meditate on what he was doing. Although he needed to confess, he felt shameful and had fear of mankind. He would deceive himself thinking that he could continue serving as an elder. Now he realized that he could not change without help. Ever since his expulsion he has not abused anyone. He has read articles of the publications regarding his sin. He says he does not see or read pornographic information. He stated that ever since expulsion he has worked on having a relationship with Jehovah and the expulsion has served to strengthen him spiritually. He does not miss meetings, and he even takes notes of the program. He also said that he is willing to continue accepting Jehovah’s discipline.”
While the two sides continued to fight over discovery in the Lopez case, another judge issued sanctions against the Watchtower for refusing to turn over documents in the Padron case.
The Watchtower also appealed that decision as well.
As covered by the Reader, in November a state appellate court rejected the appeal, sending the case back to state court and keeping the $4000-per-day sanctions in place.
Meanwhile, as the Padron case was heading back to state court, attorneys for Lopez and Watchtower agreed to settle the Lopez case.
Lopez’s attorney, Irwin Zalkin, did not respond to a request for comment prior to publication of this article.
There is no word yet whether Padron's case has also been settled. A hearing is scheduled for next month.
By Guest Nicole
Reclaimed Voices, a foundation set up in the Netherlands to denounce sexual abuse by Jehovah's Witnesses, received 46 reports of abuse in just a week's time. The number of reports is shocking, Frank Huiting, one of the founders and himself a victim of sexual abuse in a closed Jehovah's Witnesses community as a child, said to broadcaster NOS.
The foundation was launched just over a week ago, based on Huiting's own experiences. He was abused from the time he was seven year's old. When Huiting told his parents, they decided not to report it to the police. An elder in the community advised against it. "Then there will be headlines in the newspaper and we don't want that."
According to the Reclaimed Voices initiators, victims within the closed Jehovah's Witnesses community are not heard and perpetrators are left to continue unchecked. Over the past week, foundation employees heard stories from a number of people who were abused by Jehovah's Witnesses. "The fact that so many reports have come in actually says enough. There are at least hundreds of cases in the Netherlands that should actually come out", Huiting said, according to NOS. He added that so many victims are too afraid to come forward.
The main purpose of Reclaimed Voices is to be a listening ear. The employees urge victims to speak out, and hope that they also report the abuse. "People walked around with this secret for years. And the fact that they are coming out, can be a relief for them. That was also my experience. We also want to advise them to seek professional help. Also outside the religious community, for example with a social worker, psychologist or general practitioner", Huiting said.
The foundation aims to collect as man reports of sexual abuse as possible and present them to the board of Jehovah's Witnesses Netherlands and the Dutch government. "We want to get the government to investigate these abuses. And not to start a fight, but really to focus on the victim."
Earlier this year Dutch newspaper Trouw spoke to a number of people who were sexually abused as children in the Jehovah's Witnesses community. One victim described the religious society as a "paradise for pedophiles".
By Guest Nicole
A 44-year-old former teacher and Jehovah’s Witness church elder copped to sexually assaulting one of his 13-year-old boy students.
Police are searching for a man who groped a girl as she was walking home from a Huntington Beach middle school.
Jason Morris Gorski of Fort Mill, South Carolina, pleaded guilty in Orange County Superior Court last Tuesday to two counts of lewd acts with a minor younger. He met the victim while teaching at the now-shuttered Southwestern Longview Private School in Long Beach, and at the same time he was an elder with the Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall congregation in Cypress, where the boy was also a member. Gorski had sex with the teen in Buena Park between June 2007 and June 2008. The minor reported the abuse to the congregation in 2009, and a year later Gorski moved to South Carolina and began attending a nearby Jehovah's Witnesses congregation. The boy told the Buena Park Police Department what had happened, and on June 21, 2016, Gorski was arrested. He could get up to 10 years in state prison at his Jan. 26 sentencing.
By Guest Nicole
Children who were sexually abused by Jehovah's Witnesses were allegedly told by the church not to report the crimes.
Victims from across the UK told the BBC they were routinely abused and that the religious organisation's own rules protected perpetrators.
One child abuse lawyer believes there could be thousands of victims across the country who have not come forward because of the "two witness" rule.
A spokesperson for the church said it did not "shield" abusers.
'Bring reproach on Jehovah'
BBC Hereford and Worcester spoke to victims - men and women - from Birmingham, Cheltenham, Leicester, Worcestershire and Glasgow, one of whom waived her right to anonymity.
Louise Palmer, who now lives in Evesham, Worcestershire, was born into the organisation along with her brother Richard Davenport, who started raping her when she was four. He is serving a 10-year prison sentence for the abuse.
The 41-year-old, formerly of Halesowen, West Midlands, said when she told the church of the abuse she was told not to go to police.
Read more: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-42025255
Former Long Beach Private School Teacher, Jehovah’s Witness Elder Pleads Guilty to Sexually Abusing Teen BoyBy Guest Nicole
A 44-year-old man pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a teenage boy he had met while working as a teacher in Long Beach, officials said Wednesday.
Jason Morris Gorski on Tuesday pleaded to two counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a minor under 14, according to a statement from the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors said that Gorski met the 13-year-old victim in 2007 while working as a teacher at Southwestern Longview Private. The school shut down in 2008, state records show.
Gorski had worked at the school for four years and was an active member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation in Cypress when he met the boy.
In 2009, the teenager reported the abuse to the congregation, which then removed Gorski from his position as an elder, but allowed him to remain an active member. Gorski later moved to South Carolina and started attending a Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The victim reported the abuse to law enforcement in March 2016. The Buena Park Police Department investigated the case and arrested Gorski in June 2016.
Gorski is scheduled to return to court for sentencing on Jan. 26 and he faces a maximum possible sentence of 10 years in state prison.
By Guest Nicole
A Central Coast man who raped and tortured a succession of women over more than two decades has been sentenced to at least 27 years in jail.
The 53-year-old man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was found guilty of 55 charges relating to the physical, sexual and psychological abuse of women he lived with between 1988 and 2014.
The man, who was a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses, was accused of raping the women with household objects and detaining them.
The sadistic nature of the offences included bashing and raping the women for not folding washing correctly, making them eat off the floor, locking them in wardrobes and hog-tying them and placing them face down in a bathtub full of water.
A number of the women have suffered permanent physical injuries stemming from the abuse.
One of the women known as JF was locked in a cupboard after calling her sister who contacted police.
When police visited the home, the offender said she had gone out.
In her victim impact statement JF said "It's hard to understand the fear unless you have lived with it," and that she "frequently believed she wouldn't be alive the following day".
In handing down the sentence in the Downing Centre District Court, Justice Sarah Huggett said the man used "gratuitous cruelty ... designed to emphasise a victim's powerlessness and helplessness".
"When one victim found the strength to escape, he found a replacement," she said.
"I have no doubt there was foresight, premeditation and planning."
Justice Huggett said the degree of violence was a relevant consideration in the sentence and that the offender was "frightening, controlling and undermining each victim's sense of security".
The court heard that while in custody, the man had been verbally aggressive towards visitors and nursing staff.
The man will be eligible for release in 2041.
By Guest Nicole
“They also state that protective restrictions must be put in place to protect the charity’s members from people found guilty of child sexual abuse by the criminal courts.”
He said that the charity has now changed its policies and procedures to ensure that “victims of child sexual abuse are not required to make their allegations in the presence of the alleged abuser”.
The commission’s inquiry into another Jehovah’s Witnesses charity, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Britain, is ongoing.
A spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses said: “Jehovah’s Witnesses abhor child abuse in all of its forms and do not shield wrongdoers from the authorities or from the consequences of their actions.
“All allegations of abuse are thoroughly investigated and appropriate restrictions are imposed on any person who is guilty of child sexual abuse.
“The trustees will continue to concentrate on doing all that they can to safeguard children and to care for the spiritual needs of the congregation.”
By Guest Nicole
Jehovah's Witnesses have been severely criticised by the Charity Commission for allowing a convicted sex offender to interrogate his victims.
The commission's report said the women had endured "inappropriate and demeaning questioning".
And Jonathan Rose had challenged them during a meeting with Church elders, after he was released from prison.
A Jehovah's Witness statement said "appropriate restrictions" were imposed on anyone guilty of abuse.
Rose was convicted in 2013 of the historical sexual abuse of two girls, aged five and 10, and sentenced to nine months in prison.
Both he and the girls, at the time of the assaults, were members of the New Moston Kingdom Hall, in Manchester.
At the time of his conviction, Rose was a senior member, or "elder", of the Jehovah's Witnesses.
He appealed against a move to expel him, a process known as "disfellowshipping".
In order to decide his fate, a group of elders had called the two women to a meeting at the Kingdom Hall, along with a third woman who had alleged in the 1990s that Rose had assaulted her, the report said.
Over three hours in April 2014, the women were individually questioned by Rose and a room full of male elders.
In an audio recording made by one of the women and passed to the BBC, Rose is heard saying to one woman: "Give me one reason why I would touch you?"
He is heard challenging the woman, accusing her of making up the allegations and asking her to relive the assault.
"What I am saying to you is this didn't happen," he says.
"What was I supposed to have done to you that night?"
One of the elders asks: "Did you ever egg him on?"
"It was worse than the court case," another of the women told the BBC.
"I felt everyone was on his side. I felt I was in the wrong. I felt very intimidated that it was all men, very, very intimidating. I was shocked he was able to talk to me.
"He kept making out that I was lying. He kept saying why did I make it up, why would I say something like that, and at no point did I feel he was going to admit it.
"I got to the point where I thought, 'He genuinely believes he's not done anything wrong.'"
She added that another of the women had burst out of her meeting in tears, claiming Rose had asked if "she'd enjoyed it".
In 2014, the Charity Commission, which regulates both the New Moston Kingdom Hall and the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Britain - the main UK Jehovah's Witness organisation, opened an investigation into how the trustees of the church had handled the case.
The movement launched several legal actions to stop the inquiry, claiming the commission was acting beyond its remit.
Eventually, the challenges were thrown out by the courts, and the report says: "The trustees of the charity... acting on legal advice, declined to engage with the commission following the opening of its inquiry."
The report also found the charity's trustees had failed to tell the commission about the allegation against Rose from the 1990s, as they should have done.
In a subsequent letter to the regulator, the trustees described the incident as merely "a matter between two teenagers", evidence, says the report, that they did not properly take account of the earlier incident when considering the new allegations.
The report said they also failed to fully enforce the restrictions they had put on Rose's activities, allowing him to continue participating in the Church, and they "did not deal adequately" with the appeal meeting, allowing the questioning to take place, and therefore failing in their duties to protect people from harm.
Taken together, the failures "constitute misconduct or mismanagement in the administration of the charity" by the trustees, the report said.
"This has to be dealt with in a way that is sensitive to the victims who have gone through this terrible ordeal," said Michelle Russell, director of investigations at the Charity Commission. "In this case, they let the victims down."
'No unsupervised contact'
A statement from Watch Tower said: "Jehovah's Witnesses abhor child abuse in all of its forms and do not shield wrongdoers from the authorities or from the consequences of their actions. All allegations of abuse are thoroughly investigated and appropriate restrictions are imposed on any person who is guilty of child sexual abuse.
"For years, Jehovah's Witnesses have had a robust child safeguarding policy. The trustees followed the policy by imposing restrictions on the perpetrator and by ensuring that he had no unsupervised contact with children during congregation meetings.
"The trustees will continue to concentrate on doing all that they can to safeguard children and to care for the spiritual needs of the congregation."
Jonathan Rose told the BBC he had no comment to make.
The commission is now undertaking a wider inquiry into how Jehovah's Witnesses across the UK handle allegations of child sexual abuse.
One particular concern is the Church's policy of dismissing an allegation if it fails its two-witness policy, which states two people need to have seen the abuse for the Church to proceed with a full investigation.
There are also calls for the independent child abuse inquiry to examine the Church's policy.
By Guest Nicole
MOSCOW — Workers building stadiums for next year’s World Cup in Russia have faced repeated abuses and routinely gone unpaid for several months, according to a report by Human Rights Watch released on Wednesday.
At a stadium in Yekaterinburg, some workers were required to work in temperatures of minus-25 degrees Celsius (minus-13 Fahrenheit) “without sufficient breaks for them to warm themselves,” the report states.
“FIFA is essentially expecting us to take their word for it that their work has improved workers’ lives,” Jane Buchanan, the report’s author, told The Associated Press. “This is supposed to be the reformed FIFA, moving away from secrecy and a lot of deals behind closed doors.”
At least 17 workers have died on World Cup construction sites, according to Building and Wood Workers’ International, a trade union.
Known deaths include workers killed in falls and the case of a worker from North Korea who died of a reported heart attack at the stadium in St. Petersburg, which will host the final of the Confederations Cup on July 2, as well as World Cup matches in 2018.
Read more: http://news.nationalpost.com/sports/soccer/at-least-17-deaths-as-workers-on-russia-2018-world-cup-construction-sites-face-abuse-report
By Guest Nicole
SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. - Warrants claim a North Georgia nurse accused of inappropriately touching women under anesthesia injected at least one of them with a potent drug to keep her under sedation for a longer than necessary period of time.
Sandy Springs Police arrested Michael Morgan, 33, after they said he admitted to touching the women while they were unconscious at the gastroenterology practice where he worked earlier this year.
Police said Morgan confided in his pastors at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and they turned him into detectives.
According to warrants obtained by Channel 2’s Mike Petchenik, "Mr. Morgan admitted to taking a used plunger of Propofol from a medical trash pile that had not been used all the way. He then took a saline flush and added it to the used Propofol plunge so he could keep her under sedation."
Girl who was abused by her father from a age of 11 sought assistance from Jehovah’s Witnesses only to be molested by one of their eldersBy Guest Nicole
A WOMAN who was molested by her father over 5 years and afterwards by a Jehovah’s Witnesses she asked for assistance has oral out about her ordeal.
Terrified Angie Rodgers, from Ayrshire, was abused weekly by her perverted Jehovah’s Witness father Ian Cousins from a age of 11.
Angie Rodgers was 11 years aged when her father started abusing her
The dauntless teen eventually plucked adult a bravery to disclose in a Jehovah’s Witness elders, who took small action and she was after abused by one of them too, Harry Holt.
Angie, now 36, said: “I incited to a church for assistance and we was abused a second time.
“I was a child and they should have helped, though they incited on me. They make me feel sick.
“I don’t consider I’ll ever get over what happened. I’ve usually schooled to live with it.
“I have nightmares and flashbacks all a time and been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress.”
Angie’s father was detained for 5 years in 2002 for his crimes, while Holt was usually jailed final year for Angie’s attack along with 7 others he molested.
Now aged 36, Angie, a mother-of-four, has bravely waived her anonymity in a wish her story will assistance other people.
She said: “Dad did it whenever he got a chance, even when we was ill.
Angie Rodgers poses here with others in a Jehovah’s Witness community
“Once, we was throwing adult with gastric influenza when father brought me home a feathery bunny, with a organic white floral dress and bloomers.
“My wordless went to a Kingdom (church) and my father scooped me adult in his arms from a couch, took me to his room and molested me.
“I prayed my wordless would come and save me though she never did. After that he used to try to hold me whenever we were alone. It got worse and worse.
“We went to a Jehovah gathering when we was about 14 and he attempted to rape me in a tent. He was usually interrupted when an elder shouted him from outside.”
At a age of 15 Angie confided in a friend, whose father led a opposite church, in a wish that they would be means to stop a abuse.
While her father Cousins was called in for a “judicial meeting” no movement was taken, as Jehovah’s Witness elders can't act opposite suspects unless “there is a admission or dual convincing witnesses”.
Angie was afterwards subjected to an talk by 3 masculine elders including Holt, where she was done to plead insinuate sum of a abuse.
She explained: “They even asked what I’d been wearing, as if it was my fault. It was excruciating. we was so genuine we was still personification with toys and Lego during 18.”
As Cousins showed plea for his sins he was authorised behind into a church after being reprimanded – and a abuse stopped.
A brief while after in 1997, Holt done a pierce on Angie when pushing her home following a event door-knocking for members.
She said: “On a approach home in a automobile he grabbed my leg and felt his approach adult towards my underwear.”
Shocked, a immature lady told her relatives about a occurrence and a explanation led to Holt journey to Edinburgh.
It was suggested in justice final year that he went on to abuse some-more children.
Angie motionless to make a censure to a military about her father when she found out he had also abused another dual girls.
She also incited her behind on a Jehovah’s Witnesses during 19 in a wish of starting fresh.
The sacrament is pronounced to inspire members to reject people who leave, and Angie claimed that she didn’t see her mom for 6 years after she left.
In 2014 a censure was done opposite Holt, and Angie concluded to come brazen and pronounce about her horrific experience.
In Feb 2016, 71-year-old Holt was condemned to three-and-a-half years in jail for a abuse of 8 girls between 1971 and 2004.
Angie said: “If what happened to me helps usually one immature lady – or child – go to a military it will have been value it. What happened to me is horrible though I’m perplexing to pierce on, differently my abusers have won.
“The sacrament is zero though a cult. Children are kept wordless by fears of Holy condemnation and Armageddon if they move a church into ill repute.
“It’s that fear and a fear of being shunned by friends and family if we leave that stops victims from stating to police. It’s primitive and it has to stop.”
When contacted, a Jehovah’s Witnesses wouldn’t criticism on Angie’s box though they did criticism on their position in general.
The matter said: “Jehovah’s Witnesses detest child abuse and perspective it as a iniquitous crime and sin. Safety of a children is of a pinnacle importance.
“Elders do not defense abusers from a authorities. Anyone who commits a impiety of child abuse faces exclusion from a congregation. Any idea Jehovah’s Witnesses cover adult abuse is false.
“We are doing all we can to forestall child abuse and to yield devout comfort to any who have suffered from this terrible impiety and crime.”
By Guest Nicole
Tribunal rejects claim investigation into charity’s handling of sexual abuse allegations amounts to religious discrimination
A Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation in Manchester has lost a legal attempt to block an investigation into its handling of sexual abuse allegations, after failing to convince a judge that the inquiry amounted to religious discrimination.
Organisations linked to the religion have fought legally to prevent the Charity Commission from launching two inquiries into allegations that survivors of sexual abuse were being forced to face their attackers in so-called judicial committees. The organisation’s efforts have been described by the commission as unprecedented.
The Charity Commission launched a statutory inquiry into the Manchester New Moston congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2014, after reports surfaced that a convicted paedophile, Jonathan Rose, was brought face-to-face with survivors of his abuse in a judicial committee.
After Rose served nine months in prison for child sex offences, the New Moston congregation held a meeting attended by senior members, Rose and three of his victims – now adults – to see if he would be “disfellowshipped”, or expelled from of the congregation, the judgment notes. This would have involved “the elders of the charity (its trustees) and Mr Rose interviewing his victims, in an apparently intrusive way”.
This raised serious concerns at the Charity Commission, which oversees whether charity trustees are meeting their safeguarding responsibilities.
The commission also launched a statutory inquiry into safeguarding the UK’s main Jehovah’s Witnesses charity, the Watch Tower Bible Tract Society of Great Britain (WTBTS), which oversees the UK’s 1,500 congregations and is believed to play a key role in deciding how claims of abuse are handled.
WTBTS launched litigation including an attempt to challenge in the supreme court the commission’s decision to start an investigation. The charity also fought in the lower courts against production orders that would oblige it to give the commission access to records showing how it handled the allegations, although in January it dropped its opposition to these requests.
The Manchester New Moston congregation launched appeals at the first-tier tribunal challenging the Charity Commission’s decision to open a formal inquiry, arguing among other things that the investigation interfered with the congregation’s human rights, and that the decision to launch the inquiry amounted to religious discrimination. The charity alleged the commission had investigated safeguarding concerns at other charities without launching a full statutory inquiry.
When the first appeal was dismissed, the congregation appealed to the upper tribunal. This was rejected on Tuesday at the upper tribunal of the tax and chancery division at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.
Mrs Justice Asplin ruled the lower tribunal had been “entitled to decide that there was no direct discrimination on the grounds of religion, the inquiry having been opened on the basis of unusual and distinctive factual reasons ... and that there were no other comparable cases from which to infer discrimination on the grounds of religious beliefs.”
The Charity Commission’s head of litigation, Chris Willis Pickup, said: “We regret that public and charity funds have been used on this protracted litigation, but we will continue to defend robustly our legitimate role in investigating serious concerns about charities.
“We hope and expect that this judgment concludes the litigation on this matter and allows us, and the charity, to focus our efforts on concluding the Commission’s inquiry.”
By Guest Nicole
© Justin McManus Lara Kaput has started a campaign to apply scrutiny to the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Three decades ago Jodi*'s family were searching for a better life for themselves and their four children, well away from the gritty inner-city high rise apartment they called home.
The family packed up their belongings and moved to rural Victoria where they planned to start anew.
© Supplied Tara's family moved to rural Victoria in search of a better life but she says they were indoctrinated into the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Then one morning a pair of Jehovah's Witnesses knocked on the door to spread the word of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. That was when Jodi's nightmare began.
"These nice people were promising a community with no drugs, no alcohol and no crime – it sounded very appealing," said Jodi, who asked that her name be withheld.
"They love bomb you. They sell you this vision of a perfect community. It is anything but. It's indoctrination. It's a cult, it really is. But they convince you it's a religion."
The Jehovah's Witness church and its overarching body, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, came to the attention of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Sexual Abuse with a 2015 case study hearing more than 1000 allegations of paedophilia had been made against the organisation over 60 years yet not one complaint was reported to police.
This echoes Jodi's experience. Now 35, she says she was abused by a church elder and his daughter when she was eight years old. When she was 13 she mustered up the courage to report the abuse to church authorities but was not believed and branded a liar. She left the church shortly after.
"They preach love but they don't show love," she said.
Another former member, Lara Kaput, describes the Jehovah's Witnesses as "cruel".
© Supplied Tara today. She still suffers from nightmares as a result of her experience with the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Ms Kaput, 44, was raised in a Jehovah's Witness family in Victoria where close contact with people outside the church was discouraged, women were taught to obey men and the teachings of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society were unquestioned.
She left the Jehovah's Witnesses when she was 19 and was shunned by the community. Over the past 25 years she's had only sporadic contact with family members who are still involved in the church.
"You are ostracised from your entire family and friend network," she said. "Prior to (leaving) they incorporated me as a regular family member. After that I was dead to them."
Ms Kaput has launched a campaign on change.org to have charity regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission, investigate the organisation.
"This is not an organisation which should have charitable status," she said.
Nor is it a safe organisation for children, the royal commission determined when it handed down its findings into the institution last year.
Shine Lawyers principal Lisa Flynn specialises in institutional sexual abuse and describes the culture of Jehovah's Witness church as deeply problematic.
"The Jehovah's Witnesses have many practices and policies which create a perfect storm for child abuse," she said.
Ms Flynn describes the organisation as "controlling, insular and isolating".
"Anyone who complains faces the risk of being shunned and isolated from their families and friends and the way of life they have known," she said. "That makes people very reluctant to report abuse."
And those who do report face hurdles such as the "two witness rule" which requires two eye witnesses to an allegation, having to confront the alleged abuser and giving evidence to a panel of male elders.
"It's often the case that no action is taken," she said. "That leads to a climate where a perpetrator is free to go off and continue perpetrating."
Following the royal commission's hearing, Jehovah's Witnesses leaders promised to reform the organisation's child protection policies and procedures.
But on Friday the commission heard the Jehovah's Witnesses have failed to address many recommendations which would make the organisation safer for children.
The commission was told the organisation, which has 67,000 Australian followers, has "reviewed, clarified, refined and consolidated" its policies on child sexual abuse to ensure "as far as possible" the safety of children.
Counsel assisting the commission Angus Stewart SC said, despite this: "The Jehovah's Witnesses have failed to address many of the recommendations (from the commission)."
The commission has referred information about 514 alleged perpetrators within the Jehovah's Witnesses to the police since the initial hearing.
Terrence O'Brien, a director of Watchtower Australia, told the hearing allegations of child sexual abuse are reported to the police. The commission heard the Jehovah's Witnesses have referred a further 15 allegations to police since 2015.
Senior minister with Watchtower Australia Rodney Spinks said: "We've taken the recommendations of the royal commission seriously."
Jodi, who now lives in Queensland, still bears the scars from her experience with the Jehovah's Witnesses.
"I still sleep with the light on and my dog on the bed," she said. "My little fox terrier is ancient and missing half her teeth but I feel safer with her on the bed beside me. I still have nightmares."
The hearing into the Jehovah's Witnesses, before Justice Peter McClellan, has adjourned.
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By Guest Nicole
Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Source: @CARoyalComm/Twitter
More than one in five members of the Christian Brothers order were alleged child sexual abuse perpetrators and 7% of Australian Catholic priests have allegedly perpetrated abuse since 1950, the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse has been told.
The commission reopened in Sydney today for its 50th case study, looking into the policies and procedures of Catholic church authorities. Six archbishops from across Australia have been called to give evidence in the coming weeks. It’s the 16th time the four-year-long inquiry has looked into the Catholic church and the first time figures have been released on abuse levels.
Senior counsel assisting, Gail Furness SC, outlined shocking levels of child sexual abuse in her opening address, saying 4,444 people were allegedly abused between 1980 and 2015 in around 1000 different institutions.
“Of priests from the 75 Catholic Church authorities with priest members surveyed, who ministered in Australia between 1950 and 2010, 7.9% of diocesan priests were alleged perpetrators and 5.7% of religious priests were alleged perpetrators,” Furness said. “Overall, 7% of priests were alleged perpetrators.”
The average age of the victims was just 10.5 for girls and 11.6 for boys. On average, it took around 33 years from the incident before claims of abuse emerged.
The widespread levels of abuse outlined by Furness over the last four decades include the Marist Brothers, which like the Christian Brothers, runs schools, and 20% of the order were perpetrators. The figure climbed to a staggering 40.4% in the St John of God Brothers order.
Among the abusers, nearly 1,900 have been identified, but another 500 are still unknown. Among the perpetrators, 32% were religious brothers, 30% were priests, and 29% were lay people, with religious sisters at 5%.
Data suggested 21.5% of priests from the Benedictine Community of New Norcia were alleged perpetrators.
There were regional hotspots of abuse, most notably in Sale and Sandhurst in Victoria, with around 15% of priests allegedly responsible, followed by Port Pirie in South Australia, and Lismore and Wollongong in NSW.
Nearly four in every 10 private sessions (37%) held with abuse survivors involved the Catholic church.
Furness said accounts of abuse survivors “were depressingly similar”.
“Children were ignored or worse, punished. Allegations were not investigated. Priests and religious (members) were moved,” she said.
“The parishes or communities to which they were moved knew nothing of their past. Documents were not kept or they were destroyed. Secrecy prevailed as did cover ups.
“Priests and religious (members) were not properly dealt with and outcomes were often not representative of their crimes. Many children suffered and continue as adults to suffer from their experiences in some Catholic institutions.”
The abuse claims were made to 93 Catholic Church authorities and the Holy See blocked attempts by the royal commission to find out what action was taken by the church against priests suspected of abuse.
Furness said Rome refused to release any documents on the issue, telling the commission in 2014 that it was “neither possible nor appropriate to provide the information requested”.
The commission also sought documents on a named Australian priest but “was told that ‘to avoid compromising the integrity of the canonical proceeding’ it was not possible to provide all of the documents requested”.
Today Furness revealed a number of senior Catholic officials who initially accepted invitations to appear before the commission have pulled out in recent weeks. Among them was the US head of child protection in the church, Deacon Bernard Nojadera, who subsequently refused to even provide a signed statement.
The royal commission will spend the next three weeks on this final look at the Catholic church and its responses to abuse allegations before turning its attention to a range of other religious groups later this year, including the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Uniting and Anglican churches and Yeshivah Melbourne and Yeshiva Bondi.
By Jack Ryan
Paul Shields said he had not spoken to his 80-year-old mother for two years after being accused of abusing young girls :: He denies the allegations
A Jehovah’s Witness accused of sexually abusing three young girls told a court he had been ostracised by the church ever since the allegations arose.
Paul Shields, 57, who was living in Guisborough at the time of the alleged abuse, said that no-one within the organisation would talk to him because of the accusations which he insists were untrue.
York Crown Court heard that it was Jehovah’s Witness policy for church members to shun those who have wronged in such a way.
Even family members who are Jehovah’s Witnesses are told not to speak to the wrong-doer.
Shields, who vehemently denies any abuse took place during the 1990s, said even his mother, who is a Jehovah’s Witness, had not spoken to him since the allegations were made in 2014.
He had been kicked out of the church by the elders of the Guisborough fellowship following a disciplinary meeting in March 2015.
Giving evidence in the witness box on the fourth day of his trial, the married father-of-two said: “I have an 80-year-old mother I haven’t spoken to for about two years. They (the church elders) have even said that my two children shouldn’t speak to me. It was like trashing my life - I have been a Jehovah’s Witness since birth.”
The prosecution alleges that Shields abused the girls on a number of occasions after luring them with video games.
The CPS claims that Shields - who moved from Darlington to Guisborough during the alleged abuse - sexually touched the girls over their clothes but did not touch them on any intimate areas, although he “came very close”.
Prosecutor Andrew Espley said it was not until 2014 that two of the females, who were under-age at the time but are now adult women, reported the matters to police.
Shields, who was in his 30s during the alleged abuse, was arrested and charged with three counts of indecent assault, all of which he denied.
When asked by Mr Espley why he had written letters of apology to two of the girls after the elders’ decision to expel him, Shields said he thought it would be a way of getting back into the church.
Shields, now of Gordon Street, York, admitted he had apologised to the girls but that he had also told them in the letters that “I didn’t think I had done anything wrong”.
Mr Espley asked Shields why he said in police interview that he had acted in a “totally inappropriate” way towards the girls.
Shields admitted he said this, but claimed there was no sexual aspect or motivation to his behaviour.
He said he had suffered a nervous breakdown since the allegations surfaced and had been seeing a psychiatrist.
“You were upset because you had finally been caught out, were you not?” said Mr Espley.
“No,” replied Shields.
The barrister said: “As a practising Jehovah’s Witness, you take very seriously giving oath in the witness box?”
“Yes,” replied Shields.
The trial continues.
By Guest Nicole
Radio-Canada's Enquête investigates allegations that the closed religious movement fails to protect children
Mélanie Poirier was 10 when she started taking piano lessons and it would prove to be an experience that changed her life forever. At that very first lesson, she said, her piano teacher sexually assaulted her. It went on for five years.
"Week after week, at every piano lesson, he would masturbate in front of me. And he would ask me to touch him," Poirier told Radio-Canada's investigative program, Enquête.
Her father, Benoît Poirier, was in the next room waiting for her lesson to be over, completely unaware, she said.
Poirier said she couldn't tell her father, who was a Jehovah's Witness elder, or anyone else what was happening because her piano teacher was also an elder in the congregation that her family belonged to in a Montreal suburb.
"He was well-known, an elder, an example to follow," she said.
The biggest obstacle, however, was the fact she didn't have a second witness to the alleged abuse — a key requirement of the church's internal judicial system.
"If I told anyone, nothing would have happened. I wouldn't be believed. The elders wouldn't have even stopped to listen to me," Poirier said.
Internal policies — and no police
The Poiriers are among several former Jehovah's Witnesses in Quebec and the United States who spoke to Enquête about the church's policies for dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse and their failure to protect victims.
Among those policies: complainants are made to answer inappropriate questions if they report an assault, and their stories must be corroborated by a second witness for a case to even be heard by an internal judicial committee. Until this past summer, accusers were also forced to confront their alleged abuser before a panel of elders.
Radio-Canada also heard allegations that a five-year-old boy from a Quebec congregation was made to repeat his story in front of the man he said abused him. The boy's mother told Enquête the allegations were dismissed because the child did not have a second witness to the alleged assault.
In its investigation, Radio-Canada obtained a questionnaire designed to guide Jehovah's Witness elders interviewing children alleging sexual abuse. It includes the question: "How many elders believe the victim is to blame or willingly participated in the act?"
The questionnaire was drafted by the headquarters of the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, in the state of New York. The Watchtower Society declined Enquête's request for an interview.
Rules rooted in scripture
The Watchtower Society's leadership bases its policies on a strict interpretation of biblical scripture.
Its policy on making an accuser justify her or his allegations in the accused's presence, for example, is based on a line from the Book of Matthew:
"If your brother commits a sin, go and reveal his fault between you and him alone." — Matthew 18:15
An elders' manual distributed to congregations cites the books of Deuteronomy and John as the basis for the two-witness policy.
"There must be two or three eyewitnesses, not just people repeating hearsay." — Deut. 19:15
"No action can be taken if there is only one witness." — John 8:17
While the Watchtower tells elders it is the "absolute right" of members to report allegations of child abuse to police, doing so is effectively discouraged by an organizational emphasis on dealing with such matters internally and avoiding "unnecessary entanglement with secular authorities," as stated in an internal document from 2014.
A recent royal commission in Australia found the Jehovah's Witness church there had recorded allegations of child sexual abuse against 1,006 members. Not one allegation was reported to authorities outside the church.
Since 1997, the Watchtower leadership has required that every allegation of child sexual abuse brought to a congregation's attention be sent to the organization's national headquarters.
Earlier this year, a California court ordered the Watchtower Society to submit a database of the alleged pedophiles among its ranks, but the society has yet to do so.
'Catastrophic' complaint process
Mélanie Poirier kept her story of alleged weekly assaults by her childhood piano teacher to herself for 20 years, until she met another alleged victim of the same man. Together, they decided to bring their case to the congregation's elders.
Both women were made to defend their allegations in a meeting at which their alleged abuser was present.
"I thought it would be difficult, but it wasn't difficult — it was catastrophic," Poirier said.
"He asked me questions. He said I was mistaken, my memories were wrong, why do I want to do this to him. I was revictimized that evening," Poirier said.
Based on his alleged victims' testimony, a judicial committee composed of elders expelled Poirier's former piano teacher from the Jehovah's Witnesses. He appealed, however, twice — meaning Poirier and the other alleged victim were made to confront the man a total of three times.
The story doesn't end there. Poirier's alleged abuser soon joined another Jehovah's Witness congregation, despite never having admitted to any wrongdoing or repented for the sin he was accused of committing — conditions set by the Watchtower Society for regaining membership.
Enquête contacted Poirier's old teacher, who is still a Jehovah's Witness and doing door-to-door work. He denied the allegations and refused an interview.
Poirier left the Jehovah's Witnesses soon after her ordeal, as did her father. Benoît Poirier said he's never recovered from seeing his daughter treated the way she was, and he's encouraging others to come forward with their stories.
"You're not sullying the organization by speaking out," he said. "These people are traitors, abusers, criminals.… They're sullying the organization with their actions."
Poirier has since taken her case to police in Laval, Que.
By Guest Nicole
( MMC-NEWS ) You are reading the article "Abuse allegations in Newfoundland casting a cloud over Jehovah's Witnesses" latest updates. Allegations of abuse against two members of the Jehovah's Witnesses religious movement in Newfoundland have emerged, though details of the charges are protected by a court-ordered publication ban.
Allegations of abuse involving two members of the Jehovah's Witness religious movement in Newfoundland have emerged, though details of the charges are protected by a court-ordered publication ban.
CBC News has learned that a former volunteer church elder and his son are facing charges.
The former elder is charged with sexual assault and sexual exploitation relating to allegations dating from 2009 to 2012 in central Newfoundland.
According to court documents, a second man is charged with sexual assault, with the information referencing a period between May 2011 and December 2013 in a community on the Avalon Peninsula.
CBC News has confirmed that the pair are father and son.
The RCMP also confirmed Thursday that both cases involve the same complainant.
A sexual exploitation charge involves anyone in a position of trust or authority who commits an offence against a young person.
The matter involving the older accused was called at a provincial court on Wednesday.
It was set over until next month, when a date is expected to be set for trial.
The younger accused is scheduled to make a court appearance later this month.
'We're all human'
The father of an alleged victim told CBC News it's been a difficult time for his family.
The father said he is still involved with the Jehovah's Witness, and spoke in a forgiving tone.
"Things happen. We're all human. No matter what religion you're of, things can happen," he said.
CBC News also spoke briefly with the former elder. He declined comment, but did say he is still involved with the church.
The man did not appear in court Wednesday, but is expected to plead not guilty.
An RCMP spokesman said he could not comment on either case because of the publication ban. However, he stressed that officers take such allegations very seriously.
Members throughout the province
A member of the congregation linked to both of the accused said that it has been a difficult time, but declined to comment.
Jehovah's Witnesses are a U.S.-based religious movement with an estimated eight million followers worldwide, including about 1,200 members in Newfoundland and Labrador, with churches known as a Kingdom Hall in communities throughout the province.
They are Christians, but have sometimes been described as an insular sect.
The essence of their movement is to serve as God's "witnesses."
Followers are best known for door-to-door evangelism, and free publications called Awake! and The Watchtower.
They also follow strict rules that prohibit, among other things, sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, smoking and drugs.
The movement has also made headlines for refusing to allow blood transfusions, even when a life is at risk, and to refuse to celebrate occasions such as Christmas, Easter and birthdays.
Co-operating with police
In Canada, the movement is headquartered in Georgetown, Ont., outside Toronto.
'We do abhor that kind of wickedness … and we do not protect any of these individuals and we allow the authorities to do their work' - Simon Picard
CBC News spoke with Simon Picard at the Jehovah's Witnesses "public information desk" in Georgetown.
When asked about the charges, he also referenced the ongoing investigation and publication ban, but strongly condemned any abuse against young people.
"How we feel about child sexual abuse has been very clear for years now," said Picard.
"We do abhor that kind of wickedness … and we do not protect any of these individuals and we allow the authorities to do their work."
Picard confirmed the older accused is no longer a church elder, and that the church is co-operating with the investigation.
He also stressed that the Jehovah's Witnesses have measures in place to protect members of the church.
"Our publications give all kinds of tools to our parents on how to teach and train their children to be protected from these kind of things," he said, adding the organization's website also offers tips.
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