By Guest Indiana
Jehovah's Witnesses may appeal a judgment that gave the green light to a class-action lawsuit against them for alleged sexual assault on minors.
Jehovah’s Witnesses in Quebec may appeal a judgment that gave the green light to a class-action lawsuit against them for alleged sexual assault on minors.
The Quebec Court of Appeal on Monday granted them the right to appeal a judgment authorizing the class action, handed down in February by Justice Chantal Corriveau of the Superior Court.
At the heart of the class action is whether the church failed to protect its members when they tried to denounce sexual abuse.
The class action argues the church’s internal reporting policies conceal abuse and have silenced hundreds of sexual assault complaints through the years. It seeks at least $250,000 in damages for each alleged victim.
The lawsuit targets the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Canada, the parent company of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the country, and another society based in Pennsylvania that’s responsible for the church’s communications and publications.
At the heart of the class action is whether the church failed to protect its members when they tried to denounce sexual abuse.
According to the lawsuit, Lisa Blais, now in her 40s, first spoke out about the alleged abuse when she was 16 years old. She sought help from her parents, another Jehovah’s Witness and an elder — members who act as spiritual leaders in different congregations — but says she was discouraged from reporting the abuse in order to protect the community.
Blais left her family at 17 and was officially disfellowshipped at 24.
In seeking leave to appeal Corriveau’s judgment, Watch Tower Canada described the decision as “unprecedented in Quebec.” The alleged assaults did not take place in an institutional setting, the organization noted, and it was not leaders or employees of the religious organization who allegedly committed the acts.
The Quebec Court of Appeal found that the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ arguments deserve to be further assessed. Jehovah’s Witnesses will now have to plead their case before the Court of Appeal, at a date yet to be determined.
By JOHN BUTLER
This seems to be some interesting news from RTL News, if it's true
Jehovah's Witnesses call on members to cooperate in investigations of abuse
The board of Jehovah's Witnesses Netherlands has called on its members to participate in research at Utrecht University into sexual abuse within the organization. The appeal is remarkable because the denomination normally avoids contact with non-ecclesiastical authorities.
The call is included in an internal letter in the hands of RTL News.
In the letter, which was sent to all departments last week, the board asks members who are victims of child abuse to fill in a questionnaire on the Utrecht University site. He is commissioned by the Ministry of Justice and Security to investigate abuse within Jehovah's Witnesses.
"Of course participation in this study is a personal choice," the board writes in the letter. "Nevertheless, we hope that this will give Utrecht University accurate and balanced information about how our organization responds to abuse."
According to sources within the church, the letter was read during meetings in the church buildings. Jehovah's Witnesses was unable to respond to this message on Monday, a RTL News spokesperson said.
Jehovah's Witnesses have recently been discredited because they only prosecute perpetrators of child abuse internally and do not report them to the police and the judicial authorities. The organization also refuses to hand over documents on internal court cases to the judiciary. Therefore, last November the police raided the headquartersof Jehovah's Witnesses.
Kees van den Bos, research leader at Utrecht University is 'naturally' happy with the appeal from the board of Jehovah's Witnesses. "We have been in touch by email over the past few weeks and have asked them to bring our research to the attention of their members. It's nice to hear that they have done so now." The researchers were not involved in the preparation of the letter.
The investigators have now received 'a few hundred serious reports' about abuse within Jehovah's Witnesses. Van den Bos could not say whether the last call led to new reports. The Reclaimed Voices foundation, which represents victims of abuse within Jehovah's witnesses, is also "positive" that the Jehovah's Witnesses point their members to this investigation. "We hope that active Jehovah's Witnesses who are victims of sexual abuse or who are aware of a situation will participate in the investigation," says President Raymond Hintjes.
The research at Utrecht University came about following a motion from the House of Representatives. The goal is to see how Jehovah's Witnesses deals with reports of child abuse. Anyone who has experience with abuse within that church can report to the investigators until 1 June . The intention is that the final report can be published in the autumn.
By Guest Indiana
More than 70 victims of sexual abuse within the Jehovah's Witnesses have come forward with their stories since the public network aired a documentory about it last week, reports the nonprofit organisation Reclaimed Voices Belgium.
The documentary brought to light that the organisation had been covering up sexual abuse of minors via an internal 'disciplinary' system for years, concluded Pano. That way, none of the claims were reported to the police. One of the witnesses in the documentary was very straightforward in calling it "a paradise for paedophiles".
According to CIAOSN, an independent centre set up by Belgium's Department of Justice to study sectarian organisations, there are similar findings in 12 other countries. The report concludes that the issues in all other countries are the same. Due to the strict hierarchy of the organisation, it's very difficult to come forward, reports CIAOSN.
The elders of the organisation usually don't listen to the victims, or don't help them. They usually tell them to keep their mouths shut, said one of the witnesses. "I was told to keep the abuse to myself. 'We don't want to slander God's name.' I had to trust them to take care of it. They told me to pray some more and everything would be fine."
Jehovah's Witnesses disapprove of sexual abuse, but they don't have any policies to prevent it or report it to the police. Victims that quit the organisation are ignored completely and lose all social contact. Another issue that returns frequently in CIAOSN's report is that victims have to give their statements about the abuse in the presence of their abusers. If the accused denies involvement, they'll only further the investigation after two other witness statements. In all these 13 countries, there is not one woman involved in the internal disciplinary system.
"Noteworthy is the number of people that talk about the severe psychological damage that the exclusion by the community brings with it," the statement of Reclaimed Voices Belgium said. "In conversations we've had with victims so far, it seems that the trauma caused by the exclusion that follows when a victim speaks up about the abuse has an even bigger impact than the abuse itself."
The Brussels Times
By Guest Indiana
A SHOOTING attack on Monday in the Dutch city of Utrecht that left three people dead and nine injured was being investigated as a possible case of terrorism, authorities said, and police were focusing their hunt on a gunman who escaped the scene.
"At this stage, we can confirm three deaths and nine wounded, three of them seriously," Utrecht Mayor Jan van Zanen said in a video statement on Twitter. "We are working on the principle that it was a terrorist attack," he added.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte had earlier said there were "possible deaths" and that a terrorist motive was "not excluded".
The Netherlands' main counterterrorism agency raised its assessment of the threat in Utrecht province, just south-east of Amsterdam, to the highest level and said it had activated a crisis team. The Dutch paramilitary police increased security at airports and other vital infrastructure points.
Armed police at the scene where a shooting took place in the Dutch city of Utrecht on March 18. Authorities raised the terrorism threat to its highest level in Utrecht.
By JOHN BUTLER
Don't know if this is exactly a new letter but it's interesting.
Worth a read i think
By Guest Nicole
Read more: https://www.businesspost.ie/news/concerns-grow-jehovahs-witnesses-irish-child-sex-abuse-files-421695
By Guest Nicole
The Supreme Court of Canada Thursday heard arguments in a fight over a church’s “shunning” practice, and said it would release a ruling later, but the congregation involved and several other groups argued that the justices had no right to even take part in the fight.
The fight is between Randy Wall, a real estate agent, and the Highwood congregation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization in Calgary.
Wall was expelled from the congregation for getting drunk and not be properly repentant, court records said. He pursued a church appeals process, unsuccessfully, then went to court because he said the church’s “shunning,” that is, practice of not associating with him in any way, hurt his business.
He explained his two occasions of drunkenness related to “the previous expulsion by the congregation of his 15-year-old daughter.”
A lower court opinion explained, “Even though the daughter was a dependent child living at home, it was a mandatory church edict that the entire family shun aspects of their relationship with her. The respondent said the edicts of the church pressured the family to evict their daughter from the family home. This led to … much distress in the family.”
The “much distress” eventually resulted in his drunkenness, Wall said.
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Wall submitted to the court arguments that about half his client base, members of various Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations, then refused to conduct business with him. He alleged the “disfellowship had an economic impact on the respondent.”
During high court arguments Thursday, the congregation asked the justices to say that congregations are immune to such claims in the judicial system.
The lower courts had ruled that the courts could play a role in determining if, and when, such circumstances rise to the level of violating civil rights or injuring a “disfellowshipped” party.
The rulings from the Court of Queen’s Bench and the Alberta Court of Appeals said Wall’s case was subject to secular court jurisdiction.
A multitude of religious and political organizations joined with the congregation in arguing that the Canada’s courts should not be involved.
The Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms said in a filing, “The wish or desire of one person to associate with an unwilling person (or an unwilling group) is not a legal right of any kind. For a court, or the government, to support such a ‘right’ violates the right of self-determination of the unwilling parties.”
Previous case law has confirmed the ability of religious or private voluntary groups to govern themselves and dictate who can be a member.
But previously rulings also reveal there is room for the court system to intervene when the question is one of property or civil rights.
The Association for Reformed Political Action, described the case as having “profound implications for the separation of church and state.”
Its position is that the court should keep hands off the argument.
“Secular judges have no authority and no expertise to review a church membership decision,” said a statement from Andre Schutten, a spokesman for the group. “Church discipline is a spiritual matter falling within spiritual jurisdiction, not a legal matter falling within the courts’ civil jurisdiction. The courts should not interfere.”
John Sikkema, staff lawyer for ARPA, said, “The issue in this appeal is jurisdiction. A state actor, including a court, must never go beyond its jurisdiction. The Supreme Court must consider what kind of authority the courts can or cannot legitimately claim. We argue that the civil government and churches each have limited and distinct spheres of authority. This basic distinction between civil and spiritual jurisdiction is a source of freedom and religious pluralism and a guard against civic totalism.”
He continued, “Should the judiciary have the authority to decide who gets to become or remain a church member? Does the judiciary have the authority to decide who does or does not get to participate in the sacraments? Church discipline is a spiritual matter falling within spiritual jurisdiction, not a legal matter falling within the courts’ civil jurisdiction. The courts should not interfere. Here we need separation of church and state.”
The Alberta Court of Appeal, however, suggested the fight was about more than ecclesiastical rules.
“Because Jehovah’s Witnesses shun disfellowshipped members, his wife, other children and other Jehovah’s Witnesses were compelled to shun him,” that lower court decision said. “The respondent asked the appeal committee to consider the mental and emotional distress he and his family were under as a result of his duaghter’s disfellowship.”
The church committee concluded he was “not sufficiently repentant.”
The ruling said “the only basis for establishing jurisdiction over a decision of the church is when the complaint involves property and civil rights,” and that is what Wall alleged.
“Accordingly, a court has jurisdiction to review the decision of a religious organization when a breach of the rules of natural justice is alleged.”
By Guest Nicole
BETHESDA — The village voted Thursday to end its K-9 program and donate its police dog to the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office on the same night that the board accepted the resignations of two more police officers.
Meanwhile, the police department’s interim chief and its only remaining full-time officer — who was just hired in April — said they are trying to put the department back together with the hope of rebuilding the public’s trust.
Interim Police Chief Fred Thompson made the request to transfer the police dog, Frankie, to the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office. He said he believes the dog was an unnecessary expense that had never been used.
“I think this canine was purchased to be a dog-and-pony show,” said Thompson. “It was a publicity stunt. We don’t need the dog.”
Mayor Martin Lucas said the K-9 units at Barnesville and the sheriff’s office are willing to help when needed.
“If that dog bites somebody, I’m not sure we have enough liability coverage,” Lucas said.
“It’s not being used. It’s sitting in Bridgeport doing absolutely nothing.”
The dog’s handler is Bethesda Police Chief Eric Smith, who was suspended in April and is being investigated by the Ohio Attorney General’s office for allegations that he misused the state’s law enforcement data sharing system. Misuse of the system is a felony, the attorney general’s office has said.
The mayor said Belmont County Sheriff David Lucas has agreed to take Frankie.
“The sheriff has guaranteed that the dog will be used in our village as needed,” he said.
Meanwhile, two more full-time police officers have resigned from the Village of Bethesda Police Department. Both had served as resource officers for the Union Local School District.
Lucas announced Thursday the resignations of Francesca Y. Ceccanese and Kyler Hanlon. They join the roster of resignations of police, council members and the former solicitor who have left in the wake of an investigation of Smith.
Lucas said the village’s contract with the school district ends with the school year. He said the village would determine at a later date if it intends to pursue renewing the contract with the school district.
Mike Menges, safety director at the school district, said Thursday night that the district had hired retired state highway patrolman Jason Greenwood as its safety officer coordinator. However, he also said he could not comment on the status of the district’s contract with the village of Bethesda. He said Bethesda police officers are still in Union Local buildings.
After the most recent resignations, the police force has one full-time patrolman, Pete Busack; Fred Thompson, who is serving as interim chief in an administrative-only role; and four part-time officers.
Lucas also said the village had received more complaints about how people were treated while Smith was leading the department. He said the village had received notification from legal representation of Jehovah’s Witnesses alleging that the police department, under Smith’s administration, had harassed Jehovah’s Witnesses and told them to leave. The religious group’s lawyers did not specify an officer’s name or a date when the harassment may have occurred.
“I’ll seek some legal advice on returning a letter to this attorney, saying that will no longer happen,” Lucas said.
Lucas also said Bethesda is aware that the village of Belmont intends to form its own police department. Bethesda’s contract to provide law enforcement will for Belmont will end June 1. Belmont officials have said this is unrelated to Bethesda’s police department issues. Lucas said the departments will have an agreement of mutual aid.
Also, Busack gave an update on the state of the village’s police department. He said he and Thompson have focused on reorganization.
“We haven’t had a lot of patrol due to the fact that we have a lot of office work,” he said.
Among the issues they’ve had to address is creating a system of keeping track of an officer’s keys during shifts and removing the tinting from the front windows of the patrol cars.
“You want to be able to look outwardly and wave to people when they wave back at you, and when you have black windows, which, No. 1, is illegal in the State of Ohio on the front windows, you can’t see in,” he said.
He also said removing the tint will allow better communication with other motorists.
“The entire office, in our opinion, was out of order, and it still to a degree is out of order, and things like that can’t be fixed overnight,” said Busack who also said they were in the process of organizing the evidence room and weapons cabinet.
“I tried to account for all the weapons, tasers and related equipment,” he said. “In the future, we will do a full inventory of the weapons and of the evidence that’s in there.”
Additionally, an activity log will be available for council members to access and see the daily activities of police officers. Busack said no sensitive information would be included.
“Chief Thompson and I will work to restore the trust, confidence and integrity to the citizens of the village of Bethesda and all the surrounding communities,” Busack said.
“I appreciate your efforts,” Lucas said. “I can’t thank you enough for trying to put this back together.”
Also, Lucas announced the current $210 fines for speeding tickets would be reduced. He also said that it is the province of mayor’s court to set fines. A new amount will be determined.
Also, the council will henceforth meet 7:30 p.m. the second Tuesday of the month and the fourth Thursday.
By Guest Nicole
The Jehovah’s Witnesses community in the Netherlands will not hold an independent inquiry into the sexual abuse of members, despite being urged to do so by justice minister Sander Dekker. By last month, 267 reports of sexual abuse involving Jehovah’s Witnesses had been made to a hotline set up by the Reclaimed Voices foundation in 2017 after Trouw published a report on the growing scandal. Dekker told RTL Nieuws on Tuesday that the organisation’s decision is ‘disappointing’ and that it is ignoring the victims who want to be heard. He has no powers to force the organisation to hold an inquiry.
Read more: https://www.dutchnews.nl/news/2018/05/jehovahs-witnesses-reject-calls-for-independent-inquiry-into-sexual-abuse/
By Guest Nicole
On Friday, May 25, 20/20 will do "something special" for longtime co-anchor Elizabeth Vargas.
You can call it a going-away party (10/9c, ABC). After 22 years at ABC (14 with the newsmagazine), the Emmy and Peabody Award–winning veteran journalist heads to A&E, where she’ll work under their new primetime banner, A&E Investigates.
Tell us about your first two A&E shows.
They’re the first in a nine-part series called Cults and Extreme Beliefs(premieres Monday, May 28, 10/9c). Each episode centers on a person who recently left the group we focus on.
Our premiere looks at the [so-called “self-help”] NXIVM ring that made headlines when leader Keith Raniere and actress Allison Mack, a high-ranking member, were indicted for sex trafficking. We talk to Sarah Edmondson, who feels enormous regret that she recruited so many people into NXIVM and we follow her as she reaches out to some of them.
And the second episode?
It’s about an apocalyptic cult called Twelve Tribes. Our contact is a woman born into the group, cut off from the outside world. She now helps people to escape.
What have you learned about these insular communities?
That many of those involved are bright, well-meaning and incredibly altruistic. Some of these groups exist alongside modern society, with no one noticing. For instance, we profile the Jehovah’s Witnesses, which has a history of protecting alleged child molesters because they don’t believe in going to the police.
By Guest Nicole
(The Conversation is an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts.)
Robert A. Sedler, Wayne State University
(THE CONVERSATION) New Hampshire’s state motto “Live free or die” is, for many residents, a stirring evocation of the independent spirit of colonial America.
But not all New Hampshirites agree with this well-known slogan that is emblazoned on the state’s license plates. In 1975, George Maynard was sent to jail because he didn’t believe in it.
Maynard and his wife were Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian denomination that teaches that true believers will enjoy eternal life. The couple felt that the state’s motto violated this tenet. So Maynard covered up the “or die” part on his vehicles’ license plates.
Police gave him three different tickets for illegally altering the plates. When he refused to pay the fines, which totaled US$75, he was given a 15-day jail sentence.
Maynard then filed a lawsuit that reached the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1977, the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment gave Maynard the legal right to cover up those two words. In other words, the First Amendment – which guarantees the right to free speech – can also give people the right to remain silent.
I am a legal scholar, so when I learned that the Supreme Court will decide two right-to-silence cases this term the Maynard case came to mind.
The Maynard decision was not the first time the court ruled in favor of a Jehovah’s Witness’ right to be silent. Both decisions hinge on the justices’ determination that the First Amendment includes, in the court’s words, the right “to avoid becoming a ‘mobile billboard’ for the State’s ideological message.”
It may sound contradictory to say the right to be silent flows from the right to speak, but it is not.
Read more: https://wtop.com/government/2018/05/supreme-court-to-rule-on-your-first-amendment-right-to-silence/
By Guest Nicole
ST. PETERSBURG, May 3. /TASS/. The St. Petersburg city court has upheld the decision to confiscate from the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania in New York the compound in the community of Solnechnoye on the Gulf of Finland and convert it to state property, the St. Petersburg courts’ press service said on Thursday.
Earlier, a court of lower instance found that officially the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia in 2000 donated the real estate compound on the coast of the Gulf of Finland to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, registered on US territory. However, according to the courts’ press-service, the Administrative Center continued to use the facilities as before, which was a reason enough to declare the transaction fictitious and void. The property was taken over by the state.
The compound consists of sixteen items - plots of land, homes and buildings more than 880 million rubles ($13.9 million) worth.
Earlier, TASS reported that the defendants had disagreed with the lower instance court’s ruling and filed an appeal at the St. Petersburg city court. In particular, they argued that substantive law had been violated and anti-extremist law sanctions were used against them without a reason.
Russia’s Supreme Court had declared Jehovah’s Witnesses an extremist organization and outlawed its activity in Russia.
By Guest Nicole
The number of reports of sexual abuse within the Jehovah's Witnesses now stands at 267, Reclaimed Voices, a foundation that manages the hotline for this type of abuse, said to newspaper Trouw.
Reclaimed Voices was established last year after Trouw published the stories of a number of Jehovah's Witnesses who were abused during their youth. One victim called the religious group a "paradise for pedophiles", because the Jehovah's Witnesses elders tend to keep sexual abuse quiet. In the first week of its existence, the hotline received nearly 50 sexual abuse reports.
According to the newspaper, the victims of sexual abuse asked the Jehovah's Witnesses elders for a meeting to discuss this abuse six months ago, but still haven't heard anything. This has a big affect on the victims, Frank Huiting of Reclaimed Voices said to Trouw. "They are angry, they haven't known where they stand for some time and feel disappointed about the entire process. They still aren't being heard, is what it comes down to."
Minister Sander Dekker for Legal Protection also instructed the leaders of the Jehovah's Witnesses to start a conversation with the victims.
By Guest Nicole
The parents of a 14-year-old boy with bone cancer won a legal challenge against a Mesa hospital that attempted to override their religious objections to blood transfusions.
The Arizona Court of Appeals on Tuesday ruled that a lower court's emergency hotline used by hospitals to authorize medical treatment on behalf of patients is not allowed under state law.
The parents of a 14-year-old boy with bone cancer challenged Banner Cardon Children's use of a Maricopa County Superior Court emergency hotline to authorize blood transfusions on behalf of the child. The parents and boy are Jehovah's Witnesses and objected to blood transfusions on religious grounds.
While Banner Cardon's medical-treatment plan initially consisted of alternative therapies to fit the parents' religious views, hospital staff later determined that blood transfusions were medically necessary.
Hospital staff called the Maricopa County Superior Court hotline multiple times from October through December last year to seek authorization for the blood transfusions. The court granted three of five requests, according to court documents.
The parents filed a petition with the Arizona Court of Appeals seeking to halt the transfusions.
The parents, identified as Glenn and Sonia H., argued that the Superior Court hotline "lacked jurisdiction" for such emergency medical requests and also argued that hospital staffers did not justify the medical need for blood transfusions.
The lower court said that such emergency requests were "standard practice" nationwide and the hotline rotated among Superior Court judges who answered requests after hours.
In an opinion written by Judge Kenton D. Jones, the appellate court concluded that the question of whether the lower court had jurisdiction to OK emergency medical treatment was one "of significant statewide importance."
Jones noted that Arizona law allows a Juvenile Court that has jurisdiction over a child to order a parent or guardian to get medical treatment for a child. However, the appellate court did not find any such jurisdiction for a Superior Court emergency hotline.
"Our review of Arizona statutes and rules of procedure reveals no provision ... authorizing the superior court to maintain an emergency hotline for the purpose of ordering medical treatment for a non-consenting minor," Jones wrote.
Therefore, the lower court's order authorizing medical treatment on behalf of the boy is void, the appellate court said.
The parents filed the appellate-court action in November but did not request a stay of the lower court's order. The boy received blood transfusions on Dec. 1 and Dec. 5 before his parents relocated his care to a medical facility in Portland, Oregon.
Banner Health officials said the health-care provider has not yet decided whether to appeal the appellate court's decision.
Representatives of Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, which filed a legal brief on behalf of the parents, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.
A Jehovah's Witnesses website said the religion considers blood transfusions a "religious issue rather than a medical one," citing multiple biblical passages.
Patients who develop certain types of cancer, such as leukemia, often require blood transfusions as a part of treatment.
By Guest Nicole
Why JW.ORG does not show development regarding sexual abuse cases as it does with other legal issues?
“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
On December 29th, 2017, Watchtower attorney Armin Pikl filed a lawsuit against Rowohlt Publishing Company, the highly regarded publishing house in Germany which produced the acclaimed book Goodbye Jehovah!, authored by former Jehovah’s Witness Misha Verollet. The autobiographical novel is subtitled “How I left the world’s most notorious cult.”
The suit followed a December cease and desist order from Watchtower which demanded the redaction of numerous passages along with the destruction of all current editions of the book in circulation. Rowohlt ignored Watchtower’s plea, resulting in legal action.
Goodbye Jehovah! was published in 2014 under the author’s pen name Misha Anouk, and was well received in Germany, reaching #22 on the German best-sellers list. Media attention was widespread across Germany, Switzerland and Austria, resulting in numerous television appearances, articles and radio interviews. While it was a clear winner in Europe, more than three years later the Jehovah’s Witness organization has opted to take issue with a book which is apparently having an effect on its German-speaking members.
While Jehovah’s Witnesses are not permitted to read “apostate” books or any materials critical of their religion, Verollet believes some German-speaking JWs are reading his book. During an interview with JW Survey he stated:
The average E-book share of book sales is 5 percent. With my book, over 20 percent were sold as E-books. This is an absolute outlier for the industry
Because hardcopy books are easily found and confiscated, Verollet believes a number of Jehovah’s Witnesses are reading his book by downloading it to their tablets and phones. Witnesses are less likely to be caught with the electronic version of a book.
Read more: http://jwsurvey.org/news/goodbye-jehovah-hello-courtroom-watchtower-brings-lawsuit-publishing-company
By Guest Nicole
ST. PETERSBURG, January 17 (RAPSI, Mikhail Telekhov) – A ruling to confiscate property worth 881.5 million rubles ($15.5 million) belonging to Jehovah's Witnesses organization banned in Russia has been appealed, the St. Petersburg courts’ press office has told RAPSI.
The appeal was filed by Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania registered in the U.S.
The Jehovah's Witnesses assets included 16 property items in St. Petersburg, according to prosecutors.
A court earlier found that the Administrative Centre of Jehovah's Witnesses transferred its property complex to Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania under a donation agreement on March 1, 2000. However, the court declared the deal fraudulent because the Jehovah's Witnesses continued using the property after its transfer to the foreign organization, and confiscated the property complex in profit of the Russian Federation.
In April 2017, the Supreme Court of Russia ordered liquidation of the Jehovah's Witnesses managing organization and all its 395 local branches. In August, the Administrative Centre of Jehovah's Witnesses was added to the list of banned extremist organizations.
Jehovah’s Witnesses religious organization has had many legal problems in Russia. Since 2009, 95 materials distributed by the organization in the country have been declared extremist and 8 Jehovah's Witnesses’ branches have been liquidated, according to the Justice Ministry.
Jehovah's Witnesses is an international religious organization based in Brooklyn, New York. Since 2004 several branches and chapters of the organization were banned and shut down in various regions of Russia.
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.
New Whistleblower Site FaithLeaks Releases Confidential Documents About Child Sexual Abuse in Jehovah’s Witnesses CommunityBy Guest Nicole
The founders of MormonLeaks, a transparency organization that has released hundreds of controversial documents related to inner-workings of the Mormon Church, recently launched FaithLeaks, an ambitious and far-reaching project that aims to expose corruption and abuse across other religious organizations. Today, the new group has published dozens of pages of documents related to sexual assault allegations within the Jehovah’s Witness Church, documents which are presumably part of a database that church officials have refused to relinquish in an unrelated sexual molestation trial, resulting in a one and a half year legal battle and millions of dollars in fines.
The 69 pages of documents detail how Jehovah’s Witnesses authorities and church officials handled allegations of repeated sexual assault by one of its local leaders. The interviews and detailed notes compiled by church authorities about molestation and rape allegations are horrific. The 33 documents also provide a staggering play-by-play of how the Watchtower Tract and Bible Society—the parent corporation and governing body for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, often simply referred to as “the Watchtower”—handled the case internally over the course of nearly a decade—playing therapist, prosecutor, jury, and judge—and the lengths to which they went to keep these accusations away from the “worldly court of law.”
The documents show that in 1999, a committee of Jehovah’s Witnesses elders found allegations from two women that their father had sexually abused them to be credible, yet held off on forming an internal judicial committee to take their own form of judicial action against the alleged abuser because one of the daughters was not willing to face the father and formally make the accusations against him, as judicial committee policy requires. Once she went through with the process years later, a spiritually guided trial was held and he was disfellowshipped. However, a year later he was reinstated. The documents show that Jehovah’s Witnesses leaders cast shade on one accuser and her husband for trying to take this matter to secular law enforcement.
Read more: https://gizmodo.com/new-whistleblower-site-faithleaks-releases-confidential-1821799936
By Srecko Sostar
"Some 80 reports of sexual abuse involving the Jehovah’s Witnesses community have been made over the past month, Trouw said on Thursday.
Justice minister Sander Dekker has already said that the (JW)church should look to the example of the Catholic church to dealing with complaints about sexual abuse."
"We are going to study the measures of the Catholic Church."
- Michel van Hilten, spokesman Jehovah's Witnesses
DutchNews.nl: Dozens come forward to report abuse by Jehovah’s Witnesses http://www.dutchnews.nl/news/archives/2017/12/dozens-come-forward-to-report-abuse-by-jehovahs-witnesses/
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
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