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  1. The Supreme Court Rejected a Case About the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Sex Abuse By Hemant Mehta October 8, 2019 Yesterday, the Supreme Court announced that it would not take up a wild case concerning the organization that oversees the Jehovah’s Witnesses. We can breathe a huge sigh of relief that the case won’t be overturned. (In that link, it’s case 19-40 on page 42.) The case, which involved child molestation and religious secrecy, centered around an incident that took place on July 15, 2006. J.W., a nine-year-old girl with Jehovah’s Witness parents, was invited to her first slumber party at the home of Gilbert Simental. He had a daughter her age, so that wasn’t too weird. Two other girls (sisters) were also at the party. These families all knew and trusted Simental because, while he was no longer a local Witness leader, he had spent more than a decade as an elder in the faith. He was a religious leader who stepped down, he said, to spend more time with his son. They believed him. They all respected him. It’s why they allowed their girls into his home. During that party, everyone got into a pool in the backyard… including Simental. And he proceeded to molest J.W. and the sisters. He did it again later that night. The sisters eventually told their parents, who reported Simental to local Witness elders (which is what they’re taught to do in these situations). Simental confessed to some of the allegations, and the elders basically gave him a faith-based slap on the wrist: a reprimand that had no meaning outside church circles. Things changed only when the sisters’ school principal learned about what happened and, as required by law, reported the abuse to local law enforcement. Police soon contacted J.W.’s family asking for their story, but after consulting with the Witnesses, her father chose not to speak with the cops. It was a year later when J.W., then 10 years old, told her parents what Simental did to her in the pool. It infuriated them, and they told the Witness elders that they wanted a restraining order against him. The elders told him not to do that since it would require informing the police about what Simental did — and they preferred to keep his actions private. Here’s the bigger problem: There’s reason to believe the Witnesses were aware that Simental was a child molester… and they kept it from the families. Simental was allowed to be a religious leader — earning respect from the community — even though higher-ups in the religion knew that he shouldn’t be around children. It raised an important question: How much blame did the Witnesses deserve for what happened at that pool party? J.W.’s family eventually filed a criminal lawsuit against Simental and a separate civil suit against the Watchtower Society (the Witnesses’ governing organization). They basically said the Witnesses should have informed congregation members about Simental and stopped him from being around children. They never should have allowed him to be a religious leader. The Watchtower Society’s argument? They didn’t know Simental was a child molester, and the pool party occurred after he was no longer a religious leader, and the slumber party wasn’t a church-sponsored event, so leave them out of this. (To be clear, I’m simplifying the details of this case and the legal journey quite a bit.) When this case went to trial in California, J.W.’s family demanded that the Watchtower Society produce documents relating to what they knew about child molesters within the faith. The Witnesses had already admitted to keeping lists of problematic leaders along with their specific “crimes” — similar to the Catholic Church. If Simental was on that list — from 1997, nearly a decade before the pool incident — it would essentially be a smoking gun showing the Witnesses knew he was a threat to kids but did nothing about it. But the Witnesses refused to hand over that material. They treated it like Catholics treat confession: It’s private information, they argued, and to reveal what was said internally would violate their religious beliefs. J.W.’s family didn’t buy that argument. The information they wanted wasn’t bound by clergy-penitent confessional privilege. It’s not like Simental told the elders what he had done in order to confess his sins. He was caught. The Witnesses were merely shielding him from legal punishment. In the criminal trial, Witnesses elders were forced to admit their practices and that the private discussions they had about abusive clergy members were not considered confidential under the law. Mark O’Donnell, writing at JWSurvey, explained what happened next: Gilbert Simental was found guilty of three counts of lewd and lascivious acts upon a child under the age of 14. In 2008 he was sentenced to 45 years to life for his crimes. At his sentencing hearing, a sizable group of Jehovah’s Witnesses demonstrated solidarity with Simental, appealing for a more lenient sentence. JW and her parents were treated as if they broke the congregation code of silence. Simental’s appeal got him nowhere. He’s in prison today. But there were still so many questions about what responsibility the Witnesses had in this whole matter. J.W.’s family wanted to know why Simental, a known pedophile, was promoted within the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Why did they allow him to be around children? Why didn’t they warn families? Why did they just give him a slap on the wrist? In 2013, the civil trial began against the Watchtower Society, but again, the Witnesses didn’t want to provide necessary documents. They eventually lost the case. In 2015, the Riverside Superior Court of California awarded J.W. a judgment of $4,016,152.39. This past December, the Fourth District Court of Appeal in California upheld that decision. The plaintiff [J.W.] contended that the 1997 documents [the internal ones about known molesters in the church] were needed both [to] show negligence and basis for punitive damages. Under Code of Civil Procedure §425.14, a claim against a religious corporation for punitive damages requires leave from the trial court, and such leave may be granted only upon an affidavit showing clear and convincing evidence establishing such damages. [A judge] found unavailing Watchtower’s argument that it would take 19 years to sort through them, and also rejected the notion that they were covered by the clergy-penitent privilege. Despite the court’s order, Watchtower continuously ignored meet-and-confer requests by the plaintiff. J.W. asked the court for terminating sanctions, which Riverside Superior Court Judge Raquel A. Marquez granted after giving the church another four days to produce the documents, which it declined to do. You get the idea: The Witnesses refused to hand over internal data, presumably because it would’ve been like handing over a loaded gun. So the courts had no choice but to assume the plaintiff was telling the truth and the Watchtower Society was negligent in their handling of Simental. Earlier this year, in a Hail Mary attempt to reverse their punishment, the Watchtower Society appealed to the Supreme Court. They wanted the justices to say that documents relating to child abuse within a religious group can be kept confidential. Here’s how the Witnesses’ attorney introduced his case to the justices. (You don’t need a law degree to see how he just completely dismissed the molestation.) Here, Petitioner Watchtower sought to protect confidential, intra-faith communications among clergy (elders) regarding Bible-based religious appointment processes, some of which included congregants’ penitential confessions and all of which impacted privacy rights of non-parties. California targeted the faith of Jehovah’s Witnesses and impermissibly intruded upon matters of church governance, religious doctrine, and religious practice when it ordered Watchtower to produce these intra-faith communications. Without a trial, California imposed on Watchtower an unprecedented theory of liability for a congregant’s criminal conduct during nonchurch activity (a Saturday afternoon pool party at a private home). Watchtower attorney Paul Polidoro said the Supreme Court needed to consider whether California violated the Constitution when it held the Jehovah’s Witnesses responsible for what Simental did “during non-church activity,” forced them to hand over internal communications, and punished them for protecting everyone’s “privacy rights.” J.W.’s attorney responded to that brief asking the Court to flat-out reject this case. Given Watchtower’s disrespect for the legal system, penchant for violating court orders and habitual disregard for the rules of the court from which it is begging for mercy, it is not the litigant to champion any allegedly important issue before this Court. This is not a case that warrants this Court’s time. Indeed, that’s what the Court decided. When the first set of orders in the new term was released yesterday, there was this case among many many others, in the list of those which would not get heard this term. It was the right move. There’s nothing further to debate here. Finally, this case has been put to rest. (Image via Shutterstock. Large portions of this article were published earlier)
  2. Correct me if I am wrong, but it seems that despite this informative document recently made available to download in several languages on the JW website, there is not too much of a mention of it by any of the opposers and "campaigners" against child abuse in the JW organization. Here is the entire document: JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES’ SCRIPTURALLY BASED POSITION ON CHILD PROTECTION Definitions: Child abuse may include neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, or emotional abuse. Child sexual abuse is a perversion and generally includes one or more of the following: sexual inter-course with a child; oral or anal sex with a child; fondling the genitals, breasts, or buttocks of a child; voyeurism of a child; indecent exposure to a child; or soliciting a child for sexual conduct. It may include sexting with a minor or showing pornography to a minor. In this document, references to parents apply equally to legal guardians or other persons who hold pa-rental responsibility for a minor. 1. Children are a sacred trust, “an inheritance from Jehovah.”—Psalm 127:3. 2. The protection of children is of utmost concern and importance to all Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is in harmony with the long-standing and widely published Scripturally based position of Jehovah’s Witnesses, as reflected in the references at the end of this document, which are all published on jw.org. 3. Jehovah’s Witnesses abhor child abuse and view it as a crime. (Romans 12:9) We recognize that the authorities are responsible for addressing such crimes. (Romans 13:1-4) The elders do not shield any perpetrator of child abuse from the authorities. 4. In all cases, victims and their parents have the right to report an accusation of child abuse to the authorities. Therefore, victims, their parents, or anyone else who reports such an accusation to the elders are clearly informed by the elders that they have the right to report the matter to the authorities. Elders do not criticize anyone who chooses to make such a report.—Galatians 6:5. 5. When elders learn of an accusation of child abuse, they immediately consult with the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses to ensure compliance with child abuse reporting laws. (Romans 13:1) Even if the elders have no legal duty to report an accusation to the authorities, the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses will instruct the elders to report the matter if a minor is still in danger of abuse or there is some other valid reason. Elders also ensure that the victim’s parents are informed of an accusation of child abuse. If the alleged abuser is one of the victim’s parents, the elders will inform the other parent. 6. Parents have the primary responsibility for the protection, safety, and instruction of their children. Therefore, parents who are members of the congregation are encouraged to be vigilant in exercising their responsibility at all times and to do the following: • Have direct and active involvement in their children’s lives. • Educate themselves and their children about child abuse. • Encourage, promote, and maintain regular communication with their children. —Deuteronomy 6:6, 7; Proverbs 22:3. Jehovah’s Witnesses publish an abundance of Bible-based information to assist parents to fulfill their responsibility to protect and instruct their children.—See the references at the end of this document. 7. Congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses do not separate children from their parents for the purpose of instruction or other activities. (Ephesians 6:4) For example, our congregations do not provide or sponsor orphanages, Sunday schools, sports clubs, day-care centers, youth groups, or other activi-ties that separate children from their parents. 8. Elders strive to treat victims of child abuse with compassion, understanding, and kindness. (Colossians 3:12) As spiritual counselors, the elders endeavor to listen carefully and empathetically to victims and to console them. (Proverbs 21:13; Isaiah 32:1, 2; 1 Thessalonians 5:14; James 1:19) Victims and their families may decide to consult a mental-health professional. This is a personal decision. 9. Elders never require victims of child abuse to present their accusation in the presence of the alleged abuser. However, victims who are now adults may do so, if they wish. In addition, victims can be accompanied by a confidant of either gender for moral support when presenting their accusation to the elders. If a victim prefers, the accusation can be submitted in the form of a written statement. 10. Child abuse is a serious sin. If an alleged abuser is a member of the congregation, the elders conduct a Scriptural investigation. This is a purely religious proceeding handled by elders according to Scriptural instructions and is limited to the issue of membership as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A member of the congregation who is an unrepentant child abuser is expelled from the congregation and is no longer considered one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. (1 Corinthians 5:13) The elders’ handling of an accusation of child abuse is not a replacement for the authorities’ handling of the matter.—Romans 13:1-4. 11. If it is determined that one guilty of child sexual abuse is repentant and will remain in the congregation, restrictions are imposed on the individual’s congregation activities. The individual will be specifically admonished by the elders not to be alone in the company of children, not to cultivate friendships with children, or display any affection for children. In addition, elders will inform parents of minors within the congregation of the need to monitor their children’s interaction with the individ-ual. 12. A person who has engaged in child sexual abuse does not qualify to receive any congregation privileges or to serve in a position of responsibility in the congregation for decades, if ever. —1 Timothy 3:1-7, 10; 5:22; Titus 1:7. 13. This document is available upon request to members of the congregation. It is reviewed at least once every three years. Source:
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  3. This subject is unlikely to subside. @AnneOMaly has related that "there is a campaign to have the UK JWs' child abuse allegation procedures officially investigated due to failings that have come to light in high profile cases over the past few years." This thread was started. due to publicity around the issue. The Times has reported on the campaign, (although a subscription is required to get the full account). The campaign includes pressure to include the matter in the investigation, currently in the UK, of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse which has commenced hearings despite an extremely shaky start.
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    . So with this backdrop, don't miss an enlightening BBC drama looking at a particular series of incidents in Rochdale, UK. This illustrates some context around this disgraceful crime, and provides insight regarding the failings of institutional response, highlighting something of the general social and institutional environment that all, including Jehovah's Witnesses, find themselves within, particularly in the UK.
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    As these are time limited links, the drama is also available on youtube:
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  4. Here is a 14 year-old girl who sexted an explicit picture of herself to her boyfriend via Snapchat - and he spread it about widely. Guys will do things like that and girls should not be dumb.
      Hello guest!
    She is looking at 10 years felony jail time for violation of Minnesota's child-porn law. The ACLU spokesperson defending her says this is a "teachable moment" for parents to inform the girl that her actions have consequences. Tell me about it. It is also a "cautionary tale," the ACLU adds. Yes. It IS cautionary for a 14 year old trying to live in an insane world supplied her by adults that pushes powerful social media tools, a sexually promiscuous culture, and then ten years for making use of them. Only RT.com picks this story up (besides local media), probably in a quest to embarrass the West, but that is hard to do because the West routinely embarrasses itself yet feels no embarrassment. To the contrary, it parades around in its wisdom. Meanwhile – ‘wisdom from the mouth of babes’ – the girl says “Sexting is common among teens at my school, and we shouldn’t face charges for doing it. I don’t want anyone else to go through what I’m going through.” Of course. It is a no-brainer. It is not that what she did wasn’t wrong – it is that the entire adult world should be prosecuted ahead of her. That way, there will be no room left in jail for the child. In a greater context, the story highlights the absolute failure of the world to vanquish pedophilia, which it has declared public enemy #1 - with its frothing take-no-prisoners, pulling-their-hair out frustration over making no dent in the pandemic, and so wildly overswinging to compensate. It is the frenzied carpenter who misses the nail and then furiously hammers ten times more, again missing each time. This is how it is with zealots who see their cause and nothing else – and the world is full of such people. It mirrors the Arizona law of 2015 criminalizing contact with the private areas of any child under 15 REGARDLESS OF INTENT. Prosecutors did not back down even when it was pointed out that the law criminalizes parents changing diapers. No “sane or reasonable prosecutor” is going to misuse the law that way, they said. That is reassuring, but what about the insane and unreasonable ones? Will the law be repealed? Not easily. Just try repealing it and political enemies will scream you are being soft of pedophiles – no politician dares risk that. Meanwhile, Jehovah’s Witnesses, of all people, get caught in the cross-fire of pedophilia for doing what no other religion attempts to do. Where there are reports of wrongdoing in their midst, they investigate, so as to keep the congregation morally clean – an obligation they feel before God. There is the unfortunate by-product that their name is always attached to pedophiles within their ranks, something that happens nowhere else. No other faith dreams their members should actually apply Christian conduct in their lives. No other faith looks into such things – preach Sunday and be done with it - and thus rarely learn of them. Thus pedophiles, who appear to be every third person on the planet, especially when the statute of limitations is forever, and the 14-year old and folks changing diapers are included, are never ever identified with any religion (unless they are clergy), with but a single exception. The book I am almost finished with about Witness persecution in Russia will contain individual chapters on all charges made against Witnesses. ‘Pedophilia’ will be one of them, even though the subject did not arise there, strangely. It has arisen most everywhere else and it is only a matter of time there. The Russian embassy to the U.S. recently did mention the topic in a tweet, attempting to justify its ban – the first such mention I have ever seen, despite years of flinging dirt in that country to see what will stick. Even my shoving match with @Ann O'Maly over who has the best child-protective video is in the pedophile chapter.

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