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Did Jehovah’s Witnesses Lie to the Montana Court About Confidentiality? by Alexandra James As many activists know, the Montana Supreme Court reversed a $35 million judgment against Jehovah's Witnesses recently, in a case involving the religion's failure to report child sex abuse to the authorities. (See this news story.) Confidentiality Trumps Mandatory Reporting Laws The court noted when religious authorities are exempt from the state's mandatory reporting laws; from page 14 of their ruling: In other words, if someone communicates something to their clergy and expects that information to remain confidential, that clergy member is not required to report that information to authorities or anyone else. Jehovah's Witnesses Promise Confidentiality to Congregants The decision by the state justices referred to statements made by Dave Chappel,¹ "a Jehovah’s Witnesses Service Department elder designated by the Watchtower and CCJW [The Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses] boards of directors to serve as their representative in this litigation": In short, Chappel argued that congregants in the religion are promised that things discussed with elders remain strictly confidential. Chappel used this promise of confidentiality as a legal argument against requirements of reporting child sex abuse to the authorities. The Deception Over "Confidentiality" There is a problem with this so-called promise of confidentiality, however. The 2010 edition of "Shepherd the Flock of God," the handbook used by Jehovah's Witness elders, chapter 7, paragraph 15, says: These instructions are repeated in the 2019 versions of the "Shepherd" book, in chapter 15, paragraph 15. In other words, these so-called promises of keeping things confidential are rubbish. Elders are outright instructed to share things said during judicial committee cases with other elders, the circuit overseer, and the branch office as they see fit, without informing the "wrongdoer." I'm not a lawyer so I have no input as to how this information affects any legal case, if at all. However, set that aside; from a moral point of view Jehovah's Witnesses were, at the very least, downright deceitful in their arguments. They don't ensure confidentiality during the judicial committee process, even instructing elders to use someone's name in certain discussions and to not tell that person that they'll be sharing their supposed confidential information. Whatever anyone's legal arguments and outcome of any court case, there is no doubt in my mind that Jehovah's Witnesses continuously fail child sex abuse victims in their religion. They keep the secrets of molesters, fail to warn parents, fail to notify authorities, fight victims in court, and say whatever they can to protect their assets over their children. I'm heartbroken over how the court's decision must make those victims feel, and knowing that the case was reversed based on a dishonesty obviously doesn't make things any easier to accept. *** *** ¹It's my understanding that the person's name was Douglas, not Dave. *** *** ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- This came through to me today, so I thought I'd share it. Whilst I don't fully agree with massive payouts to victims (or lawyers), I do agree with a payout of a reasonable amount accompanied with an apology from the Org. It never puts the wrong, right. It never can. But it would give the Victim a closure and a sort of 'contentment' of actually being believed. Yes i know that lawyers and solicitors rub their hands greedily for their financial gain, but that must be on both sides i would think. Or do the GB's lawyers do it out of love ? One thing this article does point out for sure, is that there is no confidentiality within JW Org, they just share the secrets amongst themselves. Hopefully more brothers and sisters will gain a better conscience and report any wrongdoings to Police and Authorities as it still seems that Elders are exempt from doing so.
From John Redwood... A preview of upcoming news: Jehovah's Witnesses are appealing to the Supreme Court of the United States, but this time it has nothing to do with preaching or saluting the flag. It's all about child abuse. Specifically, the protection (or cover-up) of information, documents, and testimony of persons involved in cases of child abuse. I will be covering this story in the coming weeks and months, but I thought I would share some of this news and try to distill it down as simply as I can. I'd like to point out first that Watchtower has appealed to the Supreme Court in connection with their loss of yet another California child abuse case. The chance that Watchtower's appeal being will be heard by the Supreme Court is slim, but anything is possible. What brought this about? There are many ongoing civil child abuse cases in California. One such case is J.W. versus Watchtower. J.W. happens to be the initials for the victim of former JW elder Gilbert Simental, who went on a spree of molestation which touched the lives of numerous victims. As with other cases, the plaintiff demanded that Watchtower turn over to the court a database of child abuse cases known to be maintained by Watchtower of New York. In this particular case, because Watchtower failed to turn over the documents in a timely manner, attorneys asked for a default judgment of just over 4 million dollars. The court agreed with the plaintiff and entered a default judgment in that amount. Watchtower was required to post a bond of more than 6 million dollars while their appeal was pending. Watchtower lost their appeal, and the decision of the court was upheld. This decision is final- with one exception. Watchtower has decided to appeal to the United States Supreme court on the basis that their judicial hearings related to child abuse matters are "confidential intra-faith communications" and that they do not, and should not, reveal those communications or documents to anyone, including civil courts. I'd like to make it very clear what Watchtower is doing here. They are fighting for their right NOT to allow civil authorities to dictate what is confidential, and what is not confidential. All of this is in relation to their claim that elders do not have the right or duty to report child abuse to the authorities. Watchtower overtly lies to their members by claiming that they obey secular laws, except when they conflict with God's laws. Yet they break the law every single time by advising elders NOT to report child abuse to the authorities. It does NOT matter whether child abuse occurs in a mandatory reporting state- elders STILL do not report to the police because Watchtower has told them that ALL of their communications are protected by clergy-penitent privilege. This is false- and it is exactly why they are losing tens of millions of dollars in child abuse civil cases. Watchtower advises elders to break the law. And now they want the Supreme Court of the United States to agree with them. The claim that the state of California has unfairly targeted Jehovah's Witnesses and "intruded upon matters of church governance." Why??? How does compliance with mandatory child abuse reporting laws conflict with God's laws? It doesn't. This is a fabrication of Watchtower attorneys working for the Governing Body, and it's become quite clear that they feel that compliance with these civil laws will spell disaster for their religion. And they might be right. If Jehovah's Witnesses did the right thing and complied with the law, they would lose the tight grip of control over their elder bodies in ways which frighten the hell out of them. There is a whole lot more to this story as well as the underlying cases involved, but I wanted to let you know what's going on. Attorneys for J.W. (the abuse victim) will be filing an opposition to Watchtower's appeal in August, and we should have a decision from the Supreme Court by October on whether they will accept Jehovah's Witnesses appeal for review. Stay tuned!!