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Found 27 results

  1. 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.
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  2. 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." Maïthé Chini The Brussels Times
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  3. Why JW.ORG does not show development regarding sexual abuse cases as it does with other legal issues?
  4. Read more:
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  5. 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:
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  6. 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. See the WND Superstore’s collection of Bibles, including the stunning 1599 Geneva Bible. 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.”
  7. 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.
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  8. 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.
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  9. (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:
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  10. 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. More:
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  11. 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.
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  12. 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.
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  13. 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.” Goodbye Jehovah! 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:
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  14. 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.
  15. 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?” Campos: “Yes.” 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.
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  16. 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:
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  17. 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".
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  18. 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:
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  19. 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.
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  20. Barry W. Bussey: Last week, the Supreme Court was asked to do something courts never do: review the solely religious decision of a church On November 2, the Supreme Court of Canada was asked to do something Canadian courts never do: review the solely religious decision of a church community. Until now, the courts have recoiled from getting involved in religious disputes—and for good reason. The case involves Randy Wall, who was dismissed from a Jehovah’s Witness church for failing to repent of his religious offences: getting drunk on two occasions and verbally abusing his wife. Wall’s appeal to another church entity was unsuccessful. He then appealed to a court of law by means of “judicial review,” on the grounds that the church had denied him a proper hearing. In Canadian law, in a process known as “judicial review,” a person can ask a court to “review” (i.e. hear) whether the decision of a “public actor” (such as a government licensing agency) was unfairly decided. Courts rarely review decisions of “private actors” (such as a church); they generally do so only if a private actor’s decision engages property or civil rights. In Wall’s case, the court had to determine whether the Jehovah’s Witness church’s decision involved property or contractual rights, which would then enable the court to review the church’s decision. "The church argued it was a private religious body, not a public body" The church argued it was a private religious body, not a public body, and that its decision did not affect Wall’s property or contractual rights. It also argued that its disciplinary procedure was a religious process involving prayer and scripture reading aimed at reconciling the relationship between Wall and the church. The lower courts both held that religious decisions can be reviewed by courts to determine whether a church gave a fair hearing, even if no property or contractual rights were engaged. However, both courts were also of the view that property rights were an issue in the case. The Supreme Court of Canada must now decide whether those courts were right. The Supreme Court reserved judgment after last week’s hearing; we can expect its decision early in the new year. Courts like to “fix things.” They naturally want to find resolutions to disputes; this is what they exist to do. However, courts have historically avoided getting involved in religious cases, recognizing that they lack the expertise and authority to settle religious disagreements. They handle legal cases, such as contractual disputes, but not religious cases that raise metaphysical truths, such as the definition of God. Wall argued his case did involve a “property right,” because his dismissal from his church meant the church members were no longer willing to do business with him. As a real estate agent, 50 per cent of his clientele were Jehovah’s Witnesses. His business folded from the loss of their support. He says there is a direct line of causation between his loss of church membership and business loss. It’s likely the case that one caused the other, but that doesn’t mean Wall’s claim is a legally enforceable property right. "A church member is not required to patronize the business of a former church member" The reality is, Wall chose to limit his business to Jehovah’s Witnesses and took a personal risk in doing so. The church did not tell him to do so, and certainly there is no known legal principle that says a church is responsible for the economic losses that might flow from a loss of membership. A church member is not required to patronize the business of a former member. In the same way, we would not expect a former husband to maintain business with his ex-wife’s family. At last week’s hearing, Wall’s legal counsel tried to persuade the court that, if there are no grounds under Canadian law for the court to interfere in purely religious matters, the court should then consider adopting U.K. law, which does allow this type of review. “Good luck!” Justice Rosalie Abella quipped, prompting everyone to burst into laughter. That exchange suggested the court was not persuaded that it is time to change the law to allow courts to get tangled up in reviewing decisions of religious bodies. That would be a good thing, as courts don’t have the moral or legal authority or doctrinal expertise to decide such matters. This hearing occurred around the time of the 500-year anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of his 95 Theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany. If we have learned anything since then, it’s that the law does not need to apply to every nook and cranny of our lives – especially our religious affairs. Barry W. Bussey is Director Legal Affairs at the Canadian Council of Christian Charities. He blogs at lawandreligion.org
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  21. A group of alleged sexual abuse survivors from across the country have filed a $66-million class action lawsuit against the Jehovah’s Witness, CityNews has learned. The suit accuses the religious organization of having rules and policies that protect child sex abusers and put children at risk. “The organization’s policy and protocol for dealing with allegations of sexual abuse is seriously flawed, and results in further harm to victims of sexual abuse and results in legitimate allegations of sexual abuse going unreported,” it alleges. “This is an issue that the wider community should be concerned with, and not just Jehovah’s Witnesses,” says Tricia Franginha. She says her first 14 years of life as a Jehovah’s Witness were filed with sexual abuse. “As a result of their procedures, when abuse allegations come forward, these sexual offenders are left at large,” Franginha says. “As most people know about Jehovah’s Witnesses, they are the ones who come to your door on Saturday mornings, when your kids are home, and for all you know, that person has offended more than once.” None of the allegations in this the suit have been tested in Ontario Superior Court. A spokesperson for the Jehovah’s Witness says that while the suit has been filed, the organization hasn’t officially received it yet, so they can’t comment on the details. “Jehovah’s Witnesses abhor child abuse and would never shield any perpetrator,” says spokesperson Mattieu Rozon. The organization also says congregation elders comply with child abuse reporting laws. Franginha says that when she went for help, she was shut down. “When I was around 12, I was told that I didn’t have two witnesses and I needed to respect my parents – not to talk about it,” she says. The need to have two witnesses corroborate allegations of abuse is singled out in the suit. People who have been sexually abused must present two credible witnesses to their abuse, explains Franginha, who adds that the eyewitnesses must be other Jehovah’s Witnesses in good standing in the church. “This, obviously, never happens,” she says. “The very nature of the crime is that it’s secret.” The suit also alleges that police are not called when allegations surface and instead they’re handled by church elders inside Kingdom Hall. “It is our information, based on people who contacted us, that the systems in place don’t guard against [abuse] happening, and when allegations are made, inadequate measures are in place to ensure that the complaint reaches the proper authorities,” says Bryan McPhadden, laywer at McPhadden Samac Tuovi, which is representing the victims. The victims are seeking $20 million for damages from sexual and mental abuse by elders, $20 million for failing to protect children, and another $20 million for breach of duty of care. The lawsuit is expected to take years to wind its way through the courts. If you believe you qualify to join the class action suit, you can reach out at www.mcst.ca.
  22. Recourse to secular courts Religious laws apply to a believer's spiritual life. They don't trump Canada's Criminal Code, civil law or other statutes. Sometimes, secular courts are even called upon to judge whether a faith-based decision is fair. On Nov. 2, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear from an Alberta man appealing a decision made by a Jehovah's Witnesses' judicial committee. Elders disfellowshipped — or expelled — Randy Wall when they decided the Calgary man was not sufficiently repentant for two drunken incidents where he allegedly verbally abused his wife. This decision by elders of the congregation required Wall's wife and children to shun him. Wall, a real estate agent, alleges the shunning caused him to lose a large number of Jehovah's Witnesses clients. Courts are sometimes are asked to judge the fairness of a religious rule or decision. The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear the case of a Jehovah's Witness who was expelled for alleged verbal abuse of his wife. (Chris Wattie/Canadian Press) In 2007, Canada's top court ruled in favour of a woman who took action against her ex-husband for refusing to grant her a religious Jewish divorce, known as a get. "The consequences to women deprived of a get and loyal to their faith are severe," Justice Rosalie Abella wrote. "They may not remarry within their faith, even though civilly divorced. If they do remarry, children from a second civil marriage are considered illegitimate and restricted from practising their religion." Full article:Â
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  23. A lawsuit targeting elders of a Jehovah's Witnesses congregation for failing to report suspected child abuse continues to wind its way through Delaware's court system. The attorney general's office sued elders of the Sussex County congregation in 2014 for not reporting an unlawful sexual relationship between a woman and a 14-year-old boy, both of whom were congregation members. A judge scheduled a teleconference with attorneys Thursday to discuss the case. The defendants say they did not have to report what they learned because Delaware's child abuse reporting law exempts communications "between priest and penitent in a sacramental confession."
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  24. (Feb. 24, 2017) On February 20, 2017, the Swedish Supreme Administrative Court decided that Jehovah’s Witnesses have the right to state funding and that not providing such support would violate articles 14 and 19 of the European Convention on Human Rights. (Case No. 2310-16, Högsta förvaltningsdomstolen [Swedish Supreme Administrative Court], Feb. 20, 2017, HÖGSTA FÖRVALTNINGSDOMSTOLEN [SUPREME COURT REPORTER) (HFD).) Background Under Swedish law, the government provides state funding to faith-based organizations (trossamfund), provided that they contribute to “upholding and strengthening the fundamental values upon which the [Swedish] society rests.” (3 § 1 Lagen om Stöd Till Trossamfund [Act on Support to Faith-Based Organizations (the Act), Svensk författningssamling [SFS] 1999:932, NOTISUM.) The Swedish government has refused to grant money to Jehovah’s Witnesses because of the group’s stance against blood transfusions for minors, which the government considers a risk to “individual children’s life and health.” (HFD at 7.) This in turn violates the requirement in the Act that the organization must contribute to upholding and strengthen the fundamental values of Swedish society. (HFD at 7.) According to the Act’s legislative history, “upholding fundamental principles of [the Swedish] society includes operating with respect for all peoples’ equal value and contributing to developing norms in society that are compatible with that of democracy … . The organization should also work to develop the conditions for equality between women and men.” (HFD at 8.) The Court’s Ruling The Court noted that religious freedom is internationally protected and that any limitation must be a based on “serious and compelling reasons,” as prescribed in the European Convention on Human Rights. (HFD at 10.) The European Court of Justice has identified some limitations on religious freedom that do not violate the European Convention on Human Rights, such as prohibitions against “polygamy, child marriages, flagrant crimes against the equality between the sexes and acts forced upon members of a religious organization against their will.” (HFD at 11; Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (Nov. 4,1950, as amended), European Court of Human Rights website.) The Court found that there is a presumption in Swedish case law (established in HFD 2011 ref 10) that all applicant organizations subscribe to the fundamental values of Sweden. (HFD at 10-11.) Thus, the burden of proof rests with the government to prove that the organization in question does not support these values. (Id.) The Court observed that Swedish law has long recognized that a patient has an unrestricted right to refrain from medical treatment. (HFD at 12.) By statute, “healthcare as a rule cannot be provided without the consent of the patient.” (Id.; 4 ch. 2 § Patientlagen SFS 2014:821.) Therefore, the Court argued, a personal choice not to accept blood transfusions would not violate the fundamental values of Swedish society; rather, that choice is part of the fundamental value that medical decisions belong to the patient. (HFD at 12.) Moreover, parents have the right to object to certain treatments on behalf of their children. (HFD at 13.) The Court further observed that Swedish law provides for a system whereby the state can take over the health responsibility of a child (by means of compulsory care under the law on forced treatment of youths) from the parents, and Jehovah’s Witnesses encourage parents, if this happens, to cooperate with the state. It therefore concluded that Jehovah’s Witnesses’ position against blood transfusions for minors does not violate fundamental Swedish principles. (HFD at 13; Lag med Särskilda Bestämmelser om Vård av Unga [Act on Special Provisions on Care of Youths [LVU] (SFS 1990:52), LAGEN.NU.) One judge dissented and argued that the fact that children belonging to Jehovah’s Witnesses have been subject to “compulsory care” by the state for medical reasons demonstrates that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not subscribe to the fundamental principles required to receive state funding. (HFD at 17.) Aftermath of the Court Decision The ruling sends the application back to the government, which will have to make a new decision consistent with the verdict. (HFD at 13-14.) If there are no reasons other than the practice of refusing children’s blood transfusions to deny the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ application for funding, the application should be granted. (HFD at 13-14.) Religious organizations may soon see another set of rules apply, however, as the Swedish government is researching a new law on state funding of faith-based organizations; a report is expected to be issued in March 2018. (Översyn av statens stöd till trossamfund [Review of State Funding for Religious Organizations], REGERINGSKANSLIET (June 30, 2016).) Among the reasons for the review is to evaluate whether the government should withdraw funding when it is discovered that the faith-based organization receiving the grant has developed in a non-democratic direction. (Kommittédirektiv (Dir. 2016:62), Översyn av statens stöd till trossamfund, KULTURDEPARTEMENTET (June 30, 2016), at 3.) Moreover, the committee reviewing the state-funding program has been asked by the Department of Culture to look at ways to make the law more religiously neutral by using language other than “ceremony and service” ( gudstjänst). (Id. at 6.) The committee was also directed to propose language that would permit the recovery of funds that have been used to fund non-democratic ideas. (Id.) Several Members of the Swedish Parliament (Sveriges Riskdag), representing five out of seven political groups, have previously voiced similar concerns and objected to the funding of religious organizations that promote gender inequality and discrimination against sexual minorities. (Fel att skattepengar går till hederskultur [Wrong that Tax Funds Honor Cultures], AFTONBLADET (Feb. 25, 2016).) Author: Elin Hofverberg Topic: Discrimination, Freedom of religion, Religious minorities Jurisdiction: Sweden Date: February 24, 2017
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  25. A trial date has been set for a lawsuit between a former City of Key West Department of Transportation bus driver and the city, but a federal judge ordered both sides to attempt to resolve the case via mediation. Bobby Walker Jr. claims that he requested, via a letter dated Oct. 23, 2014, to the city manager’s office, that he not participate in the annual Fantasy Fest parade and that his “participation in the Fantasy Fest parade was contrary to his beliefs as a Jehovah’s Witness,” the lawsuit states. Walker claims his civil rights were violated, according to the lawsuit. U.S. District Judge Jose E. Martinez has tentatively scheduled a trial date for Jan. 23 at the federal courthouse in Key West on Simonton Street. He also set the mediation deadline for Dec. 14, meaning if the case has not been resolved outside of court by then a trial is likely to begin by the January date. Walker claims that during a meeting with superiors, city management officials “openly mocked (Walker’s) religious beliefs and threatened to write up Walker for purportedly not giving enough time to change the schedule,” the lawsuit states. According to the employee handbook, drivers are required to give at least two hours’ notice of any schedule change request. Walker claims that his two-day notice was more than ample. “A manager treated Mr. Walker differently than persons who were not of Jehovah’s Witness faith by threatening to write Mr. Walker up for not giving him a 48-hour notice of his request for time off, although persons of other religions are only held to a two-hour minimum notice,” Walker’s attorney, Jay Paul Lechner of St. Petersburg, wrote to The Citizen seeking comment. “The same manager made comments to the effect ‘I’ve had enough of this religion stuff,’ and ‘You’re the only one’ causing problems due to religion. Managers also spread rumors to other employees about Mr. Walker, such as that Jehovah’s Witnesses ‘think they are better than others.’” With respect to Walker’s race — he is black — Lechner wrote: “A mechanic manager angrily called Mr. Walker a ‘damn boy’ and purposely locked him out of the break room used by white employees. A manager made a comment to another manager to the effect of ‘get rid of that black son-of-a-(deleted),’ referring to Mr. Walker.” Immediately after Walker’s meeting with superiors, his “hours were decreased and he was subjected to threats of losing his job, vindictive acts and derogatory comments about his race from other members of the management team,” according to the lawsuit. Walker claims he complained to higher-ups but no action was taken, according to the lawsuit. On or about Dec. 31, 2014, Walker again requested a shift change so that he would not have to work the late shift on New Year’s Eve, based on his religious beliefs, the lawsuit states. He was fired shortly thereafter, according to the lawsuit. Walker is accusing the city of violating his civil rights under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as under the Florida Civil Rights Act. He is seeking back pay and benefits as well as his attorney’s fees and punitive damages.
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