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Jehovah’s Witness Elders Fined for Failure to Report Child Abuse: Watchtower Settles with Delaware


James Thomas Rook Jr.

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JehovahÂ’s Witness Elders Fined for Failure to Report Child Abuse: Watchtower Settles with Delaware

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delaware-courthouse-300x113.jpgJehovahÂ’s Witnesses in Delaware paid $19,500 in fines for failure to report child abuse.

" On January 18th, 2018, attorneys representing JehovahÂ’s WItnesses signed a formal settlement agreement with the State of Delaware, concluding a historic case in which two elders and one congregation were held responsible for withholding detailed knowledge of a sexual relationship between an adult and a 14-year-old minor.

This case is unique, profound, and will likely set a precedent for other States.

According to the terms of the settlement, JehovahÂ’s Witnesses paid a total of $19,500 to the Delaware Department of Justice, and the body of elders from the Laurel Delaware congregation was required to attend the Stewards of Children training program and pay associated costs.

A third requirement mandated by Delaware included the signing of an affidavit stipulating that Jehovah’s Witness elders must comply with all Delaware statutes involving the reporting of child abuse. Among the itemized requirements, the Coordinator of the Body of Elders, William Perkins, agreed that communications with minors related to matters of abuse would not be treated as “penitential confessions.” This is significant, since attorneys for Jehovah’s Witnesses attempted to claim clergy privilege as their defense for failure to report.

On January 26, 2016, Justice Mary M. Johnston threw out WatchtowerÂ’s motion for summary judgment. Johnston pointed out that the eldersÂ’ sworn statements suggested that the victim and the perpetrator did not seek out the elders for private confession, which is the basic definition of penitential confession.

The case, formally called the State of Delaware versus Laurel Congregation of JehovahÂ’s Witnesses, Joel Mulchansingh, and William Perkins, was filed November 9th, 2015. It was brought by the Delaware Attorney GeneralÂ’s office following the discovery that 35-Year-old Katheryn Carmean-White had been arrested for engaging in at least 40 incidents of sexual intercourse with a 14-year-old boy. Both were baptized members of the JehovahÂ’s Witness religion.

Katheryn L. Carmean White

Deputy Attorney General Janice Tigani became aware of this case from police reports, which had been filed in 2011. The mother of the 14-year-old victim contacted local authorities. A warrant was issued for Katheryn L. Carmean-White, who was arrested on 10 counts of third-degree rape, continuous sexual abuse of a child and endangering the welfare of a child. Carmean-White is currently incarcerated in the Baylor WomenÂ’s Correctional Institution of Delaware, serving a 6-year prison sentence.

Neither William Perkins nor Joel Mulchansingh contacted the police.

Instead, both elders initiated internal JehovahÂ’s Witness judicial proceedings which resulted in the disfellowshipping of both Carmean-White and her victim. Despite his age, the victim was considered a willing participant in consensual sexual acts. The repetitive nature of these sexual encounters was the foundation for disfellowshipping action by the church.

Delaware Sets the Example

Until now, the national epidemic of child abuse has been brought to light primarily through the efforts of mainstream media and numerous documented civil lawsuits. Such cases have resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements against the Catholic Church and JehovahÂ’s Witnesses, the religions most notorious for their mishandling of abuse allegations.

While individual states have codified laws penalizing mandated reporters for failure to report child abuse, almost none have brought charges against clergymen, or elders. Tackling religious organizations is often seen as trampling the First Amendment rights of these groups.

According to Deputy Attorney General Tigani, the Delaware case was about to go to trial when Watchtower lawyers opted for a private settlement. In part, the agreement stated:

“WHEREAS this agreement is made solely for the purpose of avoiding the time and expense of further protracted litigation”

Tigani agreed that Watchtower benefitted by conforming to the stipulations of the State of Delaware, in lieu of a protracted public trial. Evidence presented on both sides, including depositions from the two Witness elders, clearly pointed to gross infraction of Delaware law.

The progressive nature of DelawareÂ’s punitive measures for violation of mandatory reporting laws comes on the heels of the worst case of child sexual abuse in United States history. Pediatrician Earl Bradley was sentenced to seven consecutive life terms, plus 165 years in prison for the molestation of hundreds of child patients, whose average age was three. The Bradley case was so egregious that Attorney General Beau Biden abandoned his bid for his fatherÂ’s vacated Senate seat to funnel all energies into the prosecution of this case.

As Delaware prosecuted and jailed the notorious Bradley, lawmakers began to question how this man could have abused so many children for more than a decade, evading detection and prosecution. In 2010, Governor Jack Markell commissioned the Dean of Widener University Law School, Linda L. Ammons, to investigate what went wrong, and to itemize necessary changes. One key discovery involved the lack of proper reporting of abuse allegations to law enforcement or other state officials. Under the topic “Mandatory Reporters,” Ammons stated:

“It is my finding that no law enforcement agency, health professional or anyone else reported the allegations regarding Dr. Bradley to any administrative or regulatory body in accordance with current Delaware law. “

Early-Bradley-Arrest-300x169.jpg

Pediatrician Earl Bradley Arrested

Families of victims were shocked to discover that allegations against Bradley stemmed back to 1994 in Pennsylvania, where the doctor had completed his residency. Layers of bureaucracy stymied the reporting process. Plausible deniability was contagious, and without enforcement of reporting laws, organizations, members of clergy, and ordinary citizens are without incentive to abide by these statutes. Professor Ammon made numerous recommendations to the Governor of Delaware, including the following:

“Increase penalties for violating the mandatory reporting requirements in the Medical Practices Act.”

Delaware agreed. Enforceable penalties were signed into law. Delaware code 914 states:

914 Penalty for violation.  (a) Whoever violates § 903 of this title shall be liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $10,000 for the first violation, and not to exceed $50,000 for any subsequent violation.

This code enforcement is not limited to the medical practices field. In fact, every Delaware citizen is expected to report, regardless of their occupation. The ProfessionalsÂ’ Guide to Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect says:

“Professional reporters are often referred to as mandated reporters, although all citizens of Delaware are required to report child abuse and neglect.” [bold, italics ours]

JehovahÂ’s Witness elders Joel Mulchansingh, and William Perkins were found liable, both as professional mandated reporters, and as citizens of the State of Delaware. The congregation body of elders was also named as a responsible party.

The Settlement

In addition to financial penalties paid, the Laurel Congregation body of elders was required to attend the Stewards of Children training program, an initiative sponsored by the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children. The Biden foundation is a non-profit organization created in 2015 to further the goals of the late Biden in ensuring that children are afforded every possible protection from predators.

I spoke to a representative of the Stewards of Children program, who confirmed that their educational materials have been sanctioned by courts across the United States on the basis of competent, peer-reviewed research.

The third and final settlement term involved a multi-part affidavit, signed by the Laurel Coordinator of Body of Elders, and distributed to all congregations within the State of Delaware. Terms included:

  • Communications with individual involving acts of abuse shall not be considered as “penitential confessions”
  • Communications with minors involving acts of abuse shall not be considered as “penitential confessions”
  • Elders and the Congregation will comply with the law in accordance with the two items above
  • A copy of the signed and notarized affidavit will be provided by JehovahÂ’s WitnessesÂ’ attorneys to all congregations within the state of Delaware

While JehovahÂ’s Witnesses have been forced to comply with the terms of this settlement, there is no evidence to suggest that this organization will participate in mandatory training programs in other states or countries. Currently, Witness policy dictates that the first notification of allegations of child abuse must be made by local elders to the JehovahÂ’s Witness legal department in Patterson New York. This policy has a profound chilling effect upon justice for victims and protection of the community.

Exterior Sign for Laurel and Seaford Congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses

Exterior Sign for Laurel and Seaford Congregations

Once their legal department advises elders whether they are in a mandatory reporting state or not, the call is handed over to the Service department, also located in Patterson. These men advise local elders of their internal judicial responsibility, such as whether to disfellowship a minor deemed as a willing participant in sexual acts.

Nowhere in Watchtower literature are victims or others encouraged to immediately contact civil authorities when allegations of abuse become known. By design, Jehovah’s Witnesses are trained to regard local elders as the primary authority, particularly when any sexual contact is discovered between two unmarried persons. 

A Precedent Has Been Set

Delaware’s lawsuit against Jehovah’s Witnesses has broken the barrier which has, until now, protected churches from prosecution for failure to report child abuse.  

In 2006, the Sonoma County Sheriff’s office recommended that charges be filed against Catholic Bishop Daniel Walsh. Walsh failed to file a timely report upon discovery that Catholic Priest Xavier Ochoa sexually abused at least three boys, the youngest being 12. The delay in reporting gave Ochoa the time he needed to escape to Mexico.

According to the the San Francisco journal SFGATE:

“If prosecutors decide to charge Walsh, the case would appear to mark the first time a U.S. Catholic Church official has faced criminal prosecution for failing to properly report sexual abuse.”

Charges were dropped, however, in lieu of a plea agreement in which Bishop Walsh was required to attend a four-month counseling program.

The State of Delaware did not back down so quickly in its case against JehovahÂ’s Witnesses, leaving Watchtower attorneys little choice but to settle the case on DelawareÂ’s terms.

Other states may soon follow suit, including Pennsylvania, where police are investigating the abuse of 4-year-old Abby Haugh in 2005. The assault occurred inside the local Kingdom Hall and was reported to congregation elders by the victim’s father, Martin Haugh. Local elders did not contact law enforcement. 

Police are not commenting on this case, as the investigation is currently ongoing.

The terms of the Delaware settlement stipulated that once Jehovah’s Witnesses paid the agreed-upon fines, the State would dismiss civil action with prejudice.  The settlement agreement was obtained by filing a Freedom of Information Act request. "

 

 

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These elders, it appears, broke the law.

Jehovah’s Witness Elders Fined for Failure to Report Child Abuse: Watchtower Settles with Delaware Posted on July 17, 2018  by JOHN REDWOOD Jehovah’s Witnesses in Delaware paid $19

You neither understand nor correctly report my position on this matter and, frankly, appear to demonstrate incompetence in both reading and comprehension by a pathetically shallow response. You're pro

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DispicableME:

Could you please tell me what you "downvoted", specifically?

Was it what happened?

Was it how it was handled?

Was it the Reporter's reporting of it?

Was it the fact that it became common knowledge in Delaware among the congregations?

I am  interested in your thought processes, and opinions, specifically.

 

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We are seeing more and more of this type of behavior both in and out of religious organizations. It is truly sad that there are people(animals) out there who prey upon children. What makes it even worse is those who turn a blind eye to it all. I'm sure some turn away because of fear, fear that they might be next or fear from their own past trauma. There are some who turn away based on what they are told they should do. I cannot see any reason why anyone would think that YHWH would approve of not seeking justice and prevention of this continuing. We are to govern our civilizations and from the top to the bottom we ALL are responsible to govern. We govern our own house first, it trickles upward  to our schools then our community, state, country. What was done to those people who did this in the 1600's? (Yes, I am aware that marriage was done at a much younger age for women/girls back then.)  If they were caught abusing children, most likely that was the last time they did that and probably the last time they did anything. I don't see it as wrong to eliminate these types of people, as well as those who allow this to happen over and over by not bringing it to light, from civilization, for obviously they are not civil. 

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Fotr the life of me, I cannot see why this issue is such a thorny matter.

If one of Jehovah's Witnesses, even an adult, was assaulted by another, and injured, then regardless of "rules", surely a referral would be made to the medical profession, and to the police for investigation of a criminal act, regardless of witnesses?

Every human institution, including the family, appears to be involved in this whole shoddy business which is clearly not limited to one group. No one appears to be able to get a consistent procedure together to deal with historic or ongoing issues. This is a hands down failure across the board.

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3 hours ago, Gone Away said:

Fotr the life of me, I cannot see why this issue is such a thorny matter.

Here lies the problem of the matter. The people who don't see why it is an issue that children are abused. Thanks for telling us your position on the matter. 

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This is as good a place as any to post a letter that does not specifically address Delaware but does the overall situation. It is a response to three incendiary articles in the Philadelphia Inquirer. It starts here and continues on my blog, as it is very lengthy:

“The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote three incendiary articles about Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Wow! did they ever make them look bad! Probably that was the intent, though it is hard to say for sure because nobody would ever say that the subject is nothing. It is the topic of child sexual abuse, the most white-hot topic of all.

“As much as Jehovah’s Witnesses would love to say that child sexual abuse has not occurred within their ranks, they cannot. They can say, and do, that it is relatively uncommon within their ranks, but just try telling that to one who has suffered from it. There is no experience that determines one’s viewpoint more than this one. It is exacerbated by the Witnesses being said to be an ‘insular’ organization, and this ‘crime’ of being insular is pushed pedal-to-the-medal by the Philly reporter, who returns to an anti-Witness website after articles, where he is lauded as a hero. Perhaps he has 20 more of such articles up his sleeve. But it is little wonder that he is lauded: some of these gathered at the site are ones who have been victims.

“The overall stats for child sexual abuse do not speak well for humanity. One of four girls and one of six boys will be sexually abused before they are 18 (in the U. S, according to InvisibleChildren.org)—this, despite decades of battling the evil…”

http://www.tomsheepandgoats.com/2018/07/three-incendiary-articles-from-the-philadelphia-inqurer.html

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19 minutes ago, Shiwiii said:

Thanks for telling us your position on the matter. 

You neither understand nor correctly report my position on this matter and, frankly, appear to demonstrate incompetence in both reading and comprehension by a pathetically shallow response. You're probably tired. No one could exhibit such inability intentionally. 

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15 minutes ago, Gone Away said:

You neither understand nor correctly report my position on this matter and, frankly, appear to demonstrate incompetence in both reading and comprehension by a pathetically shallow response. You're probably tired. No one could exhibit such inability intentionally. 

When you come out with a statement clearly showing you can't understand why child abuse " is such a thorny matter.", it sets the tone of the remainder of your opinion. 

 

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On 7/18/2018 at 7:23 PM, Shiwiii said:

I don't see it as wrong to eliminate these types of people, as well as those who allow this to happen over and over by not bringing it to light, from civilization, for obviously they are not civil. 

very strong, ... but at the end of a day, if god want them to live, he can resurrect them in NW or somewhere else in Universe (if human made death penalty over such criminals as in old Bible time)   

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35 minutes ago, Shiwiii said:

you can't understand why child abuse " is such a thorny matter.

There you go! Unfortunately not tired, as I had hoped. 

Misquoting, misleading, blundering blather.... I'm not sure how to suggest a remedy for this kind of penchant for misrepresentation, other than to quote from your own post: " it sets the tone of the remainder of your opinion"

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On 7/17/2018 at 10:02 PM, James Thomas Rook Jr. said:

 Despite his age, the victim was considered a willing participant in consensual sexual acts.

The problem with this is that the state considers the age of consent to be over 16. Not only that but according to a legal website: "Delaware considers having sex with someone under 16 rape. Having sex with someone under 18, if the offender is over 30, is also considered rape. Compared to some other states, the penalties for violating Delaware's age of consent laws are very harsh".

So in view of that, the fact that the 14 year old boy is considered a "consensual participant" by Jehovah's Witnesses, isn't going to go down too well.....

 

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On 7/17/2018 at 10:02 PM, James Thomas Rook Jr. said:

In addition to financial penalties paid, the Laurel Congregation body of elders was required to attend the Stewards of Children training program

Ooooh, I bet that was a smack in the face. Our publications have long informed its readers about how to best address child abuse, way before this organization was even set up. Going on their website and reading their education packets....there is nothing new there that we haven't already been taught. It's a pity that these elders gave the impression that they knew nothing about how to handle this issue.

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