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Jehovah's Witnesses


News Summaries

The source of news summaries is at the end of the summary; "ITx.y " refers to the issue of ICSA Today in which the summary appeared. "CSRx.y" refers to news summaries in Cultic Studies Review, which was published from 2002 - 2010.

With Jehovah’s Witnessess ban, rebuke of Russia grows
“The Kremlin threat to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses from worshipping in Russia has received widespread condemnation across the world after the United States Helsinki Commission yesterday spoke out strongly against the development and called for respect of religious freedom in the vast ex-communist country. … Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Roger Wicker (MS), co-Chairman Rep Chris Smith (NJ-04), and Commissioner Rep. Richard Hudson (NC-08), in a joint statement yesterday rebuked the Russian authorities for cracking down on religious liberty. ‘It is wrong to apply flawed counterterrorism laws to those who seek to practice their faith,’ Wicker said. ‘The Russian government is exploiting genuine threats of violent extremism to undermine what little religious freedom remains in that country. This distracts from real efforts to fight terrorism. I urge the Russian government to drop the case immediately.’ … The pressure was being applied as Russian authorities have approached the country’s Supreme Court to effectively ban Jehovah’s Witnesses in the country from worshipping, claiming that they were members of an ‘extremist organization’. … On March 15, the Russian Ministry of Justice filed a formal court claim to label the Administrative Centre of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia an extremist group and liquidate their national headquarters and 395 local chapters, known as ‘local religious organizations.’ Should the Russian Supreme Court decide against the Witnesses next week some 175 000 Witnesses in Russia could face criminal prosecution for practicing their faith. … According to the Helsinki Final Act signed by all 57 participating states of the organization for security and cooperation in Europe—including Russia—‘participating States will recognize and respect the freedom of the individual to profess and practice, alone or in community with others, religion or belief acting in accordance with the dictates of his own conscience.’” (NewsDay, 04/02/17) [8.3]

Russia labels Jehovah’s Witnesses extremists and tries to ban them from the country
“In Russia, there's a database of extremists. It includes members of al-Qaeda, the Islamic State and … Jehovah’s Witnesses. Mind you, that’s not because members of the Christian religious denomination have been caught plotting some kind of violence. Pacifism is a core value of members, who believe that the Bible should be taken literally. ‘I cannot imagine that anyone really thinks they are a threat,’ Alexander Verkhovsky, director of the SOVA Center for Information and Analysis, which monitors extremism in Russia, told The New York Times. ‘But they are seen as a good target. They are pacifists, so they cannot be radicalized, no matter what you do to them. They can be used to send a message.’ …There's a long history in Russia of harassing Jehovah’s Witnesses. During Soviet times, the KGB accused them of spying. It’s true, too, that leaders of the formerly socialist country—where atheism was the official doctrine not too long ago—are naturally skeptical of faith. … ‘The treatment of the Jehovah’s Witnesses reflects the Russian government’s tendency to view all independent religious activity as a threat to its control and the country’s political stability’ the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said in a statement earlier this month. Experts see it, too, as part of a broader campaign against Russian civil society using the 2002 anti-extremism law. Officially, the rule was touted as a measure against radicalized violence from homegrown and foreign terrorists. But it’s been broadly interpreted, used to jail anyone from antigovernment activists to Muslims with no ties to terrorism or violence. …‘They say I am a terrorist,’ he said. ‘But all I ever wanted to do was to get people to pay attention to the Bible.’ Alexey Koptev, a member of the faith since 1992, was arrested after Russian security officials secretly taped worship services. Koptev and the others were banned from traveling. Many lost their jobs. Authorities told them they would be set free if they denounced their faith. ‘Why me?’ he asked the Washington Post's Andrew Roth. ‘Who did nothing illegal, who read nothing illegal, why was I secretly filmed and listened to?’” (Washington Post, 04/14/17) [8.3]

Moscow court turns down Jehovah’s Witnesses’ bid to fight Justice Ministry’s ban
“Moscow’s Zamoskvoretsky court has rejected a lawsuit filed by the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious group against the Justice Ministry’s ruling on banning its activity in Russia, a TASS correspondent reported from the courtroom. The organization asked the court to recognize the Justice Ministry’s ruling as illegal and order its cancellation. ‘The court decided to reject the lawsuit of the religious organization Jehovah’s Witnesses Administrative Center in Russia,’ Judge Nelli Rubtsova said. …On October 12, 2016, Moscow’s Tverskoy district court issued a warning to the Jehovah’s Witnesses Administrative Center based on revelations of extremism there. Under Russian law, a religious association or organization is subject to termination if it does not remedy the specified manifestations of extremism before the required deadline or displays any new ones. Jehovah’s Witnesses is an international religious organization that supports offbeat views on the essence of the Christian faith and provides special interpretations of many commonly accepted notions.” (Tass, 04/24/17) [8.3]

Jehovah’s Witnesses “demonstrated a serious failure” to protect children, royal commission reports

“The Jehovah’s Witness[es] Church in Australia failed to protect children in its care from sexual predators, a report has found. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse delivered its report into the organisation on Monday. It stated that: ‘Children are not adequately protected from the risk of child sexual abuse in the Jehovah’s Witness organisation and [the commission] does not believe the organisation responds adequately to allegations of child sexual abuse.’… In its report on the inquiry, the royal commission found that the organisation’s general practice of ‘not reporting serious instances of child sexual abuse to police or authorities, demonstrated a serious failure on its part to provide for the safety and protection of children.’ The royal commission determined that the church’s response to allegations of child sexual abuse were [sic] outdated, including a rule that there must be two witnesses to an incident, which ‘showed a serious lack of understanding of the nature of child sexual abuse.’… ‘Survivors are offered little or no choice in how their complaint is addressed, sanctions are weak with little regard to the risk of the perpetrator re-offending.’ The head of the Jehovah’s Witness community’s service desk, Rodney Spinks, said the church is taking the royal commission’s work seriously. ‘We want to benefit from the process; everybody does,’ he said.” (The Sydney Morning Herald, 11/28/16) [IT 8.2]

Jehovah’s Witnesses charity drops attempts to block abuse inquiry

“The UK’s main Jehovah’s Witnesses charity has dropped efforts to block an investigation into how it handled allegations of sexual abuse, including of children, after a legal fight lasting more than two years. The Charity Commission launched an inquiry into safeguarding at the religion’s main UK charity in May 2014 after receiving allegations that survivors of rape and sexual abuse, including people abused as children, were forced to face their attackers in ‘judicial committees.’ … The commission announced last week that, more than two and a half years after the investigation was launched, the WTBTS [Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society] had shared some of the documents it had been seeking and the commission had since cancelled the production order. The charity had also dropped the last of its legal cases against the inquiry, the supreme court having refused to hear that particular case in July. Although charities do sometimes challenge the commission’s decisions in court, the extent and length of the Jehovah’s Witnesses litigation were unprecedented in recent times, a commission spokesman told the Guardian last year. A spokesman for the WTBTS said: ‘In light of the progress of the inquiry and the information obtained by the commission from Watch Tower and other sources, the commission has agreed to revoke the production order. Watch Tower has therefore agreed to withdraw its application for judicial review of the production order, and a consent order has been filed with the high court to conclude the proceedings.’ … Fay Maxted, the chief executive of the Survivors Trust, said the WTBTS should apologise to those affected for the ‘appalling delays’ caused by its litigation. ‘Faith groups need to really take on board the huge damage and pain caused to victims and survivors when appeal after appeal is pursued in an attempt to prevent them from having to share information,’ she said. ‘It is very difficult in such circumstances to believe that the best interests of the victim or survivor are in any way being considered.’ Maxted said she hoped the decision to share information with the commission signalled a change in their approach to the needs of victims and survivors.” (The Guardian, 01/23/17) [IT 8.2]

Jehovah’s Witnesses sexual-abuse cover-up lawsuit settled

“PHILADELPHIA—A settlement agreement has been reached, but neither the victim nor the church she said failed to report her sexual abuse to the authorities can talk about it. On the fifth day of trial Monday in Philadelphia County Court, Stephanie Fessler, of Lancaster, settled the suit she filed against the Jehovah’s Witness Church in Spring Grove.” A “confidential settlement agreement … bars all parties from talking about the case or disclosing the amount of the settlement. …According to a lawsuit, Fessler’s family reported her abuse to the church elders, and had the church elders contacted the authorities as they were legally obligated to do, she would have been spared more sexual assaults from the same woman.’ Her attorney, Jeffrey Fritz, said, ‘Her main motivation is exposing that the policies of the Watchtower [sic], and the Jehovah’s Witnesses are not following mandatory reporting laws in Pennsylvania … That’s what led to this happening to her, and continuing to happen to other victims within the religion, as well.’ (PennLive, 2/13/17) [IT 8.2]

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ educational and professional deficit

“Jehovah’s Witnesses’ low levels of education compared to other religions has [sic] affected members’ job prospects and led to a high rate of underemployment, according to a report on National Public Radio (February 19). The report cites Pew Research figures showing that only 9 percent of Jehovah’s Witnesses get an undergraduate degree, well below the national average of 30.4 percent and the lowest of any faith group.” (Religion Watch, Vol. 32, No. 5, 3/17) [IT 8.2]

Utah Jehovah’s Witnesses church forced woman to listen to audio of her rape, lawsuit says

“A woman is suing a Jehovah’s Witnesses church in Weber County after, she says, one of its instructors repeatedly raped her when she was a minor and the organization’s leadership forced her to listen to an audio recording of one of the assaults. The woman filed the lawsuit Wednesday in 2nd District Court, accusing the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses church in Roy—as well as naming the alleged perpetrator, several church leaders and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (the religion’s headquarters located in New York)—of knowingly allowing the ‘unfit’ instructor to rise to a position of authority without warning members of his ‘dangerous propensities’ and past sexual transgressions. … A leader from the congregation apparently warned the girl’s parents in November 2006 that the instructor—who previously attended church sessions in Ogden and Oregon—was a ‘bad kid’ who had ‘engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with a female member of the Clearfield congregation.’ The plaintiff says that warning wasn’t enough. ... She’s asking for a jury trial, as well as damages to exceed $300,000 to cover medical care, lawyer fees and general damages. The girl was a member of various Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations until shortly after the assaults. Her case was dismissed in November 2015 for failure to serve the defendants in a timely manner. She was able to refile because the dismissal was not based on the lawsuit’s merits.” (The Salt Lake Tribune, 10/14/16) [IT 8.1]


$13.5M award vacated in Jehovah’s Witnesses abuse case

In 2012, Jose Lopez filed a lawsuit at the San Diego Superior Court claiming he was molested at the age of 7 by a leader in a Jehovah’s Witnesses Church. Church elders recommended that Lopez and his mother attend the services because Gonzalo Campos, the church leader, would be a good mentor for Lopez. The church elders recommended Campos even though they knew that he had molested a boy as early as 1982. Lopez said Campos spent months grooming him and then assaulted him one day at Campos’ La Jolla home. The boy told his mother, who reported it immediately to the church leadership. The elders told her they’d handle the situation and discouraged her from calling law enforcement, the lawsuit says. Once the trial began, Campos later confessed to abusing at least eight children between 1982 and 1995. He fled to Mexico around 2010 after San Diego police were notified and is believed to still be there, said Lopez’s lawyer, Irwin Zalkin. “Lopez’s lawyers put on a six-day trial in front of the judge, without Watchtower’s lawyers there to offer a defense. In the end, Judge Lewis handed down a default judgment of $10.5 million in punitive damages and $3 million in compensatory damages against Watchtower.” In April 2016, however, an appeals court threw out the $13.5 million judgment against the governing body of the Jehovah’s Witnesses church. However, the “ruling by the state Fourth District Court of Appeal hits the reset button on the case, potentially leading to another trial but with one major caveat—that documents concerning past sexual abuse cases in the church should be turned over.” (San Diego Union-Tribune, 04/14/16) [IT 7.3 2016]

Russian Supreme Court refuses to ban Jehovah’s Witnesses branch

“Russia’s Supreme Court on Friday declined to ban the Jehovah’s Witnesses of Tyumen as [an] extremist organization, RAPSI reports from the courtroom. The Tyumen Regional Court ordered the liquidation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses branch in 2015. The court granted a motion filed by prosecutors and declared the group extremist. The Supreme Court thus reversed the lower court’s ruling. . . . Jehovah’s Witnesses have had many legal problems in Russia. . . . In January 2014, a court in Kurgan ruled to ban the organization’s booklets as extremist. The books talk about how to have a happy life, what you can hope for, how to develop good relations with God and what you should know about God and its meaning. In late December 2013, the leader of the sect’s group in Tobolsk, Siberia was charged with extremism and the prevention of a blood transfusion that nearly led to the death of a female member of the group. In 2004, a court in Moscow dissolved and banned a Jehovah’s Witnesses group on charges of recruiting children, encouraging believers to break from their families, inciting suicide and preventing believers from accepting medical assistance.″ (RAPSI, 04/15/16) [IT 7.3 2016]

Jehovah’s Witnesses face £1M legal bill after young girl was sexually abused by one of its members

“The Jehovah's Witnesses face a million-pound legal bill after a young girl was sexually abused by one of its members. The victim, now aged in her 20s, was molested by an elder, or ‘ministerial servant,’ Peter Stewart, over a five-year period in Loughborough in the 1980s and ‘90s, London’s High Court heard. Last year, a judge ordered the organization to pay £275,000 compensation to the victim for failing to protect her or to warn other parents about Stewart. The church sought permission to appeal the decision. But this week an Appeal Court judge rejected their application to appeal, and said the church should pay Stewart's victim £275,000 compensation and the massive legal costs of the case, which have been estimated at around £1 million. Stewart, who carried out Bible study sessions and door-to-door evangelical rounds, molested the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, on a weekly basis.” (Leicester Mercury, 07/08/16) [IT 7.3 2016]

Jehovah’s Witnesses charity loses appeal against Commission inquiry

In regard to recent court decisions concerning the UK Charity Commission and the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization, the Commission spokesman said, “The Commission is pleased that the court unanimously dismissed Watch Tower’s challenge to the Commission’s decision to open an inquiry. This is a significant decision allowing the Commission’s inquiry to continue to progress. The challenge was dismissed because the court accepted the Commission’s argument that the First-tier Tribunal (Charity) was the correct place to hear Watch Tower’s challenge to the inquiry opened by the Commission. The Commission believes that the specialist Tribunal is the right venue for such cases and is pleased that the Court of Appeal has confirmed this. The Commission is disappointed that the Court of Appeal found in favour of Watch Tower in one respect, deciding that the challenge to the Commission’s order seeking documents from the charity should be heard by the Administrative Court rather than the Tribunal. This decision was reached because of the specific wording of section 320 of the Charities Act 2011, which limits the Tribunal’s jurisdiction to hear challenges to such orders.” (Civil Society Media, 3/15/16) [IT 7.2 2016]

Jury awards $100K to family of Jehovah’s Witness who died after refusing blood transfusion

Miriam Anderson passed away at 27 after refusing to accept a blood transfusion because of her religious beliefs. Anderson gave birth to a baby at the Atlanta Medical Center in Georgia and 10 days later experienced heavy vaginal bleeding. She called 911 and medical personnel offered to take her to the hospital, but she refused. Later that day, she called 911 again and was taken to the ER. She was given an ultrasound and several other tests. The ultrasound revealed that her uterus contained “retained products of conception” following the delivery of the baby. She was offered a blood transfusion to save her life, and she refused because Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe in blood transfusions: “Both the Old and New Testaments clearly command us to abstain from blood (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:10; Deuteronomy 12:23; Acts 15:28, 29).” The attorney for the plaintiff family said the hospital could have saved Anderson if it had acted sooner and applied its bloodless medicine and surgery program. The attorney sued the hospital and emergency-room (ER) doctor on behalf of the plaintiff for medical malpractice, and the hospital for negligent misrepresentation, among other charges. The ER doctor was exonerated. The plaintiffs’ attorney “was gratified that the jury found for his client on one of 10 claims: negligent misrepresentation against the Atlanta Medical Center.” The jury awarded $101,261 in damages. Attorneys on both sides agreed that jurors laid most of the responsibility for Anderson’s death on her decision to turn down a transfusion. “At the end of the day, the jury obviously felt that she bore the responsibility for her own death,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney. (Daily Report, 02/19/16) [IT 7.2 2016]

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Brooklyn headquarters for sale

The sale of a Jehovah’s Witnesses complex totaling more than 733,000 square feet could bring in as much as $1 billion in a sale to the highest bidder. “Over the last decade, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been slowly leaving Brooklyn, where they have been based for more than a century. In a long-range plan to relocate upstate, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the group’s legal and publishing entity, has gradually been selling off a real estate portfolio of nearly 40 properties in Brooklyn Heights and Dumbo.” The organization has begun construction of a new headquarters on a 253-acre plot in Warwick, New York. (The New York Times, 1/29/16) [IT 7.2 2016]

Jehovah's Witnesses “ordered destruction” of notes related to child sexual-abuse inquiry

The UK’s independent inquiry into child sexual abuse has told religious organizations to retain any documents that might be useful to the investigation. Most organizations appear to be complying. However, the investigators have seen documents distributed to Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations around the United Kingdom ordering the destruction of “all agendas and minutes of elders’ meetings (other than business meeting minutes),” “all personal notes taken at elders’ meetings (except those based on discussions of outlines from ‘the faithful and discreet slave’ and that do not mention any particular individual),” and “any other personal records, notes, or correspondence that refer to particular individuals.” The Jehovah’s Witnesses organization says that “congregation elders comply with child-abuse reporting laws and with the data protection principles contained in the Data Protection Act 1998.” (Wales Online, 2/7/16) [IT 7.2 2016]

Russia wants to persecute “sects,” steps up pressure on Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah’s Witnesses have confronted legal problems in Russia for many years. Many in the country view the religious group as extremist, but the State Duma (the lower house of parliament) has struggled with settling on “a legal concept of ‘sect’ that does not violate the Constitution. . .” On November 30, after 60 hearings and 10 months of trial, a court in Taganrog (southern Russia) condemned 14 men and two women Jehovah’s Witnesses for extremism. The convicted individuals had continued to meet, pray, and read the Bible even after the community was banned in the local area. The 16 convicted persons said they will appeal what they consider “a dangerous precedent for freedom of religion in Russia.” (AsiaNews.it, 12/16/15) [IT 7.2 2016]

Pedophiles repeatedly promoted to positions of authority in Jehovah’s Witnesses church, Royal Commission told

In a Jehovah’s Witnesses church, men who have been accused of sexual abuse have been promoted to high-authority positions in the church despite what they have been accused of doing. Church Elder Max Horley told the Royal Commission that it was mandatory to get rid of all the notes that were taken during meetings between him and elder Bill Neill. When asked by Justice Peter McClellan why he destroyed the notes, Horley replied, “Well, I guess it’s because we don’t want them to fall into the wrong hands and other people to find them and then go through them. We don’t want our wives knowing our stuff, what sort of things we are dealing with. We don’t want other people in the congregation coming across that information.” (The Daily Telegraph, 07/27/15) [IT 7.1 2016]

Jehovah’s Witnesses face child sexual-abuse investigation in Australia

From 1950 to 2014, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society amassed 5,000 files detailing sexual abuse of Australian children by 1,006 of its members, who believe that only they—the Jehovah’s Witnesses—proclaim the truth about God. When the abuse victims tried to reach out for help, they were told not to say anything, and were forced to meet their abusers in person. In all, 127 church officials were demoted. No one was reported to legal authorities. All child abuse and complaints, which averaged one a month for 65 years, were carefully recorded and hidden away in sealed files. (Washington Post, 08/14/15) [IT 7.1 2016]

Jehovah’s Witnesses church says it will comply with mandatory reporting of child abuse

The Jehovah’s Witnesses church says it will comply with mandatory reporting obligations when it learns about sexual-abuse crimes against children in its religious organization. A royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse has heard that the theocratic church records on average one child abuse allegation every month; yet in 60 years, it has never reported any of those allegations to police. The Jehovah’s Witnesses are given a handbook that says they should never suggest not reporting the allegations to the police. The commission chair, Peter McClellan, pointed out there are mandatory reporting obligations when one has reason to believe that a child has been sexually abused.
Rodney Spinks, who runs the church’s community-service desk, said, “the church would accept and comply with mandatory reporting ... when there were mandatory reporting requirements with some sort of uniformity across the country … regardless of our strongly held religious belief that individuals should have the right to decide what is done with that information.” McClellan pointed out that uniform laws were not yet in place, and that they would differ from state to state; but that the commission would impose “a criminal sanction on a person who knows [about an abuse crime] and does not report.” The Guardian/Australian AP, 08/04/15) [IT 7.1 2016]

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ literature declared extremist

A Russian court in Moscow has ruled that the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ book Keep Yourselves in God’s Love and the booklet Resist the Spirit of a Changing World are extremist because they promote religious intolerance of non-Jehovah’s Witnesses. This isn’t the first legal issue that the Jehovah’s Witness have faced in Russia. In December of 2013. a female member of the sect in Toblsk was charged with preventing a blood transfusion for a girl who almost died. In 2004. a Jehovah’s Witnesses group was banned from Moscow for recruiting children, not allowing people to receive medical help, encouraging suicide, and persuading believers to break off from their families. (Rapsi News, 04/09/2015) [IT 7.1 2016]

Jehovah's Witnesses charity's attempt to delay inquiry led to “Ongoing Risks” to children, says judge

Judge Alison McKenna denied a Jehovah’s Witnesses charity more time to appeal against a Charity Commission statutory inquiry. The judge said that the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Britain had caused prolonged delays to the regulator’s investigation, leading to “ongoing risks” to children. In May 2014, the Charity Commission opened an inquiry to determine whether adequate safeguarding procedures were in place following revelations that trustees of the charity had allowed a convicted pedophile to question his victims. (Civil Society Media, 3/10/15) [IT 6.3 2015]

Jehovah's Witnesses to compensate woman over sex abuse

A woman, now in her 20s, who claimed that elders of the Jehovah’s Witnesses neglected to protect her from sex abuse perpetrated on her between 1989 and 1994 when she was a child, has been awarded £275,000. The abuse came at the hands of a pedophile, Peter Stewart, who had previously admitted to the organization that he had abused another child. A judge ruled that the organization was liable for the abuse because it failed to take “safeguarding steps” after Stewart admitted abusing another child. This is the first civil case in the UK of historical sexual abuse brought against the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The organization will appeal. (BBC News, 6/19/15) [IT 6.3 2015]
Guatemalan schools request publications from Jehovah's Witnesses
In Guatemala City, three schools have requested publications from Jehovah's Witnesses in an effort to curb youth crime in the country. Jehovah’s Witnesses are one of the few publishers of content in Quiché, an American Indian language spoken in the western highlands of the country. Also, an official document from the Official Rural Coeducational Elementary School in Paraje Xepec stated that the publications were requested “to rescue the values and moral principles that are much needed in society.” The publications requested were My Book of Bible Stories in Quiché and Volume 1 and 2 of Questions Young People Ask—Answers that Work in Spanish. The school has also added the video The Prodigal Returns to the school curriculum. (Digital Journal, 5/10/15) [IT 6.3 2015]

Russian court denounces Jehovah's Witnesses as “extremist”

In southern Russia, a court has publicly declared a local organization of Jehovah's Witnesses as “extremist” and ordered it to stop meeting. The group’s building and surrounding land will be confiscated by the local government in the town of Abinsk, Krasnodar region, the court ruled. The group had been distributing publications titled “Humanity in Search of God” and “What Does the Bible Really Teach?,” which were included in the federal list of extremist materials and are banned for distribution in the country, the news report said. 
The group’s founders, Igor Soroka and Albert Belikov, were already fined for distributing banned literature in 2010 and 2012. The group’s lawyers have called the court’s decision ungrounded and unconstitutional, and they plan to file an appeal with Russia’s Supreme Court. (The Moscow Times. 4/4/15) [IT 6.3 2015]

Former Jehovah's Witness accuses church of hiding child abusers from congregations

Candace Conti, now 28, alleges that she was sexually abused at the age of 9 by Jonathan Kendrick, a popular member of her small Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation in Fremont, California. For many years, Conti was afraid to tell anyone of the abuse out of fear. Years later, after she grew up and left the church, she found out that Kendrick was on a sex-offender registry for molesting his own granddaughter. After seeing Kendrick’s name on the registry, Conti hired an attorney, Rick Simmons. When they began to gather evidence from the local church leaders in California, they made a shocking discovery. Simmons and Conti learned that Kendrick had abused his own stepdaughter. Furthermore, the elders of the church knew about this and never said anything. The elders of the congregation said nothing about Kendrick’s abuse because they were following the strict guidelines of the church leaders at the Jehovah’s Witnesses headquarters in New York City, known as the Watchtower. Conti and her attorney took the case to court. The attorneys for the Jehovah’s Witnesses argued that it is not the church’s responsibility to protect children from abuse by other members. Also, they claimed that Conti was never abused on the church’s property. Ultimately the jury sided with Conti, and in 2012 she was awarded $15 million. Conti has moved on with her life and is now engaged and graduated from college. During Conti’s trial, Kendrick was absent and denied any requests for an interview. He says he never touched Candace Conti. He is still a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses, although he was removed from leadership. 
After Conti’s case was brought to light, other cases around the country involving Jehovah’s Witnesses started arising. Once all these cases were public and members and church leaders were found guilty of sexual abuse, several churches made changes to their policy concerning child abuse. Conti, however, says it’s still not enough. (ABC News, 3/12/15) [IT 6.3 2015]

In childhood sexual-abuse case, California Appellate Court finds church has no duty to prevent members from harming each other

In Conti v. Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York, Inc. (filed 4/13/15, A136631), the California Court of Appeal, First District, reversed an award of $8 million in punitive damages, on the ground that a Jehovah’s Witnesses’ congregation and church leaders had no duty to warn members of the congregation (known as Witnesses) that another member had previously molested a child. The plaintiff in Conti sued her abuser, the Witness, her former congregation, and the Watchtower (the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ corporation), contending that the Watchtower’s policies permitted the Witness to molest her repeatedly during church-sponsored activities over a 2-year period. The Witness had admitted to his congregation’s elders that he had sexually abused his stepdaughter. Although the elders informed the Watchtower, the Watchtower did not notify the police or warn the congregation. With respect to the punitive damages claim, the plaintiff argued that the Watchtower acted despicably and with conscious disregard for the safety of others by maintaining a “secrecy policy” regarding child sexual abusers, despite knowing of their high recidivism.
On appeal, the reviewing court found that the alleged duty to warn could not be justified on the basis of a special relationship because there is “no authority for any such broad duty on the part of a church to prevent its members from harming each other.” The court also applied the factors of Rowland v. Christian to determine whether a duty existed. The court concluded that the burden that the duty to warn would create, and the adverse social consequences that the duty would produce, outweighed its imposition. Finding that such a burden would be unworkable, the court remarked, “The burden would be considerable because the precedent could require a church to intervene whenever it has reason to believe that a congregation member is capable of doing harm, and the scope of that duty could not be limited with any precision.” The Conti Court nonetheless upheld the compensatory damages award on the ground that the congregation and Watchtower failed in their duty to supervise the Witness and protect the plaintiff during their field service (a church-sponsored activity in which members go door-to-door preaching in the community). (JD Supra, 4/20/15) [IT 6.3 2015]

Pregnant woman’s decision to refuse treatment “harrowing” for hospital staff 

A pregnant Jehovah’s Witnesses woman and her baby have died after a woman refused a blood transfusion in a Sydney, Australia hospital. Doctors described the harrowing effect on staff at the Royal Hospital for Women and Prince of Wales Hospital in Randwick. The woman refused a transfusion when, nearly seven months into her pregnancy, she developed complications related to leukemia. The 28-year-old’s religion forbade her from accepting the blood transfusion she needed to save her life and that of her unborn baby. Hematologist Giselle Kidson-Gerber said her experience treating cancer patients and her Christian faith had helped her understand the woman’s choice, but it was difficult, knowing that choice would affect the unborn child. “They were unable to do a Caesarean for the sake of the baby without putting her at risk.” But the baby died, and shortly afterward the woman suffered a stroke and multiorgan failure.
Sascha Callaghan, an expert in ethics and law at the University of Sydney, said the law as it stands allowed the mother to make decisions that would affect the fetus, even if it probably would have been able to survive outside her body. “This isn't to say it isn’t a tragic event … but we live in a society where, within reason, we let citizens be the authors of their own lives,” she said. “If you are going to grant women full rights as citizens, are you going to dilute those rights for women who are carrying fetuses?” (Sydney Morning Herald, 4/6/15) [IT 6.3 2015]

Jehovah’s Witnesses ordered to pay $13.5M to alleged victim

A $13.5 million judgment was awarded in December to Jose Lopez of San Diego, who according to his lawsuit was one of 8 childhood victims of “very aggressive abuse” between 1982 and 1995 at the hands of his Jehovah’s Witnesses Bible study teacher, Gonzalo Campos. Although the alleged molestation happened on one occasion, Lopez’s attorney explained that the high amount awarded reflects the severe consequences Lopez has faced as a result, including post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction, and trust issues. The lawsuit names the defendant as the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, which oversees Jehovah’s Witness churches. The judgment includes $10.5 million in punitive damages relating to Watchtower’s response to the Campos scandal, and “…how they covered this up for years and allowed multiple children to be injured. They protected and harbored a criminal.” Watchtower plans to appeal the judgment. (NBC 7 San Diego, 10/30/14) [IT 6.2 2015]

Russia’s Supreme Court sustains ruling against Jehovah’s Witnesses

Russia’s Supreme Court has sustained the ruling of Samara’s regional court declaring the Jehovah’s Witnesses from Samara is an extremist organization. In May 2014, the regional court ruled in favor of the prosecutor in the case against the Jehovah’s Witnesses based on the discovery of extremist materials seized from the community premises that the organization had kept for mass distribution.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have long encountered difficulties with Russian authorities and have repeatedly been banned from circulating their literature. Between 2009 and 2013, various Russian regional courts found 68 Jehovah’s Witnesses publications to be extremist, according to Lenta.ru. In 2014, a prosecutor warned members of the organization about the prohibition of extremist activity, and the Prosecutor’s office of Russia’s Tver region wants the organization’s website shut down. In January of this year, the Kurgan municipal court also handed down a decision that Witness publications are extremist. TASS reports that the Kurgan court decision will be appealed. (Itar-Tass, 11/13/14; The Moscow Times, 12/3/14) [IT 6.2 2015]

Judge stops children of Jehovah’s Witnesses mother from going to church
A New Zealand judge has stopped the children of a Jehovah’s Witnesses mother from going to church and attending Witnesses meetings, and has allowed them to attend birthday parties and Christmas celebrations. The High Court ruling, released publicly in December 2014, comes after the children’s separated parents appealed against Family Court orders regarding custody details.
After the parents separated in 2010, the mother became an “adherent of the Jehovah Witness[es] faith,” the ruling said. Without the father’s knowledge, she introduced the children, then aged 4 and 6, to the religion. A Family Court ruling at that time ordered that the children’s father be their main caregiver and placed constraints on the children’s participation in the Jehovah’s Witnesses faith. Both parents appealed the ruling. In the appeal process, the children told the court they would be “angry” and “sad” if they were not allowed to worship Jehovah by attending services.
Even so, the recent ruling said the children had a right to be exposed to each of their parents’ religious beliefs, but that their involvement should be curtailed: “...the children should not attend Jehovah’s Witness[es] meetings or church activities including seminars or witnessing.” And although “such a direction is at odds with the children’s express wishes … the evidence persuades me that … there should be a dilution in … their exposure to their mother’s faith.” The judge said they could engage in Bible study, watch videos, and read passages from the Watchtower with their mother in her home; but they also could attend birthday parties, and Easter and Christmas celebrations—all of which are prohibited in the Jehovah’s Witnesses faith. (New Zealand Herald, 12/16/14) [IT 6.2 2015]
Doctors can ignore “deeply held views” of two Jehovah’s Witnesses to treat their burns-victim son
A judge in the Family Division of the High Court in London has ruled following a hearing that the son of two devout Jehovah’s Witnesses can be given a blood transfusion despite religious objections from his parents, and a health trust with responsibility for treating the boy, who suffered severe burns in an accident, has been told it can ignore the religious objections from his parents. In his detailed written ruling, the judge did not name anyone involved and did not give the child’s age. The judge said he was “extremely grateful” to the boy’s parents “for so clearly and calmly explaining to me” their position on the matter, and that he hoped “they will understand why I have reached the decision which I have, governed as it is by [their son’s] welfare.”
Two other High Court judges were asked to consider similar issues earlier this year and reached differing conclusions based on the details of the respective cases. In one case, the judge gave permission for a baby boy to undergo blood transfusions during an operation, notwithstanding his parents’ objections. In the other case, the judge granted the permission to doctors who had requested it to withhold a blood transfusion from a 63-year-old woman who was a Jehovah’s Witness. He concluded the woman had made a decision when she had the mental capacity to do so and was “adamant” that she wanted no treatment with blood products, which was her right. He ruled that the doctors rightly considered and had to respect those wishes. (The Telegraph, 12/8/14) [IT 6.2 2015]


From the 1990s to early 2000s, the Roman Catholic Church was rocked by allegations of rampant sexual abuse by priests and paid millions of dollars in settlements to victims. Now a string of lawsuits against Jehovah’s Witnesses suggests sex-abuse problems may be nondenominational.

Three siblings and another woman are suing the East Spanish Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses New Haven and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, saying they were sexually assaulted by Orlando Afanador, who held a leadership position in the New Haven congregation for 5 years beginning in 1988. One of the attorneys representing the Connecticut plaintiffs who plan to pursue the cases in state court said church leaders loosely asserted priest-penitent privilege to get around legal obligations to report suspected sexual abuse to authorities and stretched the privilege to the point that “everything is confidential.”

The lawsuits allege that the abuse began in 1988 after Afanador migrated from another Connecticut congregation to the East Spanish congregation, and a mother in the previous congregation claimed he had molested her children. The other congregation reportedly sanctioned but did not expel him, which enabled him to move on to East Spanish, where he quickly rose to a position of ministerial servant.

The suit states that Afanador and his wife met and soon moved into the home of the Almovodor family in New Haven to help babysit the children Sybelle, Evelyn, and Ferdinand after the parents divorced. Afanador first enticed 8-year-old Sybelle into sexual acts that younger sister Evelyn observed. He also sexually abused Ferdinand more than 25 times. The Almovodor family claims the abuse finally forced them to move back to the Dominican Republic. They told church leaders there what had happened, but nothing was done. They filed lawsuits after they realized they weren’t the only victims of Jehovah’s Witnesses leaders.

Afanador’s abuse of Martinez allegedly began shortly after her family moved to Connecticut in 1989, into the apartment building where Afanador lived. Martinez, then 9, often visited Afanador’s apartment to play with his son; one day she encountered Afanador instead, and the abuse began.

Similar accusations of other Jehovah’s Witness leaders go back more than three decades. In previous lawsuits, Witnesses elders have been criticized for discouraging reports of suspected sexual abuse by church members and leaders in hopes of limiting lawsuits and negative publicity. The Connecticut lawsuit is more specific, saying the church’s “two-witness rule” allowed Afanador’s conduct to go unquestioned. The two-witness rule requires either that an accused person confess to sexual abuse or that two witnesses to the act come forward to file a formal complaint.

One of the defense attorneys said church leaders have given the two-witness rule priority over state law that requires clergy to report known or suspected instances of child abuse, and that it is preposterous to think an abuser would ever allow someone else to witness a sexual act with a child. “Imagine the scenario: ‘I’m about to abuse this 10-year-old child. Can I get a volunteer [to] please watch me?’” He thinks more victims will step forward once they realize the church’s reputation is not “more important than justice and their own healing.” At a news conference in New Haven, the second attorney concurred, saying, “This is an insidious problem, an epidemic problem … within this organization that … seems more concerned about protecting its reputation from scandal than about the children.”

The Connecticut lawsuit also attempts to explain how the church hierarchy and practices may lead to the cover-up of abuse, noting that little is done without the approval of Watchtower, the organizational elders who advise congregational leaders through secret handbooks that cover everything from routine church operations to how to respond to allegations of sexual abuse. The church was to be served with the lawsuit on Oct. 13, and so far it is not known whether the church has retained counsel. (Connecticut Law Tribune, 10/10/14) [IT 6.1 2015] 

The European Court of Human Rights in early October 2014 found that Georgia violated the human rights of the Jehovah’s Witnesses community in the country. The judges found that in the case of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Begheluri and in other cases vs. Georgia there were violations of the convention’s Article 3 about prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment, Article 14 about prohibition of discrimination and Article 9 about freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. Applicants comprised 99 people, all but one Jehovah’s Witnesses. The court found violations of different articles in the cases of different applicants. The highest number of violations, against 88 applicants, were found with regard to Article 9.

The court found that the conduct of the Georgian authorities at that time was inappropriate and that sometimes state officials even participated in attacks on Witnesses. As a result of the ruling, Georgia has to pay each of the applicants who were subject to violations a 350-euros compensation, and an additional 15,000 euros to cover the expenses of the trial. Although the events the court studied took place in 2000 to 2001, Jehovah’s Witnesses are still targeted in Georgia, but with less brutality and intensity than in the times of Shevardnadze. (Democracy & Freedom Watch, 10/12/14) [IT 6.1 2015]

The District Attorney of Pittsburg County (Oklahoma) alleges that “the entire church body of the Jehovah[‘s] Witness[es] Church” of the town of McAlester concealed crimes of child molestation allegedly committed by former church elder Ronald Lawrence, 76, who was charged last November with felony counts of lewd molestation, forcible sodomy, and rape by instrumentation, all committed decades ago. Lawrence told police he had confessed his crimes to the church at the time he committed them so the elders would take him back into the fold. The DA also alleges that the church prevented the victims from telling police what Lawrence had done to them. Lawrence’s lawyers, invoking the statute of limitations, want the case dismissed because the crimes were not reported until 2013. (McAlester News Capital, 2/4/14) [IT 5.2] 

Charges have been dismissed for Ronald Lawrence, 76, a McAlester church elder with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, according to court records. Associate District Judge James Bland dismissed the charges based on statute of limitation arguments from Lawrence’s attorney; the prosecutor in the case announced her intent to appeal Bland’s decision.

A court affidavit had alleged Lawrence was a church elder at the time of attacks that occurred at his home, in a pool and lake, and in a basement and janitor’s closet at a bank. The affidavit also alleges Lawrence named four church elders involved in his “dis-fellowship” from his McAlester church and that he lost his job at a bank due to some of the allegations.Lawrence had faced more than 365 years imprisonment if convicted of the charges. (McAlester News-Capital, 2/28/14) [IT 5.2]

Jehovah’s Witnesses to Hand Over Top-Secret Manual

Finland’s Jehovah’s Witnesses were to give their religious rule book to the Minister of Justice and the Minister of the Interior in mid-May so that it could be inspected to ensure that it’s in line with Finnish rule of law. Until now, only senior members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses Committee have had access to the congregation’s secret book of rules.

The disciplinary activities of the Jehovah’s Witnesses Committee have been criticized for violating human rights. Anna-Maja Henriksson, Finland’s Minister of Justice, and Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen met with Witnesses leadership in Helsinki the day before the planned delivery of the book for inspection. According to Witnesses representatives, committee practices have changed recently and the committee no longer addresses or interferes in member matters that are considered to go against church guidelines. (YLE News, 5/16/14) [IT 5.3]

A 17-year-old Jehovah’s Witness suffering from a lethal cancer, who has been accepting chemotherapy, has refused a blood transfusion, a decision overruled by a New South Wales Supreme Court justice, who said the young man had been “cocooned in faith.” The boy will soon turn 18, however, and the court will no longer be able to overrule his refusal. Justice Gzell said, “The sanctity of life in the end is a more powerful reason for me to make the orders than is respect for the dignity of the individual. X is still a child, although a mature child of high intelligence.” (Sydney Morning Herald, 4/18/13) [IT 4.3 2013] 

The Wisconsin Supreme Court has affirmed the state Court of Appeals’ refusal to consider the request of a 15-year-old Jehovah’s Witness to rule on the issue of whether or not the state recognizes her right, as a mature minor, to make medical decisions—in this case, to deny life-saving blood transfusions—and whether the appointment of a guardian—who approved the transfusions—violated her constitutional rights. The Supreme Court acknowledged that the case “undoubtedly presents issues of public importance...[,]” but “We deem it unwise to decide such substantial social policy issues with far reaching implications based on a single fact situation in a case that is moot” (the statute of limitations having run out). (Courthouse News, 7/12/13) [IT 4.3 2013] 

Just last March, Vita Brevis published the book, The Jehovah’s Witness: A Guide for Catholics, written by a deceased Catholic priest named Teodoro García González. The book is the first in a collection by the Red Iberoamericana de Estudio de las Sectas (RIES) [Latin American Network for the Study of Sects]. [IT 4.2 2013]

On the 27th of April, an Argentine judge authorized a doctor to perform an urgent blood transfusion on a Jehovah’s Witness member after a serious car accident in spite of the direct opposition presented by his wife, who was also a member of the cult. The same judge at a later time respected the wishes of an older Jehovah’s Witness member who had leukemia and was refusing a transfusion. [IT 3.3 2012] 

Also on the 4th of May, a young Argentine Jehovah’s Witness was hospitalized after a shooting; there was a large controversy between his father, who wanted to do a blood transfusion, and his wife, who defended the beliefs of the cult against any transfusions. [IT 3.3 2012] 

On May 26th, another Jehovah’s Witness in Argentina who was very sick with pneumonia died after refusing a blood transfusion. [IT 3.3 2012] 

In January in the Dominican Republic a Jehovah’s Witness member died when he was run over and his family denied blood transfusions. The young man, 19 years old, died in what his neighbors call “a homicide based on fundamentalist religion.” On the other hand, in March an Argentine Jehovah’s Witness member died under similar circumstances and on this occasion his sister, who was not a member, fought tooth and nail through the courts for the transfusion but it did not happen in time. [IT 3.3 2012] 

The Dean of the Liberty University School of Law disagrees with a New York trial court’s dismissal of a malpractice suit brought by a Jehovah’s Witness who was given a lifesaving blood transfusion during childbirth, against her expressed wishes. Her husband, also a Witness, gave doctors the permission. The law professor says the judge reasoned that the transfusion did not deviate from accepted standards of care, and that the woman had failed to show that the infusion of someone else’s blood had hurt her. “But the criteria is not weather it actually hurt her,” says the dean, “but whether she has a religious objection to having a blood transfusion. And the answer, clearly, for most Jehovah’s Witnesses, is yes—and therefore that’s the end of the story. The judge clearly got it wrong on the constitutional issues involved.” The dean noted that courts usually order a blood transfusion for a Jehovah’s Witness only when a child is involved. (OneNewsNow.Com, 8/23/11) [IT 2.3 2011] 

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ “ministerial servant” Gordon Leighton admitted, when confronted by church elders several years ago, that he had sexually abused a child, according to testimony in a case brought recently by the now-adult victim in a Newcastle court. But during a recent police investigation, Leighton denied any legal wrongdoing, and church elders refused to make statements about the confession, saying that what they heard was confidential. The judge ordered them to testify, citing public interest, and they did [although the source does not indicate what they said]. Their lawyer argued, “Privileged communication between members of the congregation and ministers is an absolute right and duty and there is no power in law to breach such a confidence.” Leighton, who has been expelled from the church, was found guilty of sexual assault and indecency with a child. (Sunderland Echo, 7/13/13) [IT 5.1 2014] 

New York high-risk pregnancy specialist Eve Karkowski, explaining that all Jehovah’s Witnesses do not treat the issue of blood transfusions the same way, tells of a patient in her practice who, when confronted with the possible need for transfusion during a delivery, said, “I want my cousin”—who was not a Witness—“to be my deputy,” to decide whether to transfuse, or not, if during the operation the patient could not speak. It seemed clear to Dr. Karkowski that the patient was choosing someone who was not a Jehovah’s Witness, someone who would not make a Jehovah’s Witness choice but who would allow the physicians to save her life. “As a former student of Talmud, this scenario felt very familiar,” said Karkowski. “In Jewish law, because you are forbidden to turn on the light on Shabbat, a friendly gentile can perform that service—the Shabbes Goy.” Karkowski thought this approach would work with other Jehovah’s Witnesses. It did not, and Jehovah’s Witnesses officials have refused to discuss the matter with her. (Slate, 6/25/13) [IT 4.3 2013] 

The preferred reports about Jehovah’s Witnesses are of exit stories. According to the group’s annual report, the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses is declining and the number of baptisms has reached a historically low level. Nevertheless, they continue their efforts to recruit, and recently even have been targeting handicapped persons. [IT 4.3 2013] 

On the 21st of March, a federal judge in Puerto Rico ordered all local districts in his country to help Jehovah’s Witnesses access closed subdivisions. According to the order, each subdivision should give the group a key, door code, or beeper so it can access restricted houses. This measure has generated a great uprising among citizens, but there will be sanctions against those who do not follow the new regulations. [IT 4.2 2013] 

Because of the refusal of blood transfusions by Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Ethics Council of the College of Philosophy and Theology in Valendar has developed related rules for hospitals. Some patient exit stories have been published, especially those that criticize the ostracism of defectors from the position of the Jehovah’s Witnesses on this issue. [IT 4.1 2013] 

In October of 2012 an Argentine judge authorized a blood transfusion on a newborn baby against the will of its parents, who were Jehovah’s Witnesses. In this case the law supported the petition of the doctors from a hospital in Santa Rosa. On January 20th, 2013, an Argentine woman died following a car accident after she refused a blood transfer because she was a Jehovah’s Witness. The doctors tried to administer the transfusion, but the woman denied help and the judges did not arrive in time to mandate an intervention. She died after 2 weeks of agony in a hospital in Catamarca. [IT 4.1 2013] 

Jehovah’s Witnesses are making progress in their legal fight for the right to provide spiritual counseling in French jails. Last May, the administrative tribunal of Paris summoned the ministry of justice to provide agreements for visiting counselors under a penalty of 500 euros per each day of delay. This outcome is the culmination of a series of legal proceedings that have occurred over the years. On June 13, 2013, the Ministry of Justice was therefore forced to deliver within 24 hours a permit for an accused to receive spiritual support from a Jehovah’s Witness before his trial. In the past, Jehovah’s Witnesses have routinely faced refusals to such demands under pretenses that they are marginally represented in the jail population. Jehovah’s Witnesses have appeared in the Supreme Court cases of many countries and more than five prominent cases at the European Court of Human Rights. [IT 4.1 2013] 

In January of 2013, a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the state of Guerrero, Mexico died as a result of Dengue fever after she gave birth and refused a blood transfusion. In June, hospital representatives before Congress affirmed that the death of the woman “was not due to hospital negligence, nor apathy” but rather was the result of multiple organ failure. In August 2013, a judge in Ecuador ordered a blood transfusion for a baby whose parents denied it treatment based on their religious affiliation with Jehovah’s Witnesses. The parents claimed to be protecting their baby and the baby’s “right to health and to life” according the law for minors. [IT 4.1 2013] 

Ten Jehovah’s Witnesses in Chuvashia, Russia have been characterized as members of an ”extremist community” and accused of inciting hatred by distributing banned literature that allegedly “spreads ideas of exclusivity and superiority and brands those with alternative religious beliefs as inferior.” Human-rights activists are concerned about the allegations. Reportedly, 29 Witness groups in Russia have recently ceased activities, through personal choice or because of “state intervention.” (Moscow Times, 7/30/12) [IT 3.3 2012]
A US court last May ordered all the neighborhoods with protection walls in Puerto Rico to allow access to Jehovah’s Witnesses to be able to proselytize. The US Union for Civil Liberties applauded the decision. [IT 3.3 2012] 

Amanda Qualls of Kingman, Kansas, formerly a bookkeeper for Franchise Strategies, is suing her employer, Stanley Stover, alleging he fired her because she stopped attending their Jehovah’s Witnesses church. She says he told her that membership in the church was a condition of employment. He also said, she alleges, that she would be “disfellowshipped” if she didn’t marry her fiancé, and he repeatedly called her a “filthy fornicator” for not doing so. (Courthouse News Service, 5/9/12) [IT 3.2 2012] 

Several news stories concern the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ (JW’s) attempts to gain official recognition in Germany. In Baden-Württemberg the JW await a decision of the Federal Constitutional Court. The JW also have sued Rheinland-Pfalz for recognition, while Bremen does not want to recognize the JW. Other newspapers covered a JW Congress in Frankfurt with 17,000 participants—one tenth of their followers in Germany. [IT 3.2 2012] 

Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW). The JW are now recognized as a “corporation under public law”in 12 Bundesländer (provinces). The organization is not recognized in Bremen, Baden­Württemberg, or Rheinland-Pfalz. In Nordrhein-Westfalen, the JW application is still pending. The JW organization has accused Bremen of violating the religious freedom of JW members. JW members sent letters to mourning people who published their address in obituary notices. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have held congresses in various parts of Germany including Dortmund, Dresden, and Frankfurt. Blood transfusion issues have made the news, as has controversy concerning local authorities’questionable support of the JW organization. Another article said that some JW members kept their children away from certain school duties. [IT 3.1 2012] 

Jehovah’s Witnesses. On January 30, 2012, a judge from Rosario, Argentina ordered a blood transfusion to be given to a premature baby whose life was at risk. The decision went against the parents’ choice as members of Jehovah’s Witnesses to not perform the transfusion. The court decided to protect the life of the child even if in direct objection to the parents’ beliefs. [IT 3.1 2012] 

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in August that judges cannot discriminate against a parent’s religious beliefs in child-custody cases, but they can consider the effects that religiously motivated conduct may have on a child. In the case at hand, a Jehovah’s Witnesses mother, with whom the child has lived most of its life, gained custody from the Muslim father, who felt that the mother’s religious beliefs, which involved door-to-door proselytizing by mother and child, were harmful to their offspring. The mother acknowledged that her beliefs would lead to her refusing a blood transfusion for the child if one were necessary. In affirming a lower court decision in favor of the mother, the high court concluded: “Custody cases implicating questions of religious belief and practice require a delicate balancing of the rights of each parent and the welfare of the child whose custody is in question. . . .Judges must ensure that they do not discriminate against religious beliefs but also do not ignore the harmful effects of certain religiously motivated conduct. . . .Courts must be vigilant to avoid invidious discrimination against religious beliefs or practices merely because they seem unconventional.” (Knoxville News Sentinel, 8/10/11) [IT 2.3 2011] 

When treating pregnant Jehovah’s Witnesses, it is crucial to understand a core belief of the religion: that receiving blood transfusions will lead to eternal damnation. Physicians deal­ing with women who refuse transfu­sions—and they are 65 times more likely to die than women who accept transfusions for obstetric bleeding— must “understand the relevant legal constructs and be well versed in the management and alternatives avail­able” to the patient. (Management of Pregnancy in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Obstetrics and Gynecology of North America, 12/11/10) [IT 2.2 2011] 

The state of Baden-Wuerttemberg in December denied the Jehovah’s Witnesses the “corporate rights”— which include tax exemption— granted to religious organizations, saying the Witnesses are not to be equated with Christian churches. The state’s action is based on the Wit­nesses skepticism, if not hostility, toward governments—they don’t vote—and the injunction to shun apostates, which adversely affects the fundamental right of respect for family life and marriage and the basic right of religious freedom.” Moreover, according to the justice department report, the Witnesses, by refusing blood transfusions, risk “life and limb of minor children and young people.”The Witnesses are expected to appeal the decision. Several German states have granted corporate status to the Witnesses, others have not, following a 2006 decision by a Berlin court to grant it. (Stuttgarter Nachrichten, 1/21/11) [IT 2.2 2011] 

The trial continues in Gorno-Altaisk of local Jehovah’s Witnesses leader Alexander Kalistratov, charged with inciting religious enmity and hatred in 2008–2009. Certain statements in the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Declaration of Facts, for example, appear to be anti-Semitic. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have experienced several schisms in the past. It is estimated that early in the group’s history, about 75 percent of the membership left the organiza­tion—an estimated 30,000–300,000 in Romania formed the Association of True Faith Jehovah’s Witnesses, and in the U.S., separatists established the Kingdom Witness Theocratic Bible Institute as well as the Christian Wit­nesses of Ja, both as a result of doctri­nal differences or major changes in official doctrinal statements by the Witnesses’ Watchtower Society. (Westmorland Times, 1/18/11) [IT 2.2 2011] 

Following an emergency ruling in December by a High Court judge in Dublin, Ireland, a newborn was given a life-saving blood transfusion despite the objections of his Jehovah’s Witnesses parents. Mr. Justice Hogan said, in his subsequent written decision, that the courts had the jurisdiction and the duty to override the religious beliefs of parents when there was a threat to the life and welfare of a child. The now-healthy baby’s twin died [of causes not noted in this report.] (RTÉ News, 1/12/11) [IT 2.1 2011] 

Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW) (about 160.000 adherents). Following a decision of the Senate in Berlin, currently 11 more Bundeslaender [provinces, states] have attributed the JW the status of a “corporation under public law” which grants them the same rights as traditional Christian churches. The Bundeslaender Baden-Wuerttemberg, Bremen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, and Rheinland-Pfalz until now had refused to grant them this status. If this refusal continues to be successful, the other Bundeslaender also may revise their decision. [IT 2.1 2011] 

A Jehovah’s Witnesses couple in Ghana, who failed in May to prevent doctors at a government hospital from transfusing their five-year-old son, have disowned the child, who is now in the custody of the Social Welfare Department. The father, Kwabena Afum, has been charged with causing panic and chaos by mobilizing fellow Witnesses to besiege the operating room in an attempt to prevent the procedure. [IT 1.2 2010] 

In September 2013, UUT published a study on children’s rights among Jehovah’s Witnesses. This study, which has received a lot of media attention in Finland, includes pictures and is available at http://www.uskontojenuhrientuki.fi/images/tiedote_2013_09_web.pdf. To briefly summarize the report, children of Jehovah's Witnesses are exposed to many fears—fear of evil spirits, the end of the world, and an attack on Jehovah’s Witnesses. These children are often isolated from their peers at school through various mechanisms, including bans on birthdays and other celebrations, and just generally because they are different. Many of them are also left alone within the Jehovah’s Witnesses group if they are deemed bad company. In smaller towns, there aren’t many Jehovah’s Witness friends for the children to choose from in their age group; and when non-Witness friends are frowned upon, these children are left completely alone. Further marginalization results from other factors, such as the large amount of time they spend in religious activities, while the group views other activities such as higher education, sports, and music negatively. The report also discusses how children are left with no alternatives but to be baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses as teenagers; then, if they choose to leave the group when they grow up, their families are required to shun them. [IT 5.1 2014

On the 29th of February, an Uruguayan woman had a traffic accident. She was taken to Maldonado Hospital, where she consciously refused a blood transfusion because she was a Jehovah’s Witness. She died shortly after arrival due to severe anemia. [IT 3.1 2012] 

On March 11, a young Jehovah’s Witness destroyed a statue of the Virgin Mary in Miraflores, Peru. The author of the crime was schizophrenic and, furthermore, a Jehovah’s Witness. In more than one press release, declarations were made by the Catholic Bishop Luis Bambarén, who declared that the cult promotes hate against religious relics and that this could have directly influenced the behavior of the young Jehovah’s Witness. [IT 3.1 2012] 

The Ibero-American Network for the Study of Cults (sects) has made public the strategy Jehovah Witnesses developed in Madrid during the celebration of the World Youth Day in August of 2011. In this Catholic meeting, which gathered more than a million young people, 400 Jehovah Witnesses intensely proselytized as they distributed their magazines and brochures. [IT 2.3 2011]

The Supreme Court of Canada in June ruled 6-1 that “mature minors,” that is, certain children under the age of 16, can legally refuse medical treatment, but only if they are deemed capable, after very careful consideration and assessment by authorities, of understanding the nature and consequences of their medical decisions in extremely serious cases. The decision arose in the context of an appeal by a young Jehovah’s Witness who was forcibly transfused three years ago, at the age of 14. She failed to persuade the court that Manitoba’s law permitting child-welfare authorities to apprehend and force her to undergo blood transfusions violated her religious rights. The June decision included new guidelines to help settle legal conflicts over court-ordered medical procedures. [csr 8.3 2009)

Surveys indicate that many Americans think God can help heal their illnesses, and that three-quarters believe God can cure those whom medical science has failed. Yet many doctors see religion and spirituality as barriers to medical care. A holistic approach, on the other hand, asks physicians to understand the role of religion and spirituality in patient care, and such considerations are now beginning to inform medical education. Physicians responding to one survey frequently noted Jehovah’s Witnesses and Orthodox Jews as especially concerned with the spiritual aspects of healthcare. “It is important for [physicians] to remember that a broader range of people see spirituality and religion as important to their healthcare,” says Wendy Cage, of Brandeis, University, who is now writing “Paging God: Religion in the Halls of Medicine.”

Regarding similarities between Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, sociologists of religion recognize that “strict” churches—or sub-groups within them—attract an active and more committed membership than churches that make fewer demands on adherents. The work of economist Laurence Iannacone explains why strict churches are strong. He compared churches along a continuum of strictness, which he sometimes calls “distinctiveness,” in matters of dress, diet, grooming, time commitments, and standards of sexual morality. Church members who follow such behavioral guidelines gain greater benefits, including social support and a sense of solidarity, than other congregants.

As people raised in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, we were especially interested in reviewing Kyria Abrahams’ new book, I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah’s Witness Upbringing, for “Sacramento News and Reviews.” The book is hilarious [says journalist Jenn Kistler]. When I was a child, I tried to convert my friends. In the second grade, I placed the Bible Stories Book with one of them. The next day she brought it back and never spoke to me again. [Fellow journalist Kel Munger reports that] Abrahams says the belief that the world would be destroyed any minute kept me from forming attachments to people outside the Jehovah’s Witnesses. When my mother was disfellowshipped, I joined in shunning her, and when I was disfellowshipped, she shunned me. When my father was disfellowhipped, we were semi-shunned by other members of the congregation, treated like lepers, and we weren’t allowed to hang out with kids in my congregation, at their houses, if one of their parents was disfellowshipped. [csr 8.2, 2009)

Whether or not Jehovah’s Witnesses is a cult—Abrahams thinks it is—it’s a very rigidly controlled group that uses social isolation and the threat of social isolation to keep people in line. The pressure to witness was constant. Witness’s kids taking high school biology had to give their teachers the group’s anti-evolution book. Our children’s books had disgusting pictures of things like Jezebel being thrown to the dogs, or a Canaanite getting ready to toss a baby into a fire or into the lap of their idol. The worst part was a section of a big panoramic picture of Armageddon: this little girl, her doll, her dog, and her bicycle, all falling down into this big chasm in the Earth. Gave me nightmares. It’s probably why I was afraid to learn how to ride a bike. I stopped going [to the Witness church] the minute I turned 18, and so did my sisters. We’re not the bad kids people said we’d be. We’ve all gone to college and we’ve got our lives together and we’ve got jobs and great relationships.” But Jehovah’s Witnesses still call us and preach return. . . .[csr 8.2, 2009)

A Canadian court in Calgary in May dismissed Lawrence Hughes’ appeal of a lower court decision in his lawsuit against the Canadian branch of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. He had accused the sect and its lawyers of being responsible for the death of his daughter, Bethany, 17, who died nearly seven years ago after refusing blood transfusions to treat her leukemia. Hughes’ original legal action led to his being shunned by his children, divorced by his wife, and bankrupted by legal costs. The fact that Bethany eventually received 80 transfusions was enough to persuade the appeal court that the influence of the Jehovah’s Witnesses believers had caused “no harm.”[csr 8.2, 2009)

But Hughes still has reason for hope as he continues to press his attack on this legally aggressive sect accustomed to mobilizing the courts to block members from receiving life-saving transfusions against their family’s or doctor’s advice.[csr 8.2, 2009)

University of Calgary legal ethicist Alice Woolley explains that the judgment is significant in not saying that Hughes was wrong in claiming that his daughter received problematic advice, as Woolley puts it, from lawyers working not only for Bethany, but at the same time for a religious body intent on seeing her denied the blood she needed. “If I was advising the Watchtower Society [parent organization of the Jehovah’s Witnesses],” Woolley continues, “I would now say: ‘At some point, this [method of dealing with the blood transfusion issue] is no longer going to work out for you.’ ” [csr 8.2, 2009)

Indeed, one of the appellate judges said that the sect’s advice to Bethany to refuse transfusions on religious grounds—a refusal supported by her Church-connected lawyers—appeared to present a potential conflict between the Church’s interests—promoting its belief that the Book of Acts prohibits transfusions—and the unique interests of a sick girl. [csr 8.2, 2009)

Another Judge said that Bethany’s mother, as well as the “hospital liaisons” sent by the Watchtower to stay constantly at Bethany’s bedside, had persuaded the girl to refuse treatment by providing “incorrect information” [about the process], and unduly influenced her, clouding her ability to independently make decisions. Hughes argues that his daughter was the victim of implicit threats of social and family ostracism. “If you accept the blood transfusion,” he says, “it’s like someone standing there with a gun to your head.”[csr 8.2, 2009)

Nor did the appeals court affirm the lower court ruling that Bethany’s lawyers were not conflicted. “It is not necessary for us,” the court said, “to decide whether the claims of conflict or misrepresentation were arguable.” Woolley comments: “This is conspicuous. I think if they thought Macleod [the lower court judge] was right, they would have pronounced on it.” In any case, the judges refused to dismiss the suit against the lawyers. That decision, Hughes believes, gives him the opportunity to show in court that hospitals must be more circumspect in accepting instructions from religious leaders and followers when treating Jehovah’s Witnesses. “The Watchtower Society is still in the lawsuit, so that means I can still bring forth expert testimony and evidence [that] when it comes to the issue of consent, I can show . . . that the involvement of the religious defendants removed [Bethany’s] consent.” [csr 8.2, 2009)

Critics say that a program developed and taught in both after-school and day classes at elementary schools in Sherman Oaks by Karen Berg, wife of the of the Los Allen Superior Court Judge Dan Heath, in Indiana, authorized Dupont Hospital in March to inject a blood substitute into the anemic daughter of a Jehovah’s Witnesses couple whose faith rejects blood transfusions in favor of faith healing. But the judge reserved the right to transfuse human blood if necessary to save the baby’s life. A bill introduced in the Indiana legislature a quarter-century ago, following numerous deaths among members of the now disbanded Faith Assembly, would have made it a felony to deny a spouse or child medical care, even for religious reasons, if lack of treatment caused serious injury or death. But the bill was modified before passage; it required only that people report situations in which children need medical services. That law also provides a defense for parents who give “spiritual treatment.” [csr 8.2, 2009)

Dr. Darshak Sanghavi, writing at length in The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine (3/9/08), tells the story of Maria and Jose Azevdo, a Jehovah’s Witnesses couple he counseled who refused to allow life-saving surgery for their newborn, which would have involved blood transfusions. The Azevedos eventually acquiesced in a judge’s “authorization,” following the doctor’s request for a court order, to allow the operation to go forward. The couple does not feel they have betrayed their religious principles, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses “seem to endorse this end run around the transfusion ban for children,” says Dr. Darshak. [csr 7.2 2008)

A justice of the Irish High Court directed in late December that the prematurely-born child of Jehovah’s Witnesses parents be given a blood transfusion to treat a serious current condition if such a step becomes medically necessary. [csr 7.1 2008)

The Alberta Court of Appeal has reversed a lower court decision and permitted Lawrence Hughes, the father of a Jehovah’s Witnesses teenager who died of leukemia, to sue his late daughter’s lawyers. He says they advised her to reject blood transfusions prescribed by her doctors, and that in doing so they were unable to differentiate their role as counsel for his daughter from their role as lawyers who act for, and are members of, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, which condemns blood transfusions. [csr 6.3 2007]

The attorneys, denying that they advised the girl to refuse transfusions, argue that their religious beliefs had nothing to do with the way they represented her, and that the charges stem from religious prejudice and the popular assumption that any member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses would pressure a fellow member not to accept transfusions. Hughes’s lawyer questions the extent to which religious freedom subsumes actions taken in “non-religious areas,” such as the provision of legal and medical advice.[csr 6.3 2007]

The Jehovah’s Witnesses recently settled civil suits with 16 people in California, Oregon, and Texas who had charged that church elders sexually abused them, or that church officials failed to act on their allegations of abuse. This is according to Silentlambs, a victim’s rights group demanding that the sect change its policy requiring two credible witnesses in order to establish an accused offender’s guilt. Parent’s who warn other followers about alleged perpetrators whom the church has found innocent are subject to “disfellowshipping” — shunning by family members, friends and business associates. Silentlambs founder William Bowen says that some 7,000 people who say they were abused in the Witnesses have contacted him since 1971. One of them, Angelique Taylor, said an elder molested her when she was 12, and that when she told her father, also an elder, he replied that she was making a big deal out of nothing. . . Kazakhstan recently imposed heavy fines on Jehovah’s Witnesses for holding worship meetings without state registration; the group’s attempts to register have apparently been ignored. [csr 6.2 2007]

Alexander Dvorkin, head of the Moscow-based Religion and Sect Study Center, says there are from 600,000 to 800,000 people, among a population of 142 million, involved in “sects,” including 300,000 “Neo-Pentecostalists, a charismatic movement dating from the 1960s, and 140,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses, as well as Mormons, Krishnaites, and Anastasians. Dvorkin called for changes in the criminal code to recognize “mind control” and “psychological violence” as crimes. He said there were two types of sects: one, consisting of “classic” churches, like the Baptists, and totalitarian ones, which are the most dangerous and destructive, according to Dvorkin. The latter, like Scientology and the Unification Church, are not necessarily based on religion. They seek power and money. [csr 6.1 2007]

Jehovah’s Witnesses
A British Columbia Supreme Court judge has ruled that the city of Coquitlam’s decision to require a Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation to pay taxes on land it owns surrounding it’s church does not violate the group’s religious freedom. The province in 2004 passed a law saying that land around churches, although not the church itself, could be taxed. The Witnesses then complained that they were the only congregation in the country taxed for the surrounding land. But the judge said this wasn’t discriminatory and that the municipality could decide who gets an exemption, as long as the policy complies with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The property-tax exemptions for every other church in Coquitlam “enhance the exercise of a fundamental freedom, but do not create a substantial interference” with the religious rights of the Jehovah’s Witnesses,” she said. “Here, the burden is indirect and, in my view, not substantial.” The judge also said, however, that the town had not proceed fairly in dismissing the church’s request for an exemption and ordered a reconsideration, suggesting that Coquitlam provide a grant to the congregation as it had done with the Royal Canadian Legion when the Legion’s property-tax exemption appeal was rejected. [csr 5.3 2006]

Renaissance Asset Fund/Jehovah’s Witnesses
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged the California-based Renaissance Asset Fund with defrauding 190 investors, mostly “aged” people solicited through Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations via a classic Ponzi scheme. An SEC representative said, “Fraud against seniors and affinity groups is particularly egregious because it is perpetrated through abuse of trust.” [csr 5.3 2006]

Jehovah’s Witnesses
The Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench has dismissed Lawrence Hughes’s lawsuit accusing Jehovah’s Witnesses members of contributing to the death of his daughter, a teenager who refused blood transfusions. In reversing a previous ruling, the court said Hughes was not properly named administrator of the estate of his daughter, Bethany, 17, who died of leukemia in 2002. Hughes says he cannot afford a further appeal. [csr 5.2 2006]

Jehovah’s Witnesses
A New York judge has ruled that the Jehovah’s Witnesses must pay a former member $400 per week in workman’s compensation dating from an injury incurred in 1998 as she was running to catch a bus at a church compound. The judge found that the woman, who worked as a chiropractor for the group, was not a “religious volunteer,” but “engaged in a number of work-like activities.” If the decision stands, religious organizations potentially face millions of dollars in workers’ compensation claims. [csr 5.1 2006]

In her new book on her experience growing up among the Jehovah’s Witnesses, “Out of the Cocoon: A Young Woman’s Courageous Flight from the Grip of a Religious Cult,” Golden, CO, resident Brenda Lee says writing it was a harrowing but therapeutic process. “It really is a destructive organization . . . You’re taught to hate the world, to see everybody else as being led by Satan, that we are the only right religion, and to question or defy that is turning your back on God,” she said. [csr 5.1 2006]

A judge in Calgary has ruled that Lawrence Hughes can proceed with part of his wrongful death suit against the Jehovah’s Witnesses. His daughter Bethany died at 17 after refusing on religious grounds to accept conventional treatment involving blood transfusions, which the Witnesses oppose. The suit will be allowed to go forward not against the religious group but against two lawyers who represented Bethany and her mother. The judge dismissed a claim against the Watchtower Society (the corporate parent of the Jehovah’s Witnesses) because the suit did not question the sincerity of Bethany’s belief, but rather attacked the religious doctrine of the faith; and the court, she said, could not be the arbiters of religious dogma. . . The Witnesses are involved in an internal debate over apparent contradictions in the organization’s blood policy and over the issue of whether certain blood ‘fractions’ — rather than blood’s major components — are permitted in medical therapies. [csr 5.1 2006]

Moscow police in April broke up a Jehovah’s Witnesses prayer meeting at a rented hall. A Witnesses spokesman said the police told him the worshippers were violating a 2004 Moscow ban on the group, deemed by authorities at that time to incite hatred or intolerance. [csr 5.1 2006]

The French government’s “Interministerial Mission in the Fight Against Cults” warns that cult-like groups are taking advantage of vulnerable people in immigrant suburbs. The agency says the groups are recruiting in areas torn by the Fall 2005 riots by offering humanitarian aid or alternative medicine. Scientology, which claimed credit for calming the Paris suburb of Aulnay-sous-Bois, is singled out for special concern, while New Acropole and Jehovah’s Witnesses are noted as being regularly deployed. The report expresses particular concern for the safety of children, who “are malleable and represent the potential development of the group.” [csr 5.1 2006]

CIAOSN also says in its recently released report for 2003–2004 that requests for its services have increased. Jehovah’s Witnesses was the group most asked about, followed by organizations offering physical and mental well-being, non-medical therapies, groups of Eastern origin, dissident Protestant and Catholic associations, new age or neo-pagan groups, and Scientology. (Roland Planchar, La Libre Belgique, Internet, 9/29/05; Belga, Internet, 9/28/05) [csr 4.3 2005]

Recognition in Germany
The Berlin administrative court has ruled that the Jehovah’s Witnesses church is entitled to the privileges enjoyed by major Catholic and Protestant churches in its jurisdiction. The court rejected arguments that the group should be declared illegal because it refuses to allow children to get blood transfusions. The court also said it was unable to find evidence to support the contention that the Jehovah’s Witnesses educational system is bad for children or that membership harms family relationships. In addition, the court declared that critical accounts from people who had left the group were not reliable. (Deutsche Welle World, Internet, 3/25/05) [csr 4.2 2005]

Argument against Transfusion
Lawyers for a young Canadian Jehovah’s Witness who does not, on religious grounds, want to receive a court-ordered blood transfusions if physicians deem they are necessary in the course of her cancer treatment, argue that she should be allowed to get alternative treatment at New York’s Schneider Children’s Hospital. That facility avoids transfusing unless the life of the patient is immediately threatened, and because transfusing risks transmission of hepatitis, HIV, and West Nile Virus. Canadian authorities argue that transfusions are likely to be necessary in connection with the girl’s chemotherapy. (Jane Armstrong, Globe and Mail, Internet, 5/4/05) [csr 4.2 2005]

Unidentified because she is a 14-year-old minor, the girl says her refusal is “based on God’s word. He told us to abstain from blood and we need to obey his commandments.” She said her faith informs every decision she makes. “It’s part of my every day. I don’t ever stop thinking about it. Everything that I do, I apply God’s standard to it. Every decision I make, I apply God’s standards.” As to the law that a 14-year-old is too young to refuse a transfusion, the extremely articulate teenager asserts: “You can have an abortion and get birth-control pills and there’s no law against that.” (Jane Armstrong, Globe and Mail, Internet, 5/10/05) [csr 4.2 2005]

Girl Allowed to Get “Blood Avoidance” Treatment
The British Columbia Supreme Court has ruled that a teenage cancer patient, a Jehovah’s Witness, can transfer for chemotherapy to a New York hospital that has a “blood avoidance program.” Physicians there try to do without blood or minimize its use when treating patients. The transfer was based on an agreement among the director of Child, Family, and Community Services in British Columbia, the girl, and her parents. British Columbia had earlier ordered the teenager to submit to blood transfusions if, during the course of her treatment in the province, doctors deemed it necessary. (CP, Internet, 5/19/05)[csr 4.2 2005]

Authorities Force Transfusion
A Jehovah’s Witnesses father recently removed his dying two-year-old daughter from a hospital, in India’s Darjeeling region, in order to avoid a blood transfusion for the girl, but police chased them down and brought her back to physicians who had insisted on the procedure. The parents say they wish their daughter had died rather than receive the transfusion — which they say is forbidden by the Bible. Meanwhile, dozens of Jehovah’s Witnesses clergy have come to this tea growing region to take up the parents’ case. (Khaleej Times, Internet, 10/15/04) [csr 4.1 2005]

Policy on Sexual Abuse
A New Hampshire suit brought against the Jehovah’s Witnesses by the daughters of a man imprisoned for sexually abusing them when they were children is one among many legal actions across the country that are bringing to light the church’s public policy toward, and private response to, such abuse.[csr 4.1 2005]

The women’s mother, Sara Poisson, is sorry she followed her Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation leaders’ advice to pray more, be a better wife, and keep quiet when she told them that her husband had abused their daughters. “I was a puppet. It was ‘God says you are a screw-up, so fix yourself and it will stop.’ ” (A teacher finally reported the abuse.) The church publicly supported the father during his trial and excommunicated his wife, the fate of many critics, for cooperating with authorities.[csr 4.1 2005]

Poisson’s story, and the accounts of others, indicate that despite officially calling sexual abuse “abhorrent,” Jehovah’s Witnesses rules actually protect molesters, perhaps because church doctrine advocates balancing the protection of children with the church’s faith in repentance and forgiveness. For example, children remain at risk because the church lets a molester back into the fold if he repents. Moreover, the elders assure him that his crime will not be reported to the rest of the congregation. That would be a sin according to the Jehovah’s Witnesses reading of the Bible. They also believe that if a perpetrator knows his action will be made public, he’s not likely to admit his wrongdoing to the elders and be open to reform. In any case, the church itself rarely punishes abusers, because a finding of guilt depends on two eyewitnesses or a confession, conditions difficult to meet. And a young child cannot be his own witness in their judicial process unless he or she is “mature” enough. A church spokesman stated that if abuse has been ignored, the reason is elders’ mistakes, not church policy. (Annmarie Timmins, Concord Monitor, Internet, 11/22/04) [csr 4.1 2005]

Sued for Influencing Transfusion Refusal
Lawrence Hughes, of Calgary, is suing the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization in Canada, as well as several church members and a number of doctors, for persuading his late teenage daughter to refuse blood transfusions. She died from Leukemia in 2002. The suit says: “The Watch Tower [Jehovah’s Witnesses] defendants committed (civil wrongs) of deceit and undue influence, all of which contributed to and led to the circumstances causing the death of Bethany.” They “overtly influenced Bethany to believe that the blood transfusions were wrong and would not help cure her cancer,” and that if she were transfused “she would perish in Armageddon.” The doctors named in the suit work at the Cross Cancer Institute, to which Bethany was secretly removed from Alberta Children’s Hospital, for alternative treatment. (Kevin Martin, Calgary Sun, Internet, 8/22/04) [csr 3.3 2004]

Activities Banned in Moscow
A court has banned Jehovah’s Witnesses activities in the Moscow region, following six years of civil litigation in the matter, on the grounds the group is an “anti-state” organization that incites religious discord, breaks up families, violates civil rights, incites people to commit suicide, and lures teenagers and minors. [csr 3.3 2004]

A Jehovah’s Witnesses lawyer said the charges did not actually cite incidents of wrongdoing, and a legal counsel for the group, a Canadian, said he was concerned about “what extremists are going to do in Moscow and Russia when they hear about this decision.” According to the Moscow Bureau on Human Rights, 60 percent of people living in Russia “have a xenophobic attitude and agree that representatives of ethnic minorities should be barred from political life and from living in large cities. An estimated 5 to 6 percent are ready to carry out pogroms.” (Seth Mydans, Timeswatch.org, Internet, 3/27/04) [csr 3.3 2004]

Saved by Transfusion
The prematurely newborn child of Deliah Floyd and Doward Carter, who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, was given a court-ordered transfusion in Jacksonville, FL, that saved the baby’s life, although the procedure went against the parents’ expressed wishes and the Witnesses injunction against blood transfusions. Duval County judge John Skinner, in answering the request of doctors to transfuse, said the hospital had a compelling interest in preserving the child’s life that outweighed the parents’ right to exercise their religious beliefs. (Fox30 News, Internet, 5/12/04) [csr 3.3 2004]

Judge Says Transfusion Violated Rights
Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Adele Kent said, in Calgary, BC, that physicians violated the rights of a Jehovah’s Witnesses couple when they insisted on giving a religiously proscribed blood transfusion to a new born when the parents requested antibiotics, instead. The parents’ lawyer argued before the judge that the social services department, which approved the transfusions, denied the couple the right to bring in two expert neonatologists who felt that the child did not need a transfusion. The baby is now a healthy 3-year-old. (CBC Edmonton, Internet, 7/1/04) [csr 3.3 2004]

Not Found Liable in Child Abuse Case
A Minnesota Court of Appeals Panel has ruled that a Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation in Annandale is not liable for the sexual abuse in the 1980s and 1990s of two child congregants by one of its members. Though elders received a complaint of abuse at the time, and didn’t report it immediately to authorities, they weren’t responsible for protecting the girls, the court said.[csr 3.1 2004]

The victims, now grown up, say they followed the Witnesses doctrine to report abuse to the elders, rather than to law enforcement or anyone else, and that the elders told them to stay silent or risk their membership in the group.[csr 3.1 2004]

The court said the church wasn’t responsible because it didn’t have control of custody of the girls when the abuse happened — away from church premises, at the perpetrator’s home. The women’s attorney says the ruling gives the Witnesses the freedom to live by their own laws and not the rule of mandatory reporting. (Pam Louwagie, Minneapolis /St. Paul Star Tribune, Internet, 3/10/04) [csr 3.1 2004]

Not Found Liable in Child Abuse Case
A Minnesota Court of Appeals Panel has ruled that a Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation in Annandale is not liable for the sexual abuse in the 1980s and 1990s of two child congregants by one of its members. Though elders received a complaint of abuse at the time, and didn’t report it immediately to authorities, they weren’t responsible for protecting the girls, the court said.[csr 3.1 2004]

The victims, now grown up, say they followed the Witnesses doctrine to report abuse to the elders, rather than to law enforcement or anyone else, and that the elders told them to stay silent or risk their membership in the group.[csr 3.1 2004]

The court said the church wasn’t responsible because it didn’t have control of custody of the girls when the abuse happened — away from church premises, at the perpetrator’s home. The women’s attorney says the ruling gives the Witnesses the freedom to live by their own laws and not the rule of mandatory reporting. (Pam Louwagie, Minneapolis /St. Paul Star Tribune, Internet, 3/10/04) [csr 3.1 2004]

Proselytizing Conviction Upheld
The conviction of 26-year-old road worker and Jehovah’s Witness Murat Mudarisov for inciting religious hatred has been upheld by an Uzbekistan appeals court. Prosecutors said that Mudarisov had a pamphlet that argued the superiority of the Bible over the Quran. He received a three-year suspended sentence in November for “stirring up religious hatred,” according to the report cited here. The defense appeal asked the judge to reverse the conviction for the sake of free religious expression. The decision comes during a harsh government campaign against Mulsim extremism. (Bagila Bukharbayeva, AP, 2/7/03) [csr 2.2 2003]

“Disfellowshipped” for Convictions
The Deer Lodge, MT, Jehovah’s Witnesses church has “disfellowshipped” [excommunicated] two former elders recently convicted of defrauding a woman of her $6.5 million life savings. They were not only expelled form the church but are now ostracized by other church members. (Great Falls Tribune, 5/26/03) [csr 2.2 2003]

Blood Transfusion Ordered
A South African judge has ordered a blood transfusion for an infant whom a physician says will die without it. The parents, Stephen and Tersia Brown, who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses, say that they follow the Bible’s injunction against “partaking of blood.” Judge Mohamed Jajbhay said: "One day, God willing, when he grows up, you will explain to him that the decision was mine, that I had a decision to make," the judge said. "That you as his parents did all that was in your power and ability to make sure that you did not compromise on your decision . . . But baby Reuben needs a second chance, he needs whatever chance he has, let us give him that chance." (Gillian Anstey, Sunday Times (South Africa), Internet, 11/10/02) [csr 2.1 2003]

Court Refuses to Allow Teen to Determine Medical Treatment; Father Alleges “Brianwashing” by Church Group
A family court judge in Calgary ruled that it has no jurisdiction to hear arguments regarding the alleged civil rights violation suffered by Bethany Hughes when, as a 16-year-old, she was forced, against her Jehovah’s Witnesses religious beliefs, to undergo blood transfusions for leukemia, which killed her last month. The court had made Bethany a ward of the state for the purpose of the transfusions, but its temporary guardianship was terminated after doctors said that the transfusions were not helping. The family’s lawyers may appeal.[csr 2.1 2003]

The family and the Jehovah’s Witnesses church continue to shun the father, Lawrence, because he supported the transfusions. He agrees that Bethany was “brutalized” by being sedated and restrained during the four months of transfusions, but he blames the church, which has funded the litigation, for what happened to her. He plans a class-action suit against the Watchtower Society [the Jehovah’s Witnesses parent organization] alleging that they “brainwashed” his wife and children and prevented him from seeing his daughter for the last two months of her life. (Melissa Rigdon, Calgary Herald, Internet, 10/18/02) [csr 2.1 2003]

Sentencing Postponed in Infant Murder
The sentencing of Donna Michelle Knight, convicted of murdering her newborn in 1999, was postponed because the jury may not have realized that they could have returned an involuntary manslaughter verdict rather than the second-degree decision they in fact rendered. The prosecution had argued that the unmarried Knight, 37, intentionally drowned her baby in a toilet after concealing her pregnancy because she was afraid that her Jehovah’s Witnesses church treats sexual relations outside of marriage as grounds for excommunication. (NBC4 TV, Internet, 10/24/02) [csr 2.1 2003]

“Cell-Free” Transfusions May Be Acceptable
A 14-year old Jehovah’s Witness in Toronto has received “cell-free hemoglobin,” a life-saving blood product for anemia. The move may signal a change in the sect’s attitude toward transfusions, which its members frequently refuse on religious grounds. (CBC News, Canada, Internet, 11/12/02) [csr 2.1 2003]

Group Wins Defamation Appeal
A French appeals court in Versailles has found National Assembly member Jean-Pierre Brard guilty of defaming the Jehovah’s Witnesses and fined him one Euro (about a dollar) in damages. Brard, who was vice-president of the government commission that investigated cults in France, said that the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Scientology were international criminal organizations with immense lobbying power. (APF, Internet, 12/20/02) [csr 2.1 2003]

French Cult Report Toothless
French administrative courts in four recent cases have refused prosecution attempts to apply the suggestions of the 1996 Parliamentary Report on Cults to deny the legal rights of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The city of LaRochelle, for example, refused to rent a public hall to the group [on the ground that it was on the Parliamentary Report’s questionable group list] because the report has no legal status and officials cannot use it to justify their decisions. (Jonathan Hanley, Christianity Today, Internet, 9/26/02) [csr 1.3 2002]

French Court Rules Transfusions Illegal
A court in Lille ruled that doctors acted illegally in giving a blood transfusion to a 24-year-old woman, who hemorrhaged after giving birth, because they did not take into account her wishes. The woman lodged a complaint after recovering. The French Council of State has in the past rejected such complaints by Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Reuters, Internet, 9/4/02) [csr 1.3 2002] 


Links

Wifely Subjection: Mental Health Issues in Jehovah's Witness Women

Lying in Court and Religion: An Analysis of the Theocratic Warfare Doctrine of the Jehovah's Witnesses

Opinion Column: Jehovah's Witnesses Lose Court Battle to Suppress Freedom of Speech

Book Review: Behind the Watchtower Curtain
Book Review: Captives of a Concept

Exiting the JW Cult: A Healing Handbook (Bonnie Zieman)

Watchman Fellowship

World Religions & Spirituality Project - Jehovah's Witness

Barbara Anderson's Watchtower YouTube Videos

Barbara Anderson's Watchtower Documents

Free Minds, Inc. a non-profit organization
keeping a critical eye on the Watchtower (Jehovah's Witnesses)
We are not affiliated with any religious organization

Jehovah's Witnesses Cover Up Sex Abuse and Oust a Victim (Trey Bundy, RevealNews.org)

Former Jehovah's Witness Leaves Memorial to Family Who 'Shunned' Her

Ex-Jehovah's Witnesses Meetups
Find out what's happening in Ex-Jehovah's Witnesses Meetup groups around the world and start meeting up with the ones near you.

Sunshine After the Fog
Introduction to Sunshine After the Fog. Here we take an introductory look at Steve Guziec's background and experience, and his life inside of the Jehovah's Witness Organization. Steve also discusses the term "cult," what it means, how it can be applied, and why he uses the word.

The Ethics of Bloodless Medicine (from The New Yorker)

Enquête: The Kingdom's Dirty Secrets (Radio Canada)