How the Watchtower Justifies its Crimes

Contributed by: Louise Goode

It was not the kind of decision that the Watchtower Society expected, as successfully justifying its crimes to members and courtrooms is almost taken for granted by the leaders of this high-control religious group.

But that’s exactly what happened on 13th June 2012 in the Superior Court of California when Candace Conti triumphed in her civil law case involving child sexual abuse by a member from her Jehovah’s Witness congregation. General damages of $7 million were awarded to Miss Conti. Costs were split between the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York Inc. (27%), the North Fremont Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (13%), and Jonathan Kendrick, the abuser (60%).

On 14th June 2012 Candace was awarded additional damages of $21 million. One hundred percent of that award was to be paid by the Watchtower Society, punishing them for their policies which permitted the concealing of pedophiles within the congregation.

On 17th July 2012 the defendants requested the judge to overrule the jury’s verdict and order a new trial in the same court.

On 24th August 2012 the JNOV[foot]”Judgment notwithstanding the verdict, also called judgment non obstante veredicto, or JNOV, is a type of judgment as a matter of law (JMOL) that is ordered at the conclusion of a jury trial. JNOV is the practice in American courts whereby the presiding judge in a civil jury trial may overrule the decision of a jury and reverse or amend their verdict. In literal terms, the judge enters a verdict notwithstanding the jury findings. This intervention, often requested but rarely granted, permits the judge to exercise discretion to avoid extreme and unreasonable jury decisions.” (Link to Wikipedia “Judgment notwithstanding verdict” page)[/foot] was denied, and a new trial was conditionally granted regarding the punitive damages against the Watchtower. A new trial was avoided when Miss Conti agreed to accept reduced punitive damages of $8,610,000.

The Defendants have now lodged an appeal to the case with four main arguments:

  1. Where the WBTS already knows of a sexual offender, the WBTS does not have a duty to warn any of the members in the congregation about this individual.
  2. The WBTS argues that other agencies (the police and Candace’s parents) should share the cost of damages.
  3. Religious bodies should not be made to disclose confidentialities, even where a crime has been committed and revealed, as this would contravene the First Amendment.
  4. That Kendrick was not convicted of sexual abuse in a court. Therefore, had the Watchtower made public his deviation, they would have violated his right to privacy.
  • In addition, the Watchtower argues there was no evidence of malice and therefore the damages were unjust and should be reduced.

Of great interest in the Watchtower defense is the fact that they rely heavily on court cases against the Catholic Church to support their argument that they do not owe a ‘duty of care’ to children in their congregations. The Watchtower cites:

  • Roman Catholic Bishop v Superior Court (1996) 42 Cal.App4th 1556, which found that the Catholic Church did not have a duty to protect a 15-year-old girl from sexual abuse by a parish priest.
  • Also, Richelle L. V Roman Catholic Archbishop (2003) 106 Cal.App4th 257, which held there was no special relationship between the church member and the priest or Archdiocese.

Contrast the Watchtower’s legal appeal in court with an article they published in their Awake! magazine:[foot]Awake! – December 8, 2005 p28/29[/foot]

Watching the World: Catholic Dioceses Bankrupt

By the end of 2004, three Catholic dioceses in the United States had filed for bankruptcy. All three were forced to take this step because of the financial costs of clergy sexual abuse scandals. Several other dioceses have talked about the possibility of having to file for bankruptcy, but the first to do so was the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, in July 2004. That action halted two lawsuits in which plaintiffs were seeking a total of $155 million in compensation for molestation. According to the National Catholic Reporter, “the archdiocese and its insurers already have paid more than $53 million to settle more than 130 claims by people who say they were abused by priests.” In September 2004, the diocese of Tucson, Arizona, became the second diocese to seek bankruptcy protection from multimillion dollar claims being brought against it. The diocese of Spokane, Washington, became the third, in December 2004.

While the Watchtower Society self-righteously reports public abuses within the Catholic Church, the Watchtower also relies on these very same cases to try to avoid any liability of their own.

While arguing that the WBTS and the Catholic Church have no duty to care for children within the church, the Watchtower does agree that restaurants and shops have a duty of care towards their customers. The Watchtower also argues that while doctors and counselors have a duty to report crimes confessed to them, Catholic priests and Jehovah’s Witness elders representing the Watchtower Society do not.

“Maintaining confidentiality” is a fundamental religious precept which Appellants believe is directly derived from Scripture” (defendant and appellant WBTS P46).

The Watchtower is careful to comply with legal requirements for reporting crimes, but will not go beyond the bare minimum. A cornerstone of their argument is that there was no legal requirement to report sexual abuse to the police in California in 1993 when Kendrick first confessed to the elders – so why should the Watchtower?

The Watchtower absolves itself of any moral duty to protect vulnerable members of their flock. Instead, it fights a hard-nosed legal battle to avoid any responsibility stemming from its policy of requiring “two witnesses at the scene” before a crime can be accepted as a reality. This conveniently enables the Watchtower to evade any responsibility for the child – while simultaneously protecting the pedophile and avoiding a lot of bad publicity being directed at “the organization.”

A further point of interest is that the Watchtower complains,

“The trial court imposed a duty upon the Appellants to warn the members of the congregation that Kendrick had molested a minor even though at that time Kendrick had neither been charged nor convicted of any crime arising from that conduct” (p48).

This raises the question: If the elders are under no duty to report this type of conduct, how will the molester ever be convicted?

One last noteworthy point is the argument the Watchtower uses to distance itself from the congregation while members are engaged in “field service” (door-to-door preaching). Jehovah’s Witnesses know that for all of them field service is obligatory. Elders must prepare and submit reports each week enumerating hours worked and literature placed so that the Society can plan printing schedules and monitor the “spiritual progress” of each active Jehovah’s Witness. And yet the North Fremont Congregation states in its appeal regarding field service:

“It is a personal ministry, not a required congregation function or activity” and “It is a personal ministry motivated by love of God and neighbor, and is not done on behalf of Watchtower or any congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

“Not a required function or activity…”?

Every Jehovah’s Witness knows that within their congregations they will be shamed, blamed and threatened with blood-guilt and everlasting destruction if they do not spend some reported time every month in field service.

The Watchtower Society knows that it needs to keep the money coming in and the printing presses rolling without let-up to justify its existence. The organization would soon collapse without the free labor provided by Jehovah’s Witnesses and their willingness to live by the rules the Society enforces.

Louise-Goode-bwAbout Louise Goode

Louise was born-in and raised as a JW after her parents, poor and far from home, were contacted by Jehovah’s Witnesses during a trip to Melbourne, Australia. Her family returned home to England when she was three, where they remained devout JWs in a congregation near Leeds.

When she was 16, she quit school and became a window cleaner so she could “pioneer.” At 18 she left home and lived on her own in a bedsit in Southampton. She continued to pioneer until she was married at age 20. After getting married, she decided that she needed a better education and enrolled in a local college. She was still a JW when she obtained her Law Degree.

After her first baby was born, she left the Witnesses, though still believing she had left “The Truth”’ and faced destruction at Armageddon. But something deep inside her could not bear to force her child to be raised in the religion. Five years later she read Crisis of Conscience, but it still took another five years of research before she fully “woke up.” In January 2014 she decided she should become an activist and help others to also “wake up.”


How the Watchtower Justifies its Crimes — 29 Comments

  1. When Jonathan Kendrick admitted to fondling the breasts of his stepdaughter while she was asleep, the branch office referred to the elders’ handbook and said, “Uncleanness includes an intentional momentary touching of sexual parts or caressing of breasts. Such minor uncleanness can be handled at the discretion of an elder or two; it does not require a judicial committee hearing.” So to them, fondling your minor child or stepdaughter while she’s asleep, which is a crime in the eyes of the law, is the same as going a little too far with a consenting adult.

    They also mention in the letter addressing this first incident that he was to be deleted as an MS because the act was known to others, not because of the act itself. Sexually assaulting your stepdaughter while she’s asleep isn’t enough to get you deleted, but if other people find out about it, well then of course that’s the real crime here.

    Kendrick is the one who went on to molest Candace, as we all know. Yet, is this enough for them to see the error of their ways? Of course not, don’t be ridiculous.

    A copy of the letter is at the bottom of this post:

  2. The Irony of the Watchtower vilifying the Catholics when they do exactly the same thing boggles the mind. Thanks Louise for shining a light on this dark corner.

  3. Why were Candace’s monthly hours accepted by the Society if she wasn’t a part of the Organization? If it was a personal ministry, there wouldn’t be a need to report. Governing Body members are a bunch of pedophile-hiding hypocrites. Has there ever been a member of the Governing Body accused of pedophila? I’m wondering if that’s why they defend pedophiles instead of protecting innocent children. They should have their legal department draft a contract that pedophiles need to sign agreeing that all members of the congregation will be made aware of their sin if they want to be re-instated and that they will never be able to preach unless it’s with an Elder. That would solve their legal problems. I guess the Witnesses would find out about the thousands of pedophiles they’ve been hiding, and the Organization would look bad. They are not interested in protecting children. They are interested in protecting their perceived image.

    • Governing body member Leo Greenlees. He was removed as a gb member and relocated to another congregation. Very hush hush. Exactly like the Catholic Church has done.

  4. I like the way they compare themselves to Catholics. They are worse as Priest do not marry but Elders do! How can you justify this then:

    *** w86 1/1 p. 13 par. 12 Days Like “the Days of Noah” ***
    Shocking as it is, even some who have been prominent in Jehovah’s organization have succumbed to immoral practices, including homosexuality, wife swapping, and child molesting. It is to be noted, also, that during the past year, 36,638 individuals had to be disfellowshipped from the Christian congregation, the greater number of them for practicing immorality. Jehovah’s organization must be kept clean!

    “Jehovah’s organization must be kept clean!”, at all costs!!

  5. Our legal system is built on precedent, it would be malpractice to not defend a client. Regardless of how “bad” that client. It is not hypocrisy to rely on these precedents. Their hypocrisy lies elsewhere and is more evident to former members, not the general public. In not removing these men from positions of power, they committed a crime against society and their own teachings. But, whether this is a crime that is protected by religious freedoms is still being argued. They are certainly culpable, but it comes down to strictly a legal definition. Our legal system is not going to tell religious groups they have to remove their leaders or how to handle individuals within any religion, that would conflict with our Constitution. On the flipside, if they were to breach confidentiality they could have been looking at a lawsuit from one of the now co-defendants. Legally speaking, do churches have a legal requirement to report abuse. Legally speaking, are churches culpable when they do nothing to put members on guard. The biggest hypocrisy I see is their position on keeping the congregation clean, yet letting elders remain who are abusing children. To call someone an apostate and shun them for disagreeing with them on one hand and allowing molesters to remain may not be something the law will do anything about, but it is certainly something that is unethical and should be brought to light. If people want to continue to associate with an organization like that, the government will not stop them. But, they should know the real truth. Society is moving away from trusting churches with this kind of absolute confidentiality, rightfully so. There was a time that doctors and therapist could not divulge any information, the law now makes exceptions. I think from a legal perspective, the best argument might be reliance. Members of the congregation have a reliance on the organization that they are keeping it clean. The organization requires reliance on them and condemns looking outside the organization for protection. They tout their strict scrutiny of members and charge from God in keeping the organization beyond blemish.

  6. The attitude of some Watchtower apologists is that religious freedom should be protected from any and all criticism and legal restrictions. Some extremely conservative Republican politicians in the USA have made their reputations on trying to eliminate all laws (even clearly good and just ones) that somehow restrict any religion from doing whatever they want, whenever they want, no matter how the law would apply to the general public. After all, in the USA it “is your ‘God-given’ right to own a military assault weapon and carry sidearms to a political rally.”

    Part of this “we don’t have to obey the law like other people attitude” dates back to the years when J. F. Rutherford was Watchtower Society president and Clayton Woodworth and Fred Franz were making up most of the rules and doctrines. Rutherford railed against Prohibition (of alcoholic beverages), came up with the flag-salute and draft resistance rules, and branded modern medical advances (vaccines and blood-transfusions) as violations of Jehovah’s biblical laws.

    Anyone familiar with Jehovah’s Witness culture (especially former JWs) knows that they love their children and want the best for them just like any other normal family. Most of them know deep in their hearts that IF THE WATCHTOWER GAVE THEM THE CHOICE they would allow their children to get blood-transfusions, give them the best education they could afford, never shun them based on religious rules, let them draw in their coloring books and hold on to their dolls during the meetings and all the other things that normal parents would do. Above all they would want to know if someone in the Kingdom Hall posed a potential danger to their children – even if the threat was only alleged – so that they could take extra precautions for the protection of their children.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses are not stupid people. They may let themselves be led around like lobotomized sheep most of the time, but they know that there may be brothers in the Kingdom Hall that may have criminal backgrounds or have been guilty of numerous sins in their past. But they are welcomed as any “sinners” would be. On the other hand, being parents, they would want to know if any of those fellow JWs might pose a potential threat to their children or has a background of child abuse. You know that the elderettes would be warning single sisters about a man in the congregation who was a serial wife-beater or had a history of cheating on his spouse. Why would that not be extended to child molesters – especially those listed on the police registries?

    Parents don’t want to deny someone else the possibility of earning eternal life by being a Jehovah’s Witness. They just want to know who to keep a safe distance away from their children. Molesters with their own children should be kept on a short-leash as well and the elders should be keeping close watch on them at all times. Elders should be given training as part of their normal “elderly” duties about how to recognize children (or abused sisters) who might be abused at home and the less obvious signals of injury or stress.

    The Watchtower could with one big flash of “new light” take the lead among religious cults and declare their active war against child molesters within their congregation. They are willing to disfellowship members for asking too many questions or studying the Bible privately with their friends – but they need to stop being reluctant to take forceful action to rid themselves of child predators and wife abusers and get them out of all Kingdom Halls and keep them out. What a statement that would make! Think of the positive press the Watchtower would get world-wide with just that one change of policy!


  7. I know personally of two pedophiles who were known by the elders, but because of the two witness rule, nothing was done. Fortunately a schoolteacher, was not bound by the two witness rule, and saved this little girl, as her father was imprisoned. I had been a fellow employee of this man. I know of other similar cases in neighboring cogregations, that have never been reported. I feel sad for so many inside and outside of this religion, that are forced to shun their children. I have five nephews and nieces that are being shunned by my brothers. In addition wives, brothers and numerous grandchildren are being shunned. Several have been so severely mistreated they have had to be raised in the foster care program. One of my nieces, never having been baptized was disfellowshipped at 14 years of age, and at age 15 was not allowed to say goodbye to her mother, when her mother was dying from cancer. What I say can be verified simply by talking to my brothers who are members of this religion. I know this because my children are also shunned, because they are children of an apostate, and also because the state of Oregon, through the foster care program placed two of them in our home. It is truly mind-boggling to think of how many families this religion will destroy.

  8. From 1st hand experience as a father. They are telling you the truth when they say they have no obligation to share pedophile activity or protect children. The reason I left was because I realized, with a sickening thud, that they were more concerned about themselves. Why wouldn’t you report abuse to the authority’s?

    I attended the trial of the abuser. He was sentenced to 9 months in prison for abusing 7 different children (my daughter twice). What struck me the most was that although all of these children were Jehovah’s witnesses, and in one case the abuse took place in a Kingdom Hall toilet, not one person came from the society to offer their support or to represent the society’s hatred of child abuse. No came to represent God. Shame Shame Shame for a religion who says it does.

  9. Another point too. The elders are instructed to contact the society 1st if an allegation of child abuse comes to light, therefore in my mind, the confidentiality is already broken. Also the society claims the reason for this is ‘for the protection of the child, its a child abuse policy’. However they keep that allegation, certainly within the congregation and authorities, confidential thereby putting further children at risk. So the real reality is this. . They protect themselves, even before or at the expense of children.

  10. Further to my previous comments.
    The reason, in my opinion, that Jehovah Witnesses do not report an abuse allegation & or keep it confidential from the authority’s is 1, to avoid being cited in a future trail and 2 in case that jury finds the accused person innocent therefore avoids future litigation.

    Jehovah’s witnesses insist that an accusation must be supported by two witnesses but negates to mention the One Witness Rule.
    Considering Deuteronomy 19.15-21 it is obvious that the two witnesses can come from those observing the attitude and evaluating the evidence of the accused or accuser hence gaining your two witnesses. This is in complete harmony with Matt 18.15-17.

    (Don’t get me started about the private nature of judicial inquires when the scriptures show in both cases it was for public consideration. No doubt the private nature of these committee’s protects the society from litigation hence no recording equipment. Of course a confession is not the same as a judicial committee)

    So in conclusion. How many abused children have been placed back into the arms of their abuser because of a misapplication of the two witness rule and how many family’s have received little or no support because the society uses privacy laws to protect itself instead of the child and their family (Gordon lieghton)?

    All of this from an organisation that proclaims that God’s law is superior to ceasers law and yet in a court appeals to ceasers law before God’s?

    • You make a lot of sense and I agree Gary. In their quest for universal sovereignty (aka world domination) they attempt to set themselves up in place of the authorities. Of course they will aim to protect themselves first and foremost at all times and at all costs, but in the case of neglecting to protect innocents, this attitude does set them up to have their morality and motives questioned as “leaders” while they busily fleece their flock for every perceived infraction of a trivial nature. They are quite afraid of being sued, aren’t they. Apparently they don’t have faith that their god will protect them if they do the right thing when it comes to looking after widows and orphans and other vulnerable ones. Besides that, they’re too busy disfellowshipping teenaged boys for heeding mother nature by kissing their girlfriends. So they are interfering with the vulnerable themselves in their own twisted ways and cherry picking from ancient manuscripts to rationalize support for their family destroying (divide to conquer / world domination) intentions. Kinda sociopathic, come to think of it.

    • Yes, the baptism questions are quite a wide open abuse of power, aren’t they! Not only do they give consideration to a seizure, namely the organization equating itself to God, claiming sole messenger status on earth, but the enslavement to this ridiculous concept being applied to minors, is a crime to me. Spiritual interference! Let sentient beings BE. Stop with the spiritual rape in the quest for world domination. Stop taking slaves of any age. Check with any tribe and discover that “God” is made in man’s image, not the other way around. Nothing against mythology, it serves it’s purpose here and there, but it must be kept in its place, otherwise the power mongering becomes abusive and corrupt, as in the case of the JW mythology, in my experience.

    • Personally, I now view the baptismal questions as completely invalid and annulled in my life. They mean nothing since as an adult I do not recognize their self-proclaimed authority as carrying any actual weight beyond what they attempt to accomplish via corrupt means.

  11. When my daughter confided to us that this brother had touch her front bottom (which is so brave considering she was a four year old) the society advice was that it was OUR decision whether to contact the police. They took a neutral stance (self preservation). Of the course the abuser Andrew Smith denied the accusation (easy to bully a four year old & call her a liar isn’t it Andrew?) later admitted to it in court.

    My point is this. Even if the society knows and has a confession or that the accused has a history of abuse still keeps it confidential from the congregation thereby putting unsuspecting parent’s and children at risk. This is precisely what happened in the Candace case and the awful thing about it is that they tried to use character assignation to justify their stance. How hypocritical is it to use a victims sins against them while protecting the confidentiality of a known paedophile?

  12. You can’t have it both ways. Policy keeps such allegations inhouse as a result of the two or three witness rule. Funny thing Predators don’t much care for spectators and try to avoid them. Families are threatened with DF’ing if they embarrass the WT or short of witnesses make “unfounded” allegations. But they then made this statement that “we couldn’t do anything, he hadn’t been convicted.

    “The trial court imposed a duty upon the Appellants to warn the members of the congregation that Kendrick had molested a minor even though at that time Kendrick had neither been charged nor convicted of any crime arising from that conduct” (p48).

  13. You can only surmise that the goal in dealing with any such situation is two fold- 1) To quickly get passed the abuse by rehabilitating\counseling with the perpetrator while advising the parents to let it go because the spirit of Jehovah will heal and “fix” the offender and victim(s) alike 2) At all costs the organization must not be faulted since this means to attack God himself. The procedures are directly from (our interpretation) the Bible, (who cares if the rules or advise are only important to the culture or if they are meant for the church in our time). They are perfect and must be followed, the puny laws of man never overrule the laws of God. Two or three witnesses must verify an offense or the offense never happened meaning we must challenge the accusers with discipline. I have great sympathy for all those harmed by this organization especially the children. I believe God has a special procedure to deal with all those who offend his most vulnerable.

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