Covering up their knowledge of pedophiles in their religion is costing Jehovah’s Witnesses, to the tune of $4000 per day.
On June 23, 2016, San Diego, California, Superior Court Judge Richard Strauss grew tired of the Watchtower Society fighting his order to produce a 1997 letter sent to all elders worldwide, and decided to sanction the religion with a fine of $4000 per day until the Watchtower complied with that order. This case is in relation to a civil suit brought by former member of the religion, Osbaldo Padron, who claims that an elder, Gonzalo Campos, sexually abused him repeatedly when Padron was younger. See this story in the San Diego Reader for more information.
If the name sounds familiar, another court in California awarded former Jehovah’s Witness Jose Lopez $13.5 million for his lawsuit against the religion, stemming from sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of Gonzalo Campos while Campos was working his way up the ranks of the religion. Lopez claimed that the elders of the religion knew that Campos was a danger and that he had sexually molested children in the past, but offered no warning to parents and allowed Campos more and more authority in the religion.
In Padron’s case, the Watchtower Society was ordered to produce that 1997 letter to all elders worldwide, which would include information about accusations of child sex abuse. The Watchtower produced a heavily redacted copy in March 2015; for those unfamiliar with the term, redacted means that information is blacked out or omitted (see example below). The Watchtower has been fighting for the past year to keep a full version of the letter out of court, claiming that it would violate the privacy of those mentioned in the letter and who were not associated with the Padron case. The judge allowed them to plead their case but finally didn’t accept their argument, gave the order that the full letter be submitted, and decided to impose a sanction of $4000 per day for every day they refuse to do that.
Will It Be Enough?
Four thousand dollars every day is a lot of money, even for the Watchtower, but will it be enough for them to comply? Remember that once a letter is submitted to court, unless they can make an argument to keep it sealed, it then becomes public record. This letter, if it contains names of abusers and the evidence against them, could be incredibly damning to the Watchtower Society and open up a floodgate of additional civil suits.
This is why it’s a valid question, of whether or not $4000 per day is enough to force their hand. I assume this would be just weekdays, so that’s $20,000 per week, and over $1 million per year. While this may sound like enough to force the Watchtower to comply, consider that governing body member Geritt Losch was willing to defy a court order to give testimony about child abuse policies in, ironically enough, the case filed by Jose Lopez against Campos. Losch stated quite defiantly:
“I am not, and have never been, a corporate officer, director, managing agent, member, or employee of Watchtower. I do not direct, and have never directed, the day-to-day operations of Watchtower. I do not answer to Watchtower. I do not have, and have never had, any authority as an individual to make or determine corporate policy for Watchtower or any department of Watchtower.”
The judge mentioned Losch’s refusal to comply when awarding the $13.5 million judgment noted above.
If the Watchtower were to continue to defy this current order to the tune of $1 million per year, they could do this for thirteen years and only then would it match the judgment given to Lopez. Money, however, doesn’t seem to be enough to motivate them to comply with court orders. Consider, too, that those additional lawsuits that would stem from this document could also total far more than $4000 per day. Only time will tell if it’s enough for them to comply.
Giving Privacy to Pedophiles
I’m not a lawyer so I can’t guess as to what additional steps the judge might take to force the hands of the Watchtower; since this is in California and the religion is headquartered in New York, I would assume he cannot hold any of the governing body in contempt and put them in jail. I could be wrong about that, and perhaps he has the right to do the same for local elders who have copies of the letter that are not redacted and who are defying legal orders to produce it. Again, I’m not a lawyer, but what I am pretty confident about saying is that the Watchtower is sure to use every single legal maneuver, every single trick they can think of to continue to defy this order and keep their records secret.
Defiance of a court order aside, the real problem here is that the Watchtower Society is yet again using all their time, money, and other resources to protect, not their rank-and-file members, not the child abuse victims in their Kingdom Halls, but the pedophiles. They are working hard, putting their best lawyers on the case, and willing to part with their money in order to give privacy to child rapists. As the news story above says:
“Over the course of the past year, the Watchtower Society and its lawyers have fought hard to keep the letter confidential, claiming that turning over the documents would infringe on the privacy of those mentioned in the letter that were not associated with the case.“
Yes, that is the main concern, isn’t it, the privacy of pedophiles? This is what a “loving” religion should be working hard on, keeping the behavior of disgusting child rapists secret from law enforcement, the courts, and the victims who have every right to call them up on the carpet for how they’ve hidden behind the religion’s rules for so long, right?
The Watchtower could be spending all the contributions from their members in having experts teach them how to handle these cases properly, but they spend that money on simply hiding pedophile after pedophile. They could be taking responsibility for their failings and doing the right thing toward the victims by removing these child rapists from their ranks and ensuring those victims get the help they need, as well as sanctioning the elders who cover up this abuse and victimize those children all over again. Instead, they do the equivalent of giving them and the courts the finger and becoming even more defiant.
The problem in all of this is not the money being spent or the powers of the court; it’s the strongly entrenched attitude that no one will tell Jehovah’s Witnesses what to do even when it comes to child molesters sitting in the Kingdom Hall, and that adult pedophiles are more important than the children they molest. Jehovah’s Witnesses have no business thinking that they know how to handle cases of child molestation in their religion, demanding two witnesses to the abuse, thinking that these molesters can just say they’re “sorry” for their “sin” and they’ll be safe on the street, and that the attitude and maturity of the parents is an indication of the truthfulness of the child.
Yet, Jehovah’s Witnesses will defend their policies and practices before they defend a child rape victim, gladly blame others for the problem, and part with the donation money they get from their members if it means being able to defy a legal court order. If anything, this problem will just get worse over time as Jehovah’s Witnesses push the envelope on keeping members secluded from the outside world so that more victims are afraid of going to the police, and get discouraged about how long court cases take before they get any type of justice.
Please share via social media below.