Court Cases

News Update: In Scathing Court Decision, Watchtower Loses Appeal of $4000 Per Day Fine

As brought out in this post, the Watchtower Society recently appealed a $4000 per day court sanction (or fine), which they were facing for failure to produce certain documents in a child sex abuse liability case. The judge who heard the Watchtower’s appeal of this sanction referred to their argument as “breathtaking,” as a sanction was actually what the Watchtower had argued for just months earlier.

The religion had been facing a $13.5 million judgment for a child sex abuse case, partially because of not complying with that order to produce documents.

Watchtower appealed that $13.5 million judgment, asking for sanctions instead.

The court agreed, saying that less severe sanctions may impel them to produce those documents.

The Watchtower then appealed that decision, saying they shouldn’t be facing sanctions.

Today the court rejected the Watchtower’s appeal regarding these daily sanctions, and handed down a rather scathing decision against them. You can read the full decision from the court here: D070723 marked up, and I’ve taken the liberty of highlighting some details.

Page 5 is very interesting; it notes that Watchtower knew of this abuser in the congregation, and did not report him to police or “take any action to prevent further abuse.” It offers details and a timeline as to Watchtower’s absolute failure to do anything to stop the abuser from molesting child after child.

Page 11 is also interesting, as it notes that, in the early 2000s, the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (CCJW) was formed, as a separate entity from the Watchtower Society, with separate boards of directors and bank accounts. The argument is that certain documents were controlled by “Watchtower” before that time, and certain documents were controlled by CCJW after that time, and that “Watchtower had no control over CCJW,” one of the reasons they offer as to why they couldn’t produce those documents.

For former Jehovah’s Witnesses, we immediately understand the absolute rubbish in this argument. The Watchtower as a corporation, and the CCJW as a corporation, may be two separate, legal entities, but of course they are simply opposite sides of the same coin.

According to Wikipedia (not the best source of information, I realize, but this article is well-cited), the CCJW handles religious affairs, whereas the Watchtower handles administrative tasks (real estate, publishing, etc.). Page 13 of the court’s decision notes that the CCJW was formed to “reinforce the concept that Jehovah’s Witnesses are a religion,” versus just a publishing company. That’s all well and good, but splitting your organization into two factions, and claiming that one has nothing to do with the other, or they’re just unable to cooperate with each other, is nonsense.

The court also saw through this ploy, as the Watchtower slipped up in their argument; they stated, in part, that they could not produce the documents in question because it would be burdensome to go through the thousands of files in which they’re located. As the court’s decision noted, on page 14, Watchtower did not say that they did not have access to those files, as they’re now under the control of CCJW; they admitted in their own argument that they could access them, but it would simply take too long. Oops.

The footnote on page 18 notes that Watchtower holds some $1.3 billion in real property. This amount is especially obscene when you think of how often they beg for money, even from children, and how hard they fight the victims when it comes to compensation for their abuses.

real propertyThe decision goes on to note Watchtower’s consistent arguments against the court, and their outright refusal to acknowledge the authority of the court, calling Watchtower’s conduct “egregious.” That word means “extraordinary in some bad way; glaring; flagrant; gross, outrageous, notorious, shocking.”

The final section of the decision states that Watchtower “abused the discovery process,” that they acted in “defiance” of the court, and that “the superior court has shown great patience and flexibility in dealing with a recalcitrant litigant who refuses to follow valid orders and merely reiterates losing arguments.”

The word “recalcitrant” means “resisting authority or control; not obedient or compliant.” This is interesting, because Jehovah’s Witnesses consistently paint themselves as law-abiding citizens:

“Like the early Christians, Jehovah’s Witnesses are law-abiding citizens. They take to heart Jesus’ words: “Pay back, therefore, Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (Matthew 22:21) They obey “Caesar,” or the governmental authorities, by diligently fulfilling the responsibilities that are required of citizens, such as paying taxes and complying with census laws and marriage registrations.” – Lasting Peace and Happiness, page 28, paragraph 10

Apparently this need to be “law-abiding” doesn’t apply when compensation for child sex abuse victims is on the line, as the decision itself so clearly stated, on page 38:

“It is clear that those responses, at least in part, were in consideration of future litigation and liability that could arise from the placement of known child molesters in positions of leadership and authority within the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization.”

In other words, Watchtower knows that the information in the records they keep will do nothing but open them up to more lawsuits. Rather than protect children, they choose instead to fight… and fight and fight… to protect those documents and records, protect their own reputation, and of course, protect their precious bank accounts.

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