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Jehovah's Witnesses Settle Abuse Cases
By ROSE FRENCH 05.10.07, 6:14 PM ET

A victims' rights group released documents Thursday that showed the Jehovah's Witnesses recently settled civil suits with 16 people who claimed they were sexually abused by church elders or that church officials failed to act on abuse allegations.

The group, called silentlambs, held a news conference in Nashville to demand that the denomination change its policy for responding to sex abuse reports.

Settlements were reached in late February and early March, according to court records obtained by silentlambs and posted to the group's Web site. Fourteen of the cases were filed in California; the other two were in Oregon and Texas.

Details about the settlement terms could not be disclosed under confidentiality agreements negotiated between the parties, said Stephen Owens, a plaintiffs' attorney involved in the California cases. Other cases are still pending, according to silentlambs, which couldn't say how many.

The Jehovah's Witnesses, whose headquarters are in Brooklyn, N.Y., said Thursday that they were pleased to see the lawsuits resolved, declining further comment.

"Our loving heavenly Father makes it clear in his Word, the Bible, that he abhors child abuse," a statement from the denomination said.

"As an organization, we will continually strive to educate families and congregations with sound Scriptural teachings that they can use to protect their children from child molesters. And we will continue to do our utmost to protect children from this horrible crime and sin."

William Bowen, silentlambs' founder, was a Jehovah's Witnesses elder from Kentucky who quit the denomination after he said it took no action against a molester. Bowen said the settlements were bittersweet.

"On one hand, we're glad a few victims are finally getting some financial help," he said. "On the other hand, we're sad and worried because they've essentially been forced to give up their right to protect others by speaking out about their abuse to the public."

Bowen's group has criticized the Jehovah's Witnesses' policy that if an accused abuser denies the charge, two credible witnesses are required to establish guilt - due to literal application of such Bible verses as Deuteronomy 19:15 ("only on the evidence of two witnesses, or of three witnesses, shall a charge be sustained").

If two witnesses are lacking, the accused is deemed innocent, charges remain confidential and - silentlambs says - parents who warn others are subject to disfellowshipping for slander.

Disfellowshipping is an extreme penalty that means a total cutoff of relationships by family members, friends and business associates who are Witnesses.

There are about 1 million Jehovah's Witnesses in the United States, and followers are known for distributing Awake! and Watchtower magazines door-to-door.

Bowen also said Jehovah's Witnesses have a long-standing policy of not reporting molesters to police. He claims that the denomination has a secret database of accused abusers that they have not shared with law enforcement officials.

"They keep putting innocent kids and unsuspecting families at risk of horrible crimes because they value their secrecy and reputations more than they value children's safety," Bowen said.

Since establishing silentlambs in 2001, Bowen says about 7,000 people who claim they were abused have contacted his group.

Angelique Taylor, 42, a silentlambs member from St. Louis, said she was molested by a Jehovah's Witnesses elder when she was about 12. Taylor said she told her father, who was also an elder, and he said she was making a big deal out of nothing.

"I want every elder, every Jehovah's Witness, whenever they suspect any abuse, they go to the police and tell them about the problems," Taylor said. "The devastation of sex abuse is unbelievable."

Associated Press reporter Allison Hoffman in San Diego contributed to this report.

Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

 

France News

Jehovah's Witnesses urged to change policy on sex abuse cases

The Associated Press Published: May 10, 2007

http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/05/10/america/NA-GEN-US-Jehovahs-Witnesses-Sex-Abuse.php

NASHVILLE, Tennessee: A victims' rights group released documents Thursday that showed the Jehovah's Witnesses recently settled civil suits with 16 people who claimed they were sexually abused by church elders or that church officials failed to act on abuse allegations.

The group, called silentlambs, held a news conference in Nashville to demand that the denomination change its policy for responding to sex abuse reports.

Settlements were reached in late February and early March, according to court records obtained by silentlambs and posted to the group's Web site. Fourteen of the cases were filed in California; the other two were in Oregon and Texas.

Details about the settlement terms could not be disclosed under confidentiality agreements negotiated between the parties, said Stephen Owens, a plaintiffs' attorney involved in the California cases. Other cases are still pending, according to silentlambs, which couldn't say how many.

The Jehovah's Witnesses, whose headquarters are in Brooklyn, New York, said Thursday that they were pleased to see the lawsuits resolved, declining further comment.

"Our loving heavenly Father makes it clear in his Word, the Bible, that he abhors child abuse," a statement from the denomination said.

"As an organization, we will continually strive to educate families and congregations with sound Scriptural teachings that they can use to protect their children from child molesters. And we will continue to do our utmost to protect children from this horrible crime and sin."

There are about 1 million Jehovah's Witnesses in the United States, and followers are known for distributing Awake! and Watchtower magazines door-to-door.

William Bowen, silentlambs' founder, was a Jehovah's Witnesses elder from Kentucky who quit the denomination after he said it took no action against a molester. Bowen said the settlements were bittersweet.

"On one hand, we're glad a few victims are finally getting some financial help," he said. "On the other hand, we're sad and worried because they've essentially been forced to give up their right to protect others by speaking out about their abuse to the public."

Bowen's group has criticized the Jehovah's Witnesses' policy that if an accused abuser denies the charge, two credible witnesses are required to establish guilt — due to literal application of such Bible verses as Deuteronomy 19:15 ("only on the evidence of two witnesses, or of three witnesses, shall a charge be sustained").

If two witnesses are lacking, the accused is deemed innocent, charges remain confidential and — silentlambs says — parents who warn others are subject to disfellowshipping for slander.

Disfellowshipping is an extreme penalty that means a total cutoff of relationships by family members, friends and business associates who are Witnesses.

Bowen also said Jehovah's Witnesses have a long-standing policy of not reporting molesters to police. He claims that the denomination has a secret database of accused abusers that they have not shared with law enforcement officials.

"They keep putting innocent kids and unsuspecting families at risk of horrible crimes because they value their secrecy and reputations more than they value children's safety," Bowen said.

Since establishing silentlambs in 2001, Bowen says about 7,000 people who claim they were abused have contacted his group.

Angelique Taylor, 42, a silentlambs member from St. Louis, said she was molested by a Jehovah's Witnesses elder when she was about 12. Taylor said she told her father, who was also an elder, and he said she was making a big deal out of nothing.

"I want every elder, every Jehovah's Witness, whenever they suspect any abuse, they go to the police and tell them about the problems," Taylor said. "The devastation of sex abuse is unbelievable."

___

Associated Press reporter Allison Hoffman in San Diego contributed to this report.

___

On the Net:

silentlambs: http://www.silentlambs.org

----------------------------------------

Fox News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A group was in Nashville Thursday to show support for those who claim they’ve been abused by some Jehovah’s Witnesses members. Video: Group Protests Religion Members After Abuse Settlements Lawsuits have recently been settled in some cases, but not to the satisfaction of the group, Silent Lambs.

The group met with local resistance from Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Woodbine.

For six years, the Kentucky-based organization has offered support to people accusing Jehovah’s Witness church members of abuse. In March, more than one dozen settlements were reached in molestation cases, but the agreements came with gag orders attached.

“We find this bittersweet. On one hand, we’re glad a few victims are finally getting some financial help. But on the other hand, we’re sad and worried because they’ve essentially -- they have been forced to give up their rights,” said founder of Silent Lambs Bill Bowen.

Bowen's group has criticized the Jehovah's Witnesses' policy that if an accused abuser denies the charge, two credible witnesses are required to establish guilt -- due to literal application of such Bible verses as Deuteronomy 19:15 ("only on the evidence of two witnesses, or of three witnesses, shall a charge be sustained"). If two witnesses are lacking, the accused is deemed innocent, charges remain confidential and -- silentlambs says -- parents who warn others are subject to disfellowshipping for slander. Disfellowshipping is an extreme penalty that means a total cutoff of relationships by family members, friends and business associates who are Witnesses. There are about 1 million Jehovah's Witnesses in the United States, and followers are known for distributing Awake! and Watchtower magazines door-to-door. Victims of abuse from various faiths spoke at the presentation. “When I was around 8 years old, I was molested by a teenager who was a member of my church, the Christian Gospel Temple,” said Jennifer Beta. “There are thousands of us out there and thousands of children who need our help right now,” said Angelica Taylor. According to Silent Lambs, Jehovah’s Witnesses encourage abuse by not reporting allegations to police and choosing to handle individual cases internally. The Jehovah's Witnesses headquarters in Brooklyn was supposed to send a faxed response Thursday but had not done so by deadline.

Copyright 2007 by WSMV.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Watchtower Urged To Change Policy On Sex Abuse Cases

by AP (edit@brooklyneagle.net), published online 05-15-2007

http://www.brooklyneagle.com/categories/category.php?category_id=27&id=12910

 

Brooklyn Eagle- This is one of the buildings in Watchtower Society’s headquarters complex in Brooklyn Heights, which the religious group calls “Bethel.” More than 3,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses live or work here. Eagle file photo 

 

 

 

 

Victims’ Group Releases Settlements With 16 Who Claimed Abuse by Elders
By Rose French
Associated Press
BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — A victims’ rights group has released documents showing that the Jehovah’s Witnesses, also known as the Watchtower Society, recently settled civil suits with 16 people who claimed they were sexually abused by church elders or that church officials failed to act on abuse allegations.

The group, called silentlambs, held a news conference in Nashville to demand that the denomination change its policy for responding to sex-abuse reports.

Silentlambs, most of whose members are former Witnesses, have also held occasional demonstrations outside the Witnesses’ world headquarters on Columbia Street in Brooklyn Heights. On those occasions, the Witnesses refused to meet with them.

Settlements were reached in late February and early March, according to court records obtained by silentlambs and posted to the group’s web site, www.silentlambs.org. Details about the settlement terms could not be disclosed under confidentiality agreements negotiated between the parties, said Stephen Owens, a plaintiffs’ attorney involved in several of the cases.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses said Thursday that they were pleased to see the lawsuits resolved, but declined further comment.

“Our loving heavenly father makes it clear in his word, the Bible, that he abhors child abuse,” a statement from the denomination said. “As an organization, we will continually strive to educate families and congregations with sound scriptural teachings that they can use to protect their children from child molesters.”

William Bowen, silentlambs’ founder, said, “On one hand, we’re glad a few victims are finally getting some financial help,” he said. “On the other hand, we’re sad and worried because they’ve essentially been forced to give up their right to protect others by speaking out about their abuse to the public.”

Bowen’s group has criticized the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ policy that if an accused abuser denies the charge, two credible witnesses are required to establish guilt — due to literal application of such Bible verses as Deuteronomy 19:15 (“only on the evidence of two witnesses, or of three witnesses, shall a charge be sustained”).

If two witnesses are lacking, the accused is deemed innocent, charges remain confidential and — silentlambs says — parents who warn others are subject to “disfellowshipping” for slander.

Disfellowshipping is an extreme penalty that means a total cutoff of relationships by family members, friends and business associates who are Witnesses.

Bowen says that since he established silentlambs in 2001, about 7,000 people who claim they were abused have contacted his group.

The Watchtower has maintained its headquarters in Brooklyn Heights, which it calls “Bethel,” since 1909. In the recent past, it has put some of its property in and around the Heights for sale, such as its former printing plant at 360 Furman St. (see page 5) and, most recently, the former Standish Arms hotel on Columbia Heights. At the same time, however, the group has been buying property in nearby DUMBO.

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Macon Telegraph, GA -May 10, 2007
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Charlotte Observer, NC -May 10, 2007
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TheNewsTribune.com (subscription), WA -May 10, 2007
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Jehovah's Witnesses settle abuse cases
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, IN -May 10, 2007
AP. NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A victims' rights group released documents Thursday that showed the Jehovah's Witnesses recently settled civil suits with 16 people ...

Jehovah's Witnesses settle abuse cases
Contra Costa Times, CA -May 10, 2007
By ROSE FRENCH AP Writer. NASHVILLE, Tenn.- A victims' rights group released documents Thursday that showed the Jehovah's Witnesses recently settled civil ...

Jehovah's Witnesses settle abuse cases
The Olympian, WA -May 10, 2007
AP Writer. A victims' rights group released documents Thursday that showed the Jehovah's Witnesses recently settled civil suits with 16 people who claimed ...

Jehovah's Witnesses settle abuse cases
Pioneer Press, MN -May 10, 2007
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Tuscaloosa News (subscription), AL -May 10, 2007
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Seattle Post Intelligencer, WA -May 10, 2007
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Jehovah's Witnesses settle abuse cases
WBIR-TV, TN -May 10, 2007
A victims' rights group has released documents showing that the Jehovah's Witnesses recently settled civil suits with 16 people who claimed they were ...

JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES PAY PEDOPHILE SETTLEMENT
International Falls Daily Journal, MN -May 9, 2007
- ask the nation's second largest denomination to follow the lead of the nation's largest denomination and ban such secret settlements. ...

 

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