By Terri-ann Williams For Mailonline.
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Twenty former Jehovah's Witnesses are suing the religious organisation over historical sex abuse claims, as some say the group's elders are 'inadvertently' protecting abusers. A former elder said the group had been failing to involve the authorities of the alleged abuse, and revealed that it has a policy of not punishing alleged child sex abuse unless a witness has seen the abuse, or an abuser confesses.
The group claims it always tells police if a child is in danger and complies with 'child abuse reporting laws even if there is only one witness'. One former elder, who says he was abused from the age of nine to 13, said children were still being abused within the organisation. John Viney pictured above told the BBC he reported his abuse to the police in and learned that the same abuser had gone onto abuse other children.
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John Viney said he was abused by a 'distant family member who was an active Jehovah's Witness'. According to the Jehovah's Witnesses organisation the Scriptural requirement of two witnesses or a confession to a serious sin relates to whether the congregation imposes religious discipline on the accused person, including expulsion from the congregation. In the context of child sexual abuse, if at least two people—the one making the accusation and someone else who can verify this act or other acts of child abuse by the accused person—establish the charge, an ecclesiastical judicial committee is formed.
This Scriptural requirement for an ecclesiastical judicial committee does not apply to whether elders or others report allegations of child sexual abuse to the statutory authorities. Congregation elders comply with child abuse reporting laws even if there is only one witness. In addition, if a child is in danger of abuse, the elders will report the allegation to the authorities even if they have no legal duty to report and even if there is only one witness.
In Mr Viney reported his abuse to the police and learned that the same abuser had gone onto abuse other children, before dying in prison. Another alleged victim claimed to the BBC that after she had been abused elders would visit her and repeat scripture which stated why the abuse should be 'kept in house and now follow the laws of the land'.
Former members also told of how they were forced to recount details of their abuse to a committee, while their abuser was also present. Her abuser was jailed for two years, but the victim said he was welcomed back into the organisation on his release. One solicitor representing some of the former members who are suing said they had decided to seek compensation after their request of an apology was denied.
Thomas Beale said those suing claim the organisation had been 'negligent'. There is no suggestion that any of those pictured are involved in the alleged abuse.
MP Sarah Champion pictured above said she had met elders who believe there is 'enough safe guarding in place'. Now MPs have also raised concerns about the group and how abusers have access to 'vulnerable people'.Nearly 30,000 people attended a Jehovah's Witness convention, over 200 of them were baptized
A High Court judge has raised concern after hearing that ministers in a congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses waited more than two and a half years before telling police that a girl had made sex abuse allegations against her father. Mrs Justice Lieven said there had been a 'failure to take effective steps to protect a young child' which gave rise to 'deep concern'. The judge said evidence in a case she had analysed showed that ministers, known as 'elders' in a Jehovah's Witness congregation, knew about the allegations in Decemberwhen the girl was nine, but had not reported them to police until July She said they had waited despite knowing the man remained in the same household as his daughter.
Mrs Justice Lieven aired concerns today after analysing issues relating to the care of the girl, who is now 12, and her brother, 10, at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London. The girl had made abuse allegations to her mother, the judge said, and her mother had then told congregation elders. She said Jehovah's Witnesses were told to report misconduct by a family member to the elders.
Mrs Justice Lieven said documents relating to a 'judicial committee' meeting showed what congregation elders knew and when they knew it.These are external links and will open in a new window. At least 20 former Jehovah's Witnesses are suing the group over historical sexual abuse they say they suffered. The group has a policy of not punishing alleged child sex abuse unless a second person, alongside the accuser, has witnessed it - or an abuser confesses.
It says its elders "comply with child-abuse reporting laws even if there is only one witness", though, and always tell police if a child is in danger. John Viney, who says he was abused between the ages of nine and 13, by "a distant family member who was an active Jehovah's Witness", added children were still being abused and the religious organisation was "inadvertently" protecting their abusers.
Mr Viney's own daughter, Karen, was abused as a child - and has since spoken out about it publicly. But when she left the organisation, Mr Viney disowned her - something he has regretted ever since. Mr Viney said he had eventually reported his own abuser to the police, inafter years of being too "ashamed", only to be told the man had gone on to abuse other children and died in prison.
Thomas Beale, a solicitor representing some of the former members, said they had decided to seek compensation after asking the group for an apology only to find it "denying what has happened or refusing to engage". Those taking the legal action say the organisation is "vicariously liable" for the abuse they say they suffered.
Some claim it was negligent. If you have had a similar experience, and would like to share your story, contact the BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme by emailing victoria bbc. Information and support for those affected by sexual abuse can be found on the BBC's Action Line page.
One woman, Emma - not her real name - said after she had been abused she had been visited by elders who had repeated scripture "about why we should keep it in-house, not follow the laws of the land". Several former members have also told BBC News they were made to discuss their allegations with elders at a "judicial committee", while their alleged abuser sat next to them.
Labour's Sarah Champion, the chair of a cross-party group of MPs looking at adults who experienced child sexual abuse, said she had "very serious concerns" about a convicted child abuser being allowed "back into a community where they have access to vulnerable people".
She said she had met elders who "believe that there is more than enough safeguarding in place A Jehovah's Witnesses spokesman said: "The only way that a child abuser can gain access to children in a religious organisation like ours, which does not have any programmes that separate children from their parents, is through parents themselves.
He said that for "decades", the organisation had educated parents "about the dangers of child abuse and how they can protect their children" and parents and victims were informed they had the right to report the matter to the authorities. The number of people who have died in hospital with coronavirus in the UK passes 10, after a daily rise of UK selected England N. But one former elder said it had been failing to involve the authorities.
Related Topics Jehovah's Witnesses Child abuse. More on this story. Abuse victim plea for Jehovah's Witness inquiry.
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Several waves of infection will occur. Morbidity will be extensive in all age groups, and there will be widespread disruption of social and economic activity in all countries.
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However, they have never spoken of covert sexual abuse. In Australia alone there were over a thousand cases in 5 decades. This site is poorly organized with inability to reply and follow responses under individuals and topics. The doomsday cult the cultic mentality is on display here by JWs is once again being opportunistic with world events year failed history of same thing to create fear of Armageddon and hope of Paradise to keep members, get lapsed ones to come back, to recruit new ones.
It worked in, etc.Montana law requires officials, including clergy, to report child abuse to state authorities when there is reasonable cause for suspicion. However, the state's high court said in its decision that the Jehovah's Witnesses fall under an exemption to that law in this case. The ruling overturns a verdict awarding compensatory and punitive damages to the woman who was abused as a child in the mids by a member of the Thompson Falls Jehovah's Witness congregation.
The woman had accused the church's national organization of ordering Montana clergy members not to report her abuse to authorities. The Montana case is one of dozens that have been filed nationwide over the past decade saying Jehovah's Witnesses mismanaged or covered up the sexual abuse of children. This is what the Montana Supreme Court has established. The Montana woman's abuse came after the congregation's elders disciplined the man over allegations of abusing two other family members in the s and early s, the woman's lawsuit said.
The elders handled the matter internally, expelling the abuser from the congregation in and then reinstating him the next year, when the abuse of the younger victim continued, according to the lawsuit. The woman said in her lawsuit that the church shouldn't qualify for the exemption to the state reporting law because Jehovah's Witness officials testified that an elder can choose to report a child abuser to authorities under church practice.
Church attorneys said in their appeal that elders handled the allegations internally in accordance with church practices. The Supreme Court declined to look into whether the Jehovah's Witnesses tenets and doctrines are valid, or whether church officials adhered to their own standards in this case, saying in the opinion that it's not within the court's power to do so regarding a religious institution.
Shows Good Morning America. World News Tonight. This Week. The View. What Would You Do? Sections U. Virtual Reality. We'll notify you here with news about. Turn on desktop notifications for breaking stories about interest? Comments 0. US Treasury Department begins sending stimulus checks: Source. When will the country get back to normal? ABC News Live.A judge must review the penalty, and the Jehovah's Witnesses' national organization — Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York — plans to appeal.
Still, the year-old woman's attorneys said Wednesday's verdict sends a message to the church to report child abuse to outside authorities. Watchtower is pursuing appellate review," it said.
The Montana case is one of dozens that have been filed nationwide over the past decade alleging Jehovah's Witnesses mismanaged or covered up the sexual abuse of children. The case that prompted Wednesday's ruling involved two women, now 32 and 21, who allege a family member sexually abused them and a third family member in Thompson Falls in the s and s.
The women say they reported the abuse to church elders, who handled the matter internally after consulting with the national organization. The elders expelled the abuser from the congregation in then reinstated him the next year, the lawsuit states, and the abuse of the girl who is now 21 continued.
The lawsuit claimed the local and national Jehovah's Witnesses organizations were negligent and violated a Montana law that requires them to report abuse to outside authorities. Attorneys for the Jehovah's Witnesses said in court filings that Montana law exempts elders from reporting "internal ecclesiastical proceedings on a congregation member's serious sin.
The church also contended that the national organization isn't liable for the actions by Thompson Falls elders, and that too much time has passed for the women to sue.
The monetary award must be reviewed by the trial judge and could be reduced. A legal challenge to that law is pending before the Montana Supreme Court. The jury dismissed claims that the church should have reported the second woman's abuse by the same congregation member. Jurors concluded church elders did not receive notice of the year-old woman's abuse in as she said they did, and therefore did not have a duty to tell authorities. The third family member who claimed abuse was not a plaintiff in the lawsuit.
The Associated Press generally does not name people who say they are a victim of a sex crime. News Business World Sports Podcasts. Follow NBC News. Breaking News Emails Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.O'Donnell said he first testified before the grand jury for more than two hours on Aug. A former Jehovah's Witness elder testified next, O'Donnell said. O'Donnell said he testified again in December. Two others told elders in that they had been abused by the same man, according to court records, but the elders never reported it to authorities. The elders expelled the abuser from the congregation but then reinstated him, court records state.
The man continued to abuse Nunez untilaccording to the lawsuit. The defense argued in court records that the elders were exempt from Montana's mandatory child abuse reporting law because of an exception that allows clergy members to keep certain communications confidential.
The Jehovah's Witnesses appealed the case. That was not the first time the organization argued it has no duty to report suspected abuse. According to the lawsuit, the sexual abuse began when she was 2. Steele worked with law enforcement anyway. The scope of the Pennsylvania attorney general's office's investigation into the Jehovah's Witnesses is unclear. But the office has significant experience investigating sexual abuse at religious organizations.
The grand jury found that most of the allegations were now too old to be prosecuted.
Jehovah's Witnesses reportedly under investigation by Pennsylvania attorney general
But some individuals did face criminal charges. The attorney general's office charged the Rev. Sweeney pleaded guilty last year to indecent assault, court records show.
The Rev. O'Donnell said when people speak out about their experiences, it becomes easier for others to share their stories. Contact her at mkwiatko usatoday. The navigation could not be loaded.Jehovah's Witnesses. Published: 25 Dec Russian jailing of Jehovah's Witness raises persecution fears. Published: 6 Feb The movie bogeyman of the year? Fundamentalist religion. From The Miseducation of Cameron Post to Apostasy, a new generation of film-makers are railing against the strictures of scripture.
Published: 4 Sep Published: 31 Aug Daniel Kokotajlo was brought up in the Christian sect. Now his extraordinary debut film casts an acute eye on the religion he turned his back on.
Published: 15 Jul Published: 26 Mar Jehovah's Witnesses accused of silencing victims of child abuse. Published: 25 Mar Have you been affected by abuse in the Jehovah's Witness UK? Published: 8 Mar Child sexual abuse inquiry considers Jehovah's Witnesses UK investigation. Apostasy review — faith and fellowship in potent account of hidden world of Jehovah's Witnesses 4 out of 5 stars.
Published: 9 Oct Published: 26 Jul Published: 25 Apr Russia bans Jehovah's Witnesses and labels group as extremists. Published: 20 Apr Published: 4 Apr Uniting church has faced 2, reports of child sexual abuse, royal commission hears.
Published: 10 Mar Published: 9 Mar Jehovah's Witnesses charity drops attempts to block abuse inquiry. Published: 23 Jan Jehovah's Witnesses did not protect children from abuse, inquiry finds. Organisation relies on old policies, including a two-witness rule, and has weak internal sanctions that leave perpetrators at large, says royal commission. Published: 28 Nov Jehovah's Witnesses under pressure over handling of sexual abuse claims.