The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, interviewing from the Watchtower Kevin Bowditch, Jehovah Witness Elder.
The WATCHTOWER DEFENDANTS comprise a hierarchical organization made up of different corporations and other (including non-profit) entities. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York is the parent organization of all entities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the United States.
The “Governing Body” establishes policies and dictates practices for Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the world, and operates through various corporate entities including the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania.
Local congregations are led by Elders, Ministerial Servants and Pioneers who are appointed by the Governing Body and/or the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York Local Congregation. Elders, Ministerial Servants and Pioneers are agents of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York and the Governing Body and are required to obey and follow the rules handed down by the Governing Body and the Watchtower Society.
Through their rules and policies, the WATCHTOWER DEFENDANTS assumed a duty to protect children in their organization, including Plaintiffs. The WATCHTOWER DEFENDANTS negligently failed to exercise reasonable care in fulfilling that duty.
The WATCHTOWER DEFENDANTS undertook the responsibility to instruct their elders as to what to do when they received allegations of child sexual abuse. They promulgated policies and rules directing the elders to call the WATCHTOWER DEFENDANTS’ “Legal Department” for direction about whether to report allegations of sexual abuse to police and law enforcement. The poliCies were designed to prevent cooperation with, if not frustrate, secular investigations. Elders were sometimes instructed to make anonymous calls from telephone booths so that law enforcement authorities would be unable to contact them for more information.
The WATCHTOWER DEFENDANTS promulgated policies and rules requiring local congregations, through their elders, to investigate allegations of child sexual abuse. They enacted evidentiary and procedural rules governing the formation and operation of “judicial committees,” comprised of elders, which gathered and considered eVidence, questioned witnesses and rendered judgments about whether child sexual abuse had or had not occurred. Often these judgments were based on the “two witness rule,” which allowed allegations of child sexual abuse to be disregarded unless the perpetrator confessed or there were two eye witnesses to the crime. Additionally, the elders were instructed not to reveal to law enforcement authorities the results of their investigations.
The WATCHTOWER DEFENDANTS assumed the duty to punish organization members who were guilty of child sexual abuse. Since the allegations were often concealed from secular authorities, the perpetrators often received no punishment except for that meted out by the WATCHTOWER DEFENDANTS. Sometimes the offenders were “disfellowshipped,” or expelled from the organization. Other times their punishment was secret; they were “privately reproved” or placed on “restrictions” so that other congregation members would not know that a dangerous child abuser was in their midst.
The WATCHTOWER DEFENDANTS’ policies, which were ostensibly promulgated to protect children in the organization, emphasized secrecy above all other concerns. Victims of child sexual abuse, and their families, were routinely told not to inform secular authorities. Victims were often discouraged, if not prevented, from obtaining appropriate medical and psychological care or from confiding in their siblings or close friends. Instead, they were instructed to rely on elders for counsel.
The WATCHTOWER DEFENDANTS instructed the local congregations and elders to make written reports to the WATCHTOWER DEFENDANTS’ “Service Department” about allegations of child sexual abuse leveled against elders, ministerial servants and pioneers, as well as written reports of judicial committee actions concerning child sexual abuse allegations made against any Jehovah’s Witness. The WATCHTOWER DEFENDANTS have for years maintained files and, more recently, a computerized database containing such information. The WATCHTOWER DEFENDANTS undertook the responsibility to compile this information to protect congregation members and they therefore assumed a duty to utilize this information with reasonable care. However, despite having confidential information that would allow parents, law enforcement authorities and even elders to identify sexual predators and actually take steps to protect children, the WATCHTOWER DEFENDANTS negligently concealed this information from the persons who needed it most urgently.
The WATCHTOWER DEFENDANTS have, at all material times, had the ability to know when a “known pedophile,” a term they sometimes use, moves from one congregation to another. However, they have negligently failed to utilize the information they have compiled to monitor the movement of sexual predators through their organization and issue appropriate warnings. The WATCHTOWER DEFENDANTS promulgated rules and policies that require the former congregation to write a “letter of instruction” when a member moved to another congregation. However, the WATCHTOWER DEFENDANTS negligently failed to take any steps to ensure that such a letter was actually sent or that the letter contained accurate information and adequate warnings. If a sexual predator moved from a congregation where he was known to be a pedophile, but then moved a second time, the WATCHTOWER DEFENDANTS’ rules did not even require the first congregation’s letter to be passed along to the third congregation.
These are but a few examples of the WATCHTOWER DEFENDANTS assuming a duty to protect children in the organization but failing to exercise reasonable care in fulfilling that duty.
Candace Conti v. Watchtower
DOCUMENTS FILED IN APPEAL BY WATCHTOWER 2013
- NEW August 29, 2013 – Conti v Watchtower – Final Reply Brief of Appellant Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York – pdf
- NEW August 29, 2013 – Conti v Watchtower – Final Reply Brief of Appellant North Fremont Congregation – pdf
- June 3, 2013 – Conti v. Watchtower – Respondent’s Brief prepared by Rick Simons – A136641 (90 pages) – pdf
- March 26, 2013 – Conti v. Watchtower – Opening Brief of Appellant Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York – pdf
- March 26, 2013 – Conti v. Watchtower – Opening Brief of Appellant North Fremont Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses – pdf
- March 26, 2013 – Conti v. Watchtower – Application to File Opening Brief by Watchtower in excess of word count – pdf
- March 25, 2013 – Conti v. Watchtower – Application of Mario Moreno to Appear as Counsel for Watchtower – pdf
DOCUMENTS RELATING TO APPEAL 2012 SET
- November 26, 2012 – Conti v Watchtower – Clerk’s Notice re Certification of Record on Appeal to the Court of Appeals (full set) – pdf
- Conti v. Watchtower – $17 million Bond Security Issued by Travelers Casualty and Surety Company of America – pdf
- November 16, 2012 – Conti v. Watchtower – Court Denies Watchtower Motion to Substitute Property in Lieu of Bond – pdf
- November 8, 2012 – Conti v. Watchtower – Minutes of Motion – pdf
- November 6, 2012 – Conti v. Watchtower – Church Defendants’ Reply in Support of Motion to Substitute or Reduce Bond on Appeal – pdf
- November 1, 2012 – Conti v. Watchtower – Points and Authorities in Opposition to Watchtower Motion to Substitute Bond – pdf
- November 1, 2012 – Conti v. Watchtower – Watchtower Request to Present Oral Argument at November 8 Hearing – pdf
- October 25, 2012 – Conti v. Watchtower – Notice of Entry of Order Filed Granting Defendant Watchtower Ex Parte Application re Appeal Bond – pdf
- October 18, 2012 – Conti v. Watchtower – application by Watchtower re Hearing and Removal of Appeal Bond – pdf
- October 18, 2012 – Conti v. Watchtower – Court Order for Hearing re Removal of Appeal Bond – pdf
- October 3, 2012 – Conti v. Watchtower – Court Issued Notification of Default against Watchtower – pdf
- September 21, 2012 – Candace v. Watchtower – Bond Undertaking and Bond Security (complete set) including bond certificate for over $17 million – pdf
- September 17, 2012 – Conti v. Watchtower – Notice of Appeal – pdf
- September 17, 2012 – Conti v. Watchtower – Amended Judgment – pdf
- September 17, 2012 – Conti v. Watchtower – Amended Judgment – Declaration of Service by Mail
AUGUST 2012 – WATCHTOWER SOCIETY SEEKS NEW TRIAL
- Conti v. Watchtower – Judge Decision re Order Conditionally Granting Motion for New Trial as to Punitive Damages (new trial denied – damages amount stands) – (August 8, 2012)
- Conti v. Watchtower – Plaintiff Response in Opposition to Watch Tower Society Motion for New Trial – (August 8, 2012)
ORIGINAL CIVIL COMPLAINT CASE FILING DOCUMENTS – JANUARY 2011
- Candace Conti v. Watchtower – Civil Case Cover Sheet Filed for Jane Doe (January 28, 2011)
- Candace Conti v. Watchtower – Complaint – Other PI-PD-WD Tort Filed (January 28, 2011)
- Candace Conti v. Watchtower – Summons on Complaint Issued and Filed (January 28, 2011)
JURY TRIAL TRANSCRIPTS
- Jury Trial Day 1 – Candace Conti v. Watchtower – May 29, 2012
- Jury Trial Day 2 – Candace Conti v. Watchtower – May 30, 2012
- Jury Trial Day 3 – Candace Conti v. Watchtower – May 31, 2012
- Jury Trial Day 4 – Candace Conti v. Watchtower – June 4, 2012
- Jury Trial Day 5 – Candace Conti v. Watchtower – June 5, 2012
- Jury Trial Day 6 – Candace Conti v. Watchtower – June 6, 2012
- Jury Trial Day 7 – Candace Conti v. Watchtower – June 11, 2012
- Jury Trial Day 8 – Candace Conti v. Watchtower – June 12, 2012
- Jury Trial Day 9 – Candace Conti v. Watchtower – June 13, 2012
- Jury Trial Day 10 – Candace Conti v. Watchtower – June 14, 2012
- North Fremont Congregation Elders letter to WTBTS RE: Kendrick and child abuse, and reply from WTBTS (1993)
- Court Documents (26 and 72) RE: Court Order Freezing $1 billion of Watch Tower Society assets
- Jehovah’s Witnesses Official Press Release, June 20, 2012 RE: Appeal
- Jehovah’s Witnesses Official Press Release: Protecting Children from Abuse
Candace Conti v. Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York & North Fremont Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Alameda County, California
“Plaintiff Jane Doe (Candace Conti) was nine years old when the elders of defendant North Fremont Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (“Congregation”) repeatedly assigned her to participate with Jonathan Kendrick, a man known to them as a child molester, in the Congregation’s door-to-door ministry known as “field service.” For nearly two years, Kendrick took advantage of this opportunity, taking Candace to his home where he repeatedly sexually abused her. ”
The Watchtower’s Religious Freedom
Defendants also argue that the affirmative duty imposed by the trial court impinges on their religious freedom. However, it is well established that a religious organization cannot insulate itself from liability by designating legally-proscribed conduct as “religious belief.”
There are limits the Watchtower can take in applying the first amendment:
The Court of Appeal rejected the arguments, observing that the
- freedom to believe is absolute, but the freedom to act is not.“‘Conduct remains subject to regulation to protect society.’”
- does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability on the basis that to do so would violate a religious belief. (RCALA, supra, 131 Cal. App. 4th at p. 430.) The First Amendment, the court said, Ibid .)
Reviewing United States Supreme Court cases, the neutral and general applicability do not require justification by a compelling state interest. (become “a law unto himself” by designating otherwise proscribed conduct as religious belief. (Id. at p. 431.); law does not permit (Id. at pp. 431-432.)
The DefenseE. Defendants Give Improbable And Conflicting Reasons For Their Policy Of Keeping Child Abuse Secret.Defendants proffered a number of justifications in support of their policy of keeping secret from Congregation members the fact that there was a known child molester among them.
Even though defendants viewed parents as the primary protectors against child abuse (3 RT 167), and even though they knew child molesters operated in secret and could be difficult to identify (3 RT 168, 258, 259; 4 RT 436), they nevertheless took the improbable position that knowing the identity of a child molester would not place parents in a better position to protect their children (3 RT 165, 168, 169; 4 RT 438).
Elder Lamerdin testified:
Q. …Wouldn’t the parents be able to make a better decision of who to trust to take their child somewhere if they knew that one member of the congregation was a known child molester?
A. I would have to say no.
Elder Abrahamson took the position that providing parents with the traits and warning signs of child molesters was just as effective as telling them a molester’s actual identity:
Q. And so the best way to allow parents to protect their children in the congregation is to identify for them the individuals who are positively identified already as having sexually molested a child.Don’t you agree?
A. How about identifying the traits of individuals. And you can look at a person, and if he shows those traits, and then you have a suspicion, don’t let your child go with that. If you have a suspicion, you are under no obligation to let your child go with that person.
Q. Well, from the last Awake Magazine that we looked at, we know that one of those traits might be they are a pleasant, well-liked church group leader?
A. That’s true. That has happened.
Q. Wouldn’t it have been much more helpful to the parents in the congregation to know what to look for with Jonathan Kendrick and to protect their own children if they knew that he had sexually molested a child?
A. I think this information gives them good ammunition ( the AWAKE ) to look at individuals to see how they line up to these situations, and if they would want to trust their children with them. And they can make a call on that.