After the multi-million dollar verdict against Jehovah’s Witnesses in Montana was reversed, I visited the Witness-bashing website to see how they were taking it. They were not happy. However, the ones who knew law were analytical.
“This isn’t the fault of the courts,” one said. “It’s the fault of the Montana law as written. Courts must follow law or risk reversal on appeal. This case was never going to be ultimately won. The law was way too clear on the matter.”
Another: “Montana followed the law. It’s that simple and of course Watchtower followed the law...”
Yet another: “The case never should have been started, as the law clearly backed JW’s actions. It never had a chance of surviving appeal.”
They sure didn’t talk that way after the first trial. Some of their cohorts wanted to rub my nose—line by line—through that first transcript. ‘The court found your people guilty, TrueTom! Why would they do that unless they had broke the law—they who say they follow the law!’ I didn’t respond because I am not a lawyer that would try to unravel their affairs. Moreover, courts, while they may represent the best human justice available, are clearly not above bias from pre-existing philosophical leanings—if they were, confirming a Supreme Court Justice would take ten minutes. ‘Wait until the fat lady sings,’ was my attitude. When she did, it was to throw out the judgment of the skinny lady.
Not all were so retrospective after that reversal. “F**k the Montana Supreme Court!” was the outraged complaint woven throughout the thread, with some accusing those seven justices (the reversal was 7-0) of being enablers themselves! Child sexual abuse is the most white-hot topic of all and calm heads rarely prevail. One of them muttered at how they must be “celebrating this victory” at Watchtower HQ. But if so, they showed no sign of it. The Witness attorney summed up events: “There are no winners in a case involving child abuse. ‘No child should ever be subjected to such a debased crime....Tragically, it happens, and when it does Jehovah's Witnesses follow the law. This is what the Montana Supreme Court has established.’” Obviously if one is on the hook for several million dollars and then no longer is, they will not mourn over it. But the focus was kept on the victim, as it should have been. Ideally, she gets full justice from the perpetrator directly responsible.
The gold standard in matters of child sexual abuse is to “go beyond the law.” It is a crazy expectation and I can think of no parallels to it. The expectation is found in a remark already presented, but in truncated form. The full remark was: “Montana followed the law. It’s that simple and of course Watchtower followed the law, rather than just simply reporting child abuse like a good Christian organization.”
If the gold standard regarding child abuse is to “go beyond the law” then MAKE that the law! That’s what law is for! Three times before the ARC Geoffrey Jackson pleaded for such a change—it would make his job “so much easier.” ‘Going beyond the law’ is sure to trigger the wrath of those who, not unreasonably, expect you to abide by the law! Change the law and everyone is happy.
As though on cue, a report surfaced regarding another faith. An Oregon woman has filed a lawsuit for $9 million against the Mormon church because they DID report a confidentially disclosed sexual abuse of a minor. “Clergy are not required to report known or suspected child abuse if the knowledge results from a congregation member's confidential communication or confession and if the person making the statement does not consent to disclosure," Justice Beth Baker wrote in the Montana Supreme Court opinion. It is a statement that will clearly help the Oregon woman, but would not if it were not the law. Change the law if you are really serious about nabbing pedophiles.
The way everything unfolded in Montana pretty well accords with my initial assessment. So great is the world”s frustration at not being able to make a dent in the child sexual abuse pandemic that the first court chose to ignore law in pursuit of that end. It might well be combined with some religious bias, but I would not hang my hat on the latter—outrage over child sexual abuse is sufficient in itself. The Witness organization did follow law, as the Supreme Count confirmed, but the first court reinterpreted law and made it retroactive to make it seem that they did not. I wrote about it here:
Change the law! Why cannot that be done? If Watchtower wants to change a policy, they can do it overnight and have it implemented worldwide within the week. It is the basket-case eternally squabbling, turf-guarding, plethora of competing jurisdictions that cause many Witnesses to become Witnesses in the first place—they see how hopeless it is with human governments.
Ones who want to bring the Watchtower down on the pretext of child sexual abuse, such as those who predominate at the Witness bashing site, are hardly out of bullets, but they are continually frustrated. Their efforts to put Witness stories above all others gains little traction because the pattern elsewhere is that the leaders of organizations, religious or otherwise, are the abusers themselves, something rarely true with the Witness organization, and also that child sexual abuse appears to be the primary export of the planet, crowding out stories of “lesser” significance. With Watchtower (as in Montana) the situation is typically that of abuse within a family or step-family and Witness leaders come under the gun for evoking law and not reporting it, leaving that up to the persons involved—sometimes they do but often they don’t. History may well judge that harshly, but it does not hold a candle to leaders actually committing the abuse themselves. The class action suit in Quebec that I wrote about was similarly dismissed. Moreover, that contributing perception—that it is a disgrace to call attention to child sexual abuse—has been firmly put to rest among Witnesses.
The Epstein joke making the rounds is: “If you were surprised at Jeff Epstein committing suicide, just think how surprised he must have been!” Of course. With prison security protocol breaking down “at every level” and with 60 Minutes concluding that his injuries are far more consistent with homicide over suicide, the conclusion that he was put to sleep by powerful interests to protect other pedophiles will never be squashed. People are naive, but not that naive.
A DisneyLand executive was recently sentenced for pedophile offenses, and Erin Elizabeth of HealthNutNews, who has lived in the area, says it happens all too often. The point is, there is no place where child sexual abuse is not, but participants on the anti-JW site see it in only one place—a place where its intensity pales next to places where leaders are the abusers, not just ones trying to stem it who may have done so clumsily.
Thirty years into all-out war against child sexual abuse and barely a dent has been made! For my money, the JW organization is the most proactive of all, gathering every single member on earth to consider detailed scenarios in which child abuse might happen—if there are sleepovers, if there are tickling sessions, if there are unsupervised trips to the rest room, if someone, even a relative, shows unusual interest in your child, and so forth—so that parents, the obvious first line of defense, can be on the alert. This was done at the 2017 Regional Conventions, which were held globally.
It is the common and accepted legal practice to go as high up on the food chain as possible with regard to any lawsuit—everyone knows this and judges it an unremarkable fact of life. “Knew or should have known” is the legal expression that carries the day and effectively amounts to a tax on the common person. Governments raise taxes. Businesses raise prices. When I hear that my neighbor’s lawyer secured him millions of dollars for his auto accident, I rejoice with him—then I open my insurance premium bill.
As people become ever more debased, just where does this end? Women on airlines are reporting sexual abuse. Even rape has been reported, and with passengers being packed in like sardines, attendants expected to monitor this are caught dumbfounded. Do they “know or should have known?” In an increasingly depraved world, your guess is as good as mine.
As to sentiment on the Witness-bashing website? Look, whenever one discards a scenario in which there is discipline for one in which there is not, it will be like releasing a compressed spring—it rebounds wildly, delirious with its newfound freedom, caring not where it goes. This will be true when one leaves behind the school, the military, or the job. It will especially be true if one quit or was expelled from that institution—and that is the case of most on the anti-JW site. Many of them have come out as gay. Witnesses may not gay-bash as do some evangelicals, plenty of whom froth on the subject and tirelessly prod legislators to make it hot for gays in general society—Witnesses don’t do that—still, there is no place for gay sex relations within the Witness organization—and that hardly endears them to former members who have gone that way. There is a plain backdrop of ‘settling the score’ to be detected in many posts. It is anything but easy to hold the line on Bible morality in a quickly changing world.
Coverage of the original Montana trial here.