Psychology, Religion

Christian = Love

America's Most Wanted Pedophile former Watchtower's Jehovah's Witness Frederick McLean

America’s Most Wanted Pedophile former Watchtower’s Jehovah’s Witness Frederick McLean

A Pedophile’s Paradise Fredrick McLean, a former member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization, is wanted for sexual assaults on multiple children entrusted to his care over a 20 year period.

Frederick McLean, 57, was charged in San Diego Superior Court in January of 2005 of four counts of child molestation and one count of lewd and lascivious acts with a child under the age of 14. Investigations into the assaults found that McLean lures his victims into trusting him, and then uses that trust to molest and manipulate his victims. Investigators have identi ed numerous victims and believe McLean may be seeking new victims. McLean has been described as being very intelligent and methodical; planning everything he does to the smallest detail. He may have over $100,000 in cash at his disposal. McLean may have changed his appearance to aid in his  ight from justice. Investigators say McLean is considered armed and dangerous.

Is Frederick McLean hiding in your spiritual paradise?

“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

Yesterday morning I woke to a joke on Facebook. It was one of those someecards style quips:

“So the new pope thinks gay adoption is child abuse. Well, you want to know what I think is child abuse? Priests molesting little boys and the Vatican covering it up.”

The graphic was accompanied by his message: “Ponder THIS if you dare……..”

“So the new Pope thinks gay adoption is child abuse… Well, you know what I think is child abuse? Witnesses molesting little girls and the Watchtower covering it up.”

I did just that, and then I responded with a comment. I actually don’t recall what I said, though it was a rebuke. (2 Timothy 4:2)

This morning I woke, while I still lay in bed I ended up checking Facebook where the post was the last page loaded. It refreshed to show 10 likes, 2 comments, and neither of them mine.

Hmmm… I thought. Honestly? You added me on Facebook, and then you remove my comment when you apparently decide that my opinion isn’t as worthy of circulation as your manufactured joke by “Rotten eCards“? I recall a story about something once that also wentright off a cliff” (see original image below)…

I responded with the comments (original screenshot below) which were immediately removed, and Don took the option I offered—You can either remove me as a ‘friend’, or your post, but removing my comment is like swatting at a bee—of removing me as a ‘friend’ on Facebook.

Watchtower Pedophilia

“While you are laughing at your universally unchristian jokes, please recall that we have America’s most wanted raping Jehovah’s Witnesses [children] out here in California.”

1994

It was 1994 in New Jersey and seven year old Megan had just finished first grade. Her neighbor offered to show her a puppy luring her into his home and subsequently raped Megan, who was slammed onto a dresser, suffocated and strangled to death with a belt. He moved her body to his truck, assaulting her a further time before placing the body in a wooden toy chest and dumping it in nearby park. The next day, he confessed to investigators and led police to the site.

It turns out Megan lived across the street in her suburban split-level house cul-de-sac neighborhood from not one, but three sex offenders. Her parents had no idea until it was too late.

In response to immediate national outcry Megan’s Law was enacted which requires law enforcement to disclose details relating to the location of registered sex offenders.

Meanwhile across the country in a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in California… Nine-year-old Candace Conti was molested, the abuse continued over the next two years.

Her molester, Jonathan Kendrick, was a known child molester because he had been convicted by the authorities for the sexual abuse of another child two years earlier.

Watchtower Legal Department

Watchtower Legal Department

Kendrick’s sex offender record was also known by the elders of the Fremont California Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, but they did nothing to protect the congregation’s children, including young Candace because they kept what they knew about him secret.

Watchtower Spiritual Confidentiality Privilege for Sexual Abuse Claims

Watchtower Spiritual Confidentiality Privilege for Sexual Abuse Claims

The Watchtower removed Kendrick from his position as a theocratically appointed ministerial servant, however the congregation was not notified that Kendrick was a known sex offender.

The elders followed the Watchtower policy to keep sex abuse allegations secret.

So, as far as I can tell for two years they were “keeping an eye on Kendrick” while Kendrick was abusing Candace.

The Watchtower policy caused information to be withheld from the very people who could have prevented the abuse of Candace—her parents.

Candace’s family and the congregation didn’t know their friend and brother, Jonathan Kendrick, was a known sexual predator.

 

2011

In 2011, Candace now 25 years old, sued the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York for keeping the reports of child sex abusers within Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations secret.

“For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, neither hidden that will not be made known and come into the open.”

Watchtower Letter to Elders 1989

Watchtower Letter to Elders 1989

During the Conti trial in June 2012 the 1989 Watchtower policy letter to elders was introduced. That letter was a major factor in determining the outcome of the trial because it stated that certain matters, including child abuse, were to be kept confidential to avoid lawsuits and financial penalties.

Also sued were three elders in the Fremont Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses on the basis that their loyalty to the religious organization [The Watchtower] kept the elders from “doing the right thing”. In their defense they claimed they did their duty towards Candace by “keeping an eye on Kendrick.”

Jonathan Kendrick: No contact with minors, no involvement with youth programs, and no visiting places minors regularly attend. 

However, the Fremont elders did not inform parents so they could protect their children by also “keeping an eye on Kendrick.”

“I sincerely believe that Watchtower does not need to be punished by another monetary award. Why is that? Ms. Conti said she wanted to change policies. That’s why she brought this suit. And we feel bad for Ms. Conti. But I can assure you, and I can assure her, that Watchtower’s policies continue to evolve. And I can safely say that, with her verdict yesterday, Ms. Conti has succeeded. I encourage you to award no punitive damages in this case.”

The jury awarded Ms. Conti $21M in punitive damages.

The Watchtower wasn’t found guilty of failing to report molestation.

The Watchtower was found guilty of negligence, malice, and child endangerment. 

Don, you may only know my immediate family who are Jehovah Witnesses, but I have many many more family members, and the majority are part of the universal christian church — my aunt is a nun, and my family is Catholic.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.”

Catholic is an interesting word, it simply means “universal”.

“But whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridles not his tongue, but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”

Second, the Watchtower has had a long history of proclaiming itself as the one true religion on earth, setting itself apart from all other religion as ‘false religion’—at the same time as Jehovah’s Witnesses have hand delivered magazines door-to-door condemning the Catholic Church for pedophilia.

“As a result of your decision to quit practicing false religion, some may choose to stop associating with you. By serving [God] with his people, however, you will gain far more than you could ever lose. Like Jesus’ early disciples who left other things to follow him, you will come to have many spiritual brothers and sisters. You will become part of a large worldwide family of millions of true Christians, who show you genuine love Perhaps in time, those who abandoned you because of your beliefs will look into what the Bible teaches and become worshipers of [God].” — The Watchtower, emphasis and edit mine.

As detailed in the closing argument for the Watchtower pedophilia case here where I live in California:

“The Jehovah’s Witnesses Church is not the Catholic Church, that it has had verdict after verdict after verdict over the years. This is the first verdict that the Jehovah’s Witnesses church has faced. So, again, it is not the Catholic Church with multitudes of cases over a couple of decades.”

“Let us not lose heart in doing good … while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.”

The lawyer argued this was the first verdict ever against the Watchtower, but that is simply because they have a history of settling pedophilia cases instead of going before the court. For more information on this, instead of looking at the Conti case here in SF where I live, head down to SD where I used to live and read the details added at the bottom of this comment.

Don, I take it none of your children was ever placed in the care of a pedophile in the congregation? Meet Travis Foote who, with his wife, baby sat us kids.

But this isn’t about me, nor about an isolated incident. This is about the pot calling the kettle black, and the love of the greater number cooling off…

Let’s talk about lovely La Jolla where I used to live. While my momma would talk about her pedophile’s spiritual paradise, I lived in a place that reminded me that there is no such thing as a spiritual paradise… not even by the Watchtower’s own definition:

Can you see why associating with a community of individuals who strive to cultivate such qualities would indeed be like being in paradise? The spiritual paradise foretold by the prophet Zephaniah would exist among such people. He said: “They will do no unrighteousness, nor speak a lie, nor will there be found in their mouths a tricky tongue; for they themselves will feed and actually lie stretched out, and there will be no one making them tremble.”—Zephaniah 3:13. — The Watchtower, March 2001

Let us consider La Jolla’s Jewel, Jehovah’s Witness Gonzalo Campos

Gonzalo Campos was raised by his mother, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

  1. 1980 Baptized Publisher When Gonzalo was 17, he was baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness and became a publisher.
  2. 1982 Accused In 1982, when Campos was 19, the body of elders of the La Jolla Congregation discussed a molestation accusation made against him by a child and his mother in the La Jolla congregation to various congregation elders. Two elders investigated; They did not form a judicial committee because Campos denied the complaint and there were not the required “two witnesses” to the molestation as the only witness was the victim. Nothing further was done.
  3. 1983 Sex Abuse and a Free Home Bible Study Then Campos, when he was 20, was conducting a Bible study with a boy, age 6. Campos also molested this boy until he was 8. [Request a Free Bible Study via JW.org.]
  4. 1988 Ministerial Servant Five years later in 1988 Campos was made a ministerial servant. This though there had been dealings with him over accusations of molestation and he had been “reproved” in the years from 1986-1988.
  5. 1993 Elder Campos was made an elder.
  6. 1995 Disfellowshipped Campos was disfellowshipped June 9, 1995
  7. 2000 Reinstated Campos reinstated, April 21, 2000.
  8. 2010 Law Suit On May 20, 2010, a lawsuit was filed in San Diego, California. Defendant, the Watchtower of NY, settled out-of-court for an unknown amount of money with the Plaintiffs just weeks before the Candace Conti trial began at the end of May 2012 in Alameda, California.
  9. 2011 Deposed Campos presently resides in Mexico, address known because he was deposed in Zona Rio, Tijuana Border Control Mexico on September 2, 2011.

Campos molested at least seven children, six male and one female and tried to molest two more.

Watchtower Commentary

Watchtower March 2011 “Watching the World”: The “credibility gap” caused by the Catholic Church’s “mismanagement of the clergy sex abuse crisis” has resulted in its “largest institutional crisis in centuries, possibly in church history.”—NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER, U.S.A.

Things From Which We Must Flee—

Watchtower June 15, 2008: Additional “disgusting things”include acts of pedophilia and other forms of sexual immoralitycommitted by clergymen and tolerated by the church authorities.  Is it any wonder that Jehovah God will soon rid this earth of false religion?Rev. 18:8. — w08 6/15 pp. 7-11

Pointing Fingers—

Watchtower January 8, 2005 “Watching the World” Church Doors Closing: The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, U.S.A., has announced that it will close 65 of its 357 parishes—almost one fifth of the total. Some 60 churches and 120 related buildings will be sold. According to The New York Times, this restructuring is “caused partly by declining attendance and increased financial problems that were worsened by the sexual abuse crisis among clergy members.” The newspaper quotes R. Scott Appleby, director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism at Notre Dame University, as saying that “the scandal has put a drain on the financial resources of the archdiocese” to such an extent that it cannot “keep parishes afloat.”

Watchtower December 8, 2005 “Watching the World” Catholic Dioceses Bankrupt: By the end of 2004, three Catholic dioceses in the United States had filed for bankruptcy. All three were forced to take this step because of the financial costs of clergy sexual abuse scandals. A number of dioceses have talked about the possibility of having to file for bankruptcy, but the first to do so was the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, in July 2004. That action halted two lawsuits in which plaintiffs were seeking a total of $155 million in compensation for molestation. According to the National Catholic Reporter, “the archdiocese and its insurers already have paid more than $53 million to settle more than 130 claims by people who say they were abused by priests.” In September 2004, the diocese of Tucson, Arizona, became the second diocese to seek bankruptcy protection from multimillion dollar claims being brought against it. The diocese of Spokane, Washington, became the third, in December 2004.

Are You Truly Tolerant?

“Of course, we need to avoid being overly tolerant. For instance, terrible damage is done when religious authorities tolerate abusive priests who persistently molest boys and girls. “Treating the children as occasions of sin,” commented one reporter in Ireland, “the church authorities merely moved on the offending priest [to another location].”

Is just transferring such a man an example of proper tolerance? Hardly! Suppose a medical body allowed an irresponsible surgeon to continue operating, transferring him from one hospital to another, even though he was killing or maiming his patients. A mistaken sense of professional loyalty might produce such “tolerance.” But what about the victims whose lives were lost or adversely affected because of negligent or even criminal practices?” — Watchtower July 15, 2001

Summary

The Jehovah’s Witnesses have settled nine lawsuits alleging church policies protected men who sexually abused children for many years,” reports NBC News. Frederick McLean is one of the most-wanted fugitives in the United States, charged with 17 counts of child sexual abuse in California.  Law enforcement sources say that when a victim’s family confronted McLean in 2004, he allegedly confessed.  But before he could be arrested, McLean fled.

Authorities identified at least eight victims that McLean allegedly abused over the course of nearly a decade.  One victim estimated McLean molested her “over 100 times,”according to the U.S. Marshals Service.  Deputy Marshal Thomas Maranda, who is leading the hunt for the 56-year-old fugitive, says McLean gained the trust of many of his victims through his leadership position, as a so-called ministerial servant, in his local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses near San Diego.

“His role in the church was significant,” Maranda explains, “because we believe that his participation in the church gave him access to his victims.”

His role in the church also became a matter of legal controversy.  Last year, some victims’ families filed suit against the Jehovah’s Witnesses, alleging that both McLean’s local congregation and the church’s national headquarters, the Watchtower Society, “knew, or should have known, that Frederick McLean was a pedophile.”

The Jehovah’s Witnesses recently agreed to pay to settle that lawsuit and eight other similar caseswithout admitting wrongdoingThe cases all involved men the church allegedly knew had sexually abused children.  The settlements for those cases are confidential and filed under seal.

 

Conclusion

“Now no one after lighting a lamp covers it over with a container, or puts it under a bed; but he puts it on a lampstand, so that those who come in may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not become evident, nor anything secret that will not be known and come to light. So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him.”

And His mother and brothers came to Him, and they were unable to get to Him because of the crowd. And it was reported to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see you.”

But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and heard from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.”

#conticase

 

Intentional Torts

Church responsible for pedophile parishioner: victim

(P) $28,000,001.00
Sexual Assault, Intentional Torts – Sexual Battery, Worker/Workplace Negligence – Negligent Supervision
Jane Doe v. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., The Watchtower and Bible Tract Society of Pennsylvania, The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jehovah’s Witnesses on Peralta Blvd. Fremont, Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jonathan Kendrick, No. HG11558324
Superior Court of Alameda County, Hayward, CA
Robert McGuiness
06-14-2012

Plaintiff(s)

Attorney(s):
  • Kelly Kraetsch; Furtado, Jaspovice & Simons; Hayward, CA, for Jane Doe
  • Rick Simons; Furtado, Jaspovice & Simons; Hayward, CA, for Jane Doe
Expert(s):
  • Carl Lewis; Child Abuse; Half Moon Bay, CA called by: Rick Simons, Kelly Kraetsch
  • Anna Salter; Child Abuse & Neglect; Madison, WI called by: Rick Simons, Kelly Kraetsch
  • Lynn Ponton M.D.; Psychiatry called by: Rick Simons, Kelly Kraetsch

Defendant(s)

Attorney(s):
  • James M. McCabe; The McCabe Law Firm, APC; San Diego, CA, for North Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses
  • Robert J. Schnack; Jackson Lewis LLP; Sacramento, CA, for The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
  • None reported; null, null, for Jehovah’s Witnesses on Peralta Blvd. Fremont, Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, The Watchtower and Bible Tract Society of Pennsylvania
Expert(s):
  • Monica Applewhite; Child Abuse & Neglect; Austin, TX called by: James McCabe, Robert Schnack

Facts

During 1995 and 1996, the female plaintiff, then between the ages of 9 and 10, was a member of the North Fremont Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, when she was allegedly molested multiple times by a fellow congregant, Jonathan Kendrick.

The victim sued Kendrick; The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York Inc. North Fremont Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses; and additional governing bodies within the church, including The Watchtower and Bible Tract Society of Pennsylvania; The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses; Jehovah’s Witnesses on Peralta Blvd. Fremont; and Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses; alleging that Kendrick’s actions constituted sexual assault and battery and that the co-defendants provided negligent supervision by failing to protect the child.

All defendants except The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York Inc., North Fremont Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Kendrick were discontinued against prior to trial.

Kendrick, who in 1993 acted as a ministerial servant, was convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery in 1994 stemming from a 1993 incident where he touched his 15-year-old step-daughter’s breasts. He was immediately removed from his ministerial servant post, to which he never returned. He was never charged criminally with the incident involving the plaintiff, but was convicted of lewd and lascivious acts with a child in 2004.

The plaintiff contended that she was often molested in Kendrick’s home following church functions. She contended that on several occasions, she had been driven by Kendrick from the church to Kendrick’s home, and then either driven to her home or back to the church. She contended that many times at church functions, Kendrick acted inappropriately with her, including giving her bear-hugs and having her sit on his lap. She further argued that the church was aware of Kendrick’s 1994 conviction, but failed to notice the congregation or take preventative actions to keep Kendrick from children.

The plaintiff argued that church elders had met with the prior victim and her mother, so church officials were aware of the 1993 incident. Plaintiff’s counsel further argued that the church had instituted and followed a corporate ‘policy of secrecy’ regarding any abuses perpetrated by members. Plaintiff’s counsel specifically noted a July 1, 1989, corporate policy letter, which said to keep all personal information secret, especially information mentioning sexual abuse of a child.

Witnesses for the plaintiff testified that they’d seen Kendrick act inappropriately with the plaintiff during church events.

The plaintiff’s expert on child abuse opined that, by the mid-1990s, all churches in the country had a policy instructing officials to report incidents of child abuse, and that it was against the standard of care for an organization not to have a similar policy. The plaintiff’s abuse investigation expert opined that many children delay in reporting abuse and often report the information somewhat incorrectly when they do report it.

The church contended that they were not liable, as Kendrick was not a church official, but only a rank and file member of the church and none of the alleged incidents happened during church functions or on church grounds.

The church also contended that it did not have a ‘policy of secrecy’, and that no organization (secular or religious) serving youth has a practice of announcing allegations of child sex abuse against its members. The church also argued that the only a single paragraph of the 1989 letter addressed child sex abuse, and that the letter only stressed confidentiality in personal matters because many churches were facing slander lawsuits; therefore the letter did not constitute a “policy of secrecy.” The church further contended that the policy of confidentiality is also required by their religion.

The defense further contended that the church acted appropriately after learning of Kendrick’s 1993 incident, as he was removed from his ministerial servant post; elders admonished him to stay away from children and watched him closely at church events; and told the victim and her mother they had the right to report the incident to the authorities.

The church also argued that the plaintiff’s parents, the Fremont Police Department and Child Protective services were partially liable, as the victim testified she was always with at least one parent when she went to church and all church functions, and that the police and Child Protective Services never notified the church of the investigation or conviction despite knowing that Kendrick was a church member. The church further noted that it did not separate children from their parents, as it did not hold bible classes, Sunday school, retreats or summer school camps.

The defense argued that she could not have been taken to his home multiple times as she had alleged, because records show that Kendrick only lived alone for about three weeks in October 1996. Therefore she must have been lying or not accurately remembering the incidents.

Nine witnesses, including the plaintiff’s parents, three church elders, four mothers and grandmothers — all congregation members — testified that they did not see any abuse, suspicious activity or the plaintiff leaving alone with him in his vehicle after church. Some indicated they would have notified authorities if they had.

The church’s expert on child abuse opined that no religious groups were reporting child sex abuse during the mid-1990s, therefore it was not against the standard of practice for the church to not report Kendrick’s prior incident.

The defendants filed motions to allow the jury to consider apportioning liability against non-parties, including the plaintiff’s parents, the police and local child protective services. The motion was denied.

Injury

The plaintiff claimed that she suffers from chronic anxiety, depression and severe post-traumatic stress disorder that led to alcohol and drug abuse. She first reported the alleged incidents to a doctor in 2006, and began treating with psychological counseling in 2010. She claimed that she needs an intensive care program that would cost $160,000. The plaintiff’s expert psychiatrist opined that the plaintiff was severely affected by the abuse and had severe depression, anxiety and PTSD. She also sought recovery for past and future pain and suffering and punitive damages.

Plaintiff’s counsel maintained that the defendants’ corporate assets to be $30 million in cash and approximately $1 billion in real estate, and asked the jury to award $21 million in punitive damages.

Verdict

The jury found for the plaintiff and awarded her $28,000,001. The jury found 60 percent liability against Kendrick, 27 percent liability against the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York and 13 percent liability to North Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Fremont. The punitive damages apply only to the corporate defendants.

The Watchtower: Pedophiles Paradise & America’s Most Wanted

The following is an article reprint by Lisa Myers and Richard Greenberg, NBC News Investigative Unit

updated 11/21/2007 5:43:14 PM ET

Frederick McLean is one of the most-wanted fugitives in the United States, charged with 17 counts of child sexual abuse in California.  Law enforcement sources say that when a victim’s family confronted McLean in 2004, he allegedly confessed.  But before he could be arrested, McLean fled.

Authorities identified at least eight victims that McLean allegedly abused over the course of nearly a decade.  One victim estimated McLean molested her “over 100 times,” according to the U.S. Marshals Service.  Deputy Marshal Thomas Maranda, who is leading the hunt for the 56-year-old fugitive, says McLean gained the trust of many of his victims through his leadership position, as a so-called ministerial servant, in his local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses near San Diego.

“His role in the church was significant,” Maranda explains, “because we believe that his participation in the church gave him access to his victims.”

His role in the church also became a matter of legal controversy.  Last year, some victims’ families filed suit against the Jehovah’s Witnesses, alleging that both McLean’s local congregation and the church’s national headquarters, the Watchtower Society, “knew, or should have known, that Frederick McLean was a pedophile.”

The Jehovah’s Witnesses recently agreed to pay to settle that lawsuit and eight other similar cases, without admitting wrongdoing.   The cases all involved men the church allegedly knew had sexually abused children.  The settlements for those cases are confidential and filed under seal.

Frederick McLean

However, NBC News has obtained a copy of one of the settlements from the McLean lawsuit, and it may offer an indication of the potential magnitude of the payouts. According to the court record, the church agreed to pay $781,250 to the accuser, who claimed McLean abused her from age 3 to age 9.  (After legal fees and other costs, the accuser was set to receive approximately $530,000.)

Lawyers for the plaintiffs declined to comment.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses did not comment specifically on any of the lawsuits, but issued a statement to NBC News: “For the sake of the victims in these cases, we are pleased that a settlement has been reached.  Our hearts go out to all those who suffer as a result of child abuse.  Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide are united in their abhorrence of this sin and crime.” [Click here for the complete statement.]

Internal records now coming to light from the settled lawsuits may help explain why the church agreed to settle the cases.  Documents show that the church knew for years that some prominent members were sexually abusing children and did little.  Church officials allegedly became aware of several of the cases in question through what amount to internal judicial proceedings, at which local elders confronted suspected abusers, obtained confessions, then meted out punishments.

James Henderson, for example, was a longtime Jehovah’s Witness elder in Red Bluff, California – and a serial molester.  The newly uncovered documents include a 1994 letter from a senior regional church official to headquarters stating that Henderson was sanctioned by the church, stripped of a leadership position, “in the early ‘70’s” in another California town.  “Now he has admitted to doing it again,” the letter states.  In the late 1980s, according to another internal church document, a local elder dismissed allegations that Henderson had been sexually abusing a young boy: “There was no way it could be true so it was forgotten.”

James Henderson

By October 1994, Henderson was Presiding Overseer – the top elder – in his congregation.  After a father of one of his victims confronted him, according to church records, Henderson confessed to other elders preemptively, although he said he had stopped molesting the boy more than three years earlier.  That was significant, because, at the time, the church apparently had a policy of waiving sanctions if a sinner was repentant and the sin had occurred at least three years earlier.

In spite of Henderson’s confession, the elders did not inform California authorities.  (In 1994, California law did not yet mandate that clergy report suspected abuse; the law changed in 1997).  Instead, they conducted their own inquiry, apparently while Henderson and his wife were on vacation.  A few weeks later, elders reported they found “irregularities” in Henderson’s story, and confronted him a second time.  Henderson admitted molesting the victim “one and one half years ago.”  He also admitted “paying restitution for a similar offense” in the early 1970s.

The elders decided to remove Henderson as Presiding Overseer and “publicly reproved” him, announcing to the congregation that he had committed a sin, without disclosing the details.  Still, they did not go to authorities.

But then the victim’s family did.

While police were investigating, church officials questioned Henderson yet again.  He confessed to molesting other children, including his own son, according to a church document.  At that point, Henderson was excommunicated.  In the meantime, law enforcement authorities contacted the local elders, who at that point apparently cooperated in the investigation.

On December 14, 1994, Henderson was arrested.  In 1995, he pleaded guilty to three counts of sexual abuse and was sentenced to four years, four months in prison.   By 1998, he was out on parole and, according to church correspondence, attending another Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation.

Alvin Heard

Like Henderson, Alvin Heard was also a member of a Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation in Red Bluff, California and was also excommunicated – “disfellowshipped” – for molesting children.  In Heard’s case, records show the church first learned of the abuse in 1981, when the local congregation sent a letter to the national headquarters explaining that Heard was kicked out after he admitted sexually abusing three children, whose “ages range from five nine and eleven years.”

In a deposition filed as part of the recent civil lawsuits, Heard admitted confessing to church elders in the late 1980s that he had molested four more young children.  His punishment that time: “private reproval.”  In other words, church elders chastised him privately, but never told other members of the congregation, according to the deposition.  Again, it appears, the church did not pass the information to police or child welfare authorities.

In the 1990s, Heard moved to South Dakota.  In his deposition, he said he told church elders there that he had a history of child molestation. They, too, apparently kept his secret.

By 2003, Heard had moved to Oregon, where he molested yet again.  In January 2004, he was indicted for sexually abusing a five-year-old boy.  He pleaded guilty and currently is serving six years, three months in prison.  Through the prison warden’s office, Heard declined to be interviewed.

In all, the nine settled lawsuits involved 16 victims and eight alleged abusers, all of whom – except Frederick McLean – have been criminally convicted.  Among them: Larry Kelley, a television personality and children’s entertainer in Amarillo, Texas; and Timothy Silva, who reportedly taught “adolescent book studies” at a congregation in Woodland, California.  The church allegedly knew of Silva’s problem as early as 1987, according to one of the lawsuits, but still allowed him to work with children.

Timothy Silva

Barbara Anderson, a former church member and a vocal critic of the organization on this issue, contends that Jehovah’s Witnesses policies “protect pedophiles rather than protect the children.”  Anderson recently compiled documents from the lawsuits on a CD titled “Secrets of Pedophilia in an American Religion.”

Anderson says she first focused on the controversy in the early 1990s when she worked at the Watchtower Society headquarters in Brooklyn and was assigned to deal with letters from church members complaining of abuse.  While conducting that research, she says she discovered that in its internal proceedings against accused molesters, the church applies a biblically based “two-witness” rule.  “They require another witness to the actual molestation,” Anderson says, “which is an impossibility.”

Anderson also claims that she discovered the church headquarters kept track of sexual abuse cases in confidential files.

The recent lawsuits produced evidence that the headquarters did keep internal records of abuse reports submitted by local congregations.  The court filings include a church form called a Child Abuse Telememo.  “Just thinking that they had a memo made up, printed up that says ‘Child Abuse Telememo,’” Anderson says, “indicates to me that they were handling this a lot.  Because why make up a form for it?”

The Telememo appears to be a questionnaire to guide officials at headquarters who receive phone calls from local elders.  It includes boxes to check as to whether the alleged incident took place in a “reporting state” – where clergy by law must report suspected abuse – or in a “nonreporting state.”  In reporting states, the form instructs officials to advise local elders “to make an anonymous phone report from a neutral location, such as a phone booth.”

The church consistently has maintained that it follows all laws on reporting suspected child abuse.  Those laws are complex.  According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 25 states specifically mandate that clergy report suspected abuse; but 21 of those states recognize exemptions for “pastoral communications.”  Another 16 states have blanket reporting laws, which cover “any person” and may be interpreted as including clergy; seven of those states also grant pastoral privilege.  [Click here for a state-by-state review of reporting laws.]

In its statement to NBC, the Jehovah’s Witnesses said it does “not condone or protect child molesters.  Our elders expel unrepentant sinners who commit this crime.”  According to the church, “the incidence of this crime among Jehovah’s Witnesses is rare.”  The statement said the organization does “not silence victims” and “members have an absolute right to report his horrible crime to the authorities.”  The church has issued many publications about child abuse, including the cover story in the October issue of its magazine, Awake.  “These articles clearly show our concern for protecting children from sexual abuse,” the church said in its statement.

In the meantime, Frederick McLean remains on the run. The U.S. Marshals Service says he should be considered “armed and dangerous, and possibly suicidal.”

Speaking up for righteousness sake...

 

 

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