Jehovah's Witnesses Paying $4K a Day to Shield Records

Court order levies penalty for each day it doesn't turn over documents about alleged abuse
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 17, 2017 9:14 AM CST
Jehovah's Witnesses Paying $4K a Day to Shield Records
In this Dec. 9, 2015, photo, the iconic Watchtower sign is seen on the roof of the current world headquarters of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Brooklyn, NY.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

The Jehovah's Witnesses have a $2 million tab with the state of California that's growing by $4,000 every day, all because the group won't hand over internal documents that detail alleged child sex abuse in its congregations. Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting explains: San Diego man Osbaldo Padron claims he was sexually abused as a child in the 1990s by an adult congregation member and filed suit against the Jehovah's Witnesses for not interceding and continuing to promote the man. The San Diego Union-Tribune reports the church allegedly knew in 1982 that Gonzalo Campos had molested a child; Campos later admitted to abusing at least eight kids between that year and 1995 (he fled to Mexico in 2010). Padron wants internal documents that he believes show a pattern, and the church won't hand them over, in violation of a court order.

Hence the $4,000 daily penalty; the order was upheld on appeal last week. Reveal offers details on internal documents it was able to obtain, which reach back three decades and include a 1989 letter sent to all congregations from HQ, known as the Watchtower, noting that elders "must be careful not to divulge information about personal matters to unauthorized personnel." A 1997 letter decried molestation but instructed on how to handle a "former child molester" moving to a new congregation: send a letter about any "needed cautions" in a "Special Blue" envelope to the new congregation's elders, but "this letter should not be read to or discussed with the congregation." The Union-Tribune notes that Watchtower has complained the court order is overly burdensome and broad, and has heavily redacted the documents it has handed over. (More child sex abuse stories.)

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