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. (Read more child sex abuse stories.)