$3 Billion Jehovah’s Witnesses Class Action Over Child Abuse

JW NEWS | AUSTRALIA

| February 1, 2013 | Report | jwnews.org |

A $3 Billion class action lawsuit is being launched in Australia on behalf of up to 6,160 children within the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Documents relating to the class action reveal over 14,000 serious criminal breaches of mandatory child protection laws, committed against these children by elders and “ministers of religion” within the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses over the past 4 years.

The Victorian government “Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and other Organisations” is currently investigating the allegations, and is expected to hold a closed hearing in relation to the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses on February 18, 2013.

NEWS LINK: The Age newspaper | Child in Jehovah’s Witness Court Bid

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JW Survivors – a victim advocacy group for survivors of the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses within Australia – is currently bringing together the final elements needed to launch a class action lawsuit on behalf of up to 6,160 victims of criminal child abuse committed within the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the State of Victoria, Australia, directly in relation to criminal breaches of the Working with Children Act 2005, and primarily committed against these children by the church between July 1, 2008 and December 12, 2011. Full compliance with the working with children laws became mandatory for all “religious organisations” on July 1, 2008.

LINK: Department of Justice Working with Children web site

On July 26, 2011, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia, were formally charged in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria with the committing of criminal offences, against children within the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses, by their wilful and ongoing refusal to comply with mandatory child protection laws, as legislated in the Victorian Working with Children Act 2005. (Case No’s: B12083527, B12083108, and B12082206 respectively.) The period of non-compliance, as documented in the Charge Sheets, covered from July 1, 2008, through to July 22, 2011.

DOWNLOAD: Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses – Charge Sheet and Summons – Magistrates’ Court of Victoria, Australia – July 2011 – pdf

NEWS LINK: Herald Sun newspaper | Former Jehovah’s Witness taking on Watch Tower

The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses refused to answer the Summons to appear in Court on September 13, 2011, either in person or by legal counsel. The Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses also refused to answer the Summons to appear in Court. They were summoned to appear again on October 11, 2011. They failed to appear or to send legal counsel. A third time they were summoned to appear in the Magistrates’ Court on November 9, 2011. They again failed to appear or to send legal counsel. A fourth time they were summoned to appear on December 6, 2011. Yet again they failed to appear or to send legal counsel. A fifth time they were summoned to appear on February 21, 2012, to answer the criminal charged filed against them. Once again they failed to appear or to send legal counsel. Arrest Warrants, for each individual member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, were thereupon presented to the Magistrates’ Court by Acting Prosecutor Steven Unthank.

At the same time the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions intervened in the criminal court cases and “discontinued” the criminal prosecution; citing that the ongoing prosecution of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, in relation to their refusal to comply with mandatory child protection laws was “not in the public interest.” Criminal breaches of the Working with Children Act 2005 continue to be committed within the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses at the rate of over 1,000 offences per week. This is currently the subject of a formal investigation by the Victorian “Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and other Organisations”, following a written submission made to the Inquiry by a Jehovah’s Witness child. It is understood that this submission was the only submission received by the Inquiry from an actual child.

RELATED ARTICLE: An Open Letter from the Children of Jehovah’s Witnesses to the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses

During the above mentioned criminal court cases it was revealed in the Magistrates’ Court of Victoria that the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia et al., had knowingly breached Section 35 of the Working with Children Act 2005 – by engaging and continuing to engage persons (“ministers of religion”) in child-related work, knowing that it is child-related work, and knowing that the worker (“minister of religion”) has not passed a working with children check.

Working with Children Act 2005

In total there were over 2,000 “ministers of religion” and volunteers directly engaged in child-related work within the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses in well over 100 congregations and church operated internal Ministry Schools with 1000’s of enrolled children, in the State of Victoria, that had not complied with the Working with Children Act 2005 – from July 1, 2008 up until the filing of criminal charges against the church on July 26, 2011. The Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses has refused to explain to these 2,000 “ministers of religion” that each of them may have also individually committed criminal offences under the working with children laws. Requests by parents within the church for an explanation as to whether their child may have been a “victim of crime” have been met with silence.

14,600 serious offences (Level 7 offences) had been documented committed against the Act by the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the State of Victoria against some 6,160 children. Had the Director of Public Prosecutions not “discontinued” the prosecution, in relation to the first 5 sets of criminal charges against the church in relation to the Traralgon Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, then the church could have been prosecuted for all 14,600 criminal offences committed across the entire state in over 100 congregations. The potential fine’s the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and their administrative corporation the Watch Tower Society, were facing was up to:

AU$3 billion ($2,961,020,160.00)

In the State of Victoria, breaches of the working with children laws are a Level 7 offence and carry up to 2 years imprisonment, in addition to a potential fine of $33,801.60 (240 penalty units) for an individual and $169,008.00 (1,200 penalty units) for a corporation or body. Source: Victorian Department of Justice web site.

A statement issued by Steven Unthank, who is putting together the class action on behalf of the primary Plaintiff (a Jehovah’s Witness child), explained that:

“The Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses was allowed to escape accountability, by both the State of Victoria and Victoria Police, in relation to their wholesale criminal breaches of the working with children laws. Both the state and the police refused, or declined, to enforce these mandatory child protection laws, thereby knowingly allowing criminal offences to be committed by the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and their “ministers of religion”, against thousands of innocent children. These thousands of children, who through no fault of their own, have had criminal offences committed against them. They are the innocent victims in all of this. These children are entitled to recognition as victims of crimes, are entitled to an apology for the crimes committed against them, and are entitled to compensation as such. This class action is about justice for the children.”

On May 12, 2012, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses became aware that a potential class action lawsuit was being pursued in relation to their failure to comply with the working with children laws.

On October 6, 2012, at the Annual Meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses, held in Jersey City, New Jersey, U.S.A., during the discourse “When Does Jesus Appoint the Slave “Over All His Belongings”?”, it was publicly announced that the worldwide Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses (the slave of Christ) has just undergone a major re-structuring of ‘doctrinal teachings’ and asset ownership, the net result being that the church now claims it no longer has billions of dollars in assets or ‘belongings’ but is, from a legal position, an unincorporated association with no assets whatsoever.

LINK: official Jehovah’s Witnesses website | Annual Meeting Report 2012

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION ON THE JW CLASS ACTION:

www.jwclassaction.com

JW NEWS | article reprinted with kind permission of JW Class Action | copyright 2013

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