The Jehovah’s Witnesses built what might be the world’s largest database of child molesters.
A former Jehovah’s Witness is using stolen documents to expose allegations that the religion has kept hidden for decades, reports The Atlantic.
In March 1997, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the nonprofit that oversees the Jehovah’s Witnesses, sent a letter to its 10,833 United States congregations and additional congregations worldwide. The letter laid out instructions on how to deal with child molesters and known predators within its ranks.
In doing so, the Jehovah’s Witnesses built what might be the world’s largest database of undocumented child molesters: at least two decades’ of names and address—likely numbering in the tens of thousands—and detailed acts of alleged abuse, most of which has never been shared with law enforcement, all scanned and searchable in a Microsoft SharePoint file, said The Atlantic.
A lot of the world’s attention had focused on allegations against the Catholic Church but, less notice has been paid to abuse among Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian sect with more than 8.5 million members. Watchtower has refused to comply with multiple court orders to turn over the information contained in its database and has paid millions of dollars over the years to keep it secret, even from the survivors whose stories are in the database and have a right to know. The effort has been incredibly successful—until Mark O’Donnell came into the picture. O’Donnell, a long time Jehovah’s Witness quietly left the religion in 2013; he began blogging about cases of child abuse surrounding Watchtower.
Attorney and friend of mine, Irwin Zalkin, Esq. filed a lawsuit on behalf of Jose Lopez who was 7 years old when he was molested by Gonzalo Campos, a fellow Witness whom the local elders had recommended as a mentor, despite knowing that Campos allegedly had a history of molesting young boys. Yet Campos continued to rise in the organization, eventually becoming an elder. In 2010, he fled to Mexico, where he later confessed in a deposition to molesting Lopez and several other young boys.
Zalkin introduced a software expert during Lopez’s case, who testified that Watchtower should be able to produce the documents in as little as two days using simple search terms. Still, Watchtower did not comply. The judge lost patience with Watchtower, and barred the organization from putting on their defense, and handed Lopez a $12.5 million award. An appellate court overturned the ruling, saying the judge should have sanctioned Watchtower incrementally; the case was settled for an undisclosed sum in January 2018.
U.S. authorities have so far taken no action against Watchtower, but other countries have launched investigations.
Fellow attorneys and survivors: There are the world’s largest database of undocumented child molesters containing at least two decades’ of names and addresses–likely number in the tens of thousands which has never been shared with law enforcement or victims, all scanned and searchable in a Microsoft SharePoint file according to Mark O’Donnell. O’Donnell was a former Jehovah’s Witness who got disfellowed for his role in exposing the secret data base.
“Being sexually abused at such an early age was the scar on my soul. But I feel like it ultimately made me into the person I am today. I understand the journey of life. I had to go through what I went through to be here. But now it’s time to take action to save the next generation of women and children from what we went the
Shari Karney is a survivor’s attorney. She represents victims of child sexual abuse by sexual predators such as a member of the clergy, a teacher, celebrity, sports coach, wealthy businessman or any other powerful person, Karney Law is here for you.