Jehovah’s Witnesses Pay *$2,000,000+ to Gag Abuse Victim
Today the Legal arm of Jehovah’s Witnesses decided to settle with Stephanie Fessler after the second day of the trial continued to inundate them with egregious and outrageous allegations of hurting kids. For seventeen years the organization has been under fire for policies that require internal tribunals to require children to produce two eyewitnesses when abuse allegations come forward. Kids are routinely silenced with threats of expulsion if they try to alert others or report to authorities. The crux of the trial came when JWorg officials said they had never advised elders not to report abuse and that elders or members had never been expelled for reporting abuse. Evidence from the Dateline program, which aired in May 2002, provided a recording of the Legal Department advising Elder William H. Bowen to not report current allegations of abuse. William H Bowen was later disfellowshipped after being placed on restrictions and forbidden to go to ministry work. Bowen later formed the organization Silentlambs to give victims a voice and assist them with knowing they were not alone. Since that time over one hundred victims have filed lawsuits against the church, which has a long history of threatening victims into silence.
In the mid-1990’s a story is told of two from the JWorg legal team joking about how they were forcing victims to settle for much less than the $125,000 standard fee mandated by the Governing Body (leadership). Since that time the fees paid to victims has increased expediently. In 2007 seventeen victims received an average of $750,000 each in a legal battle that took six years for them to finally pay up. In 2013 seven victims of one man in California received an estimated payout of over $2,000,000 each after fighting legally for over two years. In the one case that actually went to trial in 2014, an outraged jury awarded Candace Conti $28,000,000 from the atrocities committed and sanctioned by JWorg leadership. In all cases, the actual amount awarded is a carefully guarded secret, as JWorg does not wish members and the public to be aware of the tremendous amount of donated funds that are being spent to pay their legal teams to defend child molesters and prevent victims from being compensated. In this current case after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend the pedophile and bluffing through two days of the actual trial, JWorg lawyers folded once again and wrote a check to silence another victim. The Governing Body has mandated that in each case to fight till the very end to exhaust the abuse survivors and make it more formidable to go up against them. The facts show each case that settles costs them more and more money in legal fees and in actual settlements. They are losing ground as precedents are being set legally to allow more victims to be compensated for their crimes against children. Currently due to their resistance to provide incriminating documents they are being required to pay $4,000 per day in penalties by a California Judge. They have appealed the decision for two years and soon will be required to pay or settle with one victim for $13,000,000 or more.
Who pays for this? Jehovah’s Witnesses who donate to the Worldwide Work along with the millions of dollars they collect in contributions tax-free from the public. A few pennies of each dollar go to protect a pedophile and keep their legal machine financed to obstruct justice and hurt victims. Jehovah’s Witnesses are one of the wealthiest religions per-capita in the world. While providing little in the form of charity they rake in billions using their eight million members to generate tax-free funding.
This case illustrates how the legal policy of obstruction and deception is starting to crack in the JWorg strategy. The more victims know they have legal ground to sue and members having to defend the policies that allow the rape of children as they go to the public, represents mounting pressure for changes to be made internally for the better protection of children. Until this happens cases like this highlight the need for leadership to be sanctioned or removed to provide appropriate adjustments to protect kids.
*The $2,000,000 settlement figure is an estimate based on the past payments made to abuse survivors by JWorg.
Jehovah's Witness sexual-abuse-coverup lawsuit settled
The lawsuit filed against a Jehovah's Witness church in York County was settled Monday in a confidential agreement.(Steve Marroni/PennLive)
PHILADELPHIA - A settlement agreement has been reached, but neither the victim nor the church she said failed to report her sexual abuse to the authorities can talk about it.
On the fifth day of trial Monday in Philadelphia County Court, Stephanie Fessler, of Lancaster, settled the suit she filed against the Jehovah's Witness Church in Spring Grove.
"The matter with the Jehovah's Witnesses has been resolved," her attorney, Jeffrey Fritz, said Monday.
And that was all he could say due to the confidential settlement agreement, which bars all parties from talking about the case or disclosing the amount of the settlement.
When Fessler was a teenager and a member of the Spring Grove church, she was sexually assaulted repeatedly for two years, starting in 2002 or 2003, by another member of the church, Terry J. Monheim, who was in her late 40s and early 50s during the abuse.
Monheim had pleaded guilty in York County Court in 2012 to charges of indecent assault of a person less than 16 and corruption of minors, court records indicate. She was sentenced on May 22, 2012, to three to 23 months in York County Prison, running concurrently with five years of probation.
But Fessler filed her suit not only against Monheim, but also against the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, the Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Spring Grove Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses.
According to a lawsuit, Fessler's family reported her abuse to the church elders, and had the church elders contacted the authorities as they were legally obligated to do, she would have been spared more sexual assaults from the same woman.
"Her main motivation is exposing that the policies of the Watchtower and the Jehovah's Witnesses are not following mandatory reporting laws in Pennsylvania," Fritz said last week, the day before trial started. "That's what led to this happening to her, and continuing to happen to other victims within the religion, as well."
Fritz, of the Soloff & Zervanos law firm in Philadelphia, successfully represented several victims of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky in claims against Penn State for child sexual abuse.
He wrote in Fessler's lawsuit that that the church encourages its members to bring their problems to the elders rather than the police, and, "even in cases of child molestation, if there are not at least two eye witnesses to abuse and the accused denies the wrong, then no action is taken by the congregation."
It wasn't until 2011 when, as an adult, Fessler went to the Southwestern Regional Police Department and made a report that Monheim was charged.
When she was 14 years old, a member of a York County Jehovah's Witness congregation was sexually abused by another member and the church elders failed to report the abuse to the authorities, she says in a lawsuit filed against the church.