Lord Jesus the Christ protect our children from the hand of adults.
This organization are committing one of the Biggest Sin Against Children around the world.
Jehovah’s Witnesses use 1st Amendment to hide child sex abuse claims
The leadership of the Jehovah’s Witnesses – one of the world’s most insular religions – for 25 years has instructed its elders to keep cases of child sexual abuse secret from law enforcement and members of their own congregations, according to an examination of thousands of pages of documents in recent cases.
The Watchtower bases its child abuse policies on Scripture, and the message to elders is clear: Disobey the policy and you disobey God. For emphasis, the authors punctuate many of their policy directives with verses from the Bible.
For example, if a child reports to an elder that someone in the congregation has molested him or her, the child must produce another witness to the crime before the elders will investigate the allegation. The so-called two-witness rule, one memo explains, comes from Deuteronomy 19:15: “No single witness should rise up against a man respecting any error or any sin. … At the mouth of two witnesses or at the mouth of three witnesses the matter should stand good.”
Although most incidents of child abuse don’t occur in the presence of witnesses, senior official Richard Ashe said in his deposition that elders are bound by the two-witness rule. “You know the truth has the ring of truth to it, but it still has to be established scripturally by the mouth of two witnesses for the congregation to be authorized to take any action,” he said.
The only other way elders are allowed to take action is for the perpetrator to confess. But abusers who express repentance often are allowed to remain in the congregation.
In either case, elders are not instructed to call police unless required by state law. But state laws are complicated. According to a federal agency, clergy are mandated to report child abuse in 42 states, but laws in 32 of those states, including California, contain a loophole called the clergy-penitent privilege. That exception allows religious leaders to withhold information from authorities when they receive it through a spiritual communication, such as a confession in the Catholic church.
Watchtower officials say they instruct their members to obey state laws. Their policy memos direct elders who hear of alleged child abuse to “contact the Society’s Legal Department immediately” to learn whether the laws in their states require them to notify police.
Another case from California has exposed the way Jehovah’s Witnesses have hidden abuse from authorities, enabling predators to collect more victims. In 1993 in Fremont, a Jehovah’s Witness named Jonathan Kendrick confessed to two elders that he had sexually abused his 13-year-old stepdaughter as she slept. Kendrick’s wife and her daughter, the victim, were present at the confession. The elders, Michael Clarke and Gary Abrahamson, wrote to the Watchtower for guidance. Two weeks later, a letter from the
Watchtower advised the elders that Kendrick’s conduct constituted a “minor uncleanness” and that he could remain a member of the congregation. “However,” the letter said, “it would be appropriate for two elders to meet with him and provide him with strong Scriptural counsel.” The Watchtower determined that Kendrick’s crime didn’t warrant police involvement, disfellowshipping or a warning to the congregation. Because the incident was known outside of the immediate family, it said Kendrick should lose his title of ministerial servant, which meant that he could no longer pass out Watchtower literature at the kingdom hall – the equivalent of a church for Jehovah’s Witnesses or turn on the microphone at the start of meetings.
The elders have testified that they watched Kendrick closely and told him not to be alone with children, but he was allowed to continue preaching the Bible door to door. Although the North Fremont congregation’s elders never reported Kendrick to authorities, he was prosecuted in 1994 after his stepdaughter, during a hospital visit, told police about the abuse, according to a police report. Kendrick pleaded guilty to misdemeanor sexual battery. He was fined $200 and placed on probation. The elders told the congregation that Kendrick had lost his title but, in accordance with Watchtower policy, did not say why.
Kendrick and his wife separated in 1997. He moved about 60 miles north to the city of Oakley, where he joined the local congregation and struck up a courtship with a recently widowed Witness named Linda Hood.
The courtship caught the attention of the Oakley elders. One of them, Roger Bentley, was charged with getting to know Kendrick on behalf of the congregation.
“He told me about an incident with his stepdaughter, but when he told that story, it was accidental touching,” Bentley said. “The version I remember is, he was coming home, it was dark, she was on the couch, he tripped on it and accidentally touched her breast.”
Later, in a court deposition, Kendrick acknowledged that he had lied to Bentley.
“Whenever I talked to anybody, including Roger, about that incident, I would use the term ‘battery,’ ” he said in the deposition. “I – I dropped the word ‘sexual’ battery. I didn’t want people to think I had been having sex with a child, so I just used the term ‘battery,’ whether it was with Roger or anybody else.”
About a year after Kendrick arrived in Oakley, he proposed to Hood. They asked Bentley to perform the wedding ceremony.
A letter from North Fremont to the Oakley elders, introducing Kendrick that year – signed by elder Larry Lamerdin – mentioned nothing about Kendrick’s abuse of his stepdaughter. Although the elders had placed restrictions on Kendrick for “loss of temper,” Lamerdin wrote, they had since lifted them.
“You will find him to be a fine individual, kind, loving, and appreciates the peace and refreshment of the Christian Brotherhood,” the letter read. “He is a very interesting individual who has taken the lead with some young ones in the congregation and helped them from vearying (sic) off course.”
Months later, elder Clarke of North Fremont sent a second report to Oakley. Nowhere did it mention sexual abuse or Kendrick’s conviction.
“I can’t overstate how powerful those two letters were to Oakley elders,” former elder Bentley said in an interview. “Where does it say he’s a child abuser? My conclusion was that Jonathan was telling the truth and every document that we saw said that he was telling the truth and that we could go ahead with that wedding.”
Still, concerned that Kendrick recently had left a rocky marriage, Bentley urged Hood to call the North Fremont elders and ask them directly whether they believed Kendrick would make a good husband.
Hood called Clarke.
“Mr. Clarke told me Mr. Kendrick was a good person. Because I was not told any negative information about Jonathan and because that I was in love with him, I went ahead and married him,” Hood wrote in a declaration to the Alameda County Superior Court.
The couple wed in Hood’s backyard on New Year’s Day 1999.
Clarke would not comment to Reveal for this story. Lamerdin did not return phone messages.
Josh Hood, Linda’s eldest son, disliked Kendrick from the beginning. He worried that his mother – still grieving over the death of her first husband a year earlier – had married a man she didn’t really know.
One night in 2003, Kendrick broke a glass over the head of Josh’s younger brother in a drunken fit, according to a police report. The adult brothers had had enough and went to their mother’s house one night when no one was home to look for information about Kendrick. When they loaded a recovery software program onto Kendrick’s computer, Josh Hood said in sworn testimony, they found child pornography.
“I swear to God, it made my heart almost come out of my chest, ” he said later in an interview, “because he’d been around my daughter for years.”
Josh Hood then asked his 8-year-old daughter whether Kendrick had ever abused her, which she confirmed. He called his mother, who then called Kendrick at work.
Kendrick said he remembered Linda Hood asking whether it was true. “I don’t think I said much,” he recalled later under oath. “I was cutting my wrists at the time.”
Soon after, Josh Hood tracked down Kendrick’s ex-wife, who told him that Kendrick had abused her daughter almost a decade earlier. When Josh Hood learned that the North Fremont elders had withheld that information from his family, he was livid.
“They left out that Jonathan wasn’t allowed to be around kids because he had had an incident with his stepdaughter from his previous marriage where he had touched her improperly,” Josh Hood said. “They didn’t want him around their children, so it should have been passed along.”
After Kendrick cut his wrists, he spent three days recovering in a hospital. Manuel Iglesias and Jim Dominguez, the Oakley elders charged with investigating Josh Hood’s daughter’s allegations, visited him there. Meanwhile, Josh Hood reported the abuse to police and said he gave them a disk with the child pornography he claimed was copied from Kendrick’s computer. Kendrick never was investigated for the alleged pornography.
Although Kendrick confessed to the elders about the abuse, according to court records, neither cooperated with the law enforcement investigation. Sgt. Jeffrey Baldwin of the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office said in a deposition that Iglesias did not return his calls. When Baldwin reached Dominguez, the elder told him that his visit with Iglesias and Kendrick was a “penitential visit” and therefore exempt from mandatory reporting laws.
“They would not speak to me on the matter; and that they referred me essentially to their attorney,” Baldwin recalled.
Reached in person at his home, Dominguez told Reveal: “That was a dark time. I was trying to protect the congregation. I think it’s best for me if I don’t talk now.”
Adhering to Watchtower policy, the Oakley elders also did not tell their congregation what Kendrick had done.
In 2003, Kendrick pleaded guilty to committing a lewd act on a minor under 14. He spent about eight months in jail and five years on probation, during which time he underwent sex offender treatment.
One victim comes forward
But that was not the end. Years later, a woman claiming to have been another victim of Jonathan Kendrick would come forward, calling into question the testimony of the North Fremont elders and leading to the first U.S. trial in a child abuse case against the Watchtower. Candace Conti was long gone from the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2009, when she decided to look up Kendrick on the Internet. Years earlier, she said, Kendrick had abused her, but she had never reported the incident. She broke down when she found him on a sex offender registry. “I know it never left me, knowing that he had hurt somebody else,” she said. “Knowing that he went to a different kingdom hall and hurt somebody else, knowing that that person was the same age as me.” Conti was born into the Jehovah’s Witnesses and attended the North Fremont congregation as far back as she can remember. Both of her parents and her grandparents on her mother’s side were Witnesses. She started preaching door to door when she was 5, handing out Watchtower pamphlets with colorful illustrations of paradise on earth. “I just remember my whole opening spiel was, ‘Wouldn’t you love to live in a beautiful place like this?’ ” she said. “You’re bringing them to Jehovah’s organization, you’re saving these people’s lives.” While in grade school, Conti spent 70 hours a month preaching. Kendrick had become close friends with Conti’s father. Although she wasn’t comfortable around Kendrick, Conti said she would end up alone with him during long afternoons of knocking on doors.
According to Conti, when she was 9 and 10 years old, Kendrick used the time they were alone to take her to his house and sexually assault her. She says she kept the abuse to herself for years. While there is no dispute that Kendrick molested at least two girls, he emphatically denied to Reveal ever abusing or even being alone with Conti. Kendrick would only say during a brief phone interview: “I did not molest Candace Conti. I have never been questioned by law enforcement involving Candace Conti. I’ve never been charged with a crime involving Candace Conti.” He would not comment on any other cases. Conti’s discovery of Kendrick in the sex offender registry led her back to the Witnesses. She went to elders Michael Clarke and Larry Lamerdin, who had watched her grow up, and told them her story for the first time. Because she didn’t have any witnesses to her abuse, she said, they told her there was nothing they could do. “They got the story from me and they both cried, she said. But they couldn’t come to bat for me. It was out of their hands. They are bound by those rules and regulations that are passed down by the organization.” Clarke and Lamerdin wrote to the Oakley congregation in December 2009 to inform the elders that Kendrick had abused Conti.
The letter arrived seven years after Josh Hood learned that Kendrick had abused his daughter. “She claims that there (sic) relationship was inappropriate and her parents and congregation elders should have put a stop to it,” they wrote. “We totally agreed.” “She asked us twice if we were going to report this to the authorities,” they continued. “We told her that if she wishes to make a report, it is her absolute right to do so.” When Conti told them that she didn’t trust the congregation to protect children, the elders wrote, “We shared a number of scriptures with her regarding Jehovah’s love and concern for her.” Frustrated with the response from the Witnesses, Conti sued the Watchtower in 2011. “It was to attack the policies and procedures that were in place, that let a serial molester continue to molest children,” Conti said. “I had this sense of guilt. …What if I had done something to maybe protect this other child?” During the trial, Conti’s attorney Rick Simons zeroed in on the Watchtower’s child abuse policy memos. In his deposition during Conti’s lawsuit, Clarke said elders are required to adhere strictly to the Watchtower’s policies. “Are congregations free to deviate from the practices through which instructions are given through ‘Body of Elder’ letters?” her lawyers asked. “No,” Clarke responded.