Legal Responsibility Issues Worry Watchtower
...and are apparently the reason behind recent changes
A series of articles in 1999 by Maine's Portland Press-Herald centered upon a sexual molestation suit filed in the Cumberland County Superior Court on behalf of Bryan Reece, who is now a security officer, against Larry Baker who had molested Bryan 1989-1992 while both were members of the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses in Portland, Maine. Reece won a judgment against his molester which was in excess of $1 million although not collected, but the state of Maine's Supreme Court would not allow Reece to also sue the Watchtower Society which appoints and is supposed to discipline the elders among its membership of Jehovah's Witnesses. The position of Reece and his attorney was that Ayers who was Reece's stepfather elder, as well as elders Patrick LaBreck and Robert Wells and the hierarchy over them in the Watchtower Society were all culpable in not taking appropriate corrective actions. Yet Justice Leigh Saufley cited concerns about the church-state separation of power, thus meaning that Reece must take his suit on to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Of great interest in this scenario is the fact that the Archbishop diocese of Portland, Maine, filed a brief in favor of the Watchtower's position (see footnotes on the case ruling). In past years the Catholic church has had to pay heavily in monetary judgments after being held responsible for the sexual misdeeds of its priests. Therefore the Watchtower Society leadership breathed a sigh of relief when Rome came to its aide in the Reece case, but has also been making just enough internal adjustments to make itself appear less of the hierarchically-structured organization that it is. A hierarchy is run from top to bottom, with the top-most officials being responsible for owning local properties (e.g., kingdom halls/dioceses), appointing and disciplining local representatives (priests/elders); as opposed to congregationally-structured organizations in which the chain of authority flows from the bottom upwards.
Examples of such Watchtower adjustment are apparently seen in reports that the worldwide Governing Body of the Watchtower Society has ruled that those taking a blood transfusion to save their lives are no longer being punished due to actions from the Governing Body of the Watchtower Society but rather are severing their own ties with the organization. The Governing Body's requiring that local congregations pay them interest on loans for the purpose of building new Kingdom Halls or improving upon existing properties is also said to have been changed. Further, the German language internet website run by Stephan Wolf has reported still unconfirmed rumors the Governing Body had considered a new structural arrangement.
According to the website, the intervening Circuit Overseers would either cease to exist or else their numbers would be reduced, and instead special training would be given certain elders who would go in, permanently preside over the local Kingdom Halls and report directly to the Watchtower's Brooklyn headquarters. This would give the appearance of not having such a totally hierarchical structure, thus emancipating the Governing Body from all or at least much of its current legal culpability even while actually strengthening its power over the local groups. In point of fact the Society has already sent in hand-picked, specially-trained elders to preside over some "problem-situation" congregations, but the extent of this could be enlarged if deemed necessary. The morale of Circuit Overseers is also reported to have sunken. Some are said to be more outspoken in favor of reforms and to be spending less time than in door-to-door service.
From a broader perspective, the concerns of the Catholic Church, the Watchtower Society and other organizations have been highlighted in developments beyond the Reece case. A stream of reports about similar scandals have also come via the internet from California, Canada, Norway, and Germany.
In fact, Ecclesiastical Privilege of confidentiality under state-church constitutional separation in the USA, whether regarding Rome, the world headquarters leadership of the Watchtower Society in Brooklyn, or other organizations, also has its limitations and current laws do require the reporting of the sexual molestation of children, even if anonymously, to Police and Family Services. If the Supreme Court of the United States should rule against Reece or any other person in a similar situation, then the rights of victims and the voice of groups such as Mothers Against Molesters would be severely curtailed. Some in the Richmond congregation had sent an anonymous plea to their state's Child Abuse department within the state department of Family Services asking that children in the congregation receive advice and counseling but the plea went in vain.
The world Governing Body of the Watchtower Society also has concerns beyond the possibility of monetary pay-outs. Colleague Governing Body member Ewart (also known as "Edward") Chitty resigned in 1980 only after his own homosexual affair became fairly widely known in Brooklyn, and in 1984 the Governing Body homosexual member Leo Greenlees also resigned (numerous sources include Fred Franz's assistant Roger Scott; a footnote in Apocalypse Delayed written by M James Penton; archives of the Hourglass2 Outpost website.) Chitty and Greenlees were not disfellowshipped (excommunicated) but allowed to stay members in good standing although given other assignments, another parallel to what has happened in the Catholic community in similar situations. And in March 1969 sixty homosexuals left the world headquarters called Bethel in Brooklyn but then Watchtower President Nathan Knorr demanded that this also be covered up.
So far the most prominent news sources including for example the Associated Press, ABC and CBS have failed to looked into and expose this cover-up involving Reece and many other victims, perhaps deeming it as too hot a topic even for themselves, certain to draw fire from Rome, the Watchtower and other sources of power. However, the issue shall not fade away because outraged parents, grandparents, friends of victims, and some of the victims themselves are so determined to find alternate ways to speak out and make the injustices done in Maine, Missouri and Nevada and worldwide fully public knowledge until such time as the appropriate justice and sincere corrective actions are implemented.
Some of the internet sources regarding the Reece Case follow: http://rickross.com/reference/jw/jw31.html http://www.jesus-witnesses.com/elderabuse.htm
recent article on an Orthodox Jewish group abuse case
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