You are here:

Jehovah`s Witness/$28M In Jehovah's Witness Sex Abuse Case


Hello Mr Hepburn

I have read a Q&A here that has distressed me. It has to do with the witnesses covering up child abuse. The report says "Conti also claimed in her suit that the religion's national leaders formed a policy in 1989 that instructed the religion's elders to keep child sex abuse accusations secret."   I read the answer by Mr G but I am still disturbed by this report. Why did the Watchtower have such a policy and how did the Watchtower pay that amount of money, and how do fellow witness fell about their donations to the Watchtower going to pay for that.  For people who have not seen the news report it is

How do you defend that.

Hello Bob

Thank you for your question.  Child sex abuse is adherent to all decent people, and unfortunately  happens in all societies.  I can understand why such a headline can cause a problem. To be honest when I first saw that last year just after it was reported it troubled me as well, especially that accusation.  I do not want to defend those claims or any other such claims.  I just want to present some facts that are not in that report . First of all to the best of my knowledge no compensation has been paid as yet because there is an appeal on several matters of law and fact.  I have been able to get a copy of  the public court transcript of the 10 day trial (about 1500 pages) as well as many other pages  of documents, and appeals.  

I have not read all of the testimony but I can summarize some important points from those court documents. I just want to point out a few facts.  You need to understand  that JWs do not separate children from their parents in any sort of organised “Church run” activities.  There is no Sunday school, youth groups, summer camps, summer Bible classes etc. that many other “churches” have.  The responsibility of looking after and training children resets with the parents.

The answer given by Eddie G  highlights some of the information that parents are given in this regard.  The information has not been just for JWs. And these magazines are the most widely distributed magazines in the world so they are for the general population. Also you need to know that  Elders are only trained in spiritual guidance (counselling) and nothing else,

Now  if the information above seems as if I am trying to shift blame I am not, I am only blaming the perpetrator.  At the time of the abuse, the parents were not coping and were not able to fully look after Candice, and the perpetrator being a family friend evidentially offered to look after her on occasion. There is a disagreement between the child and her parents as to how often, where and when the abuser looked after her.

I would like to address some of the points mentioned in that News Paper article.  I am not trying to make excuses for any one.

That being said the trial was not about the abuse, but , seeing that the elders in the congregation were aware of the past actions of the abuser, if they had the moral obligation to let the congregation members know that he had confessed to inappropriate action toward his step daughter and if the Legal body of Jehovah s Witnesses had advised that child abuse be kept secret

quote  1   “ OAKLAND, Calif. -- A Northern California jury has awarded $28 million in damages to a woman who said the Jehovah's Witnesses allowed an adult member of a Fremont church to molest her when she was a child in the mid-1990s .” end quote 1

As already mentioned no compensation has been paid as yet. The abuse happened in 1995-1996 and this poor young lady lived with that by herself until 2003. It was only then that her mother was told.  In 2009  she phoned an elder from the congregation where the abuse happened to tell him about it,  and that was the first time any elder knew about it.  Up until that tine no one in the congregation knew about it.  In the years between the abuse and telling the elders Candice had moved away from the area and spent her time living between her mother and grandmother.

quote  2 "In her lawsuit, Conti, now 26, said from 1995-1996, when she was 9 and 10 years old and a member of the North Fremont Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, she was repeatedly molested by a fellow congregant, Jonathan Kendrick ." end quote 2

quote  3 "Kendrick was never criminally charged in the case involving Conti, but besides the 1994 conviction, he was later convicted in 2004 of lewd or lascivious acts with a child, records show ." end quote 3

The abuser of Candice had  previously,  indecently touched his step daughter ,while she was asleep. She had woken up and immediately told her mother.  The family tried to sort it our themselves.  After 4 months the elders were called and he confessed to the inappropriate touching because he said even though the family had forgiven him his conscience had bothered him. The elders had advised the mother that it was her right to report it to the police. At that time the family wanted to keep the matter confidential.  About 2 months after the elders visit, the mother reported it to the police.  The family broke down and the parents separated in 1996. In 1997  Jonathan Kendrick left that congregation.  The elders did not know about the police being involved until several years later. The police had not interviewed the elders about the matter. No one knew at the time that Candice was abused, besides the Kendrick family, that the police had become involved with Jonathan Kendrick.

Jonathan Kendrick had convinced the elders that he was sorry and that he had repented. Even though he had confessed and showed a repentant attitude the elders kept a watchful eye on him to make sure that at no time during any congregational activities he was left alone with any child.

Now this quote is the crux of the court case.

quote  4 "Conti also claimed in her suit that the religion's national leaders formed a policy in 1989 that instructed the religion's elders to keep child sex abuse accusations secret . Congregation elders followed that policy when Kendrick was convicted in 1994 of misdemeanor child molestation in Alameda County, according to Simons ." end quote 4

Kendrick  had a non custodial conviction – no prison time

Did the elders have a moral obligation to tell the rest of the congregation that  Kendrick had confessed to “child abuse"? And is the WTBTS guilty of telling elders to cover up or “ keep child sex abuse accusations secret.”?

First thing the court case is not yet finalized . There is an appeal on the matter. In brief the appeal has to do with several matters.  Some of the points of law are disputed as to the trial judges application of them.I am not qualified to comment on those "points of law". There are other appeal facts that have to do with the keeping child sex abuse accusations secret. I look at some of them.(not in any particular order)

The original abuse was asked by the family to be keep quite. They did not want the embarrassment of people knowing . The abuser had immediately been removed of all responsibilities/ privileges he had in the congregation.  One of the legal questions to be selected on is if the elders had to respect the wishes of the family, or consider the congregation as a whole.

The appeal also brings out that in California at that time the law did not require ministers to report allegations of child sexual abuse to the authorities in 1993. In 1997, the law was changed to make ministers mandated reporters of such allegations. However, even then the law exempted penitential communications from that requirement.  

The elders acted within the law, the usual practice for confessions to ministers and the wishes of the family.So was the confession by Johnathan a confidential one?

The appeal documents also focused on the six page, July 1, 1989 letter  that was sent to all congregations about the elders' "scriptural requirement of spiritual and organizational confidentiality with  just one two-sentence paragraph addressing child abuse. Interestingly, that same paragraph did not even mention confidentiality, but merely recommended that congregation elders who hear of an allegation of child abuse should protect the child or children from further abuse and call Watchtower's Legal Department."

Why were they to call the Watchtower's Legal Department?  Because the elders are not trained in law and laws between states and territories vary. Disclosing confidential "confessions" or information could lead to laws suits on defamation.

And that is what the bulk of the 1989  letter did talk about, avoiding potential law suits.  But that had to do with NOT KEEPING confidential information, - confidential.  Some law suits had been instigated for slander because information was not kept. The court documents say   “ Lawsuits results from defamation, child custody matters, divorce proceedings. Lawyers can get embroiled in these  things through subpoenas or other techniques where  people want to have an elder or minister come in and  testify he said/she said in divorce proceedings.”

The out come is still to be decided as to what compensation is due and by whom [ Personally I feel Compensation of some sort should be paid just who should pay is up to the courts. Candice was seeking compensation from 3 entities, 1) Jonathan Kendrick the abuser, 2) the Congregation where she was at the time and 3) the Watchtower Society ] and if the 1989 letter from the WTS did form a policy of keeping child abuse secret

So, in my opinion, no there was no cover up child sex abuse. JWs do not cover up sex crimes.  Here is a web site that goes into a lot of detail about our policies on this matter  

Jehovah`s Witness

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Brenton Hepburn


I AM one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I am always learning. I am NOT an expert in the full sense of the word but I can answer questions on the reliability of the NWT - the so called mind control problems-so called prophecies - how being a JW affects the individual and relatives and general practices and history of Jehovah’s Witnesses. >>WARNING<< Please be aware that there are people here who ARE NOT practicing JWs. By all means ask these ones questions. Depending on the question you will get an honest answer, but, generally the answer you get, will mislead you as to what we believe, often because, they do not give ALL the relevant details. These ones will, have an agenda against JWs., and will at times give answers that are not correct in regard to JW teachings and practices. If you are after a answer from one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, please read some of the answers that the various experts have published before choosing someone. If you want to ask one of the NON JWs a question, that is fine, BUT if you want a balancing view after asking one of the NON JWs, ask a JW the same question. PLEASE ALSO NOTE: There(have been)and are, some "experts" here who are NOT always the most courteous and polite, at times are actually quite rude, that applies to both JW's and non JW's and their answers may offend, especially when they get personal and attack the character of the person and not the message. Unfortunately some here that have done that. So it IS IMPORTANT to chose an "expert" that YOU feel will best suit YOU by reading some of their past answers . . . . .


I have been a publisher since 1964. When I first went on the internet I found a lot of negative information dealing with Jehovah’s Witnesses covering prophecy, mind control and what many said was a very bad translation of the Bible known as the NWT. It shook my faith. After may hours researching these topics I could see why some felt that way, but, I was also able to explain why there were these misleading views. I can now set matters straight for anyone that has negative information about Jehovah’s Witness to show them that such information is at best misleading and at worst dangerous lies.

I have been a student of the Bible for many years, am trying to teach myself Biblical Greek. Was a public tax accountant for many years untill SEP 2009 when I gave it up due to health problems.

©2016 All rights reserved.