Watchtower is finally getting some serious media scrutiny over its child abuse policies
Watchtower is finally getting some serious media scrutiny over its child abuse policies

One of the most frustrating aspects of trying to raise awareness of the harm caused by Watchtower is how little journalists seem to care about serious issues such as shunning and the mishandling of child abuse within the organization.

When you are a Witness you are conditioned to believe that “Satan’s media” is actively seeking to exploit any opportunity to pour scorn on ‘God’s organization’. But if anything, it turns out the opposite is true.

Investigative reporters tend to give Watchtower an extremely wide berth, and even the most clear-cut stories of abuse usually only achieve modest local press exposure.

But it could be that the winds of change are upon us, at least if a new report by Trey Bundy at The Center for Investigative Reporting is any indicator. Trey’s superb 4,500+ word article, posted to the Reveal website, is a hard-hitting expose of Watchtower that leaves no stone unturned when it comes to uncovering the horrendous extent of the organization’s negligence in dealing with known pedophiles.

I spoke to Trey on Skype a number of months ago after being put in touch with him by Barbara Anderson, another of his sources. I was immediately impressed with how committed he was to verifying his facts (not a universal preoccupation among reporters), and trying to gather as much information and as many contacts as possible.

By the time of our second catch-up conversation, Trey knew more about certain aspects of the organization than I did – so you can imagine how excited I am now that the first wave of his work is now in circulation. And I am led to believe more material will follow.

In his Reveal article Trey has done a superb job of summarizing the numerous Jehovah’s Witness child abuse cases that have emerged over the last three years, from Candace Conti to Jose Lopez and pretty much everything in-between, at least from an American perspective.

Trey has even gone to the trouble of posting video depositions (including the following chilling one from Jonathan Kendrick, Candace Conti’s abuser), and damning quotes from body of elders letters (“memos”) that show just how backwards and clandestine the organization is regarding pedophilia.

And if you are anxious for a full rundown of the events surrounding the Candace Conti case, just wait until you listen to the following 20-minute audio-only broadcast!

Featuring interviews with both Candace Conti and Irwin Zalkin, mixed in with document excerpts and courtroom recordings (including snippets from Watchtower’s recent oral argument at the Supreme Court of California), this outstanding piece of journalism is mandatory listening for anyone who wonders how the jury in the Conti case ended up being so unequivocal in its judgment.

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As you may have guessed from my introductory comments, my experiences with the media over my last three years of activism have left me more than a little jaded. I have been particularly frustrated by the disproportionate coverage given to cults like Scientology, over which so many journalists seem to fixate even though it only boasts 50,000 actual devotees compared to some 8 million Jehovah’s Witnesses.

But my dealings with Trey Bundy have prevented my faith in investigative journalists from total collapse. I am hopeful that, with the persistence and diligence of individuals like him and his colleagues, Watchtower might finally start to get the notoriety it richly deserves and (most importantly) potential victims of child abuse might be shielded from harm.









Further reading…

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67 thoughts on “Is the media finally grasping just how bad Watchtower’s child abuse problem is?

  • February 15, 2015 at 11:34 pm

    Nice summation of it all. I know as an Elder for 12 yrs and still possessing the Flock book also calling the branch and legal department on several occasions it is truly the branch makes the decisions. The fact that the letter sent to the Oakley Congregation didn’t say a word is due to the branch not authorizing it. They make the final call on weather or not an individual is a threat or predator or not. But your words stating that the fact they were not ahead of the game Sums it all up!

  • February 16, 2015 at 5:00 am

    Oh David don’t send the letter to government officials,they would take steps immediately to shut down the org,imagine the “persecution” that would be,plus we’ed have nothing to talk about if government did clamp down and closed bethels doors.If that did happen maybe we can start on the Mormons,close down another

  • February 16, 2015 at 5:19 am

    The contradictions in the JW org amaze me. We are led to believe that it is the “truth” and we are following gods wishes but when it behooves them suddenly it is led by “imperfect men” who are allowed to make mistakes.
    They preach “it is not for us to know the way of God” which translates to do anything these imperfect men leading the religion tell you to do. Lives have been ruined because of these imperfect men. You have to blindly believe their conclusion without accepting the premise or you risk consequences. Yet, in recruiting it suddenly becomes the only religion that knows what God wants us to do. I’m getting dizzy again.

    I read something humorous from another website. Where were the two witnesses when Eve supposedly ate the apple? I guess sometimes action can be taken w/o the two witness rule.

  • February 16, 2015 at 5:42 am


    Great point, as ever, dear Lady. Child sexual abuse is one of many crimes that are covered up by the WTBTS. Anything that could reflect badly on their property empire and charitable status must be covered up.

    I particularly liked the part about the WTBTS not giving a rat”s arse about Jehovah! Spot on!


    Great points, sir. The WTBTS are training their elders to have no natural compassion for anyone, especially children. They are becoming as hard as granite indeed!

    The elders who can do this are promoted, the ones who cannot either step down or are removed. The direction of travel is to further cruelty and the maintenance of the status quo.

    We are all lucky to have such a fine group of regular posters here on Lloyd’s site.

    Peace be with you, Excelsior!

  • February 16, 2015 at 8:17 am

    @Wild Olive, I read your post with interest & the 2% entry. IF, this number is from my original post please understand this is meant to be figurative & to quantify a statistical logic. Re:If one was to apply a bit of statistical(normal distribution) logic, 2% there is 2% here. To the best of my knowledge there is no uniform or universal percentage yet established. My guess is concealment from the public is a factor hence data points are still weak with any confidence. However, as the pond is emptied we’ll see more bubbles through to the surface, I’m sure.

    This form of sexual predator deviance is not unique to one group. A recent article in the NYtimes “Sexual Assault Allegations Against Illinois Imam Stirs Divisions in Insular South Asian Community”, Interesting reading for sure!

    Credit to NYtimes and trust posting of link does not breach copyright law.



  • February 16, 2015 at 10:19 am

    The two witness rule is the “do nothing” rule.

    The original source of the two witness rule is found in Deuteronomy 19:15,16. The context shows this was about boundary disputes.

    Later on, in the same book, in Deuteronomy 22:25,26, a woman’s word alone was enough to bring the death penalty to a rapist.

    The laws here are arcane and really quite awful, but the point I am making is that the WTBTS COULD use this scripture to “judge” accusations of child abuse! The two witness rule is the “do nothing” rule.

    Interestingly, the passage I have just listed in Deuteronomy 23 has the header “Laws on sex crimes, screaming” in the old reference bible! Disgusting that they don’t use this scripture to judge…….sex crimes!

    The passage in Matthew 18 is the main incorrect source of the ” do nothing” rule. It’s verses 15 to 17.

    From the context, this is harking back to Deuteronomy 19. It’s to be used for boundary dispute type problems. It’s not applicable to child sex abuse!!!

    I’m not a Christian. I am an atheist. This cult is using the bible to sanitise its ” do nothing” approach to the young victims of child abuse. Absolutely disgusting.

    To make it clear. I am not espousing a Christian life or ethos. I am merely using the bible, common to many religions, to point to the obvious conclusion that the WTBTS uses the bible to justify its revolting policies, and not as a guide to behaviour.

    Even the goat herding Jews of the Bronze Age, with their regional, Johnny come lately deity, could see the difference between a sexual assault and a boundary dispute!

    So how come the WTBTS cannot?

    Peace be with you, Excelsior!

  • February 16, 2015 at 11:08 am

    I think with the Catholic church abuse, it was mostly young alter boys who were molested. I am not sure but I don’t think the problem was usually little girls but it was little boys they molested the most.

    The Catholic Church forbids it’s priests to marry. I don’t know what it is like now, but a kid I knew when I was growing up was going to be a priest and instead of going into 9th grade, high school, he went to a seminary to be a priest instead. He moved about 60 miles away to go to school to be a priest. In those schools, they wouldn’t have had girls so here you’d have all these boys going through puberty etc. and priest teachers who couldn’t marry. In the Catholic church, the only sin was getting married. It wasn’t sex.

    I don’t know how the priests got away with abusing all those boys but the circumstances in the Catholic Church’s abuse was quite different than the Witness religion since Witnesses aren’t forbidden to marry and they don’t take boy children away from their families to go to those schools where it’s just little boys growing up together.

    In the Witness religion, the Witnesses are so happy to have new converts that almost anybody will be accepted into the fold, no matter how weird they might be to the outside world and once that person gets baptized, if they get their name in the paper for a crime, they Society doesn’t want any bad publicity so that is why it’s so important that the Society has to disfellowship them first, before the abuse or the crime has been reported to the Authorities. If there isn’t another witness to the crime, the elders have no choice but to disavow the accuser if the accused doesn’t confess to the elders what they did.

    The elders should have nothing to do with whether or not the accuser goes to the police about the accused but all the Society cares about is their reputation.

    The Watchtower’s main objective is to get new converts and it’s so important to the Society to have this “pristine” reputation of being a “clean” religion where stuff like that happens rarely. It’s all about drawing new people into the organization, making the outside world think that it’s the only organization that when you join it, you don’t have to be afraid of child abusers or wife abusers, when in reality, it’s just an illusion, that is being maintained by this veil of enforced secrecy by the rank and file.

    I think the Society is forced to keep the same way of handling abuse because if they encouraged the rank and file to report all abuse crimes, all those people who joined the religion, that wouldn’t fit into society normally wouldn’t feel protected anymore by the organization, and if I was going by my own congregation, that is probably half the congregation. I am not saying that that half my congregation are abusers or wouldn’t fit into “normal” society if they weren’t a JW, because most of them are born-ins.

    I wasn’t a born in and I wasn’t crazy (at least I don’t think so) but my congregation was made up of so many people whose personalities were so off the wall and when I talk to friends in other congregations, they have the same stories about how many crazy people they have in their congregations too.

    I think most congregations are made up of people like that and in congregations like that, you will have your share of pedophiles.

    About 10 years ago, one of our elders was deleted and he only came to a few meetings after that. He had been an elder for about 10 years. Nobody knew why he had been deleted but a few years ago I brought up his name on our State’s circuit court access and I typed in his name and in 2007, he was arrested for 4th degree sexual assault on a child. His arrest was several years after he stopped going to meetings, so the child must have been a “worldly” person in the town where he lives. They don’t print the name of the child on that web site so I can’t even get in touch with that person to see what all happened. So, now I wonder, was he deleted because he did something like to a child in our own congregation and the only ones who knew about it was the elders???? With the secrecy in the congregations, who knows????

    The child safe environment that the Society likes to project to the outside world is actually worse than the “world” and that is because the Society is so anxious for growth that anybody, no matter how crazy they are, will be joyfully accepted and treated like family.

    In our congregation, one of the elders has a study with a young man and I just happen to have him on Facebook and the stuff he posts, would get him kicked out in a minute if the elders were aware of it and I am not telling them. I think it’s funny when he comes to the Watchtower and shoots up his hand and he gets called on over and over again.

  • February 16, 2015 at 11:09 am

    A paedophile will never abuse a child in front of two witnesses. Even Jesus explained that you should use common sense, not applying the law in a Pharisaical way.

    The problem is that religious organizations are very concerned mostly about their image. Instead of helping the victim they do all hey can to minimise their responsibility.

    But when the same thing happen to other denominations the JWs are very zealous on exposing the problem. Strange isn’t it?

  • February 16, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    @Anonymous,it struck me that you mentioned a high proportion of the cong that you knew fell into the “nutter” class,Ime noticing the same and Ime on the other side of the world.I believe from my own observation that it’s caused by false doctrine that’s pushed as truth and it catches up eventually .
    The amount of YOUNG JW who are using anti depressants is an eye opener,the oldies are suffering too,their hope is not coming to fruition and they have to now face the awful truth that death is coming not the new system.I had one crying in my lounge yesterday,some young punk in the neighbourhood sneaks onto her property and switches off her electricity at the meter,scratches her car,Ime going to introduce him to Mr Winchester when I find out who it is.
    My point is that these poor rank and file are up a spiritual creek without a paddle,they don’t know what to do or think,which by the way is another reason I can’t bail out of the JW,there are people who need help and the
    “Mother organization”doesn’t know they exsist,it really is a deplorable state of affairs among Gods chosen.
    There is a scipture that says hope postponed makes the heart sick,Ime watching it happen and it is the fault of the GB.

  • February 16, 2015 at 5:40 pm

    @Wild Olive. I know what you are saying. I don’t know if the religion makes a person go nuts or if nuts are more attracted to the religion because Witnesses are so accepting of anybody who comes to the meetings from the “world”. If you think how people are contacted at their door and in order to have the company or seeming friend coming back every week, all they have to do is “come into the “truth” and they will have a family of sorts that will accept them foibles and all, whereas, they may have been lonely before. Anti-depressants are a real problem in my old congregation and prescription pain pills. I think almost half the congregation is on some kind of medication and lots of the people are just goofy. The fact that Witnesses are punished for developing thinking ability, doesn’t help either.

  • February 16, 2015 at 6:03 pm

    The time is soon when the organisation will be rocked by the GB’s demise, and as the Harlot of Revelation,she will be removed from her position within the Organisation. So send the letter! Jahs wrath is great for her sins and what the GB has permitted and encouraged within JWs,esp in regards to directions given to “elders” and child abuse cases.Its time JWs are made to see it!

  • February 16, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    it is sad seeing the older ones die of, false promise never came, my mum is in the final stages of cancer, literaly weeks left, she is still clinging to hope that the trib will start any day, delusional, but we are all still under that threat of what if they are right, then we are doomed for speaking out as mentally deseased, reading crisis of consceince, they knew in the 80’s that they were wrong, & had to keep on lying, to keep the money making machine going, the thing that bugs me the most is where is the money, any organisation that makes massive money rewards those in control, where is the evidence that the overlords are living like kings, so what if they have a nice suite & where a rolex,

  • February 16, 2015 at 7:40 pm

    After watching the PBS news hour, I can see how sick this organisation is. Everyone in it is sick because the leaders are sick.

    Wild Olive, I had also noticed the amount of people either physically sick, emotionally sick & mentally sick as well when I was in. I even had to get out for my own mental health, I was declining in to a state of depression near the end for me & I had no where except to exit out. Now I feel relieved & contented with my decision. I feel sorry for those trapped in.

  • February 16, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    So it sounds like you’re saying that there’s an acceptable number of JW pedophile cases that “weren’t handled correctly.” “Hey, there were only a couple of kids whose lives were ruined by a JW pedophile they were told to trust! That’s so much better than other groups!”

    One is too many. The Governing Body’s policy guarantees that there will be many, many more in the JW’s for years to come.

  • February 16, 2015 at 10:43 pm

    @Grace& @ Anonymous & @ Wild olive .
    All Your Last Comments are SO TRUE yet SAD!
    I Went to Circuit Assembly Day Recently and One sister was interviewed who had PSYCHOSIS & SEVERE DEPRESSION & Admitted she was on Anti- Depressants. The next Experience an hour later The Sister said she was so Severely Depressed that she can’t even Speak because of PANIC ATTACKS while on the MINISTRY so her partner has to take over Then she started telling in front of 1086 Bros.&Sis she was crying so much during C.O. Visit she couldn’t get out on Ministry that week BUT she couldn’t Finish her voice on the Platform was getting Shakey& she Broke Down in front of all of us Crying. The AUDIENCE were VISIBLY SHAKEN & Clapped & the sister just sat in her Seat. There were 2 more Depressing Experiences that day!! BUT GET THIS the LAST TALK by the C.O. in it he SAID ….. BROTHERS , We are the MOST HAPPIEST PEOPLE on EARTH!!!!! I Started LAUGHING! My Wife nudged me in the RIBS & after Moaned at me for being Negative when I said ‘If you weren’t Depressed before the Assembly you sure would be afterwards!!!

  • February 17, 2015 at 3:43 am

    @Pickled brain, the last circuit assembly I went to too, they also had people up there who were on anti-depressants and the message I think was: Even if you are on life-support and 15 minutes to live, you can still spend that last 15 minutes witnessing to the nurses so you can still count your time that month! So, what about the rest of you sitting in the audience. What is your excuse???

  • February 17, 2015 at 11:40 am

    @Excelsior! Man that is my favorite line from a book I read, about the ignorance of the bronze age goat herding folks that wrote some stuff that became a Hebrew bible. But, like yea, they could even tell the difference between a boundary dispute and a sex crime.

  • February 17, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    @Warren,sorry about you mum,I know how you feel,my mums the same,not terminal but just totally deluded and losing her marbles,it’s sad and frustrating at the same time,at least the delusion is killing her pain and your mums pain,is that a good thing?
    As for your point re the money,yes where is it?
    So what if Sam Herd wears a Rolex,it could have been a gift from his mum for all we know?
    I was looking at a web site called holy,others in other churches are asking the same question where and how is the money spent?
    One of the facts that came out was that it costs as much as 82% of the turn over to just administer some church orgs.About 2% actually is used for charity’s,homeless etc.
    One of the best was the Red Cross who keep their administration down to around 14%
    So as far as theWTBTS goes I don’t see money spent on he rank and file,there is no organizational arrangement in place to give to the needy,that’s at the discretion of the cong elders.
    Disaster relief ? The org turns over 9 figures a year,that’s a lot of disasters that Ime sure would be paraded on if the money was going there.
    Construction in third world country’s ?
    They could build thousands of halls with that kind of money but that’s not happening?plus third world country’s are usually politically unstable so they aren’t a good investment real estate wise.
    Really the only big expense after those possiblilitys is litigation,which the GB is silent on,I think a little further on and litigation is going to burst the org like an overripe tomato,pretending it’s not there will make it worse .
    My only concern are all the people in the org who are going to be asked to help out financially when that hammer falls.I hope it leads to another schism,something good night come out of it,although last time it happened we got the Judge.
    Anyone thinking of becoming a JW that’s on this site,don’t be pressured into baptism or giving money,it’s not deserved by the org.

  • February 18, 2015 at 10:14 am

    Jws are very two faced calling the media “Satans” then using it to their advantage.. Also calling the united nations a harlot then signing a ngo agreement with them.
    Everyone if not knowing will eventually know how they are..lying two face tools of the demons.

  • February 18, 2015 at 8:48 pm

    I really hope this wonderful journalistic work is just the start and that it doesn’t fizzle out too soon. I was serving in US Bethel when the 2002 Dateline special aired and I remember how the program was demonized at morning worship by quoting the scripture in Isaiah about ‘any weapon formed against you not having success’. I’m not sure anybody watched it, if they did they sure didn’t talk about it beyond subtle hints that some in the congregation may have seen it. It was all over in a week and, from what I could tell, my personal JW world (bethelites, family, friends, congregation) was unshaken. I hope this time around its more persistent and extensive so that JWs can’t hide their eyes and ears from it.

  • February 19, 2015 at 7:25 am

    Just to clarify… I’m not trying to put down the power of the Dateline special, I’m sure it had an awakening effect on many in the organization but I feel that many didn’t even see it or hear of it, myself included until this year. My point is that I would like to see a media exposé so big that there is no possibility of JWs simply being able to ignore it. Even if they don’t personally see it, they would have to defend themselves in their ministry from those who have heard about the issues.

  • February 23, 2015 at 4:43 am

    My mother-in-law was exactly the same 5 years ago. Even though she had family who were not witnesses. I thought it was quite selfish knowing that they would die so she could live. But that’s basically how they all feel. They seem quite happy to accept that billions will die so they can live. I could never feel happy about that and it always bothered me. I thought I did not want to be part of an organization that believed that. My mum and two of my sister’s are and my husband, so life is complicated.

  • March 23, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    Yet all of the focus still seems to be on the young sisters in the Kingdom Hall’s who have been sexually abused in the past, whereas still very very little is talked about when it comes to the abuse experienced by countless numbers of young brothers growing up in the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    Now, I’m not of course knocking the ladies here – far from it, but I do believe far too much emphasis is being placed on just this one area of abuse whilst the rest of the just as serious abuses in the Jehovah’s Witnesses are going unnoticed.

    Which leads me to ask, why are the brothers who have experienced abuse…emotional abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse and spiritual abuse, why are their needs these days almost (it seems) put into 2nd place as though our abuse doesn’t matter at all?

    Abuse is abuse whichever way you look at it. It’s not just happening to some of the young sisters in the congregations but it’s also happening and has happened with frightening regularity towards countless numbers of young brothers in the congregations worldwide.

    Why is it that even amongst the exJW community this issue is not being raised at all?

    Why is this matter not being given the same serious consideration which for many years has been afforded towards the ladies only?

    I’m sure I’m not the only one, the only former brother who feels left out in the cold about my own abuse suffered during my entire childhood growing up as a JW.

    The modus operandi at present just seems to be, “You’re a guy. Deal with it.”

  • September 7, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    These people are so brainwashed they will do anything and believe anything this corrupted self righteous organisation tells them. They break up families, hold as hostages through fear any who wish to leave, and allow their young to die, all with a smug self righteous glow in their eyes. Recently my seperated wife told me, “Any comment or criticism of ‘the Organisation’ was a criticism of her (quote) “Because I am the organisation”. Sick people, Sick organisation.

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