Jehovah’s Witness to Pay $20 Million to Sexually Abused Woman

Candace Conti, 26, sued Jehovah's Witness community for being sexually abused at the Watchtower hall in Fremont, California, by a member, Jonathan Kendrick, whose sex offender past was kept secret.

There have been all kinds of churches, priests, pastors, and others in religious communities caught up in one scandal or another.  But, some have seemed to be immune to any shady goings on….until now.

Jehovah’s Witness has to be one of the most diligent church communities in existence.  They are almost as dependable as the mailman…rain, sleet or snow.  But, a community of the Kingdom Hall in Fremont, California, were involved in a cover-up of one of their members, Jonathan Kendrick, being a sex offender, according to MSNBC.  The cover-up resulted in Kendric having access to a child, who is now a young woman, Candace Conti.

Conti sued the church for Kendrick sexually abusing her in the 1990s when she was only 9-years-old.  Details of her lawsuit state that  the sexual abuse took place over a two-year period.  Kendrick was also convicted of abusing another girl in 2004, and is now registered as a sex offender.  He has not been arrested of the crimes against Conti, but the case is under investigation.

The church is outraged at the judgment in Conti’s favor in the amount of $20 million.  Conti’s lawyer Rick Simons, said that the judgment  in Conti’s favor is:

“one of the largest in the country for a child sex abuse single victim in a religious institution molestation case.”

The report also states a shocking element that may have won the case for Conti:

“The lawsuit alleged that Watchtower had a policy that instructed elders in its Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations to keep reports of child sex abusers within the religious group secret to avoid lawsuits.”

If that is true, how do they justify such a community law?  That is a very bizarre law to have on their books.  If the state wants everyone to know you’re a sex offender, what is the purpose of the church hiding it?  Good for her!

Read more here.

-J.C. Brooks

9 thoughts on “Jehovah’s Witness to Pay $20 Million to Sexually Abused Woman”

  1. There are several points that are in error here; including the big issue of why not go to your parents and then the civil authorities when there is an obvious crime that has or is being committed? A congregation cannot take the law into their own hands and judge someone guilty of such a serious crime… without hard evidence. Think about it.

    Then, another biggie, if you do a little research into Jehovah’s Witnesses Witnesses you will find that THERE IS NO CONGREGATION CALLED “WATCHTOWER”in Fremont, CA or anywhere else for that matter.

    One has to wonder, what is the real purpose here…a plea for justice or a call for big money? Why isn’t she suing the alleged criminal, the civil authorities or her very own parents? I’ll tell you why…

    The whole thing reeks of biased, even greedy accusations.

  2. It’s horrible what happened to this poor girl but the creep who did this was not an elder or a servant. The elders probably did all they could within the framework of the law. As for this having any real effect on Jehovah’s Organization I wouldn’t count on it. This kind of smear campaign has been tried before without success.
    Isaiah 54:17 Any weapon whatever that will be formed against you will have no success, and any tongue at all that will rise up against you in the judgment you will condemn. This is the hereditary possession of the servants of Jehovah, and their righteousness is from me,” is the utterance of Jehovah.
    Jehovah’s Witnesses are going faster today than ever before. No one can stop their work because Jehovah is behind it. It would be wise for people to take the same stand as Gamaliel urged the Jews of his day to take toward the apostles of Jesus.
    Acts 5: 38 -39 ” And so, under the present circumstances, I say to YOU, Do not meddle with these men, but let them alone; (because, if this scheme or this work is from men, it will be overthrown; but if it is from God, YOU will not be able to overthrow them;) otherwise, YOU may perhaps be found fighters actually against God.”

  3. Well said Dirck. Acts 5:38-39 has a lot to do with what’s going on here. Luke’s inspired words give rise to the idea that a pernicious “scheme” is in play here.

    Judge Robert McGuiness and most of the jurors in this case should have recused themselves as being in conflict of interest due to their present religious affiliations. Also they may have used bias in their deliberations due to the perceived “annoyance” they experienced by the JW door-to-door ministry. Then Atty Simmons spins the postal letters from the WTB&TS as condoning “secrecy” rather than honoring a congregant’s right to privacy.

    Kendrick’s past was nobody’s business and his confessions to the Elders was covered under the priest-congregant-privilege under the US Constitution (Freedom of Religion). Judge McGuiness over ruled this (surprise surprise).

    If the other congregant’s needed this information they could have gone to the Internet where it was public knowledge. No one even knows if Ms. Condi was even abused as she claims. It’s all circumstantial. Needless to say the WTB&TS acted in proper order and within their right to conduct their religious practices in alignment with man’s laws.

    The congregation DID notify local law enforcement so where was the “secrecy”? This lawsuit was frivolous and judged by biased people. The appeal will probably stand up and Ms Condi will fail in her attempt to literally rob Jehovah’s earthly organization. She turned down a cash settlement from WTB&TS during the trial (standard for ALL tort cases and does not admit guilt). Now who does that in real life? Don’t say she’s trying to make a point as the local Police are still trying to see if anything really happened like she said. So what point was she trying to make? Protecting other kids? Then why not sue Kendrick? The WTB&TS loves kids just as much as Jesus did. They presented many articles they published about anti-child-abuse. Simmons did too in an effort to discredit the articles.

    So in conclusion: is it schemes from bad men or a testing or fireproofing from Jehovah like it was during WW1 and the and other bad moments in JW history? Who knows. I like Luke’s words when he says “…Do not meddle with these men, but let them alone; (because, if this scheme or this work is from men, it will be overthrown; but if it is from God, YOU will not be able to overthrow them;) otherwise, YOU may perhaps be found fighters actually against God.”

    JW’s have been known to go all the way to the US Supreme Court and WIN! Ms/ Condi don’t make any plans on spending that $28,000,000.

  4. To all those anti-JW Internet pundits (who will show up here soon enough) who think the WTB&TS is making up it’s own laws/rules/edicts about having 2 witnesses to a alleged transgression in the congregation, you need to do better research before sticking your foot in your mouth.

    They are following JESUS CHRIST’s words and instructions on how to handle such situations found at Matthew 18th chapter (focus at 15th verse onward). The Kenrick/Condi situation was followed EXACTLY to the letter of Jesus’ words. There was no “secrecy”. If Kendrick would not listen to reason and accept his reproof from the Elders (which he evidently did) then the congregation would be informed of their inspired decision to remove him from the congregation rolls and instruct other congregants to not engage in any contact with him other than family or business matters – until further notice from the Elders. His disfellowshipment announcement would be vocal but not address his alleged transgressions. However, a separate talk would be given that covers the alleged topic and others could fill in the blanks from there.

    In that hypothetical scenario if it turned out Ms. Condi was totally wrong about her alleged facts and the Elders defamed Mr.Kendrick’s character that would open up the Kingdom Hall Elders for defamation litigation. That’s why they don’t just announce stuff like this to the congregants without any thought given to it like you others are thinking they should have done. Since when is prudence the wrong thing to do?

  5. See this interesting report on the CA gov web site:

    It is a year-2000 report which documents the state of the reporting laws in CA at the time of the abuse, which the New York Times says took place from 95-96.

    Summary: CA has kept a registry of convicted offenders starting in 1947, but CA itself kept that information from the public until 1994/95. In ’94 a law was passed authorizing a for-pay 900 number which began operating in ’95; but callers could not find out a list of offenders in their area, but could only make inquiries about specific individuals known to them.

    It wasn’t until the federal Megan’s Law was passed in May 1996 that CA authorized public release of offender info. California’s state version of Megan’s law was signed into law in Sept 1996. The report doesn’t say when the offender information actually was first available to the public, but sadly it was no doubt late in 1996 at the earliest, after Kendrick began to abuse Mr. Conti.

    The report also says this, which is shocking in retrospect: “Prior to the implementation of Megan’s Law, law enforcement could not release information to the public regarding an individual’s convictions for sex offenses or requirement to register as a sex offender. Even if children were in close contact with a child molester, such as a Little League umpire or coach, officers were not allowed to provide parents with this information.”

    As of 2000, information about “high-risk” and “serious” risk offenders could be made public, but as of Dec 31, 2000, 14,645 offenders were classified as “other” (lower) risk. The report says “Information on these [other] sex offenders cannot be disseminated by local law enforcement, and it is not available to the public through California Sex Offender Information or Megan’s Law CD-ROM.”

    Kendrick was convicted in 1994 of misdemeanor sexual molestation. If you read between the lines of the filed pleadings (mostly the information NOT mentioned), apparently the Fremont elders reported a prior case of abuse by Kendrick to the authorities, for which he was arrested, tried and convicted. Whether or not Kendrick then had to register as a sex offender, that information could not have been made available to the general public until late 1996 the earliest.

    If he was registered but was in the “other” category, as of 2000, that information could not be released by authorities at all.

    So one might wonder, if it wasn’t legal until late 1996 for the secular authorities to publicize its sex-offender database, and it was still illegal to publicize info about “other” offenders in 2000, what authority did any church (like JWs) have to make offender info about Kendrick public prior to and at the time Kendrick was abusing Ms. Conti?

    Was Ms. Conti a victim of Watchtower policy, or was she a victim of CA law which prohibited distribution of information about sex offenders until late 1996, after she was abused? And similarly, was Watchtower policy deliberately calloused, or did it conform to the state of the law at that time which required ‘secrecy’?

    There’s also an issue regarding Kendrick’s prior conviction. Was that conviction and reason for it public? If it was, then arguably there was no need for the Fremont elders to publicize it. Or was it kept sealed to protect the identity of the victim who might have been identifiable by publicizing the details? If so, then that’s a sad catch-22, that the protection of one victim meant another could be harmed because of it.

  6. @Mike – I read your posting and the content of your analysis. I too find your speculations interesting. However, when you say “And similarly, was Watchtower policy deliberately calloused, or did it conform to the state of the law at that time which required ‘secrecy’?” I must respond: What secrecy?

    The Watchtower policy is to protect ALL party’s right to privacy (Kendrick’s and Ms. Conti’s). It would be imprudent to just assume that Kendrick was guilty based on Ms. Conti’s word alone. She had admitted to have been a drug addict and other moral turpitude issues which could have slanted her version of the details. Kendrick’s past child abuse matter was a 2004 arrest for fondling a relative’s breasts. Ms. Conti asserts that her parents (father an Elder) allowed Kendrick to take her out in Field Service ALONE (unlikely) and then inappropriate hugging and then full on sexual contact occurred allegedly in his car. OK it COULD be all true but seems so improbable in the light of JW S.O.P.

    Why would the Elders, during a committee meeting, make a judgment based on alleged facts and announce to the congregation ANYTHING about the case? If found to be wrong Kendrick could legally sue EVERYBODY involved for defamation.

    That’s why Jesus said TWO WITNESSES are initially needed to take any such action. However, he was immediately removed from the role as a Ministerial Servant (equiv. to a deacon). All congregant privileges were suspended indicating a voluntary private reproof. Notification was sent to Watchtower HQ in Brooklyn NY. All the other elders were aware or notified – HENCE there was no secrecy with so much administrative notifications.

    Not notifying the congregation (the public) of something you don’t have all the CREDIBLE facts about is tantamount to gossip if not slander. If Kendrick had not accepted his private reproof then he would have opened himself up to disfellowshipment (equiv. to excommunication). If so then the congregation (et al) would be notified of the DF and a public talk about involving his alleged un-Christian conduct & behavior – only his name and the alleged incident would have been withheld as the topic of that talk.

    In any event just like the molested relative of Kendrick, Ms. Conti could/should have approached the local law enforcement or her parents to report Kendrick which she evidently did not do right away. This coupled with the specious depiction of events puts holes in her story. Albeit, the JW abhor child abuse and feel much compassion for Ms. Conti’s alleged child abuse scenario, but they also abhor slander and libel. They must protect their religious interests and do the prudent thing WHICH THEY DID. As is the case with ALL organizations being sued in a tort, Watchtower offered a cash settlement on June 14th. which she rejected on advice of her atty.? Why? To hold out for more money? The Watchtower only has $30,000,000 in cash assets (revealed during trial) so where were they supposed to get the money to give to Ms. Conti? By closing down and selling off some of their physical operations in USA? Can you see where this is going? But as Luke said it will fail as it always does…

    IMHO – this trial was a miscarriage of justice. Judge McGuiness throwing out the priest-penitent privilege (i.e. based on Catholic Church confessionals) was the first indicator that their was something amiss here. He also disallowed many other things in deference to the Plaintiff’s atty (Simons).

    The only SECRET here is who or what is behind this unprecedented attack (religious persecution) against the Jehovah’s Witnesses? This brings to mind the persecution ONGOING in Russia (et al) against them. Since when can a US governmental authority dictate how a religious organization conducts their internal administrative affairs? This reminds me of the recent Connecticut case against the Catholic Church in where the CT Legislative Body tried to pass a law to have outside auditors audit the CT Catholic Church’s (Archdiocese) internal financial books. Well being that the RCC is so powerful worldwide and they usually get what/who they want, it was shot down quickly.

    Let’s see… who was allegedly behind the religious persecution of JW’s in WW1 and WW2? Could it be…?

  7. 1. Jehovah’s Witnesses disfellowship, even announcing the name from the platform, and shun proven or confessed practicing child molesters.
    2. Any molesters deemed repentant are announced from the platform as well, thus publicly reproving him and a talk is given about their type of sin. All thus receive a warning.
    3. Elders report abuse to the authorities when required by law or if a child is in danger.
    4. Elders are instructed never tell anyone not to report abuse to the authorities and there are no sanctions for reporting abuse.
    5. If a minor reports molesting to an elder, the elder offers to accompany the minor to talk to the authorities.
    6. All in the congregation are encouraged to report child abuse to the authorities if they are aware of it.
    7. If there is only one witness and the accused denies it, several steps are taken to protect the children.
    8. Any accused of molesting by one person is likely removed as servants until the matter is cleared up since he is no longer ‘free of accusation’.
    9. The Watchtower Society keeps a detailed database of molesters and former molesters, even if the molesting took place before baptism, to assure that they do not receive authority in the congregation.
    10. Former child molesters are never allowed to be servants and do not receive even minor privileges.
    11. A letter follows former molesters (and usually those who have been accused by one witness) for the rest of their life whenever they move to another congregation.
    12. Elders keep an eye out and warn others when there is a cause for concern about former molesters.
    13. Former molesters have many other restrictions placed upon them, including not holding children, not having children spend the night, not working with children or alone in field service, and so on.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *