• Report: #12529
Complaint Review:

Watchtower Bible Tract Society/Jehovah's Witnesses

  • Submitted: Sat, January 26, 2002
  • Updated: Fri, March 31, 2006

  • Reported By:
Watchtower Bible Tract Society/Jehovah's Witnesses
Brooklyn, New York U.S.A.
  • Phone: 718-560-5000
  • Web:
  • Category: Religion

Watchtower Bible Tract Society Jehovah's Witnesses congregation in Othello Brooklyn New York SEX PERVERTS sued in sex abuse case *EDitor's Comment

*UPDATE Employee: What is the case behind the Sexual Abuse

*0: EDitor's Comment to the above REBUTTAL

*Consumer Comment: A Matter of Law & Beliefs....NOT Business

REBUTTAL BOX™ | Respond to this Report! | Consumer Comment

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This story was published 1/23/2002

By Shirley Wentworth
Herald Basin bureau

OTHELLO -- A lawsuit was filed Tuesday against the Othello Spanish Jehovah's Witnesses congregation and its New York governing body, alleging they covered up the sexual abuse of a child.

The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Spokane by Erica Rodriguez, 23, now of Sacramento, Calif., also seeks unspecified damages from Manuel Beliz, the man who abused her, and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.

Rodriguez, who testified in Adams County Superior Court that she was raped weekly between the ages of 4 and 11 by Beliz, won two criminal court trials. Beliz, 49, first was convicted in 1998, but that conviction was overturned. He was convicted a second time last year, and his 11-year sentence was reinstated.

Although the Herald usually does not report the names of people who report sexual assaults, Rodriguez has gone public in her quest to save other children from pedophilia.

Rodriguez said after she moved to California at age 12, an elder in the church she attended there also began abusing her, which went on for four years. She said when she reported the abuse to church elders, the man was removed as an elder but not disfellowshipped from the church.

When she told the elder that she planned to go to the police, she was told she'd be disfellowshipped. She did contact Sacramento police, who contacted Othello police, who arrested Beliz. Rodriguez also has filed criminal charges against the Sacramento elder, but that case has not yet gone to court.

Although Beliz was disfellowshipped from the church, he was reinstated as an elder shortly before the trial. Rodriguez said she called the Watchtower legal department to ask why. "This guy said, 'It's none of your business, don't call again,' " she said.

Jeff Anderson of St. Paul, Minn., the lead attorney in Rodriguez's suit, said he has sued just about every church denomination for covering up child sex abuse over the last 20 years.

This is the second such suit he has filed against the Jehovah's Witnesses, with the other in New Hampshire.

"The vast majority have been Catholic; I stumbled over that phenomenon in the early 80s," Anderson said. He filed the first pedophile case against the Catholic Church in 1982.

Anderson said pedophilia is most likely to occur in "hierarchical, insular, religious organizations that are paternalistic and sexist and repress healthy sexuality."

"They are secret ... they are run by one male or a small group of men," he said.

Under Jehovah's Witness church policy, congregation members report transgressions of other members to a judicial committee made up of three or more church elders -- none of whom are women.

The committee decides what disciplinary action to mete out, often using disfellowshipping as punishment. Disfellowshipping means the congregation -- including family members and friends -- shuns the culprit, who becomes invisible to them.

When allegations of misbehavior are taken before the elders, at least two witnesses are required if the accused denies the charge -- which is particularly difficult to provide in accusations of sexual abuse.

Rodriguez's lawsuit alleges the elders tell the victim not to talk to other congregation members or to report the abuse to law enforcement authorities under pain of sanction or disfellowshipping.

However, Watchtower spokesman J.R. Brown, who had not yet seen the lawsuit and couldn't comment specifically, said the church does not interfere with the reporting of a crime.

He said church elders are supposed to contact headquarters if they have questions about a case.

"When we are contacted, we tell elders if they are in a state where (reporting pedophilia) is required," he said. "We want to make sure we are legally compliant."

Brown said he is aware that numerous cases have been posted on Internet sites such as www.silentlambs.org or www.freeminds.org detailing pedophilia within the Jehovah's Witnesses church.

But he maintains most of the stories were posted by people who underwent abuse back in the 1980s, when all of society was grappling with the issue.

"Regrettably, many children probably were molested," he said.

He said the church has made strong policy changes since then, including taking suspected or convicted pedophiles out of any position in the church, not allowing them to be alone with children and various other restrictions.

This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 01/26/2002 12:00 AM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/watchtower-bible-tract-societyjehovahs-witnesses/brooklyn-new-york/watchtower-bible-tract-society-jehovahs-witnesses-congregation-in-othello-brooklyn-new-yo-12529. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.

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Updates & Rebuttals

#1 UPDATE Employee

What is the case behind the Sexual Abuse

AUTHOR: Gregory - (U.S.A.)

Lately there have been several news stories about sexual abuse within the WTBTS. I was wondering about the data behind this and was surprised at the results. Taking the data from a Google search from too many sources to mention, which you yourself can do, during the years of '72-about 89-93 there was a huge influx into the WTBTS from the Cathiloc church. Many of these people coming into the WTBTS were former priest. As it turns out these priese had been moved from parish to parish due to their abuse within the Cathiloc church. Not long after coming into the WTBTS many of these men became elders, now they were once again in the position they were in the Cathiloc church.

At this point you may ask why was not a background check done. Well it would have been useless, it was an act of congress that forced the Cathiloc church to publish the backgrounds of the priest now, there was no way to get it then. As soon as the Society became aware of what was going on they were moved to action. Of course they did not goto the press and say hay look at us we are cleaning out the bad. Entire bodies of elders were removed even before the press got the first word. But there are some climing that they were removed for going to the elders about the abuse. No doubt those elders who removed were involved and are no longer with the Society. I know of one case personality that the elder was removed.

Perhaps npot the very day it became aware but due to the law procuders must be followed, however during this time the otherr elders do not let that person alone with anyone. Much goes on that the Society does not blow a trumpet before them. And sometimes it does not happen as fast as we would like, but measures are taken to protect the flock. As for the claim that two witnesses are needed. That is true but it is also a misunderstanding of how they are considered. If a member is accused by one person then an investagation is started right away. If one shread of evedence is proven even with one witness then it is taken care of, and yes I know of a case with only one witness that the person has been taken care of under the law.

Something to keep in mind during the 80's there were 1,000's of people sent to jail because 1 kid made the claim, then when it becamepublic that it was all a bunce of kids that were lieing this reall affected the public. I am not saying all kids lie. But in this day and age a verry small few will to try to get there way, for the most part 98% are telling the truth. So when one witness comes forware this has to be considered. I know for sure all cases are addressed and handled.

The Society is addressing this matter as fast as they can just because it is not done uesterrday does not mean the kids are in danger they are being protected. Those elders that caused the problems have been removed or are in the process of being removed. We just do not wave a flag to let the public know what is happening. And as for former Witnesses who may state they know a certain person has not been dealt with, How on earth can they, the Witnesses cannot have any contact with former Witnesses and the former Witness cannot have access to what goes on inside of the Hall, therefore what a formerr Witness says is as good as a Satan telling what Jehovah has on His mind, he has no way of knowing the truth he is total evil.

The former Witnesses have no inside information, no privilged information, they are in the dark as to what Jehovah is doing, so why listen to them. And as for those who claim that they money was taken or forced to live with an abusive husband, I will flat out say they are wrong. The Society says to leagally part without divorce if it is physical or sexual abuse, but if it is mentaly abuse then deal with it, if thatt is what it is ans a person complains because they have to deal with mental abuse by their mate I say it is a good thing that person did not live in n**i Germany, or Stalin Russia. Jehovah's people since the beginning were told by Jehovah not to beg off but to endure, some people just can't follow what the Bible says so leave and blame the Society for their failure. One thing the Society teaches is to accept responability for your choices in life, those who leave can't accept that choice so blaim someone else. As for childhood being stolen. The Bible says the best way a youth can spend their childhood is in the service of God, that is the Bible not the Society, so therefore those who claim to have their childhood stolen are speaking directly agianst the Bible not the Society. I suggest to open the Bible and read it.
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EDitor's Comment to the above REBUTTAL

AUTHOR: - ()

I hope you are not serious. I hope you are the only person in the world that doesn't see what a travesty, yes even a rip-off this was. The innocent lives of these children were shattered and I hope you are not suggesting that just because it does not involve commerce this is not the venue for that discussion.

For your sake and for the sake of all our reader's, this website is dedicated to making others aware of all manner of rip-offs and scams; cheating spouses, child support fraud, government corruption, cops on the take, mafia-run businesses. Many of these stories do not involve money and we want you all to look at this as a website for justice. Unfortunately, our legal system has lost sight of many of the principle upon which this great land was founded and dedicated. We hope to help restore that.

It used to be that you could trust your priest, rabbi, bishop, or the like, but something has happened. Most certainly, we do not wish to focus on the running down of any religion, but people run churches and that is where corruption creeps in. And you better know... we'll be right there to let you know.

I'm not sure what you meant by "defamy," as that word is not in my personal lexicon, but if you meant to say, "defamation," let me clear one thing up right now. Just because an organization is listed as "not-for-profit," it does not mean that there are those who are remunerated for their efforts in that organization, so that is a pretty big leap to assume that not-for-profit organization neither are interested in nor take in profit. Non-profit is a misnomer, I believe designed to misdirect the public.

For example, one of our Rip-off Report Investigators went after the Red Cross and broke a story about fraud in the collection of donation for victims just days after the 9-11 bombing. It is posted on this website. Horror stories have been sent in since of corruption in the Red Cross. We believe the public needs to know this. We hope we have cleared up your confusion.

For all our other readers: We want to warn every mother and father to watch out for your children. You really can't trust anyone, but a child naturally trusts the parents. Most molestations occurs by someone close to the child, who they trust. We applaud this posting regardless whether or not it involves a church or a not-for-profit organization.

Thank you,

ED Magedson

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#3 Consumer Comment

A Matter of Law & Beliefs....NOT Business

AUTHOR: Vicki - ()

I would like to comment that this site appears to be set up to notify the public of BUSINESS theft/abuse, concerning monetary transactions or services, etc. rather than questions of legal matters in [optional] religious beliefs.

I am concerned that the owners of this site are knowingly [perhaps with approval] allowing their site to be used for the defamy of an organization that is NOT interested in, NOR involved in ANY profit making activities. I fail to see any relevancy to any consumer financial abuses, or consumer service abuses, the stated purpose of this site, CONSUMER RIP OFFS.
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