Court Pressure on Noncompliant Church in Sex Abuse Matter Increases

A "recalcitrant litigant."

That is how a California appeals court judge terms the response offered up by the Jehovah's Witness church to a judicial demand to turn over internal organizational documents in a child sex abuse matter.

As noted in a recent media overview of the case, church officials' "response" is actually a flat-out refusal to provide any court-ordered documents relevant to adults inside the church known to be child abusers.

The court slapped a money sanction on the church many months ago. Continued noncompliance with the document-linked demand recently brought additional penalties. The church is currently on the hook for more than $2 million.

The document trove would likely be explosive. A litigant who was sexually abused by a church member as a child has demanded the release of documents known to exist within the church that identify multiple abusers. The above-cited media report states that the information could reveal "thousands of known or accused child molesters in congregations across the country."

As noted, the church has thus far defied the court. The Watchtower (the organization's headquarters) has consistently argued that compliance would work to undermine individuals' privacy rights, as well as deprive the church of its First Amendment religious protections.

Critics find those arguments to be both hollow and injurious to the truth. And they further note that the Watchtower has purposefully shielded law enforcers from incriminating information relevant to widespread child abuse within the church for nearly three decades.

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