Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Utah Female Church Member Raped, Church Forces Her To Listen To Her Rape Recording

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Sunday, November 15, 2020

If you thought it couldn’t get any more weird, think again.

There are actually TWO “issues” here:

1.) What the church did to her, and;
2.) How the news reporting media is handling it.

Let’s take the 2nd one first.

Nowadays, news reporting agencies do not name the victim in cases of news reports of sexual assaults. Not identifying the victim is a good, right, proper, and just response to the problems that often occurred as a consequential by-product of naming the victims in news stories. Naming the victim served no genuine need and had no purpose as it related to reporting the story, and so in response, for the greatest part, most news reporting agencies have declined to publish the victim’s name. The obvious exception is for the stories in which a victim names a well-known/high-profile individual as the assailant/perpetrator.

That I’ve been able to find so far, there are very few news stories about the matter, and none of them name the victim.

The Scott M. Matheson Courthouse, 450 S State St, Salt Lake City, UT 84111, is the location for the Utah Supreme Court.

While normally, that isn’t a problem, per se, in this case, however, the female victim has filed suit against the church and four elders, and her case has come before the Utah State Supreme Court.

Fundamentally, what that means, is that she is named in the case as the plaintiff.

So the news reporting agencies which wrote about the story fundamentally erred by not reporting the most basic and important fact as it exists, which indeed, forms the very basis of the story – that an important, and problematic question has come before the Utah State Supreme Court and revolves around a religious practice.

The primary extant stories on the matter are by Deseret News in Utah, and the Daily Beast. The Daily Mail, The Independent, The Salt Lake Tribune, Patheos, KSL Broadcasting, and Crime Online have also published stories about the matter.

The Deseret News “is the longest-running newspaper in Utah and the state’s oldest continuously operating business.” Their story – “Utah High Court Weighs Case Of Woman Who Says Church Made Her Listen To Audio Of Her RapeLower courts say First Amendment prevents juries from considering case, by Annie Knox @anniebknox November 9, 2020, 6:56pm MST – may be found here:
https://www.deseret.com/utah/2020/11/9/21557200/utah-supreme-court-case-woman-says-church-made-her-listen-to-audio-of-her-rape-jehovahs-witnesses

The Daily Beast is a publicly-traded independent news organization focusing upon “original reporting and sharp opinion in the arena of politics, pop-culture and power.” Their story – “Will a Church Get Away With Making a Teen Listen to Recording of Her Rape?The Jehovah’s Witnesses of Roy, Utah, say their extreme interrogation of a teenage rape victim is protected religious practice., by Emily Shugerman, Gender Reporter, published November 14, 2020 7:15PM ET – may be found here:
https://www.thedailybeast.com/will-a-jehovahs-witnesses-church-get-away-with-making-a-teen-listen-to-recording-of-her-rape

The case is: Williams v. Kingdom Hall #20190422-SC

• The case filing may be found here:
https://law.justia.com/cases/utah/court-of-appeals-published/2019/20170783-ca.html

• Amicus briefs have been filed by Georgetown Law’s Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection and may be found at:
https://www.law.georgetown.edu/icap/our-work/defending-vulnerable-communities-sanctuary-cities-daca-and-more/williams-v-kingdom-hall/

• Appellate briefs may be found at the Utah State Court System website:
https://www.utcourts.gov/utc/appellate-briefs/2020/03/04/20190422-williams-v-kingdom-hall/

The oral argument before the Utah Supreme Court may be viewed online:

Now, let’s examine the first point of the matter – what the church did to her.

In order to more fully understand the question before the court, we need to know what is customary religious practice for that faith tradition – that of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Each faith tradition, Christian, or not, has their own unique set of beliefs and practices according to the dictates of their tradition – the collection of which is properly termed dogma.

In the Jehovah’s Witnesses tradition, the church manages the behavior of their members, in part, by and through a “tribunal” called a judicial committee which determines and rules upon the questions of behaviors or actions by members of a local body, if what they did either did, or did not, comport with the dictates or their tradition, or was in adherence to the confines of their dogma.

A former longtime member writes that, “Elders, the equivalent of priests, are appointed after recommendation by congregation elders, approval of the circuit overseer, and acceptance by the Bethel. Elders are said to be placed in their position of authority by the active guidance of holy spirit; as such they hold considerable influence over congregation members.”

Typically, the “tribunal,” or judicial committee is composed of the elders in the local congregation (who most often are leaders of the local body), whose responsibility is to act as arbiters and judges of the matter(s) or questions brought before them involving members of the local congregation, and the allegations of impropriety or violation of the dogma by the member.

If the members of the tribunal/judicial committee find a member guilty of having violated any of the church’s rules, regulations, or other elements of doctrine or practice, the elders have a variety of choices and options available to them to punish the member. One of the most severe is to “disfellowship” the member, which is a type of social shunning of the member, even though they may continue to attend the corporate worship services. In practice, to “disfellowship” a member in the Jehovah’s Witnesses tradition involves not speaking to, associating with, or acknowledging the affected member. They are, in effect, expelled from the congregation, and by extension, from the larger body. To be disfellowshipped is one of the most severe types of punishment in the Jehovah’s Witnesses tradition, and is reserved for “someone who has seriously sinned does not repent and refuses to follow Jehovah’s standards.” According to a long-time former member, “a disfellowshipped person is publicly named and must be avoided by all Witnesses in almost all circumstances.

As a related matter, the problem of child abuse in the Jehovah’s Witnesses faith tradition remains problematic, just as it has within the Catholic church, and in other denominations. In September 2018, a jury in a Montana case involving child sexual abuse by a Jehovah’s Witness member of children in that faith tradition, awarded one female victim $35 million.
• See: https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/montana/articles/2018-09-27/jury-jehovahs-witnesses-must-pay-34m-to-abuse-survivor
• See also: https://jwvictims.org/2018/09/27/breaking-news-montana-jury-awards-two-women-35-million-in-lawsuit-against-watchtower/
• See also: https://nypost.com/2018/09/29/jehovahs-witnesses-must-pay-35m-to-sex-abuse-survivor/

Most recently, however, in January 2020 decision, in a 7-0 ruling, the Montana State Supreme Court reversed that verdict against the Jehovah’s Witnesses for not notifying authorities about the child abuse.
See: https://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/court-reverses-35m-verdict-jehovahs-witnesses-68159631
See also: https://jwsurvey.org/news/montana-supreme-court-rules-church-doctrine-trumps-mandatory-abuse-reporting-law-35m-verdict-against-jehovahs-witnesses-reversed
See also: https://www.npr.org/2020/01/09/795019348/montana-court-reverses-35-million-child-abuse-verdict-against-jehovahs-witnesses

Montana Supreme Court Justice Beth Baker wrote the court’s 18-page opinion (though that state’s Supreme Court Justices are elected in nonpartisan races, she clerked for a Federal Judge who was appointed by Reagan), and in part stated that,

Clergy are not required to report known or suspected child abuse if the knowledge results from a congregation member’s confidential communication or confession and if the person making the statement does not consent to disclosure.

“We hold that Jehovah’s Witnesses are excepted from the mandatory reporting statute under § 41-3-201(6)(c), MCA, because the undisputed material facts in the record show that Jehovah’s Witnesses canon law, church doctrine, or established church practice required that the reports of abuse in this case be kept confidential. We therefore reverse the District Court’s grant of summary judgment to Alexis and remand for entry of summary judgment in favor of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” 

In that case, as part of the Plaintiff’s exhibits, there was included an official church form which rendered the local congregation’s elder’s judgment against the offender by “disfellowshipping” him, and other official church communication pertinent to that case. That 5-page document may be found here: https://www.jwfacts.com/pdf/child-abuse-montana-dv-16-84-plaintiffs-exhibits.pdf -OR- may be downloaded from this site here: child-abuse-montana-dv-16-84-plaintiffs-exhibits

Returning to the Utah case, the matter in question revolves around a 14-year-old female who alleges that an 18-year-old fellow congregant repeatedly raped/sexually abused her numerous times over a period of several years beginning in December 2007. 

The Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 1950 W. 4400 South, Roy, Utah, which is named in the case.

In 2008, for whatever unknown reason, her rapist provided an audio recording of one of the rapes to elders of the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Roy, Utah. The church elders did not investigate him, but instead, investigated her for possible immoral acts, to determine whether, or not, they were consensual. [NOTE: This point sounds very similar to the one which Jesus of Nazareth was presented with – the story of “the woman caught in the act of adultery,” as related in the Gospel of John, chapter 8, verses 3-11.]

The girl’s mother and stepfather were present during the church’s 4-hour interrogation by 4 church elders December 2008 who repeatedly played, then stopped the recording, and asked questions throughout the interrogation in an attempt to get her to confess that her rape was consensual.

The girl had filed a sexual assault complaint with the police. The Utah Division of Child and Family Services also filed a complaint against the elders over her interrogation.

The victim filed suit against the church, and the 4 elders for the abusive practice of intentional infliction of severe emotional distress, aka psychological torture. She first filed the lawsuit in Ogden’s 2nd District Court in 2016.

 

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