Legal Loophole Used by Jehovahýs Witnesses to Avoid Moral Obligation
In various comments from different sources the case of Sara Poisson continues to unfold. To read some of the newspaper articles [click here] Sara and her daughters Holly and Heather have been poster children for the abuse movement in helping to educate and protect children from physical and sexual assault. They have appeared in the USA , United Kingdom and Canada as well a numerous magazine and newspaper articles on their story of being silenced when abused in the Jehovahýs Witness organization. To watch programs [click here]
It was a sad blow Friday July 15, 2005, when the majority of judges in an appeal hearing before the Supreme Court of New Hampshire ruled against continuing the case. It represented a four year battle with hundreds of thousands of donated funds of Jehovahýs Witnesses be spent with law firms in the New Hampshire area to files numerous frivolous motions to prolong and run up costs on the civil case. Jehovahýs Witness lawyers supported Paul Berry, a convicted child molester, by providing him with free legal assistance to protect his religious right from further convictions of child abuse. While victims and advocates sat on one side of the court room, Jehovahýs Witness attorneys sat with Paul Berry and offered testimony in his behalf to protect him from further criminal prosecution. Paul Berry remains a Jehovahýs Witness in good standing and upon his release from prison will be required to make visits to the homes of the public to start bible studies. It is estimated that well over $500,000 has been spent in donated funds of Jehovahýs Witnesses for the legal defense of Paul Berry.
Holly and Heather simply wanted an apology from Jehovahýs Witnesses for not reporting their abuse as well as silencing their mother when she went to the elders for help. To date church funds have been spent to support Paul Berry with not one cent going to the victims to acknowledge the harm caused or even on word to help them toward healing.
It is interesting to note on the day following the ruling two Jehovahýs Witnesses appeared at Sara Poissonýs door. After introductions, Sara stated, ýYou should not be here.ý When they asked why she stated, ýEver hear of Paul Berry? Go speak to your elders.ý
Why did the case fail? Partially due to ambiguity of clergy reporting law in New Hampshire. As a result there is currently legislation that will amend that soon. We can thank Sara and her daughters for their courage in helping this legislation to be brought forward and hopefully to soon pass into law.
In this case the avoidance of recognizing that the elders due to mind control forced Sara into silence caused the judges to rule in dismissing the case. In every decision it has been made clear that the elders had a moral and ethical obligation but a legal loophole prevented them from going forward with civil litigation. This was also noted in the Erica Garza, California case as well in which the Statue of limitations prevented the case from continuing though the judge called the actions of the elder egregious and outrageous in the way Erica was treated. In Minnesota, the Heidi and Amber case also was lost on appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court, not because they were not molested, nor because the elders morally and ethically failed to report, but once again on a legal loophole that was hard won with hundreds of thousands of dollars of Jehovahýs Witness donated funds being spent on legal fees to protect the interests of a child molester accused of molesting several children.
There is a popular saying in the Christian world, ýWhat would Jesus do?ý The idea being in conducting oneself as a Christian one would use Christ as an example to determine the best behavior. Could any person that claims to follow Christ envision a courtroom with Christ supporting the rights of a convicted child molester using funds donated to his ministry to the detriment of victims? Could we picture Christ and his disciples sitting in a courtroom to support a child molester at his sentencing hearing while ignoring the victim? Jehovahýs Witnesses seem to take pride in making this a practice. See links for details,
It is true Jehovahýs Witnesses will promote this as a victory for Godýs work. Yet the reality shows this to be no victory when it comes to doing what is morally and ethically right. It represents a dismal failure in the primary purpose of any group that claims to work for God that is, using money dedicated to help people to instead protect criminals and hurt children. Jehovahýs Witnesses have done more to reproach Jehovah than any group on the face of the earth as they spend millions of dollars in donations to protect pedophiles and ignore victims of their policy on abuse.
Meanwhile Sara and her daughters are left to pick up the pieces and move on with their lives. Sara has remarried and works as an advocate for abuse survivors while running a sheep farm in New Hampshire . Heather is working and making a go of life on her own. Holly was contacted by a recording company after singing in one of the television programs and has currently cut two CDýs for a Warner Brothers recording label. Life is not easy but this family remains a family and moves forward on the path to healing.
Paul Berry remains a Jehovahýs Witness in good standing and often gets visits from his congregation to support him. Though incarcerated for fifty-six years if the legal loop hole presents itself he will be welcomed back to this congregation and perhaps will re-qualify for a position of responsibility in the congregation. To date Paul Berry remains unlisted as a sex offender in the State of New Hampshire though convicted on twelve counts of child abuse. Paul regularly ýwitnessesý to fellow convicts and offers bible study to them. It is required for Berry to remain a JW in good standing as it will be if and when he released from prison. So if you live in New Hampshire beware that someday Paul Berry could be calling at your home, meeting your children, and offering to study the bible with your family. You can be sure he will offer you a couple of free magazines and then ask for a donation to the worldwide work fund of Jehovahýs Witnesses. That fund has provided Paul and many other Jehovahýs Witness pedophiles millions of dollars in unlimited legal assistance to protect their rights against victims of abuse. That ýfundý has allowed legal loopholes to be exploited while ignoring the ethical and moral obligation to protect children and report crime.
Sara, Holly and Heather are recipients of the silentlambs courage award. It is a simple recognition that states in part, ýFor courage above and beyond the call of duty in protecting children.ý Though a small gesture it is a quiet ýthank youý for doing something so honorable. They stood for what was right and spoke out at great emotional costs. The programs they have participated in have aired in over fifty countries around the world. Their comments and life story has educated and protected hundreds of thousands of children around the world. Sara is a small woman in stature but inside she is a giant in standing for victims of abuse. When interviewed for the BBC Panorama program she made the comment, ýIt was so powerful to be believed.ý Those words echo the point and purpose of silentlambs that is to let victims know they have a voice and that they will be believed. We are honored to know Sara, her daughters and let them know the deep appreciation for their efforts on behalf of all silent lambs.
One final note, lawyers for Holly and Heather will file a motion for reconsideration on the current appeal dismissal. We hope the judges will reconsider.
If you would like to send a comment to Sara, Holley and Heather please send it to email@example.com and we will be glad to see that they get it.
Christianity Today Article on Court Case
Pictures of Sara going to court
Berry Civil Case
2004 Article on Berry court case with Quotes from WT PR Department
2003 Article on Berry Case
Sentencing Hearing of Paul Berry