As the entire article is in French, the article is translated below:
Jehovah’s Witnesses defend their treatment of sexual assault cases
Even though the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses is very closed and tightly woven, it is also affected by the #moiaussi [#metoo] wave: its lawyers began yesterday to defend in court the practices of the religious group, accused of abandoning the victims of assault to protect the abusers to avoid tarnishing their reputation.
A class action suit filed by a former sexual assault advisor alleges that the movement is imposing on its congregations around the world internal rules that discourage the reporting of sexual assault and harm the protection of victims. “What is exposed is that a system has been set up under the tutelage of the Central College, a group of men who make decisions and issue doctrines that are redistributed around the world,” argued the lawyer who leads the class action, Ms. Sarah Woods, before Justice Chantal Corriveau in the Superior Court.
The religious organization’s policies "hinder denunciation to lay authorities of sexual abuse of minors and maintain a parallel disciplinary process in the form of judicial committees, “a process that is harmful to victims and negligently recidivism,” added the lawyer.
Lisa Blais, who launched the action on behalf of all Quebec victims, grew up in a family member of Jehovah’s Witnesses. She claims to have been sexually assaulted by her brother from an early age. She denounced these assaults when she was 16 years old to her parents and “elders” of her religious community, but nothing would have been done to try to punish the alleged aggressor.
Since the organization’s policies on sexual assault would be developed in the United States, at the highest levels, the demand for collective action is directed at US entities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Pennsylvania and New York City and more Canadian instances.
DO NOT GO AGAINST JEHOVAH
The court has not yet determined whether the action sought could proceed. The arguments in this regard will be heard in mid-December. But even before reaching this stage, the lawyers of the religious group dispute the fact that US authorities can be prosecuted, saying that Quebec justice does not have jurisdiction over their decisions.
Victims do not agree, saying that all congregations follow the guidelines developed in the United States. “A witness’s non-compliance with the organization’s policies is seen as upsetting Jehovah, the god of witnesses,” said Woods. As a result, central college policies create fear among witnesses and force them to develop an attitude of submission. "
Jehovah’s Witnesses have been the subject of several prosecutions by ex-followers in the United States for their handling of sexual assault cases. In Canada, shortly after the Quebec class action petition, a similar initiative was launched in Ontario.
The religious group issued a statement following yesterday’s hearing. “We are confident that the facts will show that Jehovah’s Witnesses are working to follow the child protection reporting act,” a spokesperson said by email. “For decades we have cooperated with the authorities responsible for the protection of children. And of course, anyone who knows of an allegation of abuse should feel free to go to the authorities at all times.”
“A witness’s non-compliance with the organization’s policies is considered to be upsetting to Jehovah … Therefore, Central College policies create fear within the Witnesses and force them to develop an attitude of submission.” – Sarah Woods, the lawyer who is leading the collective action against the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses.