Oregon sex abuse suit filed against Jehovah's Witnesses

Posted: Friday, October 11, 2002

CORVALLIS, Ore. (AP) -- Tyler Davidow of Corvallis has filed a $3 million suit against two local Jehovah's Witness congregations and the faith's national headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y., claiming leaders ignored sexual abuse he suffered as a child.

The latest dispute concerning abuse among Witnesses involves a claim that Davidow was molested by a fellow believer at age 4 or 5. Cathy Davidow, his mother, contends she took the complaint to elders who promised to investigate, told her to keep quiet, then did nothing.

Headquarters spokesman J. R. Brown said the faith deals strictly with abuse, follows mandatory reporting laws in states that have them, and allows followers to contact secular authorities.

But Kimberlee Norris, the plaintiffs' attorney, said the faith encourages Witnesses to take complaints to elders. ''The elders are the voice of the Watchtower (the name of the Jehovah's Witness headquarters), and the Watchtower is the voice of Christ,'' she said.

Oregon law requires clergy to report molesting allegations to police, but another law provides an exception if a religion's practice is to keep confidential communications secret.

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