Montana Jehovah’s Witness sex abuse case underscores church’s worldwide reckoning

The Missoulian

September 30, 2018

By Seaborn Larson

Perhaps the largest jury award ever to a single person claiming the Jehovah’s Witnesses church failed to protect her from a sexual predator came Wednesday in Thompson Falls, a 1,300-person town peeking out from the pines along Highway 200 in northwest Montana.

The jury’s award, $35 million in punitive and compensatory damages to one woman, is more than financial relief, the woman’s attorneys say. It’s a message to the church: If leadership won’t amend their policies in handling child sex abuse, they’re going to pay for it.

In 2012, a California jury awarded one woman $28 million for her own claims against the Witnesses. Her attorney said it was the largest jury verdict for a single victim in a religious abuse case in the entire country at that time. The payout is a direct reflection of the church’s enormous and — most importantly — centralized wealth at the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, located in Pennsylvania and New York.

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