$28 Million Award in Jehovah’s Witnesses Molest Case

Monday, June 18, 2012

The U.S. Catholic Church, which has paid out an estimated $3 billion in settlements and monetary awards, has received the most publicity among religious institutions accused of abetting the sexual abuse of children, and deservedly so. But the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Fremont, California, last week were ordered to pay nearly half of an unprecedented $28 million judgment for allowing an adult member of the church to molest a child in the mid-‘90s.

A jury awarded $7 million in compensatory damage and $21 million in punitive damages to Candace Condi, who said she was repeatedly molested when she was 9 and 10 years old by fellow congregant Jonathan David Kendrick although elders at the church knew he had molested his stepdaughter a few years before but had not alerted others. An attorney for the Jehovah’s Witnesses said he would appeal.

Kendrick was ordered to pay 60% of the judgment and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the legal entity of the Jehovah's Witnesses, was dinged for the rest. Attorneys involved in the case said it may be the first time a religious institution was held liable for sexual abuse rather than a priest or high official.

Kendrick had admitted abusing his stepdaughter to church elders in 1993 and he was convicted the next year of misdemeanor sexual battery. Condi was molested in 1995 and 1996. Kendrick was convicted of felony charges in 2004 for molesting another relative and was compelled to register as a sex offender.

Condi’s attorneys argued that a letter sent to church elders by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society in July 1989, when churches of many denominations were facing allegations of sexual abuse, encouraged “the need for elders to maintain strict confidentiality” in personal matters, including those that involved criminal matters. “The legal consequences of a breach of confidentiality by the elders can be substantial,” the letter warned.


Jehovah’s Witnesses claim 7.7 million practicing members in 109,403 congregations worldwide.

Calif Jury Awards $28M in Jehovah's Sex Abuse Case (Associated Press)

Jehovah's Witnesses Lose Big Fremont Molest Suit (by Demian Bulwa, San Francisco Chronicle)

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