Jehovah’s Witnesses to pay $13.5M for alleged child abuse

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SAN DIEGO -- The Jehovah's Witnesses church has been ordered to pay $13.5 million to a man who claimed that he was sexually molested beginning at age 7 by his bible studies teacher .

San Diego Superior Court Judge Joan M. Lewis ordered the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society to pay punitive and compensatory damages to Jose Lopez for alleged abuse by by Gonzalo Campos of the Linda Vista Spanish Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses in Pacific Beach.

Lopez, 36, claims that the abuse began around 1986, when his mother enrolled him at age 7 in bible study classes with Campos.

“I just kept it bottled up inside,” Lopez said. “I never told anybody. I never dealt with it.”

During their time alone, Capos allegedly began grooming Lopez, according to court documents.

“It started with having Jose come and sit on his lap, touch his legs, rubbing his back…getting physical and connected to Jose,” said Irwin Zalkin, Lopez’s attorney.

On one occasion, Lopez claims Campos sexually molested him while they were alone at a private residence in La Jolla, where Campo’s mother worked as a housekeeper.

“He was so frightened and so scared, and when he came back his mother could see there was something visibly shaken up about the boy,” Zalkin said.

Lopez’s mother went to the heads of the congregation but said that the allegations were overlooked.

“If they don’t get a confession from the perpetrator or they don’t get two eye witnesses to the abuse…under their policies and practices, they will do nothing,” Zalkin said.

After years of staying quiet, Lopez filed a lawsuit against Campos and the church in 2012.

He is one of eight children who have accused Campos of sexually abusing them between 1982 and 1995, according to his lawsuit against the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, the entity that oversees Jehovah’s Witnesses churches.

During the litigation, the head church in New York refused to provide documents and witnesses, Zalkin said.

San Diego Superior Judge Joan M. Lewis awarded the judgment for punitive and compensatory damages.

Associate General Counsel for Watchtower Mario Moreno commented in a statement: “Jehovah’s Witnesses abhor child abuse and strive to protect children from such acts. The trial judge’s decision is a drastic action for any judge to take given the circumstances of this case. We will seek a full review of this case on appeal.”

Zalkin said Campos moved to Mexico soon after allegations against him began to surface.

“I just want him to be behind bars where he belongs,” Lopez said.

8 comments

  • bob pearl

    wow i would have never guessed that they are like the catholics, well so now we know we have still alot of other religions to hear about someday to see what they do wrong,lol

  • David Kyriacou (@KyriacouDavid)

    What is the Definition of Alleged? It means “unproven” according to Websters
    “I just kept it bottled up inside,” Lopez said. “I NEVER told anybody. ” Really? The article contradicts his statement
    as he did tell his mother obviously correct? She approached the congregation it seems at the time of the abuse.

    The mother was free to approach the authorities if she wished and they would have taken her concerns seriously.
    A VALID witness is always a Third party individual. There is none.

    Who’s responsibility is it to come forward to the authorities with the alleged abuse? Obviously the mother was the authority or family head. She obviously did not do that when she was told about the abuse . Did the article state that the Jehovah’s Witnesses told her NOT to approach the authorities? I did not read or hear that from Zalkin.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses did not provide witnesses or documents that proved innocence of the ALLEGED abuser
    because they have none. If Campos did not provide them any evidence of guilt by admitting to the abuse
    then they won’t have any witnesses or documents proving innocence OR guilt. Likewise Lopez and his mother had
    no evidence that the abuse occurred at the time they approached the congregation.

    Plus if he is 36 he was born around 1977 and the abuse would have occurred in 1984 when he would have been 7 not when he said the abuse started in 1986.
    Article is very badly written.

    • John Doe

      The Associated Press article stated that the elders told the mother not to go to the authorities. Go read that one if you want a better article.

      • David Kyriacou (@KyriacouDavid)

        Your comment leaves out a crucial point. The Associated Press article says quote ” Lopez also SAID that after he told his mother about the molestation, church leaders told his mother not to report it to law enforcement.”

        Saying something is not evidence and can not prove anything.

        The abuse of Jose Lopez is alleged or unproven as the AP article states. Lopez statement that church leaders told his mother not to report the alleged abuse to law enforcement is also unproven. If Zalkin had proof that leaders told his mother not to report it to authorities he would have stated so.

  • Denise OConnor

    I grew up in that religion it is one if the most oppressive ones going. They harbour abusers and protect them!!!

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