Ronald Lawrence child molestation case reveals cover-up by Jehovah Witness Church
The top leadership of the Jehovah’s Witness worldwide organization could face criminal charges in a cover-up of alleged child sexual abuse.
The District 18 District Attorney’s Office in the State of Oklahoma filed a motion on Jan. 28, 2014 in the case of accused molester Ronald Lawrence that alleges the top leadership of the Jehovah’s Witness Church knew about claims of child rape and molestation and deliberately concealed them.
“The actions of the church, their banishment of Lawrence on one or more occasion and the directives of the governing body toward the victims and their family members regarding these crimes were actions of concealment and further actions preventing the victims from reporting the crimes to law enforcement,” the motion states.
In November 2013, Ronald Lawrence a former church elder was charged in Pittsburg County Oklahoma District Court with 19 felony counts, including 11 of molestation, seven of forcible sodomy, and one of rape by instrumentation against two preteen girls and one 5-year-old boy.
The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses is accused of giving directives to congregation elders to conceal the accusations. The Governing Body is made up of eight senior male members of the church, and provides leadership and direction to the roughly 8 million Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide.
“As a group we applaud this action by the District Attorney’s office and hope that justice is served and the victims are finally given the help that they need,” stated Richard Kelly, a former Jehovah’s Witness who is now the managing director of the organization, Advocates for Awareness of Watchtower Abuses or AAWA. “The top leadership of this religious group has made a concerted effort to conceal child molestation within the organization. It is heartening to see that they will be held accountable.”
Cases similar to this have been filed in recent years including the notable Candace Conti suit in California which the Jehovah’s Witness organization lost. However, to the AAWA’s knowledge, this is the first time that the top leaders of a religious organization have been named in such a case.