Bar News - May 19, 2006
Watchtower Society Responds to Bouchard Letter
I am Associate General Counsel for Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. (Watchtower), and I am also an attorney of record in the Berry
case which was the subject of the “Morning Mail” column in the April 21, 2006, edition of the New Hampshire Bar News,
that was written by Kenneth G. Bouchard.
First, Jehovah’s Witnesses abhor child abuse in any form, and are very concerned over the safety and protection of children. Thus, long before the clergy abuse scandal gained notoriety, Jehovah’s Witnesses had strong policies in place to protect children from child abuse.
Second, the crux of Mr. Bouchard’s criticism of Berry appears to be the allegations that “the elders of the church instructed the children’s mother not to report the ongoing abuse,” and that they told her to “keep the matter within the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Mr. Bouchard appears to have forgotten that since the Berry case was dismissed on summary judgment, the trial court and the New Hampshire Supreme Court opinions recited the facts as alleged by the plaintiffs. Nevertheless, the courts were made aware of the evidence that contradicted the facts alleged by the plaintiffs. These alleged facts were contradicted by the sworn testimony of the plaintiffs and their own mother. Mr. Bouchard could easily have learned this by reading the briefs or contacting our office.
For example, at a May 12, 2003, evidentiary hearing, the plaintiffs’ mother testified that the elders never told her, nor did they ever give her the impression, that she was not to report her concerns of physical abuse to the police or public authorities. Tr. at 69. Further, contrary to plaintiffs’ allegations, their mother went to the authorities as early as 1988 and again in 1990 regarding allegations of physical abuse that she made against her then husband, Paul Berry. J.A. at 988 -994. Also, the plaintiff’s mother sent plaintiff Heather Berry to a child psychologist as early as 1989 because she suspected sexual abuse by Paul Berry. J.A. at 993. In addition, plaintiffs’ mother testified that she never told the elders that her children had been sexually abused. J.A. at 960-62, 975, 979; Tr. at 55, 56, 58.
Unlike Mr. Bouchard, the trial court and the New Hampshire Supreme Court recognized this case for what it is. This is a tragic case in which a father sexually abused his children at home, the mother eventually suspected sexual abuse, but the church elders were never told about her suspicions until after the authorities were informed. Therefore, although everyone’s heart goes out to the plaintiffs for the anguish that they have suffered, as the New Hampshire Supreme Court pointed out, it was simply not the fault of the congregation elders.
Robert C. James
Associate General Counsel
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
A Note of Thanks…
Recently I attended an ABA seminar here in Washington, D.C. I normally carry my NH Bar number written on one of your business cards but the first day of the seminar I left your card at the office. I thought maybe I could call the NH Bar and they could give me my number. I spoke with a very professional receptionist and explained my problem and she transferred me to an office where I could have left a message but I chose not to since I wasn’t near a phone for a call-back at the seminar.
It wasn’t a very big deal and later that day I returned to my office to retrieve my NH Bar ID number from my desk. Well, when I got to the office there was a note on my desk that your staff had called and provided me with my membership number. What a pleasant surprise! I didn’t leave my name with anyone and didn’t leave a message so I can only conclude that the receptionist remembered the name and called herself or told someone and they called. Either way - outstanding customer service! I only wish that I knew the receptionist’s name because she deserves a “Job well done!”.
U.S. DOT/Research and Innovative
Editor’s Note: Actually, the “very professional” receptionist was Susan Noon, program director for the New Hampshire Bar Foundation who was filling in at the front desk. (All Bar Center staff, including the NHBF employees, pitch in to help cover breaks and lunch hour for our receptionist, Joan Raymond.)