LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — A 26-year-old man is suing several Jehovah’s Witnesses organizations, alleging he was sexually abused by an adult elder in his congregation starting when he was 6-years-old.
Kevin Ramirez alleged in the complaint that his abuser, identified as Humberto, used his position within the church to build a relationship with Ramirez’s family that enabled him to molest Ramirez from 1999-2001.
“Indeed, Humberto used his position to molest multiple boys in (the) congregation,” the suit alleged. “Humberto molested plaintiff on numerous occasions, including during and after church events such as field service, bible study and during a Jehovah’s Witness Assembly.”
According to the suit, Humberto told Ramirez as a child that “he would not be accepted into paradise if he did not allow the molestations to occur.” The suit stated that after Ramirez confided in his parents, they reported the abuse to the church in 2001. However, the suit said, the church did not take the information to the police and actively discouraged the family from doing so.
The suit also alleged that a church official known as a ministerial servant who “obliquely warned plaintiff’s father to watch out for Humberto.”
The suit filed last week names the San Dimas Spanish Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York Inc., the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses Inc. and the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses as defendants.
The suit alleged that these organizations failed to protect children like Ramirez from sexual battery and sexual harassment. The suit is seeking unspecified damages from the church.
On Tuesday, the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses said that Watchtower does not comment on pending litigation.
“Watchtower’s stand on the subject of child abuse is very clear: we despise child abuse in any form,” the statement said. “Our hearts go out to anyone who suffered as a result of child sexual abuse. Over the years, Watchtower’s publications have addressed this topic with a view to equipping parents to protect their children. In addition, Watchtower’s practice is to always follow the law, and we support the efforts of elders in congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses to do the same.”
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)