News in brief from California's North Coast

The Mercury News/February 19, 2004

Santa Rosa, Calif. - Two Sonoma County congregations of the Jehovah's Witnesses are being sued over allegations of sexual abuse.

Four former members of Jehovah's Witnesses say they were sexually abused by a church official in congregations in Santa Rosa and Petaluma during the 1980s and that the church covered it up.

The lawsuit names the two Sonoma County congregations of the Jehovah's Witnesses and Donald L. Glew, a former church member who was convicted in 1989 of four counts of child molestation. Glew, now 52, was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

The plaintiffs claim Glew was a church leader in Santa Rosa and Petaluma who used his position to gain access to young children of church members. He started molesting two of the plaintiffs when they were infants, the suit alleges.

An attorney for Jehovah's Witnesses says Glew was never a church official.

Similar lawsuits have been filed in six other Northern California counties, including Napa, Santa Clara, Monterey and Yolo.

Jehovah's Witnesses officials deny reports of widespread abuse, saying the incidents are isolated and mostly involved church members who weren't in positions of authority.

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