2 Sue Jehovah's Witnesses Congregation, Say Abused

Associated Press/September 30, 2014

By Lisa Rathke

Montpelier, Vermont -- Two adult sisters filed suit Tuesday against a Jehovah's Witness congregation in Vermont, saying they were molested by a minister when they were minor children and the church did nothing to protect them.

Miranda Lewis, 23, and Annessa Lewis, 27, say in their lawsuits that they were abused in the 1990s at ages 4 and 5 by then ministerial servant Norton True, who they said the church knew had a history of sexually assaulting minors. They have sued True, the Bellows Falls congregation of the Jehovah's Witnesses and its governing body, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York. They say their mother reported the allegations to the congregation but no action was taken against True.

The congregation and the Watchtower Bible and Track Society of New York did not return messages seeking comment. True could not be reached; there is no phone listing for him in Vermont.

Miranda Lewis on Tuesday attended a press conference with lawyer Jerome O'Neill, who has won millions of dollars in settlements for plaintiffs in priest sex abuse cases against the Vermont's Roman Catholic Diocese of Burlington. Co-attorney Irwin Zalkin said his law firm has similar cases against the Jehovah's Witnesses pending in four other states.

Lewis said she was molested multiple times by True, the first time at age 4 after a church meeting, when he stopped her from exiting the room.

Annessa Lewis said she was molested by True at age 4 while he was babysitting her at his home.

Their mother reported the allegations to the elders of the congregation, but they took no apparent action against True and did not report the allegations to police or a child protective agency, the lawsuit said.

"Defendants Bellows Falls Congregation and Watchtower, by their actions and choices not to take action, ratified, authorized and approved of Defendant True's sexual molestation of children," the complaint said.

The lawsuits seek unspecified damages.

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