Last Update: 7/13/2020
In March 2018, two San Diego men who say that a Jehovah’s Witnesses elder sexually abused them as children settled their lawsuits against the organization’s governing body, The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York. Neither the plaintiffs’ attorney nor Watchtower officials are allowed to discuss the terms of the settlements.
A few months before the settlements, the 4th District Court of Appeal upheld a ruling requiring the Watchtower to pay a $4,000-per-day penalty for a refusal to turn over internal documents containing information about church leaders who had been accused of child sexual abuse.
Both plaintiffs say that they were molested by Gonzalo Campos, a church leader at various San Diego congregations during the 1990s. The lawsuit also alleged that church elders were aware of allegations of sexual abuse against Campos as early as 1982, but covered up the abuse instead of reporting it to authorities. Campos was never reprimanded and continued to work with children.
Jose Lopez said that Campos molested him in 1986 when Lopez was 7 years old. According to the lawsuit, this incident happened at Campos’ home in La Jolla after a church elder suggested that Campos mentor Lopez.
Campos was still acting as a church leader in 1994 or 1995 at another local congregation when he allegedly molested Osbaldo Padron, who was 7 or 8 years old at the time. Campos was removed from the church following this incident but later permitted to return by church elders who claimed he was a changed man.
Campos eventually confessed to abusing at least eight children between 1982 and 1995. He fled the country to Mexico around 2010. These are not the first sexual abuse lawsuit settlements involving Campos.
As a sexual abuse attorney, Bobby Thompson helps survivors pursue justice against their abusers and third parties who may have protected those same abusers in an attempt to maintain their reputation. Below, we’ve included some of the comments he kindly offered to share on cases dealing with sexual assault and abuse lawsuits, particularly in the Jehovah’s Witnesses religious community.
“The Jehovah’s Witnesses are notorious for pressuring survivors of sexual abuse to keep these criminal trespassings under wraps instead of reporting their abuser to law enforcement. Official documents from the organization have demonstrated this in the past, including an official “two witness” policy uncovered and which detailed that two witnesses to sexual abuse be recorded before outside authorities are notified – a condition which is very rarely met. These policies and other tactics have allowed abusers to stay on the streets and active with their congregations, enabling these predators to continue their abuse.”
Mr. Thompson further elaborated on the legal ramifications, “Many survivors of sexual abuse at Jehovah’s Witnesses churches have turned to the legal system to find justice. Filing a lawsuit can help demand accountability from the organization for their negligence, help protect others from suffering abuse, and send a message to the national organization that they must turn over allegations of sexual abuse to law enforcement.”