The Business Post – 25th March 2018
The Sunday Business Post – 25th March 2018
Author: Barry J Whyte
Galway man Jason Wynn became a Jehovah’s Witness at the age of 2 when his mother converted.
Today, he is regarded by the religion as an apostate, shunned by some members of his family. He is also being sued by the organisation’s New York headquarters over a blog he founded that chronicles myriad problems with its handling of child sex abuse allegations.
According to legal documents The Sunday Business Post has seen, Wynne has been threatened and with ‘monetary damages and compensation to the fullest extent of the law’ through a New York court over the blog.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses religion is known for its strict interpretation of the Bible and for its evangelical proselytising. Its headquarters known as the Watch Tower is based in New York.
The Watch Tower is arguing that the blog contains the religion’s intellectual property and trademarks and is thus violating its copyright, and earlier this year went to the US District Court for the Southern District of New York to apply for what’s known as a DMCA subpoena to shut down the blog.
The subpoena was granted and the religion’s legal counsel has written to Wynne demanding that he take down the website, delete the data, and sign an affidavit that he has done so.
“If we do not receive the signed undertakings, Watch Tower will take this matter to court. If this is the remedy we are obligate to pursue, we will seek monetary damages and compensation to the fullest extent of the law,” the correspondence states.
“These damages may include statutory penalties and reimbursement of any costs we incur including Watch Tower’s attorney’s fees. We will also make every effort to legally enjoin you from further misappropriation under penalty of additional fees.”
Wynne had founded the blog some time after he was excommunicated from the religion – a practise known in the organisation as disfellowshipping – when he was discovered to have had sex outside of marriage.
He had hoped to be readmitted but soon discovered that he had been expelled using secret policies that the organisation did not disclose to its ordinary members.
“I discovered they were using secret policies against their members in their internal judicial court under the guise of ‘spiritual matters’,” he said.
“If any member or ex member tried to do anything in [the internal] court they’d say it was a ‘spiritual matter’, thus preventing them from appealing against whatever punishment had been applied.”
Wynne set up the blog as a place to host documents that set out these secret policies so that he could help other members who had similarly found themselves disfellowshipped and shunned. He was soon inundated with material.
Other active Jehovah’s Witnesses saw what I was doing and said, “Oh you’ve got old letters there, here’s the latest version”. More and more people sent in more policy documents that they had scanned in,’ he said. “The blog was the first time people could come to a single source to get everything.”
Very quickly, the blog began to host a lot of documents relating to alleged child sex abuse. The religion has come under increasing scrutiny worldwide over how it handles abuse allegations, as has been reported in The Sunday Business Post in recent months. It has been criticised in statutory inquires in Britain and Australia, and sued in US courts, over abuse cases.
The blog has been instrumental in helping some of those investigations, he said.
“Avoid JW and its operatives have provided data to the Garda; Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse; the UK Charity Commission; the Russian Ministry of Justice (one of the documents we provided is a key reason why they are now banned); lawyers in various cases in UK, US and Canada, to journalists in Spain, Netherlands, US, UK,” he said.
However Wynne told The Sunday Business Post that he had long ago stopped any involvement with the site, which is no being run by other people.
“It’s such a big site I wouldn’t be able to run it on my own. So basically we decided to remove the control of the site from me,” he said.
Wynne said all of the people now running the site were current Jehovah’s Witnesses. “The control is with them now and it’s not on servers in the US and not on servers in Ireland.”
He is still concerned about the legal threat, but pointed out that he could not make any decisions about a website he was not involved in, saying “You can’t get water out of a stone”.