Judge: Raids on Jehovah’s witnesses were lawful

Jehovah's Witnesses preaching in Netherlands during child abuse crisis

The raid by justice in 2018 of church buildings and elders’ homes of the Jehovah’s Witnesses were lawful and necessary for the police investigation. The court in Zwolle ruled that on Friday.

Originally published in Dutch in De Telegraaf on 8 May 2020

In the context of an investigation into alleged sexual abuse among the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the judiciary raided the headquarters of the church organization in Emmen, a number of homes of elders and the Kingdom Halls in Assen and Dordrecht, two years ago. The prosecution sought documents from judicial committees that the Jehovah’s form if a member is accused of child sexual abuse. The elders who initiated this complaint procedure are not suspects in these criminal investigations.

“This statement is very disturbing. We expect the government to respect the privilege of non-disclosure of religious servants,” said Board Member Michael van Ling of the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Netherlands. “We will review our legal options for appeals.”

The court rules that the elders cannot invoke the right of non-disclosure. “In this case, there is no confidentiality obligation that is part of the relationship of trust that mental health workers and care providers have with the person asking for help,” the court ruled. “The information shared within the judicial committee is not entrusted to the elders in their role as counselors, but in their role as members of the judicial committee.”

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