For immediate release: Saturday, March 1, 2014
Statement by David Clohessy of St. Louis, Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 566 9790, SNAPclohessy@aol.com)
We are grateful that an Oklahoma prosecutor plans to appeal a devastating ruling that lets a Jehovah's Witness elder escape consequences for his heinous child sex crimes by exploiting a legal technicality.
Pittsburg County Prosecutor Danita Williams has said she'll ask a higher court to let her pursue criminal charges against Ronald Lawrence of McAlester, who allegedly repeatedly sexually assaulted two boys and a girl.
Lawrence had successfully argued that an arbitrary, archaic deadline – known as the statute of limitations – means that he gets to avoid prosecution.
We are appalled that an allegedly spiritual man would seek to hide behind a technicality like this. If he wants to defend himself, let him do it on the merits, not on the technicalities.
And we're appalled by the apparent silence of the Oklahoma Jehovah's Witness community. Church officials should be using their resources to aggressively seek out others who saw, suspected or suffered Lawrence's crimes. They should be begging anyone with information or suspicions of his wrongdoing to call police and prosecutors. They should be pledging to pay for therapy and medical expenses for others he has hurt. They should be reminding church staff, volunteers and members that calling law enforcement about known or suspected child sex crimes is crucial. They should be doing an internal investigation to see if other Jehovah's Witnesses knew of or suspected his crimes and kept silent or concealed the crimes.
Instead, as best we can tell, they're doing nothing.
On the other hand, these three victims are to be commended for their courage. It's always hard for child sex abuse victms to disclose their suffering. It's often harder when the predator cloaks himself in spirituality. We are grateful to these three brave individuals for speaking up and for helping police and prosecutors pursue Lawrence.
We hope their responsible, caring actions will inspire others who have been victimized to break their silence, get help, expose criminals, protect kids and start healing.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 25 years and have more than 15,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Steven Mangert Former J-W