AAWA President Lee Marsh Urges Public to Watch Child-Friendly Faith Conference Print
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Thursday, 07 November 2013 15:36
She Says Jehovah’s Witness is Just One Faith Group that Fosters Religion-Based Child Abuse

Lee Marsh, president of Advocates for Awareness of Watchtower Abuses, urges the public to tune in Nov. 8 to a ground-breaking conference focused on ending religion-based child abuse.

Child-Friendly Faith Project’s first conference brings together religion, legal and other experts including Texas Supreme Court Justice Debra H. Lehrmann, “Prophet's Prey” author Sam Brower, Christian theology professor Dr. David H. Jensen, child advocate Dr. Rita Swan, and family law expert Ann M. Haralambie, JD. There will also be a survivors panel discussion moderated by cult expert Steven Hassan.

You can watch the conference during a live stream beginning at 9 a.m. Nov. 8 at ChildFriendlyFaith.org. The goal is to end all religion-based child abuse and cover-ups that protect abusers.

“There are a number of practices that hurt children,” says Marsh, who was raised a member of Jehovah’s Witness. “Some faiths encourage spanking and other physical abuse – even for small babies. Some forbid their followers from seeking medical treatment, relying instead on faith to heal, which has led to the deaths of children. And some allow child sexual abuse to go unchecked and unpunished.”

Religion-based child abuse is more prevalent than many believe, she says.

“It neither started nor stopped with the infamous Roman Catholic Church scandal,” says Marsh, who says as a child, she and her 13-year-old aunt were sexually abused by the same man.

“Instead of calling the police, the leaders of the Jehovah’s Witness congregation I attended were told to deal with the problem,” Marsh says.

“In both cases, the elder in charge suggested that we girls go to live at another home away from our families. The issue was kept quiet and the accused person remained in the home and in the congregation.”

Among those expected at the conference is another Jehovah’s Witness, Candace Conti. She’s one of the few members of the faith who successfully pushed for legal prosecution of the church for protecting her abuser. The Watch Tower Society, which oversees Jehovah’s Witnesses,  was found guilty of covering up child sexual abuse to protect a molester, and she was awarded $28 million in damages.

“It’s important for everyone to be allowed to practice the faith of their choice, and to draw the strength, support and instruction from it that they need,” Marsh says. “However, we have to protect the most vulnerable in our society from the practices that cause physical and emotional harm – practices that are not tolerated in any other area of civilized society.”

Lee Marsh is a retired trauma counselor and president of Advocates for Awareness of Watchtower Abuses and the director of Support Services. AAWA is an international organization established to educate the world about some of Watchtower’s most shocking practices.