The Utah Supreme Court heard arguments Monday in a case alleging male leaders of a Jehovah’s Witnesses congregation in Roy forced a 15-year-old girl to listen to a recording of a man raping her in 2008.
Lower courts found the church is not liable for the incident under protections of the First Amendment.
The woman sued the four elders, the Roy church and the religion’s national organization, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, in Oden’s 2nd District Court in 2016. She alleges she cried, shook visibly and pleaded for them to stop as they played the recording intermittently over the course of at least four hours in 2008. Their goal was to extract a confession that she had voluntarily engaged in sex outside of marriage, her attorneys contend.
She alleges she was 14 years old when the man, a fellow Jehovah’s Witness, 18, bullied her increasingly and began sexually assaulting her in December 2007. She alleges he raped her several times and provided her congregation’s leaders a recording of one instance.
She sought out counseling and medical treatment as she dealt with anxiety, nightmares and poor performance in school, her attorneys say.