Sonoma County Elder Accused of Child Abuse

[Original publication date: March 1, 2004]

Suit accuses church official of abuse. Four say Jehovah’s Witness church hid crime; man a convicted child molester

Four former members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses have filed a lawsuit in Superior Court, contending they were sexually abused by a church official in Sonoma County (California) during the 1980s and the church covered up the crime.
February 19, 2004 – By STEVE HART, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT (Santa Rosa, CA)

Sonoma County, California Kingdom Halls (2013)
Sonoma County, California Kingdom Halls (2013)

The lawsuit names two Sonoma County congregations of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Donald L. Glew, a former church member who was convicted in 1989 of four counts of child molestation. Glew, now 52, was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

According to the lawsuit, Glew was a church leader in Santa Rosa and Petaluma who used his position to gain access to young children of church members. He started molesting two of the plaintiffs when they were infants, the suit alleges.

The other alleged victims were 1 and 5 years old when Glew started molesting them, according to the complaint filed Feb. 9.

“He was someone vested with authority,” said Bill Brelsford, a Sacramento attorney who represents the four plaintiffs, identified only by their first names in the 22-page complaint.

But a top Jehovah’s Witnesses attorney Wednesday said Glew was never a church official.

“Based on our preliminary investigation, Donald L. Glew has never served in any position of responsibility with any congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses and he has not been one of Jehovah’s Witnesses since 1989,” said Philip Brumley, general counsel for the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, the Jehovah’s Witnesses parent organization.

He said the church isn’t responsible for Glew’s actions. The lawsuit also names the Watchtower Society as a defendant.

The Sonoma County lawsuit echoes allegations filed against the church in other communities. Some former Jehovah’s Witnesses say the organization has covered up numerous incidents of child molestation by church officials over the years.

Similar lawsuits have been filed in six other Northern California counties, including Napa, Santa Clara, Monterey and Yolo.

But Jehovah’s Witnesses officials deny reports of widespread abuse, saying the incidents are isolated and mostly involved church members who weren’t in positions of authority.

According to the Sonoma County lawsuit, Glew became a “ministerial servant” in the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the late 1970s. He counseled church members and supervised the care of Jehovah’s Witnesses children while their parents did “field service,” including door-to-door proselytizing.

He molested the four plaintiffs, two boys and two girls, between 1982 and 1988, according to the lawsuit.

Other church leaders learned Glew was molesting children as early as 1980, the suit says, but they took no action to stop him and they prohibited the victims’ families from reporting the crimes to police.

According to the suit, church officials told the victims’ families that they should leave the matter to the church to handle. The church “engaged in a systematic pattern and practice of suppression of information to cover up and hide incidents of child molestation from law enforcement and their membership,” the complaint alleges.

The suit seeks undisclosed damages for sexual battery, fraud, conspiracy, emotional distress and negligence.

Brelsford said the victims still live in Sonoma County and range in age from 16 to 25.

Glew, who now lives in San Mateo County, couldn’t be located for comment.

Brumley said the church hasn’t received a copy of the lawsuit, which lists the 16-year-old girl as the lead plaintiff.

“While our hearts go out to the plaintiff for any suffering she has endured, we are confident that neither Watchtower nor any of the local congregation elders are responsible for what the plaintiff alleges Donald L. Glew did,” Brumley said.

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3 Replies to “Sonoma County Elder Accused of Child Abuse”

  1. Don Glew was a ministerial servant in Fairfax, CA before moving to Sonoma County where his stepchildren had reported to their teachers what he was doing to them and other people’s children at the Kingdom Hall. The elders chose to demonize the children, label them “problem child,” and felt he was sadly unappreciated by his wife and step-kids. When he was busted, everyone turned on his wife and kids for not informing them. Well, they did, and they chose to believe the brother with the penis, and his wife and kids were demonized, and he got away with it for a few more years. The elders even gave him moral support in court up until sentencing and shunned his victims for bringing an embarrassing legal action against an adult male. That is a big no no. Especially when the elders say you can only report it if you had two to three preferably male witnesses to the crime, and you have to yell bloody murder with a gun pointed at your head otherwise your NO really means yes. He was paroled on good Christian behavior and lives in a seedy hotel with prostitutes and junkies.

    1. These so called “Elders” encouraged the young mother of two little children to marry this monster. They also had prior knowledge of similar accusations from another unmarried young mother with small children of similar behavior. He physically, verbally, emotionally and sexually abused not only his two step-children, but also the two children he had after marrying her. The children he fathered were sexually abused from birth. To say this man is a monster is putting things lightly. To say the “church” had no idea is a ridiculous. They knew. Other families with abusive fathers/husbands had similar fates, but sadly most of them stayed in the church to scared to leave. This so called church is more like a cult. How else can they justify abandoning the mother and her four children to fend for themselves knowing they had no other family (outside of the church). Any human that knows the abuse being suffered by innocent children and turns a blind eye is just as guilty as the pedophile.

      And for the record, one of the children reported the sexual abuse to the mother. The mother immediately went to the police. This resulted in her being shunned by the congregation for not going to them first. Had the mother gone to the Congregational first and not the police who knows how much longer the abuse would have continued.

  2. To watch a crime and not go to the police, would it not make the two to three witnesses an accomplice to the criminal act???!!! Ninety-nine out of one hundred sex offenders in state prison will tell anyone with half a brain that they NEVER call anyone over to watch them rape a woman or child. I highly question the motive of the person who wrote that rule and why they have such deep empathy for male swine that behave this way and if they have committed similar crimes against humanity??? Why do church elders turn on victims and demonize them to the rest of the congregation and tell their friends and family not to associate with them. Most victims in this church just want an apology.

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