On July 20, 2015, the Irish Court of Appeal rejected the appeal of Ruth Moram, a former Jehovah’s Witness, to have the “statute of limitations” set aside in her case against the Watchtower Society. The Court, made up of Justices Peter Kelly, Gerard Hogan and Mary Irvin sitting in Dublin, ruled against Ms. Moram’s appeal that was based on the grounds that she had new evidence suggesting that the “Jehovah’s Witnesses had used fraud” in her case. Ruth reasoned that because of that act of fraud the conclusion reached by the judge in the earlier case should be set aside and that she should be granted a new hearing.
As a lay litigant, Ruth Moram gave a superb presentation on this theme of fraud. Here it is “an untrue representation of fact.” An untrue representation can be written or oral, and may be expressed or implied by conduct. Ruth claimed that she had only recently become aware of a “secret” or confidential handbook for Jehovah’s Witness elders which had totally radicalized her understanding of how the Jehovah’s Witnesses actually function and make decisions.
The point that she was trying to make was that because she believed in the doctrine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, she naturally tended to believe what they were saying about the judicial process she was involved with. After her experience in dealing with the elders in her case, she still believes in the Bible but no longer views the Jehovah’s Witnesses as “God’s organization on earth.” Ruth was never some “brainwashed dummy” as she has been questioning their internal judicial/legal system since 1994 due to an incident which has not yet been made public.
During the court hearing, Justice Peter Kelly halted Ruth’s presentation and reminded her that although certain elements of her “fraud” argument may be new, she had in earlier cases used the same argument about the Jehovah’s Witnesses legal processes – so could not use it now. That issue was firmly addressed in the High Court case. All the justices concurred that there were no grounds for an appeal against the statute of limitations, but assured Ruth that they had “heard her legal cry” and they hoped the Jehovah’s Witnesses leaders would pay attention to it.
Representing the Jehovah’s Witnesses was Richard Daniel, a member/ junior counsel who came from England but who is entitled to practice in Ireland. He argued that there was no need for the case and that the Irish Courts had bent over backwards in giving Ruth Moram 18 court outings. His argument focused very narrowly on the issue of the statute of limitations.
It was clear that Daniel had been instructed to “bring this saga to an end.” Although it was clear that they were going to throw out Ruth’s appeal, the judges took the opportunity to ask Mr. Daniel specifically about the “secret rules” Ruth had mentioned. Daniel argued that religious groups do not need to have “open procedures,” but then tended to go off on tangents and avoided any direct answers to that question.
There is growing evidence from places like Finland that some states will not allow churches or religious groups to have rules which abuse human rights and then create two-tier legal systems. Mr. Daniel’s response was a bit weak in this area, but as it was clear that he had won the case on the statute of limitations issue, it was of no consequence.
One could be impressed at the power of an organization being able to use civil law as a weapon against a woman who has lost not only her religion, but also her husband and her friends from a faith she been a was part of from birth. Her health and life have been destroyed by a system which has proven to be inhuman and uncaring. The religion’s leaders were willing to sacrifice her to maintain their control over others.
Ruth exclaimed after Mr. Daniel’s legal presentation that the judges were going to going to grant the appeal. The three judges withdrew and, after conferring for about 20 minutes, delivered their judgement. The judges acknowledged her claims that she had suffered certain serious damages and defamation because of “unfair treatment by her congregation’s elder body.” They noted that she claimed that her case “was mishandled” by the Watchtower Society. They stated that Ruth Moram “wanted the world to know that the public is at risk.” However, their brief was limited and all three judges on the panel were bound to dismiss the case because of the “Statute of Limitations.”
Ruth was given the right to respond to the judgement. She asked that “the state to take up the case as a matter of public concern.” The judges rejected that point and said it was only “a matter of a personal nature.”
Mr. Richard Daniel then stood up and raised the issue of costs. He appeared to be generous by offering to only ask for 50% of the costs because he acknowledged that Ruth was on the bread-line and had lost everything due to the actions of his organization. While he was legally absolutely correct, there was still the bad smell of an organization claiming to be “acting out of principle” reduced to trampling on a weak woman.
Ruth immediately indicated that she was willing to go to prison thinking that the judges would send her down quickly. No, they would not do that, making it clear that issue is in entirely in the hands of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They suggested that she now cease her legal battles and take comfort from what they had said that “they had heard her cries.” Ruth relented and agreed. With that – the case was closed.
A Review of the Bigger Issue
For nearly 135 years, women have taken an active role in promoting the teachings and policies of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. In spite of the fact that “sisters” have outnumbered “brothers” for most of those years, they have always been treated as “lesser vessels” and had their privileges and rights restricted within “Jehovah’s chosen organization.” Most female Jehovah’s Witnesses simply accept their lesser status. They quietly and faithfully serve their religious faith in spite of the sometimes harsh realities of their lives.
Ruth Moram Takes on the Watchtower
Ruth Moram of Killarney in Ireland knows what it feels like to be treated as a second class citizen among “Jehovah’s people.” She has been fighting for fair treatment and justice since 2003, but has been treated as a “vessel of little worth” by the elders of her Kingdom Hall. It was only after failing to get a fair hearing by her local religious leaders that Ruth felt compelled to take her case to the civil courts in Ireland to try to make things right. She has been living in the public domain since 2003, but has had interactions with the Watchtower’s Bethel Home in Ireland since 1994 (transferred and merged with Watchtower British Branch Headquarters in England in 2011).
Many of the facts and details of Ruth’s situation and original complaint to the elders will not be revealed here. But her initial request for help from the elders related to reports and evidence that her husband, also an active and professed Jehovah’s Witness, had allegedly been unfaithful in their marriage. Instead of finding support and assistance from the elders, she found herself being accused of “slander” and then being “shunned” by the members of her congregation. These events resulted in disruption of her personal life and relationships and added a high degree of stress and personal injury to her life. As a result, her health collapsed due to stress and loss of weight related to her situation.
Beginning in 2003 and 2004, Ruth attempted to get a rehearing and reversal of the decisions made against her by the local Jehovah’s Witness elders. In 2009, when the defendants renewed their accusations against her, Ruth took her case to a solicitor and asked him to write letters to stop the harassment and also prepare to present her case to the civil courts. Unfortunately, she did not have the funds to instruct and engage him fully. In her complaint, she charged three elders in her congregation with defamation and slander against her. She believed that they had wrongly made false accusations against her without fully checking and considering all of the facts in her case.
Ruth did get a hearing before the civil court at that time. However, due to a shortage of available judges, she could only read her motion and complaint during the hearing.
Ruth Discovers New Truth About Her Case
During that time, Ruth was under the impression that her situation had been the result of local elders acting independently (and not under the direction of the Watchtower headquarters) as some sort of vendetta against her.
The defendants claimed that the courts had no jurisdiction over their actions. They claimed that since they were a “voluntary organization” they were not bound by civil law. They believed that they had no duty to inform the accused about the case against her and that they did not have to use “fair procedures.” Under their own rules, they did not have to explain their case or decision against the “accused” or justify their reasoning.
Ruth discovered that the actions of the local elders (with or without direction from the Watchtower branch office) violated her rights under Irish law. All bodies making decisions that affect individuals must act fairly and the accused must be given the opportunity to present a defense. The handling and decisions made in Ruth’s case clearly violated both the law and common decency.
Ruth submitted her case to the local Bethel for review. They suggested an appeal – which turned out to be a waste of time as the rules of evidence were stacked against her before she went into the room.
Elders from other locations were even brought in to hear her case. Ruth always tried to play by the Watchtower’s own rules but to no avail. She had no idea at the time that the “cards had been stacked against her.”
Between 2011 and 2014 she found out that the local elders were following instructions from the local Watchtower branch office and also instructions contained in a “secret JW elders manual.” That secret manual, Shepherd the Flock of God (most recently revised and republished in 2012), is frequently updated by official letters (and using handwritten annotations in the margins) as directed by the Watchtower’s headquarters and local traveling overseers. Only elders have access to this book. Many Jehovah’s Witnesses are unaware of its existence or contents. Those who know about the book, except for elders, are not allowed to view it. That was the situation in Ruth’s case.
Therefore, Ruth felt that “fraud” was the basis of her argument because the elders were withholding critical information (but not in a criminal sense) and that fact qualified as “new evidence” information.
Some of the notes added to the book indicate that “an elder can’t make a mistake” because he is “being directed by Jehovah’s holy spirit.” For Ruth and others like her, that becomes a “catch 22.”
Ruth claims that she has been appealing the Watchtower’s judicial systems since 1994 as being unfair against women. “BOE” (Board of Elders) letters are not available to rank and file Jehovah’s Witnesses, so judicial committees could be making up rules as they go along. Most Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t know or understand the rules and must ask someone on the judicial committee how everything is going. Notes can not be taken, voice recorders and cameras are not allowed during committee hearings.
[Editor’s comment: There are a few YouTube videos of judicial committees that have exposed the process and the one-sided nature of these kinds of private meetings. I have provided a three-part series produced by a young man who had to endure his own “trial by elders” below that very clearly shows how these hearings are conducted. The accused is often not informed ahead of time as to what the charges or issues involved might be – or that a meeting has even been scheduled that involves them. That frequently forces the accused to go into a judicial hearing unprepared and terrified – not fully understanding what they are facing or what all of their options might be.]
Ruth was not informed in advance about the rules and guidelines involved in her case. Ruth discovered later that many of the instructions in that “elders’ guide book” violated the laws of natural justice and fair procedures. Some of the guidelines in that book restrict the rights of the accused to understand any charges made or to get a fair hearing.
Unfortunately, Ruth’s March 2014 civil court appeal was thrown out because she used up all the charges in her earlier filings. This means that she can’t create a new case against the elders involved in her situation.
Mike Garde from Dialogue Ireland attended the case on Monday, July 20. He observed that Ruth “won the case” on the basis of the facts she brought up about the nature of the Jehovah’s Witnesses judicial process. But she was denied the opportunity for another court hearing to present these arguments as she could not overcome the Statute of Limitations. The Watchtower presented a watertight case based entirely on issues regarding the Statute of Limitations. This judgement means that Ruth has no further legal avenues open to her.
While the judges agreed with the Watchtower for strictly legal reasons, they also stated that Ruth is “a person of good character who feels that she needs to inform the public of the dangers of this group.” They pointed out that over the years there had been eighteen court hearings on her case – and they were hoping it “would be her last.”
That may be the case. But Ruth is determined to warn the public – even after eighteen failed tries. She has clarity of thought and is non-threatening. She was even commended by the judge about why she wanted to take this action and hopeful that the Watchtower would be listening and reconsidering their position. However, Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that under “freedom of religion” laws they have the “right to have their own internal justice system.”
Time will tell how all of this plays out, but Ruth Moram has not given up. She may never give up. After all, the Watchtower’s unfair treatment of women who are their own members is not limited to Ireland or the United Kingdom. Thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide will attest to that fact. After some rest, Ruth promises to supply the support group, Dialogue Ireland, with all her research to publish for their readers to consider. Then after some further rest, the time may come for Ruth to tell her story in a book.
JWReport.com wants to thank Mike Garde, director and editor of Dialogue Ireland for his assistance, guidance, writing and editing for much of the above article.
Mike attended and took notes during Ruth Moram’s Court of Appeal hearing on June 20, 2015. We owe much of the above report to his input and attention to detail.
Mike has been in direct contact with Ms. Moram for several months, documenting and reporting her story, allowing JWReport to give an in-depth overview of the issues at hand. Mike can be reached at: