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‘John Redwood’ on today’s Atlantic blockbuster about Jehovah’s Witnesses and child abuse

[Mark and Kimmy O’Donnell]

Mark O’Donnell, also known as ‘John Redwood’ to the ex-JW community, was featured in an amazing Atlantic piece that went live today, written by Douglas Quenqua. Mark’s journey leaving JWs and then his wife Kimmy eventually joining him forms the backdrop of a stunning article about how the Watchtower is sitting on a database of between 18,000 and 23,000 child molesters that the organization began compiling in detail starting in 1997.

The Bunker: This was a great piece that combined a lot of different threads about JW, but in particular about child abuse.

Mark: I am immersed in the child abuse cases on a daily basis – it’s really something how this is all coming together

The Bunker: How difficult was it on the two of you when you were pretty firmly out of JW and looking at material online, but Kimmy was still in? We would assume that has to be tough on a relationship.

Mark: It was very difficult. Kimmy was caught in a very difficult position. She did not want to lose her marriage, but she did not want to lose her friends, her faith, and all of our mutual social connections we had spent 15 years building together. The tension was thick, and members of the congregation were telling her she may have to pick up and leave. One JW friend offered to come over and help her pack. Jehovah’s Witnesses refer to my conduct as “absolute spiritual endangerment”- which is a term used to justify separation from anyone considered an “apostate”


The Bunker: Well, the two of you look really great in the piece. Yes, the exposure of JW child abuse and its database of molesters is crucial, but it’s also great the way the piece described the two of you and what you’ve been through. It must feel like some great validation.

Mark: Yes, I must say that I never set out to get any personal attention from all of this. The whole process was genuine and organic. I felt compelled, almost obsessed with turning over every rock to uncover on a global scale what I knew to be the case in the congregations in Baltimore Maryland, my hometown. The longer I stayed in the JW religion, the more I became aware of the dark, sinister, ugly side of what goes on behind closed doors, and how the reputation of the organization was placed far above the safety and needs of abused children. It feels good that we are doing work for the right motives, and that it’s getting noticed.

The Bunker: As to the database of molesters, it’s really stunning that it exists at all, and we wonder what will become of it. We assume attorneys representing abuse victims will redouble their efforts to get access to it?

Mark: The database of child abusers is something that we’ve triangulated from multiple sources. California is a starting point, as it seems to be the State with the largest number of Jehovah’s Witness congregations, and this results in a very large number of abuse cases. The abuse files leaked to myself and Jason Wynne were hard confirmation of what we always suspected — an average of 1 to 2 cases of child molestation for each and every congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide. The Zalkin Law firm decided to flush out Watchtower’s database of pedophiles by using the March 1997 letter to Bodies of Elders as evidence that Watchtower was intentionally collecting this data. This letter is the smoking gun of all letters, proving that Jehovah’s Witnesses wanted to control the flow of information about child abusers, and likewise control whether or not any new cases would be reported to the police. Zalkin has been battling with Watchtower for years now over this database, and despite the court’s order to turn over this information, Watchtower has tried every possible method to block this process. In one case, the judge blasted Watchtower, calling them a “recalcitrant litigant.” Whether or not other attorneys choose to take on this database remains to be seen.

The Bunker: We can’t wait to find out. But for now, we urge everyone to read the terrific piece at the Atlantic.


Posted by Tony Ortega on March 22, 2019 at 15:20

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Tony Ortega is a journalist who was formerly the editor of The Village Voice. He’s written about Scientology since 1995, and in May 2015 released a book about Scientology’s harassment of Paulette Cooper titled ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely,’ and more recently a compilation of his stories, ‘Battlefield Scientology.’ He continues to monitor breaking developments in the Scientology world, as well as other subjects such as Jehovah’s Witnesses. You can reach him by sending him a message at tonyo94 AT (Drop him a line if you’d like to get an e-mail whenever a new story is posted.)


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