The Utah Supreme Court heard arguments this week in connection with a Salt Lake City girl who said she was raped and forced to listen to the recording of the incident.
Deseret News reports that a woman now in her 20s asserted that the male leaders of a Jehovah’s Witnesses forced her to listen to a recorded tape in 2008 of her being raped as a 14-year-old.
Lower courts previously ruled that under the First Amendment, the church was not liable for the incident. The victim’s lawyers argued that the lower courts were mistaken and that the First Amendment did not protect the church from liability.
The victim said she cried and shake with fear while pleading for the defendants, named as the Jehovah’s Witness church in Roy and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, to stop the recording. She claimed an 18-year-old male member of the church raped her.
The victim said the man not only raped her several times but bullied and sexually harassed her.
An attorney for the defense, Kara Porter, said the tribunal attempted to determine if the victim had “sinned” and engaged in voluntary sex with the 18-year-old. Porter said that’s something the government should not interfere in.
The victim’s attorney added that following the alleged rape, the girl had nightmares, anxiety, low performance in school, and emotional issues.
KSL reports that the victim was made to listen to the tape for at least four hours, according to her lawyers.
The state’s high court hasn’t made a ruling yet but a few of the justices expressed their opinions toward the end of the hearing.
“The allegation here is a mental and emotional equivalent of waterboarding. I’ve been a judge for a long time and a lawyer for a long time. I’ve never seen, in court, anything like this that’s alleged,” Justice Deno Himonas said.
“It’s an important and difficult case,” Chief Justice Matthew Durrant added.
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