Christian and Katja Gutierrez’s apartment is adorned with Christmas decorations—tree, lights, and figurines—creating a festive atmosphere that has persisted long after the holiday season. The reason behind this unusual display is that the young couple from Calgary, having only celebrated four Christmases in their entire lives, cannot bear to part with the decorations just yet.
Their unique circumstances extend beyond Christmas. Birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, and virtually every other holiday are new experiences for them. Until four years ago, Christian and Katja were members of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian sect known for its stringent rules, which included abstaining from holiday celebrations.
Leaving the religious organization has had profound repercussions for Christian and Katja. They have been subjected to shunning by nearly all their family members and friends they once had. The Christmas tree in their apartment is not just a symbol of holiday cheer; it is an act of defiance against the organization they believe robbed them of so much of their lives. Similarly, by inviting a W5 team into their home to share their story, they are openly challenging the Jehovah’s Witnesses, exposing what they experienced during their childhood.
Speaking out against the religion is considered a major transgression in the eyes of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Despite this, Katja and Christian have chosen to do just that, courageously recounting the haunting details of their sexual abuse. They allege that the elders in their religion protected the individuals who harmed them.
Christian serves as the representative plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit seeking $66 million in damages against the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Canada. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of him and other survivors of child sexual abuse, accuses the sect of shielding sexual predators from facing justice.
The case, which is awaiting certification by the court, adds to the growing international pressure on the religious sect to revise doctrines that critics argue protect pedophiles. One such doctrine is the Two Witness Rule, which requires at least two witnesses or a confession before disciplinary action can be taken against alleged child abusers.
Through an extensive investigation spanning multiple countries, including Canada, the United States, England, and Australia, W5 has uncovered how the Jehovah’s Witnesses discouraged reporting of sexual assault to the police. Furthermore, it has been revealed that the organization maintains a confidential database containing records of every sexual abuse allegation made against its members.
The $66 million class-action lawsuit filed in Canada aims to make this database public, potentially offering a comprehensive insight into how the organization handles accused predators within its Canadian operations.