A jury in Montana has ruled that the Jehovah's Witnesses must pay $35 million to the victim of child sexual abuse after leaders who knew about the crime decided not to report it to authorities.
A judge will review the jury's decision, with the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York expecting to appeal the guilty verdict, according to The Associated Press.
Neil Smith, attorney for the 21-year-old woman who accused the Jehovah's Witness of abuse and cover-up, said in a statement the jury's decision sends a message to churches that refuse to report abuse.
"Hopefully that message is loud enough that this will cause the organization to change its priorities in a way that they will begin prioritizing the safety of children so that other children aren't abused in the future," Smith said Thursday, according to the AP.
Two women, aged 32 and 21, both sued the religious group for allegedly failing to report their abuser to authorities, but instead opting to temporarily expel him until he repented.