Jehovah's Witnesses Announce Plans to Build Giant Media Center Despite Recent Spotlight on Child Abuse Allegations

The Jehovah's Witnesses announced plans to build a 1.5 million-square-foot audio-visual production center in Upstate New York, two miles away from the Witnesses' headquarters in Warwick. The organization plans to create more videos with parenting device, despite a recent bombshell investigation alleging wide-scale child abuse and coverups.

Robert Zick, a Jehovah's Witnesses spokesman, told The Times Herald-Record that the media center is a response to the general public's growing increase of interest in the Jehovah's Witnesses' videos, specifically ones offering parenting advice and how to live a principled life. New content is planned to be available in multiple languages.

The organization's outreach is now supplementing its traditional door-to-door approach by putting more money and manpower behind producing online content in response to the rise and reach of social media platforms.

"We're ramping up production in response to heavy demand" of audio-visual offerings, Zick said. "People find these materials to be useful, so we're putting more resources behind them, and we're putting everything under one roof."

It won't just be audio and visual equipment under that roof—the Witnesses are also designing the new media center to be livable. It will have residences, a fitness center and underground parking.

Currently approximately 1,000 volunteers live and work in the 1.6-million-square-foot headquarters. An additional 1,000 volunteers are expected to take up residency in the new center once it is finished.

It might take up to five years for the complex to be completed. At the organization's annual meeting on October 5, it was announced that construction will begin in 2022 and finish at the end of 2026.

Jehovah's Witnesses
A group of Jehovah's Witnesses stand on a street corner on August 16, 2019 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. August 16, 2019 Getty/Spencer Platt

However, the Jehovah's Witnesses' announcement of the new media center comes a few months after multiple reports revealed serious allegations of child abuse against the group.

The Hearst Television National Investigative Unit spent the last year looking into decades long child sexual abuse and cover-ups within the U.S. Jehovah's Witnesses chapters. The report came out this August in a three part series of news reports combining the investigation with interviews with 13 victims.

"Internal documents and letters from headquarters going back 30 years directed its approximately 13,000 congregations across the United States to handle abuse internally, send copies of files to headquarters—not police—in 'special blue' envelopes, and destroy documents laying out past policy," the report found.

Kameron Torres, one of the victims interviewed, told reporters that he was only 6 years old the first time he was sexually assaulted by a member of the group.

The headquarters did not do anything after his mother reported the abuse. "And the elders didn't do anything. They said we'd look into this, we'll take care of it, we'll leave it in God's hands," he told the The National Investigative Unit.

Jehovah's Witnesses have 1.2 million in the U.S. and over 8 million members worldwide. Many followers are actively involved in recruiting more members and spreading the Jehovah's Witnesses' message that only true believers will be saved by God when the apocalypse comes.