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HELENA — Two women who were sexually abused as children say the Jehovah's Witnesses failed to report their abuser to authorities in Montana, and instead expelled him from the congregation as punishment until he repented.

The Thompson Falls trial that begins Monday is one of dozens of lawsuits filed nationwide over the last decade alleging mismanagement of sexual abuse claims by Jehovah's Witness clergy and members.

The women, now 32 and 21 years old, are suing the Christian religion's national organization and its Thompson Falls congregation.

They say the local and national organizations were negligent and violated Montana law that requires them to report abuse to outside authorities.

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Jehovah's Witness attorneys say in court filings that Montana law exempts elders from reporting "internal ecclesiastical proceedings on a congregation member's serious sin."

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