“You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; no one bad may remain with you.” – Psalm 5:4.
[From ws 5/19 p.8 Study Article 19: July 8-14, 2019]
The study article opens with this statement in an attempt to take the moral high ground.
“JEHOVAH GOD hates all forms of wickedness. (Read Psalm 5:4-6.) How he must hate child sexual abuse—an especially repugnant wicked deed! In imitation of Jehovah, we as his Witnesses abhor child abuse and do not tolerate it in the Christian congregation.—Romans 12:9; Hebrews 12:15, 16.”
All lovers of justice and of God would agree with the thoughts expressed in the first two sentences in the above quotation. It is the last sentence to which we take exception as do many others. Let us examine this statement in a little more depth to reason out why.
To “abhor” means to “regard with disgust and hatred”. So how is this disgust and hatred shown? By actions? Or just by nice sounding words and platitudes?
What about “do not tolerate”? To tolerate means to “allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one dislikes or disagrees with) without interference”.
Let us do a quick litmus test, comparing what actions are taken against those the Organization accuses of apostasy or causing divisions, with the actions the Organization takes against those that are accused of child abuse by the victims. We can then see which the Organization views with disgust and which they do not tolerate.
Let us first examine accusations of apostasy, which basically can be reduced to a difference of understanding of the Bible.
If someone is acting as an apostate as defined by the Organization, do they thereby physically or psychologically traumatise anyone else? Does having a different opinion about how well a piece of steak should be cooked for instance, physically or psychologically harm anyone? The answer is clearly, No to both questions. Does having a difference of opinion as to whether the Governing Body represents Jehovah’s Organization on earth harm anyone physically or psychologically? The answer is clearly, No.
Does the Organization “abhor” and “not tolerate” what it defines as apostasy? The facts show that in attempts to stamp out or silence so-called apostates, and thereby attempt to quell any dissent among the ranks of the Witnesses, even those who may have left the Organization, not attending meetings and not participating in field service, for a year or even four or more years are searched out.[i] They are then summoned to a judicial committee. If they refuse to attend, in defiance of accepted rules of a fair trial in a secular court, they are accused of apostasy in their absence, and convicted, and sentenced—often by the accusers themselves! If one attends and attempts to obtain both the charges and basis for those charges, or brings Witnesses in their defense, they find themselves denied both written notes and physical witnesses for their defense.[ii]
There are also hundreds of examples of similar actions by the Organization’s representatives to be found, either related or recorded on video on the internet.
Any impartial observer would say that the Organization clearly “abhors” and does “not tolerate” any dissent to its teachings.
What do we find to be the facts with regard to Child sexual abuse allegations?
Firstly, does child sexual abuse physically or psychologically traumatize the children? Without question it does. Sexual abuse is therefore much worse in its effects than disagreeing with power (“apostasy” in Org. vernacular). So, by extension one would expect cases of sexual abuse to be dealt with at least as harshly or worse. Furthermore, as so often overlooked, child abuse is a criminal offence in almost all countries in the world yet apostatizing from the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses is never a criminal offence.
I do not know of one video where a Witness perpetrator of child sexual abuse has complained of their treatment. Do you? In fact, the Organization has a database containing thousands of names of known and alleged perpetrators with few of them currently disfellowshiped. Also, very few of these criminals have been reported to the secular authorities by the Organization or its representatives.
So, I challenge any practicing Witnesses and the Organization to give evidence to show that they truly “abhor” and “do not tolerate” child sexual abuse. If they accept this challenge, they must be able to give proof that they have treated the abuser with at least the same severity as the so-called apostates they despise and maltreat. They must also bear in mind that the treatment of the abuser would actually have to be worse, as it is a more serious crime in its commitment and its effects on the victims.
The author will not hold his breath waiting for proof that does not exist. I have never heard of an abuser being convicted in his absence or being refused witnesses that could prove his innocence.[iii]
The litmus test has found the Organization’s claims at the end of paragraph 1 to be without foundation.
Evidence of refusal to accept reality
The deflection and refusal to accept reality continues in paragraph 3 when it says ““Wicked men and impostors” abound, and some may try to enter the congregation. (2 Timothy 3:13) In addition, some professing to be a part of the congregation have succumbed to perverted fleshly desires and have sexually abused children”.
So, the first excuse for cases of abuse within the Organization is that child abusers have tried to infiltrate the Congregations. Now, to a limited extent, this may be true, but it must surely be very few in number. How many abusers will be prepared to spend years of effort trying to become accepted as trusted pioneers, or ministerial servants or elders before attempting to abuse their first victim? Very few. The author suspected one ‘Bible Study’ of having these intentions, but the study soon gave it up when they saw how much work and time it would take.
From the cases in the public domain the main perpetrators, as in most crimes, are usually a relative/parent/stepparent/siblings, followed by an authority figure they know (I.e) an elder, ministerial servant or pioneer. This was also the case in the handful of cases in which I am personally acquainted with either the victim or the perpetrator. (The perpetrators were (all witnesses) step-father, uncle, uncle of friend, elder, Bethelite) That is, these criminal perpetrators belonged to the 2nd placed group in paragraph 3 (no doubt placed 2nd to minimize the impact of its admittance to the rank and file Witnesses).
The fact that many perpetrators are appointed men leads to the following question. If they are appointed by Holy Spirit as the Organization claims[iv], then how can these ones at the same time be “some professing to be a part of the congregation.”? Did these criminals fool the Holy Spirit into appointing them, sometimes while already abusing victims? To say that would be tantamount to sinning against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:32). Or rather, is the correct and truthful answer to this matter that the Holy Spirit has nothing to do with appointments within the Organization as they are all appointments made by men and the Organization is not led by Jehovah’s spirit.
Failure to acknowledge the seriousness of the problem
The final part of deflection and failure to make an acknowledgement of the seriousness of the problem is also found in paragraph 3 when it says, “Let us discuss why child abuse is such a grave sin”. How so? Because this acknowledgement of child abuse being a grave sin is not accompanied by the acknowledgement that it is also a serious criminal act as well (only alluded to in paragraph 7, see below).
How seriously this is viewed by worldly criminals can be gauged from the reactions of other criminals to imprisoned child abusers. Child abusers usually have to be put in solitary confinement or special separate wings of the prisons for their own safety. Why? Because while many criminals balk at accepting as equals those criminals who are prepared to hurt children, whether physically or sexually.[v] The prison guards are also far more likely to attack them than any other type of prison inmate. Furthermore, the rate of re-offending is one of the highest for major offences.
Therefore, against this background how does the Organization act with child abuse cases? Firstly, it virtually never reports the accusations to the secular authorities even when it is mandatory.[vi] They will claim clergy-laity privilege to avoid reporting confessions, or claim that with only one witness they are unable to substantiate any accusations they received and therefore had no duty to report.
While the current policy is now to say that victims have the right to make reports to the authorities, the Organization has done nothing to reduce the general perception among Witnesses that to do so is to bring reproach on Jehovah and so it remains a big unwritten no-no.
It also makes a big fuss about requiring two witnesses before even entertaining any accusations of child sexual abuse, particularly against appointed men, even though such a crime is always perpetuated in secret and almost never has another witness.
We ask, if a body of elders received an accusation from one congregation member that another congregation member has murdered someone, (another grave sin and also a serious criminal act) would they be so quick to dismiss the accusation because of only one witness? Would they refuse to notify the secular authorities? Would they keep it confidential from their families and the congregation? Undoubtedly, the accusation would be taken seriously even with one witness, the authorities would be involved, and the elders would warn their own families and likely the congregation in general. Would they also be so easy persuaded by professions of repentance on the part of the accused murderer? Yet, this is how they treat child sexual abuse accusations. Certainly, these accusations receive no treatment as “a grave sin”.
English White Lies abound [vii] (or Double speak)
What is the official position of the Organization on involvement of the secular authorities? Paragraph 7 gives their position, fine sounding, but lacking substance.
“A sin against the secular authorities. Christians are to “be in subjection to the superior authorities.” (Rom. 13:1) We prove our subjection by showing due respect for the laws of the land. If someone in the congregation becomes guilty of violating a criminal law, such as by committing child abuse, he is sinning against the secular authorities. (Compare Acts 25:8.) While the elders are not authorized to enforce the law of the land, they do not shield any perpetrator of child abuse from the legal consequences of his sin. (Rom. 13:4)”
The wording is cleverly put. On the face of it, especially quickly read, is that it is what one expects from a Christian organization. However, notice the phrase “becomes guilty of violating a criminal law”. It can actually be understood as, if a Witness has been convicted in a criminal court of being guilty of child sexual abuse. Therefore the Organization will be able to make the excuse that in the situation where someone is known to be guilty of child sexual abuse, maybe through confessing to the elders, but has not been taken to court or has not been convicted on a technicality, is actually not guilty of violating a criminal law. However, even in these situations, the perpetrator has still sinned against the secular authorities and the victim.
Notice the next phrase “they (the elders) do not shield any perpetrator of child abuse from the legal consequences of his sin”. This means they will not stop a criminal found guilty in a court from serving their sentence or being sued for compensation. How generous of them!
What it does not say is that there is no restriction on the elders and other witnesses still being able to appear as witnesses for the defense of an accused perpetrator to give them a good character witness or to cast doubt on the accuser’s testimony. It also does not say they will no longer destroy documented testimony from a judicial hearing that could corroborate the victim’s testimony to the court, perhaps including the perpetrators confession.
Of course, “the elders are not authorized to enforce the law of the land”, but on the other hand, neither should they seek to hinder it, by claiming clergy-laity confidentiality and the like.
Paragraph 9 states “The organization continues to review the way congregations handle the sin of child abuse. Why? To make sure that our way of handling the matter is in harmony with the law of the Christ.”
Again, a piece of fine sounding double speak. They can continue to review the way the congregations handle the sin of child abuse till Armageddon comes, but nothing will change. What is missing is a promise that the Organization or Governing Body, who make the policies, will continually review that their directions given to the congregations from the Organization are improved or in agreement with the law of Christ. Also, that there will be reviews to ensure that the directions agree with and support secular authority reporting requirements, and that they will adopt best practice from secular authorities in handling such sensitive and difficult cases.
Further the overriding principle of the Law of Christ is love, not rules about two witnesses, no female assistance, strict secrecy and the like.
Misuse of phrase “Sanctity of God’s Name“
Paragraph 10 continues with the double speak saying, “they have a number of concerns when they receive a report of serious wrongdoing. The elders are primarily concerned with maintaining the sanctity of God’s name. (Leviticus 22:31, 32; Matthew 6:9) They are also deeply concerned with the spiritual welfare of their brothers and sisters in the congregation and want to help any who have been victims of wrongdoing”.
“Sanctity” refers to being set apart or declared holy. We as individuals can only control our own actions. There is also the inherent danger that if we concentrate on something over which we have little control, we will lose sight of what we do have control over: Our own actions. Notice what they place next in importance, “the spiritual welfare” of the congregation members. This is double speak for “ensuring no one in the congregation is stumbled”, i.e. keep it as secret as possible so no one outside those directly involved can have their faith shaken.
Helping the victims comes as a third place also-ran; and stopping the potential risk for future victims is not even mentioned.
Principles to be learned from a child’s accident while playing
Ask any parent how they would deal with the following scenario. Assume a child was playing and slipped on some ice and has very badly hurt themselves, perhaps a badly broken limb and concussion. How would you act? If you think calmly perhaps you would follow something similar to the steps outlined here:
- Assess the situation. Then if it was not safe for you to proceed, you would remove the source of the danger if at all possible.
- Bring in the professional emergency services, especially in the case of such a very serious injury.
- Console the child, without moving them, in case it caused more pain or damage. Reassuring them you know it hurts and that they are hurt badly even though no one else saw them get injured.
- Discover if possible, the full extent of the injury carefully.
- Environment: keep them warm, comfortable and safe.
- Professionals, allowed to take over and move the injured and traumatized child to safe location for proper treatment, to stabilize, care for and help heal the accident victim.
So, let us apply the same principles to the very sad and upsetting situation that a report of child sexual abuse has been made to the elders. What should an elder do? The same as any parent in the above scenario if he truly cares about a member of his flock.
- Assess the ongoing danger to himself and others first and isolate that danger to allow assistance without further harm to himself or the victim. This would mean ensuring the accused perpetrator has no further access to the child or other children, as far as the elder(s) are able affect this situation.
- Bring in the professional emergency services, the secular authorities. They have people specially trained to deal with such serious incidents and perhaps more importantly have much experience in dealing with them. The elder by comparison, likely only knows the equivalent of theoretical first aid, not the complicated surgery or therapy that may be required to fully rehabilitate the victim.
- Console and reassure the victim, that they are going to be helped by the congregation, not removed from it by being disfellowshiped, just because no-one else saw them injured and they are perhaps lashing out being in severe mental pain.
- Discover the full extent of the injuries if possible, by listening carefully to what the victim says. Children clearly in pain do not make up fake injuries.
- Environment further controlled to minimize pain and hurt, and avoid further damage, while the professional assistance is arriving. Ensure no-one else is injured in the same way by issuing a warning of danger. Perhaps saying publicly, “There has been an accusation of child abuse in the congregation, please ensure your children are not put in situations where they can be hurt, and do not be afraid to protect your own and other children by reporting such incidents directly to the secular authorities to get immediate help.”
- Professionals allowed to take over to render assistance and help far beyond the expertise of the elders, so there is a good chance of the best recovery possible under the circumstances.
A loving parent and by extension loving elders would never insist on self-treating the victim who has life changing injuries which are beyond their skill set to handle and heal.
Continued speaking with a forked tongue
Paragraph 13 states:
“Do elders comply with secular laws about reporting an allegation of child abuse to the secular authorities? Yes. In places where such laws exist, elders endeavor to comply with secular laws about reporting allegations of abuse. (Romans 13:1) Such laws do not conflict with God’s law. (Acts 5:28, 29) So when they learn of an allegation, elders immediately seek direction on how they can comply with laws about reporting it.”
This is another good sounding declaration, but the proof is in the pudding as they say. What it does not say is that if there is an escape clause they can use that will justify non-reporting, then they will use it. Whose direction do they seek? The authorities who made the law. No, the legal department of the Organization, and for almost all cases that is where complying with the authorities ends. Also notice the qualifying word “endeavor” which means “to try”. Why say they try to comply? That means they do not always comply. One either complies or does not comply. I tried to comply = I failed to comply. It is difficult to think of a legitimate reason not to comply with reporting laws. If someone knows of one, please mention it clearly in a comment.
Paragraph 14 continues in a similar vein, saying:
“Elders assure victims and their parents and others with knowledge of the matter that they are free to report an allegation of abuse to the secular authorities. But what if the report is about someone who is a part of the congregation and the matter then becomes known in the community? Should the Christian who reported it feel that he has brought reproach on God’s name? No. The abuser is the one who brings reproach on God’s name.”
One could read the following subtext as the view that “The parents and others are free to report allegations, but the elders will not, unless forced to, kicking and screaming by the secular authorities being on their case and the Organization does not want you too”.
This is in part confirmed by the last two sentences, when it says, Should the reporter “feel he has brought reproach on God’s name?” and answers “No. The abuser is the one who brings reproach on God’s name”. However, the way it is said, still implies that making it known would bring reproach on God’s name, it is just that it would not be the reporter’s fault. On reading these two sentences most Witnesses would probably still decide against reporting as they would still feel responsible for the reproach, because of the faulty thinking that if they keep quiet and it does not become publicly known, then they will stop the reproach. In fact, they will be contributing to making it worse by covering it up.
The two-witness rule reaffirmed
Paragraphs 15 and 16 ensures that they reiterate their stance that two witnesses are required before a judicial committee can be formed. The heading is “In the congregation, before the elders take judicial action, why are at least two witnesses required?”
Paragraph 15 goes on to say “This requirement is part of the Bible’s high standard of justice. When there is no confession of wrongdoing, two witnesses are required to establish the accusation and authorize the elders to take judicial action. (Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:16; read 1 Timothy 5:19.)”
We have discussed this two-witness stance of the Organization before in depth scripturally in our site. (Click the link). So here we will just address the comments made in paragraph 15. Nothing in any of the scriptures cited indicates authorization of elders to take judicial action. No entity named “judicial committee” or similar can be found in the scriptures.
Furthermore, Matthew 18:16 is discussing the creation of one or two additional witnesses to the problem, by discussing it with the perpetrator in the presence of additional witnesses, not to the original action. (Note: This review is not recommending that the victim has to create additional witnesses by facing their perpetrator alone. The context of Matthew was clearly discussing the situation where an adult Christian is aware of the sin of another adult Christian. Jesus was not telling us how to deal with crimes against the law of the land, nor was he implying that we should act as if we were a nation on our own, with our own laws and penal system.)
The context of 1 Timothy 5:19, e.g. verse 13, is talking about gossiping, and meddling in others’ affairs. Of course, it would be wrong to listen to accusations arising from gossip and meddlers in the affairs of others, as facts are usually thin on the ground. An accusation by a child that they have been abused, or by a parent on their child’s behalf, does not qualify as gossip or meddling.
Notice also Jesus view about two witnesses in John 8:17-18, “17 Also, in YOUR own Law it is written, ‘The witness of two men is true.’18 I am one that bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.”
Here, the second witness, Jehovah, was a witness about Jesus being the Christ, not what actions and things Jesus taught that gave witness that he was the Messiah. (A character witness, that Jesus was not lying in what he said).
At least one positive item is the last part of the same paragraph (15) where it states, “Does this mean that before an allegation of abuse can be reported to the authorities, two witnesses are required? No. This requirement does not apply to whether elders or others report allegations of a crime.”
Then normal service is resumed. The “in your face” statement, backing up the JW broadcast statement that “we will never change our scripturally based stand” that no judicial committee will be formed without two witnesses to the same act or another accusation of a different incident. It says in paragraph 16, “If the individual denies the accusation, the elders consider the testimony of witnesses. If at least two people—the one making the accusation and someone else who can verify this act or other acts of child abuse by the accused—establish the charge, a judicial committee is formed”. So, there we have it, no consideration of physical evidence as a witness, nor consideration of the reactions and explanations of the accused as to whether they are credible testimony. Just the clear message to pedophile perpetrators within the Organization, if you do not confess and you ensure there is only one witness, you will be able to continue committing your crime, especially if you play the card that Jehovah’s name will be reproached.
Who really is bringing reproach on God’s Name? The abusers or the Organization?
The whole pharisaic intransigent attitude is sickening. It is the Organization’s intransigent attitude that brings reproach on God’s name, given they claim to be Jehovah’s earthly Organization. One could be forgiven for thinking that the Governing Body and its policy makers behind the scenes have a vested interest in protecting pedophiles, when we see the efforts they go to in protecting such criminals from the consequences of their actions.
The rest of paragraph 16 does not give much hope either. Given that even if a judicial hearing is convened, it is done in secret. There are no clear instructions or indications here that the congregation will be warned. It reads:
“Even if a charge of wrongdoing cannot be established by two witnesses, the elders recognize that a serious sin may have been committed, one that deeply hurt others. The elders provide ongoing support to any individuals who may have been hurt. In addition, the elders remain alert regarding the alleged abuser to protect the congregation from potential danger”.
We need to ask, with regard to “the elders provide ongoing support”, does this include disfellowshipping the accuser for slander, thereby denying the victim of the support of their family and friends within the Organization, who will either shun them or be expected to do so, thereby making the psychological trauma worse? (There are a number of reports of this occurring).
Does it not stand to reason that most accused of slander in these circumstances would rather repent than be disfellowshipped and stand to lose their family and friends. This being the case, therefore, if these victims / accusers of child sexual abuse stick to their story and have reported the accusations to secular authorities, then the chances they are lying are slim.
Paragraphs 17 & 18 deal with the role of the judicial committees. In part it reads:
“Out of concern for the welfare of children, the elders may privately warn the parents of minors in the congregation of the need to monitor their children’s interactions with the individual”.
However, these warnings are only mentioned in connection with judicial committees, which means there was either a confession and or an accused abuser was allegedly repentant after two witnesses proved the accusation. However, the statement, “If he is unrepentant, he is expelled, and an announcement is made to the congregation”, would not highlight the danger the abuser still poses if he continues to attend meetings, or having family members still in the congregation, contact may still be possible. There is no indication the private warnings would take place in this instance, and the announcement made to the congregation never gives details of why the person was disfellowshipped.
Sadly, much of this could be avoided by following the scriptural precedent in Matthew 18:17 where it suggests taking the problem of unrepentant sinners to the congregation in general. (Note: the account does not say “the Congregation elders in secret”. Deuteronomy 22:18-21 and other scriptures show judgement and hearings took place in public, not secret).
The only way to safeguard your children
The one good part of the article is the last section covering paragraphs 19-22, which encourages parents to help their children be aware of dangers and avoid becoming a victim. The author does wonder how many cases of abuse could have been avoided in the Organization over the tears by Witnesses and in particular Witness parents heeding the good counsel in the referenced articles.
My mother was very careful with the situations she allowed me to be in. She taught me the important things so I could safeguard myself and this was before the majority of the cited literature was produced. My spouse and I, likewise, trained our children and monitored them carefully. From what I have seen at big conventions, many Witness parents are far too trusting with their young children as to where they are and who could be with them or get at them. Youngsters aged as young as 10 and sometimes under, have been allowed to go to the toilet unaccompanied. This always involved going some distance out of the sight of their parents, and this in public sports stadiums, open to the public and near to roads. This has happened despite earlier platform announcements from the assembly administration for parents to always accompany their children.
Overall, it appears to be a public relations exercise aimed at giving sound bites to placate the casual observer. However, it contains only peripheral changes, and is important for as much as it omits saying, as to what it does say. It will undoubtedly satisfy those who do not wish to look too deep and want to continue to believe that the Organization can do no wrong as it is God’s Organization in their view.
What it does is the following:
- Fails to take the opportunity to overhaul the Organization’s procedures to protect children better.
- Signals to the hidden pedophiles in the Organization that they can still continue to get away with their crimes if they are careful.
- Fails to improve the handling of such matters by the unscriptural man-made judicial committee system.
- Fails to positively encourage full use of professional services from the secular authorities to both stop problems occurring and help victims to cope with problems already created and being uncovered.
There follows an open letter to the Governing Body and its helpers.
Open Letter to the Governing Body and its representatives
Isaiah’s words aptly apply to the Organization when in Isaiah 30:1 he said “Woe to the stubborn sons,” is the utterance of Jehovah, “[those disposed] to carry out counsel, but not that from me; and to pour out a libation, but not with my spirit, in order to add sin to sin”.
Yes, Shame, Shame, Shame on you who claim to be God’s Organization and Christ’s representatives and yet have no concept of how to apply true justice and love in dealing with their own flock.
Furthermore, you are consistently been shown up by “worldly” authorities and institutions. They have better mechanisms in place that deliver better justice and better protection for children than the very Organization claiming to be God’s Organization. They even point out the flaws in your scriptural reason for two witnesses.[viii] Despite this, you proudly continue to refuse to reform. It is you who bring reproach on God’s name and Christ as your policies continue to allow the creation of unnecessary victims and all their suffering.
We will conclude with Christ’s words when he spoke about people like you (the Governing Body and their representatives). In Matthew 23:23-24 he said “Woe to YOU, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because YOU give the tenth of the mint and the dill and the cumin, but YOU have disregarded the weightier matters of the Law, namely, justice and mercy and faithfulness. These things it was binding to do, yet not to disregard the other things. 24 Blind guides, who strain out the gnat but gulp down the camel” and he warned in Mark 9:42 that “whoever stumbles one of these little ones that believe, it would be finer for him if a millstone such as is turned by an ass were put around his neck and he were actually pitched into the sea.”
Stop stumbling the little ones!
[iii] That is not to say it does not happen, just that it is rare, otherwise we would get to hear of such miscarriages of justice.
[iv] Claim that appointments of elders and ministerial servants are made by holy spirit. See Organized to Accomplish Our Ministry p29-30 Chapter 5 para 3 “We can be grateful for the spirit-appointed overseers in the congregation.”
[vi] For example, see the Australian High Commission into Child Abuse, where the Organization had not reported one case in the past 60 or so years with at least 1000 incidents.
[vii] A lie that is told to stop someone from being upset by the real truth. (English, – Note: American understanding is different)
[viii] See Australian Royal High Commission on Child Abuse, Angus Stewart questioning Bro G Jackson about Deuteronomy 22:23-27. See Page 43\15971 Transcript Day 155.pdf See http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/case-study/636f01a5-50db-4b59-a35e-a24ae07fb0ad/case-study-29,-july-2015,-sydney.aspx