Is There A Problem?
I have found that many do not believe that there is an inherent problem with child molestation among Jehovah's Witnesses. The reason might be based on the fundamental make up of the Watchtower Organization and the small amount of information that brothers and sisters on the inside as well as those who are not witnesses on the outside are actually given thus making it difficult to understand the nature or extent of this problem. I wish to try and explain the mechanics of why this problem is real and of horrific proportion within the Organization of Jehovah's Witnesses. I also want many to understand unless decisive action is taken, child molesters will continue to be protected and children will continue to be hurt. The explanation for the reasons I feel the Watchtower has moral and ethical problems when dealing with child molesters is as follows:
Closed society. The Watchtower Organization is a closed society that thinks everyone outside the organization is a part of Satan's world. Satan's world will be destroyed when the day of judgment comes and this includes everyone who does not become a Jehovah's Witness. The basis for this teaching is found in scriptures like 1 John 5:19 that states, "The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one." This reinforces the JW mentality that anytime you go outside the organization, the help you obtain is being guided ultimately by Satan and you should be distrustful of what they offer in any way. One letter to Body Of Elders dated 1992 states that therapy could be sought for molestation victims if it was "in harmony with bible principles." How often can you approach a therapist and demand that any gui dan ce given must be offered in complete harmony with the way Jehovah's Witnesses believe the bible? This effectively does away with any therapist unless they happen to be a Jehovah's Witness. Articles in the Watchtower and Awake continually reinforce the, "us" against them mentality. The June 1, 2001 issue of the Watchtower has this statement on page 16: "Is it presumptuous of Jehovah's Witnesses to point out that they alone have God's backing? Actually, no more so than when the Israelites in Egypt claimed to have God's backing in spite of the Egyptians' belief, or when the first-century Christians claimed to have God's backing to the exclusion of Jewish religionists." The point made? If you go anywhere else you will not have God's backing. It is very understandable to see why Witnesses rarely seek help in the way of therapy or have apprehension in going to the police when molestation issues arise.
Elder authority. The elders are pointed to as being shepherds of the flock. The flock being everyone not an elder in the congregation. This thought is repeated time and again in all writings of the Watchtower Organization. Nothing outside the shepherd arrangement is pointed to as a source that could override in anyway counsel an elder gives as direction. What an elder says is considered the final authority. If you were to go against an elder's direction it could be considered apostasy. Example: An elder advises you not to go to a certain therapist, if you choose to disobey, you could be placed under sanction. This means you would be considered a bad example. A "bad example" cannot auxiliary pioneer, have a demonstration part on the meeting. This in turn makes a statement to the congregation that you are a problem and some may choose to limit any association with you outside of meetings and field service. At this point, if you in anyway rebelled against this sanction and talked to others about it being unfair, you would be offered counsel to "shut up" with scriptures being offered on being submissive to theocratic arrangement. If this "counsel" was not followed and the elders had to meet with you on three occasions with this same counsel, without the proper response, you could then be "marked." "Marked" means you would be informed that a warning talk would be given about your actions to the congregation. While your name would not be mentioned, the actions would, and anyone who knew of these actions could not associate with you unless you were at the meeting or out in the field ministry. If you continued to speak against the counsel offered by the elders, a judicial committee will be convened and the charge would be "loose conduct." Definition? "A gross disregard of theocratic order." Causing "divisions" in the congregation could be another charge. At this hearing you must apologize and say you would never do this again or you will be disfellowshipped. To be disfellowshipped is compared to stoning in ancient times. For all practical purposes you are considered dead in symbolic terms. Unless you repent and are reinstated no Jehovah's Witness will speak to you, or have anything to do with you unless it is some sort of emergency. When you attend a meeting no one will acknowledge your presence. You may only speak to elders when a question arises. You are expected to arrive just as the meeting starts and leave as soon as it is over. If a person chooses to arrive early and leave late after meetings, this could cause them to not be reinstated, thus prolonging their disfellowshipment due to a bad attitude. Unwritten Watchtower guidlines say that at least one year must pass before a Disfelowshipped person can be reinstated. This of course is at teh discrection of the elders who served on the disfellowshipping committee. Even if you move the originial committee has final say on your reinstatement. Disfellowshipment destroys family interaction outside the church. Any association must only be necessary business or your family will be considered a bad example. What happens to a bad example? See above. This example offers the classic way it works for anyone who disobeys an elder and the direction he offers.
Masculine dominated society. Women are in submission and follow the direction of men within the organization. They have a limited role in teaching from the platform. The only assignment a sister can have is to be a pioneer. A pioneer puts a set number of hours in the field ministry. Women are generally forbidden from doing any administrative work unless there are no men available to do so. In the simple meeting for field service if no brother is available, a sister must wear a head covering to acknowledge headship. Recent guidlines state a mother must wear a headcovering in front of her baptized son if she performs any duties that typically men perform relating to worship. Sisters are taught to be submissive from birth and never question or in anyway rebel against the direction of brothers in the congregation. Any questions a sister may have is to be directed to her husband if she needs an answer, if she does not have a Christian husband or is single, she may respectfully approach an elder for direction. If a sister did not follow this protocol or was found to be disrespectful, she could be labeled as a "jezebel influence" and then ultimately be disfellowshipped for not submitting to headship, which is termed theocratic arrangement.
Home office detachment. The headquarters of the Watchtower is a closed environment made up of policy makers who are older men who by and large have never had children. They live an institutional life. As a general rule, they do not cook, clean, pay taxes, drive cars, or have an understanding of life outside an institutional setting. It is difficult for them to comprehend the problems that many face on a day-to-day basis. The attitude is generally to maintain the "status quo" and not make sweeping changes or minor adjustments unless forced to do so when it weighs to their advantage. The attitude is, "if it is not broke don't fix it" and if it is broke we do not want to know about it. The result is often good decisions are distorted and applied in areas that do not fit. Example: The principle of "two witnesses". This is basically a good idea in areas of fraud or false accusation when it comes to a slip of the tongue. It also fits in matters relating to adults who may commit moral sins, preventing accusations being made unless the acc user can back it up. When this matter is stretched to include matters relating to children, it doesn't work. When children are molested there are never two witnesses. The misapplication of this scripture gives the pedophile an opportunity to lie and use this to his/her advantage. Children are revictimized when the elders demand two witnesses as proof of what happened. The victim in effect is called a liar as no action is taken, which actually would be the same result if the child had made up the accusation. This distortion has caused much suffering to molested children who have asked the Governing Body for help. The Governing Body has turned a deaf ear, placing a greater emphasis on maintaining the "status quo" rather than rocking the boat by making an adjustment to protect children. If confronted the Watchtower says it is the parent's job to protect children. In light of the above matters discussed it is passing the buck on a problem the Governing Body has caused by not taking decisive action.
I believe the closed society, elder authority, masculine dominated society, and home office detachment, all together lay the foundation for a pedophile paradise within the organization. It is my opinion we have a much higher ratio of child molestation than any mainstream religion. The basis for this conclusion is the internal rules and the environment created in the Organization that allow the pedophile to remain anonymous, thus bringing other possible victims into harms way. The following issues and internal rules are listed:
No publisher can say negative things about another publisher to anyone. If a publisher has a problem with someone the publisher is instructed to either forget it or approach the offender and attempt to settle the matter. If after two to three attempts with no resolution, the matter is then taken to the elders who will have the final say in the matter. If this guideline is not followed the publisher can be disfellowshipped for malicious gossip.
If a child is molested the above guideline forces that no one tell who the pedophile is. They are not allowed to discuss this with anyone, even members of their immediate family or other congregation members whose children may be in dan ger, no one in the congregation can be informed who molested the child.
Elders are instructed to maintain absolute confidentiality with any judicial matter. Infractions that violate biblical law are recorded within the confidential file for that congregation. In the event a person is disfellowshipped, a complete report is sent to home office where a second record of the infraction is maintained. If a person commits a crime, copious records are placed within the local congregation file and then a full report will be maintained indefinitely at the WT Legal Dept. The congregation confidential files and the files of Watchtower Legal Dept. contain thousands of crimes that have never been reported to police and never will be because "ecclesial privilege" will be used as a basis to hide criminals from justice. These "files" allow thousands of child molesters to escape prosecution. Elders are forbidden to tell anyone of a confessed pedophile who attends the local congregation. Only at the advice of Watchtower Legal will elders even suggest to parents a child molester be reported to the police. At the congregation level the only action that can be taken with a confessed child molester is a "local needs" part that would state to watch your children, but nothing would be directly stated that a pedophile was actually in the congregation. Another action could be for the elders to have a meeting with the pedophile and tell him/her they would monitor their conduct around children. He/she cannot have children at their home for sleepovers nor hold them in their lap or work alone with children in the field ministry. The elders generally have contact at meetings and in the field ministry. The rest of the time the pedophile has the freedom to monitor his/her self. An interesting footnote is the addition of a new policy in May of 2002, that is a confessed child molester cannot work alone in the door to door ministry. This was unstated in any writing or instruction before May of 2002. At that time NBC's Dateline did a story about child molesters going door to door at which Watchtower spokesman mislead media to believe this was a long standing policy. On this website is a internal congregation letter written on the "WT information" page in which an elder was removed for being a confessed child molester, after giving several instances of how this person was to be treated in the congregation, not one word is stated about working alone in the door to door work. We would encourage media or any long time member to produce any written material that could prove this policy went into effect before May 2002. If not then a thank you note should be sent for silentlambs for causing this policy to go into effect.
There are three actual disciplines a confessed pedophile could experience in the congregation.
The "sudden death" for privileges. A directive that came about with the Jan 1, 1997 , Watchtower. You basically cannot have any position of responsibility within the congregation.
The judicial committee, which has the authority to disfellowship only if the pedophile is considered to be unrepentant. Guilt is established by a confession or by the mouth of two witnesses.
If you reside in a reporting state and a minor claims to be molested the elders could see to it you are reported to the police.
One, two, or all three of these directives may be followed, which are determined by local elders, WT Service Department and the WT Legal Department.
If a person is accused of being a pedophile, and they deny the charge, they are considered innocent until proven guilty. This works to the pedophile's advantage, as the requirement for two witnesses means to the same event, not two separate occasions. Watchtower PR has stated to media they will now take witnesses to seperate incidents and take action in the congregation. This again works to a child molesters advantage in that seldom will successive children report being molested. The result? Often numerous children will be molested before a "second witness" to "seperate incident" might come forward. Numerous reports from abuse survivors in the organization indicate the "seperate second eye witness" was seldom if ever honored in the event they came forward. Again this became a policy instituted when silentlambs pressed the issue on child abuse. Generally speaking in the unusual event a pedophile was accused by two children in the same week, it might be considered as a basis for a judicial committee but anything outside of this in the face of a denial will allow the accused pedophile to remain an innocent man. ( 11/15/95 WT) There is a mention by JR Brown of WT PR, of corroborating evidence in addition to one witness. This is a clever misrepresentation to make it appear that often action will be taken on the basis of one witness testimony. What is corroborating evidence of child molestation? Example: pictures/video, pregnancy, or DNA evidence. How often do these things come to bear in a case of child molestation? Very seldom if ever. We invite Watchtower to produce one case involving child molestation in which congregational action was taken with one witness and "corroborating evidence."
The victim is placed in a very negative environment to come forward and relate what happened. The victim is summoned to the back room of the Kingdom Hall and they sit in a room with three to four elders who fire questions about every detail that happened. Where were you touched? How many times? What were the dates of the molestation? What room of the house were you in? What did you not tell anyone sooner? Did you participate in the act of molestation? Did you enjoy the experience? Why did you not cry out or tell the molester to stop? What type of clothes were you wearing? Did you experience orgasm? These questions are based on testimony given by molesteed children when they were 4-8 years of age. There have been cases where the pedophile denies the charges and then the victim faces a judicial hearing for confessing to participating in a sexual experience. As recently as December of 2002 victims have even been disfellowshipped for coming forward and confessing to multiple sexual acts and the molester will be protected as an innocent man if he denies the allegations. The elders have zero training on how to conduct a rape investigation and by their misguided efforts taint a legitimate police investigation if it ever gats to that stage, by tramatizing the child and informing the molester of the child's testimony.
The parents of a victim are required to follow the direction of the elders and trust their judgment of the matter. The "reproach" of the congregation is turned into "reproach" on God and provides the basis to keep parents from going to the outside for assistance. In the event a parent chooses to go to police, they are often advised to not disclose what religion they are so as to not bring "reproach" on God's name. This can cause difficulty for police investigations by not having complete information the elders have advised them to withhold. The congregation will be advised the alleged molester is innocent by their investigation and members will impede a police investigation to protect a person the elders have deemed innocent.
A confessed or convicted pedophile is allowed anonymity within the Watchtower Organization. When they move a letter will follow to the new congregation. Only the elders are privy to this information. No one within the congregation would be informed of the pedophile's presence. Even the wives of the elders are not to be given this information. This can be a real dan ger for children. Example: There have been occasions when elders purposely withheld their children from being around "known" pedophiles while other unknowing publishers in the same congregation have had their children molested because of not being informed of the pedophiles past. There have been occasions where a molester started a bible study with people that have shown interest in religion and then molested their children. There is currently no policy that prevents a Jehovah's Witness child molester from studying the bible with people they contact in the door to door work that may have children.
An accused pedophile is allowed to move anywhere with no letter to follow. He is viewed as an innocent man with no one being allowed to warn others of the accusations against him. He can serve as an elder or have any privilege in the congregation even if convicted by a court of law. If any member disagrees with this policy they can be deemed "causing divisions," see above….
A convicted or accused pedophile is allowed to go door to door alone and with sisters in the field ministry. He is free to have children in the car. This includes the children he/she may meet at the door, the yard, or anywhere else he/she may travel in the witness work. A person will never know if the Jehovah's Witness who stops at their door is an accused or convicted pedophile or not. The primary purpose of witnessing is to start home bible studies, if an accused or convicted pedophile starts a study with a family who has children, no directive is offered on protocol of how this is to be handled. They are deemed to be innocent by current policy based on elder determination. In addition, it is common for those who participate in witnessing to take a coffee break mid-morning. Children are nearly always present unknowing who they on "break" with. Again no directives are offered.
At Circuit Assemblies and District Conventions convicted, confessed and accused pedophiles are allowed to mingle freely with no moni tori ng among literally hundreds of children. There are no directives offered in a Convention setting. In addition, most motels are filled with unknowing JW families who are never informed of a pedophiles presence in the motel where they are staying with no directives to monitor the pedophile in this setting. These represent areas where no policy exists currently.
Quick/Build, a large gathering of witnesses from all over the state to build a new Kingdom Hall in four days. An accused /convicted pedophile is free to be used in this program. They will be exposed to many children from all over the state who again have no knowledge that they are around a possible sex offender. No directives are offered. Confessed pedophiles are not allowed to work in the Quick/Build arrangement.
Elders have absolutely no training on gui dan ce, therapy or counseling when it comes to child molestation issues. The 1994 Elders School specifically advised against getting training on counseling or therapy for mental health issues stating, "we are spiritual shepherds only." The admonition was to listen, read a scripture, and say a prayer and that should be sufficient. The attitude was, some things will not be solved till the "new order" and persons with difficulty should learn to endure. The way troubled victims were advised to cope was to read the bible, pray, be regular at church meetings and participate more in the field ministry.
When victims are not treated and then act out their anger by self-destructive behaviors the elders move quickly to establish judicial committees to disfellowship a person who contaminates the congregation by wrong conduct. The victim is then victimized again, ostracized by family and every friend they have ever known within the closed environment all Jehovah's Witnesses are associated with.
All these things together contribute to the reason I believe there is a pedophile paradise within the Watchtower Organization. We recruit troubled persons to be members and accept them in with no questions asked. A pedophile that becomes a witness will be able to move about freely with the benefit of his past being buried with no one knowing. If the pedophile then starts to molest Jehovah's Witness children who are taught to submit completely to adult authority, the children are easily intimidated to not say anything for years. If any do come forward, the pedophile simply denies the charge and remains "innocent" from the congregation's standpoint. Should things become uncomfortable for the pedophile, they can simply move and start all over again with a fresh batch of children. Witnesses have absolute trust in one another, it is called a "spiritual paradise" in a wicked world. Their children are only allowed to associate with one another. A gathering will only have Jehovah's Witnesses in atten dan ce. Any extra circular activity will only feature Jehovah's Witnesses with each other. The typical pedophile will invariably have ample opportunity to take advantage of the trust of unknowing fellow members. The above stated issues raises the following questions :
Do other churches operate like this?
Do other church members have the shepherd dominated mentality JW's have?
Do other churches allow sex offenders complete anonymity within the church when it is discovered?
Do other churches advise that the minister has the last word when molestation issues arise?
Do other churches lead members to believe their investiga tori al measures are the best way to determine if a person has committed a crime?
Do other churches advise the best way to help a troubled person is to tell them to endure and wait for God's Kingdom to solve their problems?
Do other churches take a person who is troubled because of molestation, who has begun self-destructive behaviors and disfellowship them, ostracizing them from the
people who would be in the best position to help them?
Do other churches require two witnesses to the actual event of molestation before taking any disciplinary measures?
Do other churches threaten parents of molested children with disfellowshipment if they try to warn other members whose children may be in dan ger?
Do other churches remove ministers who warn parents of the dan ger of a certain pedophile molesting their children?
Do other churches disfellowship members that speak out to protect children fro m c hild molesters?
Do other churches provide zero training when it comes to how to direct a molested child to get the help they need?
In answering the above questions , if you feel there is no difference between Jehovah's Witnesses and how other churches handle these matters then we could be considered to have a similar ratio of child molestations to other churches. If on the other hand, you see a difference, then you have to accept a much higher ratio of child molestation among Jehovah's Witnesses than mainstream Christianity. It is morally and ethically wrong to perpetrate a "Policy" that hurts children. After reviewing the material above I hope this can help you to be better informed, educated as to the nature of the problem, and see the need to require the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society to rethink this issue, to change their policy and realize that protecting children is the highest priority in an Organization that wants to lead people to worship God.