Are Child Molesters Allowed to Remain as Elders in the Jehovah's Witnesses Congregations?

"For a man who was a child molester before he was baptized, there may be another consequence. When he learns the truth, he repents and turns around, not bringing that cruel sin into the congregation. He may thereafter make fine progress, completely overcome his wrong impulses, and even be inclined to 'reach out' for a responsible position in the congregation. What, though, if he still has to live down no tori ety in the community as a former child molester? Would he "be irreprehensible, . . . have a fine testimony from people on the outside, . . . [be] free from accusation"? (1 Timothy 3:1-7, 10; Titus 1:7) No, he would not. Hence, he would not qualify for congregation privileges. ... What if a baptized adult Christian sexually molests a child? ... If he seems to be repentant, he will be encouraged to make spiritual progress, share in the field service, even have parts in the Theocratic Ministry School and nonteaching parts in the Service Meeting. This does not mean, though, that he will qualify to serve in a position of responsibility in the congregation. ... a dedicated adult Christian who falls into the sin of child sexual abuse reveals an unnatural fleshly weakness. Experience has shown that such an adult may well molest other children. True, not every child molester repeats the sin, but many do. And the congregation cannot read hearts to tell who is and who is not liable to molest children again. ... For the protection of our children, a man known to have been a child molester does not qualify for a responsible position in the congregation. Moreover, he cannot be a pioneer or serve in any other special, full-time service. ... " (Quotes from The Watchtower, January 1, 1997 Issue, Pages 27-29)

"It may be possible that some who were guilty of child molestation were or are now serving as elders, ministerial servants, or regular or special pioneers. Others may have been guilty of child molestation before they were baptized. The bodies of elders should not query individuals. However, the body of elders should discuss this matter and give the Society a report on anyone who is currently serving or who formerly served in a Society-appointed position in your congregation who is known to have been guilty of child molestation in the past. In your report please answer the following questions : How long ago did he commit the sin? What was his age at the time? What was the age of his victim(s)? Was it a one-time occurrence or a practice? If it was a practice, to what extent? How is he viewed in the community and by the authorities? Has he lived down any no tori ety in the community? Are members of the congregation aware of what took place? How do they and/or his victim(s) view him? Has he ever been disfellowshipped, reproved, counseled, or otherwise dealt with? If he has moved to another congregation, please identify the congregation to which he has moved. Was that congregation advised of his past conduct of child molestation, and, if so, when? [If you have not advised them, this should be done now, and you should send a copy of your letter to the Society in a "Special Blue" envelope.] This information should be sent to the Society along with any other observations that the body of elders has. Please send this to the Society in the "Special Blue" envelope so that the factors involved may be given due consideration; this information is not to be made available to those not involved. ... A meeting of the body of elders should be arranged to read and discuss this letter together. This letter is confidential and should not be copied but should be kept in the congregation's confidential file. Elders should not discuss this information with others." (Quotes from Confidential "Body Of Elders" Letter sent from the Watchtower Society to All Bodies of Elders in the United States, March 14, 1997)

"The elders may have written to the branch office and given full details about a former child ab user who is currently serving as an elder or ministerial servant. In such a case, if the branch office has decided that he can be appointed or continue serving in a position of trust because the sin occurred many years ago and because he has lived an exemplary life since then, his name should not appear on the List, nor is it necessary to pass on information about the brothers past sin if he moves to another congregation unless contrary instructions have been given by the branch. If therefore, such an appointed man moves to another congregation a letter confirming the move should be sent, addressed to the Societys Legal Department. There are, however, many other situations that are connected with the abuse of a child. For example, there may be just one eyewitness, and the brother denies the allegation. (Deuteronomy 19:15; John 8:17) In these and similar cases no entry will be made on the Child Protection List. Rather, information should be kept in a sealed envelope in the congregations confidential file as described below." (Quote from the June 1st 2001 Official Watchtower Society Letter that was Sent from Bethel Headquarters to All Bodies of Elders)

"Even if he [the child molester] is repentant is cut to the heart and is thus resolutely determined to avoid such conduct in the future what was stated in the January 1, 1997 , issue of The Watchtower applies. The article said: "For the protection of our children, a man known to have been a child molester does not qualify for a responsible position in the congregation. Moreover, he cannot be a pioneer [full-time missionary of Jehovah's Witnesses] or serve in any other special, full-time service." He would not qualify Scripturally. (1 Timothy 3:2, 7-10) We take such action because we are concerned with maintaining Bible standards and protecting our children. Everyone in our organization is expected to meet the same requirements, na mel y, to be clean physically, mentally, morally, and spiritually.--2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 4:17-19; 1 Thessalonians 2:4. In a few instances, individuals guilty of an act of child abuse have been appointed to positions within the congregation if their conduct has been otherwise exemplary for decades. All the factors are considered carefully." (Quote from the Official Watchtower Media Website, May 2002, http://www.jw-media.org about their Pedophile Policy)

"If, when confronted, the accused confesses that he is guilty of child abuse, the elders take appropriate action. If he is not repentant, he will not be permitted to remain a member of the congregation. ... In a few instances, individuals guilty of an act of child abuse have been appointed to positions within the congregation if their conduct has been otherwise exemplary for decades. All of the circumstances would need to be considered carefully. ..." -- J.R. Brown (Quote from the Statement that was Faxed from J.R. Brown to Betsan Powys [BBC Panorama Reporter] on May 9th 2002, and was Posted on the Official Watchtower Society Media Website at http://www.jw-media.org right around the same time the BBC Panorama Program aired.)

You cannot be a known "sex offender and hold any position of responsibility within the organization," said J.R. Brown, the spokesman. "We have a very strong and aggressive policy for handling any sexual molestation that might take place." (NEWSDAY-NY, Wednesday, May 8, 2002 )

"Where molestation allegations are corroborated, the ab user is banned from the church and is never again allowed to hold a position of authority if the excommunication is rescinded, Brumley said." (CNN.com, "Lawsuits allege cover-up of sexual abuse by Jehovah's Witnesses", Tuesday, July 29, 2003 )

"Our procedures have been refined over time. Our policy over the past several years has been that at least twenty years must have passed before an individual who committed an act of child abuse could even be considered for appointment to a responsible position in the congregation, if ever. The Bible teaches that individuals can repent of their sins and "turn to God by doing works that befit repentance," and we accept what the Bible says. (Acts 26:20) Still, the safety of our children is of the utmost importance, so we realize that the local elders must be very careful when recommending individuals who may have been guilty of an act of child abuse in the distant past." -- J.R. Brown (Quote from the Statement that was Faxed from J.R. Brown to Betsan Powys [BBC Panorama Reporter] on May 9th 2002, and was Posted on the Official Watchtower Society Media Website at http://www.jw-media.org right around the same time the BBC Panorama Program aired.)

"Anyone in a responsible position who is guilty of child abuse would be removed from his responsibilities without hesitation. We certainly would not knowingly transfer him to serve elsewhere." -- J.R. Brown (Quote from the Statement that was Faxed from J.R. Brown to Betsan Powys [BBC Panorama Reporter] on May 9th 2002, and was Posted on the Official Watchtower Society Media Website at http://www.jw-media.org right around the same time the BBC Panorama Program aired.)

"as a protection to our children, former child molesters are not permitted to receive positions of responsibility in our religion." -- J.R. Brown (JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES, PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE, PRESS RELEASE, August 7, 2001 )

"People in the Organization who are accused of sex abuse are subject to a Hearing... They are automatically removed from leadership positions and can't go door-to-door without other members' being present." -- J.R. Brown ("The Washington Post" Newspaper, May 11th 2002 )

"People in the Organization who are accused of sex abuse are subject to a Hearing like the one Barbara Anderson attended yesterday, [J.R.] Brown said. They are automatically removed from leadership positions and can't go door-to-door without other members' being present." ("The Tennessean/Nashville" Newspaper, May 11th 2002 )

"A known child molester does not qualify for appointment as a church Elder or for any other position of responsibility in any congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses." -- J.R. Brown (" Paducah Sun" Newspaper, on January 5th, 2001 )

"The Witnesses can often avoid being Disfellowhipped if they quickly show repentance, but according to Erik Joergensen [Head of Information of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Denmark ], this will not be the case if they have committed sexual abuse and murder." (Danish Newspaper "Kristeligt Dagblad", October 18, 2001 )

[J.R. Brown] said that anyone found guilty of molestation by a church judicial committee is removed from all positions of responsibility and cannot evangelize door-to-door without being accompanied by a fellow Jehovah's Witness. (Associated Press News and also on CNN.com, Thursday, May 9, 2002 )

[ David Semonian] said anyone convicted of child molestation cannot hold a position of authority in the church and cannot perfor m c hurch work alone. ( Asbury Park Press, May 14th 2002 )

If an individual was found guilty of child molestation, he cannot under any circumstances serve as an elder. "Elders are religious leaders", says Brown." (SPIEGEL ONLINE Germany News - June 12th 2002 ; URL: http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/0 ,1518,198436,00.html)

"Members of the faith found guilty of wrongdoing by church elders can be disfellowshipped, said church spokesman J.R. Brown in New York City . When that happens other members are encouraged to cease all contact with the individual. "That is a biblical standard," Brown said. "We are pretty strict when it comes to interpreting the Bible."

"On rare occasions a member of a congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses takes up or reverts to the disgusting habit of child molestation. Even if he gives extensive evidence of genuine repentance and has stopped his wrongdoing, the individual is severely censored by the congregation and is not protected fro m c riminal investigation and/or prosecution. Even if today years have passed, he does not qualify for any responsibilities in the congregation. The individual is also directed that he should not be in any unsupervised company of children, including when he engages in any public witnessing. Additionally, elders of Jehovah's Witnesses are alerted to any past behavior of such an individual so as to protect the safety of any children in the congregation with whom he comes into contact. If the person moves to another congregation, the elders in the new congregation are notified; his record goes with him." (Jehovah's Witnesses Office of Public Information Press Release: Statement on silentlambs march, September 27, 2002 )

"Witness leaders also cannot feign ignorance to the dan gers of having known child sex ab user s in positions of authority in the group, or having them preaching in their emblematic door-to-door ministry. Instead, the seemed to move in a direction of excluding penitent pedophiles from leadership privileges, though explicitly prescribing evangelism as a token of faith even for convicted child sex offenders. Both issues were addressed in the other journal published by the group, The Watchtower of January 1, 1997 . It stated, for the first time, that a "known" molester "would not qualify for congregation privileges," such as becoming an elder or ministerial servant (deacon). However, a secret letter to all bodies of elders three months later, on March 14, 1997 , quietly backpedaled: "An individual 'known' to be a former child molester has reference to the perception of that one in the community and in the Christian congregation." As for determining whether those already in a position of authority had a history of molestation, the letter directed that "the body of elders should not query individuals." Unknown to the faithful, who would have taken the Watchtower as gospel, molesters could remain in positions of authority at all levels of the organization. The contents of that letter, though leaked on the Internet, remain a secret to the lay members of the group. "It was explained to the elders," said Brown, "and it is not a part of our standard way of handling things to always inform every detail of matters to the congregation in general. What is stated there [in the January 1, 1997 Watchtower] and the way it's stated there, without the clarification, is certainly what happens most of the time." The same issue of The Watchtower insured that not even a history of criminal child sexual abuse would exclude a penitent member from being required to engage in the Witnesses public preaching activity. Speaking of a molester who may have recently been released from prison, it states, "if he seems to be repentant, he will be encouraged to make spiritual progress [and] share in the field ministry." Brown reassured that a penitent predatory pedophile might be offered alternatives to going door-to-door, at the discretion of the local elders. "We consider just as valid if he sits on a bench in a mall with magazines and offers them to people there. Or, if he calls up on a telephone." " (Quotes from "Dances With Cactus" Web Blog on Salon.com, Wednesday, September 4, 2002 , By Michael Morris)