JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES OFFICE OF PUBLIC INFORMATION

Position on Murder?

Murder is abhorrent to us. This is in harmony with the principle recorded at Romans 12:9. Even one murder is one too many. For decades The Watchtower and Awake! have featured articles to educate both Witnesses and the public regarding the importance and need to protect brothers and sisters from murderers. Among others, there was the article "Why Abhor Murder?" published in the March 1, 1997, issue of The Watchtower ; "Help for the Murder Victims" in the August 1, 1983, Watchtower; "When the Victim Is in Danger!" , "How Can We Protect Ourselves From Murder?" , and "Preventing Murder in the Home" , all in the November 8, 1993, Awake!, as well as "Murder—Everyone's Nightmare" in the May 22, 1985, Awake!

When any one of Jehovah's Witnesses is accused of an act of murder, the local congregation elders are expected to investigate. Two elders meet separately with the accused and the acc user s survivors to see what each says on the matter. If the accused denies the charge, the two elders may arrange for him and the victims family to restate their position in each other's presence, with the elders also there. If during that meeting the accused still denies the charges and there are no others who can substantiate them, the elders cannot take action within the congregation at that time. Why not? As a Bible-based organization, we must adhere to what the Scriptures say, na mel y, "No single witness should rise up against a man respecting any error or any sin . . . at the mouth of two witnesses or at the mouth of three witnesses the matter should stand good." (Deuteronomy 19:15) Jesus reaffirmed this principle as recorded at Matthew 18:15-17. However, if two persons are witnesses to separate incidents of the same kind of wrongdoing, their testimony may be deemed sufficient to take action.

However, even if the elders cannot take congregational action, they are expected to report the allegation to the branch office of Jehovah's Witnesses in their country, if local privacy laws permit. In addition to making a report to the branch office, the elders may be required by law to report even uncorroborated or unsubstantiated allegations to the authorities. If so, we expect the elders to comply. Additionally, the victim’s family may wish to report the matter to the authorities, and it is his or her absolute right to do so.

If, when confronted, the accused confesses that he is guilty of murder, the elders take appropriate congregational action. If he is not repentant, he will not be permitted to remain a member of the congregation. Even if he 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 the congregation, a man known to have been a murderer 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  Tim othy 3:2, 7-10) We take such action because we are concerned with maintaining Bible standards and protecting future victims. 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 murder have been appointed to positions within the congregation if their conduct has been otherwise exemplary for decades. All of the factors are considered carefully. Suppose, for example, that a long time ago a 16-year-old boy murdered a worldly person before he was baptized. Depending upon the U.S. jurisdiction where he lived when this happened, elders may have been required to report this as an incident of murder. Let us say that 20 years have passed. The statue of limitations for murde r r eporting law may have changed; the man may have even have not killed anyone since! He has been living an exemplary life and is respected. In such a rare case, the man could possibly be appointed to a responsible position within the congregation.

Our procedures have been refined over time. Over the years, as we have noted areas where our policies could be strengthened, we have followed through. We are continuing to refine them. We do not believe that our system is perfect. No human organization is perfect. But we do believe that we have a strong, Bible-based policy on murder. Anyone in a responsible position who is guilty of murder would be removed from his responsibilities without hesitation. We certainly would not knowingly allow him to serve elsewhere, either because he moved or through a transfer.

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 the publishers is of the utmost importance. We take it very seriously.