How Does the "Child Protection Policy" Work?

"Although Witnesses comply with secular laws when necessary, Witness spokesman Brown says, the group prefers to deal with such matters spiritually. "We handle wrongdoing, sin, and transgression," he says. "This is what a religious organization is supposed to do. We're not getting into law enforcement. We're just going to handle the repentance." " (Christianity Today, January 26th 2001 )

"J.R. Brown, a national spokesman for the organization, said that while Jehovah's Witnesses deal strictly with child abuse within the congregation, it isn't the church's job to report abuse. "Nothing prevents them fro m c alling the authorities," Brown said. "They don't have to call us first. These things operate separately. If the offender is part of the congregation, we will deal with it in a church setting. But if they are also reported to the authorities, we will not try to shield them." ... Brown, the national spokesman, said that Jehovah's Witness elders do report sex abuse in states where there are mandatory reporting laws. "If it is a state that requires clergy to report, we of course would view that as taking precedence over ecclesiastical privilege," he said." (Mid- Val ley Sunday Oregon News, October 5, 2002 ; Associated Press, October 7, 2002 )

"[J.R. Brown] said there is no policy preventing notification of civil authorities of a crime. "What we handle is the transgression, or the sin, of child molestation. We distinguish that from the criminal aspect," Brown said. "Our view is, the church handles the sin, the secular authority - Caesar, if you will - handles the criminal activity." The church - which has about 6 million members worldwide, including 1 million in the United States - requires two witnesses because the Bible requires it for establishing a sin, he said. "Where the state requires that this be reported, we comply fully," he said. "We have designed a policy to protect the victim of child molestation; to protect innocent children and to not allow pedophiles to circulate among us." " (Associated Press News Story, Tuesday, January 22, 2002 )

"In an interview from his home in New York on Tuesday, church spokesman J.R. Brown said elders are told to comply with the laws requiring professionals to report all allegations of child abuse. "It ought to be clear, the church handles all sins and transgressions in house," he said. "If such sins are criminal, then it's up to the police." ... Brown, the church spokesman, denied that victims are discouraged from reporting abuse or other crimes. "We make it clear that it is up to the individual whether to report. As you know, many choose not to," he said. "We don't chastise them." " ( THE SPOKANE REVIEW, Wednesday, January 23, 2002 )

"The elders' guideline is: if you get any single allegation of child abuse come to your attention, phone this office. ... you see the first thing is we have to make sure for the protection of the child, that's our first priority. ... We have a child protection policy." --PAUL GILLIES, WATCHTOWER BIBLE & TRACT SOCIETY'S OFFICIAL SPOKESPERSON (BBC PANORAMA, "Suffer the Little Children", July 14th, 2002 )

"When any one of Jehovah's Witnesses is accused of an act of child abuse, the local congregation elders are expected to investigate. Two elders meet separately with the accused and the acc user to see what each says on the matter. If the accused denies the charge, the two elders may arrange for him and the victim to restate their position in each other's presence, with 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 may wish to report the matter to the authorities, and it is his or her absolute right to do so." (Official Watchtower Society JW-Media.org Statement, May 2002)

"John Robert (J.R.) Brown, director of the office of Public Information at the home office in Brooklyn , rejects what Bowen says. Brown states they do not [have the] molested child confront the accused in presence of parents and three elders. Also they never threaten anyone with disfellowshipping. Even persons, who were found guilty of serious sins in the organization, could remain a Jehovah's Witness, if they were found repentant by a judicial committee. 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)

"If, when confronted, the accused confesses that he is guilty of child abuse, 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 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. ..." (Official Watchtower Society JW-Media.org Statement, May 2002)

"Jehovah's Witness church officials in New York deny that the church hides criminal activity. "We have no such policy. Our policy allows for anyone who wishes to report the matter to the authorities to do so," J.R. Brown, national spokesman for the Jehovah's Witness organization, said. "We strictly comply. We are not in any way resistive to the proper authorities being notified." Brown said that ...the church typically follows general policy guidelines in such matters. "We follow a general policy that we do not support legally any Jehovah's Witness charged with a crime. We do not use our donated resources to defend any Jehovah's Witness accused of a crime," Brown said. But Brown said the core issue is not the church's image. "If someone were to feel that our concern for our resources were greater than that for innocent victims, that simply is not true," Brown said. "We are concerned, just as any other organization, about our public image. We are concerned about our resources because we are recipients of donated funds for non-profit charitable work. But we are primarily ministers who are concerned to act as shepherds in a protective and spiritual sense over the members of the congregation," he said. "If anyone has been abused by anyone else in the congregation or whether that person is an appointed elder or not, we view this as a horrific crime to inflict on a child or anyone else," Brown said." (CNS News, Friday, January 24, 2002 )

"Leaders of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, as the organization is formally known, have disputed these claims, saying they obey all laws requiring the reporting of child abuse and do not interfere with police investigations. They say that in states that do not require reporting of abuse, they prefer taking steps to protect children while not breaching what they see as confidential communications between elders and members. Church officials say they might advise elders to move victims out of abusive homes or refer them to counseling. In its statement, the Jehovah's Witnesses Office of Public Information quoted biblical references in saying elders must use church discipline to ''shepherd the flock of God in their care.'' ''In fact, they are required by the Holy Scriptures to see to it that the congregation remains clean and unified,'' the statement said. ''No hasty decision is made in this process.'' The goal is not to expel a member, but to follow the Apostle Paul's injunction to ''try to readjust such a man in a spirit of mildness,'' the statement said. One suit filed in January by Erica Rodriguez, who said she was repeatedly abused by a church member years ago, claims an elder at her former congregation in Washington state threatened her with excommunication if she reported her ab user to police. A Watchtower statement denies this, saying that there are no sanctions against anyone who chooses to go to police, and that church elders and Watchtower did not know of the abuse until years after it had occurred." ( LOUISVILLE-COURIER ( Kentucky ) Newspaper, Wednesday, May 8, 2002 )

" Moreno said while he believes in the church's policy, he knows that some members have been hurt, and "my heart goes out to them." But he said that some elders don't follow the policy as they should, and that's where trouble begins. Moreno said when a Witness goes to an elder with an accusation of abuse, the first step the elders should take is calling the church's legal department. He said there are then three factors considered: protecting the child, complying with the law, and protecting minister-adherent confidentiality, with the last receiving the least weight. The legal department will then advise the elders what is required by law. Twenty-two states, including Illinois and the District of Columbia , do not require clergy to report accusations of child abuse. In those states, Moreno said, the legal department generally advises the elders not to report the matter to law enforcement authorities. J.R. Brown, public affairs director for the church, said the reason for this is "we do not think, as an ecclesiastical authority, we should run ahead of Caesar's laws," using a biblical reference to secular authority. "Even if secular authority does not require it, generally we have endeavoured to be more zealous for enforcing and seeing that these laws are complied with. If Caesar has a law, and it does not conflict with God's law, we follow it." " ( Paducah Sun ( Kentucky ) Newspaper, January 28th 2001 )

"Church officials say elders alert authorities to suspected abuse in states that require reporting. But in other states they prefer to take steps to protect children that don't breach what they see as confidential communication between elders and members. A lawyer for the Jehovah's Witnesses church, which has nearly 1 million members nationally and 6 million worldwide, said it complies with those state laws that require church elders to report abuse. "If there is a law that mandates reporting, that takes precedent over any confidentiality, whether in church policy or statute, ... In states where there is no reporting requirement, it's a different scenario," Moreno said. Elders might have the victim relocated away from the ab user or have the parent or guardian of the victim, or even the accused person, report the abuse to police, he said. "The laws of this country, as well as people's moral values, tell you there are some things that should be kept private. That's why laws protect confidential communications between clergy and their flock." But Moreno said elders who contact the church's legal department with cases of suspected sexual abuse -- as they must do -- are often advised to refer victims to police or other outside help, even if the law doesn't require it." ( Louisville Courier-Journal ( Kentucky ) Newspaper, January 4th 2001 )

" Moreno ...said "Once in a while, in a small minority cases, elders screw up. They screw up because they don't call here (the Watch Tower legal department). When they call here, they don't screw up." Moreno said that eventually, the truth comes out. "Somebody else comes out of the woodwork and now you can take action," he said. Moreno said two separate acc user s would count as two witnesses when making a sexual abuse accusation. Church policy neither encourages nor discourages members to report suspected or admitted sexual abuse to police, Moreno said. Elders are instructed to always call the central legal department of the church in Car mel , N.Y. , upon receiving an accusation. When elders call, church lawyers tell them whether state law requires them to report abuse to police, Moreno said. A still-valid 1989 church memo also tells elders to call for legal advice before being interviewed by police, responding to a subpoena or voluntarily turning over confidential church records, unless police have a search warrant. Moreno said church lawyers might advise elders to refer victims to police or other outside help. "That's a personal decision." " ( Louisville Courier-Journal ( Kentucky ) Newspaper, January 4th 2001 )

"If child abuse becomes known to our church elders, they strictly comply with applicable child abuse reporting laws. We also encourage the wrongdoers to do everything they can to set the matter straight with the authorities. Furthermore, we do not prohibit or discourage the victim or the victim's parents from reporting child abuse to the authorities even if the alleged perpetrator is one of Jehovah's Witnesses. Jehovah's Witnesses abhor all forms of wickedness including child abuse. We do not condone the actions of those who exploit children by this terrible crime and such persons are disfellowshipped (excommunicated) from the congregation. 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 ( Kentucky ) Newspaper, January 5th 2001 )

"J.R. Brown, spokesman at the Jehovah's Witnesses' headquarters in the New York City borough of Brooklyn , said he believes Bowen does not have a full understanding of church policies. Members are free at all times to report abuse to secular authorities, Brown said. "This is a personal decision on how you want to handle this," he said. What is revealed to church leaders is generally kept confidential unless state law requires that allegations of abuse be turned over to police, he said. "We deal with sin, and law enforcement deals with crime," Brown said. In some cases, however, the matter is turned over to secular authorities regardless of the law, Brown said. Of Bowen, he said: "He's concerned about victims of child abuse, and we are, too." Brown said the faith does require at least two witnesses to prove any kind of wrongdoing -- including child molestation -- because that is what is taught in the Bible. But corroborating evidence can be used instead of a second witness to prove wrongdoing, Brown said." (Associated Press, February 11th 2001 )

"Jehovah's Witnesses condemn child molestation, and they do not tolerate such activity within their membership. If there is sufficient evidence that someone has exploited children in this way, he may be disfellowshipped (excommunicated). A sincerely repentant former child molester may be allowed to remain a member of the faith, but he is strongly warned against being alone with children unless one of the parents or another responsible adult is also present. Moreover, as a protection to our children, former child molesters are not permitted to receive positions of responsibility in our religion. If an accusation of child molestation is made against a member of the congregation, the elders immediately work to assure the safety of the victim. Also, they make every effort to comply with the law. This includes complying with laws that mandate reporting the incident to the proper authorities. This is even done when a child is the only one to report the wrong conduct or when the elders received the allegation of molestation in confidence. The victim or the victim's family may also report the matter to the authorities. The have an absolute right to report and none should interfere with this. If you would like to receive more information on how we report such matters, please contact Mario Moreno, Watchtower Legal Department. (845) 509-0416 or (845) 306-1000." -- J.R. Brown (JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES, PUBLIC AFFAIRS OFFICE, PRESS RELEASE, August 7, 2001 )

"If an accusation of child molestation is made against a member of a congregation, the elders immediately work to assure the safety of the victim and of other children. Also, they make every effort to comply with the law. This includes complying with laws that mandate reporting the incident to the proper authorities. This is done even when a child is the only one to report the wrong conduct or when the elders received the allegation of molestation in confidence." ( Jehovah's Witnesses Office of Public Information Press Release: Statement on silentlambs march, September 27, 2002 )

"Paul Polidoro, the associate general counsel for the Jehovah's Witnesses, said the staff at the church headquarters in New York had not yet seen the lawsuit and had no comment on the specific allegations. "The majority of these lawsuits are parishioner-on-parishioner incidents," Polidoro said. "Our local congregations and national organization take child abuse quite seriously," Polidoro said. "Child abuse allegations are reported to (the) authorities if they occur." Polidoro said he was insulted by Hall's ministry and Bowen's allegations. "We are a well-established religion that has been in this country for a century," he said. "It's somewhat offensive when someone uses the word 'cult' to describe your religion." " (San Francisco Chronicle, "Jehovah's Witnesses hit with rash of sex-abuse suits", Page A - 15, Thursday, July 31, 2003 )

"Steve Lyons, an elder at Bowen's Draffenville church of about 60 members, said Jehovah's Witnesses are responsive to allegations of child abuse. "I think we do as well as we can do," he said. "We comply with all local laws when it comes to reporting. We do our best to protect children in cases where even there's just been an alleged abuse." " ( Associated Press News and also on CNN.com, Thursday, May 9, 2002 )

"In the United States , when any one of Jehovah's Witnesses is accused of an act of child abuse, the local elders are expected to investigate. The procedure is as follows. Two elders meet separately with the accused and the acc user to see what each says on the matter. If the accused denies the charge, the two elders may arrange for him to have the opportunity to confront the acc user in their presence. 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." -- 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.)

"In addition to making a report to the branch office of Jehovah's Witnesses, 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 may wish to report the matter to the authorities, and it is his or her absolute right to do so. In the United States , reporting requirements vary from state to state. It can be quite a challenge to keep abreast of the reporting requirements, but our Legal Department makes every effort to do so." -- 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.)

"Church spokesman J. R. Brown says the group instructs local leaders to notify police when required by law. They also conduct their own investigation: "That consists of going directly to the accused." If someone confesses, says Brown, he will be prohibited from going door-to-door-unless accompanied by another Witness." (Newsweek Magazine; New York ; June 24th, 2002 ; Volume: 139, Issue: 25, Start Page: 81)

" "Elders in Britain are directed to ensure that secular laws are adhered to. When a report is received, elders contact our National Office in London for gui dan ce to ensure that (1) the alleged victim, and other potential victims, are protected from possible abuse and (2) that counsel is given to report crime to the proper authorities and to comply with any additional legal requirements. Jehovah's Witnesses further believe that it is the absolute right of the victim, his or her family, or any others to report the matter to the authorities if they so choose. There are certainly no sanctions against any congregation member who reports an allegation of child abuse to the authorities." National Contact Paul Gillies, telephone: 020 8906 2211" -- Paul Gillies (Quote from the British Watchtower Statement that was Posted on the Official Watchtower Society Media Website at http://www.jw-media.org right around the same time that the BBC Panorama Program aired, July 2002)

"Brown said pedophiles are restricted from working with minors and must also be with a well-respected church member when they go door to door. Pedophiles also might not be sent into neighborhoods where they might be recognized as molesters, Brown said. According to church lawyer Moreno , the system worked. Elders did their job, and victims and police did theirs, he said. "What was the harm?" Moreno said. "The report got made. "You've got a teen, who has been molested, upset at the elders for not calling the police?" he said. "You can call the police. You're the one injured. "Who makes the laws? Not us. Don't blame us for the laws, please. Talk to the state legislators of Colorado ." " ( Louisville Courier-Journal ( Kentucky ) Newspaper, January 4th 2001 )

Mr. JOHN WHITE (Presiding Overseer) Speaking From the Recorded Court Trial Audio Tape: "We're satisfied that he [the molester] was repentant and could be admitted to the Congregation again. To us, we don't see a problem. ... Jehovah's Witnesses do not want to harbor criminals or dan gerous people. But we want the Confidentiality because if that's taken away from us, why should a person ever confess anything?" (NBC DATELINE -- "WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION", May 28th, 2002)

JOHN LARSON Speaking: In a Letter to DATELINE, the Church's General Council adds that "it is possible that a few of the 77,799 Elders of Jehovah's Witnesses have not followed the direction that they have been given regarding investigating and reporting child abuse." (NBC DATELINE -- "WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION", May 28th, 2002)

"CONNIE CHUNG Speaking: This is a statement from the Jehovah's Witnesses, and I'd like all of you to listen to it: "We abhor the sexual abuse of children and will not protect any perpetrator from the consequences of this gross and perverse sin. We expect the elders to investigate every allegation of child abuse. Unrepentant wrongdoers are expelled from the congregation. Special care is taken to ensure the victims are given ongoing assistance and counsel that help them deal with the pain of the abuse. They should never be told by elders not to report their allegations to the authorities." " (CNN Connie Chung Tonight Television Program, August 14, 2002 )

[ Moreno said] [elders] "do institute this discipline [Disfellowshipping]. They're not soft on ab user s." ( Louisville Courier-Journal ( Kentucky ) Newspaper, January 4th 2001 )

"Said Moreno : "I wouldn't be too happy myself if somebody abused my child and was reinstated. The bottom line is if an elder determines a former child ab user has demonstrated repentance, (he has) a scriptural obligation to reinstate him." " ( Louisville Courier-Journal ( Kentucky ) Newspaper, January 4th 2001 )

JOHN LARSON (NBC Dateline Reporter) Speaking: "Bill Bowen says if you want to get an idea of how the Church sweeps cases under the rug, just listen to part of a conversation Bowen Recorded a little over a year ago with an Official in the Jehovah's Witness (Bethel) Legal Department. Bowen calls seeking advice on how to handle a suspected molestation case involving a young girl and her father. Instead of being told to report it to the Police, Bowen is told to confront the suspected ab user ." ... Bethel Headquarters #2 Speaking On the Phone: "You just ask him [the accused molester] again, "Now is there anything to this?" If he says "No," then I would walk away from it. ... Leave it for Jehovah. He'll bring it out. ... But don't get yourself in a jam." (NBC DATELINE -- "WITNESS FOR THE PROSECUTION", May 28th, 2002)

JONATHAN BRIGGS, JEHOVAH'S WITNESS PRESIDING OVERSEER, speaking about the Ian Cousins case: "It's reasonable to really actually consider the brothers and sisters in the congregation that have had to undergo all this pressure. So I would just leave it at that. That's all I have to say on the matter." (BBC PANORAMA, "Suffer the Little Children", July 14th, 2002 )

"Clive Thomas, spokesman for the Canadian church, said the accusations are unfair. While the church is concerned about the spiritual well-being of ab user s, he said, "We care about children. We do not condone or take a soft view of child sexual abuse or any other abuse." " (The Toronto Sun Newspaper, September 1, 2002 )

"Church elders in Canada are required by law to report allegations of sexual abuse to authorities and were ordered by the church in 1988 to comply with the law. "We abhor the molestation of children," the church says in a press release. "It is not just a terrible sin but also a crime ... We do not protect any perpetrator of such repugnant acts." While secular authorities are notified of allegations, the abuse is also investigated internally by elders, who are considered administrators of God's law. Elders are required first to contact church headquarters in Georgetown , where a lawyer instructs them on how to handle the allegations. Two elders are then appointed to investigate. Family members, the victim and the accused are interviewed, sometimes together, and explicit detail is sought. If the accused denies the abuse happened, the charge is dropped unless another witness can corroborate the story. That rule is based on the Biblical book of Deuteronomy: "No single witness should rise up against a man respecting any error or any sin." In effect, the child's accusation is dismissed unless another person saw the abuse or another child comes forward with an allegation against the same church member. "We are bound by the scriptures," Thomas said. "But we would still report it to the authorities with only one witness" so the victim gets "the protection of the secular authorities." But abuse is seldom reported in jurisdictions where there is no mandatory reporting requirement, Bowen said. If the pedophile confesses the sin, he is punished, often by disfellowship. A permanent confidential record is kept by the elders and the Georgetown office is notified. But the congregation is never told of the crime -- only the punishment. Family members and the victim are also forbidden from talking about abuse to other congregation members. Disfellowship, or excommunication, involves being shunned by the community and family for at least a year. The shunned member is still expected to attend meetings. Should a pedophile move to another congregation, elders there are notified and records transferred. Thomas said elders must protect the privacy of an accused, especially if he has repented, but are instructed to carefully monitor him and prevent him from being alone with kids." (The Toronto Sun Newspaper, September 1, 2002 )

"Some elders of the Jehovah's Witness church covered up child abuse and obstructed police investigations, according to victims of the abuse and former elders. The church's leader in Australia on Sunday denied the allegations, but said police were sometimes not informed to protect victims." (THE AGE [ http://theage.com.au ] Australian News, September 22, 2002 )