How Does the "Two Eye-Witness Rule" Work?

"Other cases of serious wrongdoing require special attention by the elders in order to determine what is needed to help the repentant wrongdoer and to preserve the spiritual health of all in the congregation. These include such sins as adultery, fornication, apostasy, and drunkenness. ... Before forming a committee, elders determine if the accusation has substance. It must Scripturally be an offense serious enough to result in disfellowshipping. There must be either two witnesses or a confession of wrongdoing." (Pay Attention To Yourselves and To All the Flock, Confidential Elders-Only Rule Book; 1991, Pages 107-108)

"What kind of evidence is acceptable? There must be two or three eyewitnesses, not just persons repeating what they have heard; no action can be taken if there is only one witness. (Deut. 19:15; Joh. 8:17) Confession (admission of wrongdoing), either written or oral, may be accepted as conclusive proof without other corroborating evidence. (Josh. 7:19) Strong circumstantial evidence, such as pregnancy or evidence (testified to by at least two witnesses) that the accused stayed all night in the same house with a person of the opposite sex (or in the same house with a known homosexual) under improper circumstances, is acceptable. The testimony of youths may be considered; it is up to the elders to determine if the testimony has the ring of truth. The testimony of unbelievers may also be considered, but it must be carefully weighed. If there are two or three witnesses to the same kind of wrongdoing but each one is witness to a separate incident, their testimony can be considered. Such evidence may be used to establish guilt, but it is preferable to have two witnesses to the same occurrence of wrongdoing." (Pay Attention To Yourselves and To All the Flock, Confidential Elders-Only Rule Book; 1991, Page 110)

"Is there sufficient evidence to establish by two witnesses or otherwise that the person is clearly guilty of serious wrongdoing?" (Pay Attention To Yourselves and To All the Flock, Confidential Elders-Only Rule Book; 1991, Page 119)

"At least two witnesses are required to establish a charge of wrongdoing. (John 8:17; Hebrews 10:28) If the person denies the charge and your testimony is the only one, the matter will be left in Jehovah's hands. (1 Timothy 5:19, 24, 25) This is done in the knowledge that all things are openly exposed to Jehovah and that if the person is guilty, eventually his sins will catch up with him. Hebrews; Numbers 32:23. But suppose the person does deny the charge and you are the only witness against him. Could you now be open to a countercharge of slander? No, not unless you have gossiped to those not involved in the matter. It is not slanderous to report conditions affecting a congregation to those having authority and responsibility to oversee and correct matters. It is, in fact, in line with our desire always to do what is correct and loyal.--Compare Luke 1:74, 75" (Quote from The Watchtower, August 15, 1997 Issue, Pages 27-28)

"in following Scriptural procedures, the congregation can only take judicial action on the eyewitness evidence of two or more individuals, or confession. So, while we may have some strong convictions on a certain situation, without this Scriptural evidence the elders are not able to take judicial action. This in no way implies that they do not believe the one bringing them the information, but as you said in your letter it is how Jehovah sees things that is important. Since this is God's direction to those examining cases of wrongdoing, the elders must abide by the Scriptures.--Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15 ; 1 Timothy 5:19. Some matters are firmly established by sufficient evidence or by confession, or both. However, what is the situation when an individual in these cases appears to the elders handling matters to be demonstrating heartfelt repentance? In that case the elders would reprove such a man, as Titus said "with severity". (Titus 1:13) The decision to reprove or disfellowship, the individual is left in the hands of the elders of each congregation. It is up to them to weigh all the accusations, and all claims of repentance. In the case of Titus, you will notice the reason that the apostle Paul left him in Crete : "That you might make appointments of older men in city after city, as I gave you orders." (Titus 1:5) These older men had a responsibility to handle matters in the congregation, in the same way as the "older men" in ancient Israel would have cared for matters of this nature." (Quotes from an Official Watchtower Society Letter written from the Watchtower Service Department regarding the molestation of the step-daughter of Daniel Fitzwater.)

" 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." ( Louisville Courier-Journal ( Kentucky ) Newspaper. January 4th 2001 )

"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 (AP) News, February 11th 2001 )

"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." (Associated Press (AP) News, Tuesday, January 22, 2002 )

"Brown said the church which has about 6 million members worldwide, including 1 million in the United States requires two witnesses because the Bible requires that for establishing a sin." (The Seattle Times Newspaper, January 23rd 2002 )

"The two-witnesses requirement applies to how we handle transgressions or sins as a church," Brown said. "It has nothing to do with how we handle a crime. ( SACRAMENTO BEE, Saturday, January 26, 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." (Quotes from the Official Child Abuse Policy Statement on the Official Watchtower Media Website at http://www.JW-Media.org )

"However, we must bear in mind the Bible's clear direction: '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." (The Guardian U.K. Newspaper, June 10th 2002 )

"First, if any allegation is made against someone, that person must confess or there must be two witnesses to the act for it to be proven: "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 )" (BBC Panorama News Story on their Website, Friday, July 12th 2002 )

"In the United States , when any one of Jehovahs 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." (Quotes from Statement that J.R. Brown Faxed 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)

"Brown, the Witnesses' spokesman, would not discuss specific cases, but he scoffed at allegations that Witnesses protect child molesters. Yes, Witnesses believe in the two-witness rule, he said, but that's not the only way wrongdoers can be caught. "It cannot be said that we will do nothing unless there are two witnesses," Brown said. He said Witnesses are not required to report crimes to elders before calling civil authorities. Victims and their families are free to call police at will, he said, although some don't choose to." ( St. Petersburg Times Newspaper, Published August 22nd 2002 )

"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. Family members and the victim are also forbidden from talking about abuse to other congregation members. 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. Bowen, who was excommunicated last month after being found guilty of "causing divisions," decried the process, noting the cloak of secrecy allows pedophiles to go door to door "witnessing" without anyone but the elders in the know. The requirement of two witnesses is ridiculous in cases of sex abuse, he said. And though elders may be well-meaning, they aren't trained to question or handle victims, he said." (The Toronto Sun Newspaper, September 1st 2002 )

"Brown, the Witness spokesman, said that while the church does require two witnesses or other compelling evidence before meting out any church discipline, that's beside the point because that requirement deals only with internal church procedures. He said the church does not forbid members from reporting crimes to the police." (Mid- Val ley Sunday, October 6th 2002 )

"JOHN BROWN SAYS THE RELIGION FORBIDS PUNISHMENT OF AN ACCUSED MOLESTER WHO DENIES ALLEGATIONS UNLESS THERE IS ANOTHER EYEWITNESS TO THE ABUSE." ( Tucson , Arizona News, September 6, 2002 )

"Brown, the Witness spokesman, said that while the church does require two witnesses or other compelling evidence before meting out any church discipline, that's beside the point because that requirement deals only with internal church procedures. He said the church does not forbid members from reporting crimes to the police. "We're not trying to deal with the penalty of the law," he said. "That's a separate thing from our point of view. Yes, an ab user should pay the penalty, even if he has to sit in jail for 10 or 15 years." " (Mid- Val ley Sunday Oregon News, October 5, 2002 ; Associated Press, October 7, 2002 )

"Church general counsel Philip Brumley said the church's own investigation of previous lawsuits found church elders did nothing wrong as they tried to protect victims, comply with sexual abuse reporting laws and adhere to biblical admonitions against accepting accusations by a single witness. ... Brumley explained the requirement stems from biblical references that no single witness should rise up against any man. But he denied the church discourages victims or their parents from going to police." (CNN.com, "Lawsuits allege cover-up of sexual abuse by Jehovah's Witnesses", Tuesday, July 29, 2003 )