Silentlambs Tours Bethel!
In recent weeks you may have noticed very strong newspaper articles coming out of Denmark regarding Jehovah's Witnesses and child abuse. The lead article was entitled "Satan's Witnesses." It was quite shocking to see at first but when the following articles were given that showed case after case of abuse covered up it was starting to be understood why the newspaper made the comments that it did. Denmark media is some of the most liberal media in the world, they comment and go after anyone that they feel is necessary to expose. Keep in mind that Denmark is a small country and the newspaper that was reporting this has the largest circulation of all newspapers in the country. It is also circulated throughout many other countries in Europe for those that read Danish.
You can review the news articles at this link on the sl website,
As you will see there were many stories of abuse and it was shown that for six years it appears the organization gave no specific directive on reporting abuse even though it was mandatory reporting nationwide for that time period. A letter was provided to all Body of Elders in Denmark showing how the abuse was covered up, you can read it here,
After doing these stories it seemed apparent that directives were not just a local problem but appeared to be guided by the home office in Brooklyn , New York . At this point silentlambs was contacted and asked if we could provide abuse survivors in the New York area to interview and show the consistency of the abuse problem. As you might recall we sent out a newsletter asking for help in that regard. Happily over sixteen abuse survivors were willing to help by interviewing with the reporters. I was asked to come to New York to provide further background information, it was short notice but I was glad to assist with the story.
We set up a group meal and meeting for everyone to get together, talk and fellowship. It was a very nice occasion to get to visit and let the reporters see them in an informal setting. During the course of the meal stories were told and interviews were set up for later in the week. There was about twelve present for the meal some could not make it due to health or other reasons. We got to see some that were there for the sl march in 2002 and see some new faces as well. Some drove in from as far as four hours away just to be there.
The following day I met with the reporters to discuss strategy and provide written material. I mentioned to them the P R department was notorious for pretending to permit an interview and then ignoring them at the last moment. Sure enough when they called the P R spokesman David Semoniam pretended to be happy to meet with them. I suggested they might wish to tour Bethel first and get some inside pictures before they were shut out. So we went to the factory and truthfully introduced them as non witnesses that wished to tour. We were welcome with open arms. I used my middle name just to be safe.
It was interesting in that the entrance area was well set up with interactive video on the history of the organization and helpful displays. The odd part came when the tour began it appears the factory buildings were largely empty. Floor after floor of dismantled junk, old parts and stuff that appeared to be mostly scrap metal. The group on the tour seemed to be very excited to snap picture after picture of basically nothing. It was explained that the factory was being moved to Patterson for printing operations and since the Furman building were being sold that the shipping and laundry operations were being moved to the Adams Street buildings. They appeared to have a few months to vacate. In addition, the 107 building was being renovated from top to bottom so the Kingdom Hall had been moved to 124 building as well. This was helpful as the reporters wanted pictures of a meeting as well. More on that later ...
Finally we got to a floor that was making bibles and got a few shots of the operation. It seems they milked it for all it was worth as it took over thirty minutes to see how the covers were glued on the bibles. A bit of trivia; the deluxe bibles were made with pigskin until the year 2000 but it was decided as a cost cutting measure to make them out of "superior?" synthetic material. So if you want the pigskin cover better get a pre-2000 bible. Are you thrilled to know this?
After the extensive tour of bibles we crossed the bridge to the Sands residence building. What is was to see there? A kitchen, dining room, and tool room along with some artwork, this took another thirty minutes and it seemed there was no end in sight. I asked the reporters if they wanted to continue the tour. The gave me a "please get us out of here look." So we committed the unthinkable, at the Sands street entrance we said we had another appointment and needed to leave. The little tour gal looked totally shocked and said she would have to ask permission. We were standing ten feet from the front door but we waited for about five minutes while she went and had a discussion with the brother at the desk. Finally she brought back "permission" to leave. It seemed a bit odd. As soon as we walked out the door the reporters who were smokers lit up cigarettes much to the chagrin of those entering. I told them it was the equivalent of committing a gross sin in the front entrance of the Sands building. The looks they were given seemed to evidence that.
From the factory we went to have lunch and then on to Furman Buildings to get some spiritual food. Check out the pictures for the details,
After the long walk to Furman it was getting time for me to catch my plane but I just had to go by 25 Columbia Heights . The last time I was there the gates were shut and over one hundred abuse survivors were ignored when they came as eye witnesses regarding abuse. Pat Garza on the front step accused Ted Jaracz of molesting her as a child. This was a continuation of a charge she had made since 1994 in writing to the Service Department. What was their response then? In 1995 they sent a very large District Overseer and Circuit Overseer to meet with Pat in the backroom of the Kingdom Hall. They told her if she did not shut up she would be disfellowshipped. Pat was terrified into silence for several years until she found silentlambs. Though she passed away in the summer of last year she found her voice and was not longer afraid to speak out about her abuse. Pat was not disfellowshipped though the brothers and sisters shunned her till her death offering no help with her illness or attending her funeral. Just one reason I wanted to stand on the front step with open doors. So while running out of time we made it and got a snapshot, it is the last picture we took. I hope it makes you smile as sometimes you got to laugh to keep from crying...
The reporters went the next day to interview can you guess what happened? Semoniam turned them down flat and told them to review the website for any information. Happily we were able to set up an interview with an abuse survivor that Semonian had personally been involved with. When an earlier reporter asked him about the case Semoniam denied knowing the person. Would it be possible for a Bethel elder to lie to the press? Let the reader use discernment...
The reporters went on to attend the meeting Thursday and got some great shots at 124 Kingdom Hall that will no doubt be appearing in the Danish newspapers shortly.
Once again the policy of the organization was exposed for what it is doing to children.
Once again the WT P R department did a sorry job of public relations.
Once again the media was able to see the true colors of the organization in dealing with this issue.
Once again abuse survivors were given the opportunity to be heard by media.
Once again the truth was made known in a clear and concise manner.
Once again abuse survivors were brought together to enjoy fellowship and no longer be silent lambs.