Elders are untrained and unpaid volunteers who are NOT qualified to handle allegations of child abuse:

"Elders are spiritual shepherds but are generally not qualified to evaluate the genuineness or the seriousness of an allegation of child abuse." (Quote from the Confidential "All Bodies Of Elders" Letter sent from Britain 's Watchtower Bible and Tract Society Headquarters to All Bodies of Elders in Britain , December 1, 2000 )

Both Brown and Moreno said that the elders, who volunteer and are essentially untrained clergy, might err in their application of a policy both believe puts protecting children first. ... "It's a matter of trying to balance confidentiality and protecting the child," Brown said. "It's not always easy. Have mistakes been made? Very likely, they have." ( Paducah Sun ( Kentucky ) Newspaper, January 28, 2001 )

"Jehovah's Witness elders -- all are men -- are the equivalent of ministers in other religions. Though unpaid, they take on responsibilities such as teaching Bible lessons and passing on denomination policy. They also investigate Witnesses accused of committing crimes against other Witnesses. In some of these cases, the police are never called. Among the elders' primary tasks is serving on small judicial committees that hear confessions and decide whether an offense is worthy of excommunication. Excommunications are announced to the congregation, but elders never say why a person was expelled. Witnesses can only guess from a long list of offenses that range from smoking cigarettes to manslaughter. Homosexuality, fornication, drunkenness, slander, fraud, gambling, apostasy, fits of anger and violence, and adultery are others. The excommunication announcement tells members to begin shunning that person. If they don't, they, too, risk being disfellowshipped. Fear of being disfellowshipped is gripping for many Witnesses. Because they believe that only Witnesses will be saved from death, many don't associate with non-Witnesses. Being disfellowshipped, then, means losing your circle of friends, not to mention family members who remain in the faith. Elders disfellowship 50,000 to 60,000 Witnesses around the world each year, Brown said. "It's not an unusual occurence, as far as we're concerned," he said. ... Brown says disfellowshipping inspires wrongdoers to come back to the religion. Those who want to reapply can do so, but they must adhere to Witnesses' policies. They are allowed inside the Kingdom Halls but are ignored by the other congregants until readmitted to the faith. Each year, Brown said, 30,000 to 40,000 are reinstated, having "come back to their spiritual senses." " ( St. Petersburg Times Newspaper, August 22, 2002 )

"Parents of most denominations would not hesitate to call police first when sexual abuse of their child is reported. But to the Witnesses, all outsiders - even police and social workers -- are co-conspirators with Satan, part of the condemned world soon to be destroyed by God. As a Witness, when dealing with any wrongdoing "you go to elders first, and then elders make the decision for where you go [from there]. To bypass the organization would be treason," said Anderson . But these same elders "volunteer, and are essentially untrained clergy," according to a Jehovah's Witness spokesman in the Paducah Sun. They attend no seminary, and have no minimum education requirements, beyond basic literacy. They are equipped for nothing more than enforcing organizational guidelines, delivering biblical platitudes and offering a moment of prayer. When encountering a case of child sexual abuse for the first time, their instructions are first to "call the Legal Department" at the group's headquarters." ("An Unlikely David : Barbara Anderson 's struggle to stop predatory pedophiles in the cloistered world of Jehovah's Witnesses", September 3, 2002 )

"Not even the marriage bed is beyond the Watch Tower 's purview. Brown said Witnesses believe that sexual activity between men and women should "follow the normal course" of things. "We feel that oral or anal intercourse would go beyond that." Couples are often counseled accordingly before marriage, Brown said. Guilt-ridden Witnesses have gone before judicial committees to confess wayward sex acts with their spouses." ( St. Petersburg Times Newspaper, August 22, 2002 )

"An elder of the Shelburne Jehovah's Witness congregation admitted in court yesterday he would handle the case of a woman sexually abused by her father differently now by reporting the matter immediately to provincial authorities. Steven Brown, one of the defen dan ts in a $700,000 lawsuit, testified that after a 1990 meeting with Children's Aid workers over the woman's case, congregation officials had a better understanding of how to handle child abuse, including their reporting requirements. Brown, fellow elder Brian Cairns and the church are being sued by the woman for failing to report her case to provincial authorities, for forcing her to confront her father and for discouraging her from getting medical treatment. Brown said he first became aware of the sexual abuse in the woman's home during a December 1989 meeting with Cairns . Court heard it wasn't until Feb. 5, 1990 , that Children's Aid was told about the case. During the meeting, the father confessed he violated his daughter. Cairns and Brown had not dealt with child abuse before and were unsure how to handle it -- especially the requirement to report it to secular authorities, Brown said. "We didn't know who to refer the plaintiff to, we didn't know who to report the abuse to," he said. "We have a young woman, not living at home, 19 or 20 years old. We had determined there was no immediate threat. We wondered how to proceed." Brown said they wrote to the Watchtower society, the Witnesses' governing body, asking for advice. As they waited for a response, other church elders became alarmed they had not reported the case to the authorities, Brown said. He added the division within the congregation became a problem at the end of January 1990 while a committee was being formed to punish the woman's father. The committee revoked his church privileges and told him to report to a doctor and to Children's Aid." (The Toronto Sun Newspaper, September 17, 2002 )

"An elder at a southwestern Ontario congregation of the Jehovah's Witnesses yesterday defended a church decision to allow a man accused of having sexually abused his daughter in the mid-1980s to report himself to authorities. Steve Brown testified in Ontario Superior Court that the abuse had stopped and there was no reason to suspect the two younger children in the family were in dan ger when elders in the Shelburne congregation learned of the allegations in December 1989. ... A church committee did not expel the father or make the allegations public, Mr. Brown said. "He was repentant and fit to be a member of the congregation," the church elder said. "We were not sitting with a man who was determined to continue a course of wickedness." " (The Ottawa Citizen Canadian Newspaper, September 17, 2002 )