Does Watchtower Really Have a Problem with Child abuse?
If you’re a Jehovah’s Witness, or if you are studying with the Witnesses, you may be familiar with this video:
Is it possible that Watchtower’s policies enable and protect child abusers? This article will only look at facts, there will be no stories here. Let’s take a look at the evidence…
Watchtower’s policies on Child Abuse
This is the most important place to begin because obviously if it can’t be shown that their policies are lacking, then there’s nothing else to talk about. In order to discuss these policies we have to look at some resources you may not have readily available, but you can find these on the internet. If your husband or father is an Elder, these citations are all verifiable through them if they are willing. If all else fails, you can find these documents in the links I will provide in the “Further Reading” section below.
As a Jehovah’s Witness, you get a special book when you get baptized, when you become a Pioneer and, in keeping with the pattern, when you become and Elder. The book is called, “Shepherd the Flock of God.”
The “Elder Book” contains direction as to how Elders are supposed to handle just about any situation. These directions have been and continue to be augmented with letters written to the “Body of Elders.”
Notice how Elders are directed to see the letter dated October 1? This is the way that the policies are augmented. Admittedly this makes it difficult for outsiders get a full view of every policy. In the case of child abuse however, because of the investigations and raising of awareness all around the world, this letter has been forced out into the public forum. Not just this letter, you can find other letters and even a full copy of this book on the webpage of the Australian Royal Commission.
This letter is very, very shocking. When I read it I couldn’t believe what I saw. It’s a little long so I invite you to see the link below, but I will include some highlights here.
The Legal Department will provide you with legal advice based on the facts and
the applicable law. If the individual who is accused of the child abuse is associated with a congregation, please provide the Legal Department with his date of birth and, if applicable, his date of baptism. The same information should be provided in connection with any victim(s). After a report has been made to the Legal Department, depending on the need, the elders may be directed to contact the Service Department for assistance with questions regarding theocratic or judicial aspects of the case or regarding how to protect children.
Two elders should also call the Legal Department regarding any prison inmate who has been accused of child abuse in the past and who is now associating with a congregation, such as by attending congregation meetings held in the prison. This would apply whether he is baptized or not. In some cases, elders may not be authorized to inquire of the offense that an inmate may have committed. But if the elders learn that the alleged offense has to do with child abuse, they should call the Legal Department immediately.
If the elders become aware of minors associated with a congregation “sexting” with other minors or of adults “sexting” with minors, the Legal Department should be called immediately. The Legal Department does not need to be called when the elders receive reports of adults (that is, cases in which all parties involved are at least 18 years old) “sexting” one an other.
-Letter to The Body of Elders dated October 1, 2012 p. 2
If you can, in this snippet from the letter, find where the Elder(s) are directed to contact the police or child services. Do you see it? That’s because it’s not there, not anywhere in this excerpt is anyone instructed to contact the authorities. They are told to contact the Watchtower Legal Department, does this seem right to you?
Regardless of whether the law requires the elders to report an accusation to the authorities, steps need to be taken to protect children. Elders should help the parents of the children involved to understand that they have the primary responsibility for protecting their children. Obviously, such parents will be keenly interested in taking precautions in this regard. Our publications contain helpful information on how parents can protect their children.
-Letter to The Body of Elders dated October 1, 2012 p. 3
Throughout this letter is littered claims that they abhor child abuse and statements like, “steps must be taken to protect the children.” But is not action the measure of how people feel? Notice here that Elders are directed to make sure parents understand that protecting their children is their responsibility. It’s just passing the buck, acting like Watchtower bears no fault for the situations that allow these horrible crimes to take place. And where does Watchtower tell Elders to direct the parents? To the police? To child services? No, rather to, “Our publications.” What good will reading a magazine or a book do for children who have suffered a horrific crime? None. None at all, it won’t change what has happened and it won’t bring any justice at all. Where do you think the parents should turn? Where would you?
In addition, the elders should investigate every allegation of child sexual abuse. When elders learn of an accusation, in addition to this letter, they should carefully review the direction outlined in the Shepherding textbook, chapter 12, paragraphs 18-21. However, in evaluating the evidence for internal congregational purposes, they 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.” (Deut. 19:15) This requirement to consider testimony of two or three witnesses was confirmed by Jesus. (Matt. 18:16) Thus, although they investigate every allegation, the elders are not authorized by the Scriptures to take congregational action unless there is a confession or there are two credible witnesses.
-Letter to the Body of Elders dated October 1, 2012 p. 3
Read this carefully, and let’s discuss it’s implications. How many witnesses of the crime do you think there are going to be? Sure, it’s possible that someone may catch the criminal in the act and this may provide a second witness besides the victim themselves. But these sorts of crimes don’t often happen in an environment where this is likely to be found out. It goes on in secret, and as a result there is an astronomically low chance that there will be two, let alone three, witnesses.
So let’s further consider this part of the letter. Say the victim comes forward and says that a Ministerial Servant or an Elder abused them while out in service, or in the back of the hall, or wherever it takes place. There is a meeting of the Elders and because there is not more than one witness they do nothing, remind the parents that it’s their responsibility to protect their children, direct them to the magazines and books published by Watchtower, and the Elder or Servant continues in the same capacity that allowed them the opportunity to abuse the child in the first place. Now, is it likely the parents would allow the child near this person again? Not likely certainly, though that may still not be a guarantee. But what about other children in the congregation? What about other children in the community outside the Kingdom Hall? Nothing is done to protect them, and nothing is done to really discover the truth. Can you see how these policies may protect and enable pedophiles to continue abusing children?
A “predator” is one who clearly lacks self-control and by his actions provides reason to believe he will continue to prey on children. Not every individual who has sexually abused a child in the past is considered a “predator.” The branch office, not the local body of elders, determines whether an individual who has sexually abused children in the past will be considered a “predator.”
-Letter to the Body of Elders dated October 1, 2012 p. 4
Consider Some News Stories
These policies allowed truly horrific crimes to go on, and on. They allowed criminals to abuse far more victims than they may otherwise have been able if the police or another government agency had been contacted.
A Jehovah’s Witness who strangled young girls for sexual gratification has finally been jailed after his crimes were covered up by the congregation at his church for more than two decades.
SYDNEY — The abuse was meticulously catalogued. From 1950 to 2014, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society amassed 5,000 files detailing sexual abuse of Australian children by 1,006 of its members, who believe that only they — the Jehovah’s Witnesses — proclaim the truth about God.
Young girls were assaulted by neighbors. Teenagers were raped by their fathers. Victims were forced to pray with their abusers.
When the children reached out for help, the church’s obsession with secrecy and hostility to outsiders kicked in. Victims, ordered to keep quiet, were forced to confront their abusers in person. All complaints — which averaged one a month for 65 years — were carefully recorded in sealed files, along with the church’s by-the-Bible responses.
The Australian Royal Commission
Recently, a very impressive case was heard in Australia that brought out some very informative and alarming testimonies. Watchtower was playing a very dangerous game, trying to avoid direct answers at many turns. The testimony most guilty of this, to the point where the Judge overseeing the hearing directly addressed it once he’d had enough, was that of none other that Geoffrey Jackson of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jackson said several very interesting things while under pressure from the commission, and I’ll include a link to his testimony below.
If you’re a Witness who has read this far, I implore you to consider, along with all of this, the video footage of the hearing. You can find a playlist of all the days and parts of this hearing here. Please watch this footage, it is real testimony of Elders (who are supposed to be chosen by Holy Spirit) and a Governing Body member.
Also here is a link to all the exhibits submitted to the commission, which includes many letters and documents to which you likely wouldn’t otherwise have access. And if you were abused by someone in your Kingdom Hall and would like to seek justice for this crime, see this page: Where to Turn if You Were Abused.
Apostate Lies or Horrible Crime?
Ultimately it is up to you to decide if you can excuse all of this evidence before your eyes. You can Google this subject and find ample proof that Watchtower’s policies have, indeed, enabled horrible crimes to be committed toward children by men put in positions of trust. This proof does not come from “apostate” websites, it comes from well-known sources of world, national, and local news. When you look at the evidence, can it really be said that Watchtower’s policies are not at fault?
Please note that though the letterhead specifies Australia, this letter was sent to all body of Elders, not just one country. It says Australia because it was used in the Royal Commission hearing. It’s been made available online at their website.
This is a marked up copy used in the Royal Commission hearing. Feel free to use it, they’ve provided it to the world.