The Youtube clips attached to this blog are all worth watching. I simply cannot stress enough the amount of public awareness that needs to take place with regards to the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the way they handle child abuse within their organization. I will give a brief synopsis one by one.
1) The first clip is a CNN news report that came out on July 28th. This was the very first day of a two week period in which the Australian Royal Commission would be investigating the Jehovah’s Witnesses for their involvement in child abuse cover ups. It is discovered that at least 1,006 individually named child abusers since 1950 (in Australia alone) were dealt with secretively, behind closed doors. What this often involves is setting up a mediated meeting (usually by 3 male congregation elders) between the abuser and the victim. The deluded reasoning of JW leadership views this as an opportunity for the victim to apply the scripture found at Matthew 5:23-24 that urges a person to “go make peace with your brother that might have something against you”. Except that sexual abuse is quite possibly the most traumatizing event a person will ever have to deal with. Especially if that person is under-aged when the abuse takes place, which is usually the case. Imagine how comfortable a 10 year old girl would be confronting the man that just sexually abused her all while under the listening ears of 3 congregation elders! Or even a 20 year old female? IF…..and I stress IF that meeting produces, either a confession of guilt from the abuser OR a 2nd eye witness to the crime, THEN and ONLY THEN the case will move on to a “judicial committee”. In a judicial committee, three elders would hear testimony from the abuser and the victim and would make a judgment to either disfellowship (excommunicate) the abuser or not. Yes. I said “or not”. If it is deemed that the perpetrator is sufficiently repentant of his/her sin, he/she may not be disfellowshipped at all! But what if there wasn’t a second witness to the crime? What if the abuser denies the claim? NO congregational action will be taken at all. No announcement is made. No one will be made aware that there is a potential danger in their midst.
As you continue along with the video clip you will find that church elders do NOT report cases of sexual abuse to the proper authorities. In fact, of the 1006 cases of sexual abuse found, not a single one was EVER reported! And why? Because in Australia, reporting has not always been mandatory. It might appall you, but here in the United States, not all states have mandatory reporting laws either. In fact, 48 states require members of certain professions to report, while about 18 states require ANY person who suspects child abuse or neglect to report. Rest assured, if reporting is not mandatory, the Jehovah’s Witnesses won’t do it because their only concern is about bad publicity.
Towards the end of the video, one young woman is reported as having testified that an elder advised her NOT to go to the police because doing so would only “drag Jehovah’s name though the mud”. And that’s the killer. You see, an individual JW views any teaching, dictate or advisement that funnels down through the leadership structure as though it is divine. And although a victim may be told they have the right to report the crime to the police, they are also reminded by church elders what that means. I’ve heard it since I was a child. You never, EVER sue your “fellow brother”. You never, EVER take “your brother” to court. You never, EVER file a complaint against “your brother”. And why? Because it will “drag Jehovah’s name through the mud”. Doing so would “bring reproach on Jehovah’s name”. Out of fear of upsetting God, victims with legitimate cases are silenced. All to protect the organization….but under the guise that they are protecting “God’s name”.
2) The second clip shows a JW elder on the stand, under oath. In it, he admits that IF the congregation judicial committee were to find a person guilty of child abuse, he/she would likely be disfellowshipped and by way of that (since disfellowshipping means they are no longer allowed to associate with other JWs) the congregation is protected. He is quickly reminded by the prosecutor what that means. That…….perhaps the congregation might NOW be better protected from this abuser……but…..what about people OUTSIDE of the church? What if the abuser gets disfellowshipped for his actions and simply quits going to their church? What if he now wants to make new friends and acquaintances OUTSIDE of the JW organization? Because it is the practice of Jehovah’s Witness leadership NOT to notify police of sexual abuse, how would anyone that this person comes in contact with ever know that he was a pedophile? The prosecutor flat out asks, “what is done to protect children outside of your organization from being abused by the perpetrator?” The elder on the stand…….knowing the gravity of the situation……attempts to deflect question by countering with “what ability do WE have to protect every child in Australia?” The prosecutor responds with “you could report the abuse to the child protection agency…….but that generally isn’t done is it?”. Forced into a corner……the elder admits “no.”
This clip alone shows what the Jehovah’s Witness organization is focused on protecting……and it isn’t the children. The RIGHT thing to do is to report ANY and ALL incidents of child abuse to the proper authorities. Period. No matter who you are. Especially if you are teacher……a camp director……or a member of clergy etc. People of these professions have, whether they want it or not, a standard of care and an expectation of integrity that is superior to the rest of society. Simply put………children trust them BECAUSE of who they are…..BECAUSE of their positions. When that trust is breached, their accountability and their negligence borders on criminal. So WHY? Knowing the accountability they have…..knowing the amount of trust bestowed upon them……..why wouldn’t they report each and every instance of abuse they come across so that justice can be served? We will investigate this further after the 4th clip.
3) The third clip is rather short, but again, shows a JW elder under oath. And what does he admit to? That it is standard practice for JW elders to destroy notes taken during a judicial committee. And why? Again, we will investigate this more after the 4th clip.
4) And here is the long awaited 4th clip from the Australian Royal Commission’s investigation into child abuse cover ups from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Again, an elder is under oath. He is asked what would happen if a person in the congregation were to admit that he/she committed a murder. He responds by saying that the elders would NOT notify the police but would encourage him/her to do so. Next, the prosecutor asks “what if a person in your congregation saw the murder happen but wasn’t ready to go to the police and they confessed it to you?” The elder’s response was chilling. “I would contact our branch facility for legal advice.”
You see, as I mentioned above…..children are not their concern. Members are not their concern. Victims are not their concern. The only concern is to protect the organization. In this case (in ANY case really), the first step taken is to always, always, always, contact the branch headquarters for legal advice. Upon doing this, local elders will learn whether or not they need to report the incident to the authorities. If the incident happened in an area where local laws do NOT mandate reporting…….the elders will be instructed NOT to report it. And why? To protect the interests of the organization. The more cases that are investigated by the police the more general awareness will occur. The more general awareness occurs, the more BAD publicity the Jehovah’s Witnesses get for the way they have handled and continue to handle sexual abuse cases. Below is a confidential flow chart available to JW elders only. It was an exhibit in the Royal Commission investigation. Its title? “Handling Child Abuse Matters”.
When you, as an organization, have a secretive flowchart for congregation elders to follow in regard to child abuse allegations, at what point do you look in the mirror and realize that perhaps there is a problem that needs to be addressed? At what point do you type onto said flowchart, the words “Note – Reporting only applies where 1) it is mandatory and 2) there is no ecclesiastical privilege” and come to the conclusion that your rules and regulations are self serving, hurtful, and evil? And just what is “ecclesiastical privilege?” It is the JWs version of “clergy penitent privilege”. It basically means that anything told to a congregation elder in private can be determined by that elder to be “confidential”, thus not up for discussion with anyone…..including the police. Yet another way to bury abuse incidents and silence the victims.
Yes, JW elders destroy notes taken during judicial committee meetings. Yes, the first call that is made upon learning of an instance of child abuse is to the local headquarters for legal advice. No, the incident is NOT reported unless it is mandated by the law. Yes, victims are encouraged to remain quiet to avoid “dragging Jehovah’s name through the mud”.
These are not the actions of an organization that is guided by a loving God. These are the actions of a publishing and media corporation, masquerading as a religion, that is concerned with preserving a false public image.