No doubt many of us are painfully aware, child abuse and religion has and will more than likely throughout or lifetime continue to be linked. It is not something inherent in religious organisations, it is something that happens across many demographics, so lets put this straight from the start. Pretty much anywhere where you have a large family based organisation there will always be instances of this nature cropping up. The Church and meeting places are inevitably going to be potential areas of risk. I find it sad that this is the case, as in previous Blogs I have stated that people of a religious persuasion are on the whole good people,they want nothing but the best for their children and families. It is such a shame that in the past the majority have become victim to the few. In the vast majority of these cases, notably in recent times the authorities have become involved and trained professionals are able to facilitate the apprehension of the guilty and provide the much needed support for victims and their families. But what happens when this process is not followed?
I recently was sent a link to the Blog site http://www.jehovahswitnessblog.com and happened upon an article concerning an certain Candice Conti. She was suing the Jehovahs witness organisation for damages concerning a member of the congregation who had molested her in the 90’s. The first question on my mind was; why was she taking the organisation to court? The full story can be found here in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/18/us/28-million-awarded-in-jehovahs-witnesses-abuse-case.html?_r=1 The court case came about due to the fact that the JW organisation have a rather unusual policy concerning child abuse cases.
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York (to give them their official title) formulated the approach to take in 1989 it states that an incident, no matter what it is, needs to be seen by two witnesses. They claim that they follow the bible closely and as a result use the scriptures to back up this stance. They quote Deuteronomy chapter 9, verse 15, which says “No single witness should rise up against a man respecting any error or any sin, in the case of any sin that he may commit. At the mouth of two witnesses or at the mouth of three witnesses the matter should stand good.” They also use the scriptures in Matthew chapter 18, verses 15 and 16 to justify this stance, which says: “Moreover, if your brother commits a sin, go lay bare his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. (16) But if he does not listen, take along with you one or two more, in order that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every matter may be established.” To me this seems perhaps a little hazy, not quite specific enough to legislate for instances of child abuse, as how often is that sort of thing witnessed by anyone.
The bible also states that we are to be subject to the rules of the land or government where we live. So to investigate an incident of child abuse without consulting the professionals in place would contravene this command. The official site states the following: “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 accuser 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, namely, “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.” To be perfectly fair to them it also continues: “However, even if the elders cannot take congregational action, they are expected to report the allegation to the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in their country, if local privacy laws permit. In addition to making a report to the branch office, the elders may be required by law to report even uncorroborated or unsubstantiated allegations to the authorities. If so, the elders receive proper legal direction to ensure that they comply with the law. Additionally, the victim or anyone else who has knowledge of the allegation may wish to report the matter to the authorities, and it is his or her absolute right to do so.”
So the rules and regulations are clear, the local authorities do need to be involved. My immediate shock when reading this came when, the primary action is to have the Elders investigate. Surely the proper thing to do would be ensuring the relevant authorities are informed immediately, after which the congregation Elders could start their own “spiritual” investigation, with a view to keeping the congregation clean in God’s eyes. There so many instances of abuse victims and their families being advised by the Elders not to involve the authorities and to keep it all in house? Maybe at this point you don’t believe what you are hearing. Follow this link and I urge you to read it for your self: http://www.silentlambs.org/CharlieJonesArticle.htm.
This type of thing happens in all religions, we will always have the debased element of society rear it’s ugly head wherever we may be. When it happens usually the media try to make a scandal of it, and in some cases quite rightly so. The crazy thing is with these instances is that if the individual accused denies it and continues to do so they are able to keep their good standing in the faith. Again if this is perhaps difficult to believe then have a look at this BBC documentary from 2002 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hzWupVczfCQ It is split into 3 parts so follow the links on the right hand side for parts 2 and 3.
After reading all of the strange and disturbing things that have been going on in the witness faith all these years, a faith that I was once proud to be part of, I received an update from the Jehovahs witness blog site and read an article that I really could not believe… http://www.jehovahswitnessblog.com/child-abuse/watchtower-society-slips-up-again/ Have a look at this article and then spare a thought for the thousands who have been affected by this crazy rule that can in some cases serve to protect paedophiles over their victims.