Just Let the Authorities Handle It

Why not just let the authorities handle child molestation cases since elders have no training in this field? Elders know nothing about collecting evidence or sampling DNA. They are not qualified to investigate child abuse. That is what many opposers of Jehovah's Witnesses have to say. But is the criminal system really the sure-fire answer for protecting children from pedophiles? And does this reasoning really apply to what Jehovah's Witnesses are trying to accomplish in their handling of child molestation in the congregation?

Has there ever been a perfect justice system? Isn't it true that people have been getting away with crimes since the human race began. The justice systems in the US and around the world are by far not perfect. People get away with murder and rape all the time. A lot of it depends on what kind of attorney you can afford or who happens to be the judge presiding that day. Some crimes are very difficult to prove. In the case of rape many times you have a he said she said scenario. And some who were convicted have later been proven innocent with DNA evidence. There have even been some who have been wrongly executed. So the justice system makes many mistakes.

So while the guilty child molester, because he has money to hire the best lawyers or for some other reason, may be acquited in a court of law, shouldn't he still face discipline in the congregation regardless of the courts failure to convict him. The congregation has the responsibility to keep the organization clean regardless of what the law of the land may conclude about an individual. Should the congregation elders stand idly by waiting for the courts to handle the case before ruling on the matter with the evidence available?

It might take years before the case is settled in the govenmental courts. Meanwhile the child molester would still be considered one of Jehovah's Witnesses. Shouldn't a proven practicing child molester be removed from the congregation as soon as the evidence comes out rather than waiting years for the courts to decide? Of course they should. This is both scriptural, practical, and reasonable. And serves as a protection for all in the congregation. By no means would it be prudent to wait for the courts to handle the case and then the elders make a ruling based on what the court decides.

Admittedly elders are not qualified to investigate crime. That is not the purpose of a judicial committee. A December 1, 2000 letter makes this clear for it states: "His (the elder's) counsel should always include advising the complainant that the congregation cannot take over the God-given responsibility of the ‘superior authorities’ in dealing with crime. Accordingly, the complainant should consider his or her responsibility to report the matter to the authorities without delay. (Compare Romans 13:4, James 4:17)"

It is just as Watchtower spokeman J.R. Brown put it according to the Associated Press, February 11, 2001: "We deal with sin, and law enforcement deals with crime." Thus if the elders have a confession or have proof from two witnesses then a judicial committee handles the situation congregationally, either reproving or removing the molester. This has nothing to do with whether or not the crime is reported to the authorities. It is a separate matter altogether.

Of course if there is not enough proof for the elders to form a judicial committee then the courts of the land may provide the needed proof at a later date to serve as a second witness and then the matter can be handled appropriately in the congregation. Accordingly, the Jan 30 1992 letter stated: "Also, should further wrongdoing come to light during the trial it would be necessary for the matter to be re-examined, as is true of any judicial matter when additional wrongdoing is discovered."

Imagine if the Watchtower Society told elders not to handle child abuse cases but just let the authorities take care of it. Can't you just hear what the critics would be saying? 'I can't believe that the Watchtower Society shirks their responsibility? They are quick to disfellowship others for lesser offenses but they do not want to touch child molesters just passing the buck on to the authorities. How hypocritical!' And so they are damned if they do and damned if they don't by opposers. But we are sure that honest ones can see the scriptural reasons why the elders should handle cases of all serious wrongdoing in the congregation, including child molesting, as soon as possible.

Well even if it is true that the elders should handle sin in the congregation wouldn't it still be better if all alledged abusers were reported to the authorities by the elders? Wouldn't such a blanket policy be best for the protection of the children and all involved?

Chapter Eight: Negatory on the Mandatory