You Can't Take A Brother to Court!

But doesn't the Watchtower publications say that Jehovah's Witnesses shouldn't take each other to court because it might damage the reputation of the organization? Wouldn't this include pressing charges against an alleged child abuser who has not been disfellowshipped?

'Its just more Watchtower double speak,' opposers claim. They then may point to the November 15, 1973 Watchtower attempting to show the contradiction: "And by dragging fellow believers before pagan judges, they would bring great reproach upon Godís name. As outsiders would be led to believe that Christians were no different from other people in being unable to settle differences, the interests of true worship would be injured. It would have been far better for individual Christians to take personal loss rather than to injure the entire congregation by bringing their disputes to public notice."

However, a reading of the context will show that this is just another way opposers try to twist the words of the publications to suit their own fancy. The fact is that this Watchtower is applying the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:7 where Paul counseled Christians, "Really, then, it means altogether a defeat for YOU that YOU are having lawsuits with one another. Why do YOU not rather let yourselves be wronged? Why do YOU not rather let yourselves be defrauded?" Both Paul and the Watchtower publication are talking about civil lawsuits against one another not criminal cases.

There are civil courts and there are criminal courts. If, for example, a person were to sue another person for money this would be heard by the civil court. But if someone is accused of a crime it is the governmental authorities that decide whether or not to prosecute the accused. Sometimes abuse is reported and the state chooses not to prosecute because of the lack of evidence. Sometimes, a person does not want to have the accused prosecuted but the state chooses to prosecute anyway. It would be the state versus the accused not the accuser versus the accused. Therefore anyone reporting abuse to the authorities would not be bringing a brother to court. Not at all. As a matter of fact, an individual person cannot take another person to court in criminal cases even if they wanted to. It is the state government that brings charges against a person in a criminal court.

Some have argued that uninformed elders have in the past misapplied this information and went ahead and disfellowshipped ones who reported abuse to the authorities. Even if it were true that the elders applied this information to reporting a brother to the police there would be no disfellowshipping. Aside from the fact that the Watchtower Society would overturn the disfellowshipping when the reasons were reported to them in writing by the elders who missapplied the Watchtower, this same 1973 Watchtower does not say that a person would face a judicial hearing and be disfellowshipped if he took his brother to court. It merely states, "However, if any member of the Christian congregation, without regard for the effect of his action on the good name of the congregation, ignores the counsel from Godís Word on this matter, such one would not be "free from accusation" as a Christian. He would not be one who has "a fine testimony from people on the outside" of the congregation. (Titus 1:6; 1 Tim. 3:7) He surely would not be an example for others to imitate, so this would affect the privileges that he might have in the congregation." Therefore the elders would have to do more than misapply the Watchtower. They would have to totally ignore the instructions as to the discipline that is to be administered. Thus not only are critics wrong in applying this Watchtower to criminal cases, they are also wrong in saying that it could lead to disfellowshipping. Simply put, the Watchtower publications do not say that nor have they ever.

But the authorities know better how to conduct criminal investigations than the untrained elders do. And after all, child abuse is a crime. Therefore why not just let the authorities handle all cases of child abuse?

Chapter Seven: Just Let The Authorities Handle It