You have no doubt heard all kinds of rumors and exaggerations about the database kept by the Watchtower Society on child molesters. Is it good or is it bad? Would you like to see what the database really entails? Lets look at a May 9, 2002 fax to Betsan Powys of the BBC from the Watchtower Society. She is the one that did a program on JWs and interviewed Sara Poisson etc.
"Dear Ms. Powys:
...You have been told that here in the United States we have compiled a list of 23,720 names of child abusers. That is false. First of all, the total number of names in our records is considerably lower than that. In addition, it is not meaningful to focus on the number of names we have in our records. This is because our figures include the names of many persons who have only been accused of child abuse whereas the charges have not been substantiated...
Also included on our list are allegations made on the basis of so-called "repressed memories," the validity of which many authorities challenge. Then there are the names of persons who have been accused of abusing children before becoming Jehovah’s Witnesses as well as individuals who have never been baptized Witnesses but whose names we are obliged to keep because of their association with the Witnesses. (An example of this would be a non-Witness father or step-father who is accused by his Witness children or stepchildren of abusing them.) To be safe, we also list the names of persons who may or may not be considered as child abusers, depending upon the jurisdiction where they live (for example, that 16-year-old boy who had sexual relations with the consenting 15-year-old girl). The name of an individual who was guilty of voyeurism or involved with child pornography, as further examples, would also be included on the list. And, to be sure, the list also includes names of persons who are actually guilty of child abuse. We do not apologize for keeping such records here in the United States . Apart from being legally needed, they have been very helpful to us in our efforts to protect the flock from harm. (Isaiah 32:2) Christian parents can rightly feel secure in the knowledge that SUCH EFFORTS ARE MADE TO SCREEN OUT possible child abusers FROM APPOINTMENT to responsible positions within the congregation."
Do you see how thorough the Watchtower Society is in keeping a data base? Such detailed and thorough database is unmatched in the religious community. They cover every angle. Some opposers say that Jehovah's Witnesses do not do background checks. As we see they do so much better than that. Does it seem reasonable to think that the Watchtower Society would keep such thorough records but would not be wise enough to take 5 minutes and consult the government's child abuse registry before appointing a servant? Any elders who have tried to recommend a convicted molester as a servant can tell you that such men will not be appointed because the Watchtower Society will check and know if they are on the sex offender registry of the government.
A June 1, 2001 letter provides the proof that the names of those child molesters convicted in a court of law go into the database. When talking about the types of persons that should be included in the database it states: "Also, those who have been convicted by a court of crimes that constitute child abuse should be included on the List." In fact, the Watchtower Society even wanted to make sure that those who had molested BEFORE becoming Jehovah's Witnesses were in or added to the database. Thus a letter dated July 20, 1998 stated for clarification reasons: "Reports indicate that some elders think this direction does not apply if before his baptism the person sexually abused a child. However, even in such a situation, the elders should write the branch office. This is true even if what occurred was many years ago. If any body of elders has not yet reported such a matter, they should immediately do so."
One reason they do this is because if they appointed a convicted child molester as a servant they could be held libel if he molested again and they would be opening the floodgates to lawsuits. And the Watchtower Society does not want such lawsuits by no means. That is one of the reasons for the database in the first place. As the fax above shows there is a legal need to do this and it is very helpful in the efforts to protect the children from harm.
Opposers of Jehovah's Witnesses often criticize the Watchtower Society because the names of those in the 'secret database', as they call it, are not made public for all to see. But for the Watchtower Society to do this would open them up to many lawsuits. They could be held responsible and even libel in a court of law for damages should they indisciminately release names on the database to the public. It would be ethically, morally, and legally inappropriate. But doesn't Bill Bowen provide the list of all the molesters he claims to know about among Jehovah's Witnesses on his Silentlambs website? He claims to have a database of some 7000 victims of pedophiles among Jehovah's Witnesses and surely he must expose these accused pedophiles by making their names public? Lets see.
Bill Bowen posting on the site known as JWD had this to say about the posting of names: "Regarding the posting of names of individual molesters we do not encourage that type of action, nor does silentlambs purposely put up that type of information. Occasionally on the Guestbook a name may slip by but we try to keep that information off. Why? To error on the side of fairness. At one time I envisioned that silentlambs would post the names and then invite the molester to offer explanation for their actions if they wanted. When you start going that direction it all becomes very complicated. After consulting with attorneys we evolved into the format we now use. Anonymous posting of all stories..." What? You mean to tell us that the most outspoken critic of the Watchtower's child abuse policy does not make his database of child molesters public? Bowen himself has a 'secret database'?
When Bill Bowen was interviewed by radio host Meria Hellar he had to admit concerning his database of molesters: "For legal reasons I don't have the listing on the website; I keep that in private." In other words, amazingly just like the Watchtower Society, Bowen does not make public his pedophile list. He keeps it 'private'. Why? You will note that Bowen 'after consulting with attorneys' and 'for legal reasons' reached that decision. And yet, Bowen has the gall to condemn the Watchtower Society. It seems Bowen's attorneys and Watchtower attorneys see eye to eye on this subject thus making Bowen a mere hypocrit.
But some opposers make the claim that the attorneys for the Watchtower do not follow nor direct elders to follow the same policy that is in writing and published by the Watchtower Society. They claim that they give different instructions to elders in private. Does this really make sense?
Chapter Fourteen: Talk to My Lawyer