One of the most outspoken supporters of the Silentlambs organization, Robert King, the self proclaimed watchman said of the Watchtower Society: "They have denied Jehovah by claiming before the courts that Christian elders have no responsibility before God to protect children from the crimes of a congregant." But is this really what the Watchtower lawyers argued in a court of law?
What the Watchtower lawyers actually argued in the civil court case in New Hampshire, Holly Berry vs the Watchtower, was that the elders had no "fiduciary duty to protect the plaintiffs from abuse." King later admitted, "According to the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, "fiduciary duty is a legal relationship between two or more parties."" Thus they argued that the Watchtower Society and the elders did not have a 'legal relationship' with the plaintiffs in the case. Since they were not the legal guardians of the children nor were they appointed as trustees over the children, they should not be held 'legally'responsibile for acts performed against the children. They did not have a common law or fiduciary (legal relationship or trusteeship) responsibility toward the children. The parents have the legal responsibility over their own children, not the Watchtower Society or the elders.
And this is only logical and correct. It is common sense. They never argued that the 'elders have no responsibility before God to protect children'. In fact, that is not what the case was about. It was about their legal responsibility toward the children. The suit was dismissed by the court because the majority of the judges in the case believed that the Watchtower Society was correct in their argument. King however argued, "It doesn’t matter that the majority of judges of the Supreme Court of New Hampshire happened to agree with the Watchtower’s defense..." Perhaps King now believes he is the appointed watchman over the courts and must offer his interpretation of the validity and legality of their decisions. But contrary to what King said it actually does matter very much. It shows us that the majority of the judges realized exactly what the Waatchtower lawyers meant by fiduciary and thus the case against them was dismissed and the decision was upheld.
King then attempts to twist and mischaracterize what the Watchtower lawyers argued when he followed his statement quoted above by saying, "and the legal jargon notwithstanding, do Christian elders have a duty – a sacred trust – to do everything in their power to protect children from abuse? All of Jehovah’s Witnesses know the answer to that question...." As a teen-ager might reply with one word, 'Dah!' Who don't agree with that? Everyone in the congregation, including the elders, should do everything in their power to protect children from abuse and any other danger. The Watchtower Society never argued any differently.
But the truth is that it is the parents' responsibility, both legally and otherwise, to protect their children. Why should parents expect to place that responsibility on others? Does it make since that parents should sue the Watchtower Society and elders when it is they themselves who have the legal responsibility to protect their own children? If the parents failed to report the abuse they have no one to blame but themselves.
'But the elders told me not to report it to the authorities!' Thats the usual claim made by those bringing lawsuits against the Watchtower Society. But do you remember what our parents often told us when we were young, 'If someone tells you to jump off a bridge...?' How often the Watchtower publications have told Jehovah's Witnesses to do research for themselves and not just blindly follow what someone tells them. If elders' instructions to members of the congregation contradict the Bible or the Watchtower publications, should the members heed those instructions? Not according to the April 1, 1988 Watchtower. On page 29-30 it states:
"What about the authority in the Christian congregation? Since those in responsible positions are appointed by the operation of the holy spirit and they base their counsel and admonition on the Word of God, we can be sure that obeying duly appointed authority in the Christian congregation is appropriate. (Acts 20:28; Hebrews 13:17) But it does not mean that we obey such authority without giving due consideration to what is being said. Why?
The apostle John offered this counsel: “Do not believe every inspired expression, but test the inspired expressions to see whether they originate with God.” (1 John 4:1) This does not mean that we should be suspicious of everything others tell us. Rather, we bear in mind Paul’s words at Galatians 1:8: “Even if we or an angel out of heaven were to declare to you as good news something beyond what we declared to you as good news, let him be accursed.”
Is the information before us different from what we have been taught through “the faithful and discreet slave”? Is the person spreading that message speaking to honor the name of Jehovah, or is he trying to exalt himself? Is the information in harmony with the overall teachings of the Bible? These are questions that will help us in ‘testing’ anything that may sound questionable. We are admonished to “make sure of all things; hold fast to what is fine.”"
Clearly then, if elders incorrectly give information or instructions that are in conflict with the Bible or Watchtower instructions or publications, parents and members of the congregation are not obligated to follow those faulty instructions. Neither does it relieve a parent of his or her responsibility to do what is necessary to protect their own children. The fiduciary duty still squarely falls upon the shoulders of the parents.
Neither the elders nor the Watchtower Society are legally libel when children of Jehovah's Witnesses are molested by someone. No more than they are libel if one of Jehovah's Witnesses robs a bank, commits murder, or rapes another adult. Jehovah's Witnesses teach that all these acts are crimes, disfellowshipping and shunning anyone practicing such crimes. The same goes for child molesters. Can you imagine if every religion and its leaders were held legally responsible for the crimes that members of their religion might commit? The lawsuit floodgates would be wide open!
And can you imagine how apostates would respond if the Watchtower Society said that they had a legal trusteeship to the children of Jehovah's Witnesses? Can't you just here them saying, 'Is it not enough to control the adult members? Now they're trying to get legal control of our children! The Watchtower is saying they own children of Jehovah's Witnesses! The Watchtower wants legal custody of our kids! Not content to expose them to abuse but now they want them as Watchtower property!'
Would you like to read more about the Berry Vs Watchtower case and other lawsuits brought against the Watchtower Society and/or the elders? Please continue.
Chapter Sixteen: In Case of Poisson...