Keeping It in the House

Is the victim told not to go to the police and simply let the elders handle the situation? Is the victim or their family told that it will bring reproach upon God's organization to tell the authorities? The policy of Jehovah's Witnesses clearly states at the Watchtower website: "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, we expect the elders to comply. Additionally, the victim may wish to report the matter to the authorities, and it is his or her absolute right to do so."

You have no doubt seen the apostates claims that a person can be disfellowshipped for going to the authorities with child abuse allegations. Clearly, this is not the case at all. Some opposers claim that if there are not two witnesses to the molesting then the Watchtower policy is that it should NOT be reported to the authorities. But did you notice the phrase above: 'even uncorroborated or unsubstantiated allegations'. Yes, it is anyone's absolute right to report even uncorroborated or unsubstantiated allegations to the authorities, even if there are not two witnesses. But isn't it only recently that the Watchtower Society has taken this stand?

Well let us take you way back to 1962. The November 15 Watchtower from that year on page 693 clearly stated:

"9 Worldly authorities render a judgment and punish persons, whether they are inside the congregation or outside, if they violate the laws of decency and good order. The violators have no right to complain at such punishment, as Paul showed by his words before Caesar’s judgment seat. (Acts 25:11) Hence the Christian congregation cannot protect any of its members if they steal, smuggle, commit bigamy, murder, libel, defraud, and so forth. The congregation must release such guilty members to punishment by worldly authorities. Since the guilty break the laws of the land and thus oppose the “authority,” they are taking a stand against God’s arrangement.

10 The Christian congregation has no orders from God and has no right to protect such opposers and lawbreakers from the due punishment by the “authority” of the land. We cannot hinder, oppose or condemn the execution of the krima or judgment by aiding or shielding lawbreakers. To do so would put the Christian congregation also in opposition to God’s arrangement. Besides letting the krima or “judgment” take its course upon offending members who bring reproach upon God’s people, the congregation may disfellowship such lawbreakers. The congregation does not want to deserve a krima or “judgment” with the lawbreakers by siding or cooperating with them and opposing the worldly “authority.” It also wants no reproach."

Letters from the Watchtower Society and other Watchtower publications concur with this 1962 Watchtower and confirm that this has been a long standing policy of Jehovah's Witnesses that has not changed over the years. Please continue to examine the documented evidence.

A July 1, 1989 letter on child abuse states: "Many states have child abuse reporting laws. When elders receive reports of physical or sexual abuse of a child, they should contact the Society's Legal Department immediately. Victims of such abuse need to be protected from further danger. - See "If the Worst Should Happen,"- Awake, January 22, 1985, page 8."

A March 23, 1992 letter also made a similar statement: "If a current case of child abuse comes to light in your congregation, elders should do what they can to protect children from further abuse. (See “Pay Attention to Yourselves and to All the Flock” page 93.)" Upon referring to page 93 the elders would find this statement: "Victims of sexual abuse need to be treated with extreme thoughtfulness and kindness. Elders should always do what they reasonably can to protect children from further abuse; follow the Society's directives on such matters. (g85 1/22 p. 8)"

It is interesting that the elders are referred to the 1985 Awake in both the 1989 and 1992 letters. When elders consulted the January 22, 1985 Awake page 8 what did they find? Here are some quotes from the box on page 8:

"However, if molestation—and especially incest—is discovered to have occurred, two things must be done immediately:

First, the child—and other children too—must be protected from any further abuse. This must be done, whatever the cost. In many cases the accused molester will have to be confronted. But whatever it takes, it is important that the child should feel confident that the molester will never be able to get at her (or him) again.

Second, the child must be given a lot of love and emotional support. Parents must make it very clear that the little victim is not to blame. The crime and anything that happens as a result of it—even if a close relative goes to prison—is not her (or his) fault. But that reassurance will have to be given many times, so that the victim comes to believe it—and to believe that the parents believe it too!"

As we can clearly see the Watchtower Society did not advocate that the elders should cover over the crime. They did not advocate keeping it in the congregation and discouraging the reporting of the crime to the authorities. To the contrary, they gave instructions to protect the child 'whatever the cost', even if it means 'a close relative goes to prison'.

An August 1, 1995 letter made it clear that child abuse should be reported when the law requires mandatory reporting and even suggested that parents, guardians, or the accused do the reporting. It stated: "When a member of the congregation is accused of child molestation, the elders should contact the Society's Legal Department immediately. Many states make it mandatory that elders report an accusation to the proper authorities but other states do not. In those states where such is required, oftentimes the parent, the guardian, or the accused person himself can do the reporting. In this way the confidentiality protected by ecclesiastical privilege is not violated. Still, whether or not the accusation is reported to the authorities, when it is established that a member of the congregation is guilty of child abuse, appropriate steps should be taken in keeping with initial direction from the Society's Legal Department."

And what has always been the initial directions from the Society's Legal Department? What directions are elders given when they contact the legal department? A May 24, 2002 letter to all congregations clarifies this stating: "We have long instructed elders to report allegations of child abuse to the authorities where required by Law to do so, even where there is only one witness. (Romans 13:1) in any case, the elders know that if the victim wishes to make a report, it is his or her absolute right to do so.----Galatians 6:5."

In no uncertain terms in a February 15, 2002 letter it is stated: "Never suggest to anyone that they should not report an allegation of child abuse to the police or other authorities. If you are asked, make it clear that whether to report the matter to the authorities or not is a personal decision for each individual to make and that there are no congregation sanctions for either decision. That is, no elder will criticize anyone who reports such an allegation to the authorities." As well as a 1992 letter which states: "It is also a personal decision if the alleged victim chooses to report such accusations to the secular authorities." And in fact, the letter continues by saying: "all in the Christian congregation would want to consider their personal and moral responsibility to alert the appropriate authorities in cases where there has been committed or there exists a risk that there might be committed a serious criminal offence of this type..."

A December 1, 2000 letter also offers the same comments as the 1992 letter stating: "all in the Christian congregation will want to consider their personal and moral responsibility to alert the appropriate authorities..." But please take note of what is stated after the above quote and of one of the scriptures cited. The letter continues: "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) Such authorities might include the family doctor, the head teacher of the child’s school, the social services, the NSPCC, or the police."

The cited scripture, James 4:17 reads, "Therefore, if one knows how to do what is right and yet does not do it, it is a sin for him." Clearly the elders, according to these instructions, upon reading the scripture would be encouraging the accuser to inform the authorities if he was indeed molested or knew of molesting. The complainant is clearly being counseled to carry out that responsibility. There is no doubt that reporting the abuse is here being scripturally encouraged by the Watchtower Society.

But the letter continues to give the elders instructions to give even further encouragement for the victim to inform the authorities: "The elder should explain to the complainant that he himself might have a duty to report the matter to the proper authorities. If the complainant is a child the elder might offer to accompany him or her to discuss the situation with a parent (but not the alleged abuser) or to one of the above authorities." Yes the elder would even offer to go with the victim to the police thus encouraging the victim to inform the proper authorities. And yet with all the above documented information, opposers would have us believe that the elders and Watchtower Society attempts to protect pedophiles and in turn disfellowship or reprove the accuser for making a report to the authorities. Frankly put, it is absurd.

All of the above is in direct harmony with what was stated in the Pay Attention to the Flock publication at least as far back as 1991. On page 138 it stated: "Though it is not the responsibility of the Christian congregation to enforce Caesar's laws, yet the very nature of some crimes demands that they be reported to secular authorities. It may be necessary to encourage the wrongdoer to turn himself in to secular authorities. Before any steps are taken in this regard, contact the branch office. of course, review the latest Society directives on such matters before proceeding."

Here are several Watchtower publications showing that victims have every right to notify the police without sanctions from the congregation.

January 1, 1997 Watchtower, pp. 26-29 confirms: "Depending on the law of the land where he lives, the molester may well have to serve a prison term or face other sanctions from the State. (The congregation will not protect him from this.)"

January 22, 1985 Awake: "Parents must make it very clear that the little victim is not to blame. The crime and anything that happens as a result of it—even if a close relative goes to prison—is not her (or his) fault."

November 1, 1991 Watchtower: "Of course, some acts are more serious than personal affronts or hurts. What if we are the victim of a crime? ... Should a crime victim, then, sit back and passively take the abuse? Not necessarily. When our person or property is violated, there are authorities to turn to. You may wish to call the police....The Bible tells us that governmental authorities are “God’s minister, an avenger to express wrath upon the one practicing what is bad.” (Romans 13:4) Justice requires that the government exercise its authority, stop wrongdoing, and punish the wrongdoers."

August 1, 2005 Watchtower: "In our time, rape is also a major crime with severe penalties. The victim has every right to report the matter to the police. In this way the proper authorities can punish the offender. And if the victim is a minor, the parents may want to initiate these actions."

April 8, 1997 Awake: "Of course, children should also be warned about—and urged to report to authorities—any person making improper advances toward them, including people they know"

The fact is that no opposer has ever shown one single solitary Watchtower publication or letter that stated that child abuse or even crime should not be reported because it might bring reproach upon the organization. No Watchtower publication or letter has ever been shown that stated that a person might be disfellowshipped or reproved for reporting child abuse or any crime to the authorities. No Watchtower has ever been shown that even insinuated that it is best to keep silent about child molesting happening in the organization in order to continue to maintain that Jehovah's Witnesses are in a spiritual paradise. There is no proof that anyone has ever been disfellowshipped for simply reporting child abuse since all disfellowshipping and the reasons why must be reported to the Watchtower Society in writing. Such a disfellowshipping would never be accepted by the Watchtower Society. It would be overturned.

But did you know the Watchtower has publicly admitted that there have been child molesters in the organization? The January 1, 1986 Watchtower freely admits: "Shocking as it is, even some who have been prominent in Jehovah’s organization have succumbed to immoral practices, including homosexuality, wife swapping, and child molesting. It is to be noted, also, that during the past year, 36,638 individuals had to be disfellowshipped from the Christian congregation, the greater number of them for practicing immorality. Jehovah’s organization must be kept clean!"

Does this frank and public admission bring reproach upon Jehovah's organization? By the reasoning of opposers and apostates it surely must since it is reported publicly in print for all to see that prominent ones in the organization have molested children. And that some 40,000 have practiced immorality, some of who were child molesters. In other words, it is permissable for Bethel to report child abuse publicly for all to see but if anyone else reports it they will be disfellowshipped or will be bringing reproach upon the organization. How foolish that reasoning is! The belief that Bethel preaches that reporting child molesters who are/were Jehovah's Witnesses to the police brings reproach upon the organization is apostate invented mythology. There is absolutely no evidence to support those allegations.

But doesn't the Watchtower tell brothers that they can't take another brother to court? And wouldn't reporting a brother to the authorities and filing charges be tantamount to taking him to court? Wouldn't failure to follow this directive cause one to face a judicial hearing and ultimately be disfellowshipped?

Chapter Six: You Can't Take a Brother to Court