If Only One Witness

But what if there is only one witness to the abuse and the accused denies it? Many opposers say that the Watchtower Society does nothing in that case. But is this really the case? Do the elders and the Watchtower Society do absolutely nothing to protect children if there is only one witness? Please take note of what is actually said in the policy:"If during that meeting the accused still denies the charges and there are no others who can substantiate them, the elders cannot take action within the congregation at that time."

Did you see that the elders cannot take action "within the congregation"? So although the elders cannot take CONGREGATIONAL action judicially speaking, this does not mean that the elders do NOTHING. There is actually a number of things that are done in this case to protect the child or other children.

1. It is reported to the Watchtower Society.

The policy continues: "However, even if the elders cannot take congregational action, they are expected to report the allegation to the branch office of Jehovah's Witnesses in their country, if local privacy laws permit."

Opposers critisize the fact that the Watchtower Society stresses the importance of reporting the allegations to the headquarters. But there is a very good reason why. They want to make sure that each case is handled correctly. They want to make sure that the body of elders do not disregard their policy and thus cause problems for all involved. As Watchtower attorney Mario Moreno bluntly put it: "Once in a while, in a small minority cases, elders screw up. They screw up because they don't call here (the Watch Tower legal department). When they call here, they don't screw up." Really, can you imagine the criticism that would be heaped upon the Society if they said please do not call Bethel in cases of child molesting? Elders should handle it themselves.

Some critics argue that elders should not waste time calling the headquarters of the Watchtower Society. They should go straight to the police. They make it appear that both cannot be done or that calling the Watchtower Society will somehow prolong their reporting it to the police. But really both can be done in the same day. Calling the Watchtower Society does not take much time at all. Perhaps an hour or two at the most. This argument of course is really an absurd argument. One that is used in an attempt to discredit Jehovah's Witnesses and our policy but really it has no merit whatsover.

But there is another reason why it is reported to the headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses. The name of the accused is put into the database and kept by the Watchtower Society. Should he ever be accused again then the matter would be established at the mouth of two witnesses and judicial action could be taken.

2. If there is a mandatory reporting law it is reported to the authorities.

Continuing with the policy: "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." If their is a mandatory reporting law it is reported to the authorities regardless of the age of the victim or whether the allegations are true or not.

3. If a child is in possible danger it is reported to the authorities.

A 1988 letter states: "There is a duty to report when one has reasonable and probable grounds to believe that there is abuse or a substantial risk of abuse and parents have failed to protect the child."

4. Elders offer to go with the child to the authorities.

December 1, 2000 letter: "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."

5. The victim or family can report it to the authorities without sanctions.

The policy continues: "Additionally, the victim may wish to report the matter to the authorities, and it is his or her absolute right to do so." And a February 15, 2002 letter states: "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."

6. All in the congregation have a responsibility to report it to the authorities.

A 1992 letter states: "As members or the community in which Caesar still acts as God's minister and hence still has a certain authority, 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 (see ks91, page 138) In child abuse cases such authorities might include the family doctor, the Social Services, the NSPCC, or the police."

7. Elders are to encourage those who are aware of abuse to handle their responsibility to report child abuse.

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 it further 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)" The cited scripture James 4:17 says, "Therefore, if one knows how to do what is right and yet does not do it, it is a sin for him." Accordingly, the elders are to encourage others to report child abuse when a person knows of it. To do otherwise would be shirking his responsibility.

8. The accused is likely removed from all assignments until the matter is cleared up.

December 1, 2000 letter: "Likely it will be advisable for a brother who has been accused not to be used for assignments until the matter is resolved." Jan 30, 1992 letter: "It may be advisable for the brother who has been accused not to be used for assignments until the matter is resolved."

9. The accused is watched more closely.

The December 1, 2000 letter tells elders the importance of protecting children even if there are only 'allegations' against a brother. It states: "When an elder receives an allegation that a child has been abused the first essential is to listen." Later on, when addressing the way in which elders should respond to these 'allegations' the letter states: "The elders should not lose sight of the fact that victims urgently need to be protected from further abuse and abusers need to be prevented from finding additional victims."

A June 1, 2001 letter verifies the need to keep close watch in these situations where only 'allegations' are made: "... there may be just one eyewitness, and the brother denies the allegation.... Or, he may be under active investigation by the secular authorities for alleged child abuse though the matter has not yet been established. Then again, a young child might be abused by someone who himself is a minor, perhaps in his pre- or early-teens. What should be done in these instances?

The letter continues: " Keeping information relating to child abuse in a sealed envelope in the congregation’s confidential file: Only a brief note should be kept. This would show the name of the molester or alleged molester. If known, the following information should also be recorded: The name(s) of the victim(s) or alleged victim(s), the relationship of the offender to the victim(s), and how the matter was brought to the attention of the elders. The date the matter came to light, and the names of all the elders who were involved in some way or another would be noted. Facts such as when the alleged offence(s) took place, the period of time involved, and the ages of the alleged molester and victim(s) at the time of the incidents can be recorded." From all indications then as shown by the detailed records kept, it is apparent that the Watchtower policy calls for a closer eye to be kept on even those who are only accused of child abuse by one witness but who have not confessed.

General counsel for the Watchtower, Mario Moreno, confirms this to be the policy. The Paducah Sun, January 28, 2001, states of Moreno: "...if there is only one witness and the accused denies the charge, he (Moreno) said elders have the responsibility to watch the accused more closely. He added that elders sometimes advise the accused to not put himself or herself in suspicious situations."

10. In some cases the elders may give a warning to the congregation.

The November 1, 1995 Watchtower, on page 27-28, under the subheading "What of the Alleged Abuser?" states: "A person who actually abuses a child sexually is a rapist and should be viewed as such. Anyone victimized in this way has the right to accuse his abuser." From this quote and from a reading of the entire article we can clearly see that the Watchtower is addressing cases where there is only one accuser. Now notice what may be done in some cases even when there is only one accuser. The Watchtower continues: "If there is some valid reason to suspect that the alleged perpetrator is still abusing children, a warning may have to be given. The congregation elders can help in such a case."

You will take note of the term 'alleged perpetrator'. He is an alleged perpetrator because there is no confession and there is only one witness to the abuse. Even so, if there are valid reasons to suspect abuse, the alleged victim, with the elders help, can give a warning. This coincides with what the Pay Attention to the Flock book says on page 93, "Elders should always do what they reasonably can to protect children from further abuse;" Thus elders take reasonable steps to protect children which may indeed mean giving a warning to the congregation if the need exists to do so even though the accused is still an 'alleged perpetrator' or abuser.

11. If the court provides further evidence then the two witness rule is met.

Jan 30 1992 letter: "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."

From the above information it is quite obvious that the statement that the elders and the Watchtower Society do NOTHING if there is only one witness is another falsehood put forth by opposers of Jehovah's Witnesses. The elders and the Watchtower Society, even when there is only one witness, take many reasonable and needed steps to protect the children. But when there is only one witness must the accuser meet with the accused face to face? Wouldn't this be both unloving and unnecessary, even traumatic, especially if the accuser is a child?

Chapter Four: Face to Face