Its a Privlege

Do Jehovah's Witnesses allow former child molesters to be servants in the congregation? If so, wouldn't this be similar to what the Catholic church and other churches have done in transferring their priests or clergymen to a different area where no one knows about their past sins of abuse? That is what some opposers claim. But notice the real Watchtower policy: "Even if he is repentant—is cut to the heart and is thus resolutely determined to avoid such conduct in the future—what was stated in the January 1, 1997, issue of The Watchtower applies. The article said: "For the protection of our children, a man known to have been a child molester does not qualify for a responsible position in the congregation. Moreover, he cannot be a pioneer [full-time missionary of Jehovah's Witnesses] or serve in any other special, full-time service." He would not qualify Scripturally. (1 Timothy 3:2, 7-10) We take such action because we are concerned with maintaining Bible standards and protecting our children. Everyone in our organization is expected to meet the same requirements, namely, to be clean physically, mentally, morally, and spiritually.—2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 4:17-19; 1 Thessalonians 2:4."

No, former molesters cannot be appointed as servants in the congregation for the rest of their lives and those who have been proven to be molesters are certainly not transferred to another congregation to continue to serve as an elder or ministerial servant. But what about extending other minor privileges in the congregation to former abusers? Note this 2000 letter concerning former molesters: "Hence, you should not extend to him any specific responsibility that could be construed as an assigned duty, even though some assignments might be considered minor. He should not be used to handle accounts, literature, magazines, subscriptions, or territories. Nor would he be used as an attendant, microphone handler, to operate sound equipment, to represent the congregation in prayer, or to present "Announcements" on the Service Meeting. He would not be used as the reader at the Congregation Book Study or Watchtower Study, nor to conduct a meeting for field service. It would be advisable not to have a book study in his home. And, he would not qualify to auxiliary or regular pioneer. Whereas he could volunteer to assist with general care of the Kingdom Hall where he attends meetings, he could not be approved to work on other Kingdom Halls or Assembly Halls. He may give student talks on the Theocratic Ministry School and share in non-teaching parts on the Service Meeting, provided that his doing so will not be offensive to those in the congregation who know of his past wrongdoing." As we see from this information, former molesters are not to receive even minor privileges and may not even be allowed to give talks on the Ministry School, depending on the situation.

Not only are former child abusers not allowed privileges but there are also certain restrictions placed upon them for the protection of children. A 1997 letter states some of these rules to be followed by former molesters: "Individuals who have manifested a weakness in this regard should be sensitive to their need not to be alone with children. They should refrain from holding children or displaying other forms of affection for them." A 2000 letter adds to this: "This would include not allowing children (other than his own) to spend the night in his home, not working in field service with a child, not cultivating friendships with children, and the like." And an October 15, 2002 letter states of former abusers who might go in the field ministry: "They should always be accompanied by an adult. These factors are in the best interests of children and the former abuser."

But doesn't the Society make exceptions for some child molesters and appoint them as servants? Again notice the only exceptions mentioned in the policy set forth: "In a few instances, individuals guilty of an act of child abuse have been appointed to positions within the congregation if their conduct has been otherwise exemplary for decades. All the factors are considered carefully. Suppose, for example, that a long time ago a 16-year-old boy had sexual relations with a consenting 15-year-old girl. Depending upon the U.S. jurisdiction where he lived when this happened, elders may have been required to report this as an incident of child abuse. Let us say that 20 years have passed. The child abuse reporting law may have changed; the man may have even married the girl! Both have been living exemplary lives and they are respected. In such a rare case, the man could possibly be appointed to a responsible position within the congregation." As we see the exception to the rule is both reasonable and loving and in no way would endanger children.

But what about former molesters that have been reinstated or reproved but who then move to another congregation? Isn't it possible that they might be given responsible positions in the new congregation they attend since no one will know of their past course? And thus won't it be easy for them to molest again since no one suspects anything? Exactly what steps are taken to assure that this will not happen and to protect unsuspecting children in the new congregation?

Chapter Twelve: You Can Run But You Can't Hide