The Tell-Tale Telememo

During the court cases that were recently dismissed with prejudice in Napa Valley, California, a form printed by the Watchtower Society, entitled Child Abuse Telememo, was brought forth in the discovery phase. The Child Abuse Telememo was a form filled out by a member of the Society's Legal Department when elders phoned in to the headquarters reporting child abuse. Since it is a form that only persons at the Watchtower headquarters would have access to, then surely it must provide us with the true instructions given by the Watchtower Society to the elders. And surely then, it would provide damning evidence against the Watchtower Society that contradicts what they have published in writing about their child abuse policy. That is what opposers would like for you to believe.

To give the impression that the telememo contained pivotal evidence against the Watchtower, opposers will oftentimes lead you to believe that the Watchtower Society fought vehemently to keep the telememo out of court. In actuality, blank telememo forms were submitted early on in the discovery phase. The plaintiffs suing the Watchtower, however, wanted the specific telememos that were filled out for each case involved in the suits. The court ruled that such completed telememos were confidential and were protected under the attorney-client privilege. Notice this from the court ruling of the hearing conducted October 13, 2006:

"Plaintiffs subsequently noticed a PMK deposition to inquire into (1) the organiztiion, staffing and operation of the Legal Department; (2) the Legal Departments role in responding to and investigating child sexual abuse allegations within the organization; (3) the development and use of "Child Abuse Telememos" which were forms developed to obtain and record information concerning reports of abuse (blank forms were produced in discovery); (4) records kept by or under the direction of the Legal Department concerning allegations of abuse; and (5) answers given to "survey questions" contained on one of the Telememos....

The court agrees that items 1, 2 and 4 which seek general structural, policy and organizational information concerning the Legal Department, implicate neither the attorney-client nor the work product privileges. Item 3 and 5 on the other hand, seek protected information. As set forth in the declaration of the Church’s associate general council, the Telememo forms are completed by attorneys or legal assistants based upon information provided them by congregation elders, and are used to assist in giving legal advice to the elders, as clients of the Legal Department. Similarly, any compilation of information, as from the “survey questions” constitutes attorney work product and is not discoverable. For these reasons, the court will GRANT the motion as to the items 1, 2, and 4 and will DENY the motion as to items 3 and 5."

The Child Abuse Telememo forms submitted in the discovery phase were dated between the years of 1989 and 1994. They were all basically the same, with some having slightly different wording. The telememo ask for specific information about the abuser, the victim, the congregations involved, the elders calling the Society, the person receiving the call, the action taken against the abuser, as well as other pertinent information. Also included is information under Reporting or Nonreporting in which one box was to be checked to indicate if the state required mandatory reporting or not.

What is interesting and gets to the crux of the matter is what is then stated under each category. Under Nonreporting it is stated: "Elders have no duty to report child abuse under the __________ child abuse reporting law. Whether others who have knowledge makes a report or pursue the matter legally is a personal decision." It further states: "Encourage parties not to involve the congregation if authorities investigate." It asks elders to review previous publications from the Society in giving appropriate spiritual asistance to the family, handle the matter judicially as a serious wrongdoing, and then states: "Positive steps should be taken to prevent further abuse. The elders should monitor the situation carefully for the protection of other potential victims."

Under the Reporting column it is stated: "The elders have a duty to report child abuse under the_________ child abuse reporting law. They should speak to the offender directly and find out if he is willing to turn himself in. If he is unwilling, there may be someone else who has knowledge of the abuse who will make a report. If no one who has knowledge of the abuse is willing to make a report, two elders should make an anonymous phone report from a neutral location, such as a phone booth." Then the elders are instructed to record pertinent information as to who the elders were that called the authorities, who they reported to, time, date, etc. They are further told to review articles to assist the family, handle the matter judicially, and then it makes the same statement as stated under nonreporting: "Positive steps should be taken to prevent further abuse. The elders should monitor the situation carefully for the protection of other potential victims."

Now after examining these statements in the telememo what do you conclude? Does it support the claims of opposers that the elders are instructed by the Society to threaten anyone who reports abuse to the police with discipline in the congregation? Did the Watchtower give instructions to the elders to shield the offender rather than protecting the victim or other children?

It is really just the opposite. The telememo clearly states, "Whether others who have knowledge makes a report or pursue the matter legally is a personal decision." There was absolutely no instructions to discourage reporting the crime. But what about this statement: "Encourage parties not to involve the congregation if authorities investigate."? This actually provides further proof as the elders are made well aware that an investigation by the authorities may very well take place if the victim's family pursues the matter legally. Nowhere in the telememo are elders instructed to make threats of discipline toward any who report the abuse. And nowhere in the telememo are elders given instructions to discourage the victim from reporting the crime. In fact, in mandatory reporting states elders are even instructed to encourage the victim to report it to the police.

What about the protection of the children? According to the telememo, were the responsibilities of the elders completed after they had handled the matter judicially in the congregation and/or seen to it that the crime was reported to the authorities? No, elders are told to take steps 'to prevent further abuse' and to 'monitor the situation carefully for the protection of other potential victims'.

But why does the telememo tell elders to make an 'anonymous phone report' to the authorities? Please consider. First the offender is asked by the elders to report himself. His failure to willingly comply and take responsibility for his actions, thus showing a lack of repentance, would without a doubt ensure his disfellowshipping. If he is unwilling to report himself the elders asked the victim, victim's family, or someone with knowledge of the abuse to report it to the authorities. If they likewise refuse to cooperate then the elders are placed in a precarious situation. They must go against the wishes of the victim and their family and report the abuse themselves. Reporting anonymously not only satisfies the law, but also provides protection for the elders should those involved try to sue the elders for breach of confidentiality.

Opposers make the claim that anonymously reporting somehow proves that the Watchtower Society and the elders refuse to cooperate with the authorities and that they are essentially protecting and shielding pedophiles by reporting the crime in this manner. But is this really the case? Let us reason on the matter.

By reporting the abuse, even though anonymously, the criminal matter is put squarely in the hands of the authorities to investigate and in the hands of the victim and family to cooperate so that the abuser can be brought to justice. The authorities will then question the victim and the family of the victim. If they still refuse to cooperate with the police, as with the elders previously, then it goes on record that they did not want the authorities involved. What more can the elders do? They have disfellowshipped the offender, reported the matter, offered spiritual assistance to the family, taken steps to prevent further abuse, and they will continue to carefully monitor the situation as instructed by the Watchtower Society.

There is one question on the telememo that is asked that on the surface may seem inappropriate. Under the Survey Questions, question 9 reads, "How many elders feel the victim was somewhat at fault or willingly participated in the act?"

'How calloused!' cry opposers. They claim it shows a lack of concern and understanding for victims and minimizes the wrongdoing by the offender. Imagine putting part of the blame on a little child as a willing participant in child molesting. How could they possibly asked such an inappropriate question? Again, lets reason on the matter.

All child molesting, as defined by the law of the land, does not involve an older man with a small child as is commonly assumed when discussing child molesting. In some states, consensual sex between a person just past the age of consent and a person near the age of consent is considered rape or child abuse. So for example, if a 20 year old had consensual sex with a 17 year old this might be considered child abuse according to the law in some states. Now we see that the question is not so farfetched after all. Surely the 20 year old in this instance should not be labeled a pedophile or rapist for the rest of his life. The question is both reasonable and appropriate in this case. And that is why the question is there.

Now after closely examining the telememo what can we conclude? Rather than supporting the claims of opposers and apostates it in reality serves as documented evidence in favor of the Watchtower Society. The instructions on the telememo are in harmony with all the letters and other publications written by the Society telling elders to report abuse when mandatory, never discourage or threaten with congregational discipline anyone reporting abuse, take steps to protect the victim, and to carefully monitor the situation to make sure all other children are protected.

In fact, one question asked on the telememo to ensure elders are following these guidelines set forth by the Society is question 3: "Have the elders reviewed the letters of July 1, 1989, March 23, 1992, February 3, 1993?" A review of those letters, which we have quoted from extensively on this site, clearly shows that the claims by opposers about the child abuse policy of Jehovah's Witnesses is patently false and that their claims about the Child Abuse Telememo is nothing but the usual apostate exaggerations and twisting of facts.

Such exaggerations, twisting of facts, deceitfulness, and outright lies are common tactics of critics of the child abuse policy of Jehovah's Witnesses. Foremost among these are Bill Bowen and his Silentlambs organization. Let us show you just how far he and his cronies will go in hopes discrediting Jehovah's Witnesses.

Chapter Twenty-one: Silentlambs or Noisy Goats