Wednesday, 27 October 2010

What If a Person's Been Accused of Child Abuse and Then Moves Kingdom Hall?

What are the policies from the Watch Tower Society, under the leadership of the Governing Body, that the elders need to follow if a person has been accused of molesting a child, but the accused denies the allegation and there are no witnesses to the alleged abuse?


from "Shepherd the Flock of God" elders' manual, used under "fair use" policy.

To summarise, if there is no evidence, via witnesses who can corroborate the accusation, the matter is "left in Jehovah's hands". Details of the accusation of child molestation are recorded and then sealed in an envelope.

Let's propose a scenario. Let's imagine that the "brother" in question is molesting children and he's serving as an elder in the congregation, but as yet there are no corroborating witnesses to the allegation of abuse. The matter is dropped by the congregation, the accuser is told to remain quiet about the accusation as they don't have witnesses to back them up, therefore to talk about it would be to slander the accused. I'm not going to comment on whether this organisational procedure is ethical or not; it is what it is.

Let's now imagine that the "brother" in question decides to move congregation. As he's an elder, an as he's been accused of abusing a child, what is the official Watch Tower Society position?

  • are the rest of the elders obliged to mention to the congregation this elder is moving to that he's been accused of molestation, but there insufficient evidence (i.e. only one witness, namely the alleged victim)?
  • or is this left to the Branch office to decide?
Here's the answer:


Basically, as you can see, it's up to the Branch to decide whether the new congregation's body of elders gets to know about the accusation, an accusation that the congregation can't act on because of a lack of witnesses to the alleged abuse.








Again, I'm not going to comment on the ethics of this procedural model; it is what it is. It does, however, seem to leave the Watch Tower Society with a problem, one that I can hopefully illustrate via this model;

  • elder is accused of abuse
  • no witnesses to abuse
  • case dropped
  • the matter is written up and put in a sealed envelope
  • elder decides to move congregation
  • Branch office decide that new congregation do not need to know about accusation of abuse
  • elder is, in new congregation, accused of abuse
  • no witnesses to abuse
  • case dropped
  • the matter is written up and put in a sealed envelope
  • elder decides to move congregation
  • Branch office decide that new congregation do not need to know about accusation of abuse
  • elder is accused of abuse in new congregation
    • and so on
What's disturbing to me is that role the Branch office plays. For example, in the "Shepherd the Flock of God" book, page 131 under the heading "Child Abuse", we find the following:





















The Branch office is key. It's no secret that the Watch Tower Society is accused of holding a database of both convicted sex offenders and a list of those accused of abuse. The local congregations are not necessarily told that a new elder in their congregation has previously been accused of abusing children, and again I'm not making a comment on the ethics of such a policy. It does, however, place an enormous amount of trust in the integrity of the men who govern at a country's Branch office, does it not?* There's no indication in the "Shepherd" book's policies that the Branch would, by default, choose to join the dots in such a scenario as the one outlined above, whereby an elder is accused of abuse, then subsequently moves onto a new congregation, only to be accused again.

Why not?

Some Jehovah's Witnesses will perhaps look to make excuses, perhaps surmising that of course the Branch office will realise that the brother in question has been accused of abusing children more than once and in more than one congregation and that the need for two witnesses is moot as there are now more than one, unrelated accusations of abuse.

Yet there is no indication within the official policies of the Watch Tower Society that they will come to such conclusions or that they even want to come to such conclusions. For example, what if the elder in question moved to another country thereby coming under the authority of a different branch office?
Why does all information need to flow through the Branch in matters of child abuse? Is it perhaps understandable that some feel the Watch Tower Society protects, even harbours, child abusers?


* perhaps some would come to the conclusion that the men and women who serve at Branch offices are more honest or ethical than "rank and file" Witnesses. For those who have concluded this, here's a question;
- are there locks on the doors of the apartments at Bethel, yes or no?

8 comments:

  1. This is great stuff! They are on the ropes!

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  2. This has happened more than once in congregations and the location is not a factor either; it can happen in all areas of the United States, Europe or Russia. No place is safe.

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  3. What if an accused or actual child molester moves from Riverside Gospel Church to another church in a different city?

    You know what they say about those who live in glass houses...

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  4. @StandFirm

    1. our church doesn't claim to have been chosen by Jesus in 1919 to be Jehovah's sole channel of communication on earth today. Therefore, our church's policies on dealing with vulnerable persons do not come from the mouth of God himself. And our church hasn't been accused of harbouring - or protecting via "secret", internal policies - child molesters. That's the glasshouse the Governing Body* are living in.

    2. our church immediately hands matters of abuse - actual or accused - onto the authorities. The Old Testament matter of "two witnesses" is of lesser importance than making sure people with the authority - and training - deal with such sensitive matters.

    3. if someone choses to leave our church and move elsewhere, what can the elders do about it? Are they supposed to track them down, find out which church they now attend? What if the person attends a different church every week? What if they decide to start their own church? Obviously you're speaking about what you don't know, namely how church works. There are no "record cards" or "letters of recommendation" or Branch offices to telephone.

    4. our church is not a global publishing corporation that demands absolute and complete obedience to a small group of men in North America. It's a small community of around 60 believers. Therefore, please ask the elders of our church this question yourself. They don't hide behind lawyers or layers of administration.

    You can find them on our website, look for Brian Brooks and David Currie. They will happily answer this question for you. Alternatively, please phone the church's office and leave a message for them - 0141 775 0742.

    * whom you, StandFirm, must obey without question.

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  5. Standfirm, i'd like to add to what Mark said about my own church. We don't claim to be chosen by Jesus Christ Himself in a certain year and thus don't act as God's sole channel of communication on earth. If you'd like to contact my church, visit http://www.pbcdawsonville.org/templates/System/default.asp?id=31421

    You can contact the church directly through the website and they'd be happy to speak with you.

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  6. The WT apologists seem to be in a lot of denial.

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  7. To a repellent, disgusting degree.

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  8. Deal with it. Opposers will never be happy. It wouldn't matter what the society did. You opposers would NOT. Be satisfied. You don't fool anyone. The Jewish religious leaders found fault w John the baptise because of his austerity then when Jesus came eating and drinking they again FOUND fault. Very good and faithful men have been accused of these heinous crimes falsely. Others have been guilty of these crimes and the society deals with them. But it's not good enough for you because you have ulterior motives. Anyone can launch accusation and then people are railroaded and labeled. Nice try. Keep finding fault just like the hypocrites of old

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