A Policy That Insures Failure: The Response of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to Child Sexual Abuse Carol J. Adams

by JakeM2012 5 Replies latest watchtower child-abuse

  • JakeM2012

    Thought this was an interesting article from 2005:

    "A Policy That Insures Failure:The Response of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to Child Sexual Abuse" by Carol J. Adams

    link to this record (Permalink):https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=sih&AN=22042776&site=eds-live

    To read the full article click the "Full PDF" link in the upper left corner.

  • Goshawk

    Important User Information: Remote access to EBSCO's databases is permitted to patrons of subscribing institutions accessing from remote locations for personal, non-commercial use. However, remote access to EBSCO's databases from non-subscribing institutions is not allowed if the purpose of the use is for commercial gain through cost reduction or avoidance for a non-subscribing institution.

    Sounds like an interesting read, however ...

  • Earnest

    Based on her experience as “an expert witness on behalf of a plaintiff in a [civil] case [in 1998] involving child sexual abuse in a Jehovah’s Witnesses’ congregation”.

    This was published in 2005 and can be purchased and previewed.

    Given the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ “serious disregard for the structures of government” and “suspicion of the world outside of its own members…”, she notes that its policy of handling problems internally “deprive[s] victims of advocates and counselors trained in the issue [of child sexual abuse]” and “mean[s] that abusers are not held legally accountable.”

  • Gayle

    I wonder how she knew of their (WTS) policy? I have not read her article.

    I just found her email and sent a short note. I informed her that her (with full respect) 'prophecy' has been fulfilled.

    I gave her the site of the court case.

    Hopefully more and more people will become aware of the WT insidious policy and extreme arrogance.

  • JakeM2012

    This link is from the university library.

    A Policy That Insures Failure:The Response of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to Child Sexual Abuse

    Carol J. Adams

    ABSTRACT. Based on my experience preparing to be an expert witness in a case involving child sexual abuse in a Jehovah’s Witnesses

    congregation, I offer reflections on the problems inherent to policies that

    require witnesses to abuse, and draw upon material published by the Jehovah’s Witnesses to indicate why such policies would be misguided.

    [Article copies available for a fee from The Haworth Document Delivery Service: 1-800-HAWORTH. E-mail address: <[email protected]>

    Website: <http://www.HaworthPress.com> © 2005 by The Haworth Press, Inc.

    All rights reserved.]

    KEYWORDS. Jehovah’s Witnesses, child sexual abuse, Matthew

    18:15, sexual abuse policies

    In 1998, I was asked to be an expert witness on behalf of a plaintiff in

    a case involving child sexual abuse in a Jehovah’s Witnesses’ congregation. She was suing them for their failure to stop the abusive behavior of

    the perpetrator. The case was settled out of court, but before that occurred, I researched the history and policies of the Jehovah’s Witnesses

    in preparation for testifying. My main concern was whether the policies

    and practice of the Jehovah’s Witnesses tacitly protected abusers.

    This concern arose from the centrality of one specific scriptural passage to the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The passage was Matthew 18:15:

    Journal of Religion & Abuse, Vol. 7(4) 2005

    Available online at http://www.haworthpress.com/web/JORA

    © 2005 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.

    doi:10.1300/J154v07n04_04 41“Moreover, if your brother commits a sin, go lay bare his fault between

    you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.”

    Matthew 18:16 goes on to say “But if he does not listen, take along with

    you one or two more, in order that at the mouth of two or three witnesses

    every matter may be established.”


    A passage from Deuteronomy (19:15) was also important: “No single witness should rise up against a man respecting any error or any sin,

    in the case of any sin that he may commit. At the mouth of two witnesses

    or at the mouth of three witnesses the matter should stand good.”

    If the incidents of abuse within mainline Protestant and Catholic congregations revealed the institutional roadblocks to responding to abusers, the roadblocks to holding abusers accountable in a congregation

    that drew its guidance for behavior from these Biblical passages would

    be even greater. How would a child sexual abuse victim prevail if a congregation followed these Biblical passages and created policies that required as a first step a confrontation of the wrongdoer by the victim, and

    also required witnesses to the wrongdoing? In practice, would not this

    policy result in protecting the abuser in cases involving unwitnessed incidents?

    Since that time, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been in the news regarding their child sexual abuse policies. In 2002, the New York Times

    published an article on child sexual abuse in Jehovah’s Witnesses, reporting that most of the victims are girls and young women. Incest is often the accusation.

    2 William Bowen, a Jehovah’s Witness who was

    disfellowshiped for his activism on behalf of child sexual abuse victims,

    says that his support group “silent lambs” has “collected reports from

    more than 5,000 Witnesses contending that the church mishandled child

    sexual abuse.”


    Recently, the Michael Jackson trial brought the Jehovah’s Witnesses back into the headlines, because of the question of

    whether Jackson remained a member in good standing. The question is

    raised because of their policy on disfellowshiping: if Jackson had been

    disfellowshiped (presumably for engaging in activities that the Jehovah’s Witnesses found objectionable) other Jehovah’s Witnesses, including members of his family, could not receive him. Since he was

    received both by members of his family and Jehovah’s Witnesses leaders, he was therefore not disfellowshiped, and the conclusion was that

    the leadership structure of Jehovah’s Witnesses had not found his actions objectionable. In 2005, a Massachusetts judge ruled that a Jehovah’s Witnesses’ church in Boston could be sued by a girl who reported

    being sexually abused by one of the church’s ministerial servants. Finally,

    42 JOURNAL OF RELIGION & ABUSEa Website has been created to provide support to victims of child sexual

    abuse in Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations (www.silentlambs.org).

    After a brief review of their history and procedures, I will offer a reflection on Jehovah’s Witness policy in the face of what we know about

    child sexual abuse victims, and their abusers. In critiquing their policies, it will draw in part, upon publications of the Jehovah’s Witnesses



    Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, a Jehovah’s Witness from the age of 9 until the age of 21 provides a cogent description of this group:

    Jehovah’s Witnesses are believers in a fundamentalist, apocalyptic, prophetic religion which has been proclaiming, since the

    1930s, that “Millions Now Living Will Never Die.” The world

    will end, they say, with the destruction of the wicked at Armageddon, in our lifetime. Only the chosen will survive. They intensify

    their preaching efforts in order to increase the number of survivors

    . . . The Witnesses are a widely varied group of individuals who

    subject themselves to total conformity in practice, outlook, and belief.


    One could say that the Jehovah’s Witnesses were not so much

    “founded,” rather they evolved as an institution, moving through three

    stages that laid the ground for their current practice and beliefs.

    The first stage began shortly after the Civil War, as a Bible fellowship under Charles Taze Russell who died in 1916. At first called,

    “Russellites,” they incorporated as “Zion’s Watch Tower Bible and

    Tract Society,” in the 1880s. When Russell died, a power struggle occurred. Joseph Franklin Rutherford prevailed. He introduced the name

    “Jehovah’s Witnesses” in 1931.

    These first two stages were personality-driven, indebted to one dominant individual for its approach and direction. But upon the death of

    Rutherford, a Board, a directorate, took over, eliminating power struggles and the extreme cult of personality notable in the first two stages.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the doctrine of the Trinity and do not

    view Jesus as equal to God, but instead “as an incarnation of the Archangel Michael, a created being.”


    Carol J. Adams 43Jehovah’s Witnesses have a serious disregard for the structures of

    government. Its approach is one of suspicion of the world outside of its

    own members:

    The message, elaborated successively by Pastor Russell, Judge

    Rutherford, and the directorate headed by Nathan Knorr, was calculated to appeal to the multiple resentments of those who are euphemistically described as the “culturally deprived.” The central

    contention was that Satan’s power is wielded through “the religious, commercial, and political combine” which is united in oppressing the righteous. These three elements in society are so

    intimately linked that each does the bidding of the others. All

    churches and religious organizations are “tools of Satan” and are

    utilized by the clergy as a means of securing cash income. The

    clergy both support and are supported by the proud and arrogant

    commercial class which dominates, subjugates, and exploits the

    poor. The wealthy in turn are protected by the governments of the

    world, all of which are equally wicked since they are ruled by Satan. The righteous, however, are not without hope, for the evils of

    the world are soon to be rectified at the battle of Armageddon

    when the forces of Jehovah’s led by Jesus will defeat the hosts of

    Satan; and Jesus, with the living Witnesses and the resurrected

    righteous among the dead, will reign for one thousand years.


    The belief that Satan’s power was directing those in power led to many

    acts of refusal that gained the Jehovah’s Witnesses notoriety: They refused to salute the flag and they refused to register for the draft. They

    oppose blood transfusions, organ transplants, and skin grafts. In a famous freedom of religion case decided in 1943, the Supreme Court upheld their refusal “to perform patriotic rites.”

    Compounding, therefore, the views deriving from Matthew 18:15

    and Deuteronomy 19:15, this distrust of the state can mean that any

    cases of child sexual abuse that do surface, may be dealt with only

    through internal measures. Given their general distrust and disaffection

    from the state, how could they welcome adjudication of child sexual

    abuse cases from the state? Maintaining a policy that keeps such cases

    only an internal matter, would deprive victims of advocates and counselors trained in the issue, if those advocates and counselors were not

    Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves. It would also mean that abusers are

    not held legally accountable.

    44 JOURNAL OF RELIGION & ABUSEDr. Carl A. Raschke told the New York Times, “Groups that tend to be

    very tight-knit and in-grown historically have a higher incidence of sexual abuse and incest.” He continued, “That’s an ethnological fact. When

    a religion tries to be thoroughly holy or godly, it’s not going to acknowledge that people aren’t living up to the ideas of the faith.”



    The Jehovah’s Witnesses have approximately one million members

    in the United States and about 5.5 million throughout the world.



    are organized into congregations, and it is usually the individual congregation itself that adjudicates matters that arise within it. Several policies that they follow insure failure to protect victims, each policy boomeranging into the next and allowing abusers to hide within an individual

    congregation, and even if discovered, able to move and begin again

    without information about their abusive behavior following them.

    Keep It Internal

    Jehovah’s Witnesses must obey the law except when the law runs

    contrary to God and is therefore evil. Their belief is that problems

    should be worked out within the context of the local congregation. For

    instance, with child sexual abuse, the law requires reporting, but the Bible appears to say, “work it out.” All things should be resolved within

    the community, in house, not by others. Members of the community

    owe fidelity to the church, not to the state.

    The organization of each individual congregation is overseen by a

    group of “ruling elders”–all men. If one challenges the congregation,

    and takes issues that arise within the congregation outside of the congregation, one risks being “disfellowshiped which results in total shunning

    by other congregants.”

    But, one need not be disfellowshiped for having sexually abused a

    child. The official website for the Jehovah’s Witnesses offers this explanation:

    What if a baptized adult Christian sexually molests a child? Is the

    sinner so wicked that Jehovah will never forgive him? Not necessarily so. Jesus said that ‘blasphemy against the holy spirit’ was

    unforgivable. And Paul said that there is no sacrifice for sins left

    for one who practices sin willfully despite knowing the truth.

    Carol J. Adams 45(Luke 12:10; Hebrews 10:26, 27) But nowhere does the Bible say

    that an adult Christian who sexually abuses a child–whether incestuously or otherwise–cannot be forgiven. Indeed, his sins can be

    washed clean if he repents sincerely from the heart and turns his

    conduct around. However, he may still have to struggle with the

    wrong fleshly impulses he cultivated (Ephesians 1:7). And there

    may be consequences that he cannot avoid.

    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.


    It is not the congregation as a whole that adjudicates problems of unethical behavior. Laypeople of the congregation become church elders,

    who oversee the running of the individual churches. As The New York

    Times describes it: “Members who suspect abuse are advised to go first

    to the elders, who are considered spiritual and moral leaders to whom

    the members are to turn with their personal problems.” The elders determine guilt. The victim may be examined by family members or friends.

    That this panel, who are all men, will then meet in secret to discuss the

    accusations in a case, and also adjudicate it in secret, is, as the Times explains, “a procedure which critics say prevents members from knowing

    there is an abuser in their midst.”

    One who refuses to “keep it internal” runs the risk of being disfellowshiped.

    Require a Witness

    The Jehovah’s Witness religious organization established its own

    procedure for investigating allegations of wrongdoing. At the time I

    was asked to be an expert witness, the procedure regarding child sexual

    abuse was that unless the accused confesses or there are two eyewitnesses to the wrongdoing (the accuser does not count as one of these),

    abuse cannot be substantiated.

    Confession and Forgiveness

    Elders may receive a confession from the abuser, offer forgiveness,

    and no one else is wiser–except that other members will learn that the

    individual in question has been disciplined, nothing more. The official

    Website for the Jehovah’s Witnesses, explains their policy this way:

    46 JOURNAL OF RELIGION & ABUSEIf a child molester sincerely repents, he will recognize the wisdom

    of applying Bible principles. If he truly learns to abhor what is

    wicked, he will despise what he did and struggle to avoid repeating

    his sin (Proverbs 8:13; Romans 12:9). Further, he will surely thank

    Jehovah for the greatness of His love, as a result of which a repentant sinner, such as he is, can still worship our holy God and hope

    to be among “the upright” who will reside on earth forever. (Proverbs 2:21)


    Of course, an abuser can learn to manipulate the system through the

    use of language about “repentance.” Nowhere in this official statement

    is the recognition that repentance is not only confession and remorse,

    not only just saying “I’m sorry,” but is tied to real repentance and restitution. Change of behavior is essential, but so too is acknowledgment of

    what the abuse meant to the victim and acts of restitution.

    Transferring Membership

    Individual congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses are called “Kingdom Halls.” Twenty congregations are grouped together as “circuits.”

    Districts contain these circuits, and branches and zones contain the districts.

    When an elder leaves one congregation and arrives at a new congregation, the new congregation requests a letter either recommending or

    not recommending the elder’s appointment at the new congregation.

    Such a recommendation can only contain information corroborated by

    the procedure described above-requiring witnesses and allowing for repentance.

    A person, for instance, might leave one congregation in which he has

    committed child sexual abuse and move to another without that information being shared. If the case had become known within the former

    congregation, yet was “successfully” adjudicated by the elders, in a way

    that they believe he has repented and been forgiven, that church would

    not be required to inform the church to which he is transferring membership of his abusive behavior. Thus, an abuser can move from church to

    church, knowing he is protected by Jehovah’s Witnesses policy, from

    being discovered, and if discovered, held accountable in any way that

    might prevent him access to future victims. If he is wealthy, too, he

    might through a variety of ways of using his money within the new congregation, inoculate himself from being held accountable if caught. In

    Carol J. Adams 47other words, sexual predators who have manipulated the local congregational leadership, could move from church to church without their

    histories following them, without red flags, or accountability.


    1. Does the procedure violate state law?

    A procedure that adjudicates questions of abuse in-house, and requires witnesses to abuse appears to violate both child abuse reporting

    statutes and the reporting statutes applicable to sexual exploitation by

    mental health professionals, including clergy. It appears to violate the

    law in two related ways: by making no provision for reporting to the legal authorities, and by failing to acknowledge that most state laws do

    not require confirmation in its reporting requirements. For instance,

    many state laws require reporting suspicions of child abuse or of sexual

    exploitation by mental health professionals, including clergy.

    2. Does this procedure establish an investigative process that virtually insures that child sexual abuse or clergy sexual misconduct

    within the congregation goes undetected by that process?

    Yes. Unfortunately, this procedure sets the congregation up to fail; indeed this procedure provides the vehicle for it to fail repeatedly. This

    procedure insures that the congregation cannot detect abuse within the

    framework that this procedure establishes, while also announcing to

    abusers that they are protected from legal authorities.

    First, it says to abusers that as long as there are no witnesses within

    the congregation or the abuser does not confess, then the abuse will not

    be recognized as abuse.

    Secondly, by failing to state explicitly thatsuspicions of child abuse or

    of sexual exploitation by mental health professionals, including clergy, will

    be reported to the legal authorities, it gives the abuser greater freedom to


    Finally, it puts the overwhelming burden upon the victim to identify

    to the congregation the fact that she or he is being or was abused. The

    victim is then to expect that the community that has allowed the abuse to

    happen within its midst can be the sole arbiter and adjudicator of

    whether abuse has occurred. Victims are of necessity concerned about

    48 JOURNAL OF RELIGION & ABUSEthe consequences of confronting the abuser. Fear of retaliation is great.

    If the victim senses that the congregation will not protect the victim

    once the abuse is known, there is no incentive to make the abuse known,

    and every incentive not to because of the control the abuser has established over the victim’s life. Moreover, it is difficult for the victim to believe that he or she is safe enough within the community to be protected

    once the abuse is known, when she was not safe enough for the abuse to

    be prevented. This procedure offers no specific assurance to the victim

    that once the abuse is named to the community, that the congregation

    will take steps to protect the victim and prevent the abuser from access

    to the victim.

    It is an onerous policy for a victim, as it offers no assurance that the

    abuse will stop even if she follows the procedure.

    Even if this inadequate procedure worked to its fullest, it does not actually deter the abuser from future acts because, absent confirmation

    from witnesses or the abuser him or herself, the acts of abuse are not defined as abuse, and so the abuser experiences no accountability for his

    or her abusive behavior. In the absence of accountability, the abuser is

    given the message “You do not have to stop what you are doing.” Intermittent rewards are sufficient for an abuser to continue abusive behavior. This procedure does not remove the rewards of abuse from the


    From their publications, especially the one that is distributed doorto-door–Awake!–it appears that the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization

    is concerned about the abuse of children and the abuse of vulnerable

    adults. It is unfortunate, therefore, that their procedure regarding corroboration undermines their stated concerns. Because of what we know

    about abusers, this procedure is potentially always inadequate to deal

    with abusers.

    A congregation betrays its more vulnerable members with a procedure like this. A congregational environment creates opportunities for

    abusers that many other institutions would never do because it allows

    access to the vulnerable in unsupervised ways. In addition, the underlying philosophy and language of a congregation instructs the vulnerable

    to respect and follow its leadership; it promotes trust as the basic attitude toward other members of the congregation and especially leaders.

    It is the responsibility of a religious community to recognize how it puts

    its vulnerable members at risk and to create procedures that protect


    Other abuse victims watch the outcome to see if they themselves

    might hope for justice and protection.

    Carol J. Adams 49As the publications of the Jehovah’s Witnesses indicate, child sexual

    abusers exploit situations in which they can have unsupervised access to

    their potential victims. These publications make specific points about

    child sexual abuse that run counter to a policy requiring witnesses:

    • It happens in secret. (“Remember, though, that abusers work in secrecy, they take advantage of trust.”



    • Abusers use opportunities to disarm the victim. (“The abuser is a

    person the child knows and trusts. Rather than using force, abusers

    often manipulate the child into sexual acts gradually, taking advantage of the child’s limited experience and reasoning ability.”



    Common strategies that abusers use to cultivate relationships with

    children include:

    • Identifying children who are emotionally needy.

    • Establishing relationships with a child’s family to gain trust.

    • Getting children alone or isolated.

    • Initiating contact in situations where no other adult is present;

    setting up situations where no other adult is present.

    • Setting a child apart from peers or siblings as “special”

    • Establishing a “peer” or “buddy” relationship with a child.

    (An elder in a congregation would have all these means at his disposal

    for grooming a child.)

    Publications of the Jehovah’s Witnesses also point to problems with

    the reporting requirement that includes the expectation of confirmation

    from witnesses:

    • It is difficult for a victim to report abuse. (“Children find it enormously difficult to report abuse. When they do lie about abuse, it is

    most often to deny that it happened even though it actually did.”



    • Abusers threaten frightening consequences for disclosure. (“Abusers employ the most diabolic means of coercion: authority [‘I’m

    your father!’], threats [‘I’ll kill you if you tell!’], brute physical

    force and even guilt”


    ; “child molesters still want something else

    from their victims–SILENCE.”



    • Sexual abuse allegations are usually true. (“Even the most skeptical of researchers agree that most claims of abuse are valid . . .

    ‘Genuine sex abuse of children is widespread and the vast majority

    of sex abuse allegations of children . . . are likely to be justified

    [perhaps 95% or more].’”



    50 JOURNAL OF RELIGION & ABUSE• Abusers are often accepted and liked within their community.

    (“Many are quite religious, respected, and well-liked in the community. According to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, ‘to

    assume that someone is not a pedophile simply because he is nice,

    goes to church, works hard, is kind to animals, and so on, is absurd.’”


    “In British Columbia, Canada, a recent study examined

    the careers of 30 child molesters. The results were chilling. The 30

    individuals had, between them, abused 2,099 children. Fully half

    of them held positions of trust–teachers, ministers, administrators,

    and child-case workers.’”



    • Reports of abuse are often met with minimization or denial. Such

    responses are dangerous. (“The Globe and Mail of Toronto notes:

    ‘In 80 per cent of cases, one or more sectors of the community [including friends or colleagues of the offender, families of victims,

    other children, some victims] denied or minimized the abuse.’ Not

    surprisingly, ‘the report suggests that denial and disbelief allow

    abuse to continue.”



    In addition, abusers rarely confess. They usually minimize, lie, and

    deny. Abusers also are often repeat offenders.

    Because the Jehovah Witnesses view Catholics as they do the rest of

    the outside world, they have covered the cases of child sexual abuse in

    that denomination. Thus, they have recognized how the congregation

    abuses victims by failing to stop the abuse when reporting on a conference about survivors of child sexual abuse. Awake! quotes the National

    Catholic Reporter and then explains when it is that a religious organization harms the victim: “‘The first abuse is sexual; the second and more

    painful is psychological.’ This second abuse occurs when the church refuses to listen to victims of abuse, fails to take their accusations seriously, and moves only to protect the offending priest.”


    Any procedure that establishes that abuse will only be confirmed if

    there have been witnesses to the abuse runs counter to the needs of the

    victims. A congregation that really cares about these issues must recognize the problems with any procedure requiring witnesses, and establish

    an adequate and responsive one. An effective congregational procedure

    must have these components:

    1. It must be readily available and accessible. Procedures for making

    complaints should be posted in a prominent location in the congregation.

    Carol J. Adams 512. It must be clear. Procedures should be described step by step,

    specifying who, what, when, where, how. They should be written

    in clear language, with any necessary technical terms defined. It

    must be specific in identifying the behaviors that are not acceptable in a leadership or ministerial role.

    3. There must be plans that will attempt to insure that abuse will not

    occur. This would include inquiring as to whether there were reports or accusations at a prior congregation against a candidate for

    leadership at a new congregation.

    4. Intervention: Plans that identify how to intervene if abuse is suspected. These plans must include:

    • Protection of the victim from further abuse.

    • If the victim is a child or a counselee, reporting of the

    abuse to legal authorities.

    • Holding the abuser accountable through negative consequences. When congregation leaders violate their role, the

    institution should confront them officially and impose

    consequences. If the consequences are minimal, the behavior is likely to continue.

    5. Restitution: What is damaged or lost when sexual abuse occurs by

    religious organization leadership can never be fully restored. Nevertheless, some restitution can and must be made.

    • Saying to the victim, “we are sorry this has happened. We

    failed you.” In theological language, this is called repentance. But repentance is not solely apology, or acknowledgement of wrong doing. Repentance is a turning around,

    and it includes restitution. Restitution is a concrete means

    of acknowledging the harm done and helping to repair the

    damage. Besides its symbolic value, it is helpful in a material sense, since survivors often incur expenses such as

    therapy costs, doctor’s bills, time off from work, etc.

    • Even if the abuser never confesses and is never convicted,

    the congregation should still remove the abuser from opportunities of access to the vulnerable. This is an essential

    thing that the congregation has control over: an abuser’s

    access to the vulnerable.

    52 JOURNAL OF RELIGION & ABUSE• The congregation needs to assure the victim and the congregation that they will protect potential victims from this


    3. In their procedure that requires the receipt of a letter from the congregation from which the elder is departing, do they adhere to the

    recommended procedures for prevention enumerated above and

    the legal standard for inquiring into the past conduct of the elder?

    No. A letter from the congregation from which the elder is departing

    will not mention an accusation of abuse if there was only the accusation

    and no corroboration either through two eyewitnesses or the confession

    of the abuser. Since this standard for corroboration insures that abuse

    will go unconfirmed in almost every conceivable instance, abusers are

    freed to move from congregation to congregation, gaining access to

    new victims. Moreover, the procedure of corroboration may create

    within a congregation a desire to see an elder leave and go elsewhere. A

    congregation may be convinced that they have an abuser in their midst,

    but have no way within the congregational procedure to corroborate and

    then perhaps disfellowship the abuser. Such a congregation would be

    eager to see the abuser leave. The fact that they are bound not to label

    the behavior abusive because it was unconfirmed, frees them to send a

    letter that fails to warn the new congregation.

    The Jehovah’s Witness standard for when information can be shared

    is too high. By requiring eyewitnesses or confession, they are insuring

    that in virtually every case that information will never be passed on.

    Precisely because congregations expose vulnerable individuals to

    situations in which abusers may take advantage of that vulnerability, it

    is incumbent on congregations to inquire specifically into possible abusive behavior of elders who are joining their congregations.


    It is the responsibility of a religious community to protect its vulnerable members from victimization by more powerful members, and to

    prevent the misuse of religious doctrine so that the abuser evades accountability.

    That predators chose professions that give them access to vulnerable

    children is well-recognized. Whether they select denominations or

    churches based on this access may not yet be proven. Yet an abuser who

    Carol J. Adams 53knows his history will not follow him, that church policies actually protect him, that a congregation that is male-dominated may feel less empathy for victims, and that the Jehovah’s Witnesses disaffection from state

    laws works in his favor, could not find a more promising environment in

    which to discover and groom victims than the Jehovah’s Witnesses.


    1. The Biblical passages are taken from the official translation used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses: The “New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures,” Online Bible at


    2. Laurie Goldstein, “Ousted Members Contend Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Abuse Policy Hides Offensives.” The New York Times, August 11, 2002, p. 26.

    3. Goldstein, The New York Times, p. 26.

    4. Barbara Grizzuti Harrison, Visions of Glory: A History and a Memory of Jehovah’s Witnesses. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978.), p. 13.

    5. Carl A. Raschke, “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” Contemporary American Religion, ed.

    Wade Clark Roof (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2000), p. 341.

    6. Winthrop S. Hudson, Religion in America (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons,

    1965, 1973), pp. 349-350.

    7. Goldstein, The New York Times, p. 26.

    8. Raschke, p. 341.

    9. http://www.watchtower.org/library/w/1997/1/1/article_01.htm

    10. http://www.watchtower.org/library/w/1997/1/1/article_01.htm

    11. Awake!, October 8, 1993, p. 13.

    12. Awake!, October 8, 1993, p. 6.

    13. Awake!, October 8, 1993, p. 6.

    14. Awake!, October 8, 1991, p. 9.

    15. Awake!, October 8, 1993, p. 5.

    16. Awake!, October 8, 1993, p. 6.

    17. Awake!, October 8, 1993, p. 6.

    18. Awake!, October 8, 1993, p. 11.

    19. Awake!, October 8, 1993, p. 11.

    20. Awake!, April 8, 1993, p. 31.

  • Goshawk

    Good read thank you Jake.

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