Some thoughts on the recent BOE letter

by konceptual99 24 Replies latest watchtower child-abuse

  • konceptual99

    With all the recent efforts by the society to stifle publication of their recent BOE letter I have been re-reading it and thinking again about some of the consequences of what this letter really means.

    I've had some thoughts so am just throwing them out there to see what the rest of you might think.

    Firstly, I have absolutely no truck with the core issue regarding the lack of disclosure to the authorities when child abuse is suspected or alledged. Although there are very good reasons for the biblical precedant regarding two or more witnesses this really cannot be forced to apply to this issue. In the time of the Mosaic law, the "elders" were the top level of authority - they were the police, judge and jury - responsible for civil, criminal and spiritual matters. Today, the congregation elders only have responsibility for spiritual matters, not criminal. As Cedars as pointed out it is up to the police and judicial system to handle crime and it should be them who are asked to determine if an individual has a case to answer.

    The elders are not qualified to determine what may or may not have happened. the WT legal department may advise but their focus will always be a skewed notion of minimising WT exposure. In any area where the elders are not legally bound to report the matter is almost certainly never going to result in an approved decision for the elders to contact the authorities.

    The WT use a getout here which is that the elders are to highlight to parents or the victim that they are perfectly free to report the matter but that allows for the local elders to put any slant on that advice they wish. There is a risk it may not happen as there is no open policy that the matter should be reported. There is a chance the parents or victim may feel intimidated. There is no scope for the support of the elders during the reporting process. Frankly, the stated position is disingenuous and easily manipulated either deliberately or unintentionally.

    This entire approach is seriously flawed and simply wrong.

    Where I do have some sympathy with the position of the elders, and indeed the society, is when it comes to dealing with those people who may pose a risk. If someone comes into the congregation and is a convicted sex offender then in principle I agree with the approach in the letter that parents should be warned and under no circumstances should that individual be allowed to be in any position where they may come into unsupervised contact with children. As a parent of minor children still attending meetings then I should know who I need to be aware of in the congregation.

    The problem is that not everyone who may pose a risk is a convicted offendeer. There is even a scenario where someone who may have had to (in the UK) sign the sex offenders register may not pose any risk. For example, if an 18 year old were to have consensual sex with a 15 year old then in theory the adult could be convicted and be considered a sex offender. I am not 100% sure that in 100% of this type of case it would be right to label someone as a pedo for the rest of their lives. So to that end, perhaps this type of scenario should not prevent someone never being allowed to hold privilages at some point in the future. Can you really say no forever?

    There are also individuals that don't have a conviction but perhaps have faced accusations. In this case the elders are caught between a rock and a hard place. They cannot treat that individual as someone convicted nor can they spread rumours let alone slander someone. On the other hand, as a parent I would want to know about someone who might not be all they seem. Context is always important but I think the policy must allow for parents to be warned.

    I think it is partly this type of situation that the letter is trying cover by using the terms "predator" and "known child molester". It is also why the society legal department are to determine who is who. In principle they should have legal knowledge and be able to guide the elders but in fact I think this is of no real help at all. The typical WT approach is to try and box everything up and make everything black and white. You end up with elders trying to check off a tick list of what circumstance the individual may or may not fit and then Bethal make a choice. What if they get it wrong? There is no scope for the local elders to make conscience led decisions. The reality is that the elders will defer to Bethel legal, follow whatever instructions they give and move on. If there is a problem then the elders will say "we were only following orders", Bethel legal will wash their hands of it and the congregation will have been left exposed.

    Unfortunately as well, the wording of the letter shows that a serial offender can still be considered for privilages. This is madness. There is also scope that a convicted sex offender may not be considered as such, or even as a "predator" to use the letter's distinction. This is extremely concerning.

    There are real issues of slander and a presumtion of guilt and to be honest society in general has not solved the ethical implications of this. On that basis I guess it is a little unfair to expect the WTBTS to be able to get it right 100% of the time when the rest of the world cannot do it. The problem is however is that the underlying culture does not support the application of some common sense and personal moral conviction on the part of the elders. Everything is handled in a highly procedural and legalistic manner with a "are we kept safe by Jehovah's loving org, don't the GB take care of us really well, thank goodness we are not floundering on this matter like the 'world'", head in the sand delusion coming from the top down.

    This, unfortunately, extends to parental responsibility. I have always had an attitude that you cannot rule anything out and it is up to me as a parent to take responsibilty for my children. I cannot abdicate responsibility to the congregation and assume that everything is fine, no one poses a risk and nothing bad can happen. Having said that, it does not absolve the congregation of a duty of care and there are big holes in the WT policy as it stands that means there is nothing to stop a predatory child abuser to have access to my children without my knowledge.

    So, there are some major flaws in the policy, especially when it comes to the reporting of accusations. There are some issues around instructions that are no doubt intended to prevent cases of slander or unfounded gossip that don't have clear answers but no doubt would be better handled if the society were to look at the policies of many other organisations. My biggest concern, beyond the main one over reporting, is that once again the whole matter once again comes down to a rigid set of procedures that promote a false sense of security at all levels.

  • EdenOne

    I've expressed my opinion here before, but I'll summarize it again.

    Like someone else already said, since child sex abuse is a crime, it should be dealt as such by the elders, MS, and parents in the congregation. Therefore, any pedo activity should be reported to the law enforcement authorities pronto, and before any other action is taken. Only after that the legal department of Bethel may (or may not) be involved.

    THEN comes the time to deal with the sin. In this regard I think the "two witnesses rule" makes sense, but I would add a twist. If the authorities find the suspect to be guilty as charge, then their testimony should count as a "witness". Therefore, there would be no way that a convicted child abuser could be declared not guilty of sin in a congregation. So, the witnessing of the victim + witnessing from the authorities should be enough to proof that a sex offender is guilty of sinful conduct. And I think that the inevitable consequence of child abuse should be disfellowshipping. Because it reveals a degree of wickedness, premeditation, and dangerousness that cannot go unpunished with the utmost severity, and not with just a light reproach. Plus, information, information, information and vigilance. When a past sex offender is known to be within the congregation, naturally it will be possible to forgive that sin, but in the superior interests of the children in the KH, every parent and the entire body of Elders and MS should be informed of the circumstance and all unsupervised contact of the sex offender with children should be banned. PLUS, the parents should take full responsability for, once informed, taking care of their children's safety.


  • konceptual99

    Agree with you in the main Eden but automatic disfellowshipping has some consequences. I can see the logic regarding pre-meditation and wickedness but how would anyone disfellowshipped in such a manner get reinstated? If they have stopped the action and are apparently repentant at the time of a JC then what will have changed over time? Would such a DFing basically be a punishment and the offender has to simply serve out some time before being able to come back?

    Don't get me wrong, I am certainly not sticking up for any pedophile but I've always considered disfellowshipping as an act required to keep the congregation clean from someone unrepentantly continuing in a course of wrong doing as opposed to a punishment. In my book, shopping the offender to the authorities and making their offence public knowledge in the congregation would do enough to ruin that persons reputation and allow the correct protection of vulnerable persons in the congregation.

  • EdenOne


    The "automatic disfellowshipping" is already in force among the Jehovah's Witnesses. For example, when a JW willingly accepts a blood transfusion, no Judicial Comitee is formed to investigate and judge upon that. That person is summarily disfellowshipped; actually it is understood that such person has dissociated himself by willingly accepting a blood transfusion.

    Once disfellowshipped for child molesting, things would take it's natural course. If genuinely repent (how long will it take to verify that? I guess a lenghty amount of time), that person may be later reinstated, but I would strongly object that will be granted any office in the congregation - ever - especially if such person was found guilty by the criminal authorities and punished by them. It's harsh, but it's necessary and people with pedophile tendencies shoud weigh the impact on their lives before ever indulging themselves in such practice. (not to mention the obvious, the impact on their victim's lives).


  • cantleave

    I have always had an attitude that you cannot rule anything out and it is up to me as a parent to take responsibilty for my children.

    Konceptual, I know you are an intelligent and thinking indivdual who would not take everything on face value. Unfortunately, many in the congregations are 100% trusting, they believe they are in a spiritual paradise where Jehovah is protecting them and their families. They will be happy to leave their kids with a brother simply because he is a "brother".

  • yadda yadda 2
    yadda yadda 2

    I agree with Eden's recommendations. I would also say that anyone charged by the authorities should be immediately removed from all privileges and unsupervised contact with minors pending the outcome of the legal proceedings, since those can sometimes progress very slowly through the court.

    I would go even further and say, as I said in my earlier thread on the standard of evidence in the courts, that the child together with the aggrieved parent/caregivers combined testimony should count as two witnesses. A court conviction would count as a third witness.

    Even in the absence of two witnesses of any kind, the elders are still scripturally bound to make a 'thorough investigation' - Deuteronomy 19:18. Thus the Watchtower's position that the elders cannot take the matter any further if there is only one witness and the accused denies guilt is doubly reprehensible - from a commonsense, morally correct perspective and a scriptural perspective.

    Do the courts let a guilty paedophile off without receiving a sentence just because the paedophile expresses remorse? Certainly not. And neither should the elders. The standard should be higher in the congregation not softer, and all the more so for such a vile thing. The paramount thing is to protect the children, not guess the genuiness of any expressed repentance. Elders cannot read hearts, and a man wicked enough to commit such a crime cannot be trusted.

    Disfellowshipping is indeed a 'punishment' - see 2 Cor 2:6, where most translations use the word 'punishment' not 'rebuke' as the NWT does, also 2 Cor 10:6. The elders are not in a position to even come close to assessing true repentance for such a heinous crime, where the rate of recidivism is notoriously high. "Remove the wicked man from amongst yourselves" and there are not many things more wicked than paedophilia.

  • konceptual99


    Interesting point on the blood issue. You are correct that it's an auto DA (assuming you cannot prove repentance). I would argue that it's not the same as disfellowshipping as it's seen as a individual led action rather than congregational but the end result is the same so I can see your point. I am looking at DFing in the context of how I beleive it should be implemented and not how it actually is. There is no doubt that people are DFed to set an example, because they are not showing enough "godly repentance" and to punish as opposed to purely as a protection for the congregation from a devisive influence. That's a wider debate altogether though.

    In this context, I wouldn't really take real issue with a pedo being thrown out - I don't have any sympathy. I would agree 100% that if they were found guilty they should never hold any office. I don't think that is harsh at all as evidence shows that many peodophiles are repeat offenders. The only exception to prove the rule would be some allowance for common sense in the tiny, tiny minority of cases where the offender may only be classed as pedophille in a legal sense - I hate to put it like that but I think you know what I mean. I think the law in the UK allows for some common sense in these scenarios as well so it is unlikely, for example, that a 15 year old boy would be forced to sign the sex offenders register if he had sex with another 15 year old.

    You are also quite right to bring it back to the victim. I guess, seeing the congregation taking firm, consistent and transparent action may provide a modicum of comfort that the offender and their behaviour will not be tolerated. I am not sure how a victim would cope with their attacker being reinstated though.


    You are correct that there are people that are too trusting and get hoodwinked by the "spiritual paradise" booshee and I am not absolving the congregation/society of any responsibility. All I am saying is that despite any best endevours these type of sickos are deviant and deceptive to the point of being able to hide in all parts of society. The org could do a lot more to prevent things but ultimately parents cannot be blind to the possiblity that someone in the congregation could be an abuser and that the org's half baked policy provides only limited protection.

    The other frightening thing about child abuse is that it is often someone in the close or extended family that is the abuser so a parent's guard needs to be up at all times.

  • punkofnice

    I believe the out of context '2 witness' get out clause was instituted at a high level by a paedophile or paedophiles on the GB.

    The reason I feel, the GB go so soft on paedos is in case they themselves are caught. Their own rules will protect them.

    I conclude that 1 or all the GB are paedos!

  • konceptual99


    Got to agree that there is none so wicked as a child abuser and from that perspective have no issue with them being disfellowshipped. I also agree they cannot be trusted. I also agree that the elders are not qualified to read hearts or make a judgement on true repentance - in fact there is very little confidence that someone who has been an offender would not reoffend given enough opportunity.

    Given that, does that mean that a child molester can never be reinstated? Is it possible for them to be repentant even though they pose a risk? Is it acceptable for them to be let back into the congregation and managed so as to minimise the risk or is it better never to let them back in? Can there be any scope for forgiveness and mercy in this or have they crossed the line and committed "the unforgivable sin"?

    Can a pedophille ever come into the congregation in the same way a gay person or alcoholic can be a Witness just so long as they control their behaviour to meet the standards set by the congregation? I am, of course, not equating any of these or suggesting being gay is like having a sickness like alcholism - I hope you get my point!

    If you believe that it is up to God to judge and that forgiveness is open to all then do you have to accept that there could be ones in the congregation that might pose a threat to your children? Can the congregation and parents really monitor these ones or do you take the safest course of action and say no pedo can be a Witness?

  • rip van winkle
    rip van winkle

    The other problem is that even if the pedo is automatically disfellowshipped, there isn't any notification to the parents of young children regarding the molestation. They only know that Brother Pedo has lost his privileges. No one knows why Brother Pedo lost privileges.

    Ok, so he's repentant and sometime later it was determined by the branch office that the pedo is not a predator. Again, the parents are not told. And what about the new members of the congregation who have children and do not know the history of Brother Pedo.

    Yes, parents have a responsibility to their children. But pedo's ingratiate themselves to families. They gravitate towards single family households where their assistance is welcome. Over time, they groom the children. The family and the child trust Bro Pedo.

    The problem with it is that everyone remains silent And that silence, that secret puts every child that will come in contact with a pedo in danger.

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