Jehovah’s Witnesses have what they call a “two witness” rule when it comes to allegations of a serious sin. Anyone making an accusation against another person, for the most part, must present a second witness to that crime or wrongdoing, if the accused person does not confess. If the accuser cannot produce another witness, the matter is typically dropped.
JWs base this rule on Matthew 18:16, which says in part, “so that on the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established,” and 1 Timothy 5:19, which says, “Do not accept an accusation against an older man except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.” This is based on the law in Deuteronomy 19:15, which says, “No single witness may convict another for any error or any sin that he may commit. On the testimony of two witnesses or on the testimony of three witnesses the matter should be established.”
This may seem like a wise rule, as you don’t typically want to convict someone of a crime based on a “he said, she said” scenario. However, consider for a moment the situation of child sex assaults. How can there possibly be a second witness to this? Demanding this policy be followed for every type of accusation no matter the nature seems unnecessarily arbitrary and downright cruel, not to mention outdated. The need for additional witnesses was apparent back in bible times, when crimes could not be investigated using DNA, fingerprints, photographs, security camera video, etc. The only proof they could typically rely on was the word of witnesses to a crime. This is no longer true today.
However, under the JW’s strict adherence to their interpretation of these scriptures, if a pedophile does a good job of keeping his or her actions a secret, they are pretty much free to continue their behavior with impunity. As long as they don’t confess, and just perform their obscene acts upon a child in private, nothing can be done to them.
Why Not Call the Police?
If you’re not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you might immediately wonder why the parents of an alleged victim don’t just call the police. The literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses says that they are free to do this if they so choose, but the truth of the matter is that they are often privately discouraged from doing this. Why? Note 1 Corinthians 6:1-6 which says, in part, “Does any one of you who has a dispute with another dare to go to court before unrighteous men, and not before the holy ones? … I am speaking to move you to shame. Is there not one wise man among you who is able to judge between his brothers? Instead, brother goes to court against brother, and before unbelievers at that!”
Because of this scripture, and because JWs do not want to “bring reproach on Jehovah’s name,” or cause anyone on the outside of the organization to think poorly of what goes on inside, they are strongly discouraged from calling the police. This discouragement is done in private, as advising parents and others against calling the police publicly or in their literature could open them up to lawsuits.
Misapplication of Scripture
Where does the misapplication of scripture come into play? While both Matthew and Deuteronomy talk about the need for two witnesses, Deuteronomy 22, in giving additional laws to the nation of Israel, talks about a woman being raped. The woman was required to scream during this attack and, if she did not, she was put to death along with the rapist for apparently consenting to the act. However, verses 25-27 say that if the assault happened in a field, the man alone should die, “For he happened to meet her in the field, and the engaged girl screamed, but there was no one to rescue her.”
In other words, there was an exception to this “two witness” rule in Deuteronomy, namely, if it was a sexual assault and if it happened in a field, or isolated area where no one could see it or be there to “rescue her.” By not applying these scriptures to cases of child rape, Jehovah’s Witnesses are actually ignoring the bible’s direction in this regard, as these child sex assaults typically happen in private areas, away from others, where no one is around to “rescue” that child or be witness to the attack.
Additionally, when it comes to calling the police, the scriptures in 1 Corinthians 6 were not talking about sex crimes and rape, and certainly not these crimes being committed against children. Note verses 7 and 8: “Really, it is already a defeat for you when you have lawsuits with one another … Why do you not rather let yourselves be defrauded?”
Note the wording of these scriptures. It talks about “lawsuits” and being “defrauded.” Obviously this was referring to business transactions and things that might be handled in a civil court, not accusations of raping a child!
The Real Issue
The real issue when it comes to how Jehovah’s Witnesses handle child sex assault accusations and their “two witness” rule is that they are stubbornly adamant about doing things their own way, and refuse to listen to a dissenting opinion. No one else can try to explain a different interpretation of the scriptures to them, or point out scriptures they’re ignoring. They strongly feel that they, and they alone, have the truth about the bible and scriptures, and no one can tell them anything different.
The above application of the verses in Deuteronomy, about an exception to the “two witness” rule being applied to cases of rape in isolated areas, is logical and sound and based solely on scripture; it’s not just some random personal opinion or taken from other religious material. However, they refuse to consider this, or hear anyone suggest they handle things differently.
The hypocrisy of their approach is that Jehovah’s Witnesses always encourage others to “keep an open mind” about the bible and to examine what it says against their long-held beliefs, but refuse to do the same. They are blatantly misapplying and ignoring scriptures, not in a trivial matter, but in cases of sexual assault. The scriptures are clear, but unless they arrive at a conclusion on their own, they won’t budge in their own self-righteous stubbornness.
Please see this post, regarding the hypocrisy of Jehovah’s Witnesses demanding two witnesses for child molestation but taking it on themselves to “discern” if an adult woman has really been raped, with or without that second witness.
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