If you found out that a man had credible accusations against him of molesting little children, or was guilty of doing this in the past, what would you do? Follow him around day and night to ensure he never did this again? Beat him to death with a tire iron?
How about putting him in a position of authority over others, including little children?
Unfortunately Jehovah’s Witnesses choose this last option, and while they have faced backlash in the media and civil suits from those who have been molested by men in good standing in their congregation, they still insist on ignoring credible threats of pedophilia without a second witness to the occurrence. Many have coined the phrase “pedophile’s paradise” to describe this religion.
A letter sent to all elders in October 2012 emphasized how pedophiles can actually be put in positions of authority over others. Note a few points in that letter (bold added for emphasis).
Who is Considered a Predator
If … the elders believe he may be a ‘predator,’ the elders should immediately call the Service Department for assistance. A ‘predator’ is one who clearly lacks self-control and by his actions provides reason to believe he will continue to prey on children. Not every individual who has sexually abused a child in the past is considered a ‘predator.’ The branch office, not the local body of elders, determines whether an individual who has sexually abused children in the past will be considered a ‘predator.’
If the branch office determines that an individual will be considered a ‘predator,’ parents with minor children will need to be warned of the danger that exists so that they can protect their children. In such a case, and only after receiving direction and instructions from the Service Department, two elders should be assigned to meet with the parents of minor children in order to provide a warning.
Stop for a moment. There are a few important points to take from this:
1. Only if a man is determined to be a “predator” will other parents in the congregation be warned of the danger. Being deemed a “predator” is not automatic in cases of sexual assault of children. If a man is not determined to be a predator, no warnings are issued to parents and rarely will anyone in the congregation know of this person’s past actions.
2. The branch office determines who is considered to be a predator. For those who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses, the branch office is like a headquarters for JWs and it oversees hundreds of congregations. A branch office may not be in the same country as the congregation it oversees. For example, the branch office in Mexico oversees Guatemala, Honduras, and four other countries. The branch office in Germany serves that country and three others.
The point is that these remote branches offices will determine if a man who has committed an act of pedophilia in the past is a “predator” and if other families in the congregation should be warned. So, for instance, if a man in Honduras raped a little boy, his local elders will write a letter to the branch office in Mexico and outline the situation. The men in the Mexican branch office, who have never met this pedophile and who know nothing about him, his victim, or his situation other than what they read in that letter, will determine if he’s a “predator” and if other families in the congregation should be warned of any potential threat.
If the branch office does not deem him a “predator,” no warnings are issued and the matter is kept private and confidential.
A “Known Child Molester”
Who is considered a known child molester? The January 1, 1997, Watchtower article ‘Let Us Abhor What Is Wicked’ mentions … that a man ‘known to have been a child molester’ does not qualify for privileges in the congregation. The expression ‘known to have been a child molester’ has reference to how such a man is considered in the community and in the Christian congregation. … Keep in mind that the branch office, not the local body of elders, determines whether one who has sexually abused a child is considered a known child molester.
The wording of this paragraph needs to be considered carefully, as it shows how deceitful the organization can be. When talking about a “known child molester,” a person might assume this means it’s known by anyone that he’s molested a child, including just the elders. I can attest to this because I talked with many in some local congregations who assumed that any man who had molested a child in the past could not qualify to be an elder.
However, a “known child molester” refers to a person with a bad reputation in the community and the congregation. If the community in which he lives and rank-and-file members of the congregation aren’t aware of his actions, he is not a “known child molester,” even if elders in his local congregation know of his actions.
Here too we see that the branch office, which could be hundreds of miles away from this man and far removed from the situation, will determine if this man’s actions qualify him to be this “known child molester.” Note that it’s not the act of molesting a child alone that makes him a “known child molester,” but how many people are aware of those actions.
Who Qualifies for Positions of Authority
It cannot be said in every case that one who has sexually abused a child could never qualify for privileges of service in the congregation…
So there you have it. If you’ve molested a child in the past, this doesn’t automatically disqualify you from being an elder or having other privileges in the congregation. While they give cautions and warnings to determine if a child molester can be an elder, note:
Before privileges can be extended, such a man … must ‘also have a fine testimony’ from individuals inside and outside the congregation.
So his reputation is important, but consider these parts together. If a man is not determined to be a predator by a remote branch office, no one is told about his past behavior. If the congregation doesn’t know about his past behavior, of course he can have a “fine testimony” from others, simply because they’re ignorant of his actions.
This is much like a man who abuses his wife behind closed doors, but seems so nice and charming to friends and family. Of course he has a good reputation with them, simply because they don’t know any better, but not because he’s a good person.
Risk of Repeated Behavior
Child sexual abuse reveals an unnatural fleshly weakness. Experience has shown that such an adult may well molest other children. True, not every child molester repeats the sin, but many do.
So they openly admit that someone who sexually abuses a child has an “unnatural” weakness, that he “may well” molest another child, and that “many” repeat this so-called sin. Despite all that, they still need to sit around and think about whether or not he’s a credible threat, and they want a remote branch office, hundreds of miles away, to do this and to determine if he qualifies for a position of authority in the congregation.
The Very Real Risk
Of course any pedophile anywhere is a risk for children, but having these men as elders and ministerial servants (like elders in training) poses an even more concrete risk. This is because adults trust these men implicitly. After all, this letter states quite clearly that elders must have a “fine testimony” or stellar reputation. Congregation members don’t think to question that reputation.
Most congregation members are also ignorant of these very procedures, as this letter to elders was meant to be confidential and was not shared with the congregation. As said, when the Watchtower article referenced above came out, the rank-and-file members of the congregation assumed the term “known child molester” meant that his actions were known to anyone, period, and that such a man would never qualify to be an elder.
Elders also have authority in the congregation. Some decide that they should study the bible with young ones, especially children in single family homes. When Jehovah’s Witnesses prepare for their preaching work, they meet as a group beforehand and split up into pairs or groups of four. Elders or ministerial servants are the ones in charge of making these groups, and often work with young ones alone to “encourage them.”
Parents rarely question these scenarios and even feel privileged when elders show such attention to their children. They trust these men and are told to be obedient to their authority, so when an elder wants to be alone with their child, they readily allow it.
Put all these pieces of the puzzle together:
1. A man’s past of molesting children is kept secret unless a remote branch office decides otherwise.
2. If the branch office decides that not enough people know about his actions, he has that “fine testimony” and he’s qualified to be an elder.
3. As an elder he then has authority and the implicit trust of the congregation which in turn allows him to be alone with other children.
4. Even if he molests another child, the organization demands a second witness or confession to this molestation before they take any action.
So my question to JWs is, with all this information together, why wouldn’t someone assume that the organization is a pedophile’s paradise?
Note: A letter was sent to all congregation elders worldwide on August 1, 2016, with new direction for handling child sex abuse cases and allegations. To see both letters in their entirety along with a comparison of this new direction, download the PDF file “Jehovah’s Witnesses and Child Sex Abuse – A Brief Handbook for Attorneys.”
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