Recently I came across a confidential letter composed by the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, which is the legal name of Jehovah’s Witnesses, regarding a case of child molestation in a congregation. The instructions in this letter regarding that case reveal just how devastating the policies and procedures of these men are, and why so many are concerned about the proliferation of pedophilia within their ranks.
The letter itself is concerning a man named Jonathan Kendrick, who attended a congregation in California. The letter is in response to correspondence sent in by his local body of elders, after it became known that he had fondled his stepdaughter’s breasts while she slept.
Their response is two-part; first, they note that because the incident became “known to outside members of the family,” Kendrick would no longer be qualified to serve as a ministerial servant, which is like an elder in training. Second, they make reference to another book of instructions for the congregation regarding sexual matters, which says:
“Uncleanness includes an intentional momentary touching of sexual parts or caressing of breasts. Such minor uncleanness can be handled at the discretion of an elder or two; it does not require a judicial committee hearing.”
There are three things wrong with their response; consider:
Touching of the Breasts
The instructions given regarding touching of the breasts are the standards Jehovah’s Witnesses live by when dating and before marriage. This type of “heavy petting” is considered inappropriate. This blog post is not written to argue this standard, my objection is that they apply this standard, written for two consenting adults who are dating, to an incident of child molestation! This man went into his stepdaughter’s room while she was asleep and began fondling her breasts without her knowledge or consent, not that a minor child can consent in the first place. They see no difference between that type of lewd and vulgar behavior and going a little too far with a grownup woman you’re dating.
Note that the letter refers to the incident as “minor uncleanness.” This might be a good phrase to use when you’re talking about two adults, but molesting a young child while she sleeps is not minor, and is not a simple uncleanness. The law refers to this type of act as “criminal sexual conduct,” and it could very well have involved jail time, had it been reported to the police.
However, as far as Jehovah’s Witnesses are concerned, they see no difference between a sexual act between two consenting adults and a criminal act of molestation committed against a child. As I’ve brought out in the category on Rape, women who are raped are told to fight to the death as they are required to “flee from fornication.” Jehovah’s Witnesses now equate, not just the rape of an adult, but also the sexual molestation of a child with a form of fornication! This is obvious by the fact that they never use the term “molestation” or address the fact that she was a non-consenting child at all. Their only concern is that he touched the breast of someone to whom he’s not married.
Reputation Versus the Act Itself
Another issue with the letter is that they instruct them to remove Kendrick as a ministerial servant because the act was “known to outside members of the family,” not because of the act itself! They don’t say that he should be removed as a ministerial servant because he molested a child, as this is apparently not as important as the act becoming known to others.
This is a terrible, gross oversight on the part of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their first concern should be the act of molestation itself, and this alone should bar him from being qualified to serve as a ministerial servant. Whether or not people outside the family came to know about the incident should be of little concern when it comes to the man’s qualifications. The message this sends is that you can molest a child and still be an active member in good standing and even have positions of authority over others, as long as you commit that molestation secretly and quietly.
This raises many, many serious questions and doubts about the value system of Jehovah’s Witnesses; the horrific, vulgar, traumatizing act committed against a child is not as important as their reputation. How does this make the victim feel? Also, are they not concerned at all about the mental state of the man who would do this? They assume that a man who would molest a child is still qualified to stand in front of the congregation and give discourses and sermons that include counsel and direction, to an audience that includes children and families? If no one outside the family had known about Kendrick’s acts of molestation, would he still have remained a ministerial servant? They would still see him as qualified to hold that position despite fondling his stepdaughter while she slept?
Scant Further Instructions
The letter goes on to instruct the elders to meet with Kendrick and “provide him with strong Scriptural counsel.” This is their only instruction as to what to do next; there is no police call made, and no warning to other parents. When someone molests a child, you involve the police not just to punish that person but also to keep them away from other children so they are not in danger. Jehovah’s Witnesses warn other parents that there is a pedophile or child molester in their midst only under extreme circumstances, in order to “protect the confidential talk” of those ones.
If you think this is a minor matter, Jonathan Kendrick later went on to molest another young member of his congregation, Candace Conti, who sued the organization for how they handled this original molestation case and for not warning other parents. A jury found the religion guilty of negligence and culpable for her molestation, and awarded her some $28 million.
These instructions really betray so many vulgarities about how Jehovah’s Witnesses handle child molestation within their religion. They see no difference between molesting a child while she’s sleeping and groping your adult girlfriend while on a date, and show little to no concern for other potential victims. Molesting a child in of itself does not disqualify you for privileges of service and authority in the congregation, as I’ve brought out in other posts; they’re more concerned with how many people know about the molestation than the actual criminal conduct.
Anyone with doubts or questions about their policies would do well to think seriously about this correspondence, and what it reveals as to the thinking of the men in charge of this religion. How can you say your own children are safe when under the roof of the Kingdom Hall, and how can I trust the thinking of these men who reason on such a horrific act in such an obscene way?
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