During the Australian Royal Commission inquiry, Jehovah’s Witness governing body member Geoffrey Jackson was asked by the Chairperson about corporal punishment, or physical discipline. The Chairperson referenced a scripture that talks about the “rod of discipline” and asked what that meant; his point was that the bible’s words may have been applied a certain way at the time it was written, but today, social standards have changed, so the application has perhaps changed. During the course of the questioning, Jackson balked and avoided giving testimony about how Jehovah’s Witnesses view corporal punishment; then, when finally cornered, he did what Witnesses often do in such situations.
Three times Jackson was asked if “the church” accepted corporal punishment; twice he avoided the question, and then finally, during the third round of questions, he had the audacity to say that it was not accepted. Fortunately the Chairperson didn’t accept his answer at face value, and pushed the subject:
Note, first, the way he tried to act as if the question of “Do you accept corporal punishment” meant him personally, when twice he was just asked if the church accepted it. Then he outright lied by saying that “no … not as an organization.” He then corrected himself and said that they don’t “encourage” it.
One of the most telling parts of this exchange is how Jackson avoided the question at least twice before being cornered; when you’re afraid to tell the truth, you may dance around the question and then deflect the answer by pretending you thought the question meant something different. This is all done in the hopes that the person asking will drop the subject, accept your half-truth, or miss what you’re saying or trying to avoid saying. Fortunately the Chairperson was too smart to fall for these immature, dishonest, politician-like techniques, and kept at the question. Even then, Jackson lied. He lied.
Anyone who has been one of Jehovah’s Witnesses will tell you that parents in the religion practice corporal punishment regularly, sometimes to an extreme degree. When I was an active Witness, parents were known for spanking their children with belts, wooden spoons, or their bare hands. There was never a meeting that went by without the sounds of a child in the restroom, screaming from such a spanking. Sometimes parents wouldn’t even take them out of the auditorium but would smack, slap, yank on hair, or even pinch the children while they sat in their seats. Lest you think this was only for major offenses, one woman I know started swatting her son when he was six months old. Six months. Still a baby who couldn’t walk, talk, or even use the toilet, but apparently he would do something that was worthy of a smack on his diapered behind.
The emotional toll from this type of “discipline” is very serious as I can attest, even though my mother never put a hand on me. She did, however, beat my brother with a cutting board that she had trimmed down to a paddle. I still get upset thinking about how viciously she would attack him with that thing, and him being a child half her size.
When deciding to write this column, I didn’t want my own experiences to be the only ones that demonstrated the extent of this type of abuse that was dished out as “discipline.” I put the following note in an ex-JW Facebook group:
Here is a sampling of the responses that were posted:
A Facebook group for Jehovah’s Witnesses in particular was also brought to my attention, and I found the following comments posted there by professed JWs:
I realize that some Facebook comments do not equate to an empirical study of how often Jehovah’s Witnesses spank or otherwise inflict corporal punishment on their children, but keep in mind that these Facebook accounts are all of real people with their names and profile pictures displayed; they’re not anonymous trolling comments left at the end of some news article. They’re all different ages and from different areas of the world, and they all tell the same story of beatings and abuse that were common in the Kingdom Hall.
The fact that Jackson lied on the stand tells me that he knows how shameful their record is when it comes to protecting children from all sorts of abuse. His testimony went on to talk about the “spirit” of their publications in not encouraging corporal punishment, but when you have this long record of beatings disguised as punishment and the legacy of children traumatized by this, it’s obvious that your publications have failed in their “spirit.” Yet, he doesn’t acknowledge that failure, not once. He does nothing, not with actions and not even his words, to protect victims. Elders sit back and do nothing while children are being beaten, or are the worst offenders themselves when it comes to abuse, and Jackson pleads a case for the “spirit” of their publications. Rather than accepting any type of responsibility or accountability for the atmosphere created in Kingdom Halls and the vicious beatings that are all too common and which, like pedophilia cases, are ignored, swept under the rug, or put back on the victims as their own fault, he squirms and avoids the subject altogether, and then outright lies. Like the pedophilia cases, he abandons the victims to this horrific treatment they face and tries to make himself and the governing body look good by talking about the “spirit” of their literature, after outright lying, without one thought as to how it must make the victims feel, sitting on their bruised behinds and hearing the governing body say that they don’t allow corporal punishment.
If children get hit, slapped, spanked, beaten, and otherwise punished for minor infractions at the Kingdom Hall and for things like not being able to stay awake during long and lengthy meetings that put most adults to sleep, what should Jackson’s punishment be for lying? Maybe I should get my mom’s old cutting board and head up to New York and mete out some discipline myself. I mean that in the best “spirit” possible.
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