Barrister Angus Stewart, lead counsel to the Australian Royal Commission Inquiry Into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse, recently released his initial findings regarding their questioning of Jehovah’s Witnesses. See this post to find out more about this inquiry and its purpose. One thing I admired about Barrister Stewart during this inquiry is that nothing seemed to escape his attention, including the attitudes of the elders and other men he questioned; Mr. Stewart wasn’t just coldly going over the facts of how they handle child sex abuse cases in the religion, but he picked up on how the organization and the men in charge seem to view these victims and the perpetrators, and even the law itself.
As an example, note what Mr. Stewart said on page 104 of his report:
Before you understand the significance of this statement, you need to realize that the inquiry discovered that Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia have had 1,006 reported pedophiles in their religion in the last few decades, with not one being reported to police by elders. Not one.
What he’s saying in the above section is that, yes, Jehovah’s Witnesses do perform a background or “Working With Children Check” (WWCC) on potential elders, as legally needed. Apparently it is a law in some parts of Australia that clergy who work with children go through this vetting process before they can be appointed; visit this website to find out more about this check.
However, note Mr. Stewart’s statement about the hypocrisy of Jehovah’s Witnesses performing these police checks while they themselves don’t report known pedophiles to the police! It’s obscenely brazen of Jehovah’s Witnesses to boast or even state that they comply with the law when it comes to performing background checks, but then withhold the same information that should be contained in the database that is referenced for those checks. If Jehovah’s Witnesses were selling a product, it would be like them saying, “Of course our products are all safe, there’s no record of anyone getting injured while using them,” while purposely not reporting the very injuries that they boast about checking.
What is also especially shameful about this is that many of these JW men and women who are known to be pedophiles may need to go through this same background check for reasons outside the religion; according to the website listed above, a person goes through this check if their secular work or volunteer activity brings them into any contact with a child, such as with teachers, coaches, and the like. Potential employers may be referencing this background check to protect the children in their care, but they too come up empty, because Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t report their own known cases of pedophilia. This puts other children in danger because those employers may unknowingly and unwittingly hire a pedophile, based on this lack of information in the WWCC database.
This is something that Barrister Stewart also noted and which I bring out in this post, when he pointedly told an elder that, even when Jehovah’s Witnesses are not satisfied that a pedophile will not re-offend, they still don’t call the police, asking, “You don’t take into consideration, do you, how people outside of the church might be kept safe from such a person?”
Failing to report these crimes to the persons responsible for this database shows their obscene lack of concern, as these pedophiles could very well be hired by schools, youth detention centers, sporting leagues, etc., and the molesters could then have even more unfettered access to vulnerable children. Interesting that Jehovah’s Witnesses often say that they are a “loving” religion and they “love their neighbors”:
Second, Jesus said: “You must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Verse 31; Leviticus 19:18) Love of God and love of neighbor are really inseparable. The second is a by-product of the first. (1 John 4:20, 21) If we love our neighbors as ourselves, we will treat them the way we want them to treat us. (Matthew 7:12) We thereby show that we love the God who made us—and them—in his image.—Genesis 1:26.
~ March 1, 2013, Watchtower
Despite their words, this love doesn’t seem to extend far enough to reasonably protect their neighbors’ children from the risk of sexual molestation by one of their own.
Consider too the entire purpose of this check; it’s to legally restrict people who are a risk to children from coming into contact with them and making them victims of their abuse, even in their church. Jehovah’s Witnesses have failed miserably to understand this danger; as brought out in the Pedophilia category of this site and the post mentioned above, they refuse to remove someone from the congregation unless there is a second witness to child sexual abuse, and even then, they’ve been known to dismiss such testimony and welcome predators back to the church after a short excommunication. This means that these ones have access to children in the congregation and when they go to people’s homes for their preaching work and bible studies, something that would no doubt be limited by law if these molesters didn’t pass this check.
Yet, Jehovah’s Witnesses boast that they comply with this check while at the same time, as Barrister Stewart said, undermine its efficacy (intended result) by not providing the same reports that others are expected to supply.
Their bold hypocrisy aside, it’s this overwhelming and systemic lack of concern for children that is the real problem. We’re not talking about checking someone’s credit to see how well they handle money or checking a criminal record to note if they would be a risk for stealing funds or vandalizing property. We’re also not talking about reporting damage to a building, as elders are directed to do so in the above instructions. We’re talking about protecting children, all children, from vicious cases of rape and sexual molestation. Jehovah’s Witnesses make hollow gestures at doing this by having elders go through this WWCC before their appointment, but then purposely suppress information meant to be used in this same check. As long as they appear to be clean, law-abiding citizens with no child abuse under their roof, that’s all that matters. Actual child abuse itself is of no consequence to them, so it would seem.
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