The UK Charity Commission Inquiry Into Jehovah’s Witnesses

According to their website:

The Charity Commission is the independent regulator for charities in England and Wales.  Its overall mission is to ensure that charities work effectively amongst society for the benefit of the public.

The Charity Commission promotes legal compliance through publications and casework. It has strong legal powers to investigate and deal with fraud and dishonesty in charities, including the powers to protect and freeze charity assets, if a formal investigation establishes serious mismanagement or abuse. Whilst the Commission is not a prosecuting authority, it is authorised to work with the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, and other authorities.”

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May, 2014:

The Charity Commission stated that it had “serious concerns” about Jehovah’s Witnesses, after receiving reports that a congregation in Manchester allowed a man named Jonathan Rose, who had been jailed for raping children in that congregation, to actually question the women he had been convicted of molesting.

The incident happened during a judicial committee meeting held after Rose’s release from jail, in order for the elders to determine if he should be disfellowshipped, as they didn’t feel their testimony in court, or the court decision itself, was sufficient evidence to make that determination. (See this news story for more details.)

June, 2014:

The Charity Commission announced that it was opening a full investigation into Jehovah’s Witnesses and their safeguarding procedures, although it would not include an investigation into abuse allegations themselves.

Of course Jehovah’s Witnesses responded by immediately appealing this decision to investigate them, and they dragged the appeals process on so long that a judge finally had to step in and say that the delay may be putting children in danger (note this site):

“[Judge] McKenna said, “I give weight to the fact that the [Commission’s] inquiry and production order relate to safeguarding matters which could… logically concern on-going risks to people who are still children.””

March, 2016:

It was announced that the court dismissed Watch Tower’s challenge to the commission, so that their inquiry could continue to progress.

 

July, 2017:

The Charity Commission released an initial findings regarding the individual congregation they were investigating, which you can read in its entirety at this page. Note a few highlights ( bold added for emphasis):

Conflict of interests

From the inquiries findings, the elders investigating Jonathan Rose were friends of his, and did nothing to address any potential conflict of interest that might have arisen:

  • “the inquiry also found that there is no evidence that the trustees considered any potential conflicts of loyalty when dealing with the allegation of abuse – the inquiry was informed that at least 2 of the trustees involved in dealing with the allegation were close friends of Mr Rose – consideration should have been given as to whether their friendship could, or could be seen to, interfere with the trustees’ ability to deal with the allegations only in the best interests of the charity – once any conflicts of loyalty were identified the trustees had a duty to prevent them affecting the decision making process – the trustees should also have made a written record of how these conflicts were identified and dealt with”

Two witnesses

The elders overlooked the allegations made by an original victim of Rose’s conduct. This is proof that, even when elders have their needed “two witnesses,” these second witnesses are often dismissed or ignored:

  • “the trustees informed the Commission on 7 September 2012 that they had no knowledge of any other allegations of a similar nature being made against Mr Rose – however, as explained below, an earlier allegation had been made by Person B”

Failure to report

The elders were chastised for failing to report the allegations of abuse to police or anyone else:

  • “The inquiry found that the trustees of the charity did not report the allegation of child sexual abuse to the police or to other authorities. Nor did it report the matter as a serious incident to the Commission. Once again there is no written record of how these decisions were made and what risks were considered. Whilst the allegation made was historic in nature and there was no suggestion that Person A was still at risk of abuse, this did not mean that Mr Rose did not represent a potential ongoing risk to other members of the congregation.”

This, too, is not new for Jehovah’s Witnesses, as it was painfully obvious during the Australian Royal Commission Inquiry that elders give no thought as to the risk posed to children when they refuse to notify authorities of allegations of abuse:

Sex between adults and teens

After referring to one of the victims in the case as “economical with the truth,” the elders dismissed allegations against Rose because he was 19 at the time, and she was 15:

  • “They added, ‘when [Person B] accused Jonathan [Rose] of wrongdoing he was 19 years old and she was 15, we did not view this as child abuse but as a matter between 2 teenagers’.”

I’m well aware of the fact that minors can be sexually active at age 15, but it was later stated that this victim referred to their encounter as “non-consensual.”  Obviously elders have no understanding of what is meant by “consent,” and they are not trained to properly investigate these matters. This is why these cases need to be reported to police and left in the hands of professionals, each and every time.

Demands that victims face abuser

After Rose was released from prison, the elders still demanded that his victims meet with him face-to-face in a judicial committee meeting, to determine if he should be disfellowshipped. One victim had already made her accusation in writing, and note that Rose had gone on trial and was convicted of sexually abusing two girls. Despite this, the Charity Commission stated:

  • “…based on evidence received, it is the inquiry’s view that the victims were given the strong impression that if they did not attend the appeal it was unlikely that any action would be taken against Mr Rose.”

The audience

The Charity Commission noted the very large group of men who were in attendance to hear the statements of the victims:

  • “The inquiry established that, on 2 April 2014, the face-to-face meetings went ahead as scheduled. The meetings were presided over by 4 members of the appeal committee, which did not include elders of the charity. Three members of the original judicial committee were present as observers and did not participate. Also in attendance was a former elder of the congregation who had been involved with Person B’s allegations in the early 1990s. He was not a member of the committee. He had however come to support and sit with Jonathan Rose. Person B was distressed by his presence and complained; she said she had made a formal complaint about him to WTBTSB – which was still unresolved. The committee asked him to leave.”

All told, 8 men showed up, in addition to Rose himself. Eight men, to sit and observe and listen to these women talk about being sexually abused.

Asked if they were responsible for their own abuse

The nature of this meeting was absolutely disgusting, as the Charity Commission discovered:

  • “The inquiry has evidence that the meetings lasted for more than 3 hours and heard separate testimonies from Person A, Person B and Person C. The witnesses were asked inappropriate questions by both members of the appeal committee and Jonathan Rose. One member of the committee asked Person B, ‘did you ever egg him on? Goad him on?’ Jonathan Rose was allowed to ask Person B, ‘what was I supposed to have done to you that night?’ As she had already provided an account of the nature of her allegations of abuse in her testimony she responded, ‘you know what you did’. In her evidence to the inquiry, Person B explained that she understood a member of the committee to be instructing her to go into detail by telling her ‘answer the question’. Person B did as she was instructed and gave her testimony again, in front of 7 elders and Jonathan Rose.”

Their conclusions

The Charity Commission stated, in conclusion:

  • witnesses, who had suffered or made allegations of child sexual abuse, endured inappropriate, demeaning and disrespectful questioning by the appeal committee and Mr Rose
  • this questioning took place in the presence of Mr Rose, who had been convicted of indecently assaulting 2 of the witnesses
  • Mr Rose was permitted to cross-examine at individuals whom he had been convicted of indecently assaulting or had made previous allegations of sexual abuse

The Charity Commission also stated that the elders showed a “lack of candor” in not being completely truthful with the Commission as to all the allegations of abuse that had been brought against Rose.

According to this news story:

“Harvey Grenville, head of investigations and enforcement at the Charity Commission, said: “The victims of abuse were badly let down by the charity. The trustees should have made the victims’ welfare their first priority. Instead, their actions and omissions, both in response to allegations of abuse, and in their attitude towards our investigation, fell short of what the public would expect of those running a charity in a modern society.”

The Charity Commission is also continuing their inquiry into the religion as a whole.

Correcting Misinformation

After sharing one of the news stories above on Facebook, these comments were posted:

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Many people know Lloyd Evans aka John Cedars from JWsurvey.org and the John Cedars YouTube channel.

That conversation took place February 11-12, 2016, yet you’ll note the Charity Commission was still in court, fighting the Watchtower, at that time.

Obviously the Commission was still investigating Watchtower and had not yet made any decision regarding their charitable status, otherwise they would not have been in court.

After the above exchange, I contacted Jonathan Sanders, former investigator at the Charity Commission directly:

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Mr. Sanders responded to me quite promptly with the following message:

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Since the initial publication of this post, I have been contacted by many people who have said that Lloyd Evans stated in a video some time back that the Charity Commission “endorses” the Watchtower and “isn’t concerned” with them.

I haven’t seen this video and have no explanation for those obviously dishonest statements, but will point out that the UK Supreme Court did not even hear the Watchtower’s final appeal; they turned down their application for an appeal itself.

If the Charity Commission were not doing its job or “endorsed” the Watchtower in any way, Watchtower would have at least had an audience with the higher court, and would have potentially won their two-year battle to squash this Inquiry.

To ensure accurate information is being received and disseminated, I would suggest that victims approach the Commission directly and get their information from the Commission directly, as Lloyd Evans aka John Cedars is obviously not a reliable and credible source of information.

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