Black Sun Journal has posted a fascinating article about allegations of cover up of sexual abuse with the Jehovah’s Witness Watchtower Society.
It is not unusual (perhaps even commonplace) for religious organizations to deny or cover up allegations of sexual abuse; see for example here, here, here, here and so on …
In most cases where I have represented victims of clergy sexual abuse, the evidence has indicated that persons’ in authority within the Church either had knowlege of the abuse, or actively covered it up.
What struck me was the lengths to which the Watchtower Society will go to deny or cover up allegations of sexual abuse within the Church. The article states:
Bowen’s group has criticized the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ policy that if an accused abuser denies the charge, two credible witnesses are required to establish guilt — due to literal application of such Bible verses as Deuteronomy 19:15 (“only on the evidence of two witnesses, or of three witnesses, shall a charge be sustained”).
If two witnesses are lacking, the accused is deemed innocent, charges remain confidential and — silentlambs says — parents who warn others are subject to disfellowshipping for slander.
Disfellowshipping is an extreme penalty that means a total cutoff of relationships by family members, friends and business associates who are Witnesses.
Sexual abuse is a crime of secrecy. Since most sexual abusers do not commit their criminal acts in the presence of witnesses the “two witnesses” requirement is one that would be next to impossible to meet.
To go even further by threatening victims who want to warn others of sexual abusers with being cut off from their family, friends and associates (the persons victims would turn to for help and support after being victimized) is perhaps an even greater betrayal than the sexual abuse itself.
In most jurisdictions in North America it is a crime for person’s in authority to fail to report allegations of sexual abuse to the approprite agency (Children’s Services etc.) so that the allegations can be investigated in an independent and unbiased manner.
Perhaps it is time that Religious groups be subjected to the same threat of criminal prosection as private citizens. See for example here .