Jehovah’s Witnesses Rely on Bible To Defend Themselves Against Sex Abuse Allegations

Private institutions do not like to be accused of allowing sex abuse of their children. Groups like the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America defend themselves against sex abuse claims by arguing they were ignorant what was happening or were fooled by their employees and volunteers who abused the children.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses are trying a new defense. They are relying on the Bible to defend themselves against sex abuse allegations.

Two senior members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia face a royal commission that early determined that church does not protect children from sexual abuse.  In preparing their defense, the church plans to cite their reliance on the “two witness rule” followed by the Jehovah’s Witness church.  The rule comes from the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 18, verses 15-16:

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church.

The Jehovah Witnesses use this “rule” to explain why they failed to report child sexual abuse in the church to civil authorities.  There are rarely any witnesses to such crimes.  The crimes rely on secrecy in order for them to be carried out.  The fact that the church says it requires a “two witness” rule is ridiculous and a cynical use of a sacred text to accomplish their cynical purposes.

According to one Australian media report, “The Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain they act on any allegation of child sex abuse, despite the child abuse royal commission finding they have not reported a single one of 1006 alleged perpetrators to police.” The Jehovah’s Witnesses argue that they handled the accusations internally, following the rule set forth in Matthew 18:15-16.

The bigger picture, as always, is that internal handling of sexual abuse allegations only leads to a cover-up of the problem, a bigger problem, and greater harm to the victims.  This is exactly the pattern in the Catholic Church.  It is exactly the pattern in the Boy Scouts.  We now see that it is the pattern in the Jehovah’s Witnesses church as well.

Civil authorities should be contacted first when there is a sexual abuse allegation.

The Royal Commission needs to hold the church’s feet to the fire and demand answers beyond hiding behind a ludicrous witness rule that has obviously failed.  If the Jehovah’s Witnesses are serious about protecting children, they will dismantle this rule and be transparent with those who are trying to help children.

Dumas Law Group has law offices in Portland, Oregon and serves clients in Oregon, Washington, California, and other states.

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