On the one hand, I can certainly see it. The boy was molested, repeatedly, by the same individual, over a long period of time. Shouldn't someone be held accountable? Of course.
On the other hand, it was an organization that was held accountable, and that organization has one of the strongest child-protective policies of anyone, and they've had it for a long long time. Ironically, that long track record, which you would think would play in their favor, was used against them. If they've had it for a long long time, and yet pedophiles still slip in on occasion, (just like banks still get robbed) they should have strengthened it! They were negligent! Sometimes you try to be proactive, and all you do is make yourself a bigger target to those who don't like you. Whereas, if you hide your head in the sand, and wail, Sergeant Shultz-like, “I know nothiinng,” you come out better.
At any rate, early in 2010, a Portland, Oregon jury deemed the Boy Scouts of America responsible for the above gross sexual abuse of a child, and assessed a judgment of $18.2 million in damages. That's said to be the largest such verdict in American history on behalf of a single plaintiff.
Eighteen million is a lot of dough. What's one person ever going to do with it? But it plays into that uniquely Western notion that tons of money is the way to compensate for anything. Sometimes I think much anti-West sentiment is stirred up through that mindset, especially among nations where family ties are still strong. Some foreign national is killed through Western action. “Gee, that's a shame,” is the response, “oh well, here's some money.” (though, not $18 million) Who can forget the French peasant in Tale of Two Cities who wasn't satisfied with silver coins tossed from the coach of the aristocrat which had run down his child?
Of course, I suppose you can argue that, if money truly is the god of society, then anything short of a huge monetary penalty will have no effect. You can't shame or guilt anyone, so the theory goes, since we've ridden ourselves of those concepts. Thus a representative of the plaintiff's legal team stated afterward his belief that the Boy Scouts have undertaken a truly noble and important task in mentoring young boys, for which they are to be commended, and its his sincere hope that the $18 million judgment will impress upon them the need to do it better. Now, that is an American sentiment if ever there was one. I guess I'd be more persuaded if that team plowed their one-third of the take back into charitable causes, perhaps even the Boy Scouts themselves, with the stipulation that it be used for anti-pedophile purposes. And perhaps they did. Do you think so?
Now, I'm no Boy Scout. I'm Tom Sheepandgoats. And whereas, in my second paragraph, I alluded to the fact that some may not like a given organization, does anyone really not like the Boy Scouts? Oh...maybe in these days of contempt for authority, here and there some will look askance at their practice of stuffing kids into uniforms and directing them to earn badges, as if preparing them for later military careers. In the main, though, Boy Scouts are highly regarded. They teach responsibility. They take you out camping. They teach you how to tie knots.
However, I belong to an organization that many loathe, Jehovah's Witnesses. They don't teach you how to tie knots. They wake you up when you're sleeping in late. But, like the Boy Scouts, they also report having a child-protective policy that outclasses that of anyone else. So enemies of Jehovah's Witnesses reacted with glee when, long after the Catholic priest pedophile scandal broke, Jehovah's Witnesses, too, were accused of harboring pedophiles. I admit, I was stung. Nothing in my long association with the faith lent any credence to such accusations. But they have persisted down to this day.
They are, however, bogus.
Not that child molestation has never occurred among our people. Of course it has. We are people. And in an organization of several million people, you're going to find many examples of anything. What is bogus is the attempt to draw a parallel between us and the never-ending reports of churches, schools, even Boy Scouts, in which young boys are victimized by leaders.
This is not hard to discern, if one has the motivation to look beyond the hysteria. Take this excerpt from a 2002 New York Times report, for example. On the surface, it looks pretty damning:
“But the shape of the [JW] scandal is far different than in the Catholic church, where most of the people accused of abuse are priests and a vast majority of the victims were boys and young men. In the Jehovah's Witnesses, where congregations are often collections of extended families and church elders are chosen from among the laypeople, some of those accused are elders, but most are congregation members. The victims who have stepped forward are mostly girls and young women, and many accusations involve incest.”
“Some of those accused are elders.” How many? Eleven, in the course of 100 years* All others are “laypeople,” though doubtless some are Ministerial Servants, roughly the equivalent of deacon.
To the extent it's true, you can't be proud of it, can you? Yet what is really being said? If you expand the base by...say, 30 or 40 fold to include, not just clergy, but also laity, and if you broaden the definition of child abuse to include, not just young boys, but also “girls and young women,” then and only then do you find numbers and percentages among Jehovah's Witnesses comparable to the leaders of these other groups! Put another way, if you want to catch pedophiles in most groups, you need search no further than the leaders. But if you hope for the same catch among Jehovah's Witnesses, you need to broaden your search to include everybody!
I could be wrong, (fat chance!) but try tracking child abuse among the laity of the Catholics or Evangelicals, as is done with Jehovah's Witnesses. Computers would fry trying to list all the names, I suspect. It's a little hard to say for sure because nobody, to my knowledge, has ever done it. Only Jehovah's Witnesses are so scrutinized. Why JWs and only JWs?
Sheesh, Sheepandgoats! You make it sound as if you don't care about cases of abuse among your own people! Not so! Every such instance is shameful, make no mistake. But it's also shameful that those who despise JWs would hold them to a standard 30-fold higher than that of anyone else, yet act as though they are comparing apples to apples. So, have at it! Someone show some initiative and keep track of any other group. Let me know how it turns out with the Catholics, the Evangelicals, the Politicians, the Atheists, the Environmentalists, yes...even the Boy Scouts, or anyone else. I'm pretty confident. After all, if the leaders of JWs are the cleanest of anyone [eleven bad ones in 100 years] due to the application of Bible principles, surely the same will be true among the rank and file.
Some, to their credit, have been able to see though the deliberate smear campaign. For instance, here is a site from someone who compares instances of gross sexual abuse among the various religions. The author states:
“Quakers, Reformed Jews, and (surprise surprise) Jehovah’s Witnesses have so far shown a pretty low incidence of abuses.”
And why is it “surprise surprise?” Because, quite obviously, someone has deliberately, and with some success, endeavored to distort the facts.** I won't go so far as to call them “Silent Phonies,” for I've no doubt there are genuine victims of child abuse among them. I won't even say that the following case is typical. But doesn't it appear that those who coached the victim here are more interested in discrediting the Watchtower than they are in helping victims of abuse?
"In Canada, Ms B brought a civil lawsuit against the elders of her former congregation and the WTBTS asking for $700,000 dollars concerning her child abuse at the hands of her father who was one of Jehovah's Witnesses claiming they were negligent, breached their duty, advised her against contacting the authorities, and against seeking professional help. What did the court find?"
"Presiding Judge Anne Molloy ruled that the WTS and elders were not at fault and did not contribute to or promote in any way the child abuse that took place. The court said, "There is no foundation on the facts to support an award for punitive damages. Most of the allegations against the defendants have not been established on the facts. The defendants who interacted with the plaintiff did not bear ill will toward her. They accepted the veracity of her account, were sympathetic to her situation and meant her no harm. The claim for punitive damages is dismissed."
Apparantly irked that the case was mostly frivolous, Judge Molloy ordered the plaintiff to pay all legal costs of the defendent. Had the Watchtower insisted on this aspect of the verdict, the plaintiff would have been bankrupted. However, they did not.
But what really gave me the warm and fuzzies was this response from a blogger who (it will be apparent from his R-rated language) absolutely loathes Jehovah's Witnesses. His words, particularly in the comment section, could hardly have been phrased more abusively. He slams us with every stock internet slam there is, just about. So I called him on one.
Now, you have to be careful doing this. You don't challenge him on everything, and you don't challenge him on something over which you'll get creamed.....in short, something that is as much a matter of viewpoint as fact. Frankly, I did get creamed on the first point I raised (about blood transfusion), but not the second. And a poor colleague of mine was pretty much crucified for trying to explain other aspects of our beliefs. But when I challenged him on his sexual abuse accusations, he responded:
“You know, I've got a nice glass of wine, Muddy Waters is singing about "Champagne and Reefer" and I'm feeling generous. I'll back down from that one. (Plus, I did a little more research...) You do have an acceptable track record on the subject......"
I wouldn't really call it “acceptable.” But I know what he means. Compared to most, JW occurrence is very low. It won't be “acceptable” until it's gone, and given the nature of imperfect humans, that doesn't seem very likely. (I hope this fellow doesn't consequently take down his page. HA! I've got it saved in case that should happen.)
It's a relatively small concession, to be sure, since I otherwise can't set foot on that site without being spit upon. I had to endure a lot of abuse to gain it, I assure you. But gain it, I did.
*In 2007, JWs settled a number of abuse cases, which made a huge on-line splash among opposers. This statement was released to the media at that time:
"For the sake of the victims in these cases, we are pleased that a settlement has been reached. Our hearts go out to all those who suffer as a result of child abuse. Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide are united in their abhorrence of this sin and crime.
We do not condone or protect child molesters. Our elders expel unrepentant sinners who commit this crime. In the US over 80,000 elders currently serve in over 12,300 congregations. During the last 100 years, only eleven elders have been sued for child abuse in thirteen lawsuits filed in the US. In seven of these lawsuits against the elders, accusations against the Watchtower Society itself were dismissed by the courts. Of course one victim is one victim too many. However the incidence of this crime among Jehovah's Witnesses is rare. Congregation elders comply with child abuse reporting laws. We do not silence victims. Our members have an absolute right to report this horrible crime to the authorities."
**The aforementioned site offers a shrewd analysis for the varying levels of gross sexual abuse observed in various religions: “But the incidence of child abuse is not traceable to religion as the main cause, but rather permissiveness towards clergy misconduct, lack of accountability, and absence of tracking known abusers. Denominations that have a documented infrastructure, an internal investigation process, and an appeals process have far fewer incidents of abuse than those that do not. Religions that simply put up higher hurdles for men to get ordained have a lower incidence of abuse. After all, why would a child molester spend 8 years learning ancient Hebrew when he can attend Hyles-Anderson for one year, drop out once he picks up the lingo, and then declare himself a Christian Fundamentalist preacher?”