It is not for one bombshell to bicker with another as to which packs the most punch. Should not two potent videos in the war against child sexual abuse get along with each other? They should. Ordinarily, they do. Those waging that war are not winning and they need all the bombshells they can get.
If a report in the Moscow Times is taken at face value, Russia is suffering the heaviest losses in that war. “Russian Pedophilia Cases Soared by One-Third in 2014” is the headline of the March 4, 2015 article.1 It probably should not be taken at face value—that large of an increase in a single year strains credulity—something will emerge to explain the anomaly. “The number of children recognized as victims of pedophilia surged by 35.6 percent last year, children’s ombudsman Pavel Astakhov said late Tuesday on Twitter. That increase far outpaced the 7.2 percent rise in the total number of crimes against children, according to Astakhov, who did not provide an explanation for the upticks.”
Anton Chivchalov, the observer of Witness persecution, when specifically asked how Russia deals with child sexual assault, replied: “Rather harsh and speedy. And such criminals are the most despised by their inmates in the prison.”2 In the face of such a staggering reverse, Astakhov would have it yet more harsh and more speedy, in hopes of stemming the tide. Pedophile abusers should not get out of jail before serving their entire terms. They should be monitored for life. And there should be longer statutes of limitations, he says.
No topic is hotter today than pedophilia. No topic sparks more popular outrage. Seemingly, no evil is more firmly entrenched. The organization Invisible Children reports that, in the United States, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused before they turn 18 years old.3 Neutralize one pedophile today and three pop up to take his place. If ancient Greece truly is the cradle of Western civilization, then the sexual abuse of children also is, for it was fundamental to that society, widely practiced and never categorically condemned.
Was Christianity the first significant bulwark against that practice? The first letter to the Corinthians warns: “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. That is what some of you used to be; but now you have had yourselves washed”4 by their newfound faith in God and conformity to his laws. A footnote to the NABRE on ‘boy prostitutes’ and ‘sodomites’ reads: “The Greek word translated as boy prostitutes may refer to catamites, i.e., boys or young men who were kept for purposes of prostitution, a practice not uncommon in the Greco-Roman world. In Greek mythology this was the function of Ganymede, the “cupbearer of the gods,” whose Latin name was Catamitus. The term translated sodomites refers to adult males who indulged in homosexual practices with such boys.”5 They even had a god for it!
In contrast, the practice was exceedingly uncommon among Jews of that same time period, so that Christianity does not appear to be the first significant bulwark, but the second. A verse from the Sibylline oracles, a collection of oracular utterances written in Greek hexameters ascribed to the [prophetesses] Sibyls,6 claims that only the Jews were free from this impurity. They were “mindful of holy wedlock, and they do not engage in impious intercourse with male children, as do Phoenicians, Egyptians and Romans, spacious Greece and many nations of other, Persians and Galatians and all Asia, transgressing the holy law of immortal God, which they transgressed.”7
“Phoenicians, Egyptians and Romans, Greeks, and many nations of other, and all Asia”—depend upon it; these ones would have the hots for your children. But not the Jews. And since Christianity begins as a sect of the Jews, it can be expected to also be free from “this impurity.” In practice, it will be diluted somewhat because Christians interact with and draw converts from the surrounding nations, some of whom find that the old ways are not vanquished as easily as was hoped; there is some backwash. There really is something to the verse Jehovah’s Witnesses love to quote: “Do not be led astray: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”8
Moderns who embrace the critical thought and emphasis on human reason that was ancient Greece but would shed its degrading habits find the shedding does not come easily. On the other hand, as evidenced by Corinthians, the fundamental structure of Christianity does shed it. Should it rear its ugly head, the justification for chopping it off is unambiguous.
When the world at last wakes up to a moral problem, it wildly overswings. It seeks to criminalize conduct of the past that did not conform to its newly-discovered moral high ground. It has happened with regard to America’s founding fathers. Revered for centuries, they are now reviled because they kept slaves, notwithstanding that every agricultural person of means kept slaves at that time, and with no regard for how they personally conducted themselves on that stage.
It has happened with regard to sexual harassment. In a single 2017 week, a quintessential American film producer of popular repute, fawned over as ‘God’ by a quintessential actress of popular repute,9 fell from top rung to gutter, with scores of female actors alleging rape.10 In the aftermath, dozens of well-known men have been trashed, with nary a distinction between rape, harassment, and what was once called ‘getting fresh’—never welcomed by most women, but also never confused with rape. Who is to say how many prominent men on the planet will not go down eventually, as an uninvited advance is equated to harassment which is equated with rape, the statute of limitations is forever, and the sole proof required is an allegation, whether it be sterling or dubious? There really is a place for a “two-witness” rule.11 But the trend is in the other direction. It is seen in politics, where allegation alone is taken as fact. It is seen in the few seconds of video presented on the media of some seemingly criminal act, and then outrage ensuing when the jury, the only persons privy to the facts, gets it ‘wrong.’ It is seen in Robert Bridge’s complaint, from Russia, that “the West’s ‘guilty until proven innocent’ mantra is wrecking lives and international relations.”12 It is seen in the massive lawsuits announced for diverse causes and the implicit understanding is that the defending lawyer saying the case is “without merit” is lying through his teeth.
It is similar today with the sexual abuse of children. Present protective policy has been quite long in coming. In 1987, Cleveland social workers and pediatricians removed over 100 children from their families suspected of sexual abuse. Public outcry was such, fueled by media cries alleging ‘overzealous’ and ‘intrusive’ agency overreach, that most were promptly returned, despite credible evidence of abuse. Lucy Delap, writing for History and Policy, credits ‘feminist campaigners’ with making the protection of children a priority, and states that “clear guidelines for best practice were not established until the 1990s.” Until that time, “where evidence of sexual assault emerged, the reaction of welfare workers was to limit harm, often by removing a child from an abusive situation. Reporting of abuse and securing convictions was a secondary concern.”13
Days of inaction are long gone. Authorities have generated sex-abuse registries that are so long that they are absolutely useless to law enforcement. Rapists are lumped in with those too free with their hands who are lumped in with those who have viewed porn on the Internet who are lumped in with of-age teens having sex with their underage girlfriends.14 A top cop in Britain recently recommended that persons found with pedophilia porn on their computers not be prosecuted. It pained him to recommend it, but the simple fact is that there are so many of them that police cannot possibly monitor them all. In attempting to do so, they are distracted from keeping tabs on the most dangerous predators.15 Meanwhile, those who must track child sexual abuse online in the course of doing their jobs liken the worst of it to Medusa: one look and it turns you to stone.16
The war is being lost due to an inability of the virtuous side to discipline its troops, which work at cross-purposes with each other. They represent a tangled mess of conflicting agendas that cannot put such differences aside so as to adequately cooperate, no matter how dire the situation or sacred the cause. What they can do is build a platform upon which to grandstand. For some of them, that is enough. There is much that starts out with the best of intentions, but in the end resolves into ‘sound and fury, signifying nothing.’
Their actions harm some as they help others. Recently, in New York State, police nabbed a kindergarten teacher with kiddie porn on his computer. It is bad stuff, even for kiddie porn. They grilled him, and he admitted he has fantasized over the children in his charge. They caught him via an international sting operation tracing pedophilia content originating overseas. He has never actually done anything to any of the children he teaches. But he has pinched spare underwear from their backpacks to take home and he’s derived much pleasure in dreaming of what could be.17
He is one sick puppy. No way can you have him teaching kindergarten. Even though he has never touched a child, it is reasonable to think it only a matter of time before he does, for he is feasting on what will only intensify a depraved appetite. Even that assumption one cannot slip past champions of critical thought, since they will demand proof that indulging in such porn does not harmlessly distract from the real thing, but in this case the subject is too gut-wrenching and too visceral. They will not dare open their mouths.
The question to be addressed is: How do you remove this fellow as a teacher? For the sake of the children, it ought to be done discreetly. You say: “Mr. Feely has had to leave and he won’t be coming back. There was an emergency in his family. He wanted to say goodbye but didn’t even have time for that.” Was it handled that way?
Anyone who keeps up the times knows that it was not. Instead, it was (not verbatim): “Mr. Feely Is A Pervert! He Was Teaching Your Children and Just Look at The Disgusting Filth On His Computer! He Even Swiped Janie’s Panties!” It was top news for three days. Thirty children are scarred for life, with the idea now planted that any adult, no matter how seemingly benevolent, might easily be (probably is) trying to molest them. What child does not love his or her kindergarten teacher? What person is trusted more?
Even for the man’s own sake, it might be acknowledged somewhere that he had thus far resisted acting upon what he was feeding himself with. It might be a case of ‘strengthening what remains.’ Instead he is universally denounced as a depraved monster, thus sabotaging any chance of recovery. He might not recover anyway, but why ensure the outcome? He can be arrested and put on the sex registry list without throwing the city into an uproar. He is done so with maximum publicity mainly for entertainment purposes and to allow certain ones to call attention to their guard dog role in safeguarding children.
The only reason authorities started tracking viewers of porn in the first place is because they thought they could thereby cut off the flow. It has not worked out that way. Child porn has continued to grow unabated. Users will store the stuff on thumb drives and bury it in their back yards before they will relinquish it. This explains why the British top cop waved the white flag—you cannot have every twentieth person employed in law enforcement.
During 2017, news sources told of a 14-year-old Minnesota girl who sexted an explicit picture of herself to her boyfriend via Snapchat. He spread it about widely. Boys will do things like that and girls should not be dumb. At time of writing, she is looking at 10 years felony jail time for violation of her state’s child-porn law. The ACLU spokesperson defending her says this is a “teachable moment” for parents to inform the girl that her actions have consequences. Tell me about it. It is also a “cautionary tale,” the ACLU adds. Yes. It is cautionary for a 14-year-old trying to live in an insane world handed her by adults that pushes powerful social media tools, a sexually promiscuous culture, and then threatens ten years imprisonment for making use of them.
Besides local media, only RT.com picked this story up, probably in a quest to embarrass the West.18 Meanwhile—it is ‘wisdom from the mouth of babes’—the girl says: “Sexting is common among teens at my school, and we shouldn’t face charges for doing it.” Of course. It is a no-brainer. It is not that what she did wasn’t wrong. It is that her countless cultural mentors should be prosecuted ahead of her. That way, there will be no room left in jail for the stunned child.
In a greater context, the story reiterates the absolute failure of the world to vanquish pedophilia, which it has declared public enemy number one, with its frothing take-no-prisoners, pulling-their-hair out frustration over making barely a dent in the pandemic, and so wildly overswinging to compensate. Again, it is the frenzied carpenter who misses the nail and then furiously hammers five times more, again missing each time. This is how it is with zealots who see their cause and nothing else. The world is full of such people.
The world slaps down perversion on one hand and feeds it with the other. Does anyone think the ‘Law and Order: Special Victims Unit’ television show is not a magnet to draw and feed molesters who fantasize over the world they would love to see? Does anyone think they walk away saying: “Wow! This is bad! I must never do it!”? Can the average person watch one straight through? It is entertainment mostly to vigilantes and pedophiles and pedophiles-in-training.
Meanwhile there is an underage teen placed on the registry for having sex with his girlfriend of 13. This, despite the prevalent teaching that parents should accept the fact that their kids are going to have sex and to give them a shot for HPV and not be so Victorian about it. Another young man is put on the list for having sex with his underage girlfriend who misrepresented herself as above-age.19 In each case a domino effect is started and neither young man is likely to ever fully be restored.
These stories are a dime a dozen. They are collateral damage in a war where zealots say: “We may not be able to do anything about terrorism or suicides or corruption or injustice or drug abuse or job insecurity, but by God! we can do something about perverts fiddling with our kids!” But in fact, they can’t even do that. Writing for a Russian outlet, Konstantin Krylov, who is “the father of four daughters. I think, from this it is clear how I feel about pedophilia and pedophiles,” even suggests “the spread of mass hysteria in society” serves to distract from “real problems,” such as “salaries and prices.”20 “Moral panic” or not, a depraved world cranks out pedophiles as readily as it cranks out radicalized terrorists who go on to shoot up or run down whoever is in sight.
There is a headline story in the New York Times gushing over a ten-year old male model. “His eye makeup is better than yours!” it swoons. Is this a perv site? No. It is the New York Times.21 The boy has over 330,000 followers on social media. What a tale of success! Do you think the paper asks how many of them are pedophiles? Why—it doesn’t occur to them to go there. Soon it will run another blockbuster story exposing the harvest of what it now sows.
This world does everything it can to titillate perversion and then froths with anger when it actually breaks out. Perhaps even with all troops disciplined and ducks lined up, the war against child sexual abuse would be lost, for the entertainment branch of the world feeds and nourishes the depravity that the judicial branch must deal with later.
Historically, the relative or family friend too free with his hands was controlled by parents alerting their children to let no one touch them inappropriately, not even Uncle Hands. Since few parents did this, the children were mostly left unprotected. Nobody of fifty years ago would have dreamt how many of those with unhealthy desires were lurking about. Nude swimming at the YMCA swimming pools of my youth in the 1950s was an unremarkable fact. Witness Governing Body member Anthony Morris stated:
“While child abuse has been perpetrated earth-wide in many cultures for thousands of years, it is only in the past forty years or so that the magnitude and extent of the problem has become better known. This is because governmental agencies are now determined to take a more active interest in this problem. Laws were enacted to require medical and other professionals to report cases to authorities when they became aware of them. Prior to that time, many governmental and educational and religious organizations were somewhat naive about the magnitude and the complexity of the situation,”22 and he goes on to discuss the Witness response to the modern plague.23
Today there are tools to help equip in handling the onslaught of evil. The two dueling grenades mentioned at this chapter’s outset are both effective. They both pack solid punches. If I seem to downgrade one, it is only because it was waved in my face as the be-all and end-all, whereas the Watchtower’s effort was childish rigmarole in comparison. There are apostates with a seemingly pathological need to trash anything Witness-originated. Of course it is childish. It is for children and it had better capture their attention. Talking down to them is a sure way to turn them off.
The Watchtower video is entitled Protect Your Children.24 It is an episode of the Caleb and Sophia cartoon series that all Witness children know well. That series is incorporated by most Witness families in training their children. Caleb and Sophia are about five and eight years old, respectively. Anthony Morris was mistaken by one child as their grandfather, since it was he who introduced the series. Children can visit various branch headquarters and have their pictures taken with the tykes. Through JW.org, they romp in every nation except Russia, where they are unfortunately behind bars as extremists.
The other video, the product of a child protective agency, is certainly thorough and is even more specific than ours.25 Specific areas of the body that no one should touch are circled on a child’s body, whereas the Watchtower’s tells the children that Jehovah gave them a conscience and asks what would they do if someone tried to touch them somewhere that made them uncomfortable? In assuming that a child cannot distinguish its rear end from its elbow, is not the agency video a classic example of why so many of them hate school? Who wants to be always talked down to? One almost envisions a child who is touched mentally consulting the chart he has memorized in order to determine if he should feel bad about it or not. No. Caleb’s dad is right. Jehovah gave humans a conscience. If you have not scratched it all to pieces updating it with the enlightened moral thinking of the greater world, it works pretty well.
Protect Your Children captures the imagination of the child and depicts sexual abuse as a monster, for it is monstrous, and any child knows that monsters are malevolent creatures from which to flee. It vaporizes the moment the children tell it: “No. Stop doing that! I’m telling on you!” However, to ensure that no child misses the point, the mother urges: “Even if it someone you know and trust!” and papa adds that they should right away “tell daddy or mommy,” who, in the video, take the news most seriously.
The Watchtower video has the added bonus, completely lacking in that of the agency’s, of instructing parents on how to teach their children and encouraging them to do so. It is thus family-friendly. It is a force for family cohesion. In the end, it is family that will protect a child better than any network of outside agencies, who so often drop the ball.
Whereas the agency video goes on the supposition that everybody—don’t even overlook the parents—are on the list of possible suspects, the Jehovah Witness organization ever teaches Bible principles that nurture and safeguard the entire family. It is a constant theme of the Christian life they embrace. The videos do not stand alone. They are intended as part of a family routine to aid in child training. Parents are encouraged in congregation meetings to use them this way. “The world can be a scary place. But you are never alone with Jehovah,” Daddy says. The other would say: “The world can be a scary place. Watch your back every minute. Any grown-up, no matter how nice they look, might be ready to pounce upon you. Even Mommy and Daddy might be trying to get into your pants! Watch out!”
The Watchtower video does not allow for the possibility that the parents might be the villains. To be sure, that situation has happened, generally with step-parents, but surely, that is beyond the scope of any video. Do you really want to suggest to all children that their parents might be pedophiles? Every Witness child is familiar with the entire cartoon family. Should any poor child be unfortunate enough to be stuck with parents who would sexually abuse their own offspring, they would have already noted that the Caleb and Sophia ideal parents are a far cry from theirs. Essentially the videos each regard one source as the protector of last resort. With the Watchtower, it is family with God as backup. With the greater world it is specialist agencies with overall humanity as backup. But when families dissolve, it is the rare agency that is able to adequately mitigate the damage, however they may nobly try.
Is it even true that the Watchtower video does not allow for villainous parents? It clearly directs the children to let no one touch them inappropriately. The agency video, on the other hand, specifically says it is okay for a doctor to touch private areas. Recently, the U.S. Olympic team doctor was sentenced to 175 years in prison for molesting the teens in his charge—surely Olympians are America’s cream of the crop. 150 of them testified at his trial. Had they been asked which video do they think would have safeguarded them more, what would have been their reply? The agency video is not bad, save for that one demerit. In fact, it is very good. It can be recommended. But it has nothing on that of the Watchtower’s.
Witnesses worldwide attend annual Regional Conventions, for (usually) three days of instruction based upon Bible laws and principles. During 2017 a section dealing with child sexual abuse was a part of the program.26 Nobody, but nobody, assembles their entire membership as Jehovah’s Witnesses did and reviews detailed scenarios under which abuse might happen so that parents, the first line of defense, can educate their children and themselves.
Especially emphasized was the fact that a perpetrator is likely to be someone a child knows and trusts. If a relative, or friend, or anyone else, seems overly attentive to your child, it is a reason to be watchful, said the program speaker. If there are tickling sessions, if there are sleepovers, if there are trips alone to the public restroom, if—there were several other scenarios. They are all potential red flags: maybe harmless, but maybe not, and the parent must be aware. “The wise one sees the [potential] calamity approaching and takes action” was the Bible verse repeatedly cited.27
In recent years, Jehovah’s Witnesses have made court appearances in multiple countries, but the issues they address are not the noble issues of decades ago involving rights of free speech and assembly. They are more likely to be issues of child sexual abuse in which their policies for battling it are called into question. Rarely are congregation leaders (elders) themselves accused of molestation. What is instead typical is charges that they have learned of or have investigated allegations of child sexual abuse and did not handle them in accord with contemporary practice. In not reporting each known or suspected molester to the police, they have been accused of harboring them and of making the congregations safe havens for abusers.
It is a classic example of getting slammed for doing the right thing and should not be spun any other way. It is a classic example of the leader taking the arrows. It exposes a vulnerable flank that Witnesses alone have for being proactive. All religious groups should have the same flank, but do not due to a neglect of watchfulness and discipline.
Witnesses alone investigate wrong conduct among their membership so as to keep their congregations morally clean, which they believe God expects of them. The recent court cases are fallout from doing what no one else has attempted to do: monitor wrongdoing of all sorts, but here specifically child abuse, so as to accomplish two things, which actually collapse into one. The first objective is to discover abusers so as to administer discipline, up to and including expulsion. The second objective is to keep track of any who have molested children, so that they cannot simply slip out of one congregation and into another, as they can anywhere else.
Identified pedophiles are forever barred from positions of responsibility or trust in any congregation. Plainly, this is to protect children. Memory may serve adequately in the home congregation, but what happens should the person switch congregations? Records must be forwarded. Instances of abuse would never be associated with the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the first place were that organization like the general world of religion, a world which takes little interest in the conduct of its members and considers their conduct none of its business. Preach to them on Sunday and be done with it.
When police apprehend abusers, unless they are clergy, their religion is never reported because few imagine that today’s religions should result in clean people. Few imagine that should be their job. Jehovah’s Witnesses take it upon themselves to insist upon clean people. Few other denominations are as concerned. Few religions have a clue as to what their members are up to.
Whose bright idea was it to track these reprobates anyway? It sure seemed clever at the time, offering an excellent way to protect children. It sure did blow up in their faces. Who would ever imagine the world would attempt to ‘out-righteous’ Christians on this one? From the purely pragmatic point of view of avoiding blame, they would have been far better off to bury their heads in the sand and wail like Sergeant Shultz, “I know nothinnnggg.”28
Whenever the biblical ‘two-witnesses’ policy that applies anywhere else in law is mentioned, it is roundly criticized as inappropriate, as it was recently by an Australian Royal Commission (excerpts to follow). The obvious ‘practical’ solution is to drop the policy and any attempt to look into wrongdoing; even a newly modified policy will not satisfy determines critics.29 Keep your noses out of the business of others, regardless of what the Bible says. Elders will thereby learn of few instances of abuse and the problem is solved from a liability point of view, though not from an actual one.
Preach sermons and let that be the end of it. If members apply it, they apply it. If they don’t, they don’t. Let that be no concern of the pastor. That way, should any turn out to be molesters, the preacher can never be made to look bad for his investigating it because he has never did it. God gets shortchanged that way because he expects a clean people, but who cares? He’s God. Tell him: “What you see is what you get. It’s not my problem. Do you think I want a day in court?”
It is but another attack on religion that would attempt to keep itself without ‘spot from the world.’ It might even be surmised that, at some level, that is the intent of such criticism. Don’t allow a religion to attempt to produce a clean people, for that involves ‘judging’ and lifting ones’ faith above others as “the true one.” Don’t allow it. In essence, it is a turf war. ‘Preach to them if you must’ is the sentiment. ‘But don’t get into morals. We’ll handle wrongs if they commit any, not you,’ says the State. ‘It ought not be your concern.’
Everybody’s clergy gets outed when they do wrong in this regard, but nobody’s membership. Other than Jehovah’s Witnesses, nobody monitors their members, regarding their conduct as not their affair. They thereby can never become the ‘middleman’ and thus can never be called to account for whether or not they handled matters in the way deemed acceptable by authorities today. If Witness elders have ever erred in any investigations, this should not be spun as a negative, for no one else even attempts the job. When the Star Trek spaceship takes a wrong turn, Captain Kirk is cut slack because he is ‘going where no one has gone before.’ Do other faiths have one abuser per thousand, or 100? Nobody knows or wants to know. Only Jehovah’s Witnesses have the courage to stand up to a moral outrage and they should not be maligned for it. They were proactive when no one else was. They were not proactive enough, however, to realize that their investigative role in the congregation would be interpreted by some outside as making them de facto enforcers for the outside justice system.
In 2007, the Watchtower parent organization settled a number of abuse cases. 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… 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.”30
There is a missing puzzle piece. The public can learn the stats for abuse among Witness ‘clergy.’ They can learn the stats for abuse among the clergy of others, which in some cases have been shockingly high. But when it comes to membership, they can learn only the stats for Jehovah’s Witnesses. So as not to be comparing apples to oranges, they need to learn the stats for the membership of other faiths, but this knowledge is unavailable because nobody has tracked it. People who know better, along with some who don’t, will continue to equate the membership of Jehovah’s Witnesses with the clergy of other religions. In effect, if you want to get the same ‘catch’ of pedophiles among Jehovah’s Witnesses that you do among the leaders of some faiths, you must expand your net to include, not just clergy, but everybody.
With a missing puzzle piece that will not be supplied, all one can do is extrapolate. If eleven Witness clergy were sued over 100 years, with only four of them stemming from any culpability from the organization, then surely the overall rate among the members will also be low. If it is perceived to be high, then the overall rate among memberships elsewhere will be astronomical. Of course, people can see that it is; child sexual abuse in the greater world is an absolutely out of control pandemic. As though nurturing a seedling plant through inclement weather, apostates promote the idea that the pedophilia problem is disproportionately a Witness problem. It is just the opposite, as will be presently be seen through examining data uncovered by an Australian Royal Commission.
Anything done can be done better. The Royal Commission looked at child sexual abuse crimes and policies for all institutions, religious or secular, operating within its jurisdiction. After Witness representatives took their turn in the hot seat, they were issued harsh words for some aspects of their policies. New policies have been enacted in the Witness organization that offer improvement, though likely not enough to satisfy Commission members. Victims in abuse investigations are no longer required to speak in front of judicial committee elders, and sisters may be able to assist the elders in establishing facts. ‘Good!’ most will say, considering the tough spot the two victims were in who testified before the commission. Was it irresponsible not to have done it before? Who can say? There is nothing to compare it to. No other religion attempts what Witnesses attempt—investigating wrongdoing for the sake of meting out discipline and protecting the worldwide congregation and presenting to God “a [clean] people for his name.”
Historically, people have not been in a hurry to air their dirty laundry. Reality TV has changed much of that. Probably also a factor is that family disaster has become commonplace and people have acclimated to it. The very reason there is a phrase called “skeletons in the closet” is that persons once succeeded in keeping them there. Nowadays they stampede them like cattle through Dodge City. Is it George Bernard Shaw who said “If you cannot get rid of the skeletons in your closet, see if you can make them dance”?
This writer would not challenge that Witnesses have had a greater adjustment than many in learning to let those skeletons roam, since their reputation is that of applying Bible morality and they are reluctant to see that reputation tarnished. It is a continual complaint of their detractors: that there is a ‘culture of complicity.’ It makes little difference to them the plain statements that any congregation member learning of abuse is free to report it to the authorities—the ‘culture’ dictates to them that they will not. The Royal Commission uncovered 1006 allegations of child sexual abuse within Australia Watchtower’s records. None had been reported to outside authorities. Many of these were statistical outliers, as they dated back as far as the 1950s—a time period in which reporting by anyone was a rarity, in which even the authorities one might report to would shrug it off as not their concern. But there were yet hundreds remaining from since the overall world has awakened to the menace of sexual abuse.
It is not great to see Jehovah’s Witnesses mentioned in courts in this connection; there is no positive way this can be spun. If children have been harmed, they do not want to ever have contributed to it. If they are going to be in the courts, they would far rather it be for the noble causes of the U.S Constitution that they have fought over in the past. To a slight degree, the unpleasantry is mitigated by a general cynicism that has taken hold of the judiciary. Yet again Trump and Hillary come to the rescue. The Republican president issues orders and the Democratic judges slap them down. It was once the other way around. For decades a predictable hysteria has prevailed over which president gets to appoint Supreme Court Justices. Each nominee faces intense scrutiny in Congress. The tacit understanding is that they are not impartial. Preexisting philosophical bent will determine their rulings.
In the lower courts some are ‘tough on crime.’ Some are ‘soft on crime.’ Come election day, they are all tough on pedophilia, which is why a Hail Mary Arizona law criminalizing touching the private areas of any child for any reason will not be easily repealed, even though it technically criminalizes parents changing diapers.31 The chance of being branded ‘soft on pedophiles’ in a sound bite just before election day is too great of a risk for any politician to run.
People have become accustomed to seeing lawyers employ every type of legal maneuvering. If it is for a cause they like, they praise them for it. If it is for a cause they do not like, they condemn them for it. There are no legal loopholes in court because if it is legal, it is not a loophole. It is a chaotic and inconsistent system, not of Witnesses’ doing, but they must operate according to whatever flies legally. It is the adversarial judicial system, in which neither side can afford to pursue justice lest the other side beat them over the head with it. Instead, those who put their trust in the system hope that truth will emerge from the referee judge and perhaps jury monitoring the battle of the titans.
Lawyers will tussle as lawyers do. The world today is a lawyer’s playground and if you have any assets to speak of and do not maintain an arsenal of them, expect to be eaten alive in a nebulous and fantastically complex legal world. It is not exactly the 600-law system of Mosaic times, is it? Instead, stratospheric lawyers wrangle arcane laws for purposes both noble and despicable. The law is staggering in its complexity. Cynics will say that it is made so deliberately for the sake of job security and expansion in a high-growth industry. The point is that court rulings don’t necessarily mean much of anything today; you simply have to look at which agenda has won out.
Nor can the impartiality of whoever reports the news be assumed. One such article covering a trial in which Witnesses were involved states as background that individual members are prohibited from reporting child abuse to authorities. Since numerous public statements indicate otherwise and Anthony Morris says it right on the Witness website previously cited, red flags must go up. Had the reporter said that many Witnesses were disinclined to run to authorities, that would be one thing. But he said they are prohibited from doing so. Even if he didn’t believe it, a competent reporter would at least note the discrepancy. Instead, he has been fed a line from an opposer and he repeats it uncritically, without verification, not unlike the Russian expert witness to their Supreme Court who scribbles verbiage off the Internet.
Once integrity is compromised, nothing can be taken at face value. Competency and perhaps motive are open to question. Was the Witness lawyer really rebuked by the judge or was his objection overruled and the proffered reason counted as a rebuke? It is the most inflammatory subject being tried, and it is made inflammatory again as the defendant is a religion some find inflammatory.32
If there is a silver lining in this mess for the Witness organization, it is that one might extrapolate from present trends and conclude that soon every twentieth person on the planet will be on a pedophile list somewhere. Allegations of sexual impropriety involving prominent persons or those with deep pockets are a staple of life today. If you hate the person, you will agree with the allegation. If you love the person, you will disagree with it. James Carville, Bill Clinton’s campaign manager, defending the then-president accused of sexual misconduct, said: “Drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find.” Does one believe him? For the most part, it depends upon whether one likes Bill Clinton or not. The same can be said for almost any high-profile figure.
Jehovah’s Witness matters thereby become a tiny drop in the bucket, for it is exceedingly rare for an elder to be the accused perpetrator (though it was so in the above case, where they got stuck in San Diego with a real rotter). Usually they are accused of simply coming across the knowledge of abuse. It is not good—as the 2007 announcement acknowledged, “one victim is one too many.”—but it is a far cry from being perpetrators themselves. Moreover, it would not happen if they had kept their noses out of the conduct of congregation members, as is the pattern elsewhere. God’s perceived interests would suffer, but it would be safer from a liability point of view.
The Witnesses’ weekly meetings unstintingly emphasize the application of Bible morality and principles into one’s life. Over time, most of it rubs off. It is not rocket science, and it has nothing to do with God’s spirit. If one teaches something long enough, the students start to pick up on it. What is God’s spirit is that there exists an organization consistently dedicated to such training. What is God’s spirit is that there exists an organization that has remained impervious to the many memes and fads of today’s world that serve to corrode family values. What is God’s spirit is that families are successfully applying these teachings in the face of a hostile world. They are not 100% successful, because they are people, and they live in the greater world of moral relevance. Suffice it to say, however, that applying Bible principles results in lower rates of anything bad, though one would never claim immunity. In any population of eight million (the current JW membership) one will be able to find many examples of anything.
Where it is legally mandated, Witness policy is that any allegation of child sexual abuse be reported to authorities. Nothing tells more about the world’s frothing hysteria over its inability to curb child abuse than its insistence that one must go ‘beyond the law.’ It is the ultimate Hail Mary pass, a sure sign of desperation. If going ‘beyond the law’ is such an imperative, why does not that become the law?
So visceral is the subject of child sexual abuse that no one is immune to a trashed reputation if they are exposed for failing to go ‘beyond the law.’ Joe Paterno was a revered coach of college football for decades. His insistence upon all-around scholarship and character development among the Penn State players he coached was legendary. He was the “man who set the standard for ethical behavior in the tawdry world of college football,” said USA Today. Another source added “He kept the program’s reputation clean—remarkably so for a program that made its home in the national ranking” for all of his 46-year tenure.33
He fell from grace. Paterno heard of an allegation of sexual abuse involving a junior coach. He reported it to his superiors as he was legally obligated to do. He then got on with his job and probably forgot about it, as it seemed unlikely to him that a friend and colleague would do such a thing.34 When the allegation later turned out to be true, his career—and even his life, for he died two years later—was over. His stellar reputation as role model for virtue did not matter. His lifelong philanthropy did not matter. His profound regret and apologies did not matter. He got caught in the crossfire of those whose gold and only standard was to go ‘beyond the law’ and he hadn’t a chance of redeeming his clean reputation.35
In fact, certain persons cannot go ‘beyond the law’ with impunity. A doctor in the U.S. absolutely dare not go beyond the HIPPA law ensuring confidentiality; it is a meticulously enforced law, leading some to wish that more major crimes were so quickly avenged. Three confidential relationships are bedrock to Western law: confidentiality of doctor-patient, lawyer-client and clergy-penitent,36 for none of these relationships can work without the expectation of confidentiality. If law is not written otherwise, it is illegal to go beyond the law in such cases. Without a clear legal mandate, a Witness elder cannot go ‘beyond the law’ because the default law says he cannot violate confidentiality in matters where the wronged individual would prefer it so.
Geoffrey Jackson of the Witness Governing Body three times pleaded for such a consistent mandate across all territories before the Australian Royal Commission to Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse mentioned above. When it was his turn to testify, he said:37
- Jackson: “Thank you for the opportunity to explain this. I think very clearly Mr. Toole pointed out that if the Australian Government, in all the States, was to make mandatory reporting, it would make it so much easier for us.” …
- Jackson: “The point being, here, another aspect that an elder needs to consider is he does not have the authority to lord it over or take over control of a family arrangement, where a person—let’s say it is a victim who is 24 or 25 years of age—has a right to decide whether or not they will report that incident. They also respect the family arrangement that the appointed guardian, who is not the perpetrator, has a certain right, too. So this is the spiritual dilemma that we have, because at the same time, we want to make sure that children are cared for. So if the government does happen to make mandatory reporting, that will make this dilemma so much easier for us, because we all want the same goal—that children will be cared for properly.” …
Council Assisting (Stewart): “Leaving aside the question of overriding mandatory law from the civil authorities, do you see the possibility within the scriptures as you have identified them for a change in the practice of Jehovah’s Witnesses? In other words, would it be within the scriptures for the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization to adopt a policy which says that in cases where there are others at risk, a report must be made to the authorities?”
G Jackson: “That is a possible thing for us to consider, and I think, already, the assumption is there, that if any elder was to see that there was some definite risk, that their conscience should move them to do that. But the point I was trying to make, Mr. Stewart, is there are other scriptural factors that maybe make that a little complicated, and it would certainly be a lot easier if we had mandatory laws on that.”
He is pleading for sanity to prevail. Sometimes reporting is mandated. Sometimes it is not mandated, and in such cases, Witness elders run legal, even moral, risks in doing it. Where not mandated, they are not free to override concerns of family members if they choose not to report; yet they are held to account if a victimized one, years later, regrets that decision, and blames, not the family members who made it, but the elders themselves. Sometimes, doing their best to navigate a maze, our people have likely stumbled. Other times, the maze itself has tripped them up. Jackson pleads for an across-the-board policy, with no room for misunderstanding or misapplication, so that it won’t matter if a given family wants to avoid airing its dirty laundry on the 11 PM News. Even today, families do not line up to do that, whether religious or not.
If going beyond the law is so laudable, then that should become the law. With the prioritized, near-sacred quest of protecting children, one would think nothing could be easier. Failure to go ‘beyond the law’ is an invitation to Monday morning quarterbacks assigning motives, invariably bad ones, to parties they don’t like. However, in most things legal, careers are built on complexity. They are all undermined when the course is made simple.
The reader will have noted by now, and may even have been an exasperated by, this author’s disdain of the greater world for being so disunited; it has never presented itself otherwise, he or she might note. When the agency says “United Nations” and even affixes the Isaiah quotation about nations beating swords into plowshares, it is just joking. It is not to be taken seriously. It is just dreaming of an ideal it knows full well is unattainable. This author must be forgiven because he comes from a people who have pulled it off. He comes from where they are not just joking about such things and where the dream has become reality. Unity among Jehovah’s Witnesses is a commonplace and unremarkable fact. It is not in the Witness world that one hand plants the seed which produces the plant that the other will eventually have to uproot.
So the following is admittedly sarcastic—which is risky because Thomas Carlyle said sarcasm is the language of the Devil. Forgive me. The Devil made me do it. Here is my fictionalized hearing with the commissioner, not speaking specifically of Australia, but for the overall world:
Lead Commissioner: “Mr. Jackson, I hope that you people will straighten up and fly right and cooperate more fully with what we are trying to do. I emphasize the word “trying,” Mr. Jackson, because we are terrible at it and the overall track record of the world would be laughably bad were it not so tragic. But our hearts are in the right place.
“Mr. Jackson, I am impressed by your humility, your distress at what clearly is a problem, and your overall demeanor. We have so many people strutting their stuff about here and you almost can’t stand them. We appreciate your willingness to work with us and we hope we can further work with you along this line.
“You have pleaded with us, Mr. Jackson, to make our policies the same across all territories, for that would make your job so much easier. It is a reasonable request. Unfortunately, Mr. Jackson, we cannot comply, though we would like to, because we represent squabbling and disunited governing entities that cannot collectively tie their own shoe. You would think it would be the easiest thing in the world to do what you request. Unfortunately, it is impossible.
“And this is just one area. Don’t get me going about international efforts to fight child sexual abuse. Children in many third world countries are routinely abused every day without anyone at all to stand up for them. That’s because there is no money over there, and consequently, no interest. But we do have a lot of money here.
“We have a request for you, Mr. Jackson. I know it’s a bit irregular, but can you take this off our hands for us? I have looked into your organized nature and have concluded that you could do it. Aren’t you the people who set up and take down your buildings of worship almost as easily as our people set up and take down Coleman tents? I know you do not have grandstanding politicians who will push and shove to do whatever will keep them in their jobs, and that you can focus on the real issues, undistracted by personal agendas. I know you can separate the truly worrisome pedophiles from the run-of-the-mill ones, who appear to be almost everyone. I know too, that you care about poor people just as much as you care about well-off people. Listen, we just want to save our kids here, and we think that if we funneled all reports to you, you would be able to handle keeping a centralized list and handle its distribution. I know it is not your main line, but surely you can devote a committee to it. Ten of your people are worth 10,000 of ours because your people know how to work together and our people do not. The more people we add to our efforts, the more chaotic the overall picture gets.
(in my dreams)
Apostates correctly foresaw that the Witness organization would earn a rebuke from the Commission. Like kids on Christmas eve simply besides themselves with joyous anticipation, they worked tirelessly to direct the attention of all Witnesses to it. They had been pumping up anti-Witness diatribes forever, pumping them up with orgasmic fervor as one might pump up basketballs or footballs to the point of explosion, and now it looked like one might actually pay off. Someone masqueraded on Twitter as Geoffrey Jackson himself. “Pray for our brothers in Russia,” he tweeted at one point, trying to gather in the suckers. In time it became clear that he didn’t give a hoot in hell for our brothers in Russia—jail them all as far as he was concerned. It was all a ruse so as to draw in the guileless ones. At any rate, he seemed a bit put out as events leading to the Russian trial gathered steam and made Witnesses the object of international good will, rather than the pariah he had hoped for. That upcoming Supreme Court appearance loomed as an approaching monster for apostates, almost as scary as the pedophilia monster of Caleb and Sophia. They tried to imitate the youngsters in commanding that it be gone, but it did not go anywhere.
In many cases, former Witnesses who are now enemies of the faith and who push this pedophile narrative for all it is worth were once disciplined themselves for one thing or another and are livid over it. It is no more complicated than that. Did I hear that they routinely arrived bright and early each morning, saving all seats at the Australian Commission hearing with pamphlets the moment the janitor unlocked the doors, just like their former friends do at the Regional Conventions?
This writer is unwilling to accede the moral high ground to the anti-pedophile zealots. Let them claim some victory before we do that. They have compiled a list of abusers that is so long it is absolutely worthless to law enforcement. Consequently, being put on ‘the list’ is largely a matter of revenge or public shaming. It is not undeserved, but it does nothing to solve the problem of protecting children. To some extent, child protective efforts have devolved into a job machine and a platform for parading politicians to declare how they are tough on pedophiles. It is ever like the zealots of the world to charge about boisterously, point fingers everywhere, punish some, shame others, and then, on the basis of their good intentions alone, declare victory. Let them actually achieve victory before we hail them as modern heroes. Routinely one hears of children abused by persons who were already on the list—why—they lived right down the street! The world chokes on its abusers. For that matter, it ought to put every victim on the list as well, or at least on a watch list, for it is common knowledge that an abused one easily becomes an abuser himself. That is completely unfair, but it makes perfect sense for a world that thinks it can snuff out abuse through pedophile registries.
Reporting the sexual abuse of a child to the proper authorities offers no guarantee that the child will be protected. In some cases, it results in just the opposite. A 2016 article in Salon established that, due to a combination of incompetence, turf wars, greed, and deceit, “in family courts throughout the [United States], evidence that one of the parents is sexually or physically abusing a child is routinely rejected. Instead, perpetrators of abuse are often entrusted with unsupervised visits or joint or sole custody of the children they abuse.” The courts readily accepted “dubious theories used to undermine the protective parent’s credibility.” Court records were often sealed, which serves to block outside oversight. The “high cost of litigation throws up a formidable obstacle for most parents fighting to get their children out of harm’s way,” one source citing $100,000 as not an uncommon sum, which has driven protective parents into bankruptcy.” Courts commonly believe the abuser, even one with a conviction record, and disregard the victim.38
Rapists are the ones who should be aggressively punished. No punishment is too great. As to the rest, Caleb and Sophia can handle it, as they are told: “If anybody tries to touch you—even if it is someone you know and trust…and then tell mommy or daddy.” An extended family member committing abuse is not uncommon. A parent doing it is very uncommon, with the exception of a step-parent. The training of every Witness in the world via their regional conventions is a tactic one might suggest for the overall population.
Let the world also come to grips with the causes of pedophilia. If there is one thing that modern times have taught us, it is how amazingly fluid sexuality is. In a world that relentlessly pushes sex into ever expanding frontiers, crossing same-sex lines, encouraging lifestyles of hooking up, acquiescing to the sexual activity of kids at ages ever younger, advertising it on television which pharmaceutical remedies in the event that one’s performance is subpar, it is unlikely to find success declaring every form of sex fine and acceptable except one that will not be tolerated! The best defense will be the continual Bible training at the Kingdom Hall to keep oneself clean of every sort of fleshly defilement—to be had from the one religion training its members to properly integrate sexuality into their personalities, as neither the focus of life nor something to be shied from in its proper context. Ones of that religion should be portrayed as the heroes in this drama, even when flawed, and never the villain.
Suicide is the scourge among the young today. USA reports it has increased 70% over ten years.39 Can that not be pinned upon the prior generation, the one that handed them the world that they now wither in? It is a world that routinely fails its children in countless ways: in flooding their minds and hearts with graphic violence and sexual perversion that destroy the family nest they are raised in, in targeting them as objects for merchandising, even with AI toys that spy on them, in saddling them with decades-long debt (in the United States) acquiring the education they are told they need for success—according to Mike Rowe, for jobs that no longer exist. It is a world dangerous enough that they must be under a guardian’s watch 24/7, whereas in my youth they roamed wherever they roamed, with parents neither knowing nor caring where they were at any given time. Older teens hitchhiked, which was once a universally accepted means of getting around; today it is a course bordering on lunacy.
The same society that puts the physical welfare of children on a razor’s edge of alertness sells them down the river in ways spiritual and emotional. The world’s animalistic hostilities are unrestrained and spill over for all to see and pick up upon. During 2017 there were sixty school shootings. Bullying has become routine among children and is intensified by cyber-bullying. Prior American presidents were frequently vulgar and, in some cases, philanderers. Media knew it well but considered the subject off limits, for they said: ‘What if the children are watching?’ ‘To hell with the children!’ they say today, as there is no sexual scandal not related in detail to score someone political points.
Things seen cannot be unseen. Children bullied cannot be unbullied. Online they might see people beheaded. They might see people hanging themselves.40 The world puts powerful media tools into the hands of children with nary a concern over its misuse or effect upon them. A former Facebook boss claimed the social network’s “dopamine-driven feedback loops” were “ripping apart the social fabric.” “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains,” another exec said.41 Not to be discounted is an opioid epidemic manufactured by big business42 which just happened to get out of hand, tearing families apart willy-nilly. Surely nothing is more telling than young people emotionally ascertaining what Hotel World has to offer and deciding to check out. They don’t buy its boasts of materialistic progress. They don’t think such progress outweighs emotional and spiritual ‘demons.’ “The things that used to keep people together and give kids a sense that things were going to be O.K. are just not available today,” said Dr. Michael Roy, director of the adolescent unit at the McCauley Neuropsychiatric Institute at St. Mary’s Hospital in San Francisco.43
If the prior dramatization of the child abuse commission was sarcastic, the following borders on being downright sick. Thomas Carlyle will be spinning in his grave. But it is based upon valid kernels of truth that one might easily break one’s teeth on. Just because a skit is macabre does not mean it is untrue. Skip it if you like. But if you do not, cut this writer slack, for I have temporarily taken leave of my senses, just like Paul did when he pushed back at the superapostles. Let us go into the schoolroom:
“Class, I know you are sad that Ashley hung herself yesterday. And last week little Jimmy in the 4th grade got into the opioids and died. He was sad because Travis’s older brother blew his brains out a month ago and so he took the pills to make him feel better. You probably saw Ashley on Facebook. Wasn’t that terrible? Your school loves you and wants to help, so we have asked Miss Postate to address the class. Miss Postate, you have our attention."
Thank you, teacher. Good morning, class. (Good morning, Miss Postate)
I have several charts with me today that shows the world is wonderful. Look at them closely.44 If you do that you will see that most of the bad things are almost gone. Overall global poverty is going down! So is child labor! So is the income spent on food! Also infant mortality! And teen births (though there may be very tiny people who pay the costs for this victory)! More people can read and more go to college! Scientists and educated people did this, not stupid Jehovah’s Witnesses. They’re at the bottom of the Pew List. What good are they? Look to science and education to solve our problems, not God. My charts show the problems are almost gone.
Whatever is wrong with you—killing yourselves the way you do? Stop it right now! Can’t you see? The end of problems is just around the corner. We are so very close. Don’t Give Up. We even have suicide hotlines because we love you. We have powerful anti-depressants for you. What more could you ask for?
I know that you are sad because Taylor was molested by her uncle not long ago. And Logan and Mason and Dixon and Donna and Prancer. These things happen. They are very bad, and we are working hard to stop them. We have sex offender registry lists and half the planet is on them, so we are making fine progress. The thing that I want you to focus on is that some Jehovah’s Witness elders punished Dixon’s uncle, but they didn’t do it the right way. It’s not their job to punish him—it’s our job.
Infant mortality is down. Life expectancy is up. Some material progress is undeniable. Would that emotional and spiritual progress—the stuff of life—had kept the pace. Miss Postate should keep her charts to herself. Not everything is on them. And much that is there is irrelevant to children and even adults, for it is known that ‘facts’ are elusive building blocks of uncertain quality that can be fashioned into both palaces and outhouses. Yes, one may acknowledge material progress. Yet the following additional ‘fact’ speaks volumes: from the beginning of time, clowns have delighted children. What kind of a society allows them to be hijacked into symbols of terror, triggering an R.I.P. for Ronald McDonald?45 Speaking of societal division today in the U.S, realized most pointedly in politics, Nate Boyer said: “Simply put, it seems that we just hate each other,” a reality he found almost too painful to put into words.46
The P-word is the most vile moniker possible, but it is not the only one Witnesses deal with. Nor should one expect it to be. Jesus said “every sort of wicked thing.” He did not leave it at one.47 It wasn’t left at one in the first century, where Christians were accused of cannibalism48 and of burning down Rome.49 It isn’t left at one today. It is but another manifestation of the Lord’s words: “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me.” Surely, child sexual abuse qualifies as an ‘every kind of evil’ persons might falsely charge. After all, upon what true basis might Christians be accused of evil: “Well…um, they were pushy at the door?” If they are to be accused, it has to be on a false pretext, and the more incendiary the better. One can get no more incendiary than child sexual abuse.
Oddly, the topic of child sexual abuse never arose in connection to Russia’s current battle with Jehovah’s Witnesses. It has arisen in many battlefields, but not this one—so far. Only months after the ban did the Russian Embassy push back with a tweet. It reproduced a headline somewhere linking Jehovah’s Witnesses to child abuse. I tweeted back that if there was anything to it, it would have been part of the trial. Technically that was not true, for no sustainable reasons, barely any reasons at all, were part of the trial. Instead, the Witness organization was found guilty as charged on all counts and the docket was cleared for the next case.
The Australian Royal Commission (ARC) left no stone unturned in its four-year investigation into child sexual abuse. Apostates had sought online to convey the impression that the sole purpose of the Commission was to expose Jehovah’s Witnesses. Rather, all institutions operating in the country, for which data was obtainable, were subject to inspection with an eye toward systemic problems that might be addressed. Altogether, the ARC was able to review 57 different case studies.
Case Study 29, published in October of 2016, relates to Jehovah’s Witnesses in the country. There, the 1006 allegations of child sexual abuse from Watchtower Australia’s own files, dating back into the 1950s, occasioned harsh words as to the alleged inadequacy of internal handling. The Commission was blistering in its assertion that all such allegations should have been immediately relayed to outside authorities, and that the Watchtower organization had acted as though oblivious to such concerns.50 Many have picked up the refrain, not just Witness detractors, but also the casual reader, who may conclude that the strange religion must play host to a den of perversion.
There is a colloquial saying of one who “can’t see the forest for the sake of the trees.” It denotes a party analyzing the small picture quite correctly, yet in doing so missing entirely an overall picture of far greater significance. Can this be charged of the Commission? Not of members themselves. They did their job nobly, with obvious concern over combatting a worldwide pandemic. But the saying might be said with regard to the focus of the Commission itself. What it looked into was procedures for handling abuse cases that have occurred. It was not their mission to look at prevention of abuse. Yet this is by far the more important picture.
The Watchtower did what no one else was proactive enough to do, and they get slammed for it. It is the epitome of the saying: “No good deed goes unpunished.” It is not that findings of the court are invalid. Doubtless, the Witness organization will take them to heart and be instructed by them.51 However, with all other denominations, except for clergy, crimes of child sexual abuse are discovered independently by authorities, and no connection is ever made with whatever religion they profess. Other denominations did not know or want to know whether members actually applied Bible teachings or not. Through neglect of what turns out to be a most serious problem, they produced no record for the ARC or anyone else to hold hearings on. The 55 non-Witness case studies that the ARC investigated were institutions of various sorts: social, government or schools, that were responsible enough to track child sexual abuse. Religious organizations on the whole stayed far away from such things.
The finding that should be spotlighted, though it was not because the mission was something else, is that children appear to be far safer in the Witness community than in the general Australian population. Case Study 54 is a follow-up to Study 29. It sheds light on the situation that will surprise some.52 Study 54 looked at the 17 instances of child abuse from the Witness organization that had occurred in the interim, from August 2015 to January 2017. Nine were historical cases and none involved an elder. All occurred in a familial setting. Of the seventeen, two had refused to report to secular authorities, as they were adult survivors and it was their right not to report. The number of Witnesses in all Australia at the time was 67,418.53
A revealing comparison becomes possible with a pool size large enough to be significant. Out of a total national Australian population of 23,968,973,54 the Australian Institute of Family Studies reported 355,925 notifications of child abuse stemming from 225,487 children (2015-2016). 12% of that number was determined to be child sexual abuse, and so the 225,487 becomes 27,058.55 From the Jehovah’s Witnesses figures, seventeen notifications of abuse over seventeen months is one per month. Let us therefore call it twelve, so that time periods of all figures equalize. Twelve abuse incidents were reported among the 67,418 Witnesses in Australia during the same one-year period that 27,058 child sexual abuse cases were reported among the entire Australian population of 23,968,973.
The figures to be used for comparative purposes are: Greater Australia: 27,058 / 23,968,973, which represents .1129% vs Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia: 12 / 67,418, which represents .0178% From these figures it would appear that a child in the Witness community is six times safer than a child in the greater Australian community. From them the conclusion can be drawn that if greater Australia had experienced child sexual abuse in the same proportion as that of Jehovah’s Witnesses, it would have experienced but 4,510 incidences of child sexual abuse, not the 27,058 it actually did experience. Thus, there were 22,458 annual incidences of child sexual abuse that would not have occurred had the entire country had the abuse prevention record of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The ARC focused on 1006 JW reports of abuse over a 60-year period. They could not be expected to focus on the 22,458 reports in one year. That was not their job. They focused on the 1006 reports over 60 years, which was their job. They were not able to look at any other entire denominations because none of them tracked abuse among their parishioners. They themselves tracked no record of perpetrator by religion, unless that figure was supplied by the religion itself, to be handed over upon demand. There is thus ‘negligence’ on two counts: one, of religious organizations keeping no record of abuse among their parishioners, as though none had ever occurred, and two: of Australian authorities themselves who failed to ascertain religious affiliation of perpetrators. One or the other should have happened for them to condemn the one faith proactive enough to maintain the records that show, upon number-crunching, that they were preventing child sexual abuse six times better. In many settings, negligence is a punishable offense. In this setting, negligence is rewarded and proactiveness is punished.
There is only so far you can go with the ‘six times better’ figure. It should not be relied upon as dogma. It is processed notifications into varying levels of severity on one side versus unprocessed notifications on the other. It is most likely that the 17 notifications from the Witness camp will break down similarly to stats overall, but this cannot be guaranteed. Small variations alter the results dramatically and large variations make it all but meaningless. It is good only for a ballpark figure, the best that can be hoped for given that the ones who should have put their talents to work in ascertaining truth chose instead to bury theirs in the ground. It will have to do for now. Adjusted results from data clarification doesn’t have to work against Witnesses. It could work in their favor. If notifications in the greater Australian figures outnumbered victims, that could be true in the Witness figures as well. Maybe even all 17 reports stem from a single rotter like that fellow in San Diego. Kneecap that scoundrel and the record is perfect. We live in a world of buzzwords and catchphrases, few of which will endure rigorous shaking. It is enough to employ our ‘six times better’ figure as a starting bid and concede that further bids might alter the picture in either direction. Therefore, from henceforth, we will merely state that the Witness record of prevention is ‘significantly above’ that of the general population.
Addressing an instance of child sexual abuse ‘properly’ does not mean that it did not occur. It suggests the grief counselors dispatched to the school after a school shooting. Adults reassure themselves that they have addressed the situation properly. However, any student in the school will instantly say it would have been far superior had there been no need for grief counselors in the first place. The transcending lesson to take away from this hearing is not the 1006 abuse victims whose cases were not handled properly in the eyes of Australian authorities. It is the likely 22,458 cases of abuse nationwide (in a single year) that would not have happened were greater society able to imitate the record of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
It is so very typical of this world to relentlessly focus on post-disaster clean-up and completely ignore prevention. Is it not because prevention involves some limits placed upon free expression and some judgements made about morality? Even so, prevention is what should be given priority. ‘Handling child sexual abuse cases correctly’ essentially amounts to securing the barn door after the cows have fled. It is not unproductive to do this, but it is far better for them not to flee in the first place, and the Jehovah’s Witness record on this is significantly better than non-Witnesses. There may be more of these investigations to come. Those who despise Jehovah’s Witnesses are determined that their child sexual abuse policy will headline every one of them. The ‘star’ of Witness policy not aligning with policy of the greater world will continue to burn bright for such ones, but over time the rising star of the superior Witnesses’ overall prevention rate will burn brighter.
One can and should empathize with the two sexual abuse survivors of Witness background interviewed by the Commission. Their testimony is distressing, though no more so than the thousands of abuse cases the ARC heard in all settings. Yet somewhere along the line it ought to be acknowledged that there are far fewer abuse cases among Jehovah’s Witnesses than elsewhere due to their immersion in a culture where Bible principles were emphasized. Put simply, the Australian Royal Commission found much fault with how Witnesses handled cases of child sexual abuse. But they missed entirely the fact that there were 83% less of them to handle, per the Case 54 figures. Doubtless, the overall moral climate prevailing among Jehovah’s Witnesses accounts for the difference. Had the ARC not missed this fact, they might even have recommended that all persons in Australia become Jehovah’s Witnesses. And they might have awarded Jehovah’s Witnesses a Family Glory award, just like Putin did to the Russian Witness family.
Will the greater world really condemn the ones who prevented child sexual abuse several times better than anyone else, but failed to prevent it completely, over allegations that they neglected to report instances to the authorities who oversaw a record several times worse? It makes no sense to me, and I cannot escape the suspicion that the overall intent is to divert from the preaching of the good news, for that is plainly the effect. This is not to say that everyone so involved, or even most, is deliberately pursuing this agenda, for the flashpoint is not imaginary, the subject is gut-wrenching, and it is easy to get caught up in a cause. In no other area is one’s viewpoint so assuredly influenced, if not determined, by their experience. Even an ARC Justice appeared clearly hostile during one session. But as with the Russian ban itself, where allegations of child sexual abuse played absolutely no role, there are entities desperate to stop the spread of Jesus’ message.
Opponents of Jehovah’s Witnesses have been trying to take them out since their inception, and here is the latest front. Paradoxically, were they to succeed in their goal, they would be proving themselves friends of child sexual abuse. How can it be otherwise? Eliminating those most successful in prevention would surely expose more children to danger. They need instead to allow Jehovah’s Witnesses to set up their literature carts right within their lobbies, for the latter has found something that works in combatting this evil. With regard to reporting, to insist that the doers were doing it wrong, yet not acknowledge that they were the sole doers, is surely to miss the mark. When Starfleet Command finds it necessary to discipline Captain Kirk, they nonetheless take into account that he was boldly going where no one had gone before.
It is quite clear that the Governing Body can do no more. Geoffrey Jackson pleaded for mandatory reporting laws across the board in all territories. Why has that not been done? That way elders can run roughshod over any family member who, for whatever reason, does not want to report abuse they have suffered or know of to outside authorities. As was stated about the two from case 54, “they were adult survivors and it was their right not to report.” Strip them of that right. Make it mandatory that everyone report everything.
If the greater authorities are as serious about preventing child sexual abuse as they purport to be, seemingly no policy change could be simpler. Then there would be no swiping at people for not ‘going beyond the law.’ Make it the law if it is so crucial. If they refuse or neglect to enact that most basic proactive measure, yet they would still issue blistering criticism of Jehovah’s Witnesses, what does that tell you? Something more than Capernaum is here.
Commission members were not doing their job wrong. Their mission was not to consider the factors that would mitigate occurrence. It was only after-incident clean-up efforts that they were interested in. It was not their job to weigh the likelihood of child sexual abuse in any given setting. They made no judgements in that regard. Commission members did their job nobly, but nonetheless managed to convey the impression that one of the cleanest organizations on earth was one of the foulest.
- “Russian Pedophilia Cases Soared by One-Third in 2014,” The Moscow Times, March 4, 2015, accessed March 27, 2018, https://themoscowtimes.com/news/russian-pedophilia-cases-soared-by-one-third-in-2014-44477
- Per private email
- “Child Abuse Statistics and the Best Resources,” Invisible Children, accessed April 2, 2018, http://www.invisiblechildren.org/2017/12/29/child-abuse-statistics-the-best-resources/
- 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
- See NABRE script notes for verse 1 Corinthians 6:9, accessed March 28, 2011, https://www.bible.com/bible/463/1CO.6.nabre
- James H Charlesworth, Old Testament Pseudepigrapha (Peabody Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1983) 375
- 1 Corinthians 15:33
- Catherine Shoard, “They Know Him as God, But You Can Call Him Harvey Weinstein,” The Guardian, February 23, 2012, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/film/2012/feb/23/harvey-weinstein-oscars-as-god
- Janice Williams, “Meryl Streep Once Called Harvey Weinstein a ‘God,’ Now Actress is Calling Him ‘Disgraceful,’ Newsweek, October 9, 2107, accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.newsweek.com/meryl-streep-harvey-weinstein-harrassment-680643
- The “two-witness rule” is taken from the Torah (Deuteronomy 19:15) and is reaffirmed in the New Testament. (2 Corinthians 13:1, 1 Timothy 5:19, Mathew 18:15-17) It has long been fundamental to Western law. As a side note, the verse itself was cited before the Russian Supreme court to point out that even the Russian synodal translation does not support the Trinity teaching.
- Robert Bridge, “The West’s ‘Guilty Until Proven Innocent’ Mantra is Wrecking Lives & International Relations,” RT.com, March 24, 2018, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.rt.com/op-ed/422206-russia-skripal-courts-metoo
- Policy Papers: Lucy Delap, “Child Welfare, Child Protection and Sexual Abuse, 1918-1990,” History and Policy, accessed March 28, 2018, http://www.historyandpolicy.org/policy-papers/papers/child-welfare-child-protection-and-sexual-abuse-1918-1990
- “America’s Unjust Sex Laws,” also “Unjust and Ineffective,” The Economist, August 6, 2009
- Niamh Harris, Child Porn So Widespread In UK- Police Can’t Prosecute Everyone,” yournewswire.com, October 25, 2017, accessed March 27, 2018, http://yournewswire.com/child-porn-so-widespread-in-uk-police-cant-prosecute-everyone/
- Peter Foster, “Anonymous Hackers Turn Fire on Global Paedophile Menace,” The Telegraph, January 23, 2015, accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/11363303/Anonymous-hackers-turn-fire-on-global-paedophile-menace.html
- Kaja Whitehouse, “Kindergarten Teacher Busted for Child Porn, Stealing Kids’ Undies,” New York Post, November 22, 2017, accessed March 27, 2018, https://nypost.com/2017/11/22/kindergarten-teacher-busted-for-child-porn-stealing-kids-undies/
- “Teen Girl’s ‘Sexting’ Prosecuted as Felony Child Porn, ACLU Fights Charges,” RT.com, December 23, 2017, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.RT.com/usa/414031-aclu-girl-selfie-child-porn/
- Emanuella Grinberg, “No Longer a Registered Sex Offender, But the Stigma Remains,” CNN, February 11, 2010, accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.cnn.com/2010/CRIME/02/11/oklahoma.teen.sex.offender/index.html
- Konstantin Krylov, “Everything You Wanted to Know About Pedophilia, But Were Afraid to Ask,” The Agency of Political News, September 27, 2016, accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.apn.ru/index.php?newsid=35505
- Bee Shapiro, “His Eye Makeup is Way Better Than Yours,” New York Times, November 22, 2107, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/22/style/his-eye-makeup-is-way-better-than-yours.html
- “Anthony Morris III: We Protect Our Children,” Jehovah’s Witnesses Broadcasting, accessed March 27, 2018, https://tv.jw.org/#en/mediaitems/pub-jwban_201507_2_VIDEO
- “Jehovah’s Witnesses Educate Parents and Children to Protect Against Sexual Predators,” accessed March 28, 2018, https://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/activities/help-community/safeguarding-children-sexual-abuse
- “Protect Your Children,” Jehovah’s Witnesses Broadcasting, accessed March 27, 2018, https://tv.jw.org/#en/mediaitems/ChildrenFeatured/pub-pk_17_VIDEO
- “Safe Touch / Unsafe Touch,” as part of ‘Fight Child Abuse’ series of videos, Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNTUMNKSNwk It is an organization “dedicated to ensuring every child's right to a normal, healthy and secure childhood” which has produced several excellent videos, including the one featured here, with but a single blemish.
- This was presented during the morning session on the 2nd day of the ‘2017 ‘Don't Give Up’ Regional Convention of Jehovah's Witnesses. The talk was part of the symposium entitled “Build a House That Will Endure,” and was itself entitled: Safeguard Your Children From “What is Evil.”
- Proverbs 22:3
- An American sitcom broadcast from 1965 to 1971. Only 20 years after the horrors of the Holocaust, it was seen as a fit topic of comedy. Officers of its setting, Stalag 13, were portrayed as lovable doofuses, whereas the officers from outside were portrayed as sinister doofuses, and all specifics were avoided.
- Downloadable Information Packets, “Jehovah's Witnesses Scripturally Based Position on Child Protection,” JW.org, https://www.jw.org/en/news/legal/legal-resources/information/packet-jw-scripturally-based-position-child-protection/#?insight[search_id]=57169fc4-5c00-44ee-8f2d-51f09f6cca70&insight[search_result_index]=5
- Press Release: Jehovah's Witnesses Office of Public Information, November 21, 2007, http://web.archive.org/web/20071124024433/http://www.jw-media.org/region/global/english/releases/beliefs_practices/071121.htm
November 21, 2007
- Jacob Sullum, “Federal Judge Says Molestation Law Criminalizing Diaper Changes Violates Due Processs,” Reason, April 7, 2017, accessed March 27, 2018, https://reason.com/blog/2017/04/07/federal-judge-says-arizona-molestation-l
- Dorian Hargrove, “Judge Orders Jehovah’s Witnesses to Release Molestation Files,” San Diego Reader, August 30, 2017, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2017/aug/30/citylights-judge-orders-jehovahs-witness-release/?page=1&
- The specific quotes have disappeared online. One must obtain the paper originals. The words are best captured online as quoted by others, such as on my own blog: http://www.tomsheepandgoats.com/2011/11/the-firing-of-joepa.html, November 11, 2011.
- “Joe Paterno, 85, Dies in State College,” ESPN, January 23, 2012, accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/7489238/joe-paterno-ex-penn-state-nittany-lions-coach-dies-85-2-month-cancer-fight. ESPN includes a quote exactly reflecting Anthony Morris’ statement about not initially recognizing the scope of the problem. Of the unspecific allegation of child sexual abuse relayed to him, Paterno said: “You know, (McQueary) didn’t want to get specific. And to be frank with you I don’t know that it would have done any good, because I never heard of, of, rape and a man. So I just did what I thought was best. I talked to people that I thought would be, if there was a problem, that would be following up on it.”
- See also a blistering defense of Paterno by Marc Rubin at http://tominpaine.blogspot.com/2011/11/why-joe-paterno-should-sue-for-libel.html, where it is contended that Paterno did fulfill even his “moral” obligation by reporting to campus police, who fully are police.
- Jason Cheung, “What is a Privileged Conversation?” Law Library, legalmatch.com, October 8, 2014, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.legalmatch.com/law-library/article/privilege-communication-lawyers.html
- Transcript of Day 155 downloadable at: “Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse” August 14, 2015, 15965, or search (CNTR + F) keyword ‘mandatory’, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/case-studies/case-study-29-jehovahs-witnesses.
- Laurie Udesky, 100 Reporters, “Custody in Crisis: How Family Courts Nationwide Put Children in Danger,’ Salon, November 12, 2016, accessed March 14, 2018, https://www.salon.com/2016/12/11/custody-in-crisis-how-family-courts-nationwide-put-children-in-danger/
- Jayne O’Donnell and Anne Saker, “Teen Suicide is Soaring. Do Spotty Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Share Blame” USA Today, March 19, 2018, accessed March 21, 2018, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2018/03/19/teen-suicide-soaring-do-spotty-mental-health-and-addiction-treatment-share-blame/428148002/
- Jessica Guynn, “Facebook Takes Steps to Stop Suicides on Live,” USA TODAY, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2017/03/01/facebook-live-suicide-prevention/98546584/
- James Vincent, “Former Facebook Exec Says Social Media is Ripping Apart Society,” theverge.com, December 11, 2017, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.theverge.com/2017/12/11/16761016/former-facebook-exec-ripping-apart-society
- Ken Hall, “Has Big Pharma Made America a Country of Opioid Drug Addicts? Newsweek, August 9, 2017, accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.newsweek.com/has-big-pharma-made-america-country-opioid-drug-addicts-648480
- James Barron, “Suicide Rates of Teen-agers: Are Their Lives Harder to Live,” New York Times, April 15, 1987, accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.nytimes.com/1987/04/15/garden/suicide-rates-of-teen-agers-are-their-lives-harder-to-live.html?pagewanted=all
- Peter Diamandis, “Why the World is Better Than You Think in 10 Powerful Charts,” singularityhub.com, June 27, 2016, accessed March 27, 2018, https://singularityhub.com/2016/06/27/why-the-world-is-better-than-you-think-in-10-powerful-charts/
- Elle Hunt, “Clown Sightings: Ronald McDonald Keeps Low Profile Amid Creepy Craze,” theguardian.com, October 11, 2016, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2016/oct/12/clown-sightings-ronald-mcdonald-keeps-low-profile-amid-creepy-craze
- Nate Boyer, “Ex-Green Beret Nate Boyer writes open letter to Trump, Kaepernick, NFL and America,” ESPN, October 13, 2017, accessed March 27, 2018, http://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/21003968/nfl-2017-ex-green-beret-nate-boyer-writes-open-letter-president-donald-trump-colin-kaepernick-nfl-united-states-americaUSA TODAY Published 6:03 a.m. ET March 1, 2017
- Matthew 5:11
- “Why Early Christians Were Despised,” Christianity.com, April 28, 2010, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1-300/why-early-christians-were-despised-11629610.html
- Case Study 29 - Jehovah’s Witnesses, Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, March 2017, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/case-studies, select Case Study 29
- Responding to a letter from the ARC post- Case Study 29, the Watchtower acknowledged they had “reviewed, clarified, refined and consolidated their policies and procedures on child abuse. For example: Victims of child abuse are never required to confront their abuser. Child abuse victims who make an allegation may be accompanied by a confidant of either gender for moral support during the investigation by the elders or, if the victim wishes to be present, at a subsequent judicial hearing of allegations of child abuse. … In all cases, the victim and his/her parents have the absolute right to report an allegation to the authorities.” The commission went on to express dissatisfaction that the foregoing did not sufficiently mirror recommendations that they themselves had made. See ‘Attachments’ at Case Study 54 Exhibits. Search for WBTS letter of November 4, 2016, accessed March 16, 2018, https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/exhibits-case-study-54
- Case Study 54: Institutional review of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, March 2017, accessed March 27, 2018, https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/case-studies, select Case Study 54
- 217 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, “Country and Territory Reports – Australia”
- http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/australia-population This ‘live’ reading can be expected to increase, but not soon significantly enough to affect the calculation.
- Child Abuse and Neglect Statistics, CFCA Resource Sheet - June 2017, Australian Government Australian Institute of Family Studies, accessed March 27, 2018, https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/child-abuse-and-neglect-statistics