Geoffrey Jackson Before the Commission - the New Requirement to Go “Beyond the Law”

Excerpt:

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

  1. 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.” …
  2. 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)

from the book: Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia

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Skirmish #282244 - “I would like to get on the phone with Bro. Anthony Morris III (AKA "Tight Pants Tony")...”

AKA "Tight Pants Tony"

You bring this up so frequently (and HOW old are you?) that I have become curious over something:

Please post a full-length photo of yourself.

If, as I suspect, it shows you wearing spray-on pants, that will explain a lot.

(He did post one—of himself back in the day leaning on a fancy car. He was rather dapper back then. Whatever happened? No tight pants, however.)

So. You don’t wear tight suit pants yourself. You probably agree with everyone else that they look ridiculous. You also probably agree that they are ‘manipulative’ — they are the product of a highly sexualized fashion industry that seeks always to highlight sensuality. When these ones turn their attention to children, they put them in clothes that suggest they are hookers. Mothers—and I do not mean just Christian mothers, I mean just protective ones—have to buy boy’s gym shorts for their daughters so as to make them not a target for pedophiles.

And yet you giggle on like a adolescent about “tight pants Tony.” What’s with that?

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photo: Blue Jeans - Emanuelle Tortora

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Misrepresenting JW Child Abuse Policy

“After hearing a rather generic announcement that someone has been "reproved," without knowing the actual reason for that reproof, how would congregants know to keep their children away from them? Another congregant might assume that a person being reproved was caught smoking or fornicating with an adult; child sexual abuse might be the last thing they would consider when they hear of someone having been reproved!” So says Alexandra.

All one need to do blow this silly thing out of the water is to read the relevant portion (point 11) of the JW downloadable child abuse policy:

“If it is determined that one guilty of child sexual abuse is repentant and will remain in the congregation, restrictions are imposed on the individual’s congregation activities. The individual will be specifically admonished by the elders not to be alone in the company of children, not to cultivate friendships with children, or display any affection for children. In addition, elders will inform parents of minors within the congregation of the need to monitor their children’s interaction with the individual.” [Bolded mine]

In the special case of child sexual abuse, these are the steps that go above and beyond handling other forms of wrongdoing. Alexandra’s entire complaint is based upon something that is factually incorrect. Whether or not the published policy addresses every conceivable scenario or whether it is foolproof is another matter entirely. She has stated that there is none. There is. And it would be hard to put it in a more obvious place—the online and downloadable WT policy on child sexual abuse.

It is clear that Alexandra spends too much time pouring over confidential material intended for others and insufficient time reading what is right under her nose. Moreover, had she come by the elders’ guidebook honestly, rather than pilfering it off the internet, put there from some like anti-JW activist, she would have been there to hear the “Brothers, make sure you consult the online CSA policy, for the special circumstance of when the wrong repented over involves child abuse.”

Is it nothing? Some of these activists have huge audiences who uncritically lap up every word, and here is a major complaint that is undeniably bogus. By advancing it, when she really ought to know better, she contributes to the hysteria of anticultism that less freedom-loving nations use as a pretext for physically assaulting and jailing upright people.

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Lessons to be Learned re Child Sexual Abuse

The Old Testament tells some very strange tales and one of them is told at 2 Samuel. David, the Israelite king, pressured facing an armed insurrection led by his own son, enters a town where loyalty is not assured. As it turns out, he and his men are received hospitably, but there is one man decidedly not hospitable.

The account reads: “...a man…came out shouting curses as he approached. He was throwing stones at David and at all the servants of King David, as well as at all the people and the mighty men on his right and on his left. Shimei said as he cursed: “Get out, get out, you bloodguilty man! You worthless man!”“…Then Abishai the son of Zeruiahm said to the king: “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over, please, and take off his head.” But the king said: “…Let him curse me, for Jehovah has said to him, ‘Curse David!’ …Here my own son, who came from my own body, is seeking my life… Leave him alone so that he may curse me, for Jehovah told him to! …With that David and his men kept going down the road while Shimei was walking alongside the mountain abreast of him, shouting curses and throwing stones and a lot of dust.” (16:5-19)

The fellow curses him, throws stones at him, shouting he is bloodguilty and worthless. And David as much as says: “Well, maybe he has a point. I mean, if God is letting it happen, who am I to kick in his head?”

This obscure passage was included twice in recent meeting programming, though it was the focus of neither. I think that the Governing Body inserts it and applies it to itself. Do not think that they throw Bible verses at everyone else while they crest above it all themselves. No. They themselves are chastened by it. Even as the Witness who first dreamed up keeping track of pedophiles, whoever he may be, is probably on potato-peeling duty in the Bethel kitchen and will be till the day he dies—do not think that they are not reflecting upon how they got into this situation so easily spun negatively, even as David must have reflected upon how he got into the mess he was into, with stones bouncing off his helmet.

There is a verse in Ecclesiastes about being “righteous overmuch:” “Do not become righteous overmuch, nor show yourself excessively wise. Why should you cause desolation to yourself?” How might either course cause “desolation to yourself?” Might it not be that both courses are guaranteed to trigger backlash? “Wise” is okay, even good, for who wants to suffer stupid people? But if one shows oneself “excessively wise,” it too readily slides into becoming “full of oneself.” “Righteous is okay, even good, for who wants to associate with lowlifes?  But “righteous overmuch” also too readily slides into becoming “full of oneself.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses did not consciously cover up child sexual abuse. They handle it internally with punishments as severe as excommunication—you can’t execute them, after all—and it has always been written policy—from the moment it occurred to anyone to write about it—that any member is free to report to outside authorities any abuse of which he or she becomes aware. But could it be argued that they inadvertently covered up child sexual abuse? Here one must pause and consider.

Almost any setting in which human beings interact is being revealed these days as steeped in child sexual abuse. It is endemic to human society. If Jehovah’s Witnesses had said: “Oh, man, we’re having a struggle with this bunch, too!” all would have been well. Not with their most virulent detractors, of course, who principally zero in child sexual abuse within the ranks of their former faith. But everyone else would have understood. Most would even have given Witnesses high marks for attempting to do something about the problem, creating an internal sex offender registry long before anyone else thought to do it. They would have understood that the program is not to protect child molesters but to mete out strong discipline and protect congregation members from them.

Unfortunately, those of the “righteous overmuch” mindset were loath to communicate the notion that child sexual abuse could ever occur among those guided by Bible standards. To that end, a culture emerged in which ones suffering it were loath to communicate it outside so as not to “sully God’s name.” It is hardly just Jehovah’s Witnesses. The very reason that there is an expression “skeletons in the closet” is that people once succeeded in keeping them there. No organization has proved eager to reveal whatever child sexual abuse has been found in its midst. That is usually because whatever organization it is believes that overall it is doing much good and does not want to tarnish its image and thereby cripple itself. Yes, “they are commendably proactive over there,” they know will be the reaction of some, but they fear “they are all a bunch of perverts over there!” will be the reaction of most.

This understandable, if not laudable, misgiving is common to all. With Jehovah’s Witnesses there is an added factor. They have attempted to do something about child sexual abuse within their midst, and thereby they become linked with it in the popular mind. Others have circled the wagons when it comes to child sexual abuse among their leaders, but the prospect of being shamed by having it uncovered among their membership does not worry them—there is no mechanism to uncover it; when a pedophile abuser is nabbed by the police, the church minister is as surprised as anyone.

Jehovah’s Witnesses thereby have greater ‘exposurability’ than most; hence the temptation not to advertise it will also be greater than most. The ones “righteous overmuch” have caused tremendous trouble in this regard, it seems to this writer, in creating a culture in which persons will be reluctant to go to outside authorities even though they know they have every right to do it. Reputation of their faith becomes the overriding concern for them. It does not affect all Witnesses, of course, but it does affect a high proportion.

The underlying attitude is not easy to root out, for several reasons. First, it is a common circumstance with anyone having a goal to “do what is right,” and certainly the doing of what is right is not to be discouraged. Secondly, it is not as though there are two factions among Jehovah’s Witnesses, as though rivaling street gangs. Rather, as with people anywhere, there is a spectrum. Separating the wheat from the chaff is not so easy, for there is a mixture of both in everyone—which leads to the third consideration: an actual application of scripture by a group of persons will almost inevitably lead to the present situation, because Christians who are Bible-based are by definition “no part of the world” (John 17:14, for example: “I [Jesus in prayer to his Father] have given your word to them, but the world has hated them, because they are no part of the world.”) The “insularity” that critics of Jehovah’s Witnesses complain of is virtually mandated by the Bible they try to follow. That’s what insulation is—a device to keep something away from what is harmful. The house insulation keeps the harmful cold out. The wire insulation keeps the harmful electricity in. In many cases, good things will not work if they cannot be insulated, and it is the same with Christianity true to the Book.

That said, looking at the overall situation of child sexual abuse, one would easily surmise that something must have gone wrong. Jesus’ words to his followers may be true that they will “lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against you,” (Mathew 5:11) but in this case some will not be so sure about the “lyingly.” Even if it is misrepresented, there must be something to it at root—and in this case it involves hurt children.

Legal accountability is argued over in court each day, and this writer does not comment on individual court cases. He did not comment on OJ or Michael Jackson or Paul Manifort or any of them. They involve persons that one doesn’t know and 99% percent testimony that one doesn’t hear. Cancel trials altogether and determine outcomes based upon Facebook likes if we are expected to all weigh in on with such minimal input.

Everyone sues everybody these days over everything. Lawyers have assumed the place as premiere sponsors of television news. Only vaccine makers operate liability free. Legal chips will fall where they will—everyone understands that. But it is the “righteous overmuch” ones who somehow missed the fact that those outside of the congregation also cared about children. They were so insulated that they barely knew another world existed, and that is what most rankles. That is the soul-searching that must remain as a lesson. That is what David will most likely take away from the stones pounding his helmet. They look like deer caught in the headlights sometimes—aghast and dumbfounded at how what started with such good intentions some now portray as so deliberately evil.

The Witness website contains not a mention of the child sexual abuse court litigation, though there is abundant material on Russian persecution. Perhaps it is simply due to the same reason that one does not expect to find a citation from the Building Department on the restaurant menu. At any rate, it certainly is the case that once one starts addressing the critics one never stops, so the Witness Governing Body overall heeds the recommendation of Jesus expressed at Mathew 11 to not go there—they criticize you no matter what you do, so it is best to ignore it all, press on ahead, and maybe someone else will come to your defense as you trust that “wisdom [will be] proved righteous by its works.”

In the final analysis, anyone visiting jw.org and perusing the abundant material geared to help children, teens, and family must work very hard to leave with the impression that here is an organization that abuses children. It is not that it cannot be done, but only if one has that notion locked-in previously, as (an old friend used to say, about Witness beliefs in general, and not this specifically) one who has a mind of concrete: “all mixed up and firmly set.” The experience is not all that different from Russia declaring Jehovah’s Witnesses extremists. Curiosity piqued, some visit the website to investigate, where they very quickly discover that they are not.

As the divide between what is Bible-based living widens from that of general society, the temptation to allow harmful aftereffects from “insulation” must be resisted, even as the insulation itself must continue. The inevitable divide of lifestyle itself is easily seen in scripture. “In my letter I wrote you to keep mixing in company with fornicators,” the apostle writes at 1 Corinthians 5:9, “not meaning entirely with the fornicators of this world or the greedy persons and extortioners and idolaters. Otherwise, you would actually have to get out of the world. But now I am writing you to quit mixing in company with anyone called a brother that is a fornicator that is a fornicator or a greedy person or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner, not even eating with such a man.”

Okay? The direction to separate and stay separate is very strong. It also flies in the face of current philosophy that we are to “come together” and overlook such differences. Differences that are not ones of conduct Jehovah’s Witnesses from their beginning came together on—those of race and nationality and social class—but differences in conduct the Word says is to be put into another category.

1 Peter 4:3 tells of the rising tensions that are inevitable with regard to two different ways of life: “For the time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have worked out the will of the nations when you proceeded in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and illegal idolatries,” says the writer, but not all will agree. Not everyone would consider what he has listed as so terrible, and many would think a little of all of them is a good thing that adds spice to life. Peter goes on to say: “Because you do not continue running with them in this course to the same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you.” Okay? They are puzzled about it at first but soon enough figure out what to do about it. “Water’s fine in the low sink!” they cry. “Who are you to judge?”

Separation of Christians from the overall world is scripturally mandated. Any attempt to chastise the Witness organization for being that way is actually an attempt to chastise Christianity itself and the Book that it stems from. Still, one must take care not to inadvertently aggravate this situation by being “righteous overmuch.”

Hopefully, somewhere along the line it will be seen that failure to report child sexual abuse is not to be equated to committing it. Court matters will resolve as they will and matters will settle. The most virulent of ex-Witness opposers were barely placated at all by the recent May 2019 study edition Watchtower that essentially solved the problem, by removing all doubt that reporting child sexual abuse to outside authorities DOES NOT bring reproach upon the congregation. They will continue to rail about the “two-witness” rule, which now becomes irrelevant. Report the slimeball to the cops and, if guilty, off to the hoosegow he goes. The “two-witness rule” is for internal procedures only. The reason they are not too quick in the Witness world to throw it out the window emerges every time a person falsely imprisoned is exonerated and released from prison over new DNA evidence, after having served years convicted over less strenuous proof.

 

***~~~***

Meanwhile in Russia, where any connection of Jehovah’s Witnesses to child sexual abuse is completely unheard of and the charge has never been made:

On March 26, 2019, in the town of Yemanzhelinsk (Chelyabinsk Region) at about 7 a.m., there was a soft knock at the door of the apartment where the couple Pavel and Elena Popov live. When they opened the door, they saw about 10 people in masks with assault weapons and a sledge hammer for breaking the door out.

The Popovs were informed that a search would be conducted in their home due to the fact that they profess the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their computer, phones, tablets, family photos, books and international passports were confiscated. After the search, the pair was taken away for questioning in another city. According to law enforcement officers, whether they will be detained, “depends on how they will cooperate.” (Law enforcers across the country threaten believers to intimidate them into incriminating themselves or others by “confessing” that they are carrying out extremist activities.)

This sort of story from Russia is becoming quite common. The game of good cop/ bad cop continues. Both cops want for the activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses to stop. Both cops cloak their attacks in misrepresented threats posed by this decidedly peaceful group—among the very few peoples who swear off violence on all accounts.

Recent meeting congregation material considered Hebrews 12:3: “Indeed, consider closely the one who has endured such hostile speech from sinners against their own interests, so that you may not get tired and give up.”

Why ought one “consider closely” the fact that Jesus “endured such hostile speech” from those who opposed him? “So that one may not get tired and give up.”

Hostile speech always pastes one’s ears back, unless persons are completely insensitive. Few today ever really hear that about Jesus: that he endured “hostile speech” as a matter of course. The reason is plain. If Jesus was the subject of hostile speech—and we all know that Jesus was good—then it follows that anyone venting on him is not-so-good. Since the bulk of people today are pretty much where they were then, to highlight the hostile talk he endured amounts to little more than self-condemnation. The world has rejected Christianity. Mark Twain was not so far off when he wrote that there has only been one Christian and “they caught and crucified him—early.” It is easy to see why he puts it in such short supply. Try sincerely to follow the Christ and they come after you as well.

“Nevertheless, I have told you these things [again, these things about the hostile talk and opposition Christians would face] so that when the hour for them to happen arrives, you will remember that I told them to you,” Jesus counsels disciples at John 16:4. The hour pretty much has arrived for Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are enduring just that hostile talk, not only in Russia, but in the West. Ostensibly it is for different reasons. The most virulent hostile talk in the West has never been heard in Russia. The meeting material is increasingly geared to reinforcing ones’ faithfulness in the face of hostile talk and even action, and that is obviously the enemies’ motivation to deprive them of it.

When Jehovah’s Witnesses are declared extremists in Russia and then, being “extremists,” cannot be detained as one might arrest a speeder, but must be violently arrested with SWAT teams, then you know that the “bad cop” is alive and well. But the overall scenario—Russian and Western—is that of good cop/bad cop, for the goals of the good cop are the same as the bad cop: that Jehovah’s Witnesses cease being Jehovah’s Witnesses and that the kingdom message that they alone preach should cease. To that end differently tactics are used—in the West it is something so scurrilous as child sexual abuse—but the overall goal is the same.

A brief moment of levity was provided by Sergey Skrynnikov, who told the Russian court as part of his closing statement before sentencing: “Let us take a look into the future. If for another ten years or so the government keeps putting Jehovah’s Witnesses in prisons and correctional colonies, there will be about 200 of them in each penal facility. Imagine four congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in one prison! The prison administrators will be begging the Ministry of Justice to set Jehovah’s Witnesses free. What do you imagine the majority of Witnesses would pray for? “Lord, don’t soften the heart of the administrator; don’t let him set me free. I have so many Bible students and sincere people to talk to in here.”

He sort of has a way with words, doesn’t he? And math.

 

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Child Sexual Abuse Storm on the 'Atlantic'

“Tom, you’re on here quite often justifying or defending some pretty horrible doctrine. I get it, it’s your faith and you’re probably a decent guy IRL so I hope one day you’ll find a religion that won’t require you to perform logical contortions to rationalize your adherence to it.”

Actually, you don’t get it. Of course I see the point your community makes. But you make it so persistently and to the exclusion of all else that I say “Okay, those bases are covered” and I focus on the all else. You are a community that plays and perseverates over the movie bloopers and in time imagines that the bloopers were the movie itself. I am struck by the exuberance your pals display in re-embracing the life they once left. Most long-standing residents of that life will not share that exuberance, I think. It is as though they sing the Vioxx ‘It’s a Beautiful Morning!’ song, forgetting that the FDA ultimately pulled that product because it kills people.

I have no problem with saying the Jehovah’s Witnesses governing arrangement makes mistakes. But (we have many trees on our property) it’s like when we contracted the tree trimmer and my wife kept pointing out more and more flaws. “Don’t look so hard,” the fellow told her. “You’ll cut them all down.” It is like that with people anywhere. Taken to extremes, one will dismantle any organization of any sort.

Look, everyone today describes the other side as delusional and even hate-filled. It’s just the way people are. I don’t take it personally. We are spiritual enemies not because of CSA. You have probably done us a favor in that by triggering such 5/19 Watchtower statements as “the reproach falls upon the abuser,” which effectively solves the problem. We are spiritual enemies because you have reversed course on the ‘everything else,’ trading in the diamonds for the turds. The CSA stuff was turds all along, but every group is pulling out its hair trying to cope with it, many less effectively than us, and at any rate, it is not the big picture. It is but a component of the big picture, overall a very small one. If you focus on any tree of the forest long enough, it becomes the forest. Your points I see all the time. Many of my points I have never seen anyone make but me. Even the Watchtower organization itself, which has a “penchant for privacy” as one reporter put it, does not make them. I take for granted going into your community that I will lose. I just want to get another view on the table. Any group with a narrow focus becomes myopic over time. I just seek to counter that.

 

***~~~***

It is a solid base hit—even a double or a triple—with the publication of the Atlantic article and opposers are crowing as they seldom crow. Other sources have picked up on it, such as the New York Daily News. As for me, I would just as soon not see such articles. Given that they exist, however, this one I liked. It helped me with the listings. I have many times interacted with some of these characters, mostly through Twitter, without knowing exactly who they were, where they came from, and what were the relationships between them. Now I know.

I find myself, much to my surprise and even shock, trading tweets with some of the most celebrated ex-Witness opponents on the planet (and seriously getting under their skin, in some cases). I don’t hang out there. I don’t engage overmuch—though I guess I can hardly say that I don’t engage at all. After I learned that one reporter used an anti-Witness forum as his practically sole source, I went there to see if I could leave material that contrasts with what he otherwise finds monolithically. I post long articles there. Each one produces a flurry of protests and I briefly answer a few of them before disappearing. It is the same way on Twitter. Once in a while there is a mighty storm, but most of the time there is nothing at all and I am chatting about the local weather and relaying cat and dog gifs like everyone else.

Crossing swords with these folk is not exactly what a Witness is expected to do. I approach it, like Paul approached the Corinthians, with fear and trembling. One misstep and your head is handed to you on a platter. I wouldn’t dare do it if I didn’t have 15 years of communicating in writing under my belt, not specializing in, but also not avoiding controversial topics. Some of these characters goad and taunt, I think in hopes of provoking an intemperate response. You’d better not give them one or you and what you represent are toast. To be sure, I have blundered a few times, but not beyond recovery. You must not respond in anger even if your blood boils. Neither be too sympathetic, because that is inevitably thrown back in your face as hypocritical. It is the mark of zealotry that you cannot agree with part of a position. You must endorse all of it, otherwise you are said to hate that position and even whoever makes it. The trick is for your blood not to boil—to regard these ones as opponents, but not enemies—even as some of them express the most virulent hostility to you. You answer them evenly and dispassionately.

“Yeah, well if you could see things though their eyes, you would be hostile, too, you delusional fool!” someone will retort. Who can say? Never expound on what you do not know. Refrain from assigning motives even if they seem to you crystal clear. You may be wrong. Indeed, some of them describe themselves as whistleblowers. Why deny them the status? Having blown the whistle and effecting some change with it, they could return to the fold if they wanted to, even if disfellowshipped. What! Even some of pedophiles disfellowshipped have been allowed to return and the elders forever more have to watch them, for one cannot read hearts, so these “whistleblowers” could not? All one must to is “repent” and “turn around” and “produce fruits that befit repentance”—manifested by doing and saying the right thing, giving no further evidence of causing trouble, and enduring months or even years of sitting through meetings and afterwards in silence. The “whistleblowers” are not going to “make trouble,” because they already made it and it turned out to be just the ticket for solving a vexing problem. It could happen.

Of course, why it may not happen is that they might insist upon a heroes’ welcome. They might insist upon thereafter being a “power broker” in the congregation. What they also would “repent” over would be “pushing ahead,” and speaking injuriously of congregation governance. But they could say that there were driven to distraction by what they had heard or experienced and will from this point on “behave” and it would all be smoothed over in time. Time heals most everything that wants to be healed.

The reasons they become “enemies” is not simply due to any whistleblowing, but because they quickly progress to the following, as illustrated by a remark of Lloyd’s:

“And there’s Tom’s approach in a nutshell: join a religion, even if it doesn’t make sense, and just hope eventually your questions will be answered & everything will fall neatly into place. Never mind that people of other religions do the same, wasting their lives on nonsense.”

There it is. He threw out the baby with the bathwater. In fact, it does make sense and is not nonsense. He once thought so, too. It is one of the few things in the world today that does make sense—that is the reason that Witnesses were attracted to Bible teachings in the first place. It is the reason that they stick to it despite trials and even blunders. Current blunders, if they be that, and some courts have said they are, present the framework that Jehovah’s Witnesses often call ‘the Truth’ through its least flattering light. But it is still the same framework. Lloyd illustrates what

Professor David Bromley, author of The Politics of Religious Apostasy, wrote—that “individuals who elect to leave a chosen faith must then become critical of their religion in order to justify their departure…Others may ask, if the group is as transparently evil as he now contends, why did he espouse its cause in the first place? In the process of trying to explain his own seduction and to confirm the worst fears about the group, the apostate is likely to paint a caricature of the group that is shaped more by his current role as apostate than by his actual experience in the group.”

If a court case goes against you, you are duly chastened. But that does not mean that the entire picture has been seen, nor that another court might see things another way. It frequently happens—so many times that one could even stretch matters a little and say that it tacks in the light of ever-brightening approximations of truth, using verbiage that the Watchtower itself is fond of. What about the classic Supreme Court case that went against us in the 1940s, after which Jehovah’s Witnesses were accosted and beaten up so that even Eleanor Roosevelt had to speak up in their behalf, and then three years later, that same Court, with a few new members and a few others chastened at the brutality they had unleashed, reversed itself in the Gobitis decision regarding flag salute? Courts are the best humans can do, but they are not impartial. Everyone knows it. If they were impartial, confirming a new Supreme Court Justice could be done in an afternoon. Justices are swayed by interpretation of the law which is, in turn, swayed by pre-existing ideology. And no ideology is so white-hot as that which accompanies the subject of child sexual abuse, the plague of the planet.

The civil court is not so much a forum to establish truth but one to assign blame. The two goals overlap, but they are not the same. A conciliatory tone, for example, would seem to be a prerequisite in a forum seeking truth, but in an adversarial court forum, one must eschew it, for it will only result in getting beaten over the head with it by the other party. It is the nature of an adversarial legal system.

Yes, one is chastened upon losing a court case. On the other hand, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia did not need the Supreme Court declaring it extremist and the equivalent of ISIS (the only other officially designated extremist group) to know whether they were extremist or not. They did not need the Russian cops being told: ‘There are bad people inside. Do with them what you like,’ to determine whether they were bad people or not. It is the same when a Western civil court rules against them in a child abuse matter. They know the original intent of whatever record-keeping exists—to monitor some abhorrent conduct, in accord with Romans 2:21: “You, the one saying ‘do not steal,’ do you steal? You, the one saying ‘do not commit adultery,’ do you commit adultery?” They know, too, the intention was to protect their general community, so that molesters could not slip quietly out of one congregation and into another (as they could anywhere else). They know these things—even if they are misrepresented, sometimes deliberately, as attempts to protect pedophiles.

 

As Jehovah’s Witnesses experienced Bible teachings come together to convincingly answer deep questions of life—questions answered nowhere else—to them it was like a jigsaw puzzle assembled. They thereafter look at the mountain vista from the box cover replicated before them and are not quickly swayed by opponents saying they put it together wrong—even if there are some frayed pieces. This is especially true if that opponent’s own puzzle lies unassembled in the box on the upper shelf of his closet.

That consideration will be the predominant factor for most Jehovah’s Witnesses as they respond to what is here undeniably sordid. Child sexual abuse is the growth industry of the planet. Nearly all groups of size have suffered ship damage attempting to navigate those shoals. The common view now for any organization in which it has not been revealed is that it is only a matter of time. See how the United Nations, for example, is a pedophile haven—wear a blue helmet and nobody questions your authority or intention.

 

Lloyd will not return, not because he has spotlighted something unsavory, but because he has responded to the JW ship running into the shoals by burning every part of it. Is it really so that the Witness world is the one that “makes no sense?” One glance at the news will reveal that it is his world that makes no sense. Is it really so that religion is a crutch of which we have no need? The premise of the question is wrong. It is indeed a crutch. The flawed premise is that we have no need of one. In his day, Ronald Reagan was arguably the most influential person on earth. Ten years later, in the throes of Alzheimer’s, he didn’t know who he was. Will anyone maintain that they need no crutch in the face of a pathetic reality as that?

I approach online “in fear and trembling,” not just because these characters will rip you to shreds if you say something dumb, or because you are invariably battling a dozen of them at once, or because everything you say they think is dumb, but also because I do not know the reaction of my own people. Many of them, if not most, will think a Witness should not be doing what I am doing, and they will give me the fisheye.

Will I one day hear from the Witness organization: “What are you doing, TrueTom?! You’re messing everything up!?” If so, I will recalibrate, for I do not think that I am above them. It is no more than acceding to the authority of the coach, the teacher, the boss, the mentor, the union steward—something that used to be the most unremarkable thing in the world and is now portrayed as domination by those who would abuse. You can over-play the victimization card.

I am very glad—and did not plan it this way at all—that I wrote two timely books (four altogether) and put portions online so that, should I choose to respond to a tweet, I can also link to something relevant, effectively answering someone’s 50 words with my 1000. Let me tell you that gets rid of trolls in a hurry.

It started out as such a small project. As our people experienced problems in Russia, I wrote a few posts about it in my blog. In time, it occurred to me to assemble them for the record. Emily Baran, a non-Witness, wrote the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia from their beginning up till 2007. Nobody has written an account of the present happenings, so I figured that I would do it.

All I had in minds was something on the order of a brochure. However, as opposition in Russia intensified, the precise reasons for opposition were never stated, leaving reporters to venture educated guesses as to just what Russia has against them. Putin himself doesn’t seem to understand it, stating that he doesn’t know why Jehovah’s Witnesses are persecuted since “they are Christians, too.” So I decided to state them myself, along with how each might be defended in Parts 2 and 3 of what became a book—with references endnoted because that is what one does with history.

Thus the book is not only a chronicle of history (Part 1). It is also a witness to persons who might not know much about us. It is what I would say were I on a return visit there. It is literally what I would say, in many cases. One personal friend said about my first ebook, Tom Irregardless and Me that he was having a hard time following along until a light went off in his head: “Oh. Tom writes like he speaks,” after which he had no trouble.

The defense portion of Dear Mr. Putin – Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia grew and grew and is as large as the history portion. Moreover, everything is interwoven. When I put it out there, I thought my book-writing days were done. However, opposition that had taken a pause in the West kicked up again—I found myself responding to that in other posts—and presently I thought to package them into another book: TrueTom vs the Apostates!

The two were always meant to stand separately. I didn’t think of Dear Mr. Putin while I was writing TrueTom. However, they will end up sharing a few common chapters, even though both have already been released—you can do that with ebooks—they will share common material because, in a spiritual sense, the situation in Russia and the situation in the West are the same. It is a good cop/ bad cop situation. The good cop may really not want you to fall into the hands of the bad cop, because he knows how bad that bad cop can be. But both cops have the same goal—that Jehovah’s Witnesses cease being Jehovah’s Witnesses and that kingdom message that they alone preach should stop.

Will my own people upbraid me? Their preference, sometimes stated strongly, is for Witnesses to not go cavorting about online, even if as self-proclaimed sheriffs determined to drain the internet swamp—perhaps especially so, because they always look foolish in so doing. The internet is not the congregation and cannot be made to behave like one. But for me, it will be sort of like what Brother Sivulsky in Russia, from a far more secure perch organizationally, but from a far more dangerous one physically, said. Just after the Russian ban went into effect, he was interviewed from afar by American media: “Are you putting yourself in danger just by speaking with me?” the reporter asked. His answer:

“I don’t know—to be frank, I have no fear. if something will happen—okay it will happen—what I can do? What I am telling only the truth—then why I should fear? If something happens, okay, we will face this problem. For me it is easier because my family was exiled to Siberia. My father spent seven years in prison. My mother spent four years in prison. And I also myself spent one and a half years in prison for military service objection. That’s why I know what does it mean to be persecuted and I have no fear.”

I should be at least as courageous (even though my father did not spend seven years in prison), because my brothers in Russia are showing that quality in spades, and everyone else wonders if, when it comes to them, they will handle it as well. “You can’t do it on your own strength,” comes the scriptural answer. “Nor could they. They lean upon God for strength.”

Upbraiding from my own folks may not happen. When a widow asked me to give the funeral talk of a close friend at the Kingdom Hall, I said that I would if it were allowed—there would be no problem at a funeral home but, neither being a current elder or servant, it might not be allowed at the Kingdom Hall. It was. I’ve been around for a while and people like me. The day I arrived to give it, however, one elder known for crossing ‘t’s and dotting ‘i’s asked me if I was speaking from the supplied funeral talk outline that most speak from. I said I was not. He was not real pleased about that, but after the talk he reversed his position. Another elder present, a former Bethel member, told me afterwards that Bethel has no problem departing from customary practice whenever it can be improved upon. An older man can chance it more readily than a young man, for whom it would likely come off as immodest. You don’t have to speak the healthful words verbatim. You have to speak the pattern of the healthful words, as Paul told Timothy.

See: Tweetstorm Over the Atlantic    and/or

Lessons to be Learned

Included in the eBook; TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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A Class Action Suit in Quebec

“Citing a hierarchy that ‘encourages a culture of silence,’ a Quebec Superior Court judge has authorized a class-action lawsuit for current or former Jehovah’s Witnesses in Quebec who were sexually abused by other members as minors....[The plaintiff] alleges she was repeatedly sexually abused and assaulted by her brother, 13 years older, beginning when she was only 10 months old.”

Do I understand this correctly? One child abuses another within a family, and it is the fault of the congregation elders?

The Canadian judge stated that: “The organization of Jehovah's Witnesses is very hierarchical, led by men, and encourages a culture of silence.”

Take the organization out of the picture for a moment. Are we to imagine that the mom and dad of this family would have otherwise marched their kids straight down to the police station to make sure that proper punishment was meted out?

There is a part of me that thinks what really gets in sticks in the craw of this judge is that Jehovah’s Witnesses are “hierarchical,” as though any other organization is not, and that they are “led by men,” as though anything less than a free-for-all ought to be taboo. Perhaps she even implies that men are inherently evil, so that the greatest travesty of all is to be led by them.

However, says my nemesis: “My guess is that it's not what happened within the family. It was the coverup within the Congregation.”

Well—it is not possible to mishandle what you never attempted to handle in the first place.

The clear implication of rulings such as this is that religious organizations ought not to look into the conduct of its members, for it is only by doing so that they can find themselves in such a spot as this. “Be like the mainline churches,” the ruling says in effect. “Preach to them on Sunday and be done with it. It’s none of your business whether they apply it or not.”

However, the verse Christians feel obligated to follow says that it is their business. “You, the one preaching, “Do not steal,” do you steal?  You, the one saying, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery?” (Romans 2:21) If you claim that your teachings improve the overall moral fiber, you must have mechanisms in place to ensure that that is in fact the case, especially if your view of God is that he insists on a “clean” people, as free of misconduct as possible.

Framed in this way, the ruling is a state attempt to regulate religion, and could be argued on that basis.

Plus, such thinking completely ignores the far superior role of prevention of child sexual abuse, in order to zero in exclusively on meting out punishment when it occurs, as though that is the means by which the problem will be solved. How’s that project going, anyhow? Thirty years into the all-out war against child sexual abuse, is it just about snuffed out? Or is it only the tip of the iceberg that has been revealed?

I’ll take the kids, Caleb and Sophia, video any day, for teaching parents how to protect their children. I’ll take the 2017 Regional Conventions any day, in which every Witness in the world was assembled to hear detailed scenarios in which child sexual abuse might take place, so that parents, the obvious first line of defense, can be vigilant. Who else assembles all its members and then trains them so?

***~~~***

 

“Jehovah’s Witnesses have a serious problem of child sexual abuse in their midst?”

 There are two ways of looking at this.

1.) They do not.

2.) They do, but the situation is far worse everywhere else.

One must look no farther than who is being outed as perpetrators. If you want to find deviants in most places, you look no further than the leaders. If you want the same ‘catch’ among Jehovah’s Witnesses, you must broaden your search to include, not just leaders, but everyone. A Jehovah’s Witness leader committing child sexual abuse is rare. Not unheard of, but rare. Elsewhere, it is the pattern.

Okay, if the leaders are not committing the child sexual abuse, are they nonetheless "hiding it?" How do they compare with other groups? It is a little hard to say. Nobody else has ever found any. They looked the other way, taking no interest in looking at wrongdoing within their midst. Thus, when child sexual abuse was found, it was a.) found entirely independent of religious affiliation, and b.) it was found that the leaders themselves were the abusers. How would members fare in comparison? There is no data. Nobody ever bothered to look.

Courts will go where courts will go. Will they take the above into account? Time will tell. There are few organizations with pockets--it doesn’t matter if they are religious or not--that are not being flooded with lawsuits today. In New York State, my own state, the governor has just signed into law a bill greatly lengthening the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse. Out of nowhere has appeared a major sponsor of programming I watch--a legal firm seeking to sign up clients. The ads briefly eclipsed other legal firms of accident litigation running non-stop ads of how “[So and So law firm] got me $3 million dollars, 15 times what the insurance company offered!” Put together, lawyers have become by far the premier sponsors of television. Can a society really endure that way?

Make no mistake. No one is saying that it is wrong to sue for grievances. But one must sometimes ask whether there will be any organized group on earth left standing when the suing is done. Of course, there will be some. Governments can just raise taxes to recoup legal payouts. Businesses can raise prices. But groups like the Boy Scouts, investigating bankruptcy at last report, are out of luck. One wonders how other voluntary organizations will fare.

The typical person congratulates the client who has come into an extraordinary bonanza via lawsuit. Then he opens his insurance premium bill. It calls to mind, as a rough parallel, the statement of Alexander Fraser that democracy can only endure until “the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury.” The world has become a lawyers’ playground, with massive transfers of money flowing in all directions--the barristers netting a third, they being the only consistent beneficiaries.

When the rules of the game change, you can hardly blame the small players for adjusting to accommodate them. There was a time, those my age will remember, when nothing was so crass as for lawyers to advertise. It was against their universal code of conduct, possibly even against the law. It explains the phrase “ambulance chaser”—you actually had to chase an ambulance to sign up a client before another lawyer could. You couldn’t just broadcast to the whole wide world that you were scouring the earth for clients.

Someone dear to me was sued several times with regard to property, in another matter that had a very long statute of limitations. When what proved to be the final lawsuit came in, the person sought to make defense through his insurance lawyer, but that one attempted contact several times and could not get a response from the firm bringing suit. Finally, that firm admitted that they were having a hard time locating their client. Seemingly, they had left no stone unturned in seeking business and had finally found “aggrieved” ones whose cases were so tenuous that they couldn’t even be bothered to show up and make them.

I wonder, too, whether the popular demand for public apologies isn’t largely just a PR event, or even worse, an encouraged legal strategy to secure a clear admission of guilt, thereafter better enabling future lawsuits. Few things are done for the noble ‘window-dressing’ reasons that are given. At any rate, it is worth noting that when the government of Australia apologized for decades of child sexual abuse, and opposers praised that apology to the heavens because they thought they could thereby embarrass Jehovah’s Witnesses, the victims nonetheless rejected it as ‘too little, too late.’ Better than any apology is prevention. Of course, it is good to call in the grief counselors in the aftermath of a school shooting. But it is far better not to need them in the first place.

The situation is a far cry from the Quebec of 70 years ago, during which 400 Jehovah's Witnesses generated 1600 arrests, on charges as minor as peddling without a license but as major as sedition. A key case involving sedition was lost before the Supreme Court of Canada, but was overturned on a rarely-used provision of "rehearing," at which the Court acknowledged that Witness literature and ministry included nothing that incited to violence--a necessary ingredient of sedition--but only contained that which made a powerful faction squirm. The situation is much different today, with altogether different charges, and the game is barely recognizable. But deep within, is the underlying intent not nonetheless the same, cloaked behind a veneer of righteous indignation?

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To be added to TrueTom vs the Apostates!

 

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The Reproach of Child Sexual Abuse Falls on the Abuser

In Jehovah’s Witness congregations, victims, parents, or anyone else, have always been free to report allegations of child sexual abuse to the police. The troubling reality is that many chose not to do it. They alerted congregation elders and went no further. Why? Because they thought that by so doing, they might be bringing reproach on God’s name and the Christian congregation.

That situation has been resolved. The May 2019 study edition of the Watchtower, reviewed via Q & A participation at all congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses—it will escape nobody—addressed it specifically: 

“But what if the report is about someone who is a part of the congregation and the matter then becomes known in the community? Should the Christian who reported it feel that he has brought reproach on God’s name? No. The abuser is the one who brings reproach on God’s name,” states the magazine.*

The problem is solved. Can one bring reproach on God or the Christian congregation by reporting child sexual abuse to police? No. The abuser has already brought the reproach. There will be many who had long ago come to that conclusion, but now, unambiguously, in writing, for elders and members alike, here it is spelled out.

From the beginning, child sexual abuse controversies as related to Jehovah’s Witnesses have been markedly different from those of nearly anywhere else. Incidents have mostly been within the ranks of the general membership, come to light because the Witness organization takes seriously passages as Romans 2:21-22, and investigates wrongdoing within its midst so as to “keep the congregation clean” in God’s eyes, something that they think He demands:

“Do you, however, the one teaching someone else, not teach yourself? You, the one preaching “Do not steal,” do you steal?  You, the one saying “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery?” (Romans 2:21-22)

Elsewhere it is the leaders being looked at exclusively. Usually, no mechanism at all exists that the wrongdoing of religious members comes to light. When the police nab John Q. Parishioner, it is as much news to the church minister as it is to the public. When was the last time you read of an abuser identified by religious affiliation unless it was a person in position of leadership?

As I write this, it now appears that the time has come for Southern Baptists to take their turn in the hot seat. Just eight days prior to this writing, a Houston Chronicle headline (February 10, 2019) announces: “Abuse of Faith - 20 years, 700 victims: Southern Baptist sexual abuse spreads as leaders resist reforms.”

Who are the victims? Entirely those who were abused by leaders. The latter “were pastors. ministers. youth pastors. Sunday school teachers. deacons. And church volunteers.” Were any of them just regular church members abused by other regular church members? No. There is no apparatus for that to ever come to light. The church preaches to them on Sunday but otherwise takes no interest in whether they actually apply the faith or not. Doubtless they hope for the best, but it is no more than hope. Only a handful of faiths make any effort to ensure that members live up to what they profess.

It has always been apples vs oranges. That is what has long frustrated Jehovah’s Witnesses. With most groups, if you want to find a bumper crop of pedophile abusers, you need look no farther than the leaders. With Jehovah’s Witnesses, if you “hope” for the same catch, you must broaden your nets to include, not just leaders, but everybody. It is rare for a Witness leader to be an abuser, the rotter in San Diego being a notable exception. It is the rule elsewhere. The most recent Witness legal case, involving a lawsuit in Montana, involves abuse entirely within a member’s step-family that did not reach the ears of the police, which the court decided was through leadership culpability.

To account for this marked difference in leadership personal conduct, this writer submits a reason. Those who lead among Jehovah’s Witnesses are selected from rank and file members on the basis of moral qualifications highlighted in the Bible itself, for example, at Titus 1:6-9.  In short, they are those who have distinguished themselves in living their religion. Leaders of most denominations have distinguished themselves in knowing their religion, having graduated from divinity schools of higher education. They may live the religion—ideally, they do, but this is by no means assured—the emphasis is on academic knowledge.

Add to the mix that Jehovah’s Witness elders preside without pay, and thus their true motive is revealed. Most religious leaders do it for pay, and thus present conflicting motives. One could even call them “mercenary ministers.” Are they untainted in their desire to do the Lord’s work or not? One hopes for the best but can never be sure.

Confounding irreligious humanists who would frame the child sexual abuse issue as one of religious institutions, two days after the Southern Baptist exposé, there appeared one of the United Nations. On February 12, the Sun (thesun.co.uk) reported that “thousands more ‘predatory’ sex abusers specifically target aid charity jobs to get close to vulnerable women and children.”

“There are tens of thousands of aid workers around the world with paedophile tendencies, but if you wear a UNICEF T-shirt nobody will ask what you’re up to. You have the impunity to do whatever you want,” Andrew Macleod, a former UN high official stated, adding that “there has been an ‘endemic’ cover-up of the sickening crimes for two decades, with those who attempt to blow the whistle just getting fired.” Sharing his data with The Sun, Mr. Macleod “warned that the spiralling abuse scandal was on the same scale as the Catholic Church’s.”

All things must be put into perspective. Child sexual abuse is not an issue of any single religion, much less a tiny one where otherwise blameless leaders are perceived to have bungled reporting to police. It occurs in any setting in which people interact with one another. The legal system being what it is, one can prosecute child sexual abuse wherever it is encountered. The tort system being what it is, one prosecutes primarily where there are deep pockets. Arguably, the child sexual abuse issues of the Southern Baptists have taken so long coming to light is because that denomination is decentralized in organization, presenting no deep pockets.

With the May 2019 Watchtower mentioned above, finally the reporting issues of Jehovah’s Witnesses are fixed. Anyone who knows of abuse allegations may bring those to the attention of the police, and regardless of how “insular” or “no part of the world” Witnesses may be, they need not have the slightest misgivings about bringing reproach on the congregation. Both goals can proceed—that of societal justice and that of congregation justice—and neither interferes with the other.

Witness opposers were not at all gracious about this change, that I could see. Many continued to harp on the “two witness” rule of verifying abuse, for example. It becomes entirely irrelevant now. Were it a “40-witness” or a “half-witness” rule, it wouldn’t matter. It is a standard that guides congregation judicial proceedings and has absolutely no bearing on secular justice.

“Well, it only took a landslide of legal threats around the world to force their hand on this,” opposers grumbled, as they went on to claim credit. Why not give them the credit? Likely it is true. Everything in life is action/reaction and it would be foolish to deny the substance of this. Once ones leave the faith, people within lose track of them. It is easy to say: “Out of sight, out of mind,” and opponents did not allow this to happen. They should seriously congratulate themselves. Many have publicly stated that their opposition is only so that Jehovah’s Witnesses will fix their “broken policies.” Now that they have been fixed, one wonders if their opposition will stop.

Members have been given the clearest possible direction that there should be no obstacle or objection to their reporting whatever allegations or realities they feel should be reported. Few journalists will hold out for elders marching them down to the police station at gunpoint to make sure that they do, even if their most determined opposers will settle for no less.  There are some experiences that seem to preclude one’s ever looking at life rationally again, and perhaps child sexual abuse is one of them. The only people not knowing that the situation is fixed are those who are convinced that Jehovah’s Witnesses are evil incarnate whose charter purpose is to abuse children, and they will not be convinced until there is a cop in every Witness home.

With a major “reform” making clear that there is absolutely no reproach in reporting vile things to the authorities, some of the most virulent of Witness critics lose something huge to them, and the question some of them must face is a little like that of Tom Brady—what on earth is he ever going to do with himself after he retires? A few face withering away like old Roger Chillingsworth of the Scarlet Letter, who, when Arthur Dimmesdale finally changed his policy, “knelt down beside him, with a blank, dull countenance, out of which life seemed to have departed. ‘Thou hast escaped me!’ he repeated more than once. ‘Thou has escaped me!’

This will not be the journalists, of course. Nor will it be the legal people. Nor will it even be Witness critics in the main. But for some of the latter, former members who are vested in tearing down what they once embraced, it will not be an easy transition. They almost have no choice but to find some far-fetched scenario involving “rogue elders” that could conceivably allow something bad to yet happen and harp on that till the cows come home. There are always going to be ‘What ifs.’ At some point one must have some confidence in the power of parents to be concerned for their children, and for community to handle occasional lapses, particularly since governmental solutions have hardly proven immune to abuse and miscarriages of justice themselves. It is not easy to get between a mama bear and her cub.

All told, it would appear that even if the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses practiced child sexual abuse themselves, their “contribution” would be the tiniest part of an overall endemic. But since they do not—since their alleged sins are failing to report on what some members have done, the efforts of their apostates to paint them as a prime source of the degradation is but vengeful. They deliberately construct a damning and inaccurate picture of the faith that others in lands less enamored with human rights act upon.

 

*This point is not absolutely new, but it has been made more prominent by being included in the weekly Watchtower Study meeting. A similar point is made in the Appendix of 'Keep Yourselves in God's Love,' a 2008 book, which formed the basis of study in the Congregation Book Study format, and is presently one of two books studies by each person in the course of presenting themselves for baptism:

On page 223, the book reads: "In rare instances, one Christian might commit a serious crime against another--such as rape, assault, murder, or major theft. In such cases, it would not be unchristian to report the matter to the authorities, even though doing so might resort in a court case or a similar trial."

~~~

 

Q: “I do believe that Elders are using this 'excuse' [clergy-penitent privilege] to refuse to give evidence in court cases. Am I right in this thinking ?”

No more so than a motorist uses the posted speed limit sign as an “excuse” to explain why he was driving that fast.

Clergy-penitent privilege, like doctor-patient and lawyer-client privilege, has long been part of law, on the supposition that these three relationships cannot work without the expectation of confidentiality. Elders of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who for legal purposes correspond to clergy, use this law where appropriate, as do clergy, doctors, and lawyers everywhere. Ironically, barristers have managed to whittle down two of the three applications. The only one still standing is their own.

Sometimes I wonder why that should be. Strip them of it. Why should they be allowed to “enable” child sexual abuse? Make them report to police anything they learn from a client as soon as they learn it. Of course, they would scream to high heaven that they have noble reasons not to do this. I would agree with them. It makes their job (specifically, that of the defense attorney) all but impossible. 

The point is that there are noble reasons for the other two relationships to exist, as well. Exercising them does not automatically make you a lover of child abuse. And I keep coming back to that November 20th, 2011 Democratic and Chronicle article that two thirds of all professionals who ARE mandated by law to report child sexual abuse fail to do it: “Studies across the country over the past two decades have consistently shown that nearly two-thirds of professionals required to report all cases of suspected abuse fail to do so,” it said.

I know of no other scenario on earth where, when confronted with an issue with obvious legal implications, consulting with one’s attorney first would be spun as an evil, as it is when Witness bodies of elders speak with Watchtower Legal first. This is done, not to evade law, but to ensure compliance with it.

Unless there has been human error, JWs always act in compliance with law, but the outrage over CSA (and the disillusionment with religion) triggers reinterpretation of law to present it that they did not. In some instances, the plain equivalence of Witness elders to clergy has been denied, partly on the basis that they are “not paid.” An irreligious world can relate to spiritual things only if they can be reduced to what is easily understood—money. The concept of serving out of love for God and humanity is completely beyond them and they are sometimes given to spin it as a matter of wanting power or control.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

 

 

04

 

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Four Incendiary Articles

The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote four incendiary articles about Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Wow! did they ever make them look bad! Probably that was the intent, though it is hard to say for sure because nobody would ever say that the subject is nothing. It is the topic of child sexual abuse, the most white-hot topic of all.

Some significant facts are omitted in the articles. Some background facts that are included are misrepresented, leading to condemnation of a religion that otherwise has a reputation for fine works and conduct. “Overall, they’re nice, sincere people” says vehement critic Barbara Anderson in the first article, referring to the “rank and file.” Her statement accompanies the video of Jared Kushner, from before campaign days, speaking about the Witnesses from whom he would buy their Brooklyn buildings. It is almost unheard of in its praise—Witnesses are persons of “high integrity” with whom “a handshake deal means something,” he says. How can this be if the leadership is as vile as the reporter represents them? Plainly, something is missing.

No topic is more incendiary than child sexual abuse. In no other area is a person’s viewpoint so determined by experience. It is exacerbated by the Witnesses being said to be an ‘insular’ organization, and this ‘crime’ of being insular is pushed pedal-to-the-medal by the Philly reporter, who returns to an anti-Witness website in between articles, where he is lauded as a hero. Perhaps he has 20 more of such articles up his sleeve. But it is little wonder that he is lauded: some of these gathered at the site are ones who have been victims.

The overall stats for child sexual abuse do not speak well for humanity. Few evils appear to be more widespread. One in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused before they are 18 (in the U. S, according to InvisibleChildren.org)—this, despite decades of battling the evil. Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, who stops at nothing in his impersonations, appeared to be stopped dead in his tracks when one of those impersonations apparently uncovered an elite pedophile ring, reported Newsweek on December 20, 2018. He and his production team were so disturbed at what they thought they had found—“a pedophile ring in Las Vegas that’s operating for these very wealthy men. And this [interviewed] concierge had said that he’d worked for politicians and various billionaires”—that they turned over all footage to the FBI, who declined to pursue the tip.

There is some reason to think that child sexual abuse is relatively uncommon within the ranks of Jehovah’s Witnesses,* but just try telling that to one who has suffered from it. Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2017, at their summer conventions, which all attend, considered detailed scenarios in which child sexual abuse might occur, so that parents, the first line of defense, could be vigilant. If anyone displays unusual interest in your child, if there are sleepovers, if there are unsupervised trips to the rest room, if—there were several others, all potential hot spots, not necessarily bad, but reason to be attentive. Nobody, but nobody, gathers their entire membership for such education other than Jehovah’s Witnesses.

There is also Caleb and Sophia, cartoon characters whose family doings are utilized as a teaching tool for Witness parents. They teach short lessons on subjects often mundane, yet crucial to smooth functioning of society, such as the desirability of honesty. The tykes delight the hearts of JW children everywhere (except in Russia, where they are behind bars as extremists). ‘Protect Your Children’ is an especially vital lesson that addresses pedophilia, in which Mommy and Daddy coax their children on how to respond if threatened. If someone “touches you where they should not” or “asks you to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable.” “Even if it is someone you know and trust,” Mommy commends a correct answer, and her husband adds, “and then tell Mommy and Daddy right away,” who, in the video, take the news most seriously.

In four articles, the Philadelphia Inquirer makes no mention of these clearly relevant factors, though the balance between malice and incompetence is difficult to ascertain. Nor does it cite the Witness organization’s easily available printed and digital child abuse policy, which gives the obvious lie to most of the insinuations made. Included only is a Watchtower Society quote that the latter “abhor child sexual abuse,” which the Inquirer presents in a context as though evidence that they do not.

No, Philly Inquirer, the religion you slimed is not the scourge of humanity. It comprises a group of decent, caring human beings who encountered problems in the 80s and 90s doing what others did not attempt. The Watchtower organization was investigating reports of this and other forms of wrongdoing within its ranks, and it is through this policy of vigilance that they come to be identified with this moral crime. In fact, any group professing that their beliefs contribute to better conduct should take measures to see that that is in fact the case. The Book of Romans says “You, the one preaching, ‘Do not steal,’ do you steal? You, the one saying, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ do you commit adultery?” If they “mishandled” anything, it must be observed that you cannot mishandle what you never attempted to handle in the first place.

The Philadelphia Inquirer appears to be fully siding with enemies of the religion whose stated goal is to litigate it out of existence. Were they to succeed, they would be showing themselves friends of child sexual abuse, for few others have the proactive education and prevention record of Jehovah’s Witnesses, despite some missteps with regard to general society now determined to leave no stone unturned in squashing the evil. Data that can be gleaned from various sources,** coupled with the Witnesses’ relentless campaign to avoid pornography in any form, plus the educational factors already cited, make this conclusion nearly inescapable, though positive proof will ever be lacking because others of the time failed to address the problem and thereby produce records. In many venues, such ‘negligence’ is a punishable offense; here it is effectively rewarded. It is Sergeant Shultz crying, “I know nothiinnnggg,” a policy that ultimately got him out of many a jam on the old TV show.

It is fine to handle a case of child sexual abuse properly. But it is far finer if the abuse does not happen in the first place. It is similar to calling in the grief counselors in the wake of a school shooting. Of course, it is a good thing to call them in, but how much better to not need them in the first place. A case of child sexual abuse “properly handled” does not mean that it did not occur, and the child is only somewhat less damaged than if the case was properly handled. Thus, a story on this topic should never omit the overall relative success of the Witness organization in prevention of this evil.

Lucy Delap, writing for History and Policy, states that “clear guidelines for best [child protective] practice were not established until the 1990s,” during or even after most of the JW abuse cases under review. Thus, the Witness organization walked in largely uncharted territory, for the purpose of identifying this most pernicious group so as to apply discipline, often expulsion, to safeguard other congregation members, and to ensure that pedophiles could not slip unnoticed from one congregation into another (as they could anywhere else). Seen in this light, condemnation of the Watchtower for this proactive policy is a prime example of the cynicism: “No good deed goes unpunished.”

The misstep that the Inquirer exclusively zeroes in on, and it is not nothing, is the inclination of many Witnesses, upon submitting a matter to congregation elders, to not also go to outside authorities, and elders to not go over their heads and do so themselves. Ones were never prevented from doing so, but the prevailing atmosphere in the 80s and 90s was such that they were less likely to do it, and stories abound of persons being pressured in that direction. An ill-conceived desire to protect reputation is hardly unique to Witnesses of that day; the very reason there is an expression “skeletons in the closet” is the universal human instinct to keep them there. This writer would not argue that Jehovah’s Witnesses were slower than many to give up that mindset. These days elders positively plead with families of victims to report to outside authorities, only to find that some are still reluctant to go that route.

In this context, some victims of child sexual abuse come to feel that they went unheard. Some of these later become bitter towards religion in general and Jehovah’s Witnesses in particular. Today, in an era of litigation, many of these ones seek their due. The fourteen persons that the Philly reporter interviewed appear to be from a Reddit forum “devoted exclusively to ex-Witnesses,” who “discuss the absurdity of their experiences.” This writer has no reason to challenge the experiences the fourteen relate, and whether their perspective on what they report is the final word, he is in no position to say. However, it is inexcusable for the Inquirer article to link to an ex-Witness forum of 20,000 members, and not also to a Watchtower downloadable child-protection policy packet plainly showing that most its insinuations are untrue.

The second of the series tells it from the point of view of a wronged girl. The details of any child molestation case are stomach turning. It is not claimed that she speaks untruthfully. It is simply that, humans being what they are, we are inclined to remember things the way we remember them—embellish certain points and downplay or forget others. When the judge involved recalls certain things in a matter-of-fact way, the victim says that’s not how she recalled it, and the reporter at that point forgets all about the judge and runs with the victim. It is at least as likely that the judge recollects it more accurately, because he has not carried the emotional baggage for two decades. When Witness Governing Body member Stephen Lett, speaking many years later, tells of “apostate lies,” the reporter presents it as though he is calling his old friend—he once knew the victim’s parents—a liar. Of course, he is not. No one says that the bare facts of the abuse case is a lie; it is the spin that enemies (which now seem to include the Inquirer) put on it that is the lie.

The notion that persons should be monetarily compensated for real or perceived wrongs has long been accepted by society. Lawsuits for all manner of offenses are unremarkable routine, with enormous monetary awards increasingly common. It amounts to a massive societal transfer of wealth, with lawyers netting a third. It is the reason insurance skyrockets at a time that inflation is quite low. It is a reason that prices of goods escalate, as ‘punished’ corporations pass along their costs to the consumer. Few would assert that compensation is wrong, but few would deny its overall effects, either.

Witness policy has likely evolved to the extent they feel possible, given their Bible outlook, and they plead for a circumstance in law that is unlikely ever to be realized. Here law mandates that allegations be reported to police, there it does not mandate it, and the default law kicks into place that it is likely forbidden, as it can constitute a violation of ‘clergy-penitent confidentiality,’ an idea as much enshrined into law as doctor-patient confidentiality and attorney-client confidentiality. The Witness attorney pleaded for understanding before an investigating Australian Royal Commission (and got none) that Witnesses were having a hard time navigating this patchwork of laws, as they sought to fulfill a biblically-mandated duty that others do not take seriously. Three times before the ARC, a member of the Witnesses’ Governing Body pleaded for universal mandatory reporting laws, across all territories, with no exceptions. Then it wouldn’t matter if a given congregation member, for whatever reason, declined to go to the police. Elders would be enabled do it regardless. Most of the cases reported today are from 20 or more years previous, and the “crime” alleged is failing “to go beyond the law” with regard to reporting. Nothing is more telling of society’s overall desperation at losing the war against child sexual abuse than the moral imperative to “go beyond the law.” If it is so imperative to go beyond the law, then surely that should become the law. Otherwise, that lapse becomes simply a means of Monday-morning quarterbacking to target unpopular groups.

Such universal change in law would make possible both the aims of the congregation and those of outside authorities. Roundly condemned is Jehovah’s Witnesses insistence on a “two-witness rule” in connection with their religious investigations. The Philadelphia Inquirer misrepresents this rule as though Jehovah’s Witnesses, intent on nurturing molesters, demand two spectators for every abuse incident, and let perpetrators off with a wink and a nod in their absence. Various accommodations Witnesses have made to work around this obvious difficulty are ignored by the Philly reporter.

The reason one ought not be too quick to give up a “two-witness rule” emerges every time someone is exonerated by DNA evidence, the latest advance of criminal science, after serving decades in prison, having been convicted over less strenuous proof. Outside authorities have their own standards for proof, and with universal mandatory reporting laws, both agencies can fulfill their duties simultaneously. Why was this not done long ago—passing universal mandatory reporting laws? Given the crusade to punish child sexual abuse, one would think that no task would have been easier.

Since the present legal climate makes the Witnesses’ duty in policing its own, according to biblical standards, almost impossible, the situation could be framed as an encroachment of state upon church. “Preach to them on Sunday, and be done with it,” is the only liability-free policy. “It’s none of your business whether they apply it or not.’’ And yet, to those determined to live by Bible principles as best they can, it clearly is their business. Is it possible that the Witnesses’ underlying “crime” is the resolve to stay separate from the overall world, today portrayed as being “insular?” The Jews’ historical determination to stay separate, which has moderated only in recent times, contributed towards many a pogrom over the centuries.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are overall pretty good at allowing the repercussions of life to serve as discipline, even if they are not intended that way. “It is for discipline that you are enduring,” says Paul, adding, “no discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but it is painful; yet afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” Witness leaders are without doubt humbled and chastened by events. They may not state it to those they perceive as their enemies—because the goals of the latter go well beyond humbling—but it is undoubtedly so.

Meanwhile, when sued, they must defend themselves in court where determining what is right is complex and impartiality cannot be assumed. The reason there is an uproar with every new Supreme Court justice nominee is the universal understanding that even judges are not impartial; they interpret the law in the light of overriding philosophy and pre-existing bias; it is not enough simply to find an honest one who knows how to swing a gavel. And no topic can trigger overriding philosophy and pre-existing bias more than child sexual abuse.

Stories of Jehovah’s Witnesses and child sexual abuse are certainly not nothing, and it is easy to see why a journalist might go there. However, by being so selective in what he reports, the Inquirer writer maligns a faith whose overall record of producing fine people of integrity has already been mentioned, by a harsh critic, no less. As the “if it bleeds it leads” theme fails to excite a hardened public in the way that it once did, the Philly source appears to have found a more potent substitute.

 

***~~~***

 

*The frequency of child sexual abuse within a religious laity is almost impossible to compare because it has never been tracked by denomination, save for Jehovah’s Witnesses, who did so for purposes of protection and discipline. Still, from time to time there are clues. During his lifetime, Ray Franz was a hero to Witness detractors. He was once a high-ranking member, he separated over various disputes, and thereafter never ceased to criticize those he once rubbed shoulders with. He has proven decidedly unhelpful to them, however, with regard to the topic of child sexual abuse. When specifically asked by a Witness opponent, he replied that he really didn’t think there was much of a problem at all, and that it had all been blown out of proportion in the media.

**Case Study 54 of the Australian Royal Commission mentions reports of abuse from the JW community within the period extending from the ARC’s initial investigation to its final report. It is possible to work out ratios, compare them to the non-Witness community, and conclude that the Witness organization’s vigilance has paid off, perhaps by as much as a factor of six, though there are many factors making this less than a fine science. During a time interval in which there were 27,058 reports of child sexual abuse in a greater Australian population of 23,968,973, there were 12 of such in an Australian Witness population of 67,418. For various reasons, it is not a comparison of oranges to oranges—the reports are at different stages of investigation, for example—but neither is it oranges to apples. Call it oranges to tangerines. If any other group had bothered to track the crime within its community, there would be more to go on.

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Is It Time For Jehovah's Witnesses to Apologize? Part 1

Elizabeth Chuck wrote an article about Jehovah’s Witnesses and I would have preferred she write one instead about the PTA meeting in her town. It is a normal reaction, for it was news of a huge-dollar verdict against a religious organization I hold dear. Of course I hate to see it; that’s only natural. When you find yourself on the gallows you do not angle for a selfie with the hangman.

Still, if you must hear bad news, hear it from Ms. Chuck, for her news in this case is straight reporting, not one of the hatchet jobs Jehovah’s Witnesses often get. The topic is the most white-hot topic of all, child sexual abuse, and temptations to whip it into fever pitch are not resisted by all. She does resist it. That’s not to say I might not write it up differently. With every story, it is a matter of which facts you put where. But she doesn’t make any up or deliberately misrepresent them. Having said that, it is not to suggest that even those who do misrepresent do so on purpose. Well—I guess it is to suggest that, but only to suggest. It is not proof positive. When your own people merely say that they “abhor child abuse and strive to protect children,” but otherwise do not comment, what’s a reporter to do?

Here’s what I like about the Elizabeth Chuck story: First of all, it is not like the AP article, picked up by many sources, that expressed seeming bewilderment that “the Jehovah’s Witness cases haven’t received the same national attention” [as the Roman Catholic Church]. Is not the reason a big ‘Duh’? The Montana case abuse under trial was all within a family and church leaders were accused of botching the handling of it, though blameless themselves. It’s a little different than church leaders actually committing the abuse, something which is very rare with Witnesses.

Ms. Chuck correctly (and atypically) makes clear that a “two-witness rule” used by Witnesses “is only for internal modes of discipline and does not prevent a victim from going to the police.” She correctly points out that “there are very strict internal modes of discipline within Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Yes. It is not an anything-goes religion. She correctly observes that being disfellowshipped is often a painful experience and serves as a negative incentive to do what might trigger it. So far so good. It might not be as I would phrase it, but it is certainly acceptable reporting.

She stumbles briefly, though not seriously, when she says: “Jehovah’s Witnesses are a misunderstood and very self-enclosed group, despite counting some celebrities among its ranks—including Venus and Serena Williams.” She is right that they are misunderstood. The only footnote I would add is about her seeming acquiescence to the common wisdom that groups are validated by having celebrities in their camp, some of whom are the most silly people on earth, living fundamentally different lives than anyone else. However, the miscue is minor. And, after all, I have made use of poor Serena Williams, too, in chapter 4.

Ms. Chuck does her homework. She consults experts on religion, such as “Mark Silk, a professor and the director of the Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn [who says of Witnesses]: ‘They don’t vote. They don’t celebrate birthdays and holidays. They don’t say the pledge [of allegiance]. They are not just another Christian denomination.’” It is not her fault if she does not know that the guy (likely) has it in for Jehovah’s Witnesses, spinning his facts negatively, and the reason is revealed in his very job title: he is a professor at Trinity College. If you do not accept the Trinity teaching, you are toast in the eyes of many of these people. Nonetheless, what the professor says about voting and not pledging allegiance is true enough. He does not mention that if nobody pledged allegiance to human institutions maybe the national king could not pit them so easily against each other in times of war, but that is beyond the scope of his information request. At least he doesn’t inaccurately charge that Jehovah’s Witnesses are disrespectful to country, for there are few people as scrupulous about “rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (taxes) than they. Reporter Chuck relates the words of another expert: “Whatever belief they have or mode of internal discipline they have, they have a biblical justification for it.” I’ll take it. It’s true. We don’t apologize for it. I prefer it infinitely over church reporters saying we are not Christian because we do not accept the Trinity. The reason we do not accept it is that its scriptural support is based almost entirely upon taking literally certain passages which, if they were read in any other context, would be instantly dismissed as figure of speech.

She relates dutifully the sparse words of the Watchtower organization that they “abhor child abuse and strive to protect children from such acts,” attributing the sparseness to “a penchant for privacy.” She takes it at face value. She does not imply that they are lying through their teeth, like the reporter in the Philadelphia Inquirer, dismissing the words as ‘boiler plate,’ and even ending his article with an anecdote of spying artwork at the JW headquarters captioned “Jehovah loves children,” and using it as a pretext to wink at his readers as though to say: “Yes, I guess we know just how they love them,” before returning to his Witness-hating base on a Reddit thread, where he is hailed as a hero.

However, eclipsing her skill at side-stepping all these potential landmines is that she puts her finger on the real problem in the very first paragraph of her article: Jehovah’s Witnesses are “insular.” She doesn’t even try to spin that into a crime, as do some. Most Witnesses would not agree to the label “insular,” but that is primarily because they are unfamiliar with it and unsure just what attachments might come with it. They will instantly, even proudly, acknowledge two closely related phrases: they are “separate from the world” and “no part of” it. It is a scriptural imperative, they will say, because if you want to lend a helping hand, you must be in a place of safety yourself. Not all will agree that life today is constantly-improving. Some will say the overall picture more closely resembles a ship floundering. Did I not just read that generalized anxiety has replaced depression as the number one mental health malady? Can that be because there is nothing to worry about in life today? I think not. These interplay of two views—that society is ever-improving vs ever-floundering—causes most of the “misunderstanding” that opponents of Witnesses speak about.

Witnesses are “insular,” by design. “Insularity” is biblically mandated, but here is an instance in which that insularity has contributed to a significant tragedy. Witness leaders find themselves in a situation parallel to that of certain vehicles being exempt from normal traffic laws—say, police and fire emergency vehicles. Yet, in making use of that exemption, a terrible accident results and the public outcry is so great that they are convicted even though following the law. Or, to apply it more accurately, public anger is so great that the law is reinterpreted so that it can be established that they did break it.

This writer is not a lawyer. He can step out of his depth. Yet most persons reading the following pertinent section of the Montana child abuse reporting laws would, I suspect, agree that the Witness organization followed the letter of them. They make every effort to do that. The prompt appeal of any Witness judicial committee to their Branch organization legal department is not to see how they can evade child abuse laws, as their opponents often spin it, but how they can be sure their actions are in harmony with them. I can think of no other situation on earth in which consulting one’s own attorney, upon presentation of matters with likely legal ramifications, would be spun as an evil, as this one frequently is.

On the very bottom of the document ‘Montana Mandatory Reporting Requirements Regarding Children’ is a section labeled “Members of the clergy or priests are not required to report when the following condition is met...if the communication is required to be confidential by cannon law, church doctrine, or established church practice.”

Even “established church practice?” It seems extraordinarily loose, and yet there it is. It is a part of a doctrine called “ecclesiastical privilege.” It has long been encapsulated into law, as has the privileged nature of the doctor-patient relationship and the attorney-client relationship, on the recognition that these relationships cannot function without the expectation of confidentiality.

If such is the law, why is the Witness organization found culpable despite stringent efforts to follow it? Because the war today is against child sexual abuse, deemed the most critical crusade of our time, and they were expected to “go beyond the law” so as to facilitate that end. Thus, the law was reinterpreted so as to allow that they did violate it. The child wronged though sexual abuse has proven to be among the most powerful forces on earth, affording ample occasion for other scores to be settled.

The Witness organization finds itself in a situation similar to that of Joe Paterno, the Penn State coach who was universally praised throughout his tenure as an excellent role model but then was excoriated beyond redemption when he merely obeyed the law regarding an unspecific allegation that he heard of child sexual abuse but did not “go beyond it.” He reported the allegation to his superiors. When the allegation turned out to be true, however, it was later deemed in the media to be not enough—he should have “gone beyond the law” to report it directly to police. His career was over, and even his life, for he died two years later.

If it is so crucial to go beyond the law, then make that the law. This is exactly what Geoffrey Jackson of the Witnesses’ Governing Body pleaded for three times before an Australian Royal Commission. Isn’t that the purpose of law: to codify what is right? Make the law clear, unambiguous, and allow for no exceptions. Jehovah’s Witnesses are universally recognized for meticulously following secular law even as they are primarily guided by biblical law. Make universal mandating the law, with no exceptions. Requiring parties to “go beyond the law” only enables Monday-morning quarterbacking to assign motives, invariably bad ones, to unpopular parties that have failed in this regard.

An article in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle dated November 20th, 2011, observed that “it’s a mistake to think that the failure…to report the abuse is a rarity....Studies over the past two decades nationally have consistently shown that nearly two-thirds of professionals who are required to report all cases of suspected abuse fail to do so....”I think that we fail miserably in mandated reporting,” said Monroe County Assistant District Attorney Kristina Karle...” Is it not haphazard to excoriate those who did their best to follow the law when two thirds of all professionals, for a variety of reasons, do not? Does anyone charge that two thirds of all professionals do not give a hoot about children? Plainly there are other factors at work. Yet when the crusade against child sexual abuse reaches fever pitch, only one factor is deemed to have any significance.

See Part 2

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Time to Apologize? Part 2

Jehovah’s Witnesses did fail in this regard. Let us admit it. They failed to “go beyond the law.” The stakes are so high that law is thereafter reinterpreted to mean that they did violate it. Why did they fail? Ms. Chuck accurately states that any Witness victim or family of victim was always free to report child sexual abuse and that congregation justice did not preclude outside secular justice. They failed then, she implies, because they were insular, and she may not realize just how firmly she has put her finger on the reason. They were not inclined to air their dirty laundry before the public.

It is not so hard to understand. In some cultures, the concept of  “saving face” is so firmly entrenched that your efforts to communicate are doomed to failure if you ignore it. The very reason there is an expression ‘skeletons in the closet’ is the universal human instinct to keep them there. It is even found in the scriptures that Ms. Chuck acknowledges underlie everything Witnesses do. Decrying the spectacle of early Christians taking one another into court over personal disputes, the apostle Paul writes: “I am speaking to move you to shame. Is there not one wise man among you who is able to judge between his brothers? Instead, brother goes to court against brother, and before unbelievers at that!” If Jehovah’s Witnesses today are “insular,” it is because Christians at that time were “insular.”

In this case, however, insularity, and the failure to “go beyond the law” has resulted in child abusers who did not take their turn in the police lineup, as well as victims thereby deprived of that justice. Whether they would have received justice otherwise is arguable, for no end of persons manage to evade the wrath of the law. But that is not the point. They should have been turned over to police, the argument goes, for the latter to either nail them to the wall or let them slip through their fingers. The victims want justice. Like victims anywhere, they don’t always get it. But don’t get in the way of their quest for it. Since the Witness organization is perceived to have gotten in the way, with law being reinterpreted so as to more damningly point to that conclusion, should they apologize to victims or issue a public statement of regret? You could certainly build a case for it.

When the cop speeds in hot pursuit and a horrific accident results, pointing out that he had permission to speed only goes so far. There are times when only a sincere expression of regret stems the tide of outrage, for who is going to dismiss a run-over pedestrian as ‘just one of those things?’ At such times legal matters become technicalities and you appear tone-deaf if you harp on them. Best to say that, in pursuing one’s mission, even within existing rules, a terrible tragedy has resulted for which there is sincere regret.

Were the Witness organization to ever do that, it would cut them no slack with the Reddit group. They would merely drop down a notch on their list to highlight the next reason they hate their former religion before surfacing briefly to declare the statement of regret insincere. Were the entire Governing Body membership to resign, or even hang themselves, it would not make them happy. They know that their successors would be cut from the same cloth.

No, there will be no placating these folks. But it might very well clear the air for all other persons, who know very well, simply through personal experience, that Jehovah’s Witnesses are very fine people. Even arch-enemy Barbara Anderson concedes this, as she somehow manages to insinuate that this is despite their evil Governing Body, rather than the much more reasonable ‘because of it.’ Not because of it solely, of course, for Witnesses’ decency stems from the God they worship. But in the sense that the Witnesses’ Governing Body keeps them clearly focused on the Bible, their chosen source of instruction, they surely deserve credit, not condemnation. Almost all other faiths have swayed with the changing winds of contemporary culture. Witnesses have not. They merely update now and then, as they have with their procedures of child sexual abuse investigations. Is it intimidating for a victim of child sexual abuse to appear before the three men of an investigatory committee? Well, they never thought of that. Maybe they should have. So now it is that a child’s recorded testimony can serve itself as the witness and he or she does not have to appear personally. If he or she does, it can be with any congregation member of choice, whether male or female. The religion’s fiercest critics say they will never stop opposing until Witnesses fix their child abuse policies. Arguably, they already have been fixed, since the vast majority of cases tried are from many years ago.

Not everyone likes Jehovah’s Witnesses. Probably more do not than do. But people are mostly fair. A statement of regret would go a long way for them to say: “Oh, I see. They did botch it up, but now I can see why. They really do abhor child sexual abuse over there.”  Otherwise, their enemies find it a cakewalk to portray those in leadership positions among Jehovah’s Witnesses as “arrogant,” and in some cases, as willful nurturers those who would commit child abuse. Everyone these days calls those of the other side “arrogant” upon proving unable to sway them, but in this instance, the accusation more readily sticks. They are probably the least arrogant people on earth, but that does not mean they cannot be painted that way.

They do Bible education work. They do it extensively and effectively. In the developing world, a person is stuck with some 200-year old turkey of a Bible translation that he can neither afford nor understand because nobody other than Jehovah’s Witnesses thinks it is inappropriate for Big Business to handle distribution of the Word of God. The Witness Governing Body does think it is inappropriate and they have invented an entirely new production and distribution channel so that the person can obtain a modern Bible at minimal cost, or even free. That accomplishment is not insignificant.

They do not do all of this personally, of course. Detractors routinely spin it that Witnesses are “controlled” by “eight men in New York.” It makes no sense. They are modest persons. Many of them cut their teeth performing their trademark door-to-door ministry in the developing world, carrying out a work more lowly than that of the ones they would ultimately lead. They have a certain knack at administration, as with any effective organization, but other than that, they have little expertise in anything. But they know where to find it when they need it. From a field of eight million members, where there are neither paywalls nor turf wars, they can quickly assemble whatever is deemed necessary.

Their latest offering in the field of Bible education consists of an online, self-guided, and anonymous course of Bible study offered on the front page of their website, JW.org. The Bible offers convincing answers to important questions of life, Jehovah’s Witnesses feel, questions not readily answered anywhere else. Of course, it is free and presented without any mention of money. After each lesson there is the option to 1) go deeper, for the presentation is necessarily simple, 2) attend a group study at the Witnesses’ Kingdom Hall, 3) request a personal instructor, or 4) say ‘none of the above’ and proceed to the next lesson. It is a relatively new feature. I don’t know how it will be incorporated. But with only some exaggeration, I am looking forward to saying: “I don’t want to study the Bible with you. Do it yourself. If you have any questions or want to go a level more, I’ll be around.” With only slightly more exaggeration, the new feature illustrates that, if need be, the main Bible teaching component of the Witnesses’ work could be run out of a server in someone’s dorm room.

They always will be “insular,” or to put it in their terminology, “no part of the world.” Surely, they must be permitted to be, for the alternative is to snuff out the type of Christianity that existed in the first century, the model most true. Snuffing out this model in favor of societally evolved ones might be a very fine outcome in the eyes of today’s anti-cultists. But it will be a defeat for worship of God per the standards of his written word. They must not allow that religion can have a place only so long as it is clearly subservient to contemporary life and leaders, labeling anything not meeting this subservience a “cult” that “brainwashes” people through “mind-control.” Those of that same Western anti-cultist spirit have used exactly that reasoning to fuel the furor that has banned Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia and confiscated all of their property, with many other faiths shaking in their boots that they will be next. It is a result of hate speech—not the investigation of grievances, but the hurling about of the C-word.

Be that as it may, it might well be time to acknowledge that this avenue, this one involving child sexual abuse reporting, is one that became riddled with axle-bending potholes, express sincere remorse, help out to whatever extent is necessary to fill them in, and then get back on track with the overall program.

See Part 3

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)