Accusations About Sexual Molestation in a Jehovah's Witness Family
Accusations about sexual molestation can lead to disfellowshipping
A tragic family conflict is at the moment being carefully observed by Jehovah's Witnesses and former members of the sect. It revolves around a fathers alleged sexual molesting his daughters and murder. The former Witnesses are wondering if the Watchtower Society will take the accusations serious. According to former Witnesses and other critics Jehovah's Witnesses routinely covers up crimes of this nature.
By Anne Korsholm
Something indicates that the local Elders will be forced to do something this time, says Poul Dal, which himself has been an Elder in Jehovah's Witnesses but has now left the sect.
Head of Information from Jehovah's Witnesses in Denmark, Erik Joergensen do not understand the criticism. According to him the Witnesses has always taken accusations of child molestation very serious.
The alleged perpetrator is a 78-year-old man from Vesterhimmerland, which has been accused of sexually molesting his daughters. One of the daughters claims that she gave birth to a child as a result of the abuse, and that the 78-year-old man killed the baby.
Both the father and the daughters are Jehovah's Witnesses.
Loekstoer Police has dismissed the case because of lack of evidence. Among other things it has been impossible to ascertain if there has been born a baby, which was allegedly killed. According to the support group for ex-Witnesses, Christian Freedom, also a grandchild of the 78 year old man has reported him to the police for molesting her. The Police will neither to confirm nor deny this.
Convicted for silence
Jehovah's Witnesses in both USA and Europe have been criticized in later years in connection with sexual abuse, because the Witnesses apparently has held such accusations within the closed doors of the Kingdom Hall and not reported them to the police and worldly authorities.
In 1998, 3 Elders (Jehovah's Witnesses priest's) in France convicted to imprisonment because they did not report a Witness, which had molested his daughter to the Police. The Witness had showed repentance and gotten Jehovah's – and the Elders forgiveness. He did not receive forgiveness from the French authorities but 12 years in prison.
In the USA there has been a number of reports about pedophile Jehovah's Witnesses, which has been protected by their leadership, apparently so that the cases of sexual abuse wouldn't hurt the sects reputation. According to Christian Freedoms latest periodical there is now so many victims that a former Elder in Jehovah's Witnesses in the USA has founded an organization for their benefit, "silentlambs".
Witnesses are taught to go to the Elders in the congregation with their problems and not to worldly authorities. It is therefore very important that the local Elders take such accusations serious. Often an internal investigation about child molestation have ended because there was no eyewitnesses, and Jehovah's Witnesses demands 2 or 3 witnesses, for a person to be convicted.
Erik Joergensen says that eyewitnesses isn't the only criteria for Jehovah's Witnesses to take a case serious.
We will normally hear both parties in a case, we will talk to people who are close to those involved when the alleged abuse happened. If the circumstances strongly indicate that there has been abuse or the accused confess to it, it will be counted as a fact. He says.
Apparently Jehovah's Witnesses internal investigation has been set in motion in this case. According to B.T. an internal court consisting of local Elders, which is to decide if the 78 year old man is going to be disfellowshipped.
Erik Joergensen haven't heard about this, but he can confirm that if the 78 year old is found guilty by the Police, he will most likely be disfellowshipped– possibly together with his wife, if she knew about the abuse.
Jehovah's Witnesses is first and foremost a religious society – not a court of law. We look at it as our first priority to help this family, so it can live together, he emphasizes.
In the last row
Disfellowshipping doesn't mean that the Witness have to leave the sect and about half of all disfellowshipped remains Jehovah's Witnesses, says Erik Joergensen.
A disfellowshipped lose all positions and the congregation as a social network. The Disfellowshipped can attend the meetings in the Kingdom Hall without the right to comment and without socializing.
After some time the disfellowshipped can apply for becoming a part of the congregation again, and the elders are sovereign in their decision if and when he is to be allowed into the congregation again.
Poul Dal, was himself an Elder and participated in disfellowshipping Witnesses which had violated the rules. He can remember that he was participating in disfellowshipping a man, which had divorced and then remarried.
This cost him 3 years on the last row in the Kingdom Hall. But you can also be disfellowshipped for buying a flagpole and hoist the flag or if you receive a blood transfusion. I was disfellowshipped in 1995, because I didn't believe that Jehovah's Witnesses was the only channel used by God, says Poul Dal.
The Witnesses can often avoid being disfellowshipped if they quickly show repentance, but according to Erik Joergensen this will not be the case if they have committed sexual abuse and murder.
The Danish newspaper "Kristeligt Dagblad" October 18, 2001