Letter to the Press 2
I am writing to address an issue that transcends religious belief and exposes a reality that affects thousands of children everyday. I have served as a Christian minister for over twenty years. However, I can no longer continue to serve the members of my church as I do not agree with a church policy that as a church elder I am required to enforce. This policy, in my opinion, has harmed thousands, is leaving many unprotected, and provides refuge to outright criminals.
I am referring to a church policy to keep information about members who are pedophiles confidential. These pedophiles are protected by a church mandated “code of silence” where even members of the immediate family cannot be informed, and, in many cases, accused pedophiles remain in positions of responsibility within the church while their victims suffer in silence or face church sanctions. I believe this policy is unethical, immoral, and, in many states, illegal.
This policy was publicly stated in The Watchtower, a publication of my religion, Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Watchtower, which is published by the tens of millions and distributed around the world in over 139 languages, stated in the November 1, 1995 issue, pages 28-29, regarding how church officials should handle molestation:
“If the accusation is denied, the elders should explain to the accuser that nothing more can be done in a judicial way. And the congregation will continue to view the one accused as an innocent person. The Bible says that there must be two or three witnesses before judicial action can be taken. (2Cor.13:1, 1 Tim. 5:19) Even if more than one person “remembers” abuse by the individual, the nature of these recalls is just too uncertain to base judicial decisions on them without other supporting evidence. This does not mean that such “memories” are viewed as false (or that they are viewed as true). But Bible principles must be followed in establishing a matter judicially.”
Accordingly, the only way an accused person within the Watchtower organization can be deemed guilty by church leaders of child molestation is by his/her private confession, or by the mouth of two witnesses who saw the individual crime. In the event the pedophile denies the charge he/she is protected by church authorities. The church then demands the victim remain silent or face shunning for slander of an innocent man. I feel I can trust no one within the Watchtower organization with my children. As it stands now, if my child were to accuse a Jehovah’s Witness of molestation, all he/she would have to do is deny it, and as a father I would be silenced with the threat of shunning if I were to try to warn or protect others who might be in harms way.
Let me ask you, how often are there any witnesses to an act of child molestation? How can there be “supporting evidence” of molestation when 90% of the time the crime is reported weeks or sometimes years later? How many pedophiles will tell the truth knowing if they do they could go to jail? Does the fact that the average pedophile will molest seventy children in his lifetime and is never convicted of a crime mean we should allow them anonymity within the church? What about church members who know nothing of these accusations? They are left in the dark without any knowledge that their children may possibly be in the company of an accused sex offender on a regular basis. In addition, if the molester admits to molestation, repents in private to church elders, the victim or family of the victim is not encouraged to report the molestation to the police, and, if not reported, then church authorities demand the victim remain silent. Hence the pedophile can repeat the offense because no one is aware of his past.
How bad is it? In my opinion, due to present church policy, my religion has become saturated with pedophiles holding positions from top to bottom. In my forty-plus years as a member, I have yet to find one church among Jehovah’s Witnesses that does not have problems with child molestation
Henceforth, I will no longer serve as a church elder in an arrangement that promotes such unethical and immoral behavior toward children. I refuse to support a pedophile refuge mentality that is protected among our churches around the world. I believe, rather than the church involving itself in determining whether an accused person is innocent or guilty, the first step the church should take is to notify the local authorities who will investigate whether the accusation has merit. Then if found guilty in a court of law, the pedophile will be publicly identified and punished. This protects the innocent and could help give closure to the victim. Until that day happens, the lambs have been silenced, the victimized little ones, who look to their ministers for protection, but instead are crushed and ostracized by an organizational policy when they need help the most.
It is my sincere hope that this letter will result in making persons aware of what could also be happening in their own church as well. There has to be a grass roots movement that will force those who have responsibility to completely overhaul their church policy, if it is similar to the policy of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and address this horrific stance of protecting pedophiles and exposing children to danger.
William H. Bowen
Po Box 311
Calvert City, KY 42029