Joe Anderson’s Letter

Joe and Barbara Anderson

By Roger Bentley (Letter: Joe Anderson)

After Joe Anderson resigned as an elder in the Manchester, Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW’s), he wrote a resignation letter, dated June 5, 2002, and sent it to officials at the World Headquarters of JW’s in Brooklyn, NY. A copy of that letter is found below.

In addition, close friends, Daniel Sydlik and Jack Barr, both members of JW’s Governing Body, received a copy as well as each elder in Joe’s home congregation in Manchester, Tennessee.

Approximately, eight weeks later, Joe Anderson was disfellowshipped by JW’s leaders who used Joe’s letter as a basis to do so. From then on, this exemplary Christian man, who ministered to the flock for 42-years, has been shunned by his son, Lance, and daughter-in-law, Wendy, their two children, and all other JW’s that were part of his life.

What did Joe say in his resignation letter that was so injurious and evil that would cause such extreme action taken by his religion? Read on and decide for yourself whether shunning Joe Anderson is justified.

Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses
Service Department
2821 Route 22
Patterson, NY 12563-2237

June 5, 2002

Re: Letter of resignation

Dear Brothers,

This letter pertains to my wish to no longer serve as an elder in the Manchester, Tennessee Congregation. Knowing what I do about our organization’s child molestation problem and other matters here in the Manchester Congregation, I find it difficult to keep serving as an elder. Undoubtedly, how we as elders handle allegations of molestation in our organization has troubled me for quite some time.

I was pleased to note from J. R. Brown’s February 7, 2002 letter to Dateline NBC that our organization would hear views and opinions from individuals within the framework of the congregation, so I take this time to ask that you resolve some of my differences of opinion according to Scriptural principals.

Since I have been in close proximity to the child molestation issue because of my wife Barbara, I have come to know of hundreds of molestation cases mismanaged by elders. Without a doubt, many elders are incapable of correctly dealing with molestation allegations, but others followed verbal and written directions from headquarters that caused immeasurable sorrow and lifelong unhappiness to the victims and their families. Almost every day for the last several years, I’ve read accounts sent to my wife from victims describing their disagreeable encounters with elders and the Society, which, in effect, has punished them and protected their molesters. I know that Jehovah’s Witnesses as a whole, plus those outside of our organization say that they hate child molesters even more than murderers, but whether they really do or not is shown by their feelings and actions.

Inasmuch as child molestation is an act done in secret, and since we the elders and the Society compound this by keeping such acts committed within our group a secret, the Witnesses are under the illusion that our organization doesn’t have a problem with molestation. Of course, each elder knows if there are any accused or confessed molesters within his congregation, but elders don’t know if there are molesters in other congregations. Consequently, because elders are unable to guage the scope of this situation because of the secrecy, most think there isn’t a problem. Now, due to media coverage of many distressing cases of molestation within our organization, many elders are very disturbed. Without question, I’m sure that you are also.

Here’s one example of why keeping molestation a secret from the congregation does not work: I’m personally acquainted with a woman who was divorced, and when her little girl was molested she went straight to the elders. They did not report the accused to the police, although Tennessee requires ministers to report child abuse. It took a sister in the congregation, who found out about the rape years later, to go to the police. This resulted in the molester being sentenced to eight years in prison. As far as I know, this man was previously accused of molesting three girls in another state and when he moved to Tennessee, the elders were notified of his past, yet, they warned no one in the congregation as per the Society’s instructions. Before he was arrested, he molested two girls in Tennessee. So who was right? The sister who reported him or the elders who kept the secret? In our congregation, one elder told the other elders that if anyone molested his child, he would call the police first and elders later. Are you aware of how many elders feel this way? I personally know that many elders feel that they really can do nothing to help in these cases. Yet you instruct that an accusation of molestation within the congregation be reported first to the elders.

The October 8, 1993 Awake! states that child molesters want something else from their victims-“SILENCE.” Are we not sharers in guilt with the molester when we don’t encourage victims to go to the authorities where they will get help? Wouldn’t this be the Christian thing to do? Are we not sharers in guilt with a molester, who silences the victim with threats, when we silence members in the congregation with threats if they warn others? In the May 24, 2002 letter to all the congregations in the United States, you stated that “…even one abused child is one too many.” This same letter says, “At least since 1981, articles have been published in our journals, with a view to educating Jehovah’s people on the need to protect children from child abuse.” How can you educate Jehovah’s people by keeping such secrets? To be able to protect their children, Jehovah’s Witnesses have a right to know as part of their education if there are any people within the congregation accused of molestation.

Incidentally, it seems to me that if concerned people had not gone to the media about the child abuse problems in our organization, this subject would not have been addressed at the elder’s school last year. It was obvious that there was a change of attitude by the statement made that “Child abuse is a crime.” Now elders no longer treat molestation as a sin like adultery or fornication, but as something far more serious, a crime. This was a welcome change.

Recently, a woman who used to be a Witness told me, after she read an article in our local newspaper about Jehovah’s Witnesses and allegations of child abuse, that she was molested by someone who attended the Manchester Congregation many years ago. I’ve known her family for over twenty-five years and remembered her as a young girl. The man she accused is a very good friend of mine for over thirty years. If I go to my friend with another elder confronting him and he denies the allegation, I’m in a dilemma because I want him not to be guilty. How can I provide justice when I’m partial? Of course, I could remove myself from this situation, but why should we even be put in a position to judge our brothers in such matters where it takes the wisdom of Solomon to sort it out. According to the October 8, 1993 Awake! it is improbable that a child who accuses a person of molestation is lying. However, I believe it is better to err in behalf of a child than the accused. But the question arises, why are we as elders even investigating this crime of child abuse? Can we as elders really identify a person as a molester when an accusation is made?

Of course, something has to be done when accusations are made but can’t be proved, but most Witnesses want to leave situations like this in Jehovah’s hands. To me this is shifting responsibility. Our organization has guides to settle disputes and discover truth, but in the above case, if the accused denied the allegation, the investigation is over until someone else comes forward accusing the same person (something that happens infrequently). Since elders have been told that molestation is a crime, why can’t our brothers go first to the authorities with an accusation and then inform the elders. We expect our brothers to go first to the authorities with an accusation of murder. Moreover, it is inconceivable to think elders would investigate an allegation of murder to determine guilt or innocence, so why would we investigate an allegation of child abuse to determine guilt or innocence? This is just not our field of expertise. We are ministers of God, not police. The authorities and their child abuse experts sometimes make mistakes, but nothing like the mistake of just asking the accused “Did you do it?” and the reply is “No.” If there is not another witness to the act, consequently, all charges are dropped, the matter is closed, and the victim is warned not to talk about it or else.

This brings me to the subject of victims having to provide another witness to his/her molestation. There are contradictions associated with this rule. In the past, Watchtower literature stated that two witnesses to each act must be provided before judicial action could be taken. Now there’s something new: “two persons as witnesses to separate incidents of the same kind of wrongdoing can be deemed sufficient to take action.” Which is it? Also, just what kind of action is to be taken? Judicial action which could lead to disfellowshipping? Or investigative action leading to the determination of guilt and then reporting the allegation to the authorities? If our teachings mean we must meet the above criteria before we report to the authorities, as many elders think we do, I say, “NO!” We shouldn’t invoke the two-witness rule when it comes to whether elders should report an accusation to authorities. In fact, let me reiterate, I believe that elders should not be investigating an accusation of child abuse before the authorities are called in.

The flock is told that elders are loving, kind and sensitive. Yet, time and again, I have heard of extremely ignorant or worst behavior on the part of elders when involved in sexual abuse cases. For instance, a child in our circuit accused her grandfather of molestation. Her mother went to the police and the man (a brother) admitted his guilt. I was told that the case was handled satisfactorily by all concerned except when the mother was approached by the presiding overseer of the congregation and he said, “If it’s any consolation to you, your daughter enjoyed the act!” The mother left the organization because she couldn’t handle the idea that this man was her spiritual shepherd!

Another case comes to mind: A sister told of being molested when she was eight years old. The man confessed, but one of the elders asked her then, “What kind of clothes were you wearing?” She was advised to make peace with the perpetrator, and her family was counseled to invite him over for a meal. It’s obvious that a question and advice like this proves that elders are not qualified and shouldn’t be involved. If I know of hundreds of cases like these, you must know of thousands.

Children and women are very vulnerable in this male-dominated world, and this is true also in our organization. I have quoted James 1:27 many, many times and have heard it quoted from the platform an equal number of times. Of course, you well know this scripture where James said, “The form of worship that is clean and undefiled from the standpoint of our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their tribulation, and to keep oneself with out spot from the world.” Generally, we emphasized the end of this scripture and rarely analyzed the situation orphans and widows found themselves in when the husband and father died. Primarily they were without a protector, which made them extremely vulnerable. Although the situation has changed somewhat today, there still are many areas where orphans and widows need help and elders should give special care to their needs. And especially is this so with regard to those who are sexually abused. Who are their protectors, if not those who can be likened to spiritual fathers-the elders. God puts them under our care and yours too. Whatever it takes, we should go the extra mile to help abused ones. However, it appears that our organization will sacrifice a child to keep the person who denies an allegation of molestation.

In your letter to All Bodies of Elders, February 15, 2002, you instruct us to, “Never suggest to anyone that they should not report an allegation of child abuse to the police or other authorities.” Why should elders be put in a position to suggest or not to suggest reporting an allegation? The victim or caregivers and the rest of Jehovah’s Witnesses should be informed by elders to always call the police if a crime has occurred, no buts or ifs about it.

Also, in this same February 15, 2002 letter, you say, “If you are asked, make it clear that whether to report the matter to the authorities or not is a personal decision for each individual to make.” This is inaccurate information and illegal in seventeen states. In these seventeen reporting states, everybody is obligated to report even suspicion of child abuse. In Tennessee this has been the law since 1972. In Kentucky the law is the same. And why would Kentucky resident, Bill Bowen, as seen on Dateline, be told by someone in the Legal Department to not report a case of molestation? What is the Society’s Legal Department doing giving us wrong information such as the above?

In the January 1, 1997 Watchtower, a policy statement is found that a man known to have been a molester can not hold a position of authority within the congregation. This policy is certainly appreciated and shows your concern for protecting the flock. However, the word “known” appears to be a confusing problem. Who is he “known” to, the elders-is the determination of his guilt or innocence in their hands? What if the victim can’t prove to the elders that he/she was molested because of being unable to produce another witness to the act does this mean the accused remains in his position? I believe this is so because he is then “known” or considered by the elders to be not guilty. (He is then not “known” to be a molester.) Elders should never be given the power to determine who is to be a “known” molester or not because they are untrained and unqualified. This policy puts children in the congregation at risk and should be reevaluated.

In your statement in the May 24, 2002 letter to all congregations you say, “We have long instructed elders to report allegations of child abuse to the authorities where it is required by law to do so.” Where God is concerned, if this is a crime, it’s a crime everywhere. If wrong in one state, why not in others? Also, if it’s wrong we should do the right thing whether the laws of the land require it or not. Aren’t we supposed to be morally better than the world? Do we not go an extra step or two because of conscience? Another point taken from the same statement as quoted above is this: You say, “We have long instructed elders to report allegations of child abuse to the authorities.” Where is it written as policy that elders are instructed to report allegations of child abuse to the authorities? Your statement as quoted above is a half-truth and misleads the reader. What is not understood is that elders have written instructions to call the Legal Department where they will be told that if their state requires a minister to report the allegation, they should report it. That’s a far different matter than “long instructed elders to report allegations of child abuse to the authorities.”

Another point I want to discuss with you is the recent disfellowshipping of my wife, Barbara. The scriptures used for disfellowshipping her are found in 1 Corinthians 5:1-12. The letter from L. Seely, presiding overseer of the Manchester Congregation, said that Barbara was disfellowshipped for causing divisions, not for committing any of the wicked acts Paul described in 1 Corinthians 5:1-12, i.e., gross wickedness, sexual immorality, etc. It was the Society’s spokesman, J. R. Brown, who accused my wife of committing some unspecified “spiritual violations” or “sins” for which she was being called before a judicial committee. This most certainly blemished my wife’s character before the whole world, especially since no proof was offered then or ever.

It was the Watchtower Society that forced Barbara to go to the media about the judicial hearing convened by the local congregation at orders of the Watchtower’s Legal Department. It is obvious that because she went to the media about the sexual abuse issue that she caused divisions among the flock. Why didn’t J. R. Brown just say so instead of accusing her of “sins” and blacken her character? It was because headquarters knew there was absolutely no proof she caused divisions by propagating her views about child abuse before she went to the media.

If Barbara was disfellowshipped because of causing divisions, the Apostle Paul should have been disfellowshipped for causing divisions among the flock because he publicized sensational sexual immorality in the Corinthian congregation. Not only did he discuss with the Corinthian Congregation how he felt about the congregation hiding fornication in their midst, he recorded his accusations for millions of people to read in the Bible during the past 2,000 years. Why is it okay for Paul to have gone public revealing disgraceful conduct that was being condoned in the congregation, but when my wife goes public about the organization condoning and protecting immoral people by bad policies, she is punished? Moreover, wicked and immoral acts have been equated to her by applying 1 Cor. 5 as the reason for her disfellowshipping. I believe this to be unchristian. I also believe that disfellowshipping my wife violated the Apostle Paul’s command to each one of us to work to keep the congregation clean no matter what the cost. Furthermore, disfellowshipping her for causing divisions because she publicly spoke out about uncleanness in our organization is a violation of the freedom of speech Christ brought us.

Inasmuch as I cannot be guided by your polices on child molestation, it is difficult for me to remain an elder. I’m not expecting a response to this letter. If any changes in your policies occur, I’m sure they will appear in our publications.

Thank you for considering this letter and I hope nothing less than the Christian thing will be done in behalf of the victims and those speaking out.

Child Protection in America

By Barbara Anderson

Sad to say that for centuries in the U.S.A. animals were better protected from abuse than children. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) began in 1866, but there was no organization in existence to protect children from abuse. It was in the early 1870’s, when a particularly horrific case of a child in a foster home being whipped daily came to the public’s attention. Things began to change when attorneys for the ASPA argued that laws protecting animals from abuse should not be greater than laws protecting children. Soon, the world’s first child protection organization, the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, was established in 1875 as a nongovernmental organization.

It wasn’t until the early 20th century that a public call was made for both state and federal governments to focus on child protection services as an arm of social services. In 1935, Douglas Falconer wrote the following on the best proactive approach towards child protection: “For many years responsibility for child protection was left almost entirely to private agencies … Great sections of child population were untouched by them and in many other places the service rendered was perfunctory and of poor standard … The belief has become increasingly accepted that if children are to be protected from neglect the service must be performed by public agencies.”

In 1962 pediatrician Henry Kempe and his colleagues published one of the first articles dealing with the subject of child abuse within America, “The Battered Child Syndrome.”

Further, in 1962 Congressional amendments to the Social Security Act placed a greater emphasis on child protection. By the end of the 1960’s laws had been enacted in nearly all states that placed the responsibility for child protection in the hands of the government. Despite a state and federal shift towards governmental responsibility to protect children, in 1973, U.S. Senator Walter Mondale wrote in a letter, “Nowhere in the Federal Government could we find one official assigned full time to the prevention, identification and treatment of child abuse and neglect.” Congress responded with the passage of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act of 1974 (CAPTA).

With the availability of federal funding state investigators were able to respond to, and investigate allegations of child abuse, including physical abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse.

By the end of the 1970’s the prevalence of child sexual abuse within society was starting to be reported by mainstream media that continues today. Nevertheless, child abuse happens more than people care to believe. It has been reported that in the U.S. annually, more than three million reports of child abuse are made involving nearly six million children.

Today, more than ever, there is a need for state laws that match in the area of reporting abuse and neglect; protecting children from abuse, and regarding statutes of limitations, instead of the confusing, diverse laws respecting these matters seen in place from state to state.

It is imperative that state legislators sponsor Bills that reform outdated, objectionable and unacceptable laws that do little to protect children and that do not give a voice to abuse victims who want justice in criminal or civil courts. Reporting laws for charitable institutions need to be improved, plus “Working with Children” laws need to be enacted. If the safety and welfare of our children becomes a paramount legislative issue for elected officials, just imagine what could be accomplished nowadays in America.

Should Confessions to Clergy Be Exempted from Mandatory Reporting of Child Sex Abuse?

By Michael Walter Finkbeiner

The history of confession, along with the penance and absolution it achieves in the mind of the believer, is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Exodus chapter 21, which immediately follows the Ten Commandments, gives priests authority to adjudicate cases of wrongful death, with the power to set a compensation price on the value of a life. In this tribal desert setting, the priesthood held the rights and duties of the State’s interest in administration of law over life and death matters, inheritance, crimes and punishments.

By the Christian era, the Roman authority and law code had become the State’s interest, with permission given to local religious bodies for adjudication of cases, but not capital punishment or judgments against Roman citizens. However, the path to absolution from sin, redemption and salvation in the Christian faith was through open confession and penance as evidence for repentance. The early congregations had religious authority to expel members from the congregation for gross sins (1 Cor 5) or to re-instate them on the basis of being “grieved into repentance.”1

By the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, Canon 13 gave priests of the church the power to absolve sins at a death-bed confession and change the penitent’s outcome from damnation to salvation. In 459 AD Pope Leo’s “Magna indignatione” gave priests sufficient power to determine penance to be rendered for sins privately confessed, according to the conscience solely of the priest, who kept the sins secret. Over the next 1000 years, this arrangement lead to corruptions of indulgences by payment, which enriched the clergy, since priests had power to convert damnation into salvation for land, money, jewels or other valued possessions, which would be useless for the penitent in the fires of hell.

Following the Norman conquest of Britain the Roman Church exercised control over civil powers of Europe, with bishops manning the King’s courts.2 Following the Reformation, civil governments began to take back the power of the clergy and to limit the authority of the church. After 1750 the Jesuits were expelled from many European countries and civil authorities took control of most aspect of organized society. For example, The British Parliament passed the “Murder Act” in 1752 with specifications for adjudication. The “Offences Against the Person Act” of 1828 codified somewhat earlier laws on sexual assault. Penetration of a girl under the age of 10 was punishable by death, whereas age 10 to 12 specified a misdemeanor with a term of hard labor. Proof of ejaculation was replaced by proof of penetration, making convictions easier for the victims. Thus civil authority dealt increasingly with crimes of sexual abuse, while clergy were limited to spiritual steps to absolution for the perpetrators.

Which Clergy or Religions are included?

In the United States, the first Amendment to the Constitution protected religious rights of belief and largely of practice. In 1813, Catholic priests were exempted from compelled testimony on their knowledge of confessed crimes, thus establishing the legal precedent for an exception privilege to reporting.3 In 1817, the compulsory and sacramental nature of confession in the Catholic religion was granted the privilege by reference, but denied to the Protestant churches, where confession is not a sacrament and the minister is merely a spiritual advisor, with optional confession of sin without the power to absolve guilt by a specification of penance.4

Granting the privilege on the basis of Catholic affiliation alone was gradually replaced by legislation in every state broadening the exception to clergy of any religion, with certain underlying circumstances.5 States vary in their specifications for the relationship. Some make the sacramental nature of confession necessary, whereas others allow a broader relationship to clergy as merely a spiritual advisor.

In California, the Evidence Code specifies that, “penitential communication means a communication made in confidence, in the presence of no third person so far as the penitent is aware, to a member of the clergy who, in the course of the discipline or practice of the clergy member’s church, denomination, or organization, is authorized or accustomed to hear those communications and, under the discipline or tenets of his or her church, denomination, or organization, has a duty to keep those communications secret.”6 Therefore, ecclesiastical bodies that conduct internal judicial hearings that receive evidence by committee violate this one-to-one secret confession, which must not be divulged to others.

One suggestion for reform to narrow the California privilege is to “Limit penitent communication to confidential communication in accordance with the tenets, customs, or practices of a church, religious denomination that make it non-optional, and that is only between a penitent and a clergy member who has a duty to the penitent to keep all communications secret.”7

Further, the over-riding interest of the State should be to protect victims from risk of further abuse, or to designate the abuser as a danger to children. One practice implemented in Victoria Province of Australia, following the December 2017, “Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse”8 is to require all persons working with children in an institutional setting to receive training, a police background check, and card-carrying certification for “Working with Children.”9

Since 2011, a Federal standard for mandatory reporting of child sex abuse has been embodied in Senator Robert Casey’s “Speak Up” Act for child protection10 and would include as mandatory reporters, “Clergy, including Christian Science practitioners, except where prohibited on account of clergy-penitent privilege.” This privilege needs a better, narrowed specification by law.

Conclusion: History and current law embed a privileged exception for a type of confidential confession, exercising the believer’s right in a pathway to redemption and absolution of the sin of child sex abuse. This right and Canon Law should be respected, but only if the victim is safe from further abuse, and the abuser is tracked and restricted in access to new victim populations. The crime of abuse belongs to the state, while absolution from sin is part of protected religious belief. The nature of sex abuse is that perpetrators train and groom new child victims through protections obtained from an institutional structure. Reform for Child Safety to Stop Abuse must narrow and limit the clergy-penitent privilege of exclusion from mandatory reporting to child protection authorities.

Michael Walter Finkbeiner
Oct 8, 2018

1 Byington Translation 2 Cor 7:9
2 Tiemann & Bush, “The Right to Silence: Privileged Clergy Communication and the Law (1983) Note 7 pp. 109-110
5 R. Michael Cassidy, Sharing Shared Secrets: Is It (Past) Time for a Dangerous Person Exception to the Clergy Penitent
Privilege, 44 Wm. & Mary Law. Review. 1627, 1638 (2003).
6 Evidence Code – EVID DIVISION 8. PRIVILEGES [900 – 1070] (Division 8 enacted by Stats. 1965, Ch. 299.)
CHAPTER 4. Particular Privileges [930 – 1063] (Chapter 4 enacted by Stats. 1965, Ch. 299.) ARTICLE 8. Clergy Penitent Privileges [1030 – 1034] (Heading of Article 8 amended by Stats. 2002, Ch. 806, Sec. 18.)
7 See SCAARS website for further examples of State Statute Reforms.
10 Senate Bill #982 — 115th Congress (2017-2018) Presently in the Health and Education Committee

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Child sexual abuse inquiry scope clarified

Priests who abused children in their own homes will be included in a Royal Commission into historical sexual abuse.

The move is being described as a change-in-scope by advocates but the Royal Commission says it is only a clarification of the existing scope.

After the Government bowed to pressure and added abuse in faith-based institutions to the Royal Commission, victims and survivors were concerned the scope was too narrow, because it only looked at abuse in bricks-and-mortar institutions.

Read more at link below . . .

Source, [New Zealand]: Child sexual abuse inquiry scope clarified

20 years, 700 victims: Southern Baptist sexual abuse spreads as leaders resist reforms

As leaders decline to act, the numbers grow. In the past 20 years, about 380 Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers have faced allegations of sexual misconduct, the newspapers found. They were pastors. Deacons. Ministers. Youth pastors. Sunday school and Christian school teachers. Church program volunteers. They left behind more than 700 victims.

First of three parts

Thirty-five years later, Debbie Vasquez’s voice trembled as she described her trauma to a group of Southern Baptist leaders.

She was 14, she said, when she was first molested by her pastor in Sanger, a tiny prairie town an hour north of Dallas. It was the first of many assaults that Vasquez said destroyed her teenage years and, at 18, left her pregnant by the Southern Baptist pastor, a married man more than a dozen years older.

Read more from link below. . .

Source: Houston Chronicle. 20 years, 700 victims: Southern Baptist sexual abuse spreads as leaders resist reforms

Southern Baptist Convention grapples with sexual abuse report

The president of the Souther Baptist Convention, JD Greear, speaks to the denomination’s executive committee in Nashville, Tennessee on 18 February.

After two newspapers rocked the evangelical Vatican, members who work with victims say much remains to be changed

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), one of the largest Christian organizations in the world, is grappling with allegations that more than 250 of its leaders sexually abused more than 700 congregants over the last two decades.

. . .

“It’s similar to the Boston Globe story in that people have been desperately shouting about this for years and it’s only just now receiving the attention has deserved,” said Boz Tchividjian, founder of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (Grace), an investigative and educational organization.

“The 700 victims revealed in this investigation are only the tip of the iceberg, since very few survivors of abuse ever come forward.”

Tchividjian is also the grandson of Billy Graham, the world’s most famous evangelical preacher. For him and many others, part of what contributes to the sexual abuse problem within some SBC communities is to be found within “purity culture”, a set of principles that portray women as virginal objects for men to court, educate and marry.

Read more at link below . . .

Source: The Guardian (UK) Southern Baptist Convention grapples with sexual abuse report

Attorney General Nessel to Catholic Church: Stop self-policing

Nessel asked the Diocese of Lansing and its counterparts to pause internal reviews as her office investigates clergy abuse. That may take up to two years

LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has asked the Diocese of Lansing and its six counterparts across the state to stop self-policing.

And she told Michigan residents not to rely on the church to handle any allegations of sexual misconduct.

“If an investigator comes to your door and asks to speak with you, please ask to see their badge and not their rosary,” Nessel said during a Thursday morning press conference. “Victims may believe that they cannot or should not report abuse to us because the church is going to handle it. That’s simply not true.”

Anyone can report abuse to the attorney general’s office online or by calling an investigation hotline at 844-324-3374. Reports can be made anonymously.

More than 300 tips received

The office has received more than 300 tips of clergy abuse through that hotline, Nessel said.

Read more at link below . . .

Source: Lansing State Journal. Attorney General Nessel to Catholic Church: Stop self-policing

Ex-Jehovah’s Witness faces new child sexual abuse charges in Mont-Laurier, Que. | CBC News

A former Jehovah’s Witness from Mont-Laurier, Que., is facing new charges of sexually assaulting two girls in his congregation in the 1980s — 23 years after he was acquitted of the sexual assault and indecent assault of one of the alleged victims in the case.

Michel Courtemanche, 63, was acquitted of assaulting 1 of alleged victims in 1996.

A former Jehovah’s Witness from Mont-Laurier, Que., is facing new charges of sexually assaulting two girls in his congregation in the 1980s — 23 years after he was acquitted of the sexual assault and indecent assault of one of the alleged victims in the case.

Michel Courtemanche, 63, is charged with three counts of sexual assault, one count of sexual interference of a minor and one count of indecent assault. He is to appear in court in Mont-Laurier, 240 kilometres northwest of Montreal, on March 18 to enter a plea on those five charges.

It will be the second time Courtemanche will face judicial proceedings in connection with a complaint by the main alleged victim, Pénélope Herbert.

In 2017, Herbert told Radio-Canada’s investigative program Enquête she was just 11 years old when she began babysitting Courtemanche’s children while he was leading a Bible study group.

. . .

“Those nights, he would come to my room. I am talking about rape, night after night.”

Read more by clicking the link below . . . 

Source: CBC. Ex-Jehovah’s Witness faces new child sexual abuse charges in Mont-Laurier, Que. | CBC News

NY Child Victims Act: What new law means for sex abusers, victims

Legislators said the Child Victims Act will pass as the Catholic Church eases its long-held opposition to the bill.

Source: ( NY Child Victims Act: What new law means for sex abusers, victims

DC attorney general proposes bill to make clergy mandatory reporters

The bill would extend to a range of positions and professions across church, state, and private insitutions, but provides explicit exemptions for the confessional, and priests would not be required to report abuse they learned about in that context.

Excerpts from story as reported in CNA (Catholic News Agency):

.- A law has been proposed in the District of Columbia which will broaden the classification of those required to report instances of child abuse or neglect. The bill would apply to clergy but make exceptions for the sacrament of confession.

“Teachers, health professionals, and clergy have a special responsibility to protect children, but far too often abuse goes unreported or is covered up,” said Attorney General Karl Racine in a statement to the media.

“To help stop child abuse in the District, this bill requires more adults to report it and trains them on how to spot it.”

Currently, everyone over the age of 18 in the District of Columbia is required to report suspected or known abuse of a child under the age of 16 to police. Mandatory reporters, however, are subject to enhanced requirements, and can receive thousands of dollars of fines and up to six months in prison for failing to report cases of abuse.

Read more at link below:

Source: DC attorney general proposes bill to make clergy mandatory reporters

New attorneys general to continue investigating clergy abuse

Newly inaugurated state attorneys general are promising to continue investigations of clergy abuse in the Roman Catholic church as thousands of victims are reaching out to state hotlines and online reporting systems

At least 14 attorneys general around the country have confirmed investigations or reviews of clergy abuse in the wake of a shocking Pennsylvania grand jury report in August detailing seven decades of child sexual abuse by more than 300 predator priests. Six of those offices — New York, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Florida and Delaware — are helmed by newly elected attorneys general, including three of the states reporting the largest numbers of victims contacting them.

Almost 3,000 calls, emails and online reports of clergy abuse have been made in the last five months. Nearly half of those calls were made to the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office after its investigation was released.

That number doesn’t account for reports made to seven states that declined to disclose numbers from their reporting systems to The Associated Press, including states with large Catholic populations like New Jersey and California with a dozen dioceses. The number could be much higher with those included. Several states are seeing lower responses; Delaware reported only five victim contacts as of the beginning of the year.

Read more . . .

Source: [Philadelphia Enquirer] New attorneys general to continue investigating clergy abuse

Cardinal Timothy Dolan Proves Once Again the Church Will Never Reform Itself without the Law and Civil Society Behind It

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that the Child Victims Act, for which we have been fighting for 15 years, will pass this year with his full support. With both houses controlled by Democrats, the leadership of Sen. Brad Hoylman, now Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, he is surely correct. The barrier to passage until now has been Republican lawmakers kneeling to the Catholic bishops and in particular New York City Archdiocese’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan. The latter is not going down, though he is decidedly going down on this issue, without a final whining tour about justice for child sex abuse victims.

Dolan’s latest volley was an op-ed in the New York Daily News that is filled with misstatements and ugly implications.  He tries two “Hail Mary” passes. First, he says that the governor’s bill will not treat public schools the same as private institutions. This is simply not true, but even if it were, there is no question the intent is to put private and public entities on the same footing and any additional language Dolan wants to further nail home this point can be easily added. The Democratic leadership in New York is 100% on board in wanting to protect children from sex abuse in every arena. Therefore, at least from Dolan’s rhetoric, he should be on board with the CVA. Not so fast.

Read more . . . 

Source: Cardinal Timothy Dolan Proves Once Again the Church Will Never Reform Itself without the Law and Civil Society Behind It

Utrecht University to investigate sex abuse claims against Jehovah’s Witnesses –

Utrecht University is launching an independent inquiry into sexual abuse by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, in the latest in a series of investigations focused on the church.
The university said it wanted to clarify how the church deals with incidents of abuse within its own community and whether this affects the likelihood of victims coming forward, the Telegraaf reported.
There are currently nine investigations ongoing into allegations of abuse in the community, the public prosecution service has said. Justice minister Sander Dekker has called for the Jehovah’s Witnesses to set up their own independent inquiry, but the church declined.
In a letter to parliament on Monday, Dekker said researchers at the university wanted to speak to victims and church leaders about allegations of abuse. The university hopes to conclude its inquiry in the autumn.
MPs from all parties have called for an independent inquiry into allegations against the church, which has around 30,000 followers across the Netherlands. A foundation set up by victims of sexual abuse within the Jehovah’s Witnesses has registered 276 potential cases.
Dekker said last year that the church should follow the example of the Catholic church in dealing with complaints of sexual abuse. In total, 3,712 people have reported being victims of sexual abuse within the Catholic church to a special hotline set up in 2010.

Cardinal on trial in France’s biggest church sex abuse trial

A Catholic cardinal and five other people went on trial Monday accused of covering up for a pedophile priest who abused Boy Scouts — France’s most important church sex abuse case to date.

The case poses a new challenge to the Vatican, amid growing demands in overwhelmingly Catholic France for a reckoning with decades of sexual abuse by the clergy.

Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, 68, appeared in a Lyon court Monday along with other senior church officials accused of failing to protect children from alleged abuse by the Rev. Bernard Preynat. The top Vatican official in charge of sex abuse cases, Cardinal Luis Ladaria, is among the accused — but won’t appear in court because the Vatican invoked his diplomatic immunity.  Read More . . .

Source: Cardinal on trial in France’s biggest church sex abuse trial

Gov. Cuomo: Child Victims Act to be included in executive budget

ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) – New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Friday that the Child Victims Act will be included in the 2019 Executive Budget.

Gov. Cuomo vows to enact the act within the first 100 days of the new legislative session.

The legislation would ensure anyone who abuses children will be held accountable criminally and civilly and that survivors of childhood sexual abuse have a path to justice.

This legislation:

  • Increases the amount of time during which perpetrators of these crimes may be held criminally accountable;
  • Allows victims of these crimes to commence a civil lawsuit at any time before they reach 50 years of age;
  • Provides victims whose claims have been time-barred a new opportunity for their day in court by opening a one-year window for them to commence their action;
  • Eliminates the need to file a notice of claim for sexual offenses committed against a minor;
  • Requires judicial training with respect to crimes involving the sexual abuse of minors;
  • Authorizes the Office of Court Administration to promulgate rules and regulations for the timely adjudication of revived actions.

The Governor’s office says under current law, child sexual abuse offenses cannot be prosecuted after five years from their occurrence. Civil lawsuits for this conduct must also be brought within three years from the victim’s 18th birthday.

Deb Rosen from Bivona child advocacy has been waiting for this, saying, “there’s been significant pushback from large institutions who worry about an onslaught of lawsuits that could result in bankruptcy or other repercussions.”

One of those institutions has been the Catholic church, which has taken issue with the part of the bill that would allow victims who’ve passed the statute of limitations to have a one year window to reopen their case.

The Catholic Conference released a statement in 2016 on the bill saying: “this extraordinary provision would force institutions to defend alleged conduct decades ago about which they have no knowledge, and in which they had no role, potentially involving employees long retired, dead or infirm, based on information long lost, if it ever existed.”

Source: Gov. Cuomo: Child Victims Act to be included in executive budget