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

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

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

Childhood abuse increases risk of adult suicide, finds research


Largest study of its kind shows ‘devastating’ impact of sexual, physical and emotional abuse

People who experienced sexual, physical or emotional abuse as children are two to three times more likely to kill themselves as adults, new research has found.

Experts said the findings confirmed the “devastating effects” of child abuse on mental wellbeing, while one suicide charity said 70% of people who had either tried to take their own life or who had thought about it had been abused.

People who were sexually abused as a child were three times more likely than others to try to kill themselves, according to the new study in Psychological Medicine.

And people who were either physically or emotionally abused or neglected in childhood were two and a half times more likely to try to end their lives.

The findings come from research undertaken by academics at the University of Manchester and South Wales University, who analysed the results of 68 previous studies on the subject from around the world.

Dr Maria Panagioti, from Manchester University who led the research, said about “one adult in every three has experienced abuse as a child. This study conclusively gives us solid evidence that childhood abuse and neglect is associated with increased likelihood that they will be at risk of suicide as adults.”

The authors said the paper was the most comprehensive review of the evidence underlying the issue. The 68 studies were based on the experiences of 216,600 adults in countries including the US, Canada and Italy, while two of the studies were from the UK.

Read more . . . 

Source: The Guardian, U.S. Edition: Childhood abuse increases risk of adult suicide, finds research

Legislative Pressure and Culture Change among Jehovah’s Witnesses

by Harvinder Singh, University of Birmingham, UK

The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, or as they are more commonly known as Jehovah’s Witnesses have been criticised by the Australian Royal Commission in 2015 for their handling and practices of child safeguarding. This centralised international religious organisation defends its practices with first-century biblical principles, claiming that it possesses spiritual truth. My study tests the hypothesis of whether this religious organisation adjusts to local variations of child safeguarding laws in the United States of America, England and Australia. This organisation’s local adaptations to child safeguarding laws in these three countries are a challenge to their universal truth.

The methodology of my enquiry includes an analysis of textual sources ranging from WatchTower’s child safeguarding policy, letters, magazines and civil court cases concerning child abuse, in addition to the findings of the Australian Royal Commission and the response submitted on behalf of WatchTower. My exploration of civil court cases and the elder’s correspondence documents in section 5, offers an insight into where WatchTower has adapted their previous doctrinal practices of requiring a victim of child sexual abuse to confront their abusers.

My study finds that WatchTower has adapted its child safeguarding practices by introducing new methods which no longer requires victims of child sexual abuse to make an allegation by having to confront their perpetrators. In addition to this, victims of abuse can now be accompanied by a support person of any gender to make an allegation against a perpetrator of abuse to an elder. Thus, the analysis of this enquiry has established areas of WatchTower’s theocratic position which has been adjusted due to local legal pressures in these three countries. The legal framework of this dissertation has demonstrated that the elders responsibility to safeguard children vary due to the local legal requirements.Thus, states in America and particular provinces in Australia require different responsibilities from elders, in the form of acquiring background checks and adhering to mandatory reporting legislation. Of which, WatchTower confirms that they are willing to comply with. This study finds through the double hypothesis that if there are local variations from the global Jehovah’s Witnesses’ instructions, there are local legal requirements in these three countries. Where there are no local legal requirements, this study also finds that there are no local variations in Jehovah’s Witnesses’ documents and practices. This thesis finds that this religious organisation does not respond or adjust its doctrinal practices of child safeguarding in the face of criticism and recommendations of scholars, the mass media and the secular courts unless legislation requires it. The findings of my study therefore urge legislators to set clearer legal expectations for clergy penitent privilege. I argue that a Jehovah’s Witness elder and the penitent child abuser should both enjoy the privilege of confidentiality. However, on the contrary, any other elder who becomes aware of such abuse outside of that privilege, should be required mandatorily by law to report it to the authorities to ensure that children are protected from sexual abuse.

[Editors: Note Harvinder Singh’s Academic Paper on Jehovah’s Witnesses, PDF 76 pages]

Harvinder Singh, (BA, MA)

School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion

Department of Theology and Religion,University of Birmingham

Why I am a SCAARS Supporter (M.P.)

by Michael Paddock

For many years, I ministered as an elder in a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs). Looking back, I can say one thing for certain – we were not adequately trained to deal with complex issues. There were schools and letters specifically created by those guiding the religion that I was raised in to help elders manage complicated situations. Nonetheless, the instructions were focused on organizational policy, not how to assist people with serious psychological issues as a result of child sexual abuse or other severe mistreatment.

For instance, survivors of child sexual abuse need ongoing support and help to recover from this most devastating attack on their innocence. Although this appears like an obvious statement, too many individuals in today’s world ignore this stark reality and do not back or assist efforts to provide appropriate care.

JWs are a prime example of their leaders not meeting the challenge of assisting those who are suffering from the many debilitating effects due to child sexual abuse. This is because within this religion, there aren’t any trained and paid clergy. Elders [only males] are “volunteers” who are taught how to spiritually “care for the flock” and instructed in how to perform mundane tasks aimed at operating a place of worship.

The psychological effects of child sexual abuse include lower levels of self-esteem, higher rates of depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), self-mutilation, and suicide. Each of these categories requires a specialized level of training for anyone hoping to adequately address these issues. The effects are life-altering and can devastate the victims for decades.

The focus of the training elders receive about abuse issues is merely on the internal procedures developed by JW leaders of what to do when a JW accuses another JW of sexual abuse. These procedures include elders:

  1. talking to the victim to hear the “accusation” of abuse.
  2. calling JWs Legal Department, which represents their legal corporation, the Watchtower, to see if the “accusation” should be reported to the authorities.
  3. assessing whether the “accused” should face an internal judicial committee made up of three JW elders.

In the past, a JW victim of child sexual abuse tragically had to face and accuse their JW abuser of wrongdoing face to face. Although this practice recently changed, it demonstrates the lack of understanding and assistance common in their internal policies.

Reporting a case of child sexual abuse to JW elders is still a needlessly stressful event for victims since they are expected to recount their abuse in front of at least two male elders. Often, the elders ask very uncomfortable, and sometimes inappropriate questions to determine whether sexual abuse occurred, the frequency of the act and whether the victim was a willing participant.

Furthermore, since JWs are trained to view all outside organizations as being part of
“Satan’s world,” they will not encourage a victim to seek professional counseling. This lack of training and support leaves victims in an impossibly difficult position.

SCAARS believes that anyone who volunteers for a position of authority in an institutional setting that might include hearing reports of child sexual abuse, must receive suitable training to understand how to properly support the abused; and volunteers must insist that the victim or caregiver report the abuse to the authorities.
Victims need a safe environment as described in the document, “Child Safe Organizational Cultures” (

If individuals truly want to help victims of child abuse survive and thrive beyond their
abuse, they should be thoroughly and properly instructed as to how to meet the challenge.

Why I am a SCAARS Supporter (B.P.)

by B.P. in Illinois

My father was a man of great integrity who abhorred religious hypocrisy. In his youth, he boldly marched in front of churches in Brooklyn, NY, with a sign that read, “Religion is a Snare and a Racket.” He never backed down from speaking against the piousness of the clergy or the sins they committed in God’s name. As a matter of fact, it was his favorite subject!

Therefore, I was raised with the conviction that devotion to God and to truth was to be first in my life. Whenever I had any questions, Dad would always tell me to do the research. He was convinced that he had found “the truth” and it could stand up to any scrutiny. “Don’t take my word for it – look it up.” he’d say.

Sadly, my father died in 1988, before the Internet made it so easy to do research. If alive today, I think he’d be appalled to learn that child sex abuse had infiltrated powerful religious institutions. I can just imagine his anger to find out how religious leaders covered-up this crime, and that perpetrators were protected by using spin and legal posturing.

Like my father advised, “Do the research to find the truth,” that’s what I did when I began to question the structure of religion; claims of ecclesiastical privilege, along with what I saw as an immense misuse of power.

After discovering that many religions were founded not on candor with transparency, but largely on “malfeasance of office” and sanctimoniousness, I realized that a secret and dangerous culture developed over the centuries. This has culminated in some of the most scandalous cover-ups we’ve ever seen in our time.

Events of the past have proven that appealing to the clergy’s moral principles and humanity has not worked in changing their culture. Therefore, it is our belief that the best way to end sexual and spiritual abuse is by effective action to change secular laws. For instance, if Grand Juries were convened in the 50-states, (similar to the Australian Royal Commission), more crimes would be uncovered which would force institutions into supporting the weak and taking humane actions toward the injured. It is only then that healing of the innocents can begin.

As I became acquainted with the founders of the SCAARS group (Stop Child Abuse – Advocates for Reform and Safety), I realized that we were kindred spirits. Years before the #MeToo Movement began, these courageous people showed their devotion to justice in behalf of those less fortunate, by exhibiting a spirit of activism both in word and deed. Like my colleagues, I have never been sexually abused, but feel the need to speak out with them on behalf of those who have.

As a Victim’s Advocate and a Mandated Reporter, I’m committed to the cause of helping individuals crushed by religious institutions that abuse power. And I am honored to champion truth-telling and to help bring about cultural change with my friends at SCAARS. If my Dad was still alive, he surely would be proud of all of us who are determined defenders of truth and advocates for reform.

An Insider’s Account about How a Report of Child Sex Abuse Is Handled

By Michael Paddock

In November 2016, I made a life-altering decision. After 47 years of association with Jehovah’s Witnesses, many of those spent as an elder in the congregation, I chose to leave. Although there were many reasons for this decision, it was the issue of how child sexual abuse has been mishandled that pushed me to this choice.

Since I had served as an elder, I knew the organization’s policies well. But, I had never had to handle a case of child sexual abuse directly. Once I saw how these practices were applied and how damaging they are, I could no longer support them. When I saw the extent that the organization would go to in order to defend their position and the abusers themselves, I knew I couldn’t stay.

As more people become aware of the problem with child sexual abuse within the Jehovah’s Witness organization, it might be helpful to understand the full scope of the issue. Having been trained in these policies, I would like to make things clearer by presenting a typical scenario of child sexual abuse and how the organization directs it to be handled.

  • A minor tells her parent that someone in the organization has molested her. Due to the training that Jehovah’s Witnesses receive, the parent’s first instinct would be to call one of the congregation elders to report the situation instead of calling the proper legal authorities.
  • After hearing this report, the elder would contact the Coordinator of the Body of Elders for his congregation. The Coordinator would arrange for a meeting of the Body of Elders to determine who on the local body of elders should investigate this claim. Again, the proper legal authorities would not be contacted.
  • Two elders would be assigned to talk to the victim and her parent to gather details. If they determine that the child is giving a truthful account, they would report back to the Coordinator about their findings. The proper legal authorities would still not be notified.
  • Their next step would be to call the Legal Department of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WTBS) in New York. The Legal Department would then direct them as to whether or not they are legally obligated to contact the proper legal authorities to report the case. The default stance taken is that, unless there is a specific state law directing them to do so, the authorities need not be notified.
  • The elders then determine if there will need to be an internal judicial hearing about the accusation. If there is only one witness to the abuse, as is the case in almost every instance of sexual abuse, they will not pursue it further. If there are two witnesses to that specific instance or if there are multiple reports from different children that this has happened at the hands of the same person, they will form a judicial committee to determine whether the offender is repentant. This committee will decide whether the offender can remain a member of the congregation or will be excommunicated, or disfellowshipped according to Jehovah’s Witness nomenclature.
  • If the offender is not disfellowshipped, other members are not informed about the situation. At the most, an announcement might be made that the offender was “reproved” but displayed repentance. No mention of the type of crime will be divulged to the congregation. Parents will be unaware that a sexual offender is in their midst. They will continue to socialize and trust that their children are safe even in the presence of the offender.
  • In addition to having access to children within the congregation, the offender will also go door to door in the public ministry. Jehovah’s Witnesses view their public evangelizing work as an obligation that every member must fulfill. So, even the offender will be expected to go from door to door or engage in other forms of public ministry. This gives the offender direct access to children that are not in the congregation.
  • If the judicial committee had determined that the offender should be disfellowshipped, he would still be allowed to attend meetings at the Kingdom Hall (church), but he would not be allowed to go in the public ministry. After a time, he can petition the elders to be reinstated into the congregation. If they agree, he will once again be a full member and be able to socialize with and be close to all members of the congregation. He will also be expected to engage in the public ministry again, going from door to door to all houses in his area.
  • At no time in this process will the elders warn parents about the predator in their midst. They may monitor his behavior but will not attempt to keep parents informed about his crime. Since they are unable to watch the offender’s actions all the time, there is ample opportunity for the predator to have access to children.
  • Elders are not trained in how to deal with and assist the victims of abuse. No psychological or emotional support will be provided other than sharing some scriptures that are deemed relevant. Elders will also not encourage victims or parents to seek outside counseling as this is considered “worldly” and potentially dangerous to their spirituality.

There are multiple problems in each step of this process. The facts that authorities are not called unless required (even then it is long after the abuse), no warning is given to parents, no psychological assistance is available to parents or victim, and that the predator has access to children make this a system fraught with danger.

SCAARS is making efforts to effect a change in legislation so that these dangers can be eliminated. When considering your personal stance on this issue, please consider the positive impact of mandating all reports of child sexual abuse, expanding the statute of limitations for this crime, and helping victims find the mental and emotional support they need.

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.

Un-Orthodox Behavior

Catholicism isn’t the only religion with sexual abuse scandals. Three S.F. women are working to expose cases within the Orthodox Church.

“These are our files,” says Cappy Larson, opening a desk drawer in the attic of her Haight District home. “Don’t look closely.”

The drawer is stuffed with folders, neatly arranged. Inside, Larson says, are letters from the hundreds of people who have contacted her in the past 10 years claiming they were sexually abused by Orthodox priests. In 1999, Larson, her daughter Greta, and family friend Melanie Sakoda founded the Protection of the Theotokos (“Mother of God”), an organization devoted to exposing sexual abuse in the Orthodox Church. It is a personal matter for them: In 1991, two of Sakoda’s children and one of Cappy Larson’s were allegedly molested by a monk at the Holy Trinity Cathedral. Both Sakoda and the Larsons sued Holy Trinity’s administrative body, the Orthodox Church in America; though the OCA denied any wrongdoing, it paid over $200,000 to settle the case with both families.

Since then, the three women have watchdogged Orthodox parishes and listened to the stories of victims — some of whom will write them for years without revealing their names. Fear of retribution runs deep in the Roman Catholic Church, as the reports on its current sexual abuse scandal bear out. In the older and more conservative Orthodox Church, the fear can run even deeper. “You feel like it’s just you against this big historical thing,” says Greta Larson. “That’s in the Catholic Church, too, but it’s more so in the Orthodox Church. There’s a liberal vein of the Catholic Church, but [the Orthodox Church] is not even close to having that.”

Orthodoxy is not immune to sexual abuse charges, however. The latest case came to light in April, when a defrocked priest named Pangratios Vrionis surrendered to authorities in Queens, N.Y., on charges that he molested a 14-year-old boy.

Read more . . .

Source: Un-Orthodox Behavior

Study finds widespread history of sexual abuse among formerly Orthodox – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Two Orthodox researchers see a link between abuse and the decision to abandon the strictly observant Jewish life.

(JTA) — While Jews are no more likely to be sexually abused than other Americans, individuals who have left the Orthodox community are more than four times as likely to have been molested as children than the general population, a new study has found.

The study, by two Orthodox Jewish researchers, surveyed more than 300 participants over a three-year period. Its authors — Dr. David Rosmarin of Harvard and Dr. David Pelcovitz of Yeshiva University — said their report was an attempt to address a lack of research on the prevalence of sexual abuse in the Jewish community.

While the rate of abuse was higher among formerly Orthodox individuals, Rosmarin and Pelcovitz also found that abuse was “associated with significantly lower levels of intrinsic religiosity and lower levels of religious observance” among victims who chose to remain part of the Orthodox community.

“This report supports the anecdotal evidence I’ve seen that indicates a close link between abuse in a religious context and the subsequent rejection of that community, its practices, values and often everything it stands for,” said Manny Waks, the founder of Tzedek, an Australian advocacy group for victims of sexual abuse. “This is proof for what he already knew. I’ve met many people who were religious, especially within the ultra-Orthodox community, who left because of sexual abuse.”

Read more . . .

Source: Study finds widespread history of sexual abuse among formerly Orthodox – Jewish Telegraphic Agency