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JWs Protect Known Pedophiles and Abusers

JWs Protect Known Pedophiles and Abusers

Jehovah’s Witnesses have a strange way of handling pedophilia and other forms of sexual and domestic abuse. They require at least two witnesses to testify to the abuse before they will take it seriously. Since they are also loath to involve “worldly authorities,” they often don’t report abuse to the police. Sometimes they even punish the messenger – the victim of abuse – for speaking.

If you are a Jehovah’s Witness that has been abused, sexually assaulted, or beaten – don’t bother trying to seek help from the elders. JW elders have no special training or insight. They simply follow rules, and the instructions that they have been given are not written for your benefit. Seek help and refuge outside the Kingdom Hall. You are so much better off finding help elsewhere!

If you are a kid – of any religion! – who has been abused, talk to some adult that you trust. Or call a hotline, contact social services, go right to the police station – whatever you feel safest doing. Do it! Do not hesitate! The person who abused you is the one who is in the wrong. Seek help. Please.

JW elders, who completely rule the congregations at the local level, will take the word of the (usually male) abuser much more seriously than any testimony from women or children. The man is the head of the household, and elders are elevated even further – whether that status is merited or not. One of America’s most wanted was protected for years, and is most likely still being protected since he can blend in to any congregation with the right JW-speak. Known pedophiles have switched congregations when things got awkward. That congregation isn’t warned, and such a person is often left unsupervised with children for bible study, door-to-door work and so on.

Even pedophiles and other abusers deserve their basic human rights. Christian congregations ought not to bar any sinner. The priorities here are seriously skewed, however. I think it very strange that JWs can be disfellowshipped for bad attitude, for celebrating Christmas, or for smoking – but abusers can remain in good standing just as long as only one person has the courage or ability to testify to their bad conduct and victimization of others.

Given their doctrines and mindset, it’s not really very surprising that they create abusers, but you would think that the average JW would have seen enough people disfellowshipped to wonder why the 2-person witness rule only seems to apply in this situation.

Other christian denominations – the Catholic church most visibly – have had to face their problems in this area. Jehovah’s Witnesses have made no changes to their policies.

So far, there has been no debate or discussion on this topic in Kingdom Halls. Why? Because debate isn’t allowed. The ideal is to be a sheep of the organization. Independent thinking, as any JW can tell you, is against their religion.

Even if it hurts or kills people, their members will obey without question the “divinely inspired guidance” of the Watchtower leadership at corporate command in Brooklyn. Why? They believe that Armageddon will happen at any time, and they want to survive it – no matter the cost in loss of freedom, destruction to families and individuals, and even the squelching of basic kindness. A disfellowshipped (shunned) JW is cut off from their family and most if not all of their friends – they are said to be ruled by Satan. They believe that God prefers people who prioritize orders from their publishing empire to common sense, basic ethics, or empathy for others. It never stops amazing me, what fundamentalists of all stripes can do to a message of love and forgiveness.

So now the leadership makes noises about educating their people – but they still discourage reporting to authorities. They still discourage seeking psychological help, too. They haven’t changed their rules or procedures at all – they’ve only invested in restructuring efforts, real estate scams, and an army of attorneys. I don’t expect much to change.

I’m guessing that they had to shell out some serious cash to settle all these cases with gag orders attached. Maybe that will start some people thinking. One can hope.

Many JWs are decent, good people. They are trying to do what they believe God wants of them, and many of them do so at personal sacrifice. Their mistake is in substituting the direction of a few flawed men at the head of a publishing empire for a relationship with God.

Sex abuse victims challenge Jehovah’s Witnesses – By ROSE FRENCH, The Associated Press

NASHVILLE – A victims’ rights group released documents Thursday that showed the Jehovah’s Witnesses recently settled civil suits with 16 people who claimed they were sexually abused by church elders or that church officials failed to act on the allegations.

The group, called silentlambs, held a news conference in Nashville to demand the denomination change its policy for responding to abuse reports.

Settlements were reached in late February and early March, according to court records obtained by silentlambs and posted to the group’s Web site. Fourteen of the cases were filed in California; the other two were in Oregon and Texas.

Details about the settlement terms could not be disclosed under confidentiality agreements negotiated between the parties, said Stephen Owens, a plaintiffs’ attorney involved in the California cases. Other cases are still pending, according to silentlambs, which couldn’t say how many.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose headquarters are in Brooklyn, N.Y., said Thursday that they were pleased to see the lawsuits resolved, declining further comment.

“Our loving heavenly Father makes it clear in his Word, the Bible, that he abhors child abuse,” a statement from the denomination said.

“As an organization, we will continually strive to educate families and congregations with sound Scriptural teachings that they can use to protect their children from child molesters. And we will continue to do our utmost to protect children from this horrible crime and sin.”

William Bowen, silentlambs’ founder, was a Jehovah’s Witnesses elder from Kentucky who quit the denomination after he said it took no action against a molester. Bowen said the settlements were bittersweet.

“On one hand, we’re glad a few victims are finally getting some financial help,” he said. “On the other hand, we’re sad and worried because they’ve essentially been forced to give up their right to protect others by speaking out about their abuse to the public.”

Bowen’s group has criticized the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ policy that if an accused abuser denies the charge, two credible witnesses are required to establish guilt – due to literal application of such Bible verses as Deuteronomy 19:15 (“only on the evidence of two witnesses, or of three witnesses, shall a charge be sustained”).

If two witnesses are lacking, the accused is deemed innocent, charges remain confidential and – silentlambs says – parents who warn others are subject to disfellowshipping for slander.

Disfellowshipping is an extreme penalty that means a total cutoff of relationships by family members, friends and business associates who are Witnesses.

There are about 1 million Jehovah’s Witnesses in the United States, and followers are known for distributing Awake! and Watchtower magazines door-to-door.

Bowen also said Jehovah’s Witnesses have a long-standing policy of not reporting molesters to police. He claims that the denomination has a secret database of accused abusers that they have not shared with law enforcement officials.

“They keep putting innocent kids and unsuspecting families at risk of horrible crimes because they value their secrecy and reputations more than they value children’s safety,” Bowen said.

Since establishing silentlambs in 2001, Bowen says about 7,000 people who claim they were abused have contacted his group.

Associated Press reporter Allison Hoffman in San Diego contributed to this report.
On the Net: www.silentlambs.org

Other coverage:

Urgent Alert for ex-JWs

Urgent Alert for ex-JWs

Silentlambs will be holding dual press conferences in Nashville, Tennesee and San Diego, California. Please contact silentlambs at info@silentlambs.org or the San Diego coordinator at paulbigbird@hotmail.com for details.

SilentLambs invites everybody who can be there to support a major announcement about justice for victims of abuse.

Please contact them immediately if you live in the Nashville or San Diego area, or close enough to drive.

Victims of Child Abuse Hotline

Victims of Child Abuse Hotline

Do you know a child who is being abused or molested?

If the crisis is now, please call 9-1-1!

Call the National Child Abuse Hotline: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)

Do not listen to any counsel that tells you to be silent. Everyone matters.

All calls are anonymous and toll-free. The hotline is staffed 24 hours daily with professional crisis counselors who utilize a database of thousands of emergency, social service and support resources.

The Childhelp hotline counselors can…

  • discuss signs and symptoms of abuse with you.
  • help you decide a course of action.
  • prepare you as to what to expect when reporting child abuse.
  • provide the number of the local reporting agency you should call.

Hotline counselors can look up the local reporting telephone number and give it to you. They can also stay on the phone line and make a 3-way call if you are nervous about doing it alone.

Law enforcement agencies (the police or sheriff’s departments) and child protective services are the ones who decide what will happen when there is child abuse. If a child is in immediate danger, however, counselors can call the local police to go to the child’s location if the hotline caller gives the address and the name of the child or teen who is being abused.

Other Hotlines

If you are in immediate danger call 9-1-1.

  • United States Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
    Spanish Language: 1-800-942-6908
    TDD: 1-800-787-3224

  • United States Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673
  • Youth Crisis Hotline: 1-800-448-4663
  • National Center for Missing and Exploited Children: 1-800-843-5678
    TDD: 1-800-826-7653

  • United States Suicide Hotline: 1-800-784-2433
  • Hotline For Parents Considering Abducting Their Children: 1-800-A WAY OUT
  • United States Missing Children Hotline: 1-800-235-3535
  • United States Elder Abuse Hotline: 1-866-363-4276
  • Find a Therapist: 1-800-865-0686
JWs in the News: Convicted of whipping daughter to death

JWs in the News: Convicted of whipping daughter to death

Items like these show the outer limits and effects of JW family involvement, which includes a rationalization of childbeating (from a common mistranslation and misapplication of a biblical verse that children will become “spoiled” if not physically beaten). Parents, who envision themselves in a power pyramid, will sometimes take out their frustrations on those with less power. It is a chain of domination and submission to authority. Here is one result.

Larry Slack has been convicted of flogging his 12-year old daughter to death with an electrical cord (as well as aggravated battery to a child in the beating of her brother).

All six children were beaten, but Slack was especially furious that the murder victim – tied to a bare metal futon frame and gagged – “wouldn’t take the beating quietly.”

Prosecutors have said the couple were strict Jehovah’s Witnesses who practiced corporal punishment.

Leon Slack said the electrical-cord beatings were routine:

You felt it not only in your back, but in the front of your chest,” Slack said. He then described the force his father used–like “you were hammering a nail into wood.”

The couple loved their children but did whip them as a form of discipline, just as their own parents had, Streff said.

Larry Slack worked as a Chicago Transit Authority machinist and Constance Slack worked as a nurse.

Constance Slack has already pleaded guilty.

In his videotaped statement to prosecutors played in court Thursday, the corpulent Slack said, “I bought [a knife] for the purposes of killing myself. I hid it under the fat folds of my stomach.”

Prosecutors called the suicide attempt “self-serving.”

JWs in the News: Wife Beater

JWs in the News: Wife Beater

Courant.com | Lockdown In Search For Beating Suspect

Joseph Ambrose, 55, is charged with attempted murder, first-degree assault and first-degree kidnapping of his estranged wife.

Two of the couple’s four children were home while he beat his wife. Ambrose is a member of the local Canton (Connecticut) congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Police found several rifles at the rented house.

Joseph Ambrose was quoted in a story in The Courant in 1996 about the mission of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Those who join the church, the story said, must be committed to the faith.

“Your conduct has to be right in harmony with the Scriptures,” Ambrose said in the story. “Your morals have to be right in line.”

His estranged wife is now in stable condition and is being treated at Hartford Hospital.

Ambrose is still at large.

Transcending JW Abuse

Transcending JW Abuse

It’s such a familiar narrative now, and it’s almost comforting to me to see more and more people testifying to it – to know that what I observed and experienced is pretty much the same from congregation to congregation, and not just a matter of my own family or community in the Jehovah’s Witnesses: the fantasies of a paradise earth devoid of all but other Jehovah’s Witnesses, the fatalism toward the coming apocalypse and the lack of engagement in the world, an almost total lack of compassion, paranoia and fear of others, spankings and beatings “out back” at the Hall, the abusive and sometimes predatory nature of many of the elders, the way small slights divide families while larger issues are ignored, the hypocrisy, the mind-numbing repetition in the many meetings – the smallness of it all.

Joy Castro is now a literature professor – it is very heartening to find that so many of us, who were not irretrievably damaged but instead went on to thrive, were able to save our sanity and navigate a different path if we had something else – like intellectual curiosity, a higher sense of ethics, compassion for others – some private treasure to hold onto like a mantra while redefinining faith and value for ourselves.

Bits from the article “Turn of Faith” by Joy Castro
August 14, 2005, New York Times Magazine

Three times a week in the Kingdom Hall in Miami, my brother and I strove to sit perfectly still in our chairs. Our mother carried a wooden spoon in her purse and was quick to take us outside for beatings if we fidgeted.


My loneliness was nourished by rich, beautiful fantasies of eternal life in a paradise of peace, justice, racial harmony and environmental purity, a recompense for the rigor and social isolation of our lives.

This bliss wasn’t a future we had to work for. Witnesses wouldn’t vote, didn’t involve themselves in worldly matters, weren’t activists. Jehovah would do it all for us, destroying everyone who wasn’t a Witness and restoring the earth to harmony. All we had to do was obey and wait.

Shortly after our return to the States, my father was disfellowshipped for being an unrepentant smoker — smoking violated God’s temple, the body, much like fornication and drunkenness. Three years later, my parents’ marriage dissolved. My mother’s second husband had served at Bethel, the Watchtower’s headquarters in Brooklyn. Our doctrines, based on Paul’s letters in the New Testament, gave him complete control as the new head of the household; my mother’s role was to submit. My stepfather happened to be the kind of person who took advantage of this authority, physically abusing us and forcing us to shun our father completely.

After two years, I ran away to live with my father. My brother joined me a tumultuous six months later. We continued to attend the Kingdom Hall and preach door to door; the Witnesses had been our only community. Leaving was a gradual process that took months of questioning. I respected all faiths deeply, but at 15 I decided that I could no longer be part of a religion that condoned inequality.


I love my mother, but I also love my ”worldly” life, the multitude of ideas I was once forbidden to entertain, the rich friendships and the joyous love of my family. By choosing to live in the world she scorned — to teach in a college, to spare the rod entirely, to believe in the goodness of all kinds of people — I have, in her eyes, turned my back not only on Jehovah but also on her.

Joy Castro is the author of a memoir, “The Truth Book: Escaping a Childhood of Abuse Among Jehovah’s Witnesses,” to be published next month by Arcade and from which this essay is adapted. She lives in Crawfordsville, Ind.

Here’s a bit from “Farm Use” in Without a Net, in which she writes about mealtimes:

“Food becomes a measured thing. Each mealtime, my stepfather dishes himself up from the pots. Then my mother may help herself to half of what he has taken. Then, while he watches, she can spoon half of what she’s taken onto my plate. A portion half the size of mine goes to my brother. If my stepfather wants a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, my brother gets one-eighth. If she gives us more than my stepfather calculates is correct, he beats us with his belt.”

What is it with the belt, anyway? I remember my mother asking my father to hit us with his hand, so that he could feel how hard he was hitting us – but he preferred the belt, followed by a biblical lecture which might well have been a reading from some back issue of the Watchtower magazine. Of course we had all the bound volumes. I remember being beaten one time for standing near to the stereo and looking to him as though I might be thinking about touching it. He wanted his children to be perfect in Jehovah’s eyes – spare the rod, spoil the child. Myself, I always wondered what exactly a “rod” was… I mean, in that context (ha). It always sounded like it might have been a bad translation – anyone know?

Thanks goes to H.K. for alerting me to this.

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