What You Don’t Know About Jehovah’s Witnesses And Pedophiles

Candace Conti

Candace Conti.

Everyone in the United States knows that the Catholic Church has a major issue with pedophiles, but hardly anyone knows that Jehovah’s Witnesses have similar problems. Many cases involving Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watchtower Society have been reported to the public (a search string using “Jehovah’s Witness pedophile” will yield pages of results, including video of various newscasts) but most of these stories have failed to sink into the public psyche. Even Candace Conti, who was awarded millions of the Watchtower Society’s dollars, is mostly known by former Witnesses like me and few others. Many Jehovah’s Witnesses have yet to hear the name of Candace Conti and are blissfully unaware that child abuse is a real issue within the organization on any level.

The Watchtower Society may not be as big as the Catholic church, but officially, there are nearly eight-million Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide. Even if there are only eight-million people who believe in the Society’s “truth” (there could be as many as nineteen-million who believe the Society has “the truth” if you go by Memorial attendance) that’s still a lot of people. I’m not suggesting that there are millions of cases of pedophilia here, but I do think the public should know more about pedophilia among Jehovah’s Witnesses and how the Society’s policies have done more harm than good. Especially Bible studies (or students) of Jehovah’s Witnesses who have children. It’s a big enough issue that several organizations like Silent Lambs and JW Survivors were formed specifically to oppose pedophilia within the Watchtower Society’s Kingdom Halls.

The Problem with Pedophilia Among Jehovah’s Witnesses

The Watchtower Society claims that child abuse among Jehovah’s Witnesses is rare. The Wikipedia page, entitled “Jehovah’s Witnesses’ handling of child sex abuse,” says that:

Details of the Society’s child abuse policies have been published in Jehovah’s Witnesses’ publications, although more specific guidelines are only made available to elders, or on request. Press releases issued by the Watch Tower Society’s Office of Public Information confirm that if a person accused of molestation repeatedly denies the charges of his victim, and there is no other witness to the incident, “the elders cannot take action within the congregation at that time”, however [they] would report to authorities if required

This is the first part of the problem. I don’t think you have to be an expert to realize that sexual abuse of children probably won’t happen in front of an audience. But does the Society really tell its elders to report cases of suspected child abuse to authorities when required? The quote shown above says yes, but the real answer appears to be no.

The Society’s policy is pretty well laid out at Religious Tolerence, which says:

If abuse cannot be proven, the elders of the congregation “are expected to report the allegation to the branch office of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in their country, if local privacy laws permit. Again, privacy laws permitting, a record is made a the branch office that the individual has been accused of child abuse….The aim is to balance the right to privacy of the individual with the overriding need to protect the safety of children.”

Here’s a little more from Religious Tolerance that explains the real upshot of all this:

Jehovah’s Witnesses [have] a dual policy concerning cases of child abuse which meet their standards of proof:

  • Local elders are required by the WTS to alert police and/or child protection services only in those political jurisdictions which require religious institutions to report suspected cases of abuse. Some states in the U.S. do not have mandated reporting. Other require certain professionals like physicians, teachers, and social workers to report, but allow religious leaders to remain silent. Some states have no laws at all in this area.
  • Where reporting is not mandated by the state, their policy is to keep keep the matter secret. Communications between elders and members are kept confidential. They generally do not report abuse but attempt to handle it within the organization. An abuser will often be encouraged to confess to authorities. A disciplinary hearing may be held. However, only elders can take notes, which are later collected and kept in a secure location. No tape recordings are permitted.

The Witnesses hold that the privilege of clergy confidentiality applies to any confidential communication among its members, including statements at disciplinary hearings which involve multiple elders and witnesses.

Between this, and the policy involving the two-person rule (at least two people must have seen the molestation with their own eyes for the elders to charge the accused with an actual violation), few cases get reported. It was this policy that allowed Candace Conti to hold the organization responsible as well as the perpetrator of the crime. Note also that Candace and her mother, like many others, were disfellowshipped for reporting the abuse she suffered to authorities outside of the organization.

More Information

pedophilia instructions for elders

This is how elders are told to handle allegations of pedophilia within their Kingdom Hall.

“>The point of the links below isn’t to beat a dead horse. It’s to give interested readers easy access to specific cases and to simply demonstrate the abundance of claims that are out there. With problems like this, most Jehovah’s Witnesses think these are rare issues or that they are being blown out of proportion. The “world” (everything outside of their institutions) is always out to get them and to make them look bad. I think the weight of the allegations and the reasons behind them (as explained above) shows that it isn’t that simple. Some of the articles below deal with similar issues, but contain different information. But the real conclusion I hope everyone reaches is that the Society, regardless of its intentions, has a faulty set of rules that simply don’t work and need to be changed.

HINT: If you read only one of these links, read Slamming the Door on Jehovah.

A similar list can be found at my website as well.

New evidence in Jehovah’s Witness allegations – NBCNightlyNews

The Watchtower Pedo-Files at Silentlambs.org

Inside sources reveal 23,720 reported/unreported child molesters on file at Jehovah’s Witness headquarters in New York

My disfellowshipping by Bill Bowen – From the founder of Silent Lambs

When I first came forward to the media with my allegations of abuse cover-ups in the organization, one thing I made clear to reporters was that they would [disfellowship] me for speaking out on this issue.

Slamming the door on Jehovah

Child abuse with the Jehovah’s Witnesses

Erica Rodriguez repeated to DATELINE the way she was treated when she reported her molestation. When she informed the elders at her congregation in Sacramento of the sexual abuse of Beliz who was not yet disfellowshipped, the elders told her to not report the crime to the police. They went on to threaten her with disfellowshipping if she tried to report the matter: “if you go to the police, you will be condemned by God.”

JW Survivors | Victim Advocacy Group for survivors of the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia

JW Survivors is a volunteer not-for-profit community based victim advocacy group for survivors of the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses within Australia. The group was founded by Steven Unthank. The seeds of JW Survivors were planted by current and former members of the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and their families, in response to the Victorian Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and other Organisations, and an extensive submission made in relation to the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses and their administrative controlling corporation, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia.

Jehovah’s Witnesses Pedophilia (Australia) on Vimeo

Results of Youtube search for “Jehovah’s Witness pedophile”

Jehovah’s Witnesses Revealed

Jehovah’s Witness pedophile walked free from court despite one of his victims was a baby

A Jehovah’s Witness pedophile was spared prison despite admitting carrying out a string of sex attacks on young children.

Legal Loophole Used by Jehovah’s Witnesses to Avoid Moral Obligation

It was a sad blow Friday July 15, 2005, when the majority of judges in an appeal hearing before the Supreme Court of New Hampshire ruled against continuing the case. It represented a four year battle with hundreds of thousands of donated funds of Jehovah’s Witnesses be spent with law firms in the New Hampshire area to files numerous frivolous motions to prolong and run up costs on the civil case. Jehovah’s Witness lawyers supported Paul Berry, a convicted child molester, by providing him with free legal assistance to protect his religious right from further convictions of child abuse. While victims and advocates sat on one side of the court room, Jehovah’s Witness attorneys sat with Paul Berry and offered testimony in his behalf to protect him from further criminal prosecution. Paul Berry remains a Jehovah’s Witness in good standing and upon his release from prison will be required to make visits to the homes of the public to start bible studies. It is estimated that well over $500,000 has been spent in donated funds of Jehovah’s Witnesses for the legal defense of Paul Berry.

Child Abuse | JW Leaks

Documents and court cases relating to child abuse within the church of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Updated Regularly!

See also Candace Conti | JW Leaks

Jury awards $28M in Jehovah’s sex abuse case – CBS News

(AP) OAKLAND, Calif. – A Northern California jury has awarded $28 million in damages to a woman who said the Jehovah’s Witnesses allowed an adult member of a Fremont church to molest her when she was a child in the mid-1990s.

Why the Watchtower Society has Been Punished over the Candace Conti Child Abuse Case

It doesn’t stop there either. Elders have been known to bully victims and their families into not telling others what has happened, and go as far as threatening these ones with being disfellowshipped on the grounds of slander if they try to warn other families about a child abuser that’s present within the congregation.

JW Class Action | official information site

PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT: December 1, 2012
A $3 Billion class action lawsuit is being launched in Australia on behalf of up to 6,160 children within the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Documents relating to the class action reveal over 14,000 serious criminal breaches of mandatory child protection laws, committed against these children by elders and “ministers of religion” within the Church of Jehovah’s Witnesses over the past 4 years.

Clinical and Scientific Findings Regarding Sexual Abuse Perpetrators, Victims, and Traditional Moral and Social Values (Downloadable PDF)

Janet Heimlich discusses religious child abuse – National Social Issues

23 Responses to “What You Don’t Know About Jehovah’s Witnesses And Pedophiles”

  1. Thanks for posting this vital information!

    At a glance what is wrong about the Jehovah’s Witnesses and their unique TWO WITNESSES take down.
    As a regular practice or as a deliberate subterfuge to cover up wrong doing they require the testimony of two eyewitnesses to every act of,civil,criminal,scriptural wrongdoing.
    The Watchtower Bible society leadership over extends the scripture at 2 Corinthians 13:1 (read it) and the two witness rule is selectively enforced with prejudice and favoritism.
    Example-If a favorite ministerial servant assaults me they will require that I present two witnesses to the act.If I do the same they won’t require it from him.
    This two witness protocol permeates everything at the kingdom from pedophile crimes to gossip backstabbing.
    Moreover-The agonized victims are told to ‘leave the matter in Jehovah’s hands’ ‘wait on Jehovah’ because ‘any day we are going to be in the righteous new system’. So villain perpetrators continue to carry on in this festering enviroment.The victim is made to look like an unforgiving discontent.
    This is another element that makes crimes unique in the Jehovah’s Witnesses the issue of their apocalyptic dogma,any day it will all end and you will be in paradise.
    –Danny Haszard Bangor Maine

  2. Jehovah’s Witnesses pedophile abuse.

    The Jehovah’s Witnesses require ‘two witnesses’ to a crime or it didn’t happen,you are supposed to ‘leave it in Jehovah’s hands’ wait on the lord. How many pedophiles allow an eyewitness? These people engage in a door to door ministry, possibly exposing children to pedophiles. The Watchtower corporation has paid out millions in settlement money already.
    The official policy is that the elders of the *Church* are supposed to handle the matter internally, without contacting the police. They do this so that shame will not be brought on the religion.
    Its important that they keep a squeaky clean image to the public.
    They believe the police and courts are Satan’s organizations and any crime by a JW should be dealt with internally.The elders will contact the police ONLY if they’re forced to by state law. Otherwise they are forced to follow official policy from headquarters. Some states require that *priests* or *pastors* report child abuse to the authorities. If they are not forced to report them then they cover it up.
    Same issues as the Roman Catholic Church Priest molestation scandals.


    Danny Haszard *tell the truth don’t be afraid*

  3. vash says:

    This article is ridiculous. I may not be a Jehovah’s whiteness, but I don’t see you describing anything close to the catholic church here. The only thing I see wrong is expecting their religion to handle a pedophile instead of the police. It would be one thing if you were accusing them of
    actively and institutionally protecting pedophiles, THAT would be like the catholic church. All you offer here is ridiculous speculation based on speculative articles. I can come up with 100′s of web sites that say that all of our world leaders are lizard people, would you be willing to believe that with equivalent citing as this article?

    I wish people could be more rational…

    • Let me take this one at a time.

      Vash, with all due respect, I think your reaction is pretty ridiculous. Did you actually read the article? If so, I would like to suggest that you read it again. You completely missed the point.

      I take it you didn’t notice the clips of actual instructions from the Watchtower Society to its elders? Even then, it isn’t the easiest thing in the world to get the Society to admit to wrongdoing. They won’t even admit to stuff that is clearly posted on their website and in their literature, like teaching JWs to shun their own relatives. Many JWs seem to have a similar problem when confronted by critics. The fact we have anything concrete here is due to the fact that some elders do, in fact, have a conscience all their own.

      Incidentally, the main focus of this article is the harm that the Society’s policies have caused. I don’t see anything that suggests some big conspiracy. Useless stubbornness and misplaced priorities, yes. But not a conspiracy.

      I never said that the Society had the SAME problems as the Catholic Church with pedophiles, either. The Catholic Church’s problems can be described as premeditated and conspiratorial. The Society’s are simply a side effect of stupid policies that they have chosen to stubbornly cling to despite the harm those policies cause. This is typical authoritarian thinking. If you check out the MANY links provided throughout this article, you will see reports from actual news agencies (not quacks or conspiracy theorists) showing you that the end results are pretty much the same as those of the Catholic Church. Lives ruined, victims silenced, beliefs crushed for no good reasons, etc. So the problems are similar – which is what I called them on line one of the article – but not identical.

      BTW, I’m pretty sure that the Society choosing to handle these problems internally, doing a rotten job of it, and even DFing people who turn to “worldly” authorities for justice is pretty terrible all by itself. That is, in a nutshell, just dumb. If they let the police handle it, then they would not be sued and little blame could fall upon them. Instead, they have dug in their heels. Of course, the police are part of the world and controlled by demons. Just like me. And you, if you’re really not one of JWs. That’s really what they believe.

      Finally, I want to thank you for telling us that you aren’t one of JWs. If you hadn’t thought to mention that, we might have assumed you were just trying to downplay the whole thing to preserve the Society’s image. There is something we agree on, however: I too wish that people could be more rational.

      I hope you’ll take some time to think about the article some more before posting another response. But I thank you for giving me an excuse to summarize the whole thing for everybody. Have a good day.

  4. Emily Paiva says:

    Let’s please not forget that children suffer from all forms of abuse. Even more prevalent then sexual abuse is physical and emotional abuse that is laid upon the children left within. Usually they continue the cycle of abuse since seeking out metal health care is frowned upon. One of the reasons I was DF’d is because I began going around and asking children if their parents were hurting them. Most were telling me yes. I was advising them to tell a teacher or the authorities. I was just twenty years old and beginning to realize that the way my parents treated me was not normal but may JW children believe that beatings and being verbally stripped of any dignity is normal. I understand the importance of spreading the word about peddos within. I just really believe that these others forms of abuse are not counted. Do you know what it feels like to go through torment and then reach out for help only to realize you don’t count? That is the way these other abused feel. They too are silenced. Maybe we should begin mentioning them in articles about abuse within the org. The org has an ABUSE problem. ALL abuses on ALL levels.

  5. Erik says:

    Vash only said, “I MAY not be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Well, I MAY not be either…or I MAY be. Clever use of wording there. Also I think the best point in the article is “Many Jehovah’s Witnesses have yet to hear the name of Candace Conti and are blissfully unaware that child abuse is a real issue within the organization on any level.” Have YET to hear. Have YET. It took awhile for the whole Catholic scandal to become heard about beyond the church walls too! Predators will always go where they can get access to their prey. Always. We need to make it much much harder for them ASAP.

  6. Great post! It’s high time the light is shined into the dark corners of the Watch Tower Society’s policies that harm children, while protecting their abusers. Reporting abuse to authorities should not be optional–they are professionals who are trained to deal with these situations, versus the untrained lay clergy of Jehovah’s Witnesses. They would rather hide these issues than deal with them. Heaven forbid their image be tarnished!

    • Steph, that’s exactly what I think. If they did that one simple – and morally correct – thing, it would be very different. Let’s hope they change.

  7. toni says:

    I studied the bible with Jehovahs witnesses for many years, this is how I came to be an atheist. In our congregation if a pedophile admitted to the abuse and said they were sorry and “showed” remorse they were allowed to remain in the congregation because Jesus forgave people their sins so (sometimes they would be publicly admonished – within the Kingdom Hall, but not always) and the congregation was expected to do the same and firgive the offender who was not called a paedophile but merely someone who did th wrong thing but was as deserving as the rest of us of forgiveness of transgression and given a clean slate so long as he claimed to be walking with Jesus. Sadly most Jehovah’s witnesses are so knd, compassionate and naive they have no idea the nature of a pedophile. They think it’s a sin like any other, on par with giving into temptaion and drinking too much one day, cheating on your wife or telling a lie to your parents. Forgiveness is encouraged…pretty much garanteed as long as you promise not to do it again. Padophiles paradise!

    • Erik says:

      Jesus never intended for shepherding the flock to be turned into a legalistic game in which the innocent can so easily be hurt!

    • That’s one way of looking at it, Toni. And I’m sure it’s true of some JWs. KHs vary more than many JWs and XJWs seem to realize. But I believe that, overall, the culture of JWs has fallen into the trap of authoritarianism. Yes, they can be naive, but they can also be dispassionate and cruel in their adherence to the rules as laid out by the Society. They are taught that the Society is speaking for Jehovah God, so even if it seems wrong or doesn’t make sense, if they say it, then it must be what Jehovah wants. Even if it isn’t what he wants, he wants them to obey the Society, so it amounts to the same thing either way in the end.

      This is one way that needless harm can be done for no good reason.

      Note that JWs tend to be very suspicious of non-Witnesses, so they aren’t as naive as you might think.

      • toni says:

        I really think they’re so brainwashed and scared. It’s drummed into them that if they don’t obey they miss out on eternal life with their loved ones and they will be slaughtered at armageddon which they all firmly believe is just around the corner…like they did 20 years ago. Logic and reason is smacked out of them at young age in many cases. Their teens struggle with depression and confusion but I do believe they are mostly naive. They will welcome anyone into their congregation with loving arms and give u the shirt off their back if u show the slightest inkling u might be looking for God or a righteous path. They go out witnessing door to door in the hope of “saving” people and if they question authority they are swiftly shamed and humiliated. I really feel for them. Even those who have the guts to leave are usully riddled with fear and uncertainty for years to come.

  8. Richard E.Kelly says:

    Kudos on the post. Well-written and thoroughly researched. This injustice needs to be shared with the world. Thousands of children will be in harms way until the Watchtower’s fatally-flawed policy is corrected.

  9. Terry Carey says:

    Their policy states that child sex victims be immediately protected from further abuse, and that abusers convicted under the ‘two witnesses’ rule be prevented from finding additional victims.

    • Terry, their policy just isn’t working. Also, if you read my article, then you know that the “two witness rule” is half the problem. As I stated earlier, people don’t generally commit pedophilia in front of an audience. If there aren’t 2 witnesses, or if the pedophile doesn’t admit to their crime, then they are declared innocent. End of story. And the family cannot go to outside law enforcement without being disfellowshipped for slandering another JW.

      As I explained in the article, the whole system is simply stupid. Pointlessly and stubbornly so, in fact. That was the point of the whole article.

      • Erik says:

        Terry, Service, the most sacred gift we can give to our creator, is putting young people at risk if/when troubled JW’s are still allowed to use the public ministry for gaining access to and for manipulating young ones. Remember when Jesus told his disciples to let the children come to him and to stop hindering them? If Jesus were here would he go along with the policies of Jehovah’s Witnesses that are being challenged here?

    • Terry, where are the details on how these children are to be protected from further abuse? Unless parents in the congregation are notified of the molester, there is no way to protect them. The “two witness” rule is a loophole that protects pedophiles. There is rarely a witness to the crime of a child molester (they don’t prefer audiences), let alone a second witness.

  10. This one is specifically related to the question of whether the Watchtower Society has been covering up the allegations from authorities.
    http://www.10news.com/news/investigations/team-10-obtains-video-of-admitted-child-molester-in-jehovahs-witnesses07222013

  11. Daniel Muller says:

    What a gratuitous slam against the Catholic Church in an unrelated article. The scandal in the Catholic Church that “everyone knows about” was homosexual liaisons with adolescents (ephebophilia, if you want), but the mainstream media do not like that storyline because it is not politically correct to consider that a scandal at all. Better to frame it as paedophilia whether it is or not; that sells.

    If you are really interested in combatting paedophilia, take a look at schools, including and especially public schools. Also, take a look inside families. The problem has nothing to do with this religion or that but rather situations in which children naturally but mistakenly trust adults.

    • Daniel, the definition of gratuitous is “Uncalled for; lacking good reason; unwarranted.”

      I fail to see how the comment you cited even comes close to any of that.

      It is true that the Catholic Church is under scrutiny for many pedophile cases. Period. I am attempting to raise awareness about the fact that JWs have a similar problem. So the comparison is neither uncalled for, lacking in good reason, or unwarranted. Your personal theories about “homosexual liaisons” notwithstanding. I was making a point that everyone knows about those issues–which is also basically true, like it or not–but few know about similar problems with JWs. That’s it. Whatever else you think is going on here isn’t going on here.

      And I hardly think that it’s fair to say that the article is “unrelated.”

      BTW, AFAIK, most pedophiles are not, in fact, homosexuals. It’s a completely separate thing.

      Let’s flip this around. If I were a homosexual, I could miss the point of your comment entirely and let you have it for comparing homosexuality to pedophilia. Would I be right for doing that? Or would I be guilty of a knee jerk reaction to something I’m a bit too sensitive to?

      I am being a little hard on you here, but you were hard on me. If you are nice, I will be nice. :) Either way, I hope you see my point.

    • Now that that’s done, I need to take a look at this statement:

      “If you are really interested in combatting paedophilia, take a look at schools, including and especially public schools. Also, take a look inside families. The problem has nothing to do with this religion or that but rather situations in which children naturally but mistakenly trust adults.”

      Daniel, I don’t think you read the article if you actually believe this. I’m not so sure you understand the pedophilia issues within the Catholic Church either.

      The point is that both institutions are handling these cases in disastrous ways. My article focused on JWs because I am a former JW and I know a lot more about them. Public ignorance on this issue is a problem, while most people know something about the Catholic Church’s problems.

      Even I know that there are reports of major coverups within the Catholic Church that have been going of for many decades. Whether you accept that is another matter entirely. The fact that the reports have come out remains true. Looking at mishandling of pedophilia in schools is, in fact, a very similar issue. Supposedly, authoritarian institutions are breeding grounds for these kinds of situations. If schools have them, then that’s another area people should be looking at. But it does not mean that we cannot look at the problems of JWs or Catholics. Your point here does not make any sense to me.

      With respect, I don’t think you are seeing this issue very clearly.