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Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Still Have a Major Pedophile Problem?

Watchtower HeadquartersA lot has happened since I wrote What You Don’t Know About Jehovah’s Witnesses And Pedophiles back in 2013. In that article, I tried to raise awareness of a problem that has largely gone unnoticed by the general public and even many Jehovah’s Witnesses. The issue concerns pedophiles and the rules that make it far too easy for them to molest children within their congregations. One of the biggest problems is known as the “two witness rule.” This policy stops elders from acting on an accusation of wrongdoing unless two people witness the crime or the accused confesses. I doubt many pedophiles would molest a child in front of another person, so the two witnesses rule leaves the deck stacked in the pedophiles’ favor right from the start. The problem is made even worse because victims, and their parents, are forbidden from turning to law enforcement unless the elders find the accused person guilty. That’s right, they have to go to the elders before they can report the crime. If a victim does turn to law enforcement, they will be “disfellowshipped” (excommunicated and shunned even by their own families) which is the severest form of punishment a committee of elders can dish out. Meanwhile, the perpetrator is assumed to be innocent by the congregation and will be treated as a member of the faith in good standing. This is how all accusations of wrongdoing are handled within congregations, not just those concerning pedophiles. But the problems with this system are obvious.

At the time I wrote my previous article, Candace Conti’s court case against the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (the corporate entity behind Jehovah’s Witnesses) was the biggest news to happen on this front. Yet even then, most people have never heard of her and few know about the details behind the Society’s larger pedophile problem. You can listen to Conti’s experiences in her own words here.

In the United States, Silent Lambs and many others have urged the Society to change these rules. So far, they have refused. In short, yes, it’s still a major problem. But some interesting updates can be found below.

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Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Believe in the Theory of Evolution?

The "Creation Book"Do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in the theory of evolution? As a former Jehovah’s Witness who once spent an inordinate amount of time researching their Creation Book, I can tell you that the official answer is a resounding no. (The book is officially called Life-How did it get here? By evolution or by creation? But it is commonly just called the Creation Book by Jehovah’s Witnesses.) This book is the Watchtower Society’s magnum opus on evolution. Yet it remains infamous for an abundance of bad science, quote mining, and an embarrassing habit of strategically leaving off parts of quotes so as to alter their original meaning. (Yikes!) Many people have written about the book, including Austin Cline at About.com. Even Richard Dawkins devoted a chapter to it in The God Delusion. Think what you will, but it’s clear that the Society’s Creation Book has gotten around.

The Creation Book was first published back in 1985. Now, after remaining in print for more than two decades, it is no longer being produced. That hasn’t stopped the Watchtower Society from writing about the theory of evolution, but nowadays, the organization chooses to keep it all pretty simple. When you consider how many ex-Witnesses left the Society after doing extensive research on books like this one, that’s probably a good idea.

So what else has the Society said about evolution in recent years?

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How Do Jehovah’s Witnesses View Women And Domestic Violence?

As with most things, Jehovah’s Witnesses will take their cues on women and domestic violence from the Watchtower Society. Before we dive in, a short review about a woman’s role at the Kingdom Hall is in order.

As I mentioned in a previous article, women who are Jehovah’s Witnesses are told to be in subjection to their fathers and then their husbands after marriage. Women may not teach in the presence of men or perform other duties reserved for men without wearing some sort of head covering as a sign of deference. They are not allowed to give public talks or handle microphones during meetings at a Kingdom Hall. Their only role in meetings is a public demonstration, given at just one of their five weekly meetings (fun!), where the sisters role play for a few minutes. (It’s not a fun kind of role play, so don’t even go there.) These performances were almost identical to a much dreaded part of my morning sales meetings when I worked at a local department store some years ago, except that men and women were treated equally at the store. And we got paid.

Elders are not supposed to talk to congregation sisters in private without a chaperone. This is usually another elder or, in some situations, a woman’s husband or father. I was told by at least three elders at my former Kingdom Hall that this was standard procedure and was intended to prevent sisters from crying rape or trying to “come on” to an elder. Because … you know … chicks, I guess. The elders were not required to do this when talking to a brother, however.

From Watchtower 11/15/91 page 21-22 paragraph 14

It is inadvisable for an elder to make a shepherding call on a sister alone. The elder should be accompanied by another elder or a ministerial servant.

From Watchtower 2/15/93 page 15 paragraph 12

In developed countries some have fallen into Satan’s trap by often being with a member of the opposite sex and without a third person present—such as regularly being in the confined intimacy of a car for driving lessons. Elders doing shepherding calls also need to exercise caution so as not to be alone with a sister when counseling her. Conversations can become emotionally charged and result in an embarrassing situation for both parties.—Compare Mark 6:7; Acts 15:40.

I’m sure some elders at some Kingdom Halls might be willing to bend these rules under certain circumstances, but this policy tells you a few things about the way Jehovah’s Witnesses view (and value) women. Not as much as the Watchtower article I’m about to discuss below, however.

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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.

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Shunning: How Jehovah’s Witnesses Discipline Their Own

ShunWhen one of Jehovah’s Witnesses does something that his local elders deem a serious offense against God and Watchtower, he will probably be disfellowshipped and therefore shunned by other Jehovah’s Witnesses. When I say that he’ll be shunned, I don’t mean he won’t get any presents on his birthday or that he won’t be invited over for Christmas. I mean that he is dead to them. In most cases, the Witnesses will simply pretend he’s invisible (like that episode from the Twilight Zone) and many will simply wander off if he attempts to communicate with them in any way. Either that, or they’ll get angry and blast him for it.

They call it “congregation discipline.” When they speak of it, they make it sound like it’s a punishment from Jehovah God himself. In reality, the decision to disfellowship is made during a closed-door session with three local elders. It’s how they keep their followers in line.

So how does it work and how far does it go? Technically, people living in the same household aren’t required to shun one another or expel the wrongdoer. But I know of many cases where the local elders did pressure parents to kick out their adult (18 years old+) children even if those children had no where else to go. Since good Jehovah’s Witnesses are supposed to obey their elders, this can put the parents of the disfellowshipped person in a tight spot. So while the elders can make it hard for the family, at least they do have the right to say no to the elders. That’s mostly because the Society hasn’t made expelling family members from the home mandatory, even though shunning in every other respect is mandatory.

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