According to a bombshell report in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Christian denomination the Jehovah’s Witnesses have long-standing policies in place in order to protect alleged child abusers among their ranks from law enforcement.
Memos obtained by the Inquirer frequently repeat the need for leadership to not cooperate with the police in such cases. Specifically, a 1997 memo mirrors similar tactics employed by the Catholic Church in their decades-running sexual abuse scandal. In the memo, church leadership is ordered to “inform one another if known pedophiles moved from one kingdom hall to another — and to withhold the information from the congregations.”
When allegations of abuse were made, they were referred to the Witnesses’ legal counsel. In order for proceedings to continue, the victims were allegedly forced to “recount their allegations in front of their abusers, and produce two eyewitnesses who could support their claims” [emphasis added]. Discipline, if any, was then handled internally. Those victims who made public accusations did so at the risk of being shunned and also accused of wrongdoing.
Speaking to Philly.com, the Jehovah’s Witnesses released a carefully worded statement in response to the allegations. “Jehovah’s Witnesses abhor child abuse, a crime that sadly occurs in all sectors of society. The safety of our children is of the utmost importance.”
Coincidentally, last week marked the one-year anniversary of Russia declaring Jehovah’s Witnesses an extremist group and outlawing their practices.