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Panorama
Child abuse policy
Panorama investigates the Jehovah's Witnesses policy on child abuse

The Jehovah's Witnesses deal with child abuse according to principles they interpret from the Bible.

They stress the need to "abhor what is wicked", but after applying two very specific verses of scripture.

First, if any allegation is made against someone, that person must confess or there must be two witnesses to the act for it to be proven:

"No single witness should rise up against a man respecting any error or any sin... At the mouth of two witnesses or at the mouth of three witnesses the matter should stand good." (Deuteronomy 19:15)

Secondly, there is an admonishment against taking legal action against a fellow Jehovah's Witness.

Members are encouraged to keep matters resolved within the congregation and not go outside to worldly courts for assistance:

"Does anyone of YOU that has a case against the other dare to go to court before unrighteous men, and not before the holy ones?" (1 Corinthians 6:1-11)

Internalised

The Jehovah's Witnesses do not, in any of their policy letters sent from the headquarters to the elders of each congregation in the world, tell the elders to report immediately any allegation of child abuse to the police or other authorities who are trained to investigate such claims, unless they are required to do so by law.

They are however required to report the matter to the "Bethel" legal department of the Jehovah's Witnesses headquarters in that country.

The local elders themselves must carry out an investigation, interviewing the victims and the alleged abuser.

They are not provided with any training in how to deal with child abuse.

Official procedure

Two elders meet separately with the accused and the accuser to see what each says on the matter.

If the accused denies the charge, the two elders may arrange for him and the victim to restate their position in each other's presence, with elders also there.

If, during that meeting, the accused still denies the charges and there are no others who can substantiate them, the elders cannot take action within the congregation at that time.

This is because of their adherence to the Bible passage in Deuteronomy: "No single witness should rise up...".

However, even if the elders cannot take congregational action, they are expected to report the allegation to the branch office of Jehovah's Witnesses in their country, if local privacy laws permit.

As well as making a report to the branch office, the elders may be required by law to report even uncorroborated or unsubstantiated allegations to the authorities. In this case, they are expected to comply.

Additionally, the Jehovah's Witnesses publicity information states that the victim may wish to report the matter to the authorities, and it is his or her absolute right to do so.

Suffer The Little Children


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Background



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