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Panorama
Your comments
Thank you for your emails on the Suffer the Children programme. Below is a selection of the messages you sent.

Some of your questions were also used in our

which you can watch at any time on the website.

To read comments on previous programmes, please use the


How strange that many of the practising Jehovah's Witnesses who have commented will believe the BBC's reports on the failings of other organisations e.g. the catholic church, but when it is them in the spotlight, it becomes a personal vendetta. A typical response of a guilty party.
Ella
West Yorkshire

I am writing as a very concerned JW. I have had experience of the manner in which the elders deal with serious child abuse accusations and must say the programme is revealing the truth. Despite have more than "one" witness my sibling's allegations were totally ignored. The elders tried in earnest to describe my sibling as "mentally" disturbed and having a "crush" on a brother. The two culprits had a record as long as my arm for immoral behaviour within the congregation and yet, one of them was blatantly asked to say prayers at congregation meetings and field service meeting whilst these allegations were still being looked into. Also, due to one of the parties having a large number of family members in the congregation they and holding some power therefore, when they went on "strike" from the meetings we were asked to move on so they would come back !!!! I know this may sound unbelievable to other JWs, I can assure you it does happen. Fortunately, my mum is not dominated by the elders and is not frightened to stick up for righteousness, so she did go to the authorities but the elders certainly did not encourage her to do so. All JWs need to accept child abuse is occurring in our Kingdom Halls and we should protect our children and not the abusers. It is the abused children that need the help to recover and we should not waste time seeking to sort the "sin" of a child molester out. Leave this to the Police and Social Services. If a child makes an allegation of this nature there must be something disturbing behind it. We cannot use the bible teaching of "two witnesses" in child abuse or rape cases. We MUST protect the innocent. Any person who is suspected of this CRIME should be marked and every member of the congregation has a right to know who there children may be associating with. In Britain, we are trying to pursue "Sarah's" law, we should be alerting everyone to the risks and particularly in the congregation, where we trust our brothers and sisters so much. Knowing that other members of congregations have been treated the way my family was appals me. When I wrote to Bethel in England about my distress, I received an uncaring and unfeeling letter in response. I find it hard to believe an organisation directed by the Most High treats children in this way. One of the fundamental teachings is that we are no part of false religion but we are clearly showing ourselves as on a par with the Catholic Church. How can I go out on the ministry and say I am with the true religion ? This programme has exposed a long underlying problem which no one has cared enough. The Governing Body need to think very seriously. We should have received warnings at our meetings of the risks of abuse in the congregation and let our children know you can speak out and be believed.
Andrea
Leeds

I watched your programme with interest and would like to make a few comments. The sad fact is that the case you highlighted in Scotland did happen and I feel incredibly sorry for the children involved and the children involved in the other cases, because the elders should have acted on the advice given by the Society. These elders have all been removed and will NEVER be used again in a position of responsibility. I hope they are very ashamed of themselves. However, you failed to highlight the many good acts that take place among Jehovah's Witnesses, such as the many millions of hours of voluntary work we do every year, or the contributions we have made towards safer medical procedures. You also failed to use the hours of interviews that were given to you by the Presiding Overseer of the Stevenson congregation and the brothers at the London Bethel. You also stated that we sell Bibles, which we most definitely do not - our work is funded by voluntary contributions from ourselves and the public. For a religion of over 6 million people who found their beliefs on love and trust, this was a particularly biased documentary and although I agree that these cases were terribly mishandled, I also feel that you failed to report accurately and objectively. My Father is an elder and I know for a fact that he would not act in the manner of the elders in the Stevenson congregation who were removed from their positions. He spends many, many hours of hi own time every week helping people with serious problems and I feel that he, and other elders like him, deserve to be thanked and not have their names blackened in this manner.
Mrs W
Glasgow

I have waited 38 years for this story to come out. Nothing has changed in all those years. I know of one suicide because the elders did not stop my abuser by reporting him to the police.
Lee Marsh
Winnipeg Canada

I take great offence that this organisation are being called "Christian". The name Christian means one of Christ or belong to Christ, followers of Christ. These people are not followers of Christ - they claim to follow God. God is not to be mocked in any context and it is about time they were brought to task for the things that go on within their organisation. Well done Panorama. Whether in Cults or Christian organisations these people should be rooted out and made to pay for the sins against children. Jesus said "Suffer the little children to come unto me and not Let the children suffer". He also said that anyone who harmed child would be better to have a millstone hung around his neck and drowned in a pond. Keep up the good work, this world needs people who are not afraid to stand up for righteousness, which is the true spirit of Christ.
Susan Appleby
North Yorkshire

A very disturbing report into the "blind eye" attitude being taken to child abusers by Jehovah's Witnesses. When reported to the Kingdom Hall, the elders would not believe the children, calling them "liars". The elders are protecting the church, not the children. With the staggering revelation that there are 23,720 on their own list of child abusers, the police should now be investigating this religion on both sides of the Atlantic. With two former abused children now taking the Jehovah's Witnesses to court, perhaps now some action will be taken against them. The allegations of child abuse should be taken out of the hands of the elders, and should be reported directly to the police. Thank you Panorama for exposing this serious matter within the Jehovah's Witnesses.
Steve Fuller
Brighton&Hove

I'm a health visitor in Ipswich and know of a case of abuse which was handled by elders. The victim is now a mother and the abuser was still harassing her even after she married. The case was never brought to the attention of the police or social services and as far as I know the abuser has never been dealt with.
Amanda Lund-Lack
Ipswich

Tip of a very large iceberg. Left witnesses five years ago after trying for years to get the "bethel" to listen to many who were slandered, abused verbally and ostracised by the congregation for uttering their concerns about anything at all. Members of our family refused to talk to us ever again because we asked their thoughts on a case in west of England where a man was protected and kids and wife ostracised. You speak against God if you question the elders.
Cam
Scotland

The organisation and community that surrounds and makes up Jehovah's Witness society has the potential to be extremely beneficial and positive if used towards those ends. However, as with many such organisations, it does not appear to function like this because it is comprised of people, and vast majority of these are ruled by self-interest, including myself might I add. Also the fact that one can lose everything if barred by Witness Hall is another powerful reason to keep any trouble solely in the hands of the church. The effects of this have been seen and most not be repeated. The Jehovah's Witnesses need to update their practices even at the cost of tradition or belief.
Alex Exley
Stourport

Well, from reading the responses here I see the puppets have trotted out on cue and moved their jaws in sync with the ventriloquist's voice from New York. Good reporting, Panorama.
COMF
Dallas, Texas, USA

A very good and disturbing documentary. I was raised in this cult and the physical and emotional abuse of children and women is something I know too well. God and Jesus have nothing in common with this American cult.
Brian
London

I am a JW. I used to serve as an elder. Thank you for this programme. I personally know sisters who were abused and no reporting to the police took place. Some key information in some cases was even withheld from elders. Nobody likes having their dirty laundry aired in public. From some of the e-mail comments it is obvious some in the truth still will not believe what has happened. "And you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free"
Withheld
UK

Jehovah's Witnesses are accused of having a database. According to the BBC report of 17/4/01 the Catholic Church has been urged to set up a database to prevent Child Abuse. The UK government has its "Sex Offenders Register" - isn't this sensible practice? The UK Government will not make public its register of convicted abusers, let alone a list which may possibly include some unproven or malicious allegations.
C Dalton
Stafford

Thank you Panorama for an excellent programme. The evidence of suppressing and thereby further victimising abused children was convincing and sickening. I grew up as a Jehovah's Witness, and experienced first hand the pervasive atmosphere of enforced conformity within that religion and its contempt for anyone not of the faith, who are regarded as part of "Satan's World". It is obvious that preserving the Watchtower's image of moral superiority is the only priority of its governing body, even above the safety of their own followers. One final thing: treat anything a Jehovah's Witness tells you with extreme scepticism. If you are not of the faith, they consider you "undeserving of the truth."
Anonymous
Canada

I am not a Witness but I do live close to the town where this all erupted. I have never allowed my wife or anyone in my family to even open a door to a Jehovah's Witness in the past. However because of all the publicity down here I decided that the next time one came I was going to ask a few questions. I expected denials and excuses. I was quite surprised one the man I spoke with admitted that not all JWs are perfect and that they are primarily concerned when a mistake has been made of correcting it. He was such a humble man that I cannot in good conscience pass judgement on someone who I feel is sincere in his beliefs and interested in nothing more than trying to be a good person. Even though I do not subscribe to their beliefs I do see more good than bad. I cannot understand why so much focus is being made on the bad rather than the good. Anyway I am glad I listened, I feel that as an American it is his right to worship freely and I probably will talk the next time they come to my door again, it depends on what kind of mood I am in I guess. Anyway I can't knock them on many things and on the others to be fair the BBC and Dateline needs to open an investigation on every religion to determine the depth of this problem. I think they will find an equal if not worse problem in all the others.
Robert
Hopkinsville, Kentucky

I broadly agree with many of the comments, praising the objective report by Panorama 14/7/02. However, I think this is a part of a much bigger picture. The fact is thousands of congregations over the world are administered clumsily by self-important, undemocratically accountable "village Napoleons", whose only power base is the extremely vague "appointment by holy spirit". I further take offence at those who feel that Panorama should have excused the "child protection" policy of the society in Brooklyn, just because of the help given on September the 11th. Stick to the point, abusers are being protected from prison sentences and therefore given access to abusees under the authority of the governing body. Perhaps as many as 23,720 are being protected. Perhaps the Watchtower should "remove the splinter from it's own eyes" before it criticises the Catholic Church in future.
Chris Novell
Bristol

The Panorama website includes a link to the JW Office of Public Information website. There, the full contents of the letter sent to Betsan Powys from the Brooklyn Bethel can be read. I would encourage the readers of this website to take a look at the letter as it gives further details about the records kept by the Witnesses about child abuse. What shocked me was how selective the programme had been about the information presented in the letter. Odd lines were mentioned, but much of the context and detail was missed, presenting a very false picture of the JW policy.
Richard
Kent

I am former JW who left home at a very young age because of violent abuse from my father who was and still is an elder. He still has exactly the same so-called privileges in his position as an elder. It was all brushed under the carpet and pooh-poohed because no-one would believe me as my father was an elder! If it wasn't for the social services then I would still be there now! JWs are a hypocritical group who brain- wash people and cover up serious incidents to protect their image of the "kind Christian organisation". My father got away with it all whilst I was disbelieved, called a liar and seriously reprimanded! The thought of my father getting away with this makes me physically sick. I am glad someone has their eyes open enough to produce this programme to show to everyone that they aren't what they make themselves out to be. Thanks for making this programme.
Anonymous
East Anglia

We are Jehovah's Witnesses and have been all of our lives. We are annoyed at a lot of comments that have been made and especially at the BBC for making such a one-sided, opinion-based programme. Some people have commented about the way the organisation of Jehovah's Witnesses is a way of just making money. We'd like to point out that they are wrong and all the work that is put into the organisation is voluntary, and any money made is from voluntary donations. We don't do it for money, we do it for the joy it gives us to help others come to know God and his promise for the future. We ask that if a future programme is to be made on a certain aspect of Jehovah's Witnesses lives, that you base your information on facts and not on fiction. Thank you.
Two sisters
Wales

I have found this discussion most interesting. I think that JWs have totally missed the message of the Bible, namely that Jesus "is the way, the truth and the life". No "organisation" is going to save you. I don't see any mention of this organisation in the Bible. What I do see is "do unto others as you would have them do unto you".
Thomas
Ballymena

I would just like the people here to read this comment about the Jehovah's Witnesses policy so please allow it. It's from their site. Paul Gillies, spokesman for the Britain branch of Jehovah's Witnesses comments: "Sexual abuse of children is not just a terrible sin but also a crime that can leave lasting emotional scars on its victims. Jehovah's Witnesses everywhere abhor the sexual abuse of children and will not protect any perpetrator of such repugnant acts from the consequences of his gross sin. This is in harmony with the principle recorded at Romans 12:9." Recognizing that religion is in the spotlight for its handling of matters relating to this complex issue, Jehovah's Witnesses have made sure the public has access to detailed information regarding their means of responding to these matters when they may arise within a congregation. Mr. Gillies explains, "It is of deep concern to us if there is a victim of abuse who says his or her case has not been handled with sensitivity or understanding in our religion." And Mr. Gillies continues, "Elders in Britain are directed to ensure that secular laws are adhered to. When a report is received, elders contact our National Office in London for guidance to ensure that (1) the alleged victim, and other potential victims, are protected from possible abuse and (2) that counsel is given to report crime to the proper authorities and to comply with any additional legal requirements. Jehovah's Witnesses further believe that it is the absolute right of the victim, his or her family, or any others to report the matter to the authorities if they so choose. There are certainly no sanctions against any congregation member who reports an allegation of child abuse to the authorities."
John
London

I watched the "Panorama" programme looking for faults - are phrases being used in a context just to show Jehovah's Witnesses in a poor light? Or - is this simple sensationalism? Despite the "dramatisation" in the programme the truth came across clearly that the average Witness has obedience to the organisation and will suffer many things in order to "do the right thing". As a baptised Witness I was told that we must not say the governing body is wrong - ever. Although no "or else" was vocalised the indication was that this may be a sin against the Holy Spirit - the most severe sin. I have been privileged to have contact with congregation members - elders included - who care little for their own safety in this regard, choosing their conscience over consequences. The fear of being killed at Armageddon or not receiving a resurrection is as nothing to some I have met if it means simply doing the right thing. My point is that the elders in your programme, presiding overseers and congregation members included, are not allowed to disagree with the governing body and this is really made clear before one is baptised. Jehovah's Witnesses are - for the most part - clean living, honest and decent people, but they are not allowed to and are actually scared of disagreeing with the governing body even if it means they look and sound foolish, argumentative or plain ignorant. Please do not judge the Witnesses en masse on this timely programme. Look instead at the insidious control which has, sadly, significant flaws therein. Finally, this programme focused on paedophilia. I must tell you that there is more. I wrote to the governing body, stating that I remain one of Jehovah's Witnesses but that I believe they have left the true way themselves. This was over their direct action on another matter which I still dare not mention even ten years later.
withheld aged 40+
UK

I watched the programme with my wife and we both found it extremely disturbing. I was brought up as a conventional Baptist and we treated the Jehovah's Witnesses as a cult. Over the years, I have met many Witnesses and generally they seem nice, decent people. However, the one thing they all had one thing in common: they listen to and meet people on the "outside" with a good deal of suspicion. Unfortunately, the programme only confirmed my beliefs that this also includes the police. They only operate to one law which is God's and not man's. God's law must prevail, even if common sense and decency get in the way. My question to them is this: how can someone claim to be righteous and just and then send innocent children back into the hands of their abusers? This is sick! How can anyone harbour paedophiles and worse still, defend them? This, too, has only confirmed my beliefs that cults in general can be secretive, elusive, and corrupt. However, it is easy to point the finger pour scorn on them and them only, as I don't believe they are the only ones. Paedophiles come in all shapes and sizes, infiltrate all sorts of organisations, including all denominations of the conventional church. One only has to think of paedophile priests as an example. My only hope is that the people seeking justice by suing win their case and hit these people where it really hurts. Maybe this will make them think that their "child protection" policy needs revising so that it actually does protect children and not the demons that inhabit our society.
Andrew Bowers & Bharti Patel
Wolverhampton

The way in which child abuse has been handled or recognised has changed over the last 5, 10, 20, 50 years, in ALL organisations, religious and civil. Who would have believed such a thing could happen? Many victims were not believed by family, police and other authorities. Their policies and recognising of this problem has been improved and so has Witness policy too.
Dave
UK

I am an ex-Jehovah's Witness and I am amazed at the attitude of Witnesses defending the child abusers. The Panorama programme was excellent and truthful. If it was untruthful, why doesn't the Watchtower society sue the BBC? They dare not because they would have to disclose the list of paedophiles. Wake up all you Witnesses, can't you see what's going on?
Louise Coase
Cambridge

Yes, if a child is raped there are no witnesses. But just as in the case of the law, evidence such as body fluid would be the second witness and this in itself would be enough. Elders do not try to cover up these type of crimes and adhere closely to the scriptures where it says the congregation would put such a sinner outside of the congregation and give the victim love and support.
Anon
London

Your programme provided a very one-sided view of the abhorrent act of child abuse. The public should be aware that Jehovah's Witnesses official response to your views is available at www.jw-media.org. Posted on this website is a copy of the letter which was sent to Panorama on May 9th 2002, explaining very clearly Jehovah's Witnesses position concerning the questions you raised. Also posted are two video footage news releases, one of which is from professional non-Jehovah's Witnesses who work within the field of child protection.
Anon
London

Excellent, well balanced programme. I was a JW for 38 years. During the time I was an elder I too had to deal with a case of child abuse that was not allowed to go anywhere because of the "two witnesses" ruling. Also, the ethos in the Society was not to bring the congregation into disrepute. Somehow this was seen as a reflection on God's name. The child(ren) involved no doubt suffered for years after we walked away from that. It's something I am ashamed of now. Witnesses who close their ears to the reality of what is going on are, sadly, in denial.
Bill Blackmore
Sheffield,

The programme did not have any credibility at all. Listening the discussion forum, the lady who did the report said the headquarters would not give her an interview. This is probably due to the fact of not recognising the ridiculous accusations being made. Any one with any Bible knowledge will recall when Jesus was standing trial for his life and that he remained silent when accusations were made against him. Surely Jesus could have answered them but he didn't because the accusations made were ridiculous. Individuals may have got things wrong , the society didn't!
Cris Wilkins
Manchester

Thank you very much for broadcasting "Suffer the Little Children". Thank you, too, for making the programme available to a global audience.
Henry H. Smith
USA

For a true representation of Jehovah's Witnesses we invite you to spend some time with us. We are not perfect but we genuinely care for the welfare of everyone. As the expression goes come and "get it from the horse's mouth". We have nothing to hide. Please spend some time with us.
Frank
Burgess Hill, W. Sussex

I am astonished at how criminally negligent the Watchtower organisation is at protecting children from abuse. I knew it was bad but I did not know it was as bad as your story portrayed it. This is what happens when a religious organisation becomes more concerned with its own reputation than the safety of its members. It is no different than what the bishops of the Catholic church did for years with their abusers. Thank you for exposing this to the public. You have done us a great service.
Jeffery M. Schwehm
Seward, Nebraska

We live in a sick world. And the Bible foretold this.

Nathan
As a parent of three children I am aware of and concerned about the increase in child abuse in our society. It is the worst form of criminal activity and no stone must be left unturned in stamping it out. Until Sunday 14th July, I was an avid watcher of Panorama, believing it to be a programme of honesty and integrity. However, I do not believe I have ever witnessed an "investigation" of such misrepresentation and bias. Of course there are cases of child abuse in all organisations - including religious bodies - and these must be dealt with swiftly. But, why were Jehovah's Witnesses not given full opportunity to defend their own record in dealing with abuse in their own ranks? I hope that the makers of this programme have not further deepened the intolerance and resulting abuse that many children of Jehovah's Witnesses already face in their schools. That would be both sad and ironic! I shall view future programmes of Panorama with greater doubt and suspicion.
Nigel
Yorkshire

We live in a sick world. And the Bible foretold this. Look in any Bible and you will see. We are all human and all sin. Some people who have submitted comments think we are evil or try to hide evil conduct. Why??? Some people are not using their brains or logic!!! I have been a Witness all my life, so has my Dad and his Dad. I'm sure in all that time one of us would have seen some evidence of an evil empire trying to hide some evil plan to break up families and molest young children. All I can remember from my childhood is fond memories and a loving family. Why? Because my family tried to apply Godly principles. They taught me to love the one who created me, to respect the earth and those living in it. They had time for me and taught me well. I am now happily married and have been for years. So why do a programme trying to frame the witnesses? Programmes like this actually strengthen my resolve even more to remain faithful to God. So, thank you Panorama for this programme. The Bible said that as we near the end of this system his people would be hated. Just proves to me that I am part of Jehovah's chosen organisation.
Nathan
Basildon

My dearest friend was (is) a victim of child abuse in the hands of her mother, a Jehovah's Witness. I feel blind because I had not known of this abuse in connection with this group before my friend e-mailed this story to me. Her mother denies ever abusing her, which is yet another form of abuse toward her child, now a grown, loving mother herself. To this day she is afraid of becoming a monster like her mother. We are tearing apart our Catholic Church right now, for paedophilia; Jehovah's need to be brought to their hypocritical knees.
Cynthia
U.S.A.

I have read through all the comments and would like to add my own. I, too, am a former Jehovah's Witness. I am saddened and concerned by the fact that so many of the JWs who have commented are of the opinion that ALL former JWs are wicked and bitter and are out to discredit the organisation and all it stands for. I can assure you, this is not the case. I was married to a Ministerial servant, (one step down from an Elder), who abused me physically and mentally for seven and a half years.

During this time, I told no-one in the organisation, but I prayed a lot, and always hoped that he would change and things would get better. Eventually, I could take no more, and I told the elders what was going on. They came to our home and talked to us both, counselling my husband from the Bible and admonishing him to treat his wife with loving kindness. My husband put on a wonderful act of being very sincere and taking their counselling to heart, so they went away satisfied that the situation had been resolved. I do not blame them for this. The problem is that some of these elders are such genuinely good people, with such a strong faith in Jehovah's power to use them to direct the congregation, that they are UNABLE to believe that someone committing a terrible offence in their midst could possibly escape their notice. Also, because most of them have such high standards themselves, and follow all the organisation's teachings so faithfully, I can see why it would be difficult for them to believe that some Witnesses, especially if they hold a "high up" position in the congregation, could possibly go against God's word in such a dreadful way.

I left my husband, which meant that I also had to leave the religion, not long after that visit from the elders. His behaviour changed for a short while, then the abuse started up again and I could take no more. I left my son and daughter with my husband, even though they were still babies, because I truly believed at the time that if I took them with me they would lose out on the chance of everlasting life on a beautiful paradise earth, which is what the Witnesses believe awaits them. When I had recovered sufficiently enough to think for myself, I went for custody of my children. Many JWs from our congregation, former friends of mine, including my own mother and sister, gave "evidence" in support of my husband at the custody hearing. I won custody, two and a half years after I had left. Six months later, I found my children, then aged three-and-a-half and five years old, in the bedroom trying to have sex with each other. They told me that Daddy had shown them how to do it. It was called "The private-parts game". I immediately contacted the police and Social Services. After filmed interviews with the children, my husband was arrested, but there was no concrete evidence, since the events had taken place around six months previously, and after eight hours of questioning, my husband was released uncharged. I wrote a letter to the elders explaining everything, as I knew there were many young children in the congregation and I was concerned for their safety. My husband was a respected member who had plenty of access to these children. I don't know what, if anything, was said to him, but I do know that he remained a respected member of the congregation, and many JWs accused me of telling lies to try and justify the fact that I had deprived my husband of his children, and my children of the chance of eternal life. My point is that child abusers do not look a particular way, behave in a particular way, or belong to a particular religion. They exist in every organisation, however good and sincere the other members of that organisation may be.

Paedophiles have managed to fool highly trained professionals. How much easier do you think it is to fool kind-hearted Christians who want to see the good in people and who believe that their God is guiding them all the way? Although I was disfellowshipped from the JWs, (for smoking cigarettes - after a terrible marriage break-up and losing my children), and although some might think I have reason to feel bitter and want to "get my own back", I still believe the Witnesses are a very sincere group of people. They are not crazy or odd, they just believe in their religion and have a very strong faith. They act out of love and compassion, and a real desire to give other's the chance to feel the same contentment and hope for the future. Most of all, they act out of an unshakeable love for Jehovah. I often defend the JWs in conversation when people say things against them. I am not "wicked", although I appreciate that JWs may view me as such because of the fact that I was disfellowshipped. I urge all Jehovah's Witnesses who are reading this NOT to dismiss it immediately. When it came out that my husband had abused my children, my mother, who is still a practising JW and has very little contact with me, said she finally understood why Jehovah had allowed me to win custody of them. Sexual abuse of children DOES happen, even amongst JWs. The people who perpetrate this crime are obviously not true Witnesses, but it IS happening. Please don't let it continue.
name withheld
Gloucester

After watching your programme I am deeply saddened at the thought that some poor child could face such a terrible ordeal in our organisation. If these stories are true then the elders in that hall have a lot to answer for they should have directed such ones to the police as told by the society. The elders are normal working people like you and I with normal jobs like builders, sales people, teachers and the like and are not qualified to deal with such severe sins as child abuse. As Witnesses we abhor such acts and personally it sickens me. I do hope though that your programme does not detract from the message we give to people in our ministry, when we look forward to a time when all these acts that disgust us are no more. Give us 5 mins next time we call!
Peter
Greenwich

I am personally offended not by the programme that was aired, but some of the comments written by "loving" JWs. By the definition given by one person I would be regarded as an "Apostate" as I left the organisation over a year ago. However, I was not disfellowshipped due to misconduct, I chose to leave as I do not believe that it is the right religion that Jehovah intended to create. It has been overtaken by hypocrites who have worked their way to the top by immoral and unchristian means and are not fit to be responsible for the welfare of the "sheep". I do not mean to offend anyone with this comment as I realise that it is not every single JW that is a hypocrite etc, there are very many genuine people who I don't think realise what the organisation is really like. My sisters were sexually abused by a brother in our congregation who later became an influential elder. When these facts were brought to the attention of elders, the individual was not disfellowshipped, nor were any official authorities informed. The allegations were covered over, mainly because people are far too scared to rock the boat. The individual was allowed to remain among children, potential future victims, without their parents being warned of the allegations that had been made. Just because I no longer consider myself to be a JW, it does not mean I have resorted to an immoral life. I live my life as I did as a faithful member of the congregation, the only difference is that I no longer consider that particular religion to be right, as I do not believe that any organised religion is completely as God would intend due to the imperfections of man. Nor am I a "disgruntled" or "hateful" person who is seeking some perverted revenge, and I am offended that these "loving Christians" would bundle me and my family into this category. Do any of the people who have been so "brave" as to leave an ANONYMOUS message on this site know any of the people involved in the programme personally or others who have been victims, so as to be able to call them "liars" and "actors"? If not then surely if they call themselves Christians, they would leave such judgement up to Jehovah. People should consider the courage it takes for genuine victims of child abuse to come forward and speak out. To then be called liars by complete strangers is kicking an already vulnerable person, most likely to be near the edge. Think of the individual's feelings (love your neighbour as yourself), and not just the image of your precious organisation.
Kate
England

I'm a Jehovah Witness and it saddens me to read some of the remarks by other Witnesses accusing the programme makers and the victims of being outright liars. As a father of two, concealed child abuse concerns me greatly and I'm sorry if it offends other Witnesses but I would want to know if my congregation was harbouring a child molester, as I believe anyone would regardless of their religion or beliefs. I've never heard of this database before but apparently the society has admitted it does now exist, I'd very much like to know the scriptural basis for having it and concealing these people. In response to one remark I read, the letter that was read out on Sunday to my congregation emphasised that a person has the absolute right to call the authorities should they wish to do so and that elders should respect secular law in these matters, ideally this is what should be happening. In addition no one was told not to watch the programme; in fact many said they would to see what it said. To end there is a old saying that goes like this - there's your story, there's my story and there's the true story, I think the true story is not yet fully told, let's hope it is soon. My faith in Jehovah is strong but in imperfect man it is almost gone. As a worshipper of Jehovah we should ask ourselves this: what would Jehovah our God do, what would his son Jesus Christ do...would it be this?
Simon
Poole

I am a Jehovah's Witness. I know of three instances of molestation that were never acted upon by the local elders. The mother of the victim had to go to police, after initiating divorce, for the abuser to be prosecuted. The elders of our congregation told the mothers of the victims that they should not go to the police and that claiming someone had sexually abused their children was slander. I know this because the women eventually divorced their husbands and had them prosecuted... they then told all their female Jehovah's Witness friends. They all revealed that the elders did not disfellowship their former spouse. As is true. They are in "good standing" in our congregation. I am heartsick at the way the organisation has covered up the abuse. When women are beaten they are told to be better wives. When children are molested they are not believed. Until now. After Dateline aired in the US, the official Jehovah's Witness website changed its official policy on child molestation. Until Dateline aired in the US, victims were not told to immediately call the police. The elders handled everything. I think you put on a very good presentation. You also followed up with e-mail questions. This was very good reporting. I actually think you did a better job than Dateline at reporting the abuse. Thank you for your presentation.
Tina
Chicago, Illinois, USA

Although it is true that the Jehovah's Witnesses need two witnesses before they CAN tell the police, if they only have the child as a witness they strongly recommend their parents, or themselves if old enough, go to the police. The FACT (it's in the dictionary, look it up) is that the elders could get sued by the person, if the accusation is false. You can't expect anyone to risk this. The situation in Scotland with the two sisters is a sad one, and the organisation accepts that the elders made bad decisions and handled this incorrectly, and they were dealt with accordingly. NONE of them are elders anymore. Mistakes happen. Lessons are learned.
BT
England

I would like tell a bit of my story.... I am one of Jehovah's Witnesses and I was sexually abused by a brother of the congregation for four years. The reason why I didn't speak up for so long was because he said he would kill me. It had nothing to do with fear of the elders not believing me! I think that you need to talk to someone like me and find out the truth about the organisation. I am still a Jehovah's Witness and I would not want to leave for anything! The people on the programme were very stupid not to use their own common sense and go to the police. If they were true Witnesses then they would have trusted in Jehovah and done what's right. People forget that elders are not God! They get things wrong sometimes and when they do it's up to you to figure it out! I also feel the reporters needed to get a more rounded out view of the protection plan. I've done it and can tell you they want you to go to the police! It would be stupid not to. As for association outside the congregation: what was stated in the programme was not true. I have been a Jehovah's Witness my whole life and I have always had friends that are not of my religion. We need to be balanced if we are to teach people about the truth. The programme only focussed on cases that were handled badly. Not everyone who has been abused has left the congregation as a result. I hope that my few comments have given a better perspective of how things work. I read through all the e-mails and only one other who has been a victim of abuse has come forward. I hope more of you have the confidence to tell your story. If the BBC want to interview me I don't mind. I would just like this cleared up and aired properly. Thank you for reading.
Rachel Richardson
Maidenhead, Bucks

When the elders say "leave it to Jehovah to reveal the matter" perhaps he has done

Anon
As a JW myself I feel that from a lot of the comments made by other JW means that they are denying what has happened. If they had watched the programme properly and listened to the phone call from Bill Bowen to the WT society they actually said that IF THE ALLEGED ABUSER DENIES THE ABUSE THEN WALK AWAY AND DON'T GET INVOLVED. If that isn't evidence then what is? How can that be dealing with an allegation of child abuse? As for those JWs who said it couldn't possibly happen in the congregation, out of 6.5 million witnesses there has never been one instance of sexual abuse? Also to the person who said it was one-sided that is only because even the governing body would not answer any of the accusations even though it was him who oversaw the child protection policy. When the elders say "leave it to Jehovah to reveal the matter" perhaps he has done. The governing body now needs to show some humility, apologise for what has happened and try to set matters straight. They need to review the policy and change it accordingly to protect the innocent victims. How else can we witness to people and look them in the eye? This is not persecution against the Witnesses as some say, or as Satan having a go, it is indeed human failing which needs to be put right.
Anon
Manchester

To put a very important point clear, NOBODY is disowned by their family or fellow men in a congregation by reporting a perpetrator to the police. Everybody is responsible to protect children from such individuals and ANYBODY in a congregation would do so without hesitation. I KNOW because I reported an individual and it was dealt with by the elders and the Social Services. Our children are a gift from God and we would die for them if necessary. How can anyone be so ignorant to generalise. Our elders are not representatives of God, they are fellow workers that do all the hard organisational duties in the congregation, many of them sacrificing their own time, they are labelled as servants and nothing more. Jehovah's Witnesses don't believe these things are not going to happen in their organisation, it is well known that perpetrators will gain access to any community with children and make them their victims. The policy also states that if there are two or more victims to one abuser this man is dealt within the congregation. HOWEVER the guardians of any victim are at any time free to report a perpetrator, ELDERS ARE NOT POLICEMEN. They are men that give advice from the Bible, you can do whatever you want with it. It is shameful that in the year 2002 a media company can still fall short in getting their facts right.
Mrs J
Cambridge, England

I am 17 years old and am a fellow Jehovah's Witness. You say you made this programme for people to know for their own protection. What you failed to show now is what about all the abuse fellow Jehovah's Witness kids will receive at school from your single-sided programme. I'm sure if non-Jehovah's Witness children watched this all they would see is that we do nothing for abused children and that's all they would have learned from it. I feel you should have put more research into your programme and actually showed both sides of the story for how loving the organisation is - instead of just talking to ex-JW, real brothers. You have disappointed me BBC in your actions in the way you arranged your programme.
James UK

The Jehovah's Witnesses are responsible for destroying any sense of family I once may of had. When my mother decided to leave the organisation and my father when I was only five years old, her family was told by the elders of the congregation that she was not "disfellowshipped" but also that it was not a good course of action to continue relations with her. This advice has resulted in an unloving, un-understanding family that I don't know, and haven't known since I was five (I am now 23). My grandparents can still never host a family reunion because if my mother were to make an appearance, certain individuals would not, including her own brother. It comes as absolutely no surprise to me to see such an ignorant, unloving policy being surfaced to the public. What's unfortunate is that this is only a very, very small piece of an entire cloud of policies, all of which are outlined in JW doctrine. Even more heart-breaking is that the JWs are stricken with such severe tunnel vision, they cannot do anything to address such a huge concern as this, because it is outside of their "known truth". If their governing body were to print that the world was just indeed found to be flat, they would certainly believe it, and shun anyone who didn't.... because in their eyes, the Jehovah's Witnesses are never wrong.
Christopher DeHerrera
Portland

The sad fact is that I know of eight cases of sexual and physical abuse... of the four abusers only one has been disfellowshipped

Dan
I heard about this programme from my brother in UK. I would really like to have seen this. Although I am not a practising JW, I am certainly not a bitter one and still have friends within the organisation who are very dear to me. The sad fact is that I know of eight cases of sexual and physical abuse that have taken place and of the four abusers only one has been disfellowshipped from the congregation (one died and never got reproved at any stage and two remain within). But he can repent and be reinstated at anytime, despite the fact that his grand children (whom he abused) are in all the surrounding Kingdom Halls and will see him attending the meetings repeatedly to prove his "repentance". Unfortunately, child abusers are ill and much like gambling or alcoholism, the urge tends never to go away. Elders on the whole are not the most educated of people and hold down menial jobs - so are they really in a position to know when a paedophile is cured, when leading psychiatrists ponder on this question? I think this is a very brave movement by the BBC and hopefully this programme was portrayed with solid fact. Obviously, an open mind to this is necessary and on the whole the JWs are full of first class people. This is a problem though and my thoughts are with the victims - to say that they are bitter ex-JW (as one anonymous JW wrote) is horrifying - where is the sensitivity or Christ-like personality there??
Dan
Australia

It saddens me to think that the organisation that has helped me through so much in my life has come under such brutal attack! I am 16 years old and I have dedicated myself as a witness because I love Jehovah and the people within the congregation. I am not disputing the fact that there are people that do wrong and they are punished! We do not "protect" these child abusers. It was a shock to see how much your programme has twisted the truth and it is very much one-sided. You did not mention that we do a lot of good, for example we were the first people on the scene of the terrible terrorist attack in America. This programme did not once interview a Witness who was STILL within the organisation but focused on the ex "this and that". It's terrible! How on earth are people meant to believe this when it's not even balanced!? Even with the twisted stories being told about Jehovah's Witnesses I continue to hold my head up high and continue to serve the God that I love so much. Thank you for listening.
Sarah
South Wales

In the past I think any normal person would be totally out of their depth if a case of abuse came to their attention. Most people just didn't know what to do in such a horrible case. Now, sadly all of us are having to be made more aware of such tragic situations. A question I would like to put to the BBC and Panorama after watching your programme? I'm sure most of us would feel naturally inclined to inform the police immediately if a child spoke to us about alleged abuse he/she had or was currently experiencing. Your programme while obviously backed by someone disgruntled about this particular organisation did not put forward what the actual law was in this regard and whether they were breaking it as an organisation. I think any individual with something about him would feel better with a possibility of going to court knowing there was more than one witness with first hand evidence rather than as a third person taking one persons word against the other. It actually made me think... do we strongly advise the nearest responsible family member not under suspicion to take the responsibility for their family and report to the police in the first instance? What if the child, out of fear of the abuser or mischief withdrew the allegations permanently, possibly saying they had never confided in the 3rd party individual at all? Could a well meaning member of the public be had up for slander? Is there privacy a law in this regard? You have to respect the responsibility of the family to have chance to act first surely? I don't think my question is naive in this day and age? The important thing is that these unnatural people who prey on our young are dealt with properly and thoroughly and no innocents are made to suffer any further. Hope you will not disregard this question.
Jayne
West Yorkshire

Thank you Panorama for the programme. Notice how all Jehovah¿s Witnesses are banding together to pass the blame on the BBC for apparently showing a misleading program.
Matthew
Hertfordshire, England

Well we obviously needed a shake up to get anything addressed and adjusted, but the two witness rule will still stand, it's just that now there will be a more uniform approach to this problem by the elders when it does sadly arise among JWs. The police, social services etc will now be a much higher priorities rather than keeping the news headlines at bay. However I don't really think this is Panorama fodder at all, as we are talking about a policy needing some rework, NOT a shocking revelation of systematic child abuse being uncovered in the much hated Jehovah's Witnesses organisation. So why sensationalise it and make it seem a bigger issue for the public at large than it really is? Or is there something more to this, maybe even something personal going on here, and Panorama is the vent for that? I guess we will never know the answer to that. If you (Panorama) really want to be a public servant for the good of the nation then take a long hard look into quack cancer cures and health fraud issues instead.
Phil

I know that things like this have gone on in many congregations and is always kept between the "elders". They have the same view against violence and not involving the police which is very wrong. Thank you for bringing this to the attention of people. Hopefully they will not be able to carry on in this way.
Anon
UK

No-one is perfect - Let him that is without sin cast the first stone - but is this not the JWs concealing a crime to protect their name and prevent bad publicity? Seems they are more concerned about image rather than what is right. If you harbour and protect criminals - aren't you just as bad?
Paul Harris
Kent UK

I was abused by someone who was a Jehovah's Witness. He was an adult and I was 11 when it began. He and his wife tried to make me become a Jehovah¿s Witness and after many years I did become one for a while. The abuse happened from 11 to 15 and I am in the process of deciding whether to take him to court. The police are involved now after 30 years and the social workers are involved due to the fact they want to adopt and asked me to write them a reference. I did call the elder of the congregation when I kept having threatening letters from this man's solicitor asking me to drop my allegation. I have no idea how the elder dealt with this situation. The case continues.
Gayle
Devon

I am a Jehovah's Witness and I am very disappointed in the BBC's coverage last night. I never thought they could be so 'one-sided' and biased to Jehovah's Witnesses. You could tell how the presenter hated the Witnesses and wasn't really interested in the truth but only interested in trying to spread lies! Our Elders in the congregation are doing a great job to keep the congregation "clean" morally, physically and spiritually. The programme was cut and taken out of context several times, for example when the elder from the congregation and the member of the governing body spoke to the camera. I would like to know how much they really cut out of the programme to prevent Jehovah's Witnesses making a defence of themselves! We are one of the most well behaved, morally clean people on earth, we don't claim to be perfect or superhuman, but we are all trying. We will not easily be stumbled but a weak attempt by the BBC to try to expose something that does not exist within our organisation. The BBC have let the public down again on not telling the truth, but lies with no fact at all. I would suggest a member of the BBC would try living within the Jehovah's Witness community for a year to see what we are really like, then they can make a better judgement on us!!
Aaron
London

I am an ex-JW from the Netherlands. I would like to thank you for airing this well documented program on this difficult subject. The problem with the Jehovah's Witnesses is not that there are abusers among them, but how they handle the abusers. Strictly following the biblical rule ""Do not admit an accusation against an older man, except only on the evidence of two or three witnesses" has caused enormous unnecessary pain and suffering. I hope this program will also be broadcast and subtitled in countries other than the UK.
Rado Vleugel
The Hague, The Netherlands

My mother is a Jehovah's Witness and as a youngster I had to attend meetings with her. I must admit I was absolutely shocked and appalled that a so-called religious organisation that believes in Jehovah could so blatantly turn their backs on these poor children and let them suffer at the hands of their abuser(s). I thank Panorama and the BBC for opening my eyes to this, and making me realise that it seems that Jehovah's Witnesses seem to put the church first and the welfare of children second
Steve Driver
Telford

Nobody is accusing Jehovah's Witnesses in general of condoning or supporting paedophilia

John
I watched your programme on my computer, and am extremely impressed. Thank you for devoting your entire programme to this very serious problem within the Jehovah's Witnesses religion. They are a group, who believe that this kind of thing cannot happen within their God-Protected world, and if the remote possibility were to happen, they are proud to say it is taken care of within the ranks. Thank you for exposing that they DO NOT. I am a grandmother, but as a Jehovah's witness child, I was molested by a man in our congregation. I know of at least 15 other girls he molested before FINALLY the elders believed us. You have done a great service.
Mrs. D. King
U.S.A.

Thank you for this first-class piece of reporting. Nobody is accusing Jehovah's Witnesses in general of condoning or supporting paedophilia. The point is that the Watchtower Society's policy of demanding "two witnesses" to sexual abuse before taking action leaves children vulnerable to repeat assaults. The Society's obsession with preserving the image of "God's clean organization" compounds the problem. The policy has massive loopholes that paedophiles can exploit. Ad hominem attacks and claims of persecution and negativity from defensive Witnesses completely fail to address this very real issue. The policy must change or the problem will persist.
John
Canada

I find it sad that many brothers and sisters have been coerced into writing negative comments about this facts presented programme. Once again we have confirmation that victims are called liars and not believed by the hardcore faithful. My own daughter was exposed to an unknown paedophile who was a fellow elder. Watchtower Policy allowed him that autonomy. It is too bad only those who experience WT abuse first hand know what Panorama had to say was true. Yes, it is the TRUTH and all the lies and discrediting of abuse survivors to protect the organization will not excuse hurting children. Thank you Panorama for having the courage to stand for truth as you will give many who suffer in silence the basis to speak out. www.silentlambs.org
Bill Bowen
Benton, KY

This is from our official public information site. Please post this onto the forum page. Thank you. Paul Gillies, spokesman for the Britain branch of Jehovah's Witnesses comments: "Sexual abuse of children is not just a terrible sin but also a crime that can leave lasting emotional scars on its victims. Jehovah's Witnesses everywhere abhor the sexual abuse of children and will not protect any perpetrator of such repugnant acts from the consequences of his gross sin. This is in harmony with the principle recorded at Romans 12:9." Recognizing that religion is in the spotlight for its handling of matters relating to this complex issue, Jehovah's Witnesses have made sure the public has access to detailed information regarding their means of responding to these matters when they may arise within a congregation. Mr. Gillies explains, "It is of deep concern to us if there is a victim of abuse who says his or her case has not been handled with sensitivity or understanding in our religion." And Mr. Gillies continues, "Elders in Britain are directed to ensure that secular laws are adhered to. When a report is received, elders contact our National Office in London for guidance to ensure that (1) the alleged victim, and other potential victims, are protected from possible abuse and (2) that counsel is given to report crime to the proper authorities and to comply with any additional legal requirements. Jehovah's Witnesses further believe that it is the absolute right of the victim, his or her family, or any others to report the matter to the authorities if they so choose. There are certainly no sanctions against any congregation member who reports an allegation of child abuse to the authorities."
Aaron
London

Firstly - JWs are NOT Christian - they do not accept Jesus as Divine, and they translate their own version of the Bible, which is different from anyone else's.
<>I Waring-Green
Alresford, hants

Thank you for airing this program. I am not gullible to think that Jehovah's Witnesses are the only religious group with paedophiles in their midst. The problem is their not wanting to involve law enforcement in the case. Do not believe what they say or publish. What matters is only what they really are doing. In my case, I was never advised to go to the police. My molester still roams the congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Blondie

I watched the Brass Eye programme about paedophilia when it was aired some while ago. I am sorry to say that I found that programme, with all its blatant satire, a lot more believable than the BBC programme. Try harder next time, or I will start going to ITV for my news and documentaries.
BW
Wales

Nice actors and bitter disfellowshipped people - where'd you find them? I cannot and will not believe that Jehovah's Witnesses are capable of hiding a crime so great. I suspect that most of your so-called victims are just bitter people who got disfellowshipped (ie chucked out) for doing something wrong themselves. This is outrageous, and the people of Jehovah's Witnesses will not stand for such a slur! What's the matter? Run out of Catholics to accuse? Decided to pick on another already unpopular religion to boost your failing ratings? All of these people may, indeed, have been abused, and my sympathy goes to them if this is the case (can't you tell), but I refuse to believe that supposedly strict Jehovah's Witness elders that won't allow their daughters' friendship outside the congregation (And DON'T call it a church, because it's NOT) would abuse that child.
Anon

Some might say that ex-Jehovah's Witnesses are only out to hurt the organization, but one only has to look at the recent scandals in the Catholic church to recognize the severity of the subject, and set aside notions that we only care for the "downfall" of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. This however, requires a view that does not exclude others from the dialogue, which by the way is a sorely lacking facet in their religion, and a major reason why programmes like Dateline/Panorama have aired their shows. If the problem within the WTBS is as bad the Catholic scandal, then the "truth", as David Goodwick insists on espousing, needs to be proclaimed from the highest mountain. Once again, this is another blatantly clear reason why the two shows have been /will be played, replayed, video-taped all over the world, discussed in public forums, etc., because the "loving arrangement" of the WTBS will not admit there is a problem or reveal exactly who ALL the molesters in ALL the congregations are. The truth cannot be a one-sided affair. A sad commentary on their own state of affairs indeed.
Travis Bush
Dallas, Texas U.S.A.

I didn't watch the programme... but as one of Jehovah's Witnesses I have never know of one child being abused in 25 years. I'm not saying it hasn't happened but if you know the policy of the Watchtower you wouldn¿t take ex-Jehovah's Witnesses' words on this subject. Disgruntled Jehovah's Witnesses are really hateful people who are not JW for the most part because they got disfellowshipped for their misconduct. But this is to be expected - when people don't get their way they like to make trouble for the rest. But nothing can stop Jehovah because he's bigger than the lot:)Thanks for listening.
Gail Ellis
Orangeburg, South Carolina, USA

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