For 25 years I’ve been the director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We have more than 15,000 members across the globe in all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. And we’ve helped victims, witnesses and whistleblowers in other institutional contexts too, like athletic programs and Scouting and summer camps.
I can’t recall ever seeing a policy anywhere that is more predator-friendly and self-serving than the Watchtower’s “two witnesses” rule. On its face, it is dangerous and callous. If any crime is likely to have no witnesses, it is child sexual abuse. If the law enforcement community adopted this rule only a handful of child predators would be charged, convicted and imprisoned every year.
One wonders if this rule means that Jehovah’s Witness officials do nothing even when they hear about another JW official admitting to molesting kids.
This policy endangers kids and invites predators. It protects only one small group – the Jehovah’s Witness hierarchy. Even then, it protects them only in the short-term. Thankfully, more victims are finding the strength to report child sex crimes, more police are investigating them, more prosecutors are prosecuting them, and more lawyers are suing them.
As Martin Luther King said “No lie lives forever” and “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”
This rule will be revoked someday. The only question is how much moral authority and members will the Jehovah’s Witnesses have squandered and alienated – and how many kids and families will be devastated in the meantime.
Outside of the Jehovah’s Witness hierarchy, virtually every other adult believes that we should all call police if we see or suspect child sex crimes. (Not everyone does this, of course. But nearly everyone believes this is the right course of action.) But the JW hierarchy is wrong on both fronts – policy and performance, belief and behavior.
The “two witnesses” rule is a stunningly heartless and reckless policy that is guaranteed to cause more heinous crimes against children.
Since 1991, David Clohessy has served as SNAP’s national director, setting up local support groups and doing thousands of interviews (including Oprah, Sixty Minutes, the Phil Donahue Show, Good Morning America). He’s been a community organizer in poor neighborhoods and provided political and public relations consulting. David is married and has two sons.
Executive Director, SNAP
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
7234 Arsenal Street
St. Louis MO 63143
314 566 9790, [email protected]
SAVE THE DATE:SNAP annual conference – August 1, 2014 in Chicago
Absolutely agree, Mr. Clohessy! And, thank you for speaking out for the victims who have suffered due to this “two witnesses” rule. The general public needs to know about this travesty.
It is truly appalling, dangerous, and just outright disgusting.
I’m so glad that the curtain of secrecy is starting to come down.
I truly hope this policy will change, and we see more abusers behind bars.
One to be added to the book of clarification. Yes, the watchtower society’s 2 witness rule is injustice at it best. Thank goodness for all the people who are not afraid to speak out against this policy and bring attention to this madness. I hope many more survivors gain the courage needed to expose and encourage elimination of a policy made by stone hearted, unscrupulous morality enforcers.
Thank you, Mr. Clohessy, for recognizing this most dangerous policy that deliberately puts children in harms way – and protects their abusers. It is a privilege to have SNAP working along with AAWA to expose the Watchtower, and hopefully, will effect a change in the way such atrocities are dealt with. Thank you!
It occurred to me last night, elders are told to “use discernment” if a woman claims to be raped and they have full authority to disfellowship her if they decide it’s fornication, but don’t use that same “discernment” when a child claims to be molested. They don’t need two witnesses in every judicial committee meeting, but demand it for cases of pedophilia.
Add to that policy the internal “court” requires that the victim relate what happened to them in detail to 3 untrained grown men (elders). And if the accused denies the allegation the child is then forced to sit in a room with her abuser and the elders and repeat what was done to her. And all that is without a parent present.
And if the accused is a parent the child now has to go home with that parent who now believes he can do whatever he or she wants. This often results in even more abuse towards the child.
And to add to that if there are no other witnesses to the abuse (almost never happens) and the accused denies it and the elders can’t figure out who is lying, the child is forbidden from discussing it with others in the congregation or from going to the authorities.
There is a catch here though. While the elders may say to the public that victims are free to call the police, in reality if they do that, they will be breaking the rule that states a Christian should not take his “brother” to court. If they do proceed with going to the police their action is considered a breach of that rule which can result in being disfellowshipped (excommunicated) and shunned even from their own family members.
These victims don’t stand a chance of getting any real help without reprisals
Advocates for Awareness of Watchtower Abuses (AAWA- http://www.aawa.co)
Director of Support Services
I wrote an article about the secret “elder manual” that was just leaked and it discusses what the elders are told to do regarding rape and sexual abuse. Here it is along w/ the link to that manual:
The two witness policy along with the enforcement of silencing the victim is the reason I woke up and am no longer a Jehovah’s Witness. I agree with everything stated in this article and I am glad for organizations such as SNAP, Silent Lambs, and AAWA
I`m so proud of everybody on AAWA. I can`t say enough about what you all have done to help so many hurting WT victims. This is an absolutely awesome website. I never dreamed that we would be able to see the day when we`d take on the big almighty WT Society. I personally can`t thank each one of you enough. I love people and I can`t handle seeing the WT leadership get away with destroying so many peoples lives. They break apart many families and flat get away with it over and over again. They have caused the death of many people because of their evil policies that are so unchristian. The shunning policy, blood doctrine, and pedophilia policy have all got to go as soon as possible. They are driving too many people to suicide. They are stone cold when it comes to the innocent victims. Its high time our governments throughout the whole earth do something about this insanity. I will be praying for justice to be served on these evil men that made these unbiblical rules in the WT cult organization. I can`t say enough about how wonderful you folks are on AAWA. I`m behind you 100%. I want to also thank you so much for doing a good job of keeping us informed. May God bless your efforts. Thanks a million AAWA. We love all of you.
Duh – the fox is running the hen house!!! You expect them to clean it up? Change their policies??? Have you never heard that there is no cure for pedophiles? The best you can do is to expose them, spread the word and encourage people to leave this religion of heartless perverts. This is America. You have the freedom to choose any religion you want to. There comes a point where if you choose this one, you are no better than they are.
Thanks, David. Clergy pedophiles in all groups work together in networks. That includes priests, elders of JWs and LDS etc. So it’s good for victims and helpers of victims in or formerly in all groups to also work together, to shine the brightest possible spotlight on them.
*** w86 1/1 p. 13 par. 12 Days Like “the Days of Noah” ***
Shocking as it is, even some who have been prominent in Jehovah’s organization have succumbed to immoral practices, including homosexuality, wife swapping, and child molesting. It is to be noted, also, that during the past year, 36,638 individuals had to be disfellowshipped from the Christian congregation, the greater number of them for practicing immorality.
Many people are not aware of this!! There is need of change and I always wonder what will happen if Jehovah witnesses reach a considerable proportion of the global population. In my country they represent only 0.002% of the population but scandals happening in that tiny population would for me mean Armageddon if they were, let us say, as many as Catholics.
Statistically speaking in country’s where Internet and computers are abundant there is little if any growth stifled by people being exposed to the real “truth” of this men driven indoctrinated society.
Sad but true. These men are not gods sole channel of truth but merely man made deception which in the end will be held accountable for.
In the 1980’s I reported my neighbors to CPS and was reprimanded by the Elders in the congregation. They told me I should have preached to the neighbors instead. I was dumbstruck at the reaction considering my roommate at the time worked for CPS and refused to report them even though by law she was a mandated reporter. She didn’t want to jeopardize her standing in the congregation or her pioneer status. I have always remembered this as odd. Needless to say it got around the congregation that I reported my neighbors and I was shunned kind of in the congregation. I didn’t have friends or people who stuck up for me. I am still gobsmacked that the WT teaches opposite of common sense and that has turned me off!
This blog entry is seriously misrepresenting the “two witness rule”. It has nothing to do with deciding when to call the police. In fact its ONLY application is when deciding if a person should be disfellowshipped. People are free to get the police involved at any time, as indeed they should.