A group of ex-Jehovah’s Witness members have assembled on Reddit to place a billboard calling out leadership in the church for failing to adequately address sexual abuse — and even for actively covering it up. The billboard points viewers to a website that offers evidence for the claims. The group hopes for the message to make an impact during upcoming conventions, which thousands will attend.
The goal isn’t to make more Jehovah’s Witnesses leave the religion, but to hold Elders accountable for failing to report sexual abuse. The website makes a case for failure to report incidents of sexual abuse, listing a number of cases in which victims were awarded large sums of money when courts determined that Jehovah’s Witness leaders failed to make a necessary report.
It goes on to explain that Elders are instructed to only turn over to authorities cases in which there are two witnesses — which means that in addition to the victim, either the perpetrator must confess, or the abuse must have been performed where another church member could witness it — something most sexual predators know to avoid.
In general, members of clergy are considered mandated reporters — that means that in most cases, if church Elders are aware of abuse, or have reason to believe a child is being abused, they’re expected to report it to authorities. This isn’t universal — state laws vary, and may include exemptions for “privileged” conversation, such as a confession of sin by the perpetrator. However, in many cases, simple failure to report may be a violation of law.
The basic goal of the group is simply to make more Jehovah’s Witnesses aware that there are cases where their church Elders are failing to report, choosing to focus on the act as a sin rather than a crime. These ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses, with their own experience of the religion, feel that few members have any idea of the extent to which abuse is covered, and wish to bring it to the attention of the public. Further, they’re asking every Jehovah’s Witness who views the information to contact the governing body of the church and call for change. Members are asked to call for Elders to be ordered to report every incident, with or without a corroborating witness.
“The makers of this web page urge you to consider waking up to the possibility that only by confronting these issues and saying ‘enough is enough’ can we bring about change and safeguard children of Jehovah’s Witnesses from those who would do them unspeakable harm.”
According to the Friendly Atheist, the billboard — which is certainly striking — was placed on June 15, and will be present through two Jehovah’s Witness conventions. The first of these takes place on July 31, and the second on August 7.
[Photo via: wifibandit]