Excerpt From Newspaper Article
A crime, not just a sin.
But too many children find only denial when they do report a problem, says Barbara Anderson who, with her husband, Joe, helped bring national attention to a pattern of abuse denial in the Jehovah's Witnesses a few years ago.
The Witnesses have a policy, based on biblical principals, that if one member has a problem with another, they are to go first to that person and then to the elders to resolve. In cases where wrongdoing is alleged, the elders ask for at least two witnesses, the complainant and another.
Where elders went wrong, Anderson said, speaking recently as she and her husband traveled through Fayetteville, Tenn., on the way from their home in Tullahoma to visit friends in Atlanta, was confusing crime with sin.
"This is a matter for the police, not the elders," Anderson said. "But they didn't want to make the church look bad."
Anderson became aware of the extent of the problem because she worked as a researcher in the publishing offices of the Witnesses in Brooklyn. She passed on documents such as letters from victims and official church memos to lawyers helping victims sue the church.
Anderson and her husband have since been excommunicated from the church. She documents her findings at watchtowerdocuments.com.
In both the Witnesses scandal and in the better-known Catholic scandal, abusers who confessed and repented were usually accepted back into the church and the allegations kept secret. Some of the Witness elders thought such confessions were protected under clergy privilege, an argument they made unsuccessfully in court in a case that was settled out of court in 2007.
Rick McLean, who remains on America's Most Wanted list for child abuse for multiple offenses over 20 years against young girls in California, is the most notorious of those accused of abuse by Witnesses and whose crimes had been made known to church elders.
Since the Jehovah's Witness cases broke into the news and courtrooms in 2002, Witness church leaders have issued statements to instruct elders that suspected child abuse is to be reported in states, including Tennessee and Alabama, where laws mandate the report of suspected abuse. The church's Web site, watchtower.org, includes articles to help families and congregations prevent child abuse.