Has Watchtower Changed the ‘Two Witness Rule’?

In mid-April (2019), Barbara released a YouTube video that tried to clarify the Watchtower’s changing “Two Witness Rule.”  Almost immediately upon its release, dozens of current and former Jehovah’s Witnesses questioned the legitimacy of Barbara’s understanding of the May 2019 Watchtower magazine article that announced a change of policy relating to child sexual abuse.

[Barbara] “There are certain policies and practices that the Watchtower has stuck with all these years. And [they] have stated categorically that they are not going to change because they state that this is part of their religious beliefs.”

“…The May [2019] edition of the Watchtower has addressed these very same things. When they apparently felt for years that going to the authorities and reporting child abuse … spoils the reputation of their religion and brings reproach upon God. They’ve changed their tune on that. They’ve changed their mind on that.

“They now say in this Watchtower that it really – if anything, it’s the reputation of the abuser that is at stake. The victim does not bring any reproach on herself, himself, or on the religion.

“And they have also modified their stance on the statement that there need to be two witnesses in a matter of wrongdoing. It is scriptural [Deuteronomy 19:15]. Of course, when it has to do with wrongdoing, it has to be two witnesses. They also quote from Matthew [18:16]  – the eighteenth chapter – where it just about states the same thing. 

“They’re addressing that differently. It used to be if a child abuse victim goes to an elder – or elders – and accused one of Jehovah’s Witnesses of child abuse, or molestation, rape – that the claimants had to bring forth another witness. So the ‘victim’ is counted as one witness and then would have to have another witness. Well, that’s impossible in these cases… to provide a witness to your rape or your molestation. In those cases, there has been no acceptance of the accusations. And, if the accused denies it, which ordinarily they do, then the victim was dissuaded – or discouraged from going to the authorities.

“This is fifty years of this in this [Watchtower] organization. It was in the 1960s when this organization instructed that if there is wrongdoing in a congregation, you take that wrongdoing committed by another member to the elders. 

“So for all these years, you had to provide another witness to the wrongdoing. 

“And if you couldn’t, you got no satisfaction. Then you were discouraged because if you went to the authorities or the police about this – you were told that you were ‘spoiling our reputation.’

“So there was no satisfaction on the part of the victims. It was becoming a huge problem. Eventually, there were young people who were molested when they were children – and then they were young adults – they were committing suicide – and are committing suicide. Their lives are a mess.

 “There’s been such a public outcry due to the coverage of the media about this application from the Bible about the ‘two witnesses’ and it’s being used in a literal way – by saying ‘you cannot go to the authorities.’  Others might say you can’t go. Some others would say, ‘If you do go, you will be disfellowshipped.”

“This is an actual occurrence in this organization. 

“So the outcry on the Internet has been great from all over the world on this. The secular press has featured this ‘Two Witness Rule’ and how ridiculous it is. As if God would in a time of a crime, protect a criminal because there was not another witness.

“Doesn’t make any sense… 

“So, in this May [2019] issue of the Watchtower, they have addressed this. They said, ‘In the congregation, this is to be used in a spiritual sense.  It has nothing to do with the authorities. The victim is free to go to the authorities. Or the parents…

“I know a victim who was five years old when she was raped. Her father, an elder, was told he would be disfellowshipped if he would go to the authorities.

“This is refreshing that they’re [the Watchtower leaders] addressing this now by saying it’s a spiritual application. And that in the congregation if there is an accusation against your spiritual brother or sister…you take it to the elders and they determine whether the wrongdoing was so egregious that this individual should be disfellowshipped or put out from the congregation.  

“So they make it plain in the article that this has nothing to do with the secular authorities – in the case of a crime. 

“So that is marvelous. But it took all these years. And this is exactly what I said on “Dateline” – that this is a crime. Don’t treat it as a sin.

“Since 1991, how many more children were abused because they didn’t address this correctly? And the perpetrators were not reported to the police?

“The Awake! editor in a written letter told me in a letter that came to me in 1997 – which was the basis for my leaving the organization. It was because he said, “Now that we don’t appoint known molesters to a position of oversight in the congregations,” he assumed that we wouldn’t have any more of the abuse of children. Then he said, “Now we won’t have any more megabuck lawsuits.”

“I didn’t know they had ‘megabuck lawsuits‘ before 1997.  He never told me that they had been sued.

“Well, if I had been making any decisions on important matters like that, I would have done something about it so I wouldn’t be sued again. But they did nothing.

“So all the way until 1997 they didn’t change the policy. They kept putting molesters in who were supposedly ‘repentant.’  

“He added into his letter – he said, ‘But who here at headquarters will bear the responsibility for the past five years when we started to try to change these policies? Who here is responsible for more Jehovah’s Witnesses’ children being molested by Jehovah’s Witness molesters?” 

See also: http://watchtowerdocuments.org/jws-changing-child-sexual-abuse-policies-and-practices/


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