Philadelphia’s The Inquirer, one of the most credible newspapers in the United States, recently published an article by staff reporter David Gambacorta that dives deep into the notorious history of child abuse among Jehovah’s Witnesses. Nothing is held back as The Inquirer article reveals a history of court cases and ongoing cover-ups of child abuse and protected offenders within the Watchtower Society’s congregations. The Watchtower’s leaders and legal departments provided extensive and detailed instructions on how elders should treat reports of alleged criminal behavior.
“Internal documents show that the Witnesses’ leadership, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, has long enforced a policy of secrecy in any potential legal matters. ‘The need for elders to maintain strict confidentiality has been repeatedly stressed,’ reads one passage from a 1989 memo that instructed elders to resist cooperating if police ever showed up at their kingdom halls with a search warrant.”
The Inquirer article, dated April 25, 2018, tells the agonizing story of the Haugh family’s horrifying experience when their 4-year-old daughter disappeared at the local Kingdom Hall while her father was temporarily distracted. He was handing out location assignments to other Jehovah’s Witnesses who were about to leave to engage in door-to-door preaching.
In a panic, “Brother” Martin Haugh immediately started a desperate search for his daughter – hopeful that she had just wandered a short distance away. He looked in all the obvious places and called out her name. His heart pounding and fearing the worst, he finally located her sitting on a teenage boy’s lap. The boy, after luring her away, had been molesting her. His innocent little girl had just suffered every parent’s nightmare – sexual abuse by someone known to the family during an unguarded moment at a Kingdom Hall – a “church” – a sanctuary – a location thought “safe and secure.”
As horrifying as the original incident was for them, the Haugh family’s nightmare was extended and magnified by what the future held for them and their daughter. As faithful and active Jehovah’s Witnesses, they would never have imagined it could happen to them. But it did – “in spades.” Instead of a “paradise” surrounded by loving, caring and supportive fellow Jehovah’s Witnesses, their lives became a classic example of “Watchtower Hell”
What came next was unimaginable and hard to describe. When Haugh and his wife, Jennifer, told the elders who oversaw their congregation about this October 2005 incident, they were greeted with muted concern. Then came the threats.
The Inquirer quotes Haugh’s description of what response he and his wife got from the elders in their Kingdom Hall.
“We were told on more than one occasion that if we told other parents about this, we would be disciplined,” Haugh said during a recent interview. “We never heard the words ‘Go to the cops!’ or ‘Are you considering therapy for her?’ ” his wife added. “Then people stopped talking to us.”
David Gambacorta’s reporting is extensive and thorough. He describes the history of the Watchtower’s failure to protect the children of Jehovah’s Witness parents – and how the organization’s leaders have actually created an environment that fosters and provides opportunities for child abusers, wife beaters, and others to be protected and their criminal acts kept from the police and civil authorities.
The article also dedicates a few paragraphs to introduce Barbara and Joe Anderson to its readers. Several paragraphs describe how Barbara became involved with the “abuse” issue while living and working at the Watchtower’s Bethel headquarters in the 1990s.
…But she also had a rare glimpse at the inner workings of the Witnesses’ governing body, a group of eight men who claim to receive instructions from God. Anderson’s husband was a high-ranking elder, and she was assigned to the Watchtower’s massive world headquarters in Brooklyn, where she was one of the only women in the male-dominated hierarchy to work in the writing department for their magazine, Awake!
In 1991, the publication included an article on surviving child abuse, which triggered a stunning response: Thousands of abuse survivors contacted the Watchtower. Some claimed they had been molested by elders, others by friends and family members. “It was awful,” said Anderson, who personally fielded phone calls from some victims.
She discovered the governing body had specific protocols for dealing with molestation. Elders were supposed to notify the Witnesses’ legal department if they learned of abuse by sending the information to New York in a special blue envelope. Victims were required to recount their allegations in front of their abusers, and produce two eyewitnesses who could support their claims. Discipline was handled internally.
“By their policies, they were inadvertently protecting pedophiles,” Anderson said.
This article holds nothing back and does not pander to the Watchtower organization or Jehovah’s Witnesses as so many others have in the past. An example of excellent reporting, it should become a classic over time. You are encouraged to share the article with as many of your friends and others who might not be aware of the extent that criminal activity involving violence and abuse of women and children within the Watchtower Society has become in recent years. Many non-Witnesses who hear the rumors or read articles about recent court cases often find the facts unbelievable. For many, it is inconceivable that a “religious organization” would actually have policies in place and enforced that would protect criminal behavior of any type.
“They seem like such nice people when they knock on our door or we see them giving away their magazines for free on the street corner. It’s hard to imagine that they would protect criminals.”
Please read the article while it is still available online. Share it with your friends, family, and co-workers.
This report by David Gambacorta and Philadelphia’s The Inquirer should be read by everyone, especially in North America. This is an excellent example of timely and credible journalism by The Inquirer and should be ranked alongside highly regarded reports by the Boston Globe, The Washington Post, and the New York Times about child abuse by other churches and cults.
The original article can be found here:
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