Unknown to the majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses, their religious organization, directed by two corporations, the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, Inc., and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., began at least six decades ago to conceal criminals within the group. This will be proven in many ways in the following discussion including by what happened in Sydney, Australia, beginning in the spring of 2013 when the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse began to hold public hearings. Starting from July 27, 2015, for eight days the Commission (ARC) examined the church of Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) response to allegations, reports or complaints of child sexual abuse, and their procedures in place to prevent child sexual abuse.
Angus Stewart, the solicitor assisting ARC, commenced the hearings. Soon after he began speaking, Mr. Stewart noted:
The Jehovah’s Witness Church is preoccupied with sin and sinning. If a congregation member becomes aware that another member has committed a serious sin, … he or she is obliged to report that to the congregation elders.” … “The more serious sins must be investigated by the elders who must pass judgment on the accused and his or her degree of repentance for the sin.”
Later, Mr. Stewart asked a JW elder, Max Horley, if “… that would include child sexual abuse?” Horley replied, “Absolutely, yes.”
Mr. Stewart further stated:
The relevant Bible principles make it clear that failure to report another’s wrongdoing can make one responsible before God, and this is emphasized to the congregation. I take it again that the reference there to reporting another’s wrongdoing is the report to an elder?
Max Horley responded:
“Yes, in Leviticus, those who become aware [or hear] of a wrongdoing … then they report it to the elders so that if the person [wrongdoer] isn’t forthcoming, then the elders can step in and handle it. [Italics mine]
JWs leaders insisted during that hearing that when members disclosed serious wrongdoing to the elders, the congregation was protected and sinners helped. However, the Royal Commission case studies demonstrated that more often than not, those who reported others became victims of injustice themselves while wrongdoers were protected and helped. For instance, the Royal Commission heard evidence from two women of the distress they experienced after reporting their JW abusers to the elders.
The women felt obligated to report their abuse to elders (not to the authorities) because they believed they were being obedient to a Bible command which Max Horley identified as being in Leviticus although he did not mention that the directive was in the 5th chapter, 1st verse. Using scripture for support of all their beliefs is a distinct feature of JWs religion and has been deeply instilled into the very fabric of their church.
In each case, when reporting their abuse as a child to elders, the women testified how they were subjected to inappropriate interviews by a panel of males without any support. In addition, they were made to face their abuser who denied the accusation and blamed them for lying. Rather than encouraged to approach the authorities, elders discouraged the women from telling anyone about their abuse. These actions caused the victims to feel guilt and anxiety, anger, paranoia, worthlessness, helplessness and loneliness, resulting in nervous breakdowns and suicide attempts.
As damaging as those circumstances were, by following organization instructions based on Leviticus 5:1 to report wrongdoing by a fellow member to the elders, some JWs violated Caesar’s laws, which, at times, resulted in the concealment of criminals. The ARC investigation discovered this very thing when they uncovered case files held by JWs legal entity, Watchtower Australia. Those files revealed that this religious institution did not “report to police or other secular authorities a single one of 1,006 alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse” made known to elders throughout Australia.
Deliberately using Leviticus 5:1 to violate the law
It’s certainly difficult to imagine that JWs Governing Body would in the name of God attempt to persuade readers of their religious journal, The Watchtower, to do something legally prohibited. Yet, by quoting Acts 5:29, “We must obey God as ruler rather than men” in a Watchtower article relative to disclosing confidential information, that’s exactly what was attempted.
That article found in the September 1, 1987, Watchtower, “A Time to Speak” – When? is noteworthy in this regard because it obligated JWs to expose a fellow member’s sin to their congregation elders even if it was illegal in certain circumstances to do so. Moreover, to buttress their argument, the key scripture used in that article to induce members to violate professional confidentiality requirements by tattling on an erring one was based on Leviticus 5:1.
The hypothetical case of “Mary,” a medical assistant, was highlighted and what her reaction was upon learning through her work that a fellow JW had an abortion, an action viewed by the Witnesses as serious wrongdoing. Should she reveal this concealed transgression to her church elders as her religion instructed all JWs to do? A four-page discussion ensued to try to convince JWs of their personal responsibility to “breach the requirements of confidentiality because of the superior demands of divine law” in connection with employment, no matter if their job was in jeopardy, or they could be sued or their actions led to their employer having legal problems.
The policy of instructing JWs to report a fellow Witness who commits serious wrongdoing to church elders wasn’t anything new, but the issue of ignoring Caesar’s law to obey JWs law was.
This amplification of an old rule, disguised as an act of love, generated a commentary in the August 29, 1987, Los Angeles Times, the title which read, “Conscience outweighs confidence – Witnesses urge faithful to break ethics codes,” by John Dart.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are being told for the first time that they should violate confidentiality requirements in medical, legal, and other professions when one of their own members is discovered to have committed a serious sin. …. Jehovah’s Witnesses are advised to confront the sinner first, but if he or she is unrepentant, the sinner’s elders should be told… http://articles.latimes.com/1987-08-27/news/mn-4504_1_jehovah-s-witnesses
New directive harms both the informant and the wrongdoer
Reportedly, Sharon, a nurse in a large California hospital, obeyed the article’s directives when she learned one of her spiritual sisters was scheduled to have an abortion. Concerned, Sharon tried to persuade the woman to change her mind. She also notified the elders who tried to talk her out of terminating the pregnancy. To no avail – the procedure took place. Subsequently, the patient reported Sharon to the hospital for revealing confidential medical information; this led to Sharon losing her job with the hospital blackballing her out of the medical profession.
Sharon’s life was irrevocably changed because she broke confidentiality laws. Consequently, she became a law-breaker. In addition, the JW woman whose abortion was divulged and privacy violated, was disciplined by her church, and all because of the instructions in that 1987 Watchtower article, ‘“A Time to Speak” – When?’
Obedience protects a criminal
In another situation, obedience to Leviticus 5:1 directly protected a criminal when a JW obeyed his religion’s directive to go to the elders to report wrongdoing instead of the authorities.
A concerned JW knew he could prove that an elder working as a financial planner was dishonest. After reading the Watchtower article, “A Time to Speak” – When?” he informed the elders in his congregation of the financial planner’s crimes. To make a long story short, the local elders protected the dishonest elder because they were investors, even though there was evidence of his corruption. Eventually, the whistle-blower was disfellowshipped and shunned by his family and friends for being a “reviler” in that he would not give up his quest for justice by continuing to berate and disparage the elders for their cover-up of criminal activity. After moving to another area, the dishonest elder continued to commit fraud on other unsuspecting JW widows. Obedience to Leviticus 5:1 eventually concealed a criminal. How different the outcome would have been if the authorities had been involved instead of the elders.
Repetition for emphasis
Ten years later, this directive was repeated in the August 15, 1997, Watchtower, “Why Report What is Bad?” In part the article comments:
The Mosaic Law stated that if a person was a witness to apostate acts, sedition, murder, or certain other serious crimes, it was his responsibility to report it and to testify to what he knew. [True, but to the authorities, not to the priests.]
Leviticus 5:1 was then quoted and the article continued:
Though not under the Mosaic Law, Christians today can be guided by the principles behind it. So if you learn about the serious wrongdoing of a fellow Christian, what should you do?
Paraphrasing the article, the answer to “what should you do?” is as follows: the JW should talk to the wrongdoer to encourage him or her to approach the elders for help. If the accused did not report to the elders the JW should. In the event there were not two witnesses to serious wrongdoing, and wrongdoing was denied, the matter was to be left in Jehovah’s hands.
By being obedient to an obscure Bible text did illegally divulging confidential information or reveal serious criminal wrongdoing to elders bring good results? Whether wrongdoers were helped to change their ways is unknown. However, what has come to light over the years is how the lives of many sincere informants were negatively impacted and criminals protected. What follows is an examination of whether the leaders of JWs interpretation of Leviticus 5:1 was a good fit to accomplish their aim of getting members to report a crime to elders instead of the police.
Leviticus 5:1 explained
Please keep in mind that the events recorded in Leviticus took place over 3500 years ago. The book contains the story of the establishment of Israel starting with the commands of Yahweh to Moses and Aaron. As one Bible commentary explains, Leviticus is a record of
“all the basic instructions for the conduct of worship at the tabernacle and for the conduct of the people who live around it and their sacrificial rituals offered to atone for sin.”
Primarily, Leviticus Chapters 4 and 5 were concerned with what kind of ritual sin offerings or sacrifices to remove guilt when a “soul sins by mistake” or “unintentionally. (Death was the punishment for intentional sin.) The type of animal offered depended upon whose sin is being atoned for—that of the priest, the people as a whole, a chieftain or an ordinary person.
As previously mentioned, JWs believe that although not under Mosaic Law, they contend that its principles still apply in the Christian congregation. Nevertheless, the words of The NEW BIBLE DICTIONARY, J. D. Douglas, under the title, LEVITICUS, maintains:
“In the form in which we now possess Leviticus, it forms a well-knit and coherent whole, provided that we do not apply western standards of today to a book which arose in the East centuries ago.”
It was in 1967, over five decades ago, that Leviticus 5:1 was first cited in JWs literature using it as a prop to convince members to report serious wrongdoing by other Witnesses to those in charge of the congregation. If sin was concealed, JWs were told they would be a party to wickedness and for this, they would be punished by God.
Examining this ancient text and the context is a must to see if JWs interpretation of the verse is based on eisegesis, “aligning the text with one’s own preconceived notion; or exegesis which is the explanation of a text based on careful, objective analysis. Exegesis allows us to agree with the Bible; eisegesis seeks to force the Bible to agree with us.” https://www.gotquestions.org/exegesis-eisegesis.html
Fundamentally, all scholars agree that Leviticus 5:1 through 5:4 cite three specific cases of offenses that individuals committed which they were unaware of doing, but they were nevertheless viewed as guilty. However, each offense, although committed unintentionally, could be forgiven if the proper purification offering was presented by the priest to make atonement for sin. However, in this analysis only Leviticus 5:1 is under review.
(Note: In the following quotations, the underlined words are primarily significant.)
In JWs 1963 New World Translation, this is the way Leviticus 5:1 was translated: “Now in case a soul sins in that he has heard public cursing and he is a witness or he has seen it or has come to know of it, if he does not report it, then he must answer for his iniquity.”
In JWs revised 2013 New World Translation Leviticus 5:1 reads: “If someone sins because he has heard a public call to testify and he is a witness or has seen or learned about it and he does not report it then he will answer for his error.”
This is similar to the updated 2011 New International Version of the Bible: “If anyone sins because they do not speak up when they hear a public charge to testify regarding something they have seen or learned about, they will be held responsible.”
In older versions of the Bible, the use of the words “he has heard public cursing” has led to misinterpretation of the meaning of Leviticus 5:1. In the case of the 1963 New World Translation, the way the verse is worded, it gives the impression as if the sin was hearing public cursing (profanity) and not reporting it.
However, in this verse, the Hebrew word ’a.lah’, meaning “oath, cursing” denotes an oath similar to “swearing” in a court of law with our right hand on the Bible before testifying, and was not an expletive or obscene expression. A JW book, INSIGHT ON THE SCRIPTURES, Volume 2 explains the word OATH as used in the Bible may be translated as “oath of obligation.”
A Hebrew and Aramaic lexicon defines the term as a “curse” (threat of calamity in case of misdeed), laid on a person by himself or by others.” Further, “A person was held guilty before God if he spoke thoughtlessly in a sworn statement. Violation of an oath would bring the most severe consequences of punishment from God.”
It’s not that there was an error in translation. The problem is the general understanding of what “public cursing” means. In newer versions and translations, the words, “he heard a public call to testify” is a better translation of the original Hebrew word for us to understand the text.
Examining some highly respected Bible commentaries in this matter is helpful to understand why the modification was made from hearing public cursing to hearing a public call to testify.
Coffman’s Commentaries on the Bible explains Leviticus 5:1:
The principle enunciated in these verses is profoundly important. Any person having vital information regarding either the innocence or the guilt of an accused person, when placed under judicial oath, is required to divulge it under penalty of the wrath of God for failure…” [Italics mine]
Coffman’s quotes Jamieson’s explanation of Leviticus 5:1 (Jamieson describes Leviticus 5:1 as a law)
Jamieson wrote: “A proclamation was issued, calling anyone who could give information to come before the court and bear testimony to the guilt of a criminal. The manner in which witnesses were interrogated in Jewish courts of justice was not by swearing them in directly, but by adjuring [summoning] them. The offence, then, for the expiation [punishment] of which this law provides, was that of a person who neglected or avoided the opportunity to testify. [Robert Jamieson 1802-1880 – Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary on the Whole Bible, 1871]
Rather, a person would be guilty of error or sin if he, as Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament stated, “knew of another’s crime, whether he had seen it, or had come to the certain knowledge of it in any other way, and was therefore qualified to appear in court as a witness for the conviction of the criminal, neglected to do so, and did not state what he had seen or learned, when he heard the solemn adjuration [an earnest appeal for someone to do something] of the judge at the public investigation of the crime, by which all persons present, who knew anything of the matter, were urged to come forward as witnesses.”
In review, the law as specified in Leviticus 5:1 required that a formal public statement is made by judicial authorities asking for any witness who knew or heard about a crime to respond to a call to testify in a court setting. The witness did not initiate the report of wrongdoing to the authorities but responded to a summons from them to testify. If the witness unintentionally failed to answer the call, this was the sin (and not “public cursing” or profanity) that had to be compensated (atoned) for by making a ritual offering of an animal at the tabernacle.
Leviticus 5:1 was obviously misinterpreted in the 1987 Watchtower article ‘“A Time to Speak” –When?’ in that it pressured JWs to report wrongdoing by a fellow JW to the elders before the elders were even aware of the sin. Obviously, the facts as demonstrated above reveal the verse meant something far different.
Who began the use of Leviticus 5:1
In 1965, while assigned as a missionary and circuit representatives for 20-years in the Caribbean by one of JWs corporate entities – the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, Raymond Franz was invited by then Watch Tower’s Corporation President, N. H. Knorr, to be part of the Writing Department’s headquarters writing staff in Brooklyn, NY. This was a first for Franz – an assignment to work full time as a writer. To test Franz’s writing ability (not an unusual practice for those new in the department), Knorr gave him a short assignment for a few months to see how well he did at transmitting the teachings and responsibilities of JWs. Another writer was already working on an organizational guide, “Your Word Is a Lamp to My Foot,” to be published in 1967, and Franz assisted him. It’s in Chapter 10, “Keeping the Congregation Clean,” P. 177 in the “Lamp” book that Franz wrote what would become then the latest guidelines of JWs organization regarding the part each JW was responsible for to safeguard the cleanness of the congregation. And it’s here where Leviticus 5:1 was cited for the very first time in one of JW’s organizational guidebooks:
“If you personally are ever a witness to serious wrongdoing on the part of a dedicated and baptized member of the congregation, or if you come to know of it, loyalty to Jehovah and his organization should move you to bring it to the attention of the responsible servants.” (Psalms 31:23) It is no real kindness to the wrongdoer to conceal his unchristian conduct; it may only harden him in sin to the point where he cannot turn back, and so lead to his everlasting destruction. Certainly it shows no love for Jehovah God or his people when one becomes a party to wickedness by concealing those who practice it. One who loves righteousness and is truly loyal to God will courageously, step forward and expose the sinful conduct and fearlessly testify to the truth of the matter before the committee when called on to do so.”—Leviticus 5:1; Eph. 4:24; Luke 1:74, 75. [Italics mine]
Summary of the above paragraph: Loyalty to God and his organization requires reporting serious wrongdoing to responsible servants. If the wrongdoer’s conduct was concealed by the witness, it would mark that one as a party to wickedness. Later, after exposing the sinful conduct when called on to do so, the witness was to step forward and fearlessly testify to the truth before the committee.
Evidently, Franz lived up to Knorr’s expectations as a writer when later in 1965, he was asked to participate in Knorr’s pet project to undertake the development of a Bible dictionary along with some other writers.
The “Aid” Book
That reference work, named Aid to Bible Understanding (AID), was completed in 1970 and published in 1971, the same year Franz was appointed to be one of the Governing Body of JWs. Interestingly, Leviticus 5:1 was discussed five times in the “AID” book. Notice this occurrence where it was mentioned on P. 29 in the topic, ACCUSATION:
A charge of wrongdoing. Hebrew law, set forth the responsibility each one in the nation had to bring to account wrongdoers, and at the same time it adequately provided protection for the accused. A few examples will serve to illustrate these principles. If one heard another cursing publicly or blaspheming he had to bring the accusation before the proper authorities. (Leviticus 5:1) The authorities, in turn, were to ‘search and investigate and inquire thoroughly’ into the accusations to determine their validity before administering punishment. (Deut. 13:12-14)
In addition, between assignments of subjects for the AID book, Ray was asked to write a third of the next organizational guide, Organization FOR KINGDOM-PREACHING AND DISCIPLE-MAKING, published in 1972. He wrote three chapters, one of which was Chapter 9, “Safeguarding the Cleanness of the Congregation.” It was in this book that he quoted the paragraph on P. 177 almost word for word that he wrote in the 1967 “Lamp” book, Chapter 10, “Keeping the Congregation Clean.” There was something different in that paragraph though – Franz added an additional sentence regarding Israel and crime, citing Leviticus 5:1:
“If you personally are ever a witness to serious wrongdoing on the part of a baptized member of the congregation or an unbaptized person regularly associated with it, loyalty to Jehovah and his Son and love for your brothers should move you to bring the matter to the attention of the judicial committee. (Ps. 31:23) … In ancient Israel a public curse was pronounced on any who, knowing the facts of a certain wrongdoing or crime, failed to come forward with such testimony. (Leviticus 5:1; Prov. 24:29) One who loves righteousness and is truly loyal to Jehovah God and Christ Jesus will courageously step forward and make known the sinful conduct and conscientiously testify to the truth of the matter before the judicial committee when called on to do so.”
Notice that Franz added at the end of each of the quoted paragraphs in the “Lamp” and “Organization” books, “when called on to do so.” The way Franz understood Leviticus 5:1 was to be applied in a JW congregation setting was after an informant reported wrongdoing to the elders, an investigation ensued; if there was enough evidence of the wrongdoing then the same informant was called into a judicial hearing and testify.
However, Leviticus 5:1 clearly does not say that. Rather, Step 1 – Judicial authorities ask anyone in the community with knowledge of a particular case of serious wrongdoing to come forward and testify; Step 2 – Informant sins because he unintentionally did not testify; Step 3 – Informant has to offer an animal sacrifice at the Tabernacle to remove his sin.
Ray Franz made a serious mistake when he used Leviticus 5:1 as a basis for requiring JWs to report “wrongdoing” or “crime” to the elders instead of the authorities in that this action allowed for JW criminals to plead repentance and then be forgiven. In too many cases, these lawbreakers went on to do more harm.
Franz admits preconceived ideas influenced him
Ray Franz explained in his book, Crisis of Conscience concerning the AID book,
That the book did serve to quicken interest in the Scriptures among many Witnesses. Perhaps its tone, its approach, the effort put forth by most of the writers to avoid dogmatism, to acknowledge that there might be more than one way of seeing certain matters, not to make more of something than the evidence honestly allowed—these things may have been of principal benefit, though in these too we certainly fell short at times, allowing preconceived ideas to control, failing to hold as firmly as we should have to the Scriptures themselves. I know this was true in my own case…”
He then pointed out about certain subjects he wrote about,
“…all of which contain arguments designed to uphold current teaching of the Watch Tower publications. Simply because in my mind those teaching were then equivalent to “fact,” I found myself doing what the “Foreword” I later wrote said was not intended. On page 6 under the heading “Its Aim,” the words appear, “Aid to Bible Understanding is not intended to be a doctrinal commentary or an interpretative work.” Also that whatever application was made of figurative and symbolic expressions, this was not done “arbitrarily or to conform to a creed.” In the main, that was true. But ingrained beliefs sometimes overrode our efforts to hold to that standard,” he wrote.
In the case of Franz’s incorrect interpretation of Leviticus 5:1, a JW entrenched practice to not air their religion’s dirty laundry in public which could impede conversions, overrode his effort to stay free from doctrinal commentary or interpretative work to the detriment of JW victims of crime by JW criminals.
This chronicle is not an attack on Ray Franz, a moral and ethical man who truly believed our universe is governed by unseen wicked spirits that direct all systems of our world, including the judicial system. He reasoned like all JWs continue to do – why go to Satan’s world when the elders would be better able to sit in judgment because they are placed in their position by Holy Spirit.
In my opinion, Franz didn’t purposely seek to impose a new meaning to Leviticus, 5:1 that was not originally meant. Obviously, he practiced “eisegesis” by injecting his own ideas into the text. Although the Writing Department library contained bookshelf after bookshelf lined with Bible commentaries, Franz did not allow scholarly works to influence his thinking respecting Leviticus 5:1. Apparently, his way of looking at that verse in Leviticus added weight to the need to protect his beloved religion from public scandal which would impede JW’s religious conversion activity.
Yes, Franz made a mistake interpreting Leviticus 5:1 as he did. He did not make a mistake, however, leaving the JWs organization in 1980 and writing the book, Crisis of Conscience where he revealed the practices of religious dogmatism, legalism and authoritarianism of mere men.
Leviticus 5:1 continues to be cited in JWs literature
During the last fifty years, Leviticus 5:1 has been frequently cited or quoted in JW publications including as late as April 2017 where The Watchtower stated, “Of course, we should ask for help from the elders and tell them if a brother has committed a serious sin.” (Leviticus 5:1)
Specifically, regarding child abuse, JWs leaders need to discontinue using Leviticus 5:1 to persuade JWs to report to elders any person they learn about involved in child abuse as required in the February 2011 WATCH TOWER OF BRITAIN CHILD SAFEGUARDING POLICY which reads:
For the safeguarding of children and because child abuse is a serious sin, any congregation member who in any way learns of child abuse involving someone who associates with Jehovah’s Witnesses should advise the coordinator of the congregation’s body of elders or, in his absence, any other elder of the situation as soon as possible (Leviticus 5:1).
Also, as instructed in Organized to do Jehovah’s Will, a 2015 publication of JW’s:
Because the spiritual and moral cleanness of the congregation are threatened, such serious sins must be reported to the elders and handled by them. (1 Cor. 5:6 Jas. 5:14, 15) Some individuals may approach the elders either to confess their own sin or to report what they know regarding the wrongdoing of others. (Leviticus 5:1; Jas. 5:16)
As mentioned previously, JWs claim the reason for reporting wrongdoing to elders is to preserve the cleanness of the congregation. However, if there aren’t two witnesses and nothing is done about the accusation, the molester is free to molest again. Certainly, in such cases, the two-witness policy does nothing to maintain holiness in the congregation but sustains uncleanness. And it’s a copout to believe reporting crime to the authorities brings reproach on Jehovah’s name and organization. In fact, the opposite happens. When concealed child abuse is revealed, it brings immense reproach on JWs and their organization. Isn’t that what is happening now?
Change is in order
It shouldn’t be difficult for JW’s leaders to discontinue using a misinterpreted Leviticus 5:1. They’ve already changed “public cursing” to “a public call to testify” in their Revised New World Translation, which clarifies that the scripture has nothing to do with requiring a witness to wrongdoing to initiate a report to the Jewish authorities but was a requirement to a witness to respond to a summons from the authorities to testify about a crime already reported.
In addition, JWs disdain the very name Ray Franz, a former GB member who they consider a “wicked apostate.” In that the misinterpretation of Leviticus 5:1 was Franz’s brainchild, obviously, it would seem sensible not to follow any of his notions.
Finally, referring to Leviticus 5:1, a footnote in the Watchtower of July 15, 1995, quoted the book Palestine in the Time of Christ:
In some cases, the woman was put almost on a par with the slave. For instance, she could not give evidence in a court of justice, except to attest the death of her husband.” Referring to Leviticus 5:1, The Mishnah explains: “[The law about] ‘an oath of testimony’ applies to men but not to women.” –Shebuoth 4:1.
Remembering that the August 15, 1997, Watchtower, article, “Why Report What is Bad?” pointed out regarding Leviticus 5:1, “Though not under the Mosaic Law, Christians today can be guided by the principles behind it.”
If JWs interpretation of Leviticus 5:1 is correct and they are guided by the principle behind the Leviticus 5:1 law, how can JW leaders continue to instruct JW women to go to the elders to give evidence about wrongdoing on the part of others or wrongdoing committed against themselves if “an oath of testimony’ only applies to men but not to women?
Bible interpretation is the Governing Body’s responsibility
Geoffrey Jackson, a member of JWs Governing Body (GB), was called to testify at the public hearing by the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/case-study/636f01a5-50db-4b59-a35e-a24ae07fb0ad/case-study-29,-july-2015,-sydney.
In his testimony to the Australian Royal Commission on Friday, August 14, 2015, at 11 A.M, Jackson explained the GB’s position with regard to the Bible. He said that the GB is made up of a spiritual group of men who are guardians of JWs doctrine.
Later in his testimony, Jackson reiterated his statement that the Bible was their constitution adding that every one of their beliefs must fit with scripture because they seek to obey the Bible first. He noted that the GB members are only responsible for the scriptural statements quoted in JW literature to see that nothing is scripturally wrong. They do this by looking at the context; then at the whole picture, and this, he added, is the way the Bible explains itself. Is this something new or has the modern-day GB always been “responsible for the scriptural statements quoted in JW literature to see that nothing is scripturally wrong.”
Who should know more about the work of the GB than a GB member? We take Jackson’s word for it that all members, even those coming before him in that august body thought that the responsibility for conveying doctrinal truths lie completely in their hands no matter when they lived. If questioned, no doubt today’s GB would agree that “the buck stops here.”
Since the change in the Revised New World Translation clarifies the meaning of Leviticus 5:1, along with the proof of misinterpretation presented here, the GB of JW’s should do their duty as guardians of JWs doctrine and put a stop to compelling JWs to report crime to the elders on the basis of a misrepresented and misinterpreted Leviticus 5:1.
Until the GB finds another scripture to use to hide crime committed by JWs, the right thing to do would be to require all JWs to report crimes committed by JWs first to the authorities. If the Bible was indeed their constitution, they need to heed the Apostle Paul’s words as stated in the Revised New World Translation in Romans 13:1-5 that every person should be in subjection to the superior authorities, “God’s minister, an avenger to express wrath against the one practicing what is bad.”
NOTE: A correct guideline that Ray Franz put forward
The average JW believes it unlikely that an elder would remain in his position after he molested a child if the crime became known to another elder. Nevertheless, because of certain guidelines set in place by Witness leaders at headquarters, such a shocking state of affairs existed.
In the book, Organization FOR KINGDOM-PREACHING AND DISCIPLE-MAKING, on page 170, par. 2, of the 9th chapter “Safeguarding the Cleanness of the Congregation,” Ray Franz writes:
If the person was serving as an elder or a ministerial servant when he committed a serious wrong even though it was some years ago, he bears a degree of reprehensibility, for he continued to serve in that position though knowing that he had, for the time at least, disqualified himself, not being then “free from accusation.” (1 Tim. 3:2, 10; Titus 1:6, 7) He should have informed the judicial committee that he did not adhere to the requirements and should have stepped down from his position. In view of his failure to do this at that time, he would now be removed from that position.
Approximately six months later JWs read in the October 1972 Kingdom Ministry (KM) Question Box on P. 8, What is meant by “some years ago” on page 170, paragraph two, in the “Organization” book?
This indicates more than a year or two. It may be noted that it did not say “many years ago.” So it is not an exact number of years, but more like two or three years. It was not intended to have a brother go back into the distant past to bring up wrongs of which he repented years ago and that have evidently been forgiven by Jehovah and are not being practiced now. In many cases the wrongs occurred prior to the time when the “Watchtower” drew attention to what the Scriptures say on such misconduct.
If a brother has been serving faithfully for some years and has seen evidence of Jehovah’s blessings upon him, why should he now step down from office? If he has a right viewpoint now on conduct and will give good counsel he should be able to continue to serve. If the local body of elders see that he has the respect of the congregation and has shown the proper qualifications over the last two or three years, he may remain in his position of service. Must wrongdoing be brought to public attention after many years? The book (page 168) under “Public Reproof” quotes 1 Timothy 5:20 and mentions reproof of those who confess to committing more than one offense. But it really has to do with recent events. The “Interlinear” refers to those “sinning,” something going on at the time. So if repentance occurred some years ago, three years ago or more, and sinning ceased, and he is respected by the congregation, it is not necessary now to publicly reprove one who committed more than one offense “some years ago.”
It was Ray Franz in the Organization book who pointed out the necessity of removing a man from his position of authority in a Witness congregation no matter how godly his behavior was if he hid serious wrongdoing committed a few years previously; however, the KM written by someone in the Service Department allowed a man in that same circumstance to remain in his position if he repented and demonstrated Godly behavior for the previous two or three years.
Principal guides and directors of the Witness organization deny that the point of the KM was to excuse serious sin done many years ago, but was intended to address minor indiscretions of elders like smoking, or an occasional bout of drunkenness or extreme loss of temper. That doesn’t wash because in the Organization book, the discussion centered upon a man committing “a serious wrong,” not a minor indiscretion.
It is doubtful we’ll ever find out the reason for this adjustment of policy in 1972, but it had serious consequences. If allowed to stand, the original instructions written by Ray Franz would have prevented much heartache for many victims of child abuse. Whatever the reason for the change, the evidence proves the new approach proved disastrous for JW children sexually abused by men allowed to remain in their positions since their “repentance occurred some years ago, three years ago or more,” and sinning apparently ceased, and he was respected by the congregation.
Published May 7, 2018 / Barbara Anderson