The Jehovah’s Witness Church in Australia failed to protect children in its care from sexual predators, a report has found.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse delivered its report into the organisation on Monday.
It stated that: “Children are not adequately protected from the risk of child sexual abuse in the Jehovah’s Witness organisation and [the commission] does not believe the organisation responds adequately to allegations of child sexual abuse.”
Survivors of sexual abuse within the church and senior church members appeared before a public hearing last year.
The inquiry heard the church received allegations of child sexual abuse involving more than 1000 of its members over a 60-year period but did not report a single claim to police.
In its report on the inquiry, the royal commission found that the organisation’s general practice of “not reporting serious instances of child sexual abuse to police or authorities, demonstrated a serious failure on its part to provide for the safety and protection of children.”
The royal commission determined that the church’s response to allegations of child sexual abuse were outdated, including a rule that there must be two witnesses to an incident, which “showed a serious lack of understanding of the nature of child sexual abuse”.
“It noted the rule, which the Jehovah’s Witness organisation relies on, and applies inflexibly even in the context of child sexual abuse, was devised more than 2000 years ago,” the report found.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses approach to handling claims internally was not appropriate for children or survivors of sexual abuse, the report found.
“Survivors are offered little or no choice in how their complaint is addressed, sanctions are weak with little regard to the risk of the perpetrator re-offending.”
The head of the Jehovah’s Witness community’s service desk, Rodney Spinks, said the church is taking the royal commission’s work seriously.
“We want to benefit from the process; everybody does,” he said.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia are scheduled to appear before the commission again in March when a public hearing will examine current child protection policies and procedures.
Source – SYDNEY MORNING HERALD
COMMENTARY: I don’t know why it took the Royal Commission so long to come to the conclusion that the policies of the Watchtower fail to protect children from abusers. The Watchtower’s own lawyers have stated in court and in legal briefs that Jehovah’s Witness elders do not have any responsibility to protect children from the crimes of a congregant. If the Watchtower is on record denying that elders have any responsibility to protect children from sexual abuse, why should anyone be surprised if the organization is judged to have demonstrated a serious failure to protect children? More articles on the Watchtower’s serious failure.