CULTURE OF SILENCE

Report: Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Policies Protect Child Abusers

Jehovah’s Witnesses have internal policies that shield child abusers from facing law enforcement, according to a report from The Philadelphia Inquirer. Internal memos obtained by the Inquirer show the religion’s leadership has long been encouraged to not cooperate with police. A memo from 1997 specifically instructed elders to “inform one another if known pedophiles moved from one kingdom hall to another—and to withhold the information from the congregations.” When allegations of abuse were brought to leaders, the accusations were then sent to the Witnesses’ legal department in a “special blue envelope,” sources told the newspaper. Victims would allegedly have to “recount their allegations in front of their abusers, and produce two eyewitnesses who could support their claims.” Any disciplinary action was then handled internally. Victims who decided to go public with their allegations would face being “reproved,” or publicly shunned for wrongdoing. “Jehovah’s Witnesses abhor child abuse, a crime that sadly occurs in all sectors of society,” Watchtower officials said in a statement. “The safety of our children is of the utmost importance.”