25 Columbia Heights
Brooklyn, NY 11201
I am writing to resign as an elder and presiding overseer effective the date of this letter. I bear no ill will or malice toward anyone in the congregation or the body of elders. In my twenty-plus years of special service I have enjoyed many privileges, of which there have been many fond memories. So, it is with sadness I must make the following statement: I simply cannot agree with an organizational policy that as an elder I am required to enforce. This policy, in my opinion, has harmed thousands, is leaving many unprotected, and provides refuge to outright criminals.
I am referring to Watchtower policy to keep information about
pedophiles confidential. Pedophiles are protected by a code of
silence and in many cases remain, ministerial servants, elders,
pioneers, circuit and district overseers, members of the Bethel
family, etc., while their victims suffer in silence or face
sanctions. This policy is unethical and immoral in my opinion.
As an elder, I am instructed (1994 Elder School) if it is one
person's word against another and not two witnesses to the wrong, no
action would be taken and no authorities would be notified. The
victim? Cautioned to keep silent or face discipline within the
congregation that could go as far as being disfellowshipped for
This policy was again stated to the public in The Watchtower 1995, 11/1 pages 28-29 in the Article, "Comfort for Those With a Stricken Spirit," under the heading, "What Can Elders Do?" it plainly states:
"If the accusation is denied, the elders should explain to the accuser that nothing more can be done in a judicial way. And the congregation will continue to view the one accused as an innocent person. The Bible says that there must be two or three witnesses before judicial action can be taken. (2 Cor. 13:1; 1 Tim. 5:19) Even if more than one person "remembers" abuse by the individual, the nature of these recalls is just too uncertain to base judicial decisions on them without other supporting evidence. This does not mean that such "memories" are viewed as false (or that they are viewed as true). But Bible principles must be followed in establishing a matter judicially."
Does this offer comfort to those with a stricken spirit? How often are there witnesses with "supporting evidence" to an act of child molestation? If two different persons recall abuse by one pedophile, how could he be viewed as "an innocent" man? How hard would it be for a person with the disposition to molest children to deny the act when accused?
The 3-14-97 Letter to Bodies of Elders, page 2, paragraph 5, states:
"It may be possible that some who were guilty of child molestation were or are now serving as elders, ministerial servants, or regular or special pioneers. Others may have been guilty of child molestation before they were baptized. The bodies of elders should not query individuals. However, the body of elders should discuss this matter and give the Society a report on anyone who is currently serving or who formerly served in a society-appointed position in your congregation who is known to have been guilty of child molestation in the past." Paragraph 6 continues at the end: "this information is not to be made available to those not involved."
The only way a person within the organization can be guilty of child molestation is by confession, conviction by a court of law, or by the mouth of two witnesses who were there for the same event. For the individual who meets this criteria, the above information states "body of elders should not query individuals" and "this information is not to be made available to those not involved." For those who do not meet the above criteria, as in the case of a victim who accuses a person of molesting them, the code of silence is even more strictly enforced. What about potential victims, parents of children who do not know of these accusations? They are left in the dark without any knowledge that their children could be exposed to an accused sex offender on a regular basis.
These directives make the Watchtower organization a pedophile paradise, where children can be freely molested, as long as there is not substantial evidence or two witnesses to the same event, pedophiles are protected by Watchtower policy which is enforced by the body of elders.
How often are there witnesses to an act of child molestation? How can there be evidence of molestation, when 90% of the time the crime is reported weeks or sometimes years later? How many pedophiles will tell the truth, knowing if they do they could go to jail? Does the fact that the average pedophile will molest seventy children in his lifetime and is never convicted of a crime mean we should allow them anonymity within our organization?
Due to this organizational policy, we have become saturated with pedophiles holding positions from top to bottom within our organization, in my opinion. In my forty-plus years in the organization, I have yet to find one congregation that did not have serious problems with children being molested.
The most incriminating fact lay with it not even being a matter of record, as in may cases when it is one word against another, not one word is recorded within the congregation file. Watchtower policy gives no direction in this regard. When elders call or write the Service Department for home office direction on how to handle matters involving child molestation, they are instructed that they will have to make the decision locally as to whether it should be taken care of judicially. The Service Department in effect lets local elders make the decision and as a result, the locals will take the responsibility if anything goes wrong. Thus protecting the Watchtower legally. How often will local elders in effect, "take care of a fellow accused elder," protecting him from a judicial meeting using technicalities as an excuse? But when it comes to the victims, they are discredited, humiliated, and told to be silent. There is a silence of the lambs, the little ones, who look to you and bodies of elders for protection, but instead are crushed and ostracized by an organizational policy when they needed help the most. The Watchtower is protected; the pedophile is protected, too bad for the silent lamb.
How bad is it? With this policy you will allow one out of three "witness children" to be molested in their lifetime, in my opinion. I can no longer serve as an elder in an arrangement that promotes unethical and immoral behavior toward children. I refuse to support a pedophile refuge mentality that is promoted among body of elders around the world. Criminals should be ousted, identified, and punished to protect the innocent and give closure to the victim.
Each day that passes, more children are being molested, and victims suffer as abused lambs with a shepherd who seems not to care. For myself, I feel I can trust no one within the Watchtower organization with my children. If my children were to accuse a pedophile of molestation, all he would have to do is deny it and as a father I would be silenced with the threat of disfellowshiping if I were to try to say something (slander of a perceived innocent man) in a way of warning to protect others who may be in harm's way. I state for the third time, this is wrong it is unethical and immoral to not protect children.
It is my sincere hope that this letter will result in an adjustment to completely overhaul Watchtower policy to address this horrific stance of protecting pedophiles and exposing children to danger.
William H. Bowen
P.O. Box 311
Calvert City, KY 42029
Letter was printed in the Jan/Mar 2001 Free Minds Journal. http://www.freeminds.org
News story with William H. Bowen interview: http://www.courier-journal.com/localnews/2001/02/04/ky_jeh.html
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