Successful Press Conference with Nationwide Coverage of JW Abuse Scandal
At Silentlambs we are happy to report that the public has been informed of the attempt of Jehovah’s Witnesses to once again cover up their child abuse scandal. Once again we see the abuse of tax free donations designated as Worldwide Work Donations to benefit pedophiles. Exposing the fact that leadership continues to protect child molesters through their policies and require members to comply or face execution by disfellowshipping remains part of the educational work of Silentlambs.
It is interesting to note that Silentlambs has the support of many in the JW organization, as we receive calls of encouragement and support for our educational work. At the same time certain ones feel threatened and may respond in a negative fashion to our work. We find this also to be true in the XJW community as well.
In the last month Silentlambs worked quietly on procuring the information to establish factually that sixteen lawsuits with JW abuse survivors were settled with confidentiality agreements to prevent victims from being able to tell about what happened to them as a result of WT policy on abuse. In addition, we discovered that another lawsuit was settled in the summer of 2006 without our knowledge as well. So actually there are seventeen lawsuits against Jehovah’s Witnesses that were paid off by WWW funding. At Silentlambs we feel that we have a first obligation to abuse survivors, any information that benefits the cause of helping to educate the public and JWs about this issue should be publicized as soon as possible.
There are many JWs and XJWs that supported our request for confidentiality and we greatly appreciate their cooperation.
Silentlambs sent out an open invitation several days in advance to encourage all that could attend to be there. You can read the press release here http://www.silentlambs.org/nashpressconf.htm
This was one of the vindication moments for abuse survivors. Since day one the only thing left to show was that Watchtower Policy on abuse had hurt children and they had to pay money to compensate their crimes against children. Eighteen advocates from five states, some driving for six hours to be there, came to celebrate the legal victory on behalf of abuse survivors. While the press conference was to make the announcement the primary purpose was to set the platform for abuse survivors to speak. On May 10, 2007 Silentlambs proudly supported the six abuse survivors that were able to come to the microphone and speak about their abuse. Each event sponsored by Silentlambs has always provided this as the primary purpose. Every documentary that we have supported gave victims the ability to tell their story and help educate on the abusive policies of Jehovah’s Witnesses on abuse. Silentlambs has proven by internal documents, public spokesman for their PR department to media, testimony of thousands of victims, worldwide media, and now finally in the courts, that Jehovah’s Witnesses have hurt thousands of children with little or no remorse.
We wore Silentlambs t-shirts and carried little stuffed lambs. Why? As was stated at the press conference the lambs stood for the sixteen victims that were silenced by Watchtower and all the others that suffered abuse and could not be there that day. What else was said? You can read the press statement here http://www.silentlambs.org/pressStatement.htm
The weather was perfect and the location was at the Davidson County Courthouse. The courtyard made for an excellent setting to speak with the courthouse in the background. There were three television cameras at the press conference, and a reporter for the AP. The press conference lasted for about thirty minutes with all that wished encouraged to tell their story of abuse. We greatly appreciate the support of SNAP (Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests) as two of their members spoke about their abuse as well. We also had two survivors from protestant denominations there to support also. There was a sister that attended off camera and took most of the photos you will see here, she was afraid of being attacked by her congregation if they saw her on camera, so as with many of our gatherings in the past we respected and protected her privacy.
Some have asked why in Nashville? At the end of the press conference we kicked off a new campaign to put lambs and a new service bulletin on Kingdom Halls worldwide. The Bulletin states in part,
“Silentlambs is happy to announce that through the efforts of our organization precedents have been established in the courts to force Watchtower to provide verification of their international policy of silencing victims and covering up child abuse. In 2007 Jehovah’s Witnesses chose to settle with sixteen victims of their policies on child abuse instead of facing a jury with the evidence against them. For any Jehovah’s Witness victim in the area there is hope that you can have justice. We strongly encourage you to contact Silentlambs to establish if Watchtower can no longer escape justice in your case as well as for the thousands of kids that they have harmed by their policies on dealing with abuse.”
In 2004 Silentlambs finished placing 1,000 lambs on Kingdom Halls around the world encouraging member to report all allegations of abuse to police first, now we can take it one step further and help those that have been abused to be informed that they might find justice in the courts if they were hurt by WT Policy on abuse. We encourage all that support abuse survivors to place these bulletins on Kingdom Halls in your local area. By doing so you might let a Jehovah’s Witness family know they can have hope and compensation to assist with healing. You can read and download the bulletin here,
Read press coverage here,
When the conference was over a group of around a dozen went to a local restaurant and enjoyed a nice meal and celebration of the success of the event. There were plenty of laughs and stories about life in the organization. Afterward some said their goodbyes while the rest of us decided to kick off the calling on Kingdom Hall Campaign. We were also contacted by a couple of news crews that wished to follow us as we placed lambs on local Kingdom Halls. The first Hall was deserted and we made our delivery, we had an abuse survivor place the first lamb. The next Hall looked kind of like Fort Knox with a large fence around the compound, but the gate was open, so in we went. After placing the lamb about three carloads of JWs pulled in and a rather short man jumped out of one of the cars. After instructing the others in their cars not to get out he approached with a rather angry look on his face. “What are you doing here?” he asked. We stated we were happy to inform him that sixteen lawsuits have been paid by Watchtower and that any brother and sister can now know they can get help in the courts. He ignored the comment and angrily stated, “What makes you think you have the right to come on people’s property without an invitation?” We stated, “I guess it is the same rights that you have to go in the door to door work uninvited.” We thought it was a rather logical answer that he would appreciate especially with the PBS film “Knocking” promoting this very subject. Sadly he did not appreciate the comment and said, “Get off our property now, but I will talk to one of the news crews only, but the other one has to leave. This reasoning fails any attempt at logic but as we prepared to leave he ran over to the front door and jerked the lamb off as they filmed him. He then run over to us and said, “Take this we do not want it.” We said. “But it is a message to protect children.” He replied, “We do not need to protect our children.” For those that were in attendance that about summed it up. We politely excused ourselves and moved on to the next Kingdom Hall and did not meet or see any more angry little men.
Overall we can say the event was a great success, the AP article appeared in hundreds of newspapers and media websites across the net. Several televisions picked up the story in the nightly news across the country, Court TV had the coverage on their scroller and even several news outlets in Europe including France, UK, Sweden, Denmark, and Germany. The story was significant in that it clearly hit in the key issues of the matter. You can read the story here, http://www.silentlambs.org/APpresscoverage.htm
Also we must commend the Public Relations Department of Jehovah’s Witnesses. From their perspective they basically issued a nothing statement and quoted some scripture. Here is what they stated,
“We are pleased to see the lawsuits resolved. Our loving heavenly Father makes it clear in his Word, the Bible that he abhors child abuse, as an organization, we will continually strive to educate families and congregations with sound Scriptural teachings that they can use to protect their children from child molesters. And we will continue to do our utmost to protect children from this horrible crime and sin."
Perhaps the simple response would be, if you are doing this then why are you paying millions of dollars to settle abuse claims? A longer answer might be the following response offered by someone on an obscure forum, they stated,
“The Watchtower Society said the following as part of their media statement concerning the recent multi-million dollar settlement of 16 child abuse court claims:
Even more interesting is the comment from a Catholic about the news report,
Even though I am a Catholic, I have accepted much of your literature over the years. I have read much about the wrongs of my faith in your magazines and books. For example, the problems with pedophile priest. (See references below) While I in no way condone such conduct, I find it incredibly hypocritical that you consistently point fingers at others when you have the same problem. A fact that which I've never seen mentioned in your literature.
At least our Catholic leadership has admitted to this problem. Every Jehovah Witness I talked to knew nothing about these multi-million dollar lawsuit settlements. Most denied that such things happened in "their organization".
Well, I called your headquarters in Brooklyn to confirm it’s accuracy. At the end of my call, I was informed that I could write the local kingdom hall in my area if I wished for Jehovah's Witnesses to no longer visit my home. Accept this letter as such a wish. I have no desire to listen to a hypocritical pot calling the kettle black.
All of the following finger pointing references apply equally to your church.
***w983/1p.4 The Churches Confess***Several prelates have followed the pope’s example. In December 1994 the Italian newspaper IlGiornale reported: "Many American bishops appeared on television and publicly asked forgiveness." For what? For underestimating the problem of pedophile priests, to the detriment of many young victims.
***g974/8pp.13-14SexualExploitationofChildren—A Worldwide Problem***In the August 16, 1993, issue of Newsweek, an article entitled "Priests and Abuse" reported on "the worst clerical scandal in the modern history of the U.S. Catholic Church." It stated: "While allegations have been lodged against an estimated 400 priests since 1982, some churchmen extrapolate that as many as 2,500 priests have molested children or teenagers. . . . More than money, the scandal has cost the church severe embarrassment—and some of its moral authority." Other religions throughout the world are in the same situation.
***g934/8p.31VictimsofPedophilePriestsSpeakOut***Victims of Pedophile Priests Speak Out "DURING the past decade, some 400 Roman Catholic priests have been reported to church or civil authorities for sexual abuse of children," according to U.S.News&WorldReport. Recently, a national gathering of survivors of such abuse was held near Chicago, Illinois. Many spoke openly of how they had been victimized by pedophile priests.
But NCR (NationalCatholicReporter) notes that speakers sounded another theme repeatedly throughout the conference: "The first abuse is sexual; the second and more painful, is psychological." This second abuse occurs when the church refuses to listen to victims of abuse, fails to take their accusations seriously, and moves only to protect the offending priests. "Fairly or unfairly," NCR reports, "they portrayed Catholic clergy as belonging to an unhealthy and misguided group more bent on preserving privilege and power than in serving lay needs."
***g928/22p.28WatchingtheWorld***"Pedophile Priests" "A flurry of child sex-abuse scandals has drawn the Roman Catholic Church into a far-ranging investigation of pedophile priests—a phenomenon critics say the church hierarchy has long kept muffled," reports TheHerald-News of Joliet, Illinois, U.S.A. "In the past nine months, seven priests in the Chicago area have been removed from parishes and one has been indicted because of sexual mistreatment complaints involving children." A three-member commission has been appointed by cardinal Joseph Bernardin to decide how to deal with the problem that, according to a church spokesman, "is a lot deeper than anybody thought" and that is estimated to involve hundreds of priests nationwide. Efforts are now being made to root out the errant priests, who were formerly reassigned to different parishes. Some people, though, still have misgivings. "They don’t understand the psychological depth of the injury when people are injured by someone who represents the church, which we believe has formulated our values, morals and principles," said the mother of one abused child.
***g918/22p.29WatchingtheWorld***Shielding Pedophile Priests?"Some dioceses still shield priests accused of pedophilia," ran a recent headline in the U.S. newspaper NationalCatholicReporter. The newspaper interviewed Jeffrey Anderson, a lawyer who specializes in cases of sexual abuse. He estimates that since 1985, when priestly pedophilia came under increased public scrutiny, there have been over a thousand cases in which priests molested children. Anderson had some harsh words for the church’s response to the ongoing crisis: "It is a continuing saga of avoiding responsibility," he charges, decrying the church’s focus on protecting the accused clerics. "As a general rule, the institutional response of the church has been willfully inadequate both in tending to victims and dealing with risks."
***g9012/8p.31"A Sexual Crisis"Among the Clergy***A conference of U.S. Catholic bishops received a report on the "catastrophe" of priest pedophile litigation. The 100-page report, states the Journal, "detailed a strategy for limiting the Church’s liability from civil lawsuits to $1 billion [$1,000 million] based on the 30 suits then pending." The lawsuits are being brought by the Catholic parents of the children involved. And psychiatrists who treat the young victims of these crimes report long-term, often permanent, damage.
God’s Word speaks of such "disgraceful sexual appetites" by which males are "inflamed in their lust toward one another, males with males, working what is obscene," and adds that the "righteous decree of God" is that "those practicing such things are deserving of death."—Romans 1:26, 27, 32; see also 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10.
***w9412/1p.6The 20th-Century Denial of God***The clergy have also denied God by turning their backs on his moral standards—as evidenced, for example, by a steady stream of lawsuits against pedophile priests. The situation of Christendom resembles that of ancient Israel and Judah. "The land is filled with bloodshed and the city is full of crookedness," the prophet Ezekiel was told, "for they have said, ‘Jehovah has left the land, and Jehovah is not seeing.’" (Ezekiel 9:9; compare Isaiah 29:15.) Little wonder that many have abandoned Christendom’s churches altogether! But must they abandon belief in God?
***g9011/8p.31‘OurShameIsCleartotheWholeWorld’***‘Our Shame Is Clear to the Whole World’THENewYorkTimes of July 20, 1990, carried a headline: "Canadian Prelate Quits in Clerics’ Sex Scandal." What was the story? Yet another case of clergymen being accused of sexual abuse of boys. On this occasion the scandal was in the province of Newfoundland, Canada, and the clergy were Catholic. What made it different?
The Times reported: "The Archbishop of Newfoundland has resigned after charges that the Roman Catholic Church’s hierarchy ignored or failed to deal effectively with three years of scandal involving allegations of sexual abuse against altar boys, orphaned youths and others by Roman Catholic priests and church laymen." First accused of gross indecency in 1979, one priest was recently sentenced to four years in prison after pleading guilty to 36 charges!
Usually these cases are hushed up, and no significant disciplinary action is taken. Perhaps a priest is transferred to another parish or duty, where the depravity might start again. On this occasion the archbishop was moved to resign after stating: "We are a sinful church. We are naked. Our anger, our pain, our anguish, our shame are clear to the whole world."—Compare Revelation 17:15-18.
***g933/8p.28WatchingtheWorld***Dark Side of United Church"Most of us come from a rather naive assumption that such things as sex abuse would not occur in the church and would never be committed by clergy," said United Church minister Sylvia Hamilton. However, Hamilton suggests that "it is a major problem." According to Canada’s TorontoStar, sexual abuse "ranging from jokes to forced sexual activities—is as prevalent, if not more prevalent, in the church as in society as a whole." Peter Lougheed, a United Church task-group member, confessed that "the church is a less safe place for the parishioner and for women than the secular workplace." The Star report adds: "After years of denial and cover-up, the problem is only now percolating to the surface like bubbles in a swamp."
**g9311/8p.29WatchingtheWorld***Trouble in the Churches "The problem of sexual abuse in the church is not going to go away," reports TheTorontoStar. Sexual scandals among church leaders are widespread. They are not limited to television evangelists and the Catholic Church. Abuse also "happens in the Salvation Army, in the United Church, in the Presbyterian Church," noted a Salvation Army officer. Anglican Primate Archbishop Michael Peers said that such abuse is a "deep-rooted and dark" problem in the church. According to the Star, Archbishop Peers admitted that in the past this church’s response to charges of sexual abuse "has been denial and control." Timothy Bently from the Toronto Centre for the Family reportedly stated that if "the churches do not face up to what is essentially a spiritual crisis openly and honestly their authority to preach on sexual ethics will crumble."
***g928/8p.28WatchingtheWorld***The Clergy and Sexual AbuseAustralian National Television recently broadcast a documentary entitled "The Ultimate Betrayal." The program claimed that 15 percent of clergymen in Australia had committed sexual offenses, ranging from the molestation of children to the rape of women parishioners. Within hours of the television program, various centers set up to handle complaints of sexual assault were inundated with telephone calls from alleged victims. Many callers said they had kept their experience secret for many years. One woman said that she was speaking about her ordeal as a child for the first time in 40 years! Another said that after her clergyman had sexually abused her as a child, he threatened her with hellfire punishment if she dared to tell anyone. Spokesmen for various church groups disagreed with the 15-percent figure but did admit that the sexual misconduct of clergymen was a serious problem.
***g941/8p.28WatchingtheWorld***Church Insurance Against Abuse Claims"The Australian Catholic Church has taken out a multimillion dollar insurance policy to protect itself against claims of sexual abuse by priests," reports TheSundayTelegraph of Sydney, New South Wales. "We admit it goes on," said a Catholic bishop in Melbourne, Australia. He asserts that such extensive insurance coverage is normal "for that kind of offence." According to a support group for the victims, sexual abuse by the clergy is more widespread than the church admits. A spokesman for the group said he believes the church’s focus is more on protecting the clergy than helping the victims. He added that the message "at the very core of the church’s documents is, don’t tell the truth."
So it appears this educational work has gotten a lot of people thinking about these issues. That is a major point and purpose of Silentlambs. We always answer to abuse survivors first and assist them to find healing. In that work we also protect children and help their parents know how to take preventative steps on their behalf.
We want to thank all those that supported the Silentlambs press conference. It was a moment of vindication and celebration for those that love children. We hope that Jehovah’s Witnesses of conscience will continue to demand that the policies of Watchtower on abuse be changed to protect their children and the children they interact with. The goal remains the same as in 1992 when the Governing Body was given these three recommendations,
To this day not one of these recommendations has been fully enacted fifteen years later. How many thousands of children have been molested as a result? For those reasons we will continue to ask that leadership take note of their crimes against children and call for them to make the necessary corrections immediately. You can do your part by participating in the Silentlambs bulletin campaign and distributing it to local Kingdom Halls in your area. Also we request to the public and JWs to allow your checkbook to do the talking to the Worldwide Work Donation Fund. Do not give this fund any money till changes is made to stop putting children in danger and silencing abuse survivors. Tell your elders that you think gag orders are wrong and does not follow the biblical principle of “covering over transgressions.” Proverbs 28:13 states, “He that is covering over transgressions will not succeed, but he that is confessing and leaving them will be shown mercy.” Many times this scripture is read in judicial hearings to move those that transgress to bare their sin to be shown mercy. How strange that the Governing Body would choose to cover over the transgression of their policy hurting kids with gag orders. Will they have God’s blessing and succeed for silencing victims? Your efforts in stopping donations and alerting victims that they can find justice can help those hurt to find healing.