http://mako.org.au/tempsouter.html Listed as sex offender
Former Brother Souter is apparently at it again. He was caught with a supply of child porn and faces new convictions for three more boys that he molested. It is estimated that as a Jehovah’s Witness Souter molested over 40 children. His victims continue to come forward.
Transcript of 5-05 Sunday program
Transcript of 09-02 Sunday Program
Listing of program below
September 22, 2002
Reporter :Graham Davis
Producer : Kirstine Lumb
This week, Sunday reveals the extraordinary story of how the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia routinely cover up cases of child abuse in their ranks and obstruct police investigations. In a disturbing new twist to the scandals that have enveloped mainstream churches, Sunday penetrates the highly secretive Watchtower and Bible Tract Society – the official name of the Jehovah’s Witnesses – which claims some 60,000 adherents in Australia.
Child abuse victims speak out for the first time about how they were specifically instructed by church elders and overseers not to go to the police with their complaints. In one case Sunday investigates, the church’s failure to act on the complaints of one family resulted in up to 40 other children being molested by the same paedophile.
Simon Thomas was 12 and a member of the Corrimal congregation on the NSW south coast when he encountered Robert Souter, an adult member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. “Looking back it was amazing,” says Simon, “but I was actually molested at the local Kingdom Hall. At first Souter would follow me whenever I went to the toilet. It started with touching and feeling. But then at bible study sessions at his home, I was subjected to extreme abuse.”
Simon kept his ordeal secret until it emerged that his younger brother was also being molested by Robert Souter. “My brother had a nervous breakdown. It was horrific so my parents approached the church elders and told them what had happened. They were told they shouldn’t go to the police but should pray more and leave it to Jehovah.” Robert Souter was expelled from the congregation. But then six months later the family got some devastating news. “Souter was reinstated. I just couldn’t believe it,” Simon said.
Years went by as the family nursed its secret. Then finally Simon could cope no longer and went to the police. Robert Souter was arrested and appeared in the Wollongong District Court. Sentencing him to a minimum of three years in prison, Judge John Goldring said: “The Church authorities took it upon themselves to act as if they were the civil authorities which they had no right to do. This matter was not reported to the police, as it should have been…I cannot criticise the Church sufficiently seriously for not having reported this matter.”
Simon Thomas tells Sunday: “I know of ten people personally who were molested by Robert Souter but the police have told me the total number is around 40. If the Church had listened to my pleas, all of those kids could have been saved. I could have been saved too because I’ve since discovered that before I was molested, a woman in the congregation had complained to elders that Robert Souter had interfered with her son and nothing was done.”
Former Church elders interviewed by Sunday allege that they were given detailed instructions by the Watchtower Society to obstruct police investigations into child abuse. Elders were told not to reveal to the authorities if a particular child abuser had confessed to his crimes and to do everything possible to prevent police from gaining access to church files. Former elder Jim Donald says: “We were to resist every approach by the authorities to willingly give over information. It’s seen as an attack against pure worship and Jehovah’s name and so what they call “theocratic warfare” is to take place. That means we are in a battle situation with the state.”
These former elders say Jehovah’s Witnesses regard themselves as the only true representatives of God on earth. They live in what they call “the truth”. The rest of us live in “the world” – a world they believe is run by Satan. This – the elders allege - gives the Watchtower Society divine authority to impede police investigations and even lie to the courts.
Another child abuse victim, Natalie Webb, says: “I was specifically told by my elders that the authorities should not be notified and that they would handle the situation”. Natalie was sexually abused by her own father Victor – an outwardly devout Jehovah’s Witness – from the age of 4 to 17. She relates how she told the elders that he wanted her to have sex with animals and lesbian liaisons. “Oh yeah, they knew. And they said we don’t need to know the details…we’re being guided by God”. Years passed until Natalie was married. Her own husband informed the church elders of what her father had done. But even after Victor Webb confessed, he was allowed to remain a member of the congregation.
Eventually Natalie could cope no longer and went to the police. “I was very apprehensive but the police were just the most compassionate, wonderful lot of people. I got more caring and genuine concern from them than I got from any elder.”
Victor Webb was sentenced to ten years jail in the Victorian County Court. But even now he has not been expelled from the congregation. Sunday confronts the elder who Natalie first went to see, Maurice Hadley. He denies ever having told her not to go to the police, saying it is her word against his. But he tells Sunday it is not for him to judge Victor Webb’s behaviour. Revealing that he still goes to visit his old tennis partner in prison, Hadley says: “That’s between him and his God ultimately. I have never condoned that man’s behaviour. I go to see him in jail about twice a year. Why do I do it? Well, don’t you think people can change?”
Sunday interviews a former lawyer for the Watchtower Society, Rev Warryn Stuckey, who defected from the Jehovah’s Witnesses and is now an Anglican clergyman. “Why they haven’t cooperated fully with the authorities suggests there is something they are protecting. If they are telling people not to go to the police, that can have the practical effect of perverting the course of justice.”
Natalie Webb argues that there should be an official investigation into the Watchtower Society. “It needs reform forced on it. Waiting for Jehovah doesn’t work. It’s definitely time that Governments cracked down on this organisation. I hate to think how many children are being abused now even as we speak. Former elder Jim Donald agrees. “I think the organisation needs to have the lid taken off its activities. Young kids lives are being ruined”.
In a statement to Sunday, the President of the Watchtower Society of Australia, Harold “Viv” Mouritz, declines to be interviewed but says: “My inquiries indicate that the elders involved did not give instructions not to report the abuse to the police.” Mr Mouritz denies all knowledge of the concept of “theocratic warfare” and expresses the church’s abhorrence of child abuse.
The Sunday program is continuing to investigate this story. If you have information that might help please email us or phone (02) 9965 2483.
Past articles about Brother Souter