The Australian Royal High Commission on Child Abuse (2013-2016)
ARHCCA and Geoffrey Jackson. What really happened? As you can see this summary was produced in August 2016. With the series of articles in the Study Watchtowers for March and May 2019, this is still very much relevant as a reference. Readers are free to download or print copies for their own reference and use in sharing the shocking reality of the ARHCCA, focussing on how Jehovah’s Witnesses responded as an Organization.
What you need to know:
- When was it? The 1st case Study started in September 2013. It is still in progress as of 09 Aug 2016 and is currently scheduled to last until at least 28 October 2016.
- What is it? https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/about-us/terms-of-reference
- How long did it last? Based on current information it has been running a month short of 3 years as of 09 Aug 2016 and has at least 3 months to run.
- How many days focused on Jehovah’s Witnesses? In total 8 days. Jehovah’s Witnesses were examined as Case Study 29 during late July and early August 2015.
- Court Transcripts of the proceedings are available for download here including submissions by the Counsel for the Commission and by the Watchtower Society and for Days 147,148,149,150,151,152,153, 155 in pdf and doc format.
- Who else was examined by the Commission? Scouts, YMCA, various Children’s Homes, Salvation Army, various Catholic Diocese’s, Schools, Swimming Australia, various small religious groups, Orphanages, Health Care Providers, State-run Youth training centers, etc.
- Where can I find more information about it or check it for myself? https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/ is the official website of the commission from where the information in this summary is extracted.
- What were the aims of Case Study 29 regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia?
“The scope and purpose of the public hearing is to inquire into:
- The experience of survivors of child sexual abuse within the Jehovah’s Witnesses Church in Australia.
- The response of the Jehovah’s Witnesses Church and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia Ltd to allegations, reports, or complaints of child sexual abuse within the Church.
- The systems, policies, and procedures in place within the Jehovah’s Witnesses Church and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia Ltd for raising and responding to allegations of or concerns about child sexual abuse within the Church.
- The systems, policies, and procedures in place within the Jehovah’s Witnesses Church and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia Ltd to prevent child sexual abuse within the Church.
- Any related matters.”
- What were the results of interviews with representatives of the Watchtower Society Australia?
The following section contains extracted points from the interviews and opening statements. If you have time all the transcripts make for interesting reading. The counsel for the commission was well informed and almost without exception accurate in his understanding of the beliefs and actions of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He was also not adversarial and his thrust seems to have been (a) confirmation of the commission’s understanding of how Jehovah’s Witnesses deal with the issue of sexual child abuse and what leeway there was within our biblical boundaries to make adjustments to improve the handling of such cases.
The interviews of two unrelated female witnesses who were sexually abused by male witnesses, who gave evidence to the commission, make for upsetting reading, but should not be shied away from.
- “During the investigation of this case study, Watchtower Australia produced some 5,000 documents pursuant to summonses issued by the Royal Commission on 4 and 28 February 2015. Those documents include 1,006 case files relating to allegations of child sexual abuse made against members of the Jehovah’s Witness Church in Australia since 1950 – each file for a different alleged perpetrator of child sexual abuse.”
- “There are currently 817 congregations in Australia with over 68,000 active members. Over the past 25 years, the active membership of the church in Australia has grown 29 per cent from approximately 53,000 members in 1990. In the same period, Australia’s population growth has been 38 per cent.”
- “Terrence O’Brien is the coordinator of the Australia branch and a director and secretary of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of Australia. He has actively served with the Jehovah’s Witness Church for 40 years. Mr O’Brien will give evidence regarding the history and organisational structure of the Jehovah’s Witness Church and he will provide an administrative perspective on the organisation’s approach to the prevention and handling of child sexual abuse within Australia.”
- “Rodney Spinks is the senior service desk elder who has served in the service department since January 2007. He is specifically responsible for inquiries related to child sexual abuse and for assisting congregation elders to implement the Australia branch office’s guidelines for handling child abuse allegations and providing victim support. Mr Spinks will give evidence about the role of the service department in processes that relate to handling complaints of child sexual abuse in the Jehovah’s Witness Church in Australia.”
- “Vincent Toole is a solicitor who has, since 2010, overseen the operation of the legal department of the Australia branch office. Mr Toole will give evidence regarding the role of the legal department in responding to allegations and managing the risk of child sexual abuse within the Jehovah’s Witness Church in Australia.”
- “Moving on, then, to child sexual abuse policies and procedures, the Jehovah’s Witness Church relies primarily on Bible passages to set its policies and practices. The Jehovah’s Witness Church says that it has had Bible-based policies on child sexual abuse for over 30 years. Mr O’Brien will tell the Royal Commission that these policies have been refined and periodically addressed in various publications over the past several decades. Mr O’Brien will testify that the Governing Body is not involved in the administration and implementation of child sexual abuse policies and procedures in branch offices of the Jehovah’s Witness Church.
- “The Jehovah’s Witness Church recognises child abuse to be a gross sin and crime. Its official position is that they abhor child sexual abuse and will not protect any perpetrator of such repugnant acts. Child sexual abuse is defined by the Jehovah’s Witness Church as follows:
- Child sexual abuse generally includes sexual intercourse with a minor; oral or anal sex with a minor; fondling the genitals, breasts or buttocks of a minor; voyeurism of a minor; indecent exposure to a minor; soliciting a minor for sexual conduct; or any kind of involvement with child pornography. Depending on the circumstances of the case, it may also include “sexting” with a minor. “Sexting” describes the sending of nude photos, semi-nude photos, or sexually explicit text messages electronically, such as by phone.
- According to the Jehovah’s Witness Church, child sexual abuse is captured by the scriptural offences: firstly, “porneia”, which is immoral use of the genitals between two people; secondly, “brazen or loose conduct”, which includes fondling of breasts, explicitly immoral proposals, showing pornography to a child, voyeurism, indecent exposure; and, thirdly, gross uncleanliness, which is heavy petting.
- “The Royal Commission will hear that over the past 65 years, the requirement that there be two or more witnesses has prevented at least 125 allegations of child sexual abuse from proceeding to a judicial committee. That is not unexpected, given that by its nature there are very seldom witnesses to child sexual abuse beyond the survivor and the perpetrator. The Royal Commission will hear that since 1950, 563 alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse were the subject of a judicial committee hearing.”
- The Royal Commission will hear that since 1950, 401 alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse were disfellowshipped, 78 of whom were disfellowshipped on more than one occasion; and 190 alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse were reproved, 11 of whom were reproved on more than one occasion. Since 1950, of 401 disfellowshipped alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse, 230 were later reinstated, 35 of whom were reinstated on more than one occasion. Evidence will be put before the Royal Commission that of the 1,006 alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse identified by the Jehovah’s Witness Church since 1950, not one was reported by the church to secular authorities. This suggests that it is the practice of the Jehovah’s Witness Church to retain information regarding child sexual abuse offences but not to report allegations of child sexual abuse to the police or other relevant authorities
- “Since 1950, 28 alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse were appointed to positions of authority after having been the subject of allegations of child sexual abuse. Further, of 127 alleged perpetrators of child sexual abuse deleted as elders or ministerial servants as a result of allegations of child sexual abuse, 16 were later reappointed.
- “Mr O’Brien will give evidence that to date he is unaware of any claims for redress having been made in relation to child sexual abuse concerning the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia. Watchtower Australia does not hold any insurance policy which provides cover for any claims relating to child sexual abuse. Documents will be tendered which show that in 2008, Watchtower Australia considered the formation of a separate legal entity, apparently for the purposes of minimising liability in the case of litigation.”
Quotations from Transcript-(Day-155) Interview of Governing Body Member Geoffrey Jackson follow:
- Q. By what mechanism would you understand God’s spirit to direct your decisions?
- Bro GJ. Well, what I mean by that is, by prayer and using our constitution, God’s word, we would go through the scriptures and see if there was any biblical principle at all that would influence our decision and it could be that in our initial discussions there was something that maybe we were missing and then in another discussion that would come to light. So we would view that as God’s spirit motivating us because we believe the Bible is God’s word and came by means of holy spirit.
So, to make it clear to readers, the Governing Body read the scriptures after praying for Holy Spirit, and the outcome of the discussion is viewed as being guided by Holy Spirit. Question: So how is this different from an honest-hearted individual praying for the Holy Spirit before undertaking any private study of the scriptures?
- Q. Does the Governing Body, or do the members of the Governing Body – do you see yourselves as modern-day disciples, the modern-day equivalent of Jesus’s disciples?
- Bro GJ. We certainly hope to follow Jesus and be his disciples.
- Q. And do you see yourselves as Jehovah God’s spokespeople on earth?
- Bro GJ. That I think would seem to be quite presumptuous to say that we are the only spokesperson that God is using. The scriptures clearly show that someone can act in harmony with God’s spirit in giving comfort and help in the congregations, but if I could just clarify a little, going back to Matthew 24, clearly, Jesus said that in the last days – and Jehovah’s Witnesses believe these are the last days – there would be a slave, a group of persons who would have responsibility to care for the spiritual food. So in that respect, we view ourselves as trying to fulfil that role.
Bro Jackson said that it is “quite presumptuous to say that we [the Governing Body] are the only spokesperson that God is using”.
So, what other spokesperson does God use? None according to WT publications.
Why, for example, in the publications such as the Study Edition of November 2016 Watchtower on page 16 in paragraph 9 they claim “9 Some may feel that they can interpret the Bible on their own. However, Jesus has appointed the ‘faithful slave’ to be the only channel for dispensing spiritual food. Since 1919, the gloriﬁed Jesus Christ has been using that slave to help his followers understand God’s own Book and heed its directives. By obeying the instructions found in the Bible, we promote cleanness, peace, and unity in the congregation. Each one of us does well to ask himself, ‘Am I loyal to the channel that Jesus is using today?’ ”
We can obey the instructions found in the Bible without reading anything from the Governing Body. For example, we do not need help to understand the Bible’s command not to engage in fornication, adultery, and homosexuality. It is plain for all to see.
In addition, if the reality is that other spokespersons are used by God, (or none are used, the more likely scenario according to the scriptures), then why can a Witness be disfellowshipped for saying that they do not agree with everything the Governing Body says and write?
So, are the Governing Body in the publications being ‘presumptuous’ in Brother Jackson’s words, or was he lying while under oath to a perfectly legitimate question? Either scenario is disturbing and needs a clear answer because of the implications.
- Q. Thank you, Mr Jackson. I will come to the question of adjustments, and so on, in a moment, but from what you have said, am I to understand that the Governing Body seeks to obey Jehovah God?
- Bro GJ. Absolutely.
- Q. And that the branches seek to obey the Governing Body?
- Bro GJ. First of all, the branches seek to obey Jehovah. We’re all in the same arrangement. But because they recognise a central body of spiritual men who give spiritual direction, then we would assume that they would follow that direction or, if something is not appropriate, that they would identify that.
- Q. In turn, the congregations are expected to obey the branches?
- Bro GJ. Again, first of all, they have to obey Jehovah God. That is the very first thing that they need to do. But if direction is given based on the Bible, we would expect that they would follow that because of their respect of the Bible.
Who is the head of the Christian Congregation?
‘(Ephesians 1:22) (NWT) . . .and made him [Jesus] head over all things to the congregation,’
Why was Jesus bypassed in this answer and not mentioned? Do they obey Jehovah and not Jesus Christ? (An examination of the Watchtower Study editions [in 2016 for e.g.] will reveal Jehovah is mentioned 10 times more than Jesus the Head of the Christian Congregation)
- Q. Does your church accept corporal punishment of children?
- Bro GJ. Our church accepts the family arrangement and expects that parents have the responsibility to discipline and raise their children.
- Q. That doesn’t answer my question. Do you accept corporal punishment?
- Bro GJ. I see. In our literature, I think you will see time and time again we’ve endeavoured to explain that here “discipline” is referring to more a mental point of view, not corporal punishment.
- Q. I am going to tell you, you are still not answering my question.
- Bro GJ. Oh, sorry.
- Q. Do you accept corporal punishment?
- Bro GJ. No.
- Q. You don’t?
- Bro GJ. Not – not personally, no, and not as an organisation – we don’t encourage it.
- Q. But do you prohibit it?
- Bro GJ. Our literature has pointed out that the true way to discipline children is by educating them, not giving corporal punishment. Your Honour, I can only tell you the spirit behind our writings.
Why not answer the question directly? What can be wrong in respectfully stating a biblical view based on clear scriptures even if it is unpalatable to the listeners?
- Q. Mr Jackson, is there any biblical impediment to a woman being appointed to investigate an allegation?
- Bro GJ. There is no biblical impediment to a woman being involved with the investigation.
- Q. Is there any biblical impediment to a determination, a judicial determination, being made by a body which includes women, although the elders thereafter may respond as the decision-maker in relation to what happens to someone after a decision has been made as to the truth or not of an allegation?
- Bro GJ. Now, to answer your question directly, women can be involved in this very sensitive area, but biblically speaking, the role of the judges in the congregation lays with men. That’s what the Bible says and that’s what we endeavour to follow.
What does Judges 4:4-7 say?
NWT Ref (Judges 4:4-7) 4 : “Now Debʹo·rah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapʹpi·doth, was judging Israel at that particular time. 5 And she was dwelling under Debʹo·rah’s palm tree between Raʹmah and Bethʹel in the mountainous region of Eʹphra·im; and the sons of Israel would go up to her for judgment. 6 And she proceeded to send and call Baʹrak the son of A·binʹo·am out of Keʹdesh-naphʹta·li and to say to him: “Has not Jehovah the God of Israel given the command? ‘Go and you must spread yourself out on Mount Taʹbor, and you must take with you ten thousand men out of the sons of Naphʹta·li and out of the sons of Zebʹu·lun. 7 And I shall certainly draw to you at the torrent valley of Kiʹshon Sisʹe·ra the chief of Jaʹbin’s army and his war chariots and his crowd, and I shall indeed give him into your hand.’”
Surely Bro Jackson should have remembered that Deborah was a judge.
We also need to ask the question: Is there really any scriptural basis to stop women from playing a fuller part in reaching a decision on Judicial Matters? After all, they are not teaching if they assisted in cases involving other females.
- Q. Are you able to give an overarching explanation as to when it is that what is said in the Bible should be taken literally and when it should be given an expansive interpretation as in this instance?
- Bro GJ. Very good. The answer is Jehovah’s Witnesses – you see, it is not a matter of seven men in the Governing Body taking one verse and saying, “What do you think it means? Jehovah’s Witnesses try to use the Bible to explain itself. So here, in 1 Corinthians chapter 4, if we were to take the viewpoint that this literally means that a woman cannot speak, then we would be not going in accordance with the context. So the answer to your question is you have to have the whole picture, and that is something that, for yourself – and this is obviously said in all due respect – someone who reads the Bible their whole life should understand the whole picture. And perhaps by means of helping you with regard to that, there are two other scriptures. One is in 1 Timothy chapter 2, which I believe his Honour referred to in the Commission, page 1588, and there it says, verses 11 and 12: Let a woman learn in silence with full submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man, but she is to remain silent. Now, you will notice the asterisk gives the alternative to that “to remain calm, remain quiet”. So obviously, this is talking about the role of women not jumping up, excitedly arguing with others. And it’s similar to what 1 Peter – and, please, bear with me – chapter 3 says with regard to a woman who is married to a non-Christian. In 1 Peter chapter 3, that’s page 1623, Mr Stewart – have you got it?
- Q. No, I haven’t, but I am sure you will read it to me, Mr Jackson?
- Bro GJ. Okay. Verse 1 of 1 Peter, chapter 3: In the same way, you wives, be in subjection to your husbands, so that if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives …Now, to take the position that the expression “without a word” means they would never, ever, ever speak to their husband would be a misapplication of scripture. So the Governing Body, when we consider these things, is very much aware of trying to get the whole context of things. Otherwise it’s like asking two people for an opinion on something and getting three different opinions. If someone just takes one verse, they could have all sorts of opinions about it, but the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses is to try to understand the whole Bible as one message from God.
Bro Jackson emphasizes the important point that context is vitally important in understanding the bible. We should therefore all strive to avoid reading and applying specific verses from scripture without knowing and having read the context, which may in some instances include the whole Bible book or a number of Bible books.
- Q. Mr Jackson, that is exactly the point I want to get to. You will be familiar – and perhaps we can go to it – with Deuteronomy 22:23-27? Then it says:
- If a virgin is engaged to a man, and another man happens to meet her in the city and lies down with her, you should bring them both out to the gate of that city and stone them to death, the girl because she did not scream in the city and the man because he humiliated the wife of his fellow man. So you must remove what is evil from your midst.
- And then the next example is the one I am particularly interested in:
- If, however, the man happened to meet the engaged girl in the field and the man overpowered her and lay down with her, the man who lay down with her is to die by himself, and you must do nothing to the girl. The girl has not committed a sin deserving of death. This case is the same as when a man attacks his fellow man and murders him. For he happened to meet her in the field, and the engaged girl screamed, but there was no one to rescue her.
- So the point of this last example is that there’s no second witness, is there, because the woman is in the field, she screamed, but there was no-one to rescue her; do you accept that?
- Bro GJ. Could I explain, Mr Stewart, that – you see, I think already under testimony some of Jehovah’s Witnesses have explained that the two-witnesses needed can be, in some cases, the circumstances. I think there was an example given —
- Q. I will come to that, Mr Jackson. We will get through this a lot quicker and easier if we just address it one step at a time?
- Bro GJ. Okay. So the answer to your question —
- Q. The present step is this: in that example, you accept it is a case where there was no other witness beyond the woman herself?
- Bro GJ. There was no other witness except the woman herself, but added to that were the circumstances.
- Q. Yes. Well, the circumstances were that she was raped in the field?
- Bro GJ. . Mmm-hmm. Yes, they were the circumstances.
- Q. There being only one witness, it was nevertheless sufficient for the conclusion that the man should be stoned to death.
- Bro GJ. Mmm-hmm. Yes.
- Q. Now, is it —
- Bro GJ. I think we’re agreeing on the point.
So interestingly Bro Jackson agrees the Bible allows for only one witness other than the accused in certain circumstances.
(This is if you do not count the accused as a witness. You also still have two witnesses if you count the accused as a witness. In most cases, by careful questioning, it could be possible for unrelated examiners to see if the explanation of the accused has the ring of truth and whether the accused can clearly disprove parts of the accuser’s story).
It is disappointing that this scripture has to be pointed out to a member of the Governing Body by a ‘worldly’ legal counsel questioning him.
Could not the Bible be indicating that the accused would count as the second witness?
- Q. Well, I will come to that, but my question is a different one. It’s whether the scriptural basis to the two-witness rule in relation to cases of sexual abuse has a proper foundation?
- Bro GJ. We believe it does because of the number of times that that principle is emphasised in the scriptures.
- Q. You will be aware, of course, in the case of adultery, so long as there are two witnesses to the circumstances of opportunity, that will be sufficient?
- Bro GJ. Yes.
- Q. So, in other words, there need not be two witnesses to the act of adultery itself, but only to the circumstances of opportunity?
- Bro GJ. Sorry, you would need to walk me through that a little further. I’m not quite sure.
- Q. I was trying to do it by a shortcut, but I will take you to the document. It is in the same Shepherd the Flock book, which is tab 120, at page 61. So you will see in – do you have paragraph 11 there?
- Bro GJ. Paragraph 11 – yes, I do.
- Q. This is also in the chapter dealing with determining whether a judicial committee should be formed:
- ‘Evidence (testified to by at least two witnesses) that the accused stayed all night in the same house with a person of the opposite sex (or in the same house as a known homosexual) under improper circumstances.’
- That’s the heading. Then it goes on to say:
- ‘Elders should use good judgment in assessing the situation before forming a judicial committee’‘
- And in the second dot point it says:
- ‘If there are no extenuating circumstances, a judicial committee would be formed on the basis of strong circumstantial evidence of porneia’.
- Bro GJ. Mmm-hmm.
- Q. You will see at the foot of the page there is an example of a married brother spending an inordinate amount of time with his female secretary, and two lines from the bottom it says:
- “Later, when he claims to be leaving overnight for a “business trip”, his suspicious wife and a relative follow him to the secretary’s home. They observe the opportunity for adultery to have taken place. “
- Then those two witnesses will be sufficient to establish the case. Do you see that?
- Bro GJ. I do see that.
- Q. So now, in the case of child sexual abuse, it should be, should it not, that a witness to an opportunity for the sexual abuse to have taken place would be the sufficient second witness?
- Bro GJ. Yes, if it’s – if there is no – what does it say here?
- Q. “Extenuating circumstances”?
- Bro GJ. Under improper circumstances.
- Q. So a second witness to circumstantial or corroborating evidence would be sufficient to fulfil the second witness requirement?
- Bro GJ. That’s a very large question and I think it’s something that we would need to consider carefully.
- Q. Well, it’s just important as to whether the second witness has to be a witness to the abuse itself or to what extent he or she can be a witness to circumstantial or corroborating evidence. So let me use an example. What about the trauma, evident trauma of the survivor – would that be able to be taken into account as corroborating evidence?
- Bro GJ. Yes, it would need to be taken into account, and if I could mention, Mr Stewart, these are the things that we’re interested in following up on after the Royal Commission, just to make sure that everything is in place, because certainly these are the things we are interested in.
It is unfortunate that the Holy Spirit did not help Bro Jackson to recall this vitally relevant principle from the Elder’s Handbook. So, based on God’s word what counts for 2 witnesses? Is another independent human witness confirming the story of the accuser required? Given that strong circumstantial evidence is obviously sufficient for some sins, why not for the case of child sexual abuse? See also the previous comment for the previous section. What about the reliability of the evidence of the accused?
- Q. Well, I am, indeed. So if someone hasn’t disassociated but has sought merely to become inactive or to fade, they are then still subject to the organisation’s discipline and rules?
- Bro GJ. If they acknowledge being one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
- Q. And if they do the contrary – which is to say they are not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses – the effect of that is disassociation?
- Bro GJ. That’s if they decide to go down that course.
- Q. And if they don’t actively disassociate, then they will be disfellowshipped as apostate?
- Bro GJ. No, an apostate is someone who actively goes against what the Bible teaches.
- Q. It’s right, isn’t it, that in the case of both disassociation and disfellowshipping, the remaining members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot associate with the disassociated or disfellowshipped person?
- Bro GJ. Yes, that’s according to the Bible principles, which I’m sure you have already read.
- Q. And that includes even family members not living in the same household?
- Bro GJ. That is correct.
- Q. So someone who wants to leave the organisation must choose, you accept, between freedom from the organisation on the one hand and friends, family and social network on the other?
- Bro GJ. I thought I made it quite clear that I don’t agree with that supposition. Are you talking about a gross sin that has been committed or someone who just wants to leave Jehovah’s Witnesses? Let me clarify it. If someone no longer wants to be an active Jehovah’s Witness and they are not in the community viewed as a Jehovah’s Witness, we do not have a so-called spiritual police force to go and handle that.
- Q. Mr Jackson, the reality of the situation is that a person who has been baptised a Jehovah’s Witness is thereafter either in the organisation or out of it; is that not right?
- Bro GJ. I think perhaps you have got your facts a little wrong there.
- Q. I don’t think that’s correct, because you have accepted already, Mr Jackson, that a person in the situation you have postulated of merely becoming inactive is still subject to the rules of the organisation?
- Bro GJ. Yes, but if I could mention, Mr Stewart, your first proposition you put forward, that they meet someone who is celebrating Christmas – you know, this person is not associating with other Jehovah’s Witnesses, not actively trying to change other people, and so on – a person such as that is not going to be handled judicially, as far as I understand. So, sorry, I have to disagree with you, but I hope you can see —
- Q. Mr Jackson, you are agreeing on the example of what they do wrong. That’s not my point. My point is they may do nothing wrong, but they are still subject to the rules of the organisation in the event that at some point they do do something wrong?
- Bro GJ. I will agree with that. But I don’t agree with the sweeping statement that they only have the two choices. That was the point I was disagreeing with.
- Q. Well, it’s right, then, isn’t it, because if they don’t want to be subject to the discipline and rules of the organisation, then they have to leave by actively dissociating; isn’t that the truth?
- Bro GJ. That’s if they definitely don’t want to be, yes.
- Q. Yes.
- Bro GJ. But there are some that do not want to make that active move.
- Q. Well, the result, then, is that they are faced with the choice between freedom from the organisation on the one hand and having to lose their family and friends and social network on the other?
- Bro GJ. That’s how you would like to put it, Mr Stewart, but I thought I’m trying to say that there are those, some of whom I have heard of, that just fade away and they are not actively Jehovah’s Witnesses.
- Q. And, Mr Jackson, you have put it that they have a choice to leave or not to leave. For someone who wants to leave, perhaps because they have suffered abuse by someone in the organisation and don’t feel that it has been treated properly or adequately, it’s a very difficult choice, isn’t it, because they must choose —
- Bro GJ. I agree, yes.
- Q. And it can be a very cruel choice for them – not so?
- Bro GJ. I agree, it’s a difficult choice.
Why should the organization make it so difficult for those who have lost their faith, perhaps due to abuse and the handling of such to leave? Surely this is the time when what they need is support or at least an absence of stress caused by the side effects of being disassociated. Surely Christian kindness would require that they be treated differently from those who leave and begin to persecute their former associates.
- Q. You see, let’s take someone who is baptised at a young age and then, as a young adult, decides that actually their beliefs lie elsewhere and they want to choose some other system of belief. They then are still going to be faced with the stark choice that we have identified, aren’t they?
- Bro GJ. That’s true.
- Q. And it’s on that basis, I suggest to you, that that policy and practice of the organisation is in conflict with the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ belief, as you have said it is, in freedom of religious choice?
- Bro GJ. No, we don’t see it that way, but you are entitled to your opinion. 
Young ones being encouraged to get baptized should think very, very carefully about this step. On the basis of this testimony, if say an 11-year-old got baptized, but when they reached 18 years old they decided they did no longer believed the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses or were stumbled by something like child sexual abuse happening to them and did not want to remain a witness, they would have to dissociate and risk being shunned by their family. They could not just leave quietly.
- Q. Do you recognise, Mr Jackson – and in asking this question, let me make it clear, I’m not suggesting it is peculiar to the Jehovah’s Witness organisation, there are many, many organisations in this position – but do you accept that the Jehovah’s Witness organisation has a problem with child abuse amongst its members?
- Bro GJ. I accept that child abuse is a problem right throughout the community and it’s something that we’ve had to deal with as well.
- Q. Do you accept that the manner in which your organisation has dealt with allegations of child sexual abuse has also presented problems?
- Bro GJ. There have been changes in policies over the last 20 or 30 years, where we’ve tried to address some of those problem areas, and by the fact that they have changed the policy would indicate that the original policies weren’t perfect.
- Q. And you accept, of course, that your organisation, including people in positions of responsibility, like elders, is not immune from the problem of child sexual abuse?
- Bro GJ. That appears to be the case.
- Q. Do you accept, Mr Jackson, that many of the efforts that are being made by different people and organisations to highlight the issue of child sexual abuse and try and find solutions are genuine efforts to improve the situation?
- Bro GJ. I do accept that, and that’s why I’m happy to testify.
- Q. And that such efforts are not necessarily an attack on your organisation or its system of beliefs?
- Bro GJ. We understand that, too.
- Q. You described earlier in your testimony that the work of this Royal Commission is beneficial. Do you accept, then, that the Royal Commission’s efforts are genuine and well-intentioned?
- Bro GJ. I certainly do. And that’s why we came into the Royal Commission hoping that collectively something would come forward that would help us as well as everybody else.
Bro Jackson confirms that he views the work of the commission as NOT an attack on Jehovah’s Witnesses or their beliefs and the commission’s aims are genuine and well-intentioned.
- Was the Watchtower Society specially targeted? No, Case Study 29 was 8 days out of 3 years plus of hearings (potentially approx. 780 working days) i.e. 1%. Also, see point (xiv) above.
- Is the Australian Royal High Commission on Child Abuse an apostate website or was it provoked by opposers or apostates? No, most definitely not. It is on the same lines as commissions set up in the UK by the government (often headed by the judiciary) to review and examine subjects or events of national importance for example: the Hillsborough Football Stadium Disaster, and the Iraq Commission.
See http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/case-study/636f01a5-50db-4b59-a35e-a24ae07fb0ad/case-study-29,-july-2015,-sydney.aspx. All quotes unless otherwise stated are from the downloaded documents available on this site and used under the “fair use” principle. See https://www.copyrightservice.co.uk/copyright/p09_fair_use for further information. ↑
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