The elephant in the room

The Two Witnesses Rule. When Is it Scriptural to Apply it as a Principle?

 Based partially on a Watchtower “Question from Readers” Article (WS Study 12/2019 p.14)

The so-called Two Witnesses Rule is applied very strictly within the Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses to child sexual abuse accusations. Is it scriptural to apply it as a rule or should it be a principle?

The question raised and discussed in the “Question from Readers” article appearing in the December 2019 Study Watchtower is as follows:

“The Bible says that at least two witnesses are needed to establish a matter. (Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; Matthew 18:16; 1 Timothy 5:19) But under the Law, if a man raped an engaged girl “in the field” and she screamed, she was innocent of adultery and he was not. Given that others did not witness the rape, why was she innocent while he was guilty?”

The real question should be:

Does the Bible really say that at least two witnesses are needed to establish all matters?”

Other pertinent questions are:

Is it just a matter of conjecture that two witnesses are required in cases of child sexual abuse?

Should Christians be guided by principles and love, or by inflexible rules and requirements?

The second part of the question from the “Question from Readers” quoted above (in bold), has been used in the Watchtower article to support the Governing Body and the Watchtower Organization’s “head in the sand” attitude over dealing with allegations of child abuse. Given that the Governing Body and the Organization always insists on two witnesses in the case of child sexual abuse, this question needs answering. Does the Governing Body and the Organization actually provide irrefutable evidence from the scriptures that there is always a requirement of two witnesses? Let us examine how the Organization answers this question based on the passage being quoted from, Deuteronomy 22:25-27.

The passage being discussed is Deuteronomy 22:25-27. This passage reads “If, however, it is in the field that the man found the girl who was engaged, and the man grabbed hold of her and lay down with her, the man who lay down with her must also die by himself, 26 and to the girl you must do nothing. The girl has no sin deserving of death, because just as when a man rises up against his fellowman and indeed murders him, even a soul, so it is with this case. 27 For it was in the field that he found her. The girl who was engaged screamed, but there was no one to rescue her”.

Firstly, let us put this passage from Deuteronomy in true Biblical context before we go on to review the Watchtower article’s answer.

How can we do that? Context, context, context is one of the most important things in understanding the meaning of scripture. We will therefore closely examine the context of this passage of scripture.

Before continuing it is also important and necessary to point out the following point to be kept in mind as we discuss this subject.

  • Child Sexual Abuse is the rape of a minor.
  • Child Sexual Abuse is considered a serious crime in most countries of the world.
  • Child Sexual Abuse is not specifically mentioned in the Bible, and hence there are no specific instructions on how such a case should be dealt with.
  • Child Sexual Abuse virtually never has two witnesses but is perpetrated in secret.
  • Child Sexual Abuse is a serious abuse of trust by the adult abuser.
  • Children cannot by law in most countries, be deemed to have consented to or have taken part in a criminal action, or sexual relations, especially with adults.
  • In this light, it would make sense that relevant principles used in dealing with adult rape cases in scripture could be applied.

Scenario 1 – No Two Witnesses Rule

Deuteronomy 22:13-21 deals with the scenario where a husband marries a woman and after a while begins slandering her, accusing her of not being a virgin when he married her.

The passage reads “In case a man takes a wife and actually has relations with her and has come to hate her, 14 and he has charged her with notorious deeds and brought forth a bad name upon her and has said, ‘This is the woman I have taken, and I proceeded to go near her, and I did not find evidence of virginity in her’; 15 the father of the girl and her mother must also take and bring forth the evidence of the girl’s virginity to the older men of the city at the gate of it; 16 and the girl’s father must say to the older men, ‘I gave my daughter to this man as a wife, and he went hating her. 17 And here he is charging her with notorious deeds, saying: “I have found your daughter does not have evidence of virginity.” Now this is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity.’ And they must spread out the mantle before the older men of the city. 18 And the older men of that city must take the man and discipline him. 19 And they must fine him a hundred silver shekels and give them to the girl’s father, because he brought forth a bad name upon a virgin of Israel; and she will continue to be his wife. He will not be allowed to divorce her all his days.

20 “If, though, this thing has proved to be the truth, evidence of virginity was not found in the girl, 21 they must also bring the girl out to the entrance of her father’s house, and the men of her city must pelt her with stones, and she must die, because she has committed a disgraceful folly in Israel by committing prostitution in the house of her father. So you must clear away what is bad from your midst.”.

Obviously, given the nature of the event it was highly unlikely there would ever be two witnesses to the marriage consummation, so how was the matter handled? It appears that a small sheet or mantle was used on the wedding night, which would get stained with the small amount of blood from the breaking of the woman’s hymen on the occasion of her first sexual intercourse in the consummation of the marriage. This sheet was then given to the woman’s parents, likely the following day, and kept as evidence of her virginity. It could then be produced by the parents of the woman in the event of such an accusation being made against the wife. If innocence was proven in this way by the woman by the production of this piece of blood-stained cloth, the man was physically punished, and fined, with the fine going to the woman’s father as compensation for his name being slandered. Furthermore, the husband could not divorce his wife all her days.

Important points to note:

  • There was only one witness (the accused Woman) to defend herself.
  • Physical Evidence was allowed; Indeed, it was relied upon to corroborate the woman’s innocence or guilt.
  • Two Witnesses were not required. To put it bluntly, on the wedding night there would not be other people watching as the newlywed couple consummated their marriage.
  • A judgment was made without two witnesses. The judgment was based on physical evidence and the woman’s testimony.

Scenario 2 – No Two Witnesses Rule

Deuteronomy 22:22 deals with the scenario where a man was caught “in inflagrante delicto” with a married woman.

The verse reads “In case a man is found lying down with a woman owned by an owner, both of them must then die together, the man lying down with the woman and the woman. So you must clear away what is bad out of Israel.”

Here, there might be only one witness, although the finder could potentially call out for others to come and to witness the compromising situation. However, the compromising position which they should not have been in (a man who was not her husband having sexual relations with a married woman) and one witness were sufficient to establish guilt.

  • One witness to the compromising position of a married woman having sexual relations with a man who was not her husband was sufficient.
  • This was adultery on the part of the woman (being married).
  • On the part of the man, it was like theft of the woman’s husband’s most precious property.
  • Both man and married woman received the same punishment.
  • A judgment was made without two witnesses being necessary.

Scenario 3 – No Two Witnesses Rule

Deuteronomy 22:23-24 covers the scenario where a man and a virgin engaged woman have intercourse in the city. If the woman did not scream, and hence could have been heard, then both parties were considered guilty, and the act was treated as consensual rather than rape.

The passage reads as follows: “In case there happened to be a virgin girl engaged to a man, and a man actually found her in the city and lay down with her, 24 YOU must also bring them both out to the gate of that city and pelt them with stones, and they must die, the girl for the reason that she did not scream in the city, and the man for the reason that he humiliated the wife of his fellowman. So you must clear away what is evil from your midst.”

  • Again, circumstances acted as a witness, with the engaged woman treated as a married woman here, being in a compromising situation.
  • While we cannot be dogmatic, it makes logical sense that unless there was a confession, there would have to be either a witness or perhaps a pregnancy as evidence.
  • Both man and married woman received the same punishment if there was no scream as it was considered consensual.
  • If the woman screamed, then there would be a witness and she would be considered an innocent rape victim and only the man would be punished (with death).
  • It is not clear from this passage whether two witnesses were necessary or not. If it was, it certainly is not a clearly stated requirement.

Scenario 4 – No Two Witnesses Rule

This scenario is the subject of the Watchtower article.

Deuteronomy 22:25-27 is similar to Scenario 3 and covers the scenario where a man lies down with a virgin engaged woman in the field instead of the city. Here, even if she screamed, no one would hear her. Therefore, it was considered by default as a non-consensual act on the part of the woman, and hence rape and adultery on part of the man. The virgin woman is deemed innocent, but the man is to be put to death.

The account reads “If, however, it is in the field that the man found the girl who was engaged, and the man grabbed hold of her and lay down with her, the man who lay down with her must also die by himself, 26 and to the girl you must do nothing. The girl has no sin deserving of death, because just as when a man rises up against his fellowman and indeed murders him, even a soul, so it is with this case. 27 For it was in the field that he found her. The girl who was engaged screamed, but there was no one to rescue her.“.

  • Again, circumstances acted as the witness, with a presumption of innocence for the engaged woman as no one could render aid.
  • Circumstances also acted as the witness for the man, with a presumption of guilt for the man due to the compromising circumstances, for he should not have been alone with the engaged woman who was viewed as if already married. There is no stated need for corroborating evidence.
  • A judgment was made without two witnesses being necessary.

Scenario 5 – No Two Witnesses Rule

Deuteronomy 22:28-29 covers the scenario where a man lays down with a virgin woman who is neither engaged nor married.

It states “In case a man finds a girl, a virgin who has not been engaged, and he actually seizes her and lies down with her, and they have been found out, 29 the man who lay down with her must also give the girl’s father fifty silver shekels, and she will become his wife due to the fact that he humiliated her. He will not be allowed to divorce her all his days.”

Here the scripture passage does not differentiate between if it was consensual relations or rape. Either way, the man has to marry the woman and cannot divorce her all his life.

  • Here the man is deterred from rape and fornication as he will have to marry the woman and provide for her all her life.
  • Whether the accusation came from the violated woman, or from a third-party witness, did not matter here, the man gets the punishment.
  • A judgment was made without two witnesses being necessary.

Summary of Scenarios in Deuteronomy – No Two Witnesses Rule

Can we see a pattern appearing here? These are all scenarios where it is unlikely there would be any second witness. Yet judgment was to be given. Based on what?

  • Physical evidence, which showed whether the man or woman was guilty (Scenario 1).
  • Compromising circumstances taken as evidence (Scenarios 2, 3, 4 & 5).
  • Presumption of guilt of woman based on particular circumstances (Scenario 2 & 3).
  • Presumption of innocence in the woman’s favor in particular circumstances (Scenario 4 & 5).
  • Presumption of guilt of the man based on particular circumstances (Scenario 2, 3, 4 & 5).
  • Where both man and woman were guilty, equal punishment was meted out.
  • A judgment was made without the requirement for two witnesses.

These were clear, easy-to-remember laws.

Further, none of these laws mentioned anything about any requirement for additional witnesses. In fact, these scenarios would normally take place where and when there were no witnesses. For instance, if the woman was attacked in the city and screamed. Perhaps someone heard the scream, but there was no need for the witness of the scream to know who it was from or catch the man at the scene. In addition, as these cases were tried at the city gates, then a witness of the scream would come to know about what transpired and could come forward and testify.

Therefore we need to ask, as there are usually no witnesses to a child sexual abuse attack, why does the Organization apply different, more stringent criteria applied to allegations of child sexual abuse, than the Bible applies to fornication, adultery, or rape of adults? Furthermore, why does the Governing Body and the Organization instruct that everything should be kept quiet, denying other witnesses or evidence the opportunity to come forward?

As you can see, the main points for scenario 4 (referred to in the Question from Readers) are in line with the other 4 scenarios. Furthermore, the outcome for scenario 4 is very similar to scenario 5, where the man is also considered the guilty party.

In the light of the true context of Deuteronomy 22:25-27, therefore, let us now look at the Governing Body and the Organization’s answer to this scenario and the “readers” question.

The Governing Body’s Answer

The opening sentence states: “The account at Deuteronomy 22:25-27 is not primarily about proving the man’s guilt, because that was acknowledged. This law focused on establishing the woman’s innocence. Note the context”.

This statement is disingenuous at best. Of course, this account “is not primarily about proving the man’s guilt”. Why? “because that was acknowledged. There was no requirement of proof necessary to establish the man’s guilt. The law indicated that a man in these circumstances would be considered guilty. He had been in compromising circumstances of which he had full knowledge that he should have avoided. Full stop. No further discussion. End of argument.

However, contrary to the claim of the Watchtower article, the scripture does not focus “on establishing of the woman’s innocence”.

  • There are no instructions in the Bible account as to how to establish her innocence.
  • The reasonable conclusion is that it was imputed automatically that she was innocent, just as in some of the other scenarios.

Simply put, if the man was in the fields alone with a married woman and had intercourse with her, he could be automatically assumed to be guilty of adultery for being in that compromising situation in the first place. Therefore, if the woman claimed she was raped, the man had no defense to use against such an accusation.

We could speculate that perhaps the judges attempted to find a witness or witnesses that could put the woman in the same vicinity as the man at the same time. However, even if witnesses were found to this, they would be at best be only circumstantial evidence, and not a second witness to the actual event. It should be clear to reasonable persons that two witnesses to the act of rape or adultery were not required for judgment. With good reason too, because obviously, given the type of sin and the scenario circumstances, witnesses were unlikely to exist.

The remaining 4 small paragraphs of this so-called answer merely confirm the assumptions of guilt and innocence in this scenario (scenario 4) and scenario 5.

Watch out for the Elephant in the Room!

The elephant in the room
The Elephant in the room is Ignored!

So how does this Watchtower article address “the elephant in the room”, i.e. whether there really is a requirement for the two witnesses mentioned at the beginning in the so-called question from readers?

Putting it bluntly, the article just ignores it. The Organization does not even attempt to address how this would apply to this scenario nor any of the other four scenarios in Deuteronomy 22:13-29.

Should we be upset? Not really. In reality, the Governing Body and the Organization have just dug themselves into a bigger hole. How so?

A Hypocritical Stance

What about the principle the Governing Body and the Organization have now put in print, as found in paragraph 3, which reads:

In that case, the woman was given the benefit of the doubt. In what sense? It was assumed that she “screamed, but there was no-one to rescue her”. So she was not committing adultery. The man, however, was guilty of rape and adultery because he “overpowered her and lay down with her”, the engaged woman”.

Can you see any difference between the wording of that scenario, and the following?

“In that case, the child was given the benefit of the doubt. In what sense? It was assumed that the child “screamed, but there was no one to rescue” the child. So, the minor was not committing fornication. The man (or woman), however, was guilty of child rape and adultery or fornication because he (or she) overpowered the minor and lay down with them, the unconsenting minor”.

[Please note: The child was a minor and cannot necessarily be expected to understand what consent is. Regardless of whether anyone takes the view that the minor could understand fully what was happening, under the law of most countries a minor cannot consent. In the UK, for example, there is the offense of statutory rape, where sexual intercourse took place between one party who is 16 or over and the other party who is under 16.]

There is absolutely no material difference between the latter statement which we created and the statement or principle given in the article, except in very tiny details which do not negate the seriousness of the situation in any way. The gravity of the situation is the same, if not more serious in the second (our) scenario. In fact, these small changes make the case even more compelling. If a woman is considered the weaker vessel, how much more so is a minor child of either sex.

Based on the statement in the Watchtower article, would it not be justice that the adult should be assumed to be guilty in the latter case with a minor child, even in the absence of any compelling evidence to the opposite? Also, that the child or minor should be given the benefit of the doubt instead of the abuser?

Clearly, if the hearing of an alleged abuser was heard in public by all the congregation, in the unlikely event the child or the child’s parent(s) had a grudge against the accused this could be raised and handled. But this is rarely the case.

Furthermore, based on the scenarios discussed in Deuteronomy 22, in a case dealing with child sexual abuse, the adult is the one in the compromising position and the one who should know better.

  • It does not matter whether the accused adult is the father or stepfather, mother or stepmother, uncle or aunt, to the victim, or whether they are an elder, ministerial servant, Bethelite or pioneer, in a position of trust or the accuser’s sibling or step-sibling.
  • The onus is on the abuser to prove they did not molest the minor by giving a provable alibi for all occasions.
  • It should not be for the weaker, at-risk party, to be required to prove their innocence and the guilt of the accused by with the provision of another witness to the incident, something which would be impossible to obtain in these circumstances.
  • Also, importantly, there is scriptural precedent shown in these scenarios examined, for physical evidence, perhaps in the form of medically obtained DNA evidence, and so forth, to be perfectly acceptable as an additional witness to the accusations of the victim. (Note the use of the mantle from the wedding night in scenario 1).

Blind guides, who strain out the gnat, but gulp down the camel!

One final point to think about. Why not ask someone who has lived in modern Israel for some time, how the law is applied there. The reply will be “the essence, or, the spirit of the law”.[1] This attitude differs greatly from the law in the USA or the UK or Germany and other countries where the application of the law is to the letter of the law, rather than the spirit or essence of the law.

We can see clearly how the Governing Body and the Organization stick to the “letter of the law” rather than “the essence, or the spirit of the law”, particularly with regard to the application of Bible principles to judgments related to child sexual abuse within the Organization. This is like the attitude of the Pharisees.

What a contrast the Governing Body and the Organization give to the secular state of Israel, that despite its secularism, applies the law according to the spirit of the law, following the principle of the Laws, as Jehovah intended and also as applied by Christ and the early Christians.

To the Governing Body and the Organization, therefore, we apply Jesus’ words from Matthew 23:15-35. In particular, Matthew 23:24 is very applicable, which reads “Blind guides, who strain out the gnat, but gulp down the camel!”. The Governing Body and the Organization are blind guides who have strained out and kept the requirement for two witnesses (the gnat), applying it in circumstances where there is no Biblical evidence that they should. In doing the Governing Body and the Organization gulps down and ignore the much bigger picture of justice (the camel). The Governing Body and the Organization have further also rigidly applied the letter of the law in the scenario of child sexual abuse instead of the essence of the law despite not applying this two-witness rule consistently across other problems.

An example of this can be found in the “Shepherd the Flock of God” book, the handbook for elders in chapter 12, page 81. Here it states regarding scenarios that would warrant a judicial committee being formed, ”Consider an example in which judicial action would be warranted: A married brother spends an inordinate amount of time with his female secretary after work hours but insists there is no romantic interest. His concerned wife informs the elders, who give him strong counsel. 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 secretary invite him inside at 10 p.m. and continue watching all night until he leaves the home at 7 a.m. When the elders speak to him, he admits that he spent the night with his secretary, but he denies that he committed adultery. In such a case, the elders have a basis to take judicial action because there is strong circumstantial evidence of por·neia and there may be elements of brazen conduct. The innocent mate’s conscience may allow her to divorce him and remarry; she should not be criticized if that is her decision.”.

Note that there are two witnesses to suspicious activities but not to any actual act of adultery. Yet action can be taken on what is circumstantial evidence. Yet one never hears of action being taken in a case of child sexual abuse based on circumstantial evidence. Why not? Because of the strict application of the requirement for two witnesses to the act of abuse! Why this strict application in this instance?

On page 93 the “Shepherd the Flock of God” book states about “Eyewitnesses: There must be two or three eyewitnesses, not just people repeating hearsay; no action can be taken if there is only one witness. (Deuteronomy 19:15-17; John 8:17; 1 Timothy 5:19, 24, 25) If there are two or three witnesses to the same kind of wrongdoing but each one is witness to a separate incident, the elders can consider their testimony. While such evidence is acceptable to establish guilt, it is preferable to have two witnesses to the same occurrence of wrongdoing. The testimony of youths may be considered; it is up to the elders to determine whether the testimony has the ring of truth. The testimony of unbelievers and disfellowshipped or disassociated ones may also be considered, but it must be weighed carefully.”.[2]

With those kinds of restrictions, if applied in a real court of law, there would never be anyone jailed for criminal acts. How many criminal acts have two eyewitnesses to the same incident? Do not many cases rely on physical evidence, such as the items stolen, or fingerprints or DNA or CCTV pictures. Or maybe a conversation heard by a friend or acquaintance of the accused. All of these things are effectively discounted from being valid testimony in a judicial hearing by elders.

We should conclude by taking a look at exactly when the Bible states that two or three witnesses were required.

The Actual Requirement for Two or Three Witnesses According to Scripture.

Hebrew Scriptures

The first relevant scripture is Deuteronomy 17:1-7.

We will quote the scripture in full so that the full context will be clear. “In case there should be found in your midst in one of your cities that Jehovah your God is giving you a man or a woman who should practice what is bad in the eyes of Jehovah your God so as to overstep his covenant, 3 and he should go and worship other gods and bow down to them or to the sun or the moon or all the army of the heavens, a thing that I have not commanded, 4 and it has been told you and you have heard it and have searched thoroughly, and, look! the thing is established as the truth, this detestable thing has been done in Israel! 5 you must also bring that man or that woman who has done this bad thing out to your gates, yes, the man or the woman, and you must stone such one with stones, and such one must die. 6 At the mouth of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one dying should be put to death. He will not be put to death at the mouth of one witness. 7 The hand of the witnesses first of all should come upon him to put him to death, and the hand of all the people afterward; and you must clear out what is bad from your midst.”

Notice the following important points about this.

  1. The case involved the death penalty if found guilty, so more witnesses were required for a more serious consequence.
  2. It was for false worship in the nation of Israel who had covenanted to serve Jehovah, a sin against God as opposed to a fellow human.
  3. There also would not be circumstantial evidence or specific circumstances, that could be relied upon to render an automatic innocent or guilty verdict.
  4. The trial (as with the trials for sexual misconduct discussed above) was conducted in public, at the city gates, not in secret. This allowed the opportunity for other witnesses to come forward. This also meant that people were warned even if there was only one witness.

Another relevant scripture is Deuteronomy 19:15-19 states “No single witness should rise up against a man respecting any error or any sin, in the case of any sin that he may commit. At the mouth of two witnesses or at the mouth of three witnesses the matter should stand good. 16 In case a witness scheming violence should rise up against a man to bring a charge of revolt against him, 17 the two men who have the dispute must also stand before Jehovah, before the priests and the judges who will be acting in those days. 18 And the judges must search thoroughly, and if the witness is a false witness and has brought a false charge against his brother, 19 YOU must also do to him just as he had schemed to do to his brother, and you must clear away what is bad from your midst.”

Deuteronomy 19:11-13 just previously discussed if someone hated someone and killed him and fled to the city of refuge. Deuteronomy 19:14 discusses the case where someone moved back the boundary marker of a fellowman or neighbor in an attempt to increase his own portion of land at the expense of the inheritance of his neighbor. These were potentially capital offenses and so as in Deuteronomy chapter 17, they required more witnesses before the capital punishment could be carried out.

This point is emphasized in Numbers 35:30 where it says “‘Whoever kills a person should be put to death as a murderer on the testimony of witnesses; but no one will be put to death on the testimony of just one witness.”. Notice that once again it is for capital punishment where if the accused one was pronounced guilty then they would lose their life, that two or three witnesses were required. A murderer seen by only one witness would not escape punishment, they would have to remain in the city of refuge.

There is also a small but very important difference between the offenses of murder and moving a boundary marker, and those of sexual misconduct. The sexual misconduct offenses involved two people, whereas the other offenses were committed by one person, likely with no witness. (The victim of a murder could not witness. Additionally, the moving of the boundary markers was typically done at night when no one could see). These non-sexual offenses, therefore, needed a heavier burden of proof for guilt to be established, whereas, to the contrary, the sexual offenses involving a man and woman had a limited number of scenarios and it was possible to establish default positions.

Christian Greek Scriptures

In the Christian Greek scriptures, we find the following scriptures where “two or three witnesses” are mentioned. They are:

Matthew 18:15-16 discusses taking along two or three witnesses if your brother has not listened to your attempt to lay bare his fault between you and him alone. This is not relevant to the serious crime of child sexual abuse, (or other serious crimes such as rape or murder) it is about two adults settling minor problems between each other.

2 Corinthians 13:1-2 where the Apostle Paul makes the point that he had witnessed to the Corinthians on 3 occasions that Jesus was using him and that should be enough for them. He was using the principle to show that he had met and gone beyond the burden of proof required for him to be accepted as sent by Christ.

The only scripture which has the slightest relevance to the discussion is 1 Timothy 5:19.

1 Timothy 5:19 records Timothy being instructed not to accept frivolous accusations against older men who had been setting the example in good conduct. Rather that there should be a heavier burden of proof against such outstanding examples of faithful ones serving the Christian congregation before taking action. It is also important to note that the apostle Paul had just been talking about not gossiping and meddling in others’ affairs. However, it would be taking this scripture completely out of context to apply it to an older man who is not setting the example by being the subject of serious accusations of child sexual abuse or adultery, or even murder.

Today, given that child sexual abuse involves two people, albeit one a child, it would feasible and more reasonable to create a default position. It would also be important to create principles rather than rules that can never cater for every scenario. Some suggested principles based on the principles behind those for sexual misconduct between men and women in Deuteronomy could be as follows.

Principle 1 – If the accuser is a minor child then the default position would be that they are telling the truth.

Principle 2 – Encourage the child, along with a parent, or trusted friend to report what has happened to the police and other relevant authorities immediately.

Principle 3 – Evidence from Medical Professions or strong circumstantial evidence can be accepted as a witness.

Principle 4 – A second eyewitness to the abuse is not required to take congregational action against the abuser.

Actions Required by the Governing Body – End the Two Witnesses Rule.

  • The Governing Body and the Organization need to amend their policy on child sexual abuse to apply the essence of the scriptures rather than misapply the letter of the law. (see Matthew 23:23-24 “Woe to YOU, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because YOU give the tenth of the mint and the dill and the cumin, but YOU have disregarded the weightier matters of the Law, namely, justice and mercy and faithfulness. These things it was binding to do, yet not to disregard the other things. 24 Blind guides, who strain out the gnat but gulp down the camel!”). Yes, the Governing Body should cease to stick to their misapplied two-witness rule in matters of child sexual abuse, because in doing so they are disregarding the weightier matters of the Law, namely, justice, mercy, and faithfulness.
  • The Governing Body and the Organization need to cease to misapply these scriptures out of context and to cease to use related scriptures in a way that the writers did not intend. (see Revelation 22:18 “If anyone makes an addition to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this scroll; 19 and if anyone takes anything away from the words of the scroll of this prophecy,”)
  • The Governing Body and the Organization through the elders should actively encourage and assist the abused victim to exercise their legal rights to report the abuse to the authorities. (see Romans 12:9 “Let [YOUR] love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is wicked, cling to what is good.”). If the Organization truly does abhor what is wicked then display it by seeing that such accusations are dealt with by secular authorities for the safety of others.
  • The Governing Body and the Organization should treat allegations of child sexual abuse with at least the same seriousness as allegations of rape and murder. It is a crime and therefore should be reported to the secular authorities in line with Romans 13:1-7 which states in part “Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God”.
  • The Governing Body and the Organization are complicit in covering up these allegations and hence are guilty. As a stern reminder, as Leviticus 5:1 so often quoted in the Organization’s Literature suggests, “Now in case a soul sins in that he has heard …” of an allegation of child sexual abuse “… and he is a witness or he has seen it or has come to know of it, if he does not report it, then he must answer for his error.
  • The Governing Body and the Organization should presume the child is telling the truth unless there is clear evidence to the contrary. Remember Jesus’ warning in Matthew 18:10 “See to it that YOU men do not despise one of these little ones; for I tell YOU that their angels in heaven always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven.”
  • The Governing Body and the Organization should allow other things to act as a witness to what is alleged to have happened, such as physical evidence of abuse, whether there is medical evidence, or DNA evidence, unexplained psychological mood changes on the part of the abused, or another witness\ victim to an attempt of the same type of offense on another occasion. The victims are themselves the first witness. (see Joshua 24:27 “this stone is what will serve as a witness against us”)
  • The Governing Body and the Organization should consider holding the judicial hearings in front of the congregation (as in ancient Israel) rather than in secret. This could encourage other victims to come forward. (See Deuteronomy 21:19 “bring him out to the older men of his city and to the gate of his place”) Child sexual abuse should not be hushed up in a secret Judicial committee meeting, and even if someone is disfellowshipped or reproved, giving no reason for that decision, and keeping other children and parents in the dark, and in potential danger.


  1. This was the reply given personally to the author by a Jewish person who lived in Israel for many years and still has family living there.

  3. See also

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