KSDK, Feb. 13, 2003
Another religious organization is under attack, facing lawsuits for silencing victims, and placing children at risk.
This time it is not priests making headlines, but members of the Jehovah Witness Faith. Angelica Taylor from St. Louis says a member of her church robbed her of her childhood more than 20 years ago. She is speaking publicly now because she says she’s been silent too long.
She says she was silenced by a church elder to whom she went for help when she was 8. According to Taylor, the elder said, “This is what happened. It’s over and done with. You can’t change it. You just need to be more spiritual. You just need to get more involved in church.” Taylor says the elder never investigated, called police, or offered to get her counseling.
There are an estimated 12-thousand Jehovah’s Witnesses in the metro area. Jehovah’s Witnesses are Evangelical Christians best known for going door to door handing out literature. They do not celebrate birthdays, or Christmas. They also do not believe in blood transfusions, military service, or saluting the flag. In the world of Jehovah, anyone outside the church, is part of Satan’s world.
Bill Bowen, a former church elder from Kentucky said, “There was a cover-up and secrecy. It was a policy and practice of the religion to prevent not only the victim but also even members within the faith from knowing child molesters were in their midst.”
Bowen became disgusted with the church’s handling of molestation cases and started a web page for victims, exposing what he says is a terrible evil. Bowen claims church headquarters in New York has a data base containing the names of 23 thousand alleged pedophiles.
Church spokespeople admit the database exists but would not confirm the number of names on it. J.R.Brown is a spokesperson for Jehovah’s Witnesses. He said, “The total number is not significant. this data base has been compiled over a period of 20 years. It contains not just a list of pedophiles but many persons who could be harmful along that line to our congregation.”
Brown says they don’t turn the list over to police because some of the allegations aren’t substantiated. Brown says its purpose is to enable them to keep track of persons who may be potentially harmful to the congregation.
Church leaders say they do not influence, hamper or obstruct reporting of criminal matters. Brown stresses, “We would see the first responsibility of reporting is the parents. we do not see to interfere with that or direct them as to what to do.”
St. Louis Elder Patrick Collins invited us to his home and to a Bible study. He doesn’t know Angelica Taylor but says in cases of child molestation there would need to be two or three witnesses or convincing evidence for action to be taken.
Collins said, “In the Bible it does say let every matter be established by two or three witnesses. He said she said circumstances is something we can’t take any action.”
Angela says the two witness policy is something that needs to change. She said, “When someone comes and says we’ve been molested, pick up the phone and call police Yeah, you may find you got pedophiles in your organization and you know what? It doesn’t matter, its not going to destroy you.”
Fourteen women have filed suit against the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ home office. Bowen expects more than 100 additional suits to be filed this year