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The Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses has issued a letter to all bodies of elders, giving instructions on how to handle accusations of child sexual abuse among their members or individuals associated with the religion. Dated August 1, 2016, the letter replaces previous instructions given in October 2012.
The organization has been hit with a steady stream of lawsuits and investigations over the past several years, due to what is perceived as a poor record of handling child sexual abuse allegations. The most notable lawsuits are the Candace Conti and the Jose Lopez cases, both in California and both resulting in multi-million dollar payouts by Watchtower.
In 2015 the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse investigated the Jehovah’s Witness religion, and currently the U.K. Charity Commission is working on conducting its own investigation.
The Australian Royal Commission called for sweeping changes in the way Watchtower responds to abuse allegations, including involving women in the decision-making process (I published an article in May regarding some of Watchtower’s statements on women) and not being so strict with the “two witness rule” (this rule says that, in the absence of a confession by the abuser, or some definitive physical evidence, there must be a second witness to the abuse, or else no action is taken against the abuser). The Commission also called for elders to contact the relevant authorities regarding each accusation, something that can often be done anonymously.
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