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A candle-maker in the cozy western Kentucky town of Draffenville, Bill Bowen has been a devoted Jehovah's Witness all his life. For nearly seven years, he has served as an elder in his local Kingdom Hall. As part of his job, he maintained confidential files for the 50-person group. The recent discovery of one file left Bowen stunned. "I came across some information that raised questions as to whether or not a child was molested," he says.

Yet Bowen says when he approached his fellow elders about the situation, they turned a blind eye toward the evidence and did little to help the victim. "I discovered how corrupt this organization was in terms of hurting children," Bowen says. In protest to the elders' response, Bowen, 43, resigned his position as an elder. He is part of a growing group of former and current Jehovah's Witnesses speaking out against a policy they claim is protecting child molesters in Jehovah's Witness circles nationwide.

A reluctance to report

Bowen says that to avoid embarrassment or shame, Witness leaders discourage followers from reporting any incident of sexual misconduct to authorities, even if the law requires it, citing the November 1995 issue of the organization's magazine, The Watchtower. The publication says that Witnesses must follow the biblical standard of finding two or three eye-witnesses to verify a claim before making an accusation of abuse (referencing 2 Cor. 13:1 and 1 Tim. 5:19).

Otherwise, it says, the matter should be dropped, and the accused should be treated as innocent. For those who recall repressed memories of sexual abuse, The Watchtower statement said, "The nature of these recalls is just too uncertain to base judicial decisions on them without other supporting evidence."

J. R. Brown, ...

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In the Magazine

March 5, 2001

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