- Note: Following are my thoughts on what took place at the Royal Commission and afterward. As I study the information more, I will add to this post.
First of all, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Herin referred to as the Royal Commission) is not a court hearing. It is the same as a Senate Committee or Commission in the United States. (Such as the PMRC or McCarthy era hearings, from which little appears to have been learned.) It is legislative, not judicial. Thus, anything coming out of the Royal Commission cannot serve to condemn Jehovah's Witnesses. It can only result in developing laws that affect how Jehovah's Witnesses and other organizations deal with the issue of child sex abuse. It cannot make rulings for or against any one organization or levy penalties on that organization except as that organization breaks laws related to its participation in the hearing.
The Royal Commission's findings are not subject to the rigors of a court of law, which is why the hearings lack much of the legal language found in courts of law. It is, in fact, for that reason that the hearing was called, for the fact that a court of law can do nothing. However, a public hearing can damage our reputation by presenting a mass of unsubstantiated claims and paint our rebuttals any way they like, just as Angus Stewart has done; things which a judge is not allowed to do and a prosecutor would not be allowed to do all the leading questions and twisting the story that he did in the Royal Commission.
Those performing questioning can do whatever they feel necessary to influence and even prejudice the members of the commission without clear evidence and even much supposition and conjecture, things normally frowned upon in courts of law. And certainly, much lack of evidence and force of mere speculation and volume of circumstantial or even fabricated evidence was allowed without adequate consideration of its veracity. The commission concerned itself with interpretation of scripture, which courts of law in Australia will all reject any such consideration, just as they do in America and the European Court of Human Rights.
If it had been a court of law, the only thing that would have mattered was what was actually written in our publications about procedures for dealing with child molestation and whether there were any procedures in action during 1982 and 1988 that would have led to the incidents that occurred. The knowledge of one man would not have been the basis. If it were only a matter of what we teach now, the cases in 1982 and 1988 would have been thrown out of a court of law. But because this was not a legal case heard in a court of law, there are no standards of evidence or prosecution except as relate to the Royal Commission's established rules of order.
Think: If our organization were such a "pedophile paradise", as our opposers cilaim, then would they not have been able to find more recent cases? It seems to be pretty slim pickings to go all the way back to the 80's, with just 2 cases separated by 6 years, for justification.
In fact, in his very opening statements, Angus Stewart broke from the tradition of previous counselors in the Case Study hearings and immediately went to assassinating the character of the organization as if we were being prosecuted. While in previous hearings the counselors were only concerned with facts and were conciliatory toward the operations of other religious organizations, Angus Stewart wasted no time in villifying the organization, painting it in the worst possible terms, which reflected the false claims of our opposers. In fact, he broke almost entirely from the purpose of the hearings to turn it into a kangaroo court.
Jehovah's Witnesses Do Not Make Or Enforce LawThe Royal Commission proposed the idea that Jehovah's Witnesses should somehow police its members so as to protect its membership without actually proposing or comparing a system by which such should or could be done. However, Jehovah's Witnesses are not a policing organization, but are a religious organization concerned only with helping individuals qualify for salvation as they believe is laid out in the Scriptures. Governments are responsible for prosecuting crimes. A religion can only go so far as to protecting the congregation from unrepentant sinners by shunning them. It is not the responsibility of the organization to guess at whether a person will commit a crime again except as they demonstrate a lack of repentance.
The Royal Commission claimed that Jehovah's Witnesses did not do enough to protect the congregation from pedophiles, and yet decried our use of shunning as damaging to perpetrators and their families. Do we need to discuss the prison environment where people are physically removed from their families, robbed of freedom and subjected to exposure to more dangerous criminal elements?
Victim's RightsThe Royal Commission decried our use of elder men as judges in the congregation judging matters of molestation victims in which the perpetrator is a male, but fail to consider that many of Australia's court cases with male perpetrators of child sex abuse and rape are often tried by men without consideration for the victim's feelings.
Just as the Submission on behalf of Jehovah's Witnesses to the Royal Commission, part 3.27, states, "It is the right of a parent to initiate or make a complaint on behalf of a child." Jehovah's Witnesses have never had a policy of blocking or punishing such action.
All questions asked should have been relevant to these two questions: (1) What can and should be done to better protect children from sexual abuse? and (2) What are, and what should be, the best responses to take when it occurs? However, the Royal Commission went off on tangents unrelated to those two questions and ultimately decried what actions we do take without proposing anything better.
In effect, it was a witch hunt seeking to make us look bad, assuming our guilt without providing a standard against which we should be measured, and without the legal authority to declare us guilty of anything, all based upon two cases that were not handled well by local congregations in the 1980's because little was known about the issue of how to handle child sex abuse cases at that time.
This is not to say that there have not been problems, but that there was no actual intent to help us adjust our policies as they stand currently, but to condemn us for failing to act according to modern standards in a time before the modern standards existed.
I can only hope that fair laws that do not violate our Bible-trained consciences are what result, and not some blanket banning on some aspect of our work in a continuation of a witch hunt, as so many other governments have done that have been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights, the UN, the ACLU, and Amnesty International.
Flip-side News: Governing Body Member Demonstrated Correct Procedure
Flip-side News: Look Out for: The Deceivers
Flip-side News: Opposers Want Ex-Criminals to Stop Confessing Sins