Source: The Guardian
By Harriet Sherwood
Two ex-members tell independent inquiry the church believes it is ‘answerable only to God’
Two former Jehovah’s Witness elders have called for mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse, saying the organisation believes it is “answerable only to God”.
Duncan Corbett, who was an elder for 18 years, told the independent inquiry into child sexual abuse that the protection of minors and the handling of abuse claims must be taken out of the church’s hands. “Let them deal with the sin and the authorities handle the crime,” he told a hearing in London.
Lloyd Evans, another former elder who now campaigns against religious fundamentalism, said: “This is a group that feels they are answerable only to God … They don’t feel as though they need to yield to any regulations that are imposed on them.”
The pair, along with another former Jehovah’s Witness and a survivor of abuse, Sarah Davies, painted a picture in evidence to the inquiry of an organisation that demanded that its leaders be unquestioningly respected and obeyed, and that shunned members who failed to comply with its strict codes.
Davies, whose father was an elder and whose childhood was dominated by religious meetings and Bible study, said she was taught that “we were God’s chosen people” and that everyone outside the faith was “controlled by Satan”. “The congregation is your life … I knew no different,” she said.
Evans, who rarely met people outside the faith as a child, said there was “no room for deviation” within the Jehovah’s Witnesses. “It can’t be overstated, the authority and influence that elders have,” he said.
According to Corbett, elders are told that their appointment has been “approved by the Holy Spirit”. It was “drilled into the congregation that they must be submissive,” he said.