Open Letter to Dutch Government from Jehovah’s Witnesses

Open Letter from Jehovah's Witnesses to Dutch Government

The Jehovah’s Getuigen, as the Jehovah’s Witnesses are known in the Netherlands, wrote an open letter to the House of Representatives in The Hague in the Netherlands regarding government criticism of their handling of child sexual abuse. The following is that open letter signed by Michel van Ling, Dutch Branch Representative of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Download Letter in Dutch here.

To the President of the House of Representatives of the State General
Box 20018
2500 EA THE HAGUE

Emmen, 1 September 2020

RE: Open Letter

It is misleading and reprehensible that Minister Sander Dekker portrays Jehovah’s Witnesses as heartless and insensitive to victims of child abuse. We are therefore deeply offended by his incorrect statement in the letter of 27 August 2020 to the President of the House of Representatives that we prevent victims within our community from exercising their “right to help, care and justice”. We also find it deeply insulting and deeply discriminatory that the minister falsely labels Jehovah’s Witnesses as a “closed community” and that our children should be closely monitored by teachers and the educational inspectorate. In a modern society such inflammatory, offensive language has no place.

We therefore take this opportunity to rectify this and provide you with the facts.

Facts about the Utrecht report

Minister Dekker states that his claims are supported by the Utrecht University report of November 2019 (the UU report). What he does not acknowledge, however, is that three separate expert reports conclude that the report contains very serious errors and “has virtually no quantitative value” and is “unusable” for its intended purpose.1

Minister Dekker further states that the judge has also found Jehovah’s Witnesses wrong on appeal. But in fact, the Arnhem-Leeuwarden Court of Appeal in its judgment of 4 August 2020 (no.200.274.775) simply ruled that the appeal is no longer of urgent importance (section 5.3). The Court of Appeal has indicated that our appeal raises issues of principle under Articles 8, 9 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights and therefore in proceedings on the merits must be dealt with, instead of by means of summary proceedings (section 5.6). That procedure has not yet been found. We are confident that, once the trial takes place, the court will conclude that the report is fundamentally false, unreliable and discriminatory.

Minister Dekker also omits to mention that, despite many gross errors, the report nevertheless concluded that compared to the general population in the Netherlands, Jehovah’s Witnesses are much more willing to report an allegation of sexual abuse to the police. Among the general population, only 9% of allegations of sexual abuse are reported to the police and just 3% of the cases are reported to the police.2 In comparison, Jehovah’s Witnesses are 3 times more likely (27% vs. 9). %) willing to report to the police and 10 times as often (30% vs. 3%) to report (see pages 38-39 of the report and diagram 4). It is noteworthy that the minister does not recognize this fact, since the “willingness” of Jehovah’s Witnesses to report allegations of abuse would be the main reason why the House of Representatives has called for the report. Given these facts, why does Minister Dekker turn to Jehovah’s Witnesses for his widely reported false accusations in the media, even though he knows that the vast majority of adherents of all other religions and non-religious groups in the Netherlands do not report allegations of sexual abuse? He does not answer this.

Minister Dekker also does not acknowledge that the focus of the report was on persons who are or were Jehovah’s Witnesses at some point in their lives. Only 4% of allegations (15 charges) were made against an “elder or other authority within the community” over a 70-year period.3 The remaining 96% of allegations, which related to alleged abuse by family members, friends , neighbors, and others, thus had nothing to do with the faith community of Jehovah’s Witnesses (report, page 37, chart 3). No other research in the Netherlands, certainly not one commissioned or approved by the government, has been based on such a discriminatory definition of ‘sexual abuse’ whereby the only requirement was that the alleged victim or perpetrator was life would adhere to a particular religion.

Why has Minister Dekker not commissioned a comparable study into sexual abuse by adherents of the largest religions in the Netherlands, namely the Catholic Church, the Protestant religions, Judaism or Islam, which together make up 49% of the population? Especially since research shows that 33% of children in the Netherlands (not to mention adults) are victims of sexual abuse or sexual violence? 4 The 2011 study ‘Sexual abuse of minors in the Roman Catholic Church’, to which Minister Dekker referred in his letter to the House of Representatives, were not ordinary members of the Catholic Church. That study was limited to allegations of child sexual abuse against “representatives of the Roman Catholic Church Provinice – clergy, religious, pastoral workers with church employment.”5. Again, Minister Dekker provides no explanation for his discriminatory focus on Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Facts About the Beliefs and Practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses

Minister Dekker has also made incorrect statements about the beliefs and practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses, so we take the opportunity to rectify this by providing you with the facts.

Jehovah’s Witnesses provide comfort and spiritual assistance to victims of child abuse and their families. We believe this is our moral obligation. We adhere to the Bible, which condemns child sexual abuse as a crime.

439/5000Jehovah’s Witnesses also view child sexual abuse as a heinous sin against the victim, a sin against the Christian congregation, and above all, a sin against God. We don’t believe we are immune to this global scourge. We are committed to fighting this evil at its source by providing Biblical guidance in our congregations and providing continuous education on the topic of child sexual abuse.

Hence, Jehovah’s Witnesses have been publishing material in The Watchtower and Awake! Magazines for over 35 years. and in religious books and videos that provide parents with clear, timely and practical advice on how to protect their children from the harms of child sexual abuse. Such publications have appeared in hundreds of languages and hundreds of millions of copies have been printed. This material is freely accessible to our congregations and the general public, both in printed form and on the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses (www.jw.org).6

In 2018, a worldwide policy document for the protection of children by Jehovah’s Witnesses entitled “The Biblical Position of Jehovah’s Witnesses on the Protection of Children,” incorporating the guidelines and assistance for protecting children from sexual abuse outlined in previous religious publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses have been published. This global policy is published on the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses, www.jw.org, and is available in dozens of languages.7 The policy states that elders in congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses will enforce legal reporting once they become aware of an allegation of child abuse.

In jurisdictions without a legal duty to report, such as the Netherlands, elders will still actively report a child at risk of being abused by the accused. In all cases, the elders will inform the adult victim or the victim’s parents of their unconditional right to report to the legal authorities.

Additionally, in July 2019, all congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Netherlands (and the more than 119,000 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide) in three consecutive one-hour religious services covered three study articles from The Watchtower of May 2019, openly discussing the subject of child sexual abuse. was discussed. More than 10 million copies of that issue of The Watchtower have been printed in more than 275 languages. A further 6.7 million copies have been downloaded from the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses, www.jw.org.

Those three Watchtower study articles examine how to protect children from sexual abuse, how elders act in the interests of the congregation, including reporting such allegations to authorities, and how parents can protect their children . The articles also covered how to comfort those who experienced sexual abuse in their youth.8

To our knowledge, no religious institution has made such a worldwide effort as Jehovah’s Witnesses to address the subject of child abuse point by point in all of its congregations during religious services open to the general public. In each of the three weekend services, more than 8.5 million people worldwide participated in these discussions.

Contrary to what Minister Dekker claims, Jehovah’s Witnesses are an open and transparent faith community in which everyone’s privacy is respected. We take our faith seriously, but do not live in secluded communities separate from the world. We enjoy a completely normal life in society. The vast majority have full-time jobs, own or rent their own home, enjoy relaxation, and spend time with friends and family. Our children attend regular schools, go shopping, watch TV and movies, use the Internet, play sports and spend time with their peers. At the same time, it is logical that we primarily form friendships and seek association with those who share our beliefs and moral values.

It is insulting to anyone who actively provides assistance to the victims and their family members that Minister Dekker falsely claims that victims lack “accessible emotional and practical support”. The opposite is true.

The elders of our congregations seek to take a loving and active interest in the spiritual and emotional needs of those in the congregation. One way that elders do this is through pastoral support, which is always provided at no cost. Pastoral visits are an integral and regular part of the religious activity of the elders. They make pastoral support a priority, especially in cases of child sexual abuse. If the victim is female, the elders may be assisted by experienced women in the congregation. But elders recognize their limits. They are not healthcare professionals. Whether someone is looking for professional guidance is a personal decision.

In addition, Minister Dekker completely ignores the fact that Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Netherlands, including victims of child sexual abuse, can call our national religious office to discuss their concerns in confidence.

Internationally acclaimed experts outline serious shortcomings in the UU report. We would like to draw your attention to the expert report of 7 January 2020 from Holly Folk, Massimo Introvigne and J. Gordon Melton9

In the Netherlands, Jehovah’s Witnesses have a legacy of integrity that spans more than 110 years. According to a study by historian Tineke Piersma, there were at least 468 during the Nazi occupation
Witnesses arrested. 126 of them (108 men and 18 women) died in captivity, mostly from disease and deprivation. Others were executed. In Zwolle, a memorial commemorates Herman van Elburg, who died for his faith in Dachau concentration camp and left behind a wife and two young children10. 75 years later, more than 30,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses make a positive contribution to Dutch society. We therefore firmly distance ourselves from the false charge that we fail to care for victims of child sexual abuse.

We thank you for the opportunity to present these facts.

Yours sincerely,

On behalf of the board of
Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Netherlands

M. van Ling
Board Member

Attachments:

  • expert report dated 12 February 2020 from James Rothman (NL and EN);
  • expert report dated 7 January 2020 from Holly Folk, Massimo Introvigne, J. Gordon Melton (NL and EN);
  • expert report dated January 10, 2020 by Eileen Barker (NL and EN).

1 See expert report 12 February 2020 by expert statistician and researcher James Rothman, at points 24, 50 and 70; expert report January 7, 2020 from sociologists and researchers Holly Folk, Massimo Introvigne, J. Gordon Melton, at items 9, 101, 13-16,19-21, 23, 28, 30; see also expert report 10 January 2020 by sociologist Eileen Barker, at points 11-13; 19 and 36.

2 https://www.nationaalrapporteur.nl/binaries/nationaal-rapporteur.op-goede-grond.de-aanpak-van-seksueel-geweld-tegenkinderen.2014_tcm23-34727.pdf.

3 None of the allegations in the anonymous online questionnaire used by the report have been confirmed. The authors of that report admit that they “do not engage in truth-finding in this study” (report, page 29). The authors of the report also admit that because they used an anonymous online questionnaire, it was impossible to know whether: (1) each respondent who visited the questionnaire was an actual person and not just the same person who entered the questionnaire. (or parts of it) completed several times; (2) each respondent lived in the Netherlands; and (3) each respondent mentioned a different allegation and not the same allegation reported by someone else (report, p. 33)

4 National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children, On Good Ground – Tackling sexual violence
against children, The Hague, 2014, paragraphs 2.2.4.

5 W. Deetman, Sexual abuse of Minors in the Roman Catholic Church – Part I, Publisher Balans Amsterdam, 2011, p.18.

6 See Awake !, October 2007, “How to Protect Your Children,” pages 1-11 (available at https://www.jw.org/en/library/magazines/g200710/protect-your-children/); “How can parents teach their children about sex?” (2015), www.jw.org (available at https://www.jw.org/en/bible-teachings/questions/parents-teach-children-about-sex/); animation “Protect Your Children” (available at
https://www.jw.org/en/bible-teachings/children/become-jehovahs-friend/videos/protect-your-children/)

7 https://www.jw.org/en/news/legal/legal-resources/information/packet-jw-scripturally-based-position-child-protection/

8 https://www.jw.org/en/library/magazines/watchtower-study-may-2019/

9 https://www.tweedekamer.nl/kamerstukken/brieven_regering/detail?id=2020Z01108&did=2020D02325

10 https://www.jw.org/en/library/videos/#en/mediaitems/
VODIntExpEndurance/pub-jwbrd_201501_2_VIDEO

15 thoughts on “Open Letter to Dutch Government from Jehovah’s Witnesses

  1. J W Still wearing blinkers .I Live 10 YARDS from uk headquarters and have put up with jw lies for over
    5 years and will keep fighting them ,til they have no cult members.

      1. I download all the negatives of jw including pictures of the abusers from around the world and put it all on the notice board outside the jw premises when they take it down more goes up. Any one with negative info please send to me no matter how trivial.
        [email protected].

  2. It’s so nice to see that JWs still have support from Massimo Introvigne – the specialist of demons and vampires. The right man in the right place.

  3. Sad, they never admit guilt, or wrongs, when they print literature, it’s set in stone and you have no voice to dispute it, but a few years go by, and what was “The Truth” becomes obsolete. But if you didn’t swallow it then , you could get disfellowshipped. They call it “New light” I call it, New Lies! They have brought reproach on Jehovah’s mighty Name, by covering their wrongs, hiding pedophiles in their ranks, not caring for widows and orphans. They have sold dedicated To Almighty God meeting halls built by the hard work and donated funds of their congregants, the money taken. Yet they say they’re in a spiritual paradise, pretty sickening, the courts and governments will soon take from them and they will have to know it is Jehovah that has sent his punishment.

    1. ”Jehovah’s Witnesses are an open and transparent faith community in which everyone’s privacy is respected”

      This is a lie. There are so many secrecy in JW community. Their secret publications are not accessible by so many JW members. They label such publications ”confidential”

  4. The “Christian” congregation, I grew up in was governed locally by several “window washers” and ex-Bethelites. My oldest daughter was raped [by a non-JW] and all they were interested in was would the police/courts know that my daughter was one of Jehovah’s witnesses. Since the village we lived in was small and fairly close-knit, the local police did know and “Jehovah’s name” was mentioned in the newspaper report. As a result, I was hauled in before the “window washers” and threatened with disfellowshipment for allowing the name of Jehovah to be defamed.

    My reply was that if this happened, then the newspapers would known that my family not only had suffered because of this vile action, but that I had been thrown out of the organisation because I reported the incident to the police. I also threatened that I would also inform the newspapers that no counsel was offered by the “window washers” but instead we were told that we were not to accept any form of counselling by those who did not “love” Jehovah. In other words, my daughter who was only 16 would have to bear the psychological trauma on her own.

    Having been raised in the “truth” but my wife was a “convert” we had little faith in these “window washers” who ruled with a rod of iron. We decided to call their bluff and since they knew that i would proceed with my “threats” they backed down. We moved house into another congregation but life was never the same. The “window washers” spread the news of my daughters rape, and as expected, none of the children in the new congregation would either play or invite them to any gatherings. Their Parents couldn’t run the risk of my children contaminating their children since we were considered weak due to refusing to “obey Jehovah’s counsel” offered by the “window washers” Eventually the eldest 3 children refused to go to meetings but my son went along with us until such times as we decided enough was enough. We were spoken too at the meetings but never invited to any get togethers. Instead a talk was given on accepting counsel from those taking the lead. Everyone knew it was aimed at us.

    We stopped going to meetings but before we did, I explained to my son who was only 8 at the time that although we wouldn’t be going to meetings, we would arrange for someone to study with him and take him to the Hall if he chose to continue. His reply was “if I stop going to meetings, does that mean I can have Birthday and Christmas presents?” I said I can’t see why not. GOOD he said. “Can I have a Game Boy for Christmas?” The rest is history. All out but a price was paid regarding my siblings etc. Hey ho though. I now have a life worth living.

    1. Thats a dreadfully story you have just told us Eddie, but how like watchtower to be only concerned about itself. I’m so happy you have your whole family out.

  5. The first time Elders received instructions that JW victims were allowed to report abuse was in the early 2000. The first time I remember seeing this being written down in a watchtower is 2019. Yet, they say they wrote on the topic for over 35 years! Reality is that their public position has been much better in the last year, but they make it sound like it had been this way for decades! Not acknowledging all the wrong they did before that!

    They say that they report to the police even if they don’t have to and yet, there is no such instructions anywhere in their publications or elders procedural book. In fact, elders must call their headquarters FIRST to know if they should do it or not.

    They make it sound like JWs are allowed to have non-jw friends while publications, videos, talks and dramas make it clear that this goes against their faith.

    They say that they use the internet, but this again is highly controlled by the group. For instance, having a bookmark to an apostate site would automatically result in a serious talk with the elders.

    They talk about how they were victims of the Nazis… everyone was! EVERYONE! Especially the Jews! Why bring this up here if it’s not to obtain unwarranted sympathy or trying to make a link between the present government and the Nazi party?

    They view pastoral support as a priority. That’s the issue right there! If you’re victim of a crime, should your first instinct be to call the police or the elders?

    In their publications, they have spent quite some time talking about prevention, but have very little details about how to handle it once it has happened. For instance, there is no publication that explains:

    1) Their position on forensic science and it they accept it in their religious process.
    2) Can a rapist be forgiven? Is it automatic excommunication?
    3) When a rapist is re-instated, can he go back to the same congregation as his victim(s)
    4) What is the minimal time for a rapist to be re-instated?
    5) If they excommunicate someone for rape, why would they not report to the police? They do not protect the wider community.
    6) How many times have the WT or its representatives reported to the police? In which circumstances?

    Their letter make it sound like they covered all the angles about this problematic while they clearly have not.

  6. Look at those so-called “experts” cited by “Jehovah’s Org” – they are a joke:

    Massimo Introvigne – defender of Scientology, “expert” on Satanism, Vampirism. This has already been commented on profusely in the internet, hence, no further comments needed.

    Holly Folk – quote from https://works.bepress.com/holly_folk:

    “Holly Folk … is especially interested in groups that fall outside the ‘mainstream’, including new religious movements, communes and utopias, Native American religions, and Buddhism in America. Folk has presented papers on the history of chiropractic and religious utopianism. She has written many entries for The Encyclopedia of Evangelicalism, and her article on 19th century Catholic women appeared in The Encyclopedia of Women and Religion in North America. Folk is working on a book on early chiropractic and its ties to 19th century alternative medicine, and plans to continue to research how the metaphysical subculture of the Progressive Era responded to questions about science and religion.”

    “Evangelicalism” = bigoted fundamentalism. Shows what kind of “expert” she is.

    J. Gordon Melton – seems to be a buddy of Signore Introvigne, see https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Vampire_Book.html?id=BwmGVdVxJ18C. “He is the author of more than 25 books, including The Church of Scientology, The Cult Experience, …” – ooooooook.

    Eileen Barker – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eileen_Barker – this time, we are dealing with a defender of THE MOONIES. Quote:

    “She had received payment from the Church for expenses for a book and eighteen conferences from the Unification Church. Barker defended this by stating that it had been approved by her university and a government grants council, and saved taxpayer money.”

    This leaves room for the possibility that she also got money from the WTS – DONATION money, understood.

    Oh yeah – the “experts” of the JW.Org. What a joke. I hope Mr. Dekker is aware of those facts.

    1. Yes COMPLETE joke, the bigger joke is – that watchtower might be thinking that Mr. Dekker is not aware of who these so called experts are.

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