I’ve decided to chip in a few observations here to help set expectations and to contribute to the discussions as best I’m able. So without further ado, let’s quickly run through what we know:
- What exactly will be discussed?
According to the Commission website, the scope of the study is as follows
The current policies and procedures of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia Ltd in relation to child protection and child-safe standards, including responding to allegations of child sexual abuse.
Factors that may have contributed to the occurrence of child sexual abuse at Jehovah’s Witnesses and Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia Ltd institutions.
Factors that may have affected the institutional response of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia Ltd to child sexual abuse.
The responses of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia Ltd to relevant case study report(s) and other Royal Commission reports.
Any related matters.
The purpose of this public hearing is not to inquire into individual sets of facts or particular events as has occurred in previous Royal Commission case studies.
- Why does the Case Study 54 hearing appear to be only one day long?
This may appear at first glance to be a surprise. How can a single day of testimony possibly be enough to cover the vast and complex issue of Watchtower’s child abuse scandal?
Well, remember that Case Study 54 isn’t a fact finding mission. That was Case Study 29. The Commission investigated and interviewed witnesses from February 2015 through October 2016, and ultimately issued a detailed report on every aspect of Watchtower’s failure. As far as the Commission is concerned, the facts are in. There is no further debate. Case Study 54 is tasked purely with a quick review of those facts and then with publicly asking Watchtower what is has done to address the damning failures identified in Case Study 29.
Remember what Justice McClellan said to Watchtower’s legal team? That they were going to come back to Watchtower and publicly ask them what had been done to address the issues?
That’s what this is.
- So what has Watchtower done in the 21 months since Case Study 29?
As far as I am aware, the only potential effort from Watchtower to address any of the concerns raised in the Royal Commission has been to no longer require an abuse survivor to confront their attacker. However, it was not clear from testimony if this practice had actually been halted before the Commission sat. Watchtower seemed to insist in testimony that it was, but their documentation did not reflect this.
Thus one cannot say with certainty that even this potential change has come as a result of the Commission report.
- So Watchtower is going to stand before the Commission, after 21 months, and basically say they’ve done nothing at all?
I have no idea.
I mean, that would be the honest thing to do, but remember how slippery and devious Watchtower was in Case Study 29, with senior Watchtower officials like Rodney Spinks, Terrence O’Brien and Governing Body Member Geoffrey Jackson attempted to mislead and outright lie to the Commission on multiple occasions. As far as I can see, Watchtower has three options
- Admit they’ve done nothing and that they don’t intend to for religious reasons, and turn the whole thing into an issue of religious freedom.
- Try to stall and muddy the waters by saying they’ve not had enough time, that they have no authority to make the changes required without Brooklyn agreement, knowing full well that Brooklyn is beyond the reach of the Commission. The idea here would be to stall until the day is over, then slink away and wait, knowing no further testimony is required.
- Dive full into another round of misleading doublespeak and outright lies to try and pull the wool over the Commission’s eyes.
Which one will they pick? Again I have no idea. Judging from Watchtower’s jaw-dropping legal incompetence in Case Study 29 and in the recent Fessler case, it’s very hard to predict their strategy. It seems to have no rhyme or reason, but keep in mind three things.
- The men in charge of Watchtower are firstly very deluded. They genuinely think they are defending God’s organisation against Satanic and apostate attack, and feel that compromise will be a victory for Satan.
- The men in charge of Watchtower are very out of touch with real life, spending all their days in a world where you don’t question Watchtower or those who run it, and now they’ve risen to the top. Their word is law. Odds are that no-one has told Anthony Morris III that his ideas are stupid for a very long time. They have no idea how to handle the kind of environment the Royal Commission brings to the table. Geoffrey Jackson’s excruciating performance, where the Commission made mincemeat of his arguments, was proof of that.
- The men in charge of Watchtower are caught between being honest with a Commission that has all of their dirty little secrets on the one hand, and playing to the growing audience of JW’s who they know WILL find out about March 10th one way or the other. They have to both be as compliant as possible to the Commission whilst also appearing to be steadfast and unmovable to the Witnesses who will end up seeing the testimony on YouTube.
So delusion, seclusion, and public relations are all going to crash into once horrible mess as they did in Case Study 29 and as a result I have no idea what Watchtower will do on Friday.
So come join us and find out!
The JW Survey team will be following events live, giving a commentary on Twitter via our @jwsurveyorg account. Yes this will mean lots of coffee for some of us due to the time difference. I’d suggest following the account now to make sure you don’t miss anything.
We also hope to preserve the live steam video for future reference as the Commission does not archive or make this video available once the live stream is over. However, technical gremlins are always a factor so if you have the ability to record the live stream, it would be a great idea to do so as well. The more people do this, the less chance of this footage being lost forever.
Lastly we will of course be following up with articles on the day, giving you a more detailed analysis of what has transpired.
Get your popcorn (and your coffee if you’re staying up late) and lets all observe the car crash together!
And one last thing: if it is safe for you to do so, please tell as many Jehovah’s Witnesses as you can about the events on March 10th. Their children are at risk and they don’t even know it. They may choose not to look up the Case Study, but simply being aware that it exists is the first step in raising awareness that the Governing Body is not being honest with them about the international scandal of child abuse inside the Watchtower organisation.
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