A recent Montana jury ruling that Jehovah's Witnesses leadership is to pay $35 million to a 21-year-old woman alleging the church covered up her childhood sexual abuse shook this tight-knit community to the core.
Mathew Schmalz, associate professor of religious studies at Holy Cross and a Jehovah's Witnesses expert, was called upon by NBC News to shed some light on the religion's internal process of handling these types of complaints. According to Schmalz, the organization utilizes "what they call the 'two-witness rule,' which means that, for example, if I were abused, I would need another witness to come forward to corroborate that. Because of this, it's very difficult to get corroborating evidence of any kind of abuse complaint."
But Schmalz also pointed out that Jehovah's Witnesses are known for their very strict congregational discipline, which can go as far as shunning or ostracizing members of their community. "I know Jehovah's Witnesses who have been shunned or what they call disfellowshipped, and that’s an incredibly painful experience," said Schmalz.
You can read the full article at NBCNews.com.
- The Conversation, May 4: Why Russia is afraid of Jehovah’s Witnesses