In recent weeks two much publicized cults have been in the spotlight. The first was the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the second was the Fundamentalist Church of the Latter-day Saints of Jesus Christ.
Firstly, Jehovah’s Witnesses have come under fire in Australia for breaching Victoria’s Working With Children Act of 2005. An initial 35 criminal charges were filed alleging that mandatory child protection laws were broken. The charges were filed by Mr Steven Unthank in relation to the refusal of the entire Committee of Management for the Religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses to comply with mandatory child protection laws, which primarily prevents convicted sex offenders, child rapists, drug dealers and murderers from having access to children across a range of industries and organizations. These include religious organizations.
Mr Unthank issued a personal statement in which he stated that the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watch Tower Society knew about these child protection laws and refused to comply with them from the outset. Mr Unthank went on to say that even the Department of Justice notified them and offered to assist them to comply. The Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses completely ignored the offer of assistance.
In my opinion this shows a scant disregard for the safety and well being of the children in the organization. It is common knowledge that Jehovah’s Witness children are made to go from house to house with adults, sometimes with little supervision, peddling watchtower publications. The problem of child sexual abuse within the Jehovah’s Witness organization has been highlighted before and more can be read about this at http://silentlambs.com. However, the Watch tower is quick to point out the abuse issues within other religious organizations.
Across the Atlantic a jury sentenced polygamist leader, Warren Jeffs, who heads a breakaway sect of the Mormon church to life in prison. This was for sexually assaulting two underage girls he wed as “spiritual” brides. Prosecutors said that Jeffs had “played a sick game of child molestation under the guise of religious ceremony”. The sentencing came a day after an audio recording was played on which Jeffs is heard telling young teen girls that they would be “rejected by God” if they refused his sexual advances. Mr Jeffs will now have to deal with advances from another kind while spending the rest of his life in prison.
The point I want to get to here is that in all of these cults it is the children who suffer the most. The indoctrination, fear tactics, sexual abuse and spiritual abuse can leave children emotionally and physically scarred. The lack of protection and the utter disregard for children’s rights within these groups are a matter of concern. In South Africa the lack of education and awareness of the issue around abuse in churches and cults is not well publicized and exposed. Many are afraid to speak out and to challenge the abusers and those in authority in these groups. As a result these abusers and peadophiles carry on their business unchecked.
As long as we adults stay silent the children stay victims and will carry on suffering in destructive and abusive churches.