A former Jehovah’s Witness who has campaigned for changes to better protect children from abuse has lobbied Hartlepool’s MP for support.
Steve Rose, of Rift House, contacted the town’s MP Mike Hill over a rule which prevents church elders from acting upon allegations of wrongdoing unless it has been witnessed by at least two people.
Mr Hill is to speak to Cheltenham MP Alex Chalk who plans to raise the issue in Parliament.
“Mr Rose has rightly and very bravely brought this matter to my attention,” said Mr Hill.
“Given everything we now know about historic institutional abuse and sexual exploitation of children the rules or practices of any organisation should in no way be allowed to impede any formal investigation or enquiry.
“That is why I will be talking to Alex Chalk MP who is taking a lead on this matter in Parliament to see precisely where the problem lies, what, if any, progress has been made and how the issue raised by my constituent can be progressed.”
The rules or practices of any organisation should in no way be allowed to impede any formal investigation or enquiryMike Hill
Mr Rose, who used to be a member of Hartlepool’s Kingdom Hall, says the two witness rule makes it more difficult for action to be taken against reports of sex abuse that come to the attention of the church.
The church says the rule does not stop victims reporting allegations to the police.
An inquiry is ongoing by the Charity Commission into child safeguarding policies of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Britain, the national governing body for Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations.
Mr Rose added: “I’m pleased that Mike Hill has said he will look into it. Other ex Jehovah’s Witness members are doing the same as myself to get it brought in front of Parliament.
“I want to put pressure on the Jehovah’s Witness governing body to bring their policies on sexual abuse into line with other churches and institutions.
“The Jehovah’s Witness organisation has refused to do this.”
The Jehovah’s Witness church said in a statement: “Jehovah’s Witnesses abhor child abuse, a crime that sadly occurs in all sectors of society.
“The safety of our children is of the utmost importance.”
On the two witness rule the church said: “Congregation elders are not authorised by the Scriptures to take the place of secular authorities to conduct criminal investigations to criminally prosecute and punish a person accused of child abuse.
“The victim and his or her parents have the absolute right to report the child abuse to the governmental authorities, even if there is only one witness.”