Not long after waking up from my indoctrination as a Witness I posted an article on this website expressing my dismay at the fact that Jehovah’s Witnesses in the UK are classed as a charity despite falling woefully short of the rules on public benefit.
A few weeks ago, prompted by developments in the Jonathan Rose case, I followed this up with a formal complaint to the Charity Commission and a video appeal on YouTube.
As I mentioned in my video, though I was heartened by the fact that the commission was investigating the New Moston congregation for its atrocious negligence, the focus on this one congregation rather than the Watchtower hierarchy displayed (in my view) a fundamental naivety as to the systemic nature of child abuse mishandling by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Now it seems the Charity Commission has broadened its investigation from New Moston congregation to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Britain, according to a report in the Third Sector magazine.
This is the same magazine that reported back in January 2013 that Jehovah’s Witnesses are one of the top two most complained about charities in the UK.
“The Charity Commission has opened statutory inquiries into the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses and one of its congregations amid concerns about safeguarding and whether trustees have complied with charity law,” the magazine reports.
Apparently the statutory inquiry is targeting the Watchtower leadership primarily over their safeguarding (child protection) policies, and will determine whether they have “complied with and fulfilled their duties and responsibilities as trustees under charity law.”
The commission admits that it has already investigated the organization as early as July last year, but that recent developments have “amplified” their concerns.
Watchtower has already hit back by labeling the statutory inquiry “premature.”
Could it be that the Jonathan Rose case, in which a convicted pedophile was allowed to grill his victims under the auspices of a congregation judicial process, is the smoking gun that could lead to Watchtower’s game finally being up?
As I mentioned in my coverage of the Rose case, it is inconceivable that the New Moston elders weren’t acting under instructions from the London Branch, especially since Watchtower directions to elders clearly stipulate that the Branch (not the police) is to be involved whenever accusations of child molestation arise.
If the Charity Commission digs deep enough (and they have set their sights pretty high), they will surely find clear evidence, not only that child abuse is systemic and rampant among Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide, but that the objectives and practices of the organization are anything but charitable.
However, as encouraged as I am that the commission is finally taking this seriously, I’m afraid I still have my reservations.
I fear the Charity Commission lacks the teeth it needs as a regulatory body in order to act decisively in these matters. For example, the toughest measures a charity can expect in the wake of a statutory inquiry include removing trustees, undertaking a governance review, and establishing new “schemes” for the charity’s management. Nowhere in the commission’s own guidelines on statutory inquiries could I find any hint that removing an organization’s charitable status might be a potential outcome.
It is for similar reasons that the commission has recently been slammed as “not fit for purpose” by MPs. In her own scathing criticism, Labour MP Margaret Hodge complained that “the commission too willingly accepts what charities tell it when it is investigating alleged abuses. It too often fails to verify or challenge the claims made. Some of the most serious cases of abuse have not been properly investigated.”
This environment of indifference and credulity is perfect for Watchtower to flourish as a self-proclaimed “charity,” given that it has shown great eagerness historically to bend the truth to its advantage.
There is a small glimmer of hope that a government consultation launched by MP Nick Hurd may eventually lead to the commission being given tougher powers, including the power to “close down a charity,” but given that the consultation ended in February this is clearly not being treated as a matter of any great urgency.
In the meantime Watchtower continues to capitalize on the credulity of the UK authorities by cashing in on its erroneous claims of working in the public benefit. As distasteful as this may be for those like myself who are victims of Watchtower, I can take a morsel of comfort from the Charity Commission’s ongoing scrutiny of the organization. I have a feeling that if the game isn’t up now, it soon will be.
If you are a UK national, and you would like to register an official complaint against the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Britain, you can do so on this link. The registered charity number is “1077961” and I recommend preparing your complaint in advance and reading the instructions before completing the form.
- Third sector report on Charity Commission investigation into Jehovah’s Witnesses
- Civil Society article
- Third sector report on Jehovah’s Witnesses being most complained about charity
- Guardian article on charity commission “not fit for purpose”
- Government consultation on the charity commission
- Piling on the torment – New Moston elders allow pedophile Rose to quiz victims