When I first saw the image opposite being circulated online, I felt that it had to be a piece of satirical art, created by an Ex-JW. I mean, I knew Watchtower had been increasingly stooping to lower and lower standards with increasing desperation to wring every last penny out of their increasingly impoverished flock, but…come on!
Surely not even Watchtower could be so crass and unsubtle as to create a child’s game where the whole object of the game was to donate money to them!
Turns out, I was wrong.
The puzzle was a genuine piece of Watchtower art, although I was rather amused when former Jehovah’s Witnesses Tony Brock posted a slightly altered version of the game onto Facebook, to present his own suggestion of where the child’s donation might ACTUALLY be going if it made it through the maze:
Even active and faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses will be aware of the truth of much of this cartoon. The Governing Body have increasingly been flaunting their jewellery, expensive suits and designer watches on their JW Broadcasting appearances, and the extravagance of the new Watchtower headquarters with it’s remote control lake is hardly a secret.
Ironically, this unknown and hidden aspect of Watchtower’s financial outgoings might be the one that increasingly comes to dominate their fortunes. According to the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Watchtower’s policies and doctrines come together in a “perfect storm” to create an environment for sexual predetors to molest children, undetected and unreported.
The thing with storms is this;
Storms are expensive, y’all.
Day 7 of the Australian Royal Commission investigation into Watchtower saw this exchange between the Head of Watchtower Australia Terrance O’Brien and Justice Peter McClellan about the issue of financial recompense.
McClellan:You know that the Commission’s been looking at the issue of redress, I assume?
O’Brien: I do, yes.
McClellan: And it is fairly clear that the Commission will be recommending a response which brings together all of the institutions where there may have been problems, to contribute their fair share ‐ you understand that?
O’Brien: I recall that from the closed hearing we had with yourself.
Financial Redress has been a key area for the ARC. It’s hard to argue that organisations who failed in their duty of care and exposed children to sexual abuse should not be required to give some measure of financial compensation; not only to address the significant medical costs involved in treating the physical and mental damage suffered, but also to show recognition of the wrong done. The ARC has discussed this idea in detail, even presenting models as to how it might work:
“…relevant criteria could be severity of abuse – 40 per cent, impact of abuse – 40 per cent and distinctive institutional factors – 20 per cent. Other approaches are possible. Average payments of $50,000, $65,000 and $80,000 are modelled.”
In other words, this model suggests that the severity, the impact of the abuse, and the degree of specific failings of the Institution should be taken into account. It then suggests some average payments.
McCellan: Would you recommend that the church join in such a scheme?
O’Brien: I don’t know whether I would recommend that the church join in with other organisations, but certainly that we have some redress scheme of our own to care for victims who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. I would agree with that.
McClellan: Why wouldn’t you recommend that you join with others so that there is a uniform response across the country?
O’Brien: If I may just indulge, your Honour, when we had the closed meeting with yourself and others, that was a matter that I think it was almost universally felt as a last option by those who were assembled, for a variety of reasons. I think some may feel that ‐ would it be fair on smaller organisations and unfair on the ‐ or, rather, unfair on smaller ones, fairer on the larger ones? To manage it I would see it as a much greater difficulty than for the individual organisation to provide their own scheme.
McClellan: You must have a different recollection to me.
This is part of a longer exchange which demonstrated how Watchtower is frantically trying to pour water on the concept of a financial redress scheme administered by an outside authority, with agreed and standardised amounts for victims.
Why would Watchtower be so afraid of a system like that becoming law, as is very possible in the next couple of years in Australia?
Well, remember what O’Brien said: Would it be “fair” on the smaller organisations?
That sounds like a reasonable concern until one realises that Watchtower is a “smaller” organisation unlike any other the Commission have investigated.
Watchtower: A unique stormfront
Unlike an organisation that simply reports to the police as soon as it becomes aware of an allegation of child sexual abuse, Watchtower policy not only refuses to do this unless legally required, but also requires the elders to start investigating the allegation themselves to determine guilt in a bronze-age religious court, thus opening themselves up to far greater liability than a regular church or group.
Additionally, it’s been clearly demonstrated during the ARC hearings that the process the elders are mandated to use is virtually guaranteed to cause further needless trauma to the survivor.
Therefore, it’s significantly more probable that cases linked to Watchtower (such as the 1,006 Witness molesters the ARC has already identified) will be eligible for compensation when compared to cases from other organisations of a similar size.
Keep that in mind as we craft a theoretical scenario that admittedly makes a lot of assumptions, some of which will fall in Watchtower’s favour for the sake of fairness.
Lets assume only one victim per abuser (and not, say the four victims involved in the case of BCG, who gave testimony at the Royal Commission). That gives us 1,006 potential claims identified by the Royal Commission.
Now assume that out of those 1,006 potential claims, only half of the victims are found to be eligible for compensation and in a position to claim.
Now assume that only half of those survivors are found to have directly experienced additional trauma due to Watchtowers’s policies, and qualify for a higher sum than a default of $65,000. Lets say the higher figure is $80,000.
So you’ve got 250 times 65,000 = 16,250,000 and 250 times 80,000 = 20,000,000
Now add those two figures together and what do you get?
An eye watering $36,250,000!
And remember, this scenario is making some assumptions that are significantly more favourable to Watchtower than the evidence suggests is reasonable.
Recurring Storms: No end in sight.
But we’re not done yet, because another fascinating glimpse under the hood of Watchtower Australia was given on Day 7 when Watchtower Lawyer Vince Toole admitted under questioning the following statistic about his role at the Watchtower Australia Legal Desk, taking reports of child sexual abuse from congregations across the country.
Angus Stewart SC: You say you’ve done this exclusively for, did you say, two years or two and a half years?
Vince Toole: Yeah, approximately two years, I’ve been taking the calls myself.
Stewart: These are calls about allegations of child sexual abuse?
Stewart: And how many such calls have you taken in that period, would you estimate?
Toole: I couldn’t tell you, but we probably get three, sometimes four, a month.
Again, let’s be generous to Watchtower. Let’s assume four new cases of abuse a month, but say that each of those reports involve only one abuse survivor, and that of those four survivors a month, only two are eligible for and desirous of compensation. Again, lets assume that the $65,000 default sum is the one decided upon every time because by some miracle Watchtower managed not to exacerbate suffering when they indulged in their demonstrably flawed judicial process.
So 2 victims a month is 24 victims a year.
So that’s 24 times 65,000…
…$1,560,000 per year!
Now, there are around 80,000 witnesses in Australia. Remember, that figure will include people who are fading or who have faded, and thus do not donate, as well as rank and file JW’s who are either very poor or simply forget to donate a lot of the time. But assume for argument’s sake that every single one of the 80,000 donates money of around $20 a month.
Divide the arguably conservative sum of $1,560,000 by the arguably generous figure of 80,000 publishers.
$19.5 dollars, right?
That means that if a witness donates $20 a month, almost 1/12 of his entire yearly donation will go simply to paying the annual child abuse bill.
That’s AFTER they spend around two years paying off the initial lump sum of $36,250,000.
Granted, these figures are theoretical, using models and sums yet to be agreed and passed into law. Much could happen between then and now.
Nonetheless, the scenarios are plausible, and it’s clear if you read between the lines of O’Brien’s testimony that Watchtower also thinks they are plausible, and are very worried as a result.
Which is probably one of the reasons why I strongly suspect that the crazy maze at the top of this article won’t be the last piece of low-brow piggy-bank shaking we will see from an increasingly beleaguered Watchtower.