A former Jehovah's Witness elder, who campaigns against what he says is a sect policy that protects sexual abusers of children, says sect leaders have disfellowshiped nearly 50 members or abuse victims who have gone public with their criticism.

Local leaders of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, which oversees Jehovah's Witness congregations, are considering whether to disfellowship former elder Bill Bowen, 44, of Draffenville, Kentucky, for "causing divisions." Bowen, 44, has enlisted 30 supporters to speak on his behalf and has been a leading public critic of the Watchtower's handling of molestation cases.

"I think there will be an uprising," Bowen told Christianity Today. "We don't challenge Jehovah's Witness doctrine and belief. But what they have got to stop is breaking the law."

Bowen says Watchtower leadership is aggressively severing ties with those who publicly criticize the movement. Leaders recently booted out three members after they appeared with Bowen in a May 28 exposé broadcast on Dateline NBC.

Watchtower spokesman J. R. Brown disputes Bowen's figures. Brown says offenders are excommunicated only for biblical reasons. "No one has to be disfellowshiped," Brown told CT. "Only unrepentant offenders are disfellowshiped."

Bowen founded silentlambs inc., which monitors allegations of sexual abuse by Jehovah's Witnesses (CT, March 5, 2001, p. 23). He says 1,000 people have contacted his organization with credible reports of sexual abuse.

Related Elsewhere

Recent news articles include:

Jehovah's Witnesses Face Expulsion—Associated Press (June 26, 2002)
Sect demands biblical proofThe Guardian, London (June 10, 2002)
Jehovah's Witnesses Kick Out Couple—Associated Press (May 10, 2002)

Previous Christianity Today coverage of the Jehovah's Witnesses includes:

Witness Leaders Accused of Shielding MolestersFormer and current Jehovah Witnesses question a policy they say discourages leaders from reporting abuse. (February 2, 2001)
Watchtower Society Corporate ShakeupJehovah's Witnesses organization changing structure. (February 2, 2001)
Jehovah's Witness Verdict Stalled (April 26, 1999)

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