A Jehovah’s Witness leader has been caught on camera protecting child abusers by instructing a group of church officials to destroy internal records that contain information about a pedophile ring operating in the church.
In the disturbing leaked footage, Shawn Bartlett, the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ record management overseer, explains that handwritten notes and drafts of internal documents need to be destroyed if they contain any information about members of the hundreds-strong pedophile ring operating within the church, which has more than eight million members worldwide.
The leaked video comes as Jehovah’s Witnesses are coming under fire by child protection associations around the world for their handling of child sex abuse complaints.
“The question is: Why has this come up?” Bartlett says in the secret video recording of the seminar that was leaked by an anonymous church insider.
Bartlett also claimed Satan was responsible for the pressure being applied to the Jehovah’s Witnesses to stop protecting the pedophile ring and release their details to the authorities.
“Well, we know that the scene of this world is changing, and we know Satan’s coming after us, and he’s going to go for us legally. We can see by the way things are shaping up. So the organization has said, ‘We’ve run into difficulties in the past because of the records we have.’”
A judge in California fined the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society of New York, the Witnesses’ corporate nonprofit, more than $2 million last year for refusing to turn over a secretly compiled list of 775 suspected child molesters within the organization.
Philly.com reports: The Watchtower also has settled multiple lawsuits filed by former members across the country, many of whom claimed that they were sexually abused as children — and that their abusers were protected by elders who enforced the millenarian religion’s rules, like one that requires sexual assault victims to find two eyewitnesses to support their allegations.
Publicly, Watchtower leaders insist that they abhor child abuse, and don’t provide cover for predators. In the video, Bartlett never mentions the sex abuse lawsuits directly, but he explains the need for elders to be mindful of handwritten records and other files that could prove to be a liability.
At one point during the seminar, Bartlett told the attendees that they should destroy drafts of any documents in their possession. “And the reason is, is because there’s many comments that are sometimes made on drafts,” he said. “Those are the ones that get us in trouble.”
The Witnesses declined to make Bartlett available for an interview, or to discuss his comments from the video.
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