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[P]
The Murderer at Your Door

By mikepence in Op-Ed
Tue Apr 02, 2002 at 12:32:43 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

Have we gone to far in protecting those who don the vestments of religious authority from accountability for their actions? The recent exposure of sexual abuse, and the covering up of such abuse, by the Catholic Church has brought this issue into the public discourse. In the case of the Jehovah's Witnesses, apparently even multiple homicides do not engender a moral or ethical compunction to bring an individual to justice and to protect potential future victims.


In a 1992 letter to a Florida Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, recently leaked on the Internet, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., the principle legal entity behind the Jehovah's Witnesses, addresses the concerns of a congregation in dealing with a new member with a nefarious past. This man had "committed several murders and crimes before his baptism," and the local elders were inquiring as to their legal obligation in the state of Florida in dealing with such an individual. Moral and ethical considerations in such a circumstance are not even discussed. The proliferation of Biblical references that typify Witness publications are notably absent here.

The Watchtower Society responds that the elders have "no obligation to reveal information of this type to the authorities," and rather than encourage the man in question to face the consequences of his actions, the elders are told that "What he does about paying his debt to Society is largely up to him and his conscience."

Jehovah's Witnesses appoint as elders those older men in the congregation who have an established record of adhering to organizational rules and requirements. These men receive no additional schooling, and are even discouraged from reading "worldly" psychology and sociology texts. Still, they are the ones that Jehovah's Witnesses members look to in providing counseling and guidance in dealing with sensitive issues such as sexual abuse, depression, and, apparently, murder. Among organized religions in the United States, Jehovah's Witnesses have the lowest percentage of college graduates among their adherents.

So, men with religious authority, but no training and little education, are authorized to conceal the egregious acts of a murderer whom they have judged as repentant. No concern is expressed for the families of the victims. No warning will be provided of this person's violent past to the congregation, or the community at large. Like all Jehovah's Witnesses, he will continue to be required to go from door to door, evangelizing.

Concern is expressed for the confessed murderer and his family. "If the elders inadvertently reveal his past wrongdoing, undoubtedly it will result in major repercussions to him and his wife. So, handling this case calls for good judgment and discernment." One wonders what good judgment and discernment have to do with covering over such acts.

At its best, religion can serve as a moral compass to its adherents. Increasingly, we are seeing that religious authority is instead being abused, providing a haven for molesters, murderers, and the like. We should ask more of religion, legally, and religion should ask more of itself morally.

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Poll
Should religious authority figures have to turn murderers and molesters over to police?
o No, that is not the role of religion 40%
o Yes, always 47%
o It should vary from state to state as it currently does 13%

Votes: 100
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o 1992 letter
o Also by mikepence


Display: Sort:
The Murderer at Your Door | 101 comments (96 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
Yeah that's right (2.75 / 8) (#1)
by xriso on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 03:08:20 PM EST

We must give all information we have regarding illegal activities to the government. One of your friends share warez? Hand over the name, buddy, or you're just as guilty as them.
--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
Logical extreme (4.50 / 2) (#2)
by mikepence on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 03:10:18 PM EST

C'mon now. We are talking about egregious crimes here, not warez. Should we allow Hitler or Stalin a clean slate once they act "repentant"?

[ Parent ]
Comparing warez to murder? (4.33 / 3) (#5)
by Torgos Pizza on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 03:16:03 PM EST

There's an oh so slight difference between having some permanent marker smudges on your hands from writing the label to your pirated copy of Jedi Knight II, to having hot, sticky dark red blood on your hands from plunging a knife several times into another person's back in a violent rage.

Believe in all the Big Brother paranoia all you want. But if it's a capital crime that's involved, it should be reported. Besides, isn't part of confession and repentance the act of setting things right by restitution?

I intend to live forever, or die trying.
[ Parent ]

Sounds hauntingly familiar... (4.50 / 2) (#79)
by DrJohnEvans on Tue Apr 02, 2002 at 01:00:22 AM EST

Hand over the name, buddy, or you're just as guilty as them.
Some obscure American politician used a similar phrase recently.. how did it go? Oh, right: "You're either with us or against us."

Good thing nobody would try to take a silly stance like that and apply it to geopolitics.

[ Parent ]

Yeah... (none / 0) (#91)
by Stickerboy on Tue Apr 02, 2002 at 01:00:40 PM EST

...because, you know, in geopolitics we'd rather work with slightly-astray-but-good-hearted people, to help lead them back onto the humane path with kind words and the carrot of diplomacy, than do something as monstrous as replace them with somebody better.

For example, the US working with the Shah of Iran. A smashing success!

Or, how about Robert Mugabe? Boy, he's turned out well.

Muhammad Omar? Yep, he definitely was a winner!

Hmm... maybe there are times when trying to rehabilitate political leadership doesn't always work. You think?

[ Parent ]
Rehabilitation and forgiveness? (4.00 / 3) (#3)
by dipipanone on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 03:14:09 PM EST

It appears that concepts like rehabilitation and forgiveness have no place in your particular religious framework. Aside from a handful of high-profile repeat offenders, the truth is that convicted murderers are the category of offenders least likely to offend.

Despite this fact, you seem to want them to be forever cast out from all communities, despite the fact that the criminal justice system has deemed this person fit for release.

Unless the particular individual concerned is actually acting as an official of the church in some way, its hard to see what the hell business of anyone else his past life should be. If you do have knowledge of it, and you disapprove of it, then you have every right to disassociate from him and to try to encourage others to do likewise.

I have to say, it's this kind of religious bigotry that makes me thank God I'm an atheist.

--
Suck my .sig
Not at all (5.00 / 1) (#9)
by mikepence on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 03:24:24 PM EST

If you had read the letter and the article, you would see that this person has not been held accountable by the law at all. He is a fugitive.

I have said nothing about rehabilitation or forgiveness in this article. That is not the subject of the piece.

Bigotry? C'mon...

[ Parent ]

Mea culpa (none / 0) (#62)
by dipipanone on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 05:44:57 PM EST

Oops. Sorry about that. I'd assumed the remarks about his being a confessed murderer meant that he had confessed to murder and been convicted.

If he hasn't actually been convicted, then you've really no evidence of anything other than what the man claimed during religious confession. Which may or may not be true. People say all kinds of things. Especially those who are prone to belief in supernatural forces. In those circumstances, I'd have thought that the proper course of action was a matter for the elder and his conscience.

If he felt that the person involved still posed a threat to people, then a quiet word in a homicide cop's ear would probably be the right thing to do -- provided he could live with the possibility of being disbarred as a leader of the church as a result of his actions.

--
Suck my .sig
[ Parent ]
Very naive (4.00 / 2) (#17)
by revscat on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 03:51:58 PM EST

Despite this fact, you seem to want them to be forever cast out from all communities, despite the fact that the criminal justice system has deemed this person fit for release.

First off, when someone is released from prison that means that they have served the amount of time they were sentenced to. Our criminal justice system is a retributive one, not a rehabilitative one. The criminal justice system makes absolutely no claims about the "fitness" of the prisoner, *only* that they have served their time.

And even at that, it's just kinda common sense to not allow a convicted pedophile to work at a day care. Similarly, if you have someone who is a convicted murderer, you might want to steer him clear of dealing with the general public directly. Stick him on a tech support line or something.

This has nothing to do with bigotry, and everything to do with making intelligent decisions based upon a person's demonstrated behaviors.




- Rev.
Libertarianism is like communism: both look great on paper.
[ Parent ]
Read the story (none / 0) (#57)
by dipipanone on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 05:29:40 PM EST

First off, when someone is released from prison that means that they have served the amount of time they were sentenced to.

Read the story again. We're talking about someone who has supposedly committed murder here. (At least if the story is to be believed. Murder carries a mandatory life sentence in most jurisdictions, no? Ergo, if they are letting convicted murderers out, then I think we should assume that he's made some significant attempts towards rehabilitation. Parole boards don't let such people out otherwise.

Our criminal justice system is a retributive one, not a rehabilitative one. The criminal justice system makes absolutely no claims about the "fitness" of the prisoner, *only* that they have served their time.

If what you say is true, then he'd still be in jail. Who was it you were calling naive again?

And even at that, it's just kinda common sense to not allow a convicted pedophile to work at a day care.

But we aren't talking about a convicted paedophile working in a day care. We're talking about a convicted murderer who has been released on parole, joining a member of a church congregation.

Unless you're privy to some aspects of the story that isn't written in the submission? If that's the case, then perhaps you should share them with us?

--
Suck my .sig
[ Parent ]
Hypocrisy? (none / 0) (#75)
by Canar on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 09:21:25 PM EST

I have to say, it's this kind of religious bigotry that makes me thank God I'm an atheist.
If that wasn't such an obvious sarcasm, I'd call you a hypocrit. As it is, I laughed rather heartily.

[ Parent ]
Side note... (none / 0) (#99)
by Mzilikazi on Thu Apr 04, 2002 at 04:04:02 PM EST

Aside from a handful of high-profile repeat offenders, the truth is that convicted murderers are the category of offenders least likely to offend.

Particularly in Texas...

[ Parent ]

What states (4.00 / 5) (#6)
by davidduncanscott on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 03:18:34 PM EST

require religous leaders to turn over miscreants to the law? INAL, but I don't know of any of the United States in which confessions are not considered sacrosanct. Is this news to you, or does it bother you only with regard to Jehovah's Witnesses?

Mind you, it's likely that a Catholic priest will encourage the penintent to go the authorities if the offense is immoral as well as illegal, but he's not only not obliged to turn him in, but in fact barred by his vows from doing so unless there is an immediate threat to someone else.

See this link (5.00 / 1) (#14)
by mikepence on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 03:43:08 PM EST

http://www.smith-lawfirm.com/mandatory_reporting.htm

[ Parent ]
Which, in fact, (4.00 / 1) (#21)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 03:57:32 PM EST

has to do with discovering evidence of an ongoing crime, not allegations of crimes commited a decade in the past.


--
I'm not a sexist pig!
I'm a plain-old-everyday pig!


[ Parent ]
Yes, but (4.00 / 1) (#22)
by davidduncanscott on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 03:58:53 PM EST

those seem to me to refer to ongoing acts (so that someone is in danger, as opposed to a murder victim, who will not get any deader), and I wonder if any of them has been tested in court -- just because the statute specifies that confidentiality is waived doesn't mean that the courts will allow a clergyman to sit in jail for refusing to violate a privilege that has stood for centuries, even if it is "for the kids".

[ Parent ]
Actually (5.00 / 1) (#67)
by Miniluv on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 06:25:32 PM EST

It is not just barred unless there is harm, it is totally barred. The priest cannot testify against the penitent, period. There are several precedents at both state and federal levels for this, in the US.

If you do a search about it you might even uncover that a federal appeals court ruled that alcoholics anonymous, due to their usage of the word "god", qualified as a religious organization and thus anything said in meetings could not be used as testimony.

Some things are holy, and the sauna is one of them
[ Parent ]

Wrong (4.00 / 1) (#82)
by wiredog on Tue Apr 02, 2002 at 08:23:55 AM EST

I'm in AA. The police, and probation officers, often come to meetings. Some because they are in AA, some because they are checking up on someone else. It's well known that some things should not be discussed in metings. AA members can be compelled to testify. There was a case in New York a few years ago that set that precedent.

Peoples Front To Reunite Gondwanaland: "Stop the Laurasian Separatist Movement!"
[ Parent ]
As a fellow friend of Bill W. (none / 0) (#84)
by Miniluv on Tue Apr 02, 2002 at 11:34:27 AM EST

I agree that AA members and meetings shouldn't be sacrosanct in the same sense as the confessional, however:

This synposis covers the case I was referring to.

Essentially AA is considered religious because they use the word "god". Having gone to meetings I find their analysis mistaken and consistent with a failure to actually understand the literature, however ultimately it's an opinion thing.

There's a good criteria already in place for deciding if something is legally a religion, at least in the US. That would be tax status, despite the fact that it would grant some measure of legal status to the Church of Scientology.

Some things are holy, and the sauna is one of them
[ Parent ]

OK (none / 0) (#85)
by wiredog on Tue Apr 02, 2002 at 11:40:17 AM EST

My bad. I thought that had been overturned on appeal.

Peoples Front To Reunite Gondwanaland: "Stop the Laurasian Separatist Movement!"
[ Parent ]
Here's hoping... (none / 0) (#96)
by Miniluv on Wed Apr 03, 2002 at 01:04:30 PM EST

Last I heard the appeals court is still deliberating, however there's no clear consensus in the legal forums as to what verdict is expected.

I sincerely hope this gets overturned, as it is truly a stupid ruling.

Some things are holy, and the sauna is one of them
[ Parent ]

What is the problem? (4.75 / 12) (#7)
by Neolith on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 03:20:55 PM EST

If Florida has a priest/lawyer/doctor confidentiality law, as it appears they do, then the witnesses acted correctly. Not only would any information they give to the police be of no use to the authorities, but they themselves could be held liable for all kinds of things.

Its a screwed up world we live in. The Witness motto is 'obey Ceaser until/unless it violates God's law.' I'm not aware of a scriptural passage commanding the turning over of confidential information that may or may not be true to the police. Are you?

Finally, this letter makes little sense without seeing what the Watchtower is responding to. Not only that, its ten years old. I guess what I'd really like to know is how you would handle this situation? Or how you would like the situation handled?

Excellent (4.00 / 2) (#10)
by Yellowbeard on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 03:33:18 PM EST

You saved me a lot of time by making my point for me. Thanks.

"Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt." - Deniro in Ronin


[ Parent ]
Repentance (3.66 / 3) (#15)
by mikepence on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 03:47:19 PM EST

The rank and file JW's would be shocked by this letter. They are taught that part of showing repentance is accepting responsibility for your actions.

In taking on themselves the role of judging one's repentance, they violate their own principals and beliefs.

How would I handle this situation? I would be mightly upset if my child were killed by some man who a JW Elder/Janitor had deemed as repentant. There need to be limits to protection of murderers and others who continue to be a threat to the well-being of others.

[ Parent ]

And by what stroke of genius (4.66 / 3) (#20)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 03:55:39 PM EST

Have you determined that this man, who you've never met, and do not know anything about, represents a "continued threat"?


--
I'm not a sexist pig!
I'm a plain-old-everyday pig!


[ Parent ]
The stroke of genius goes something like this (5.00 / 1) (#30)
by mikepence on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 04:10:42 PM EST

If a murderer / abuser / whatever has a history of dangerous behavior, who am I to decide that he is now not a threat? Because he claims some repetance to Jesus, but refuses to be held accountable for his actions, am I supposed to just forget that he has done these things? Is my duty to assume his repentance, or is it, as a minister, to protect the flock?

Isn't that the exact thinking that allows abuse and violence to perpetuate?

[ Parent ]

Isn't your exact thinking (5.00 / 1) (#33)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 04:13:36 PM EST

the sort of thing that leads to mob rule and vigilantism?

"I heard so-and-so once killed a man!"

"Stone him! Stone him!"


--
I'm not a sexist pig!
I'm a plain-old-everyday pig!


[ Parent ]
You are quite the fisherman (4.00 / 2) (#36)
by mikepence on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 04:18:34 PM EST

Red herrings everywhere.

My thinking is simply that a JW elder, who is, no doubt, an honorable but simple man, is not in a position to judge whether a person who has admitted to dangerous behavior in the past is now safe.

My children were sexually abused by a JW elder, who is still active in our old congregation. When the other elders were notified, they did nothing. Legal action is pending. There are many, many stories of similar abuses by lack of action, in spite of mandatory reporting laws.

It is not the place of a minister to try someone for a crime. Nor is it the place of a minister to decide that the crime can be ignored.

[ Parent ]

Oh. I see. The truth comes out. (3.00 / 1) (#37)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 04:23:02 PM EST

So, your family was done wrong by some JW's and now you want a little revenge. Why should we play along?

I'm sorry for you; and for your children - but filling yourself with hatred only deepens the injuries to you and to them. Christ told you to forgive your enemies. Did you think it would be easy? Let it go.


--
I'm not a sexist pig!
I'm a plain-old-everyday pig!


[ Parent ]
The issue is larger than JW's (4.00 / 1) (#38)
by mikepence on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 04:27:49 PM EST

Hatred? Let it go?

You have no idea of what my motivation or disposition is, and your advice to "let it go" is unspeakably naive.

Why don't you go to a sexual abuse support group with your Christian wisdom to "let it go."

[ Parent ]

Sigh. (5.00 / 2) (#43)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 04:36:37 PM EST

Sorry, Mike - but you just reinforced my point. You want to lash out - extract retribution from people you believe aided in the harm done to your children. But lashing out this way won't make you feel better, even though you seem to think that it will.


--
I'm not a sexist pig!
I'm a plain-old-everyday pig!


[ Parent ]
You're going down the right path then.. (4.00 / 1) (#40)
by Neolith on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 04:32:01 PM EST

As a parent, it is your responsibility to prosecute crimes against your children. But you are confusing issues, I think.

Do you have evidence that the Watchtower instructed the elders in your congregation to conceal a child molester in their midst? Or do you believe the elders were acting on their own in that case?

If the Society did not advise them to conceal the child molester, and I STRONGLY believe they did not do such a thing, you might have a case against them. Indeed, there would probably be a level of fall out comparable to what the Catholics are now facing in regards to their priesthood.

But this is more like one individual church in Catholicism acting on its own to hide a pedophile, instead of arch-bishops wilfilly re-assigning a known molester to another congregation.

I realize you are hurt, and I hope that justice is done in a court of law, and the truth of the matter comes out. But I fail to see a conspiracy here.

[ Parent ]

I don't want to confuse the issue (4.00 / 1) (#44)
by mikepence on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 04:41:48 PM EST

I only found out last week that my own children had been sexually abused. That one has still not fully hit me.

I actually have several secret letters to the Bodies of Elders (BOE letters) from silentlambs.org that show policies designed to protect abusers and limit liability. That is another issue that I intend to write about shortly.

The letter I cite in this article shows, to me, that the JW's place limiting liability over protecting their flock, and demanding that repentance include accountability.

[ Parent ]

Then why bring it up? (5.00 / 2) (#51)
by Neolith on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 05:13:44 PM EST

If you didn't want to confuse the two issues, then why bring them up at the same time? You have an article and write up about one thing, shift focus to another in the last paragraph of the write up, and then drag the molestation issue in comment after comment. I read your diary, so I know where you were coming from, but I'm sure it struck many as non-sequiteur.

As far as the silent lambs site, I believe when you get around to examining that in a future story that you're going to find the same thing; that people with distance from the situation aren't going to find anything particularly sinister about the Society's motives or instruction. That you've read far too much into very little content that is taken out of any sort of context. I've read the majority of the letters, and there isn't anything nearly so damning as you'd have us believe. I mean, a bunch of letters advising to 'care for the vicim first and foremost', 'not allow the offender any position of responsibility', 'be sensitive about spreading confidential information', etc. is not a gross violation of human rights, is it?

What you are doing by taking legal action against the molester is the Right Thing. You'll have your day in court and an opportunity to prove your case there. This railing against the Witnesses in particular (I know you're saying that you aren't intending to come down soley on the JW's, but I think thats a bit dishonest) is not a particularly constructive use of your resources.

[ Parent ]

I disagree (4.50 / 4) (#35)
by Neolith on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 04:18:16 PM EST

Only the most frigile 'rank and file' Witness would be shocked by this letter. Where in the letter does it ever say that the individual's repentance ever came into play in divulging the apparently confidential confession? Not only that, where in the letter does it ever say the person actually confessed? It makes a vague statement that the elders came across certain 'information', but that can mean so many things.

The man could, and I stress COULD, because from the letter we don't really know, have come in and said "I killed a man, and I'm not sorry I did." This man would probably be disfellowshipped. But guess what? The elders still wouldn't call 911.

You are making these assumptions: 1) The man actually confessed. 2) The man was lucid at the time of confession. 3) Authorities could go in and arrest the man based on a JW Elder calling them up and giving them the tip. Not only are 1 and 2 mere speculation based upon vague statements in one side of a two way communication, but 3 is simply wrong.

Frankly, I was hoping you'd go the child molestation route, as if you had proof that the Society is instructing elders to conceal child molesters from the law, you'd have something. Somehow, I don't think that is the case.

[ Parent ]

What drivel. (4.61 / 13) (#11)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 03:34:13 PM EST

I hate to break it to you, but not reporting allegations of a crime is not concealing a crime. If they had witnessed a crime and did not report it - that is a crime. Hearing about a crime second or third hand and not reporting it cannot be a crime - it's not even evidence of a crime.

Jeez. By your standards, we all guilty of a cover up because we haven't reported that guy from the other thread who claims to be a pedophile.


--
I'm not a sexist pig!
I'm a plain-old-everyday pig!


By their own standards.... (3.50 / 2) (#16)
by mikepence on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 03:50:42 PM EST

If a JW covers over another JW's adultery or other sin, they are considered as guilty as the offending party. JW's have been shunned and cut off from friends and family for failing to turn in their fellow JW to the elders.

The JW leadership does not hold themselves to the same standard. They routinely cover over sexual abuse and more serious crimes and hide behind a legal curtain, while portraying themselves as lovers of righteousness more than adherents to secular law.

[ Parent ]

What cover up? (4.50 / 2) (#19)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 03:53:57 PM EST

Here we go again.... Conspiracy theories up the ass.

Refusing to repeat something you've heard is not a cover up. In fact, it used to be considered the honorable thing to do!


--
I'm not a sexist pig!
I'm a plain-old-everyday pig!


[ Parent ]
And you avoided my point, haven't you? (4.50 / 2) (#24)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 03:59:45 PM EST

Have you reported the latent pedophiles from the other discussions yet?

Then what makes you different from the JW elders?


--
I'm not a sexist pig!
I'm a plain-old-everyday pig!


[ Parent ]
Legal != ethical (5.00 / 2) (#59)
by revscat on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 05:33:40 PM EST

Just because something might not be specifically illegal does not mean that it is ethical. Further, reporting child abuse -- alleged or otherwise -- is mandatory in most states. Check this out. Relevant quote:

All 50 states have passed some form of a mandatory child abuse and neglect reporting law in order to qualify for funding under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA)(Jan. 1996 version), 42 U.S.C. 5101, et seq.. The Act was originally passed in 1974, has been amended several times and was most recently amended and reauthorized on October 3, 1996, by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment and Adoption Act Amendments of 1996 (P.L. 104-235). CAPTA's Legislative history.

So the Church is indeed guilty of not only of being unethical, but also of acting crinimally.

I would like to empasize my original point again, however: Just because something is legal does not make it ethical. It may be legal to pay some 3rd world 9 year old a buck a day to make tennis shoes. It does not make it ethical to do so.




- Rev.
Libertarianism is like communism: both look great on paper.
[ Parent ]
Definitely falls under minister's privilege (4.00 / 8) (#12)
by El Volio on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 03:36:16 PM EST

While Jehovah's Witnesses do not have a clergy/laity distinction (all baptized members in good standing are considered ministers), for legal purposes only elders are considered ministers (eg to perform marriages, etc.) A number of legal cases have established that minister's privilege applies to Witness elders. In this case, you're asking for ministers to violate their historical confidentiality -- which opens up quite a number of other questions. To simply reveal a member's confession in virtually all cases may harm that privilege. Additionally, scriptural principles involved here do involve forgiveness (such as Jesus' treatment of sinners despite the ridicule that this resulted in during his ministry).

Additionally, the part of the article that deals with elders' qualifications is, in large part, incorrect. Elders are appointed based on spiritual qualifications (see 2 Timothy 3), which while inclusive of organizational experience, includes far more than just that (teaching ability, love for one's fellow man and fellow worshiper, etc.). As an aside, I'm not aware of any religions that don't require extensive experience within their organization for additional privileges of service. The claim that these men "receive no additional schooling" is only true in the most formal sense: additional education and training is in fact provided in a number of forms. The college graduation rate among adherents of a religion is something of a strawman or at least a non sequitur -- what does secular education have to do with religious qualifications? Similar accusations were made by the Pharisees to the first-century apostles and to Jesus himself.

I have to agree with another poster: Does this primarily bother you because Jehovah's Witnesses are involved or because of the principle involved? I'd like to think that it's the second, but the tone of the article makes me think it's the first.

And yes, I voted +1 FP because although I strongly disagree with the article, I also believe it will engender discussion and a dispelling of incorrect assumptions about Witnesses.

Do Jehovah's standards vary from state to state? (3.66 / 3) (#23)
by mikepence on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 03:59:30 PM EST

You seem to know the JW's well. Do God's standards of right and wrong vary from state to state?

Some states require reporting of abuse of children by anyone who comes to have knowledge of it (http://www.smith-lawfirm.com/mandatory_reporting.htm). Didn't Jesus say that those who would set themselves up as teachers are twice as accountable and that they should take care to treat the flock with kindness?

Instead of seeking the moral high ground, the JW's seek to hide behind legalities to avoid litigation, rather than caring for the well-being of their members.

And a brief seminar like KM school does not qualify as education. Let's be real here.

I am singling out JW's here because I know them well, and because the letter is available to document their stance, and that their stance may vary from state to state. They are not protecting their own, and they are allowing Ceasar's law to determine what is right. In the same manner, they protect and conceal known child molesters.

[ Parent ]

Refusing to report baseless allegations (3.33 / 3) (#25)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 04:00:42 PM EST

is the moral high ground.


--
I'm not a sexist pig!
I'm a plain-old-everyday pig!


[ Parent ]
Baseless? (3.50 / 2) (#27)
by mikepence on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 04:05:10 PM EST

Obviously, the elders in this situation did not feel that the charges were baseless, or they would not have written the letter.

Would you want the minister in your church deciding that charges that an individual was sexually molesting children, including your own, are baseless, in his opinion? Shouldn't such matters be in more qualified hands?

[ Parent ]

What is your obsession with molestation? (3.50 / 4) (#31)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 04:10:42 PM EST

Why do keep trying to drag it into this case?

The elders wrote a letter because they felt they needed guidance - they were unsure what their legal and moral responsibilities were. They received guidance. The guidance was that (a) there was no legal requirement to report what was, in effect, hearsay about old crimes and that (b) did not represent a moral burden because they occurred before baptism - which, by any Christian's standards - wipes the soul's slate clean.

This second point is why the letter is more concerned by allegations of pot smoking than by the murders - because the pot smoking occurred after baptism and therefore represented a falling back into sinful ways.


--
I'm not a sexist pig!
I'm a plain-old-everyday pig!


[ Parent ]
Uh... (3.37 / 8) (#13)
by rebelcool on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 03:36:43 PM EST

there are several fields which enjoy confidentiality. Doctors, lawyers, priests... the Jehovas Witness elders fall under that.

Now before you use the flawed argument 'well i could create my own religion and confess', I remind you that the JW's are a recognized religion.

I see little to debate here.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

Arbitrary designation (2.80 / 5) (#18)
by mikepence on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 03:52:48 PM EST

So, by your logic the arbitrary designation of a group as a recognized religion determines whether or not it is right for them to hide behind legalities in order to protect child abusers and murderers?

[ Parent ]
Ah good, I can rant about 'right' and 'wrong'! (2.66 / 3) (#39)
by rebelcool on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 04:31:12 PM EST

To put it simply: There is no such thing as right and wrong.

Nietzche talks about it better than I can.

From a legal standpoint, according to current law and societal agreement, religious figures are not obligated, and are in fact, protected, from having to turn in confessions to authorities.

Now whether this is 'right' or 'wrong' implies there is some kind of standard that defines it. Obviously, your personal standard says its 'wrong', however the standard that society has in general agreed upon, says it is 'right'. As you can see, considering the lack of a real authoritarial standard, there is no such thing as 'right', nor 'wrong'.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Nice talk (2.50 / 2) (#42)
by inerte on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 04:36:02 PM EST

But your point is?...

That no individual action can change society? There's nothing we can do to change something we believe it is wrong?

Should we accept we must be what the common sense dictate and let it go?

I think a good conversation like we have in K5 is a good thing. Either we change his mind or he changes our. At least a little bit...

--
Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.
Plato
[ Parent ]

the point is.. (3.00 / 2) (#45)
by rebelcool on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 04:44:13 PM EST

that declaring something to be 'right' or 'wrong', from some kind of moral sense, is pointless as there is no standard to base those on. One man's justice is another's injustice.

I'm not out to change his mind. I don't think I could.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

So if... (3.00 / 2) (#46)
by inerte on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 04:51:16 PM EST

I'm not out to change his mind. I don't think I could.

I can't say you are right, I must presume you wrong. But since I can't be right, I must presume I am wrong, which makes you right and we're back in the loop.

There are times when philosophy is nothing but a study.


--
Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.
Plato
[ Parent ]

not necessarily. (2.50 / 2) (#48)
by rebelcool on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 05:02:25 PM EST

Only if you think of things as being either 'right' or 'wrong'. Once you remove that concept altogether from your mind, it no longer even matters.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Understood (4.33 / 3) (#49)
by mikepence on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 05:09:09 PM EST

I read Nietzsche also. In fact, Beyond Good & Evil is sitting on my desk right now.

Societies do set standards for right and wrong. I would argue that a religious leader has no less responsibility than a teacher, a medical professional, or a police officer, in taking steps to identify those who pose a threat to the well-being of others. I am not saying we should lynch first, ask questions later. When an individual can be reasonably assumed to pose a threat to others, the matter should be evaluated by a professional, not an untrained minister who mops floors by day, and counsels without training by night.

[ Parent ]

The real question is... (4.00 / 3) (#53)
by rebelcool on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 05:20:38 PM EST

do they still represent a threat? If I killed someone years past, and yet never harmed a living thing since, am I a threat? If I confess this to a person I trust, should they turn me in?

This is of course, one of those right/wrong questions that has no definite answer.

But lets apply it to some standards of society we currently live in. According to the rules society has agreed upon, if I confess this to a lawyer, doctor or clergyman, then those individuals have no legal obligation to turn me in.

In the case of the clergyman, he may also have the spiritual obligation of maintaining my confidentiality. The spiritual standard which he agrees with says to not.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

So how do you take sides? (3.50 / 2) (#50)
by inerte on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 05:10:55 PM EST

Or isn't necessary to do so too? Either other's people or your own side.

Don't tell me you analize everything logically and you are sucessful doing so.

Don't tell me it depends from cultural values, since that's what a person's right or wrong definitions are all about.

Don't tell me isn't necessary to take sides either, or I will say you don't have an opinion.

I just don't get what is the problem with saying something is right or wrong. If it fulfills common goals of the human race, fine with me. And don't tell we still don't know what is the meaning of life.

--
Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.
Plato
[ Parent ]

Difficult to say, really. (3.33 / 3) (#52)
by rebelcool on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 05:16:12 PM EST

Every individual has a standard of which to base their personal feelings of rights or wrong. I don't know where it comes from - probably from lifetime personal experience.

Most people get their standards from the bible or other religious texts.

Their own experiences, their childhood, how they were raised, and so on.

It really depends on if there is a standard which to base the right and wrong.

For example, 2+2=4, because those of us who agree it is 4, agree that the standards of addition and mathematics are valid. It also helps that you can physically quantify that.

But with moral questions - such as, is homosexuality right or wrong? There is no way to apply a physical quantifier to it. One simply looks at their experiences and instincts, and takes a side.

However, we must acknowledge that what is right for me, could be wrong for you. Therefore, trying to convince someone using an argument of 'do you feel this is right or wrong?' is fundamentally flawed.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

But this is not an argument (4.00 / 1) (#60)
by inerte on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 05:36:00 PM EST

You do not convince people just asking if something is right or wrong. It is not a reason so the other will change his ideas, it's a question that asks for an opinion, an answer. Asking for judgements do not make a point stronger or weaker. It just clarifies someone's position. Before judgments of right and wrong are made, indeed ideals (moral, ethic, etc..) are the foundation for them.

What could be an argument based on right or wrong is something like: "Hey, I believe this is wrong. Do you believe in it based on my opinion?".

And that would be stupid, unless you don't understand the subject, somehow trust (or must follow) the other person, and must take a stance on the subject.

So the problems are not the right or wrong definitions, even their existence, but on what grounds you are based to have them.

--
Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.
Plato
[ Parent ]

it depends on what you want to accomplish. (none / 0) (#64)
by rebelcool on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 05:49:09 PM EST

If you want to sway someone's opinion, obviously you would aim towards people who have no standard (or a weak one), on a particular subject.

I do not think one can have a 'wrong' standard, unless of course that standard falls under the jurisdiction of another standard. To which of course that person would have to acknowledge their agreement with the higher one.

One can quickly see why religion is so popular... it provides a finite standard that rises above all others. Of course when you disagree about the validity of that though, problems arise.

I think before discussing the rights and wrongs of a subject, it should probably be clear as to what standard the subject is being put against. Ie, current legal standard and so on.

Of course if you're just asking for opinions on something, there is no need for a standard.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Misrepresenting Nietzsche (none / 0) (#89)
by epepke on Tue Apr 02, 2002 at 12:18:29 PM EST

I hate it when people do that.

Nietzsche spoke of going beyond good and evil, but as he constantly reiterated, that does not mean going beyond good and bad. His point was that moralities, specifically ressentiment, actually were in conflict with the good and bad of Creator morality, which might as well be called "right and wrong."


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
But... (4.33 / 3) (#26)
by mikepence on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 04:01:59 PM EST

States have passed laws that determine that anyone who comes to know of, for example, sexual abuse of a child, must report it - especially if they are in a role of being a trusted caretaker of the individual.

Should murder be any different? Would you be all right with having a loved one murdered, and knowing that your minister was concealing the identity of the murderer becuase, in his opinion, he has repented?

[ Parent ]

Legally, yes they are very different. (2.83 / 6) (#28)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 04:05:17 PM EST

You just refuse to actually address that point.


--
I'm not a sexist pig!
I'm a plain-old-everyday pig!


[ Parent ]
What? (2.66 / 3) (#32)
by mikepence on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 04:12:28 PM EST

What am I failing to address? Put it in little words for me.

[ Parent ]
Apparently we need to (3.25 / 4) (#34)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 04:15:30 PM EST

Since I'm not the only one to note that the sex abuse reporting laws you keep referring to do, in fact, involve reporting ongoing crimes that you have a good faith reason to believe are in progress. Not crimes that occurred in the past. Not crimes that might occur in the future. Not crimes that you heard about once.

Have you reported those pedophiles yet?


--
I'm not a sexist pig!
I'm a plain-old-everyday pig!


[ Parent ]
thats oversimplifying it. (4.00 / 3) (#41)
by rebelcool on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 04:34:20 PM EST

One would have to read the full text of the individual laws before commenting. I find it unlikely that a lawyer has to inform authorities if his client confesses to sexual abuse. In general, these kind of client-lawyer, patient-doctor, parishoner-priest privledges overrule almost any law.

It doesn't matter what *I* think. The priest is under no obligation to reveal it.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Knees to the ground, hands together (3.33 / 6) (#29)
by inerte on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 04:08:58 PM EST

- "Dear God, I have sinned."

Few days later, and the law hasn't come looking for me.

Urrray! Arrest God! The end of an era.

Okay, now what is wrong with this picture? First of all, priests (etc...) are not gods.

But, they are, in the believer's mind, a representation of the maximum forgiveness.

It would not matter. Say that religious authorities can and should turn criminals to police and the criminals will simply not talk to them anymore.

Does it look bad to leave the way it is? Yes.

Will it work the other way? No.

The problem with religion and particulary, confessionaries, is that they have an accepted power to forgiveness, but not to reprehend an act. That is left to the sinner, or criminal, who most of the times must on its own think about what to do.

Sadly, there's no omnipresent God striking lightning bolts on bad boys.

--
Bodily exercise, when compulsory, does no harm to the body; but knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.
Plato

There is an excellent writeup... (4.20 / 5) (#47)
by rebelcool on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 04:58:07 PM EST

on this subject Here.

It goes into details the various spiritual and legal reasons concerning confessions. In general, if the deeds are in the past and there is no immediate and obvious threat, the clergy is spiritually obligated to keep them confidential.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

Great link (none / 0) (#92)
by porkchop_d_clown on Tue Apr 02, 2002 at 01:12:44 PM EST

thanks for the tip.


--
I'm not a sexist pig!
I'm a plain-old-everyday pig!


[ Parent ]
I sympathize (3.75 / 4) (#54)
by calimehtar on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 05:24:37 PM EST

Isn't this the necessary counterpart to the separation of church and state? They aren't encouraging people to become criminals, they are simply choosing not to judge by the same standard the law chosses to apply. I mean, crime is bad, but I'm glad there are a few places left in this world where criminals aren't automatically assumed to be evil.

As I recall, forgiveness is one of the central tenets of Christianity and meanwhile has no place at all in the legal system.


+++

The whole point of the Doomsday Machine is lost if you keep it a secret.


Roles (3.33 / 3) (#55)
by mikepence on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 05:26:39 PM EST

In legal matters, especially serious crimes like murder, religion should abdicate to law enforcement. Religious leaders are simply not qualified to assess what is and is not a clear and present danger.

In spiritual matters, government should, and does, abdicate to religion.

[ Parent ]

heh.. (3.50 / 2) (#56)
by rebelcool on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 05:29:27 PM EST

By like token, you are not qualified to assess what a religious leader should do in all cases, now are you?

By what standard do you make the blanket statement, "In legal matters, especially serious crimes like murder, religion should abdicate to law enforcement."?

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Last I heard... (4.00 / 2) (#58)
by SIGFPE on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 05:31:46 PM EST

...most governments outlaw a major part of the practice of Rastafarian spirituality.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]
not quite the point (none / 0) (#77)
by calimehtar on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 10:23:08 PM EST

I believe the story was discussing, not the failure to report the murder, but the willingness of Jehovas Witnesses to tolerate them in their midst. That is to say convicted murderers.

+++

The whole point of the Doomsday Machine is lost if you keep it a secret.


[ Parent ]
There is no seperation of church and state. (3.33 / 3) (#61)
by SnowBlind on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 05:36:11 PM EST

That would be in the Solviet consitution, arcticle 13 of the orginal document.
The US Consitution promises only the freedom of worship and no State sanctioned religeon.

Having said that, the Church and its represtentives do have an obligation to prevent crimes. I.e. if someone confessed that they were going to commit a crime, they should notify the authorities. Such an admission would not be a confession, as the sin has not been commited.

There is but One Kernel, and root is His Prophet.
[ Parent ]
An atheist's opinion (5.00 / 7) (#63)
by epepke on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 05:47:14 PM EST

First of all, I'd just like to come clean with my bias. I'm a strong Atheist and basically consider religion a childish occupation. I detest Jehovah's Witnesses, and I do mean things to those of them who actually come to my door, including answering the door naked and actually discussing religion with them. So, I have every motivation for wanting to see the JW's on the wrong side of an issue.

Nevertheless, I'm going with them on this one. Confidentiality of confession, which as others have pointed out reduces just to words, is extremely important. They can encourage him to turn himself over and probably should, but in no way should they feel compelled to report what he has said. If there is a law requiring them to do so, then they have to comply with the law, but then also it is a bad law.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


But they don't (4.00 / 2) (#65)
by mikepence on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 05:51:34 PM EST

You can make a strong argument that they should urge him to turn himself in, that real repentance means owning up, which is what they preach.

But, they take an ambivalent stance. They are not told to encourage the murderer to make amends, or turn himself in.

[ Parent ]

i disagree... (3.50 / 2) (#66)
by rebelcool on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 06:02:25 PM EST

I think most religions would consider repentance to be owning up in a spiritual sense, not the manmade legal sense.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Actually... (none / 0) (#80)
by Duende on Tue Apr 02, 2002 at 01:26:50 AM EST

I know that most of the flavors of Christianity I have come in contact with view it a bit differently. The process is divided up into two steps: seeking forgiveness and then repentance. In this context, the first step involves apologies, making restitution, etc. Repentance actually involves abstaining from that behavior in the future.

================================================
"The Yatta dance is not a martial art."
--Midnight Phoneboys
[ Parent ]

Evidence? (none / 0) (#68)
by Neolith on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 06:29:15 PM EST

They are not told to encourage the murderer to make amends, or turn himself in.

Where is the statement that backs this up? I can see nothing in the letter you cite that would lead you to make this inference.

[ Parent ]

Try this... (none / 0) (#69)
by mikepence on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 06:34:21 PM EST

"What he does about paying his debt to Society is largely up to him and his conscience."

Beginning and end of statements regarding his accountability.

[ Parent ]

And... (none / 0) (#70)
by Neolith on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 06:47:05 PM EST

... a person would assume barring evidence otherwise that an elder would try to reason with a person to help guide him in acting in harmony with his supposedly Bible trained conscience, wouldn't they? Since they elders can't go to the police themselves, it would be up to the individual, wouldn't it?

[ Parent ]
Yes (none / 0) (#72)
by mikepence on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 06:50:16 PM EST

One would be lead to believe this, based on the information presented to the rank and file JW. The information presented to the elders in the letters to the Bodies of Elders paints quite a different picture.

Stay tuned.

[ Parent ]

I don't (5.00 / 2) (#87)
by epepke on Tue Apr 02, 2002 at 12:07:26 PM EST

I wrote that they can and probably should. Actually, I'm going to retract the "probably should." I wrote that reflexively and, after some thought, think it was the wrong thing to write. I say that I have no opinion on whether they should. Part of the reason is that I don't know the details (and shouldn't).

I can think of four goals that law enforcement and punishment can achieve:

  1. Intimidation
  2. Rehabilitation
  3. Vengeance
  4. Confinement

Intimidation only works at the level of minor lawbreakers. A speeder may not speed, because he doesn't like bubba pulling him over. It isn't likely to work much on someone who has gotten to the level of murder.

Rehabilitation is a noble goal. Vengeance, is what people are usually getting at when they talk about the moral imperative. It's certainly what people are getting at when they talk about the rights of victims. The trouble is that the desire for vengeance, which has increased in the U.S. over the past twenty years, is in direct conflict rehabilitation. The brutal conditions of prisons, such as prison rape, enforcement of hierarchies by the inmates, etc. serve the goal of vengeance rather nicely. I do imagine that the families of victims would have a nice catharsis thinking about how the perp is in prison getting anally raped. Hey, I feel the same way about whoever broke into my apartment. However, they also create the conditions under which inmates are likely to be come more, rather than less sociopathic, as well as put them in a situation where they are trained how more effectively to commit further crimes.

So, although vengeance is unquestionably the most moral goal, is it the right goal?

Confinement is probably the main thing that the prisons do somewhat effectively. However, unless confinement is for life, one has to consider the effect of a prisoner released after a few years of criminal training. Confinement is not likely to be very long in the overcrowded prison system. Yes, a Ted Bundy will stay there or get executed (essentially, permanent confinement), but someone who as a 16-year-old popped a rival gang member with a nine is likely to get out after a few years. Even then it may be clearly desirable to get the person off the streets, but is that obviously the case here? Did the guy confess to killing someone every other week, or was it five years ago in a culture he's trying to get away from?

It could very well be and prima facie looks like this particular individual needs rehabilitation and would be more rather than less likely to commit further violence if processed by the justice system. Again, I don't say that it necessarily does; I don't know. However, the moral perspective makes such considerations impossible. It asserts that vengeance is good, even if it actually increases the amount of crime or the chances of rescidivism. A moral good is unassailable; it does not admit the possibility of reasoning. Hence the war on drugs, zero tolerance, the DMCA, etc.

Morality is concerned with the label; if people are convinced that it Fights Evil, that's it. Whether the net effect is a reduction or increase in evil is unimportant to the moral perspective. As a result, most moral imperatives increase evil, simply because a complex world requires thought, planning, and understanding, and morality, by giving a free answer to every question, kills thought dead. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Are the JW's qualified to go through these thoughts? I don't know. They're pretty stupid, but the ball is in their court, and it is their job. The original article made much of the fact that they haven't had psychiatric or psychological training. Well, I worked in a mental hospital, and I assert that this is unequivocably a good thing. In any event, their attitude from the reports is certainly more in line with doing the right thing than is this moralism.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Vengence is moral? (5.00 / 1) (#90)
by porkchop_d_clown on Tue Apr 02, 2002 at 12:34:18 PM EST

So, although vengeance is unquestionably the most moral goal, is it the right goal?

What?!? Last time I checked vengence was considered immoral, and the only moral use of violence was to prevent further violence. When did vengence become moral? By whose standard?

Otherwise I agree with you that rehabilitation is always the goal but that we just don't seem to be able to do it. This leaves us with a Hobson's choice - either kill the offender to prevent further crime, lock them up till they die, or let them loose and be responsible for their further crimes. Personally, I find confinement the most moral option.


--
I'm not a sexist pig!
I'm a plain-old-everyday pig!


[ Parent ]
Vengeance is moral (5.00 / 2) (#93)
by epepke on Tue Apr 02, 2002 at 07:02:00 PM EST

Last time I checked vengence was considered immoral, and the only moral use of violence was to prevent further violence. When did vengence become moral?

You and I probably agree mostly on what is right. Our basic difference between us is this. You are labeling as "moral" what you think is right. I am pointing out that, when people use the "moral" label, it is usually applied to what I don't think is right.

Vengeance has always been moral and is one of the centerpiece of morality. I view morality as an anthropologist, not as a user. When you look at issues that people consider particularly moral issues, most of the time they are about achieving vengeance. The 9/11 attacks, the War on Terrorism, even Pat Robertson's prayer for a hurricane to strike Florida because Disney gave benefits to gay partners, are all actions considered highly moral by their users and much of the audience.

The basic problem with the concept of morality is that what people say it is isn't even remotely related to how they use it. If you're going to view it scientifically, you have to look at how it is used.

Otherwise I agree with you that rehabilitation is always the goal

I didn't say that rehabilitation is always the goal. I said that it may in fact be the most appropriate goal in the current circumstances. See, you have someone who was involved in crime, including murder, in the past, who is trying to make a new life. I don't think much of religiosity, but it seems to me, at least prima facie, that he is actively seeking some form of rehabilitation.

My goal is to prevent people from becoming criminals in the first place. But then again, I'm an immoralist.

but that we just don't seem to be able to do it.

Who's "we?" How do you know he can't achieve some form of rehabilitation in his new community? You don't. "We," I guess, means the justice system or society at large, which things highly of the justice system. So, then what? Do you advocate mandating taking him out of a situation in which he may very well achieve rehabilitation and put him in a place where it is the one thing he can never achieve? If so, do you advocate this in the name of morality, which is essentially what the original article was advocating?

And, even if "we" can't rehabilitate people, the U.S. has a higher percentage of people who are locked up than anywhere else. Can't we look at some of the reasons that this may be the case? No, of course not. Everything that we could possibly look at (e.g. the War on Drugs, Zero Tolerance) has Morality stuck all over it like white on rice.

I'm not saying that this person is in a position where he can be rehabilitated. I'm saying that I don't know. But the point is that the original post assumes that it is a foregone conclusion that there is a moral imperative to put everyone in a system that it known to make rehabilitation impossible. To put it another way, permitting the possibility of rehabilitation is de facto immoral, even if one does not know any of the other circumstances of the situation.

That is, of course, also the basis of the highly moral War on Drugs, and all you have to do is compare the funding of this with funding for drug treatment programs to see which is the preferred choice.

Personally, I find confinement the most moral option.

Do you? Maybe it is. Do you know that it is in all cases? Is there never an alternative that is more moral than getting someone beaten up and anally raped for the rest of his life? It seems to me that if that is the most moral alternative that it says something about morality.

Take another example. The age of consent in Florida is 18. A couple of things can happen, though. A 17-year-old might have sex with another 17-year-old. Most people would consider this immoral. A parent of one of the 17-year-olds can coercively take her daughter who has had sex in for a "rape examination." Most people would consider this moral. I know, because I was married to a nurse, that this is an extremely brutal procedure; she participated in exactly one in her career and said that it itself was like a rape. Most people wouldn't care about this, because it muddies up their concepts of what is moral and what isn't.

You're still, of course, welcome to disagree with me, but do you see where I am going when describing morality?


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Good post (none / 0) (#100)
by maroberts on Thu Apr 04, 2002 at 04:48:40 PM EST

Nice to see a well argued position instead of a slanging match
~~~
The greatest trick the Devil pulled was to convince the world he didn't exist -- Verbil Kint, The Usual Suspects
[ Parent ]
a sceptiscist replies... (none / 0) (#94)
by KiTaSuMbA on Tue Apr 02, 2002 at 07:57:48 PM EST

you are right on both: I myself make fun of JWs knocking my door Sunday morning while I recover from last night's booze and yes I do recognize the confession's confidential nature (if a confession it was).
But let alone the "spiritual world", let's talk about something more practical: how many of you know that a medical doctor is NOT to report facts that came to his knowledge through his exercise? Not even if a patient reports to his psychiatrist he just slaughtered a man?
Personally, I consider churches ridiculous but anyone has the right to consider them differently.
There is no Dopaminergic Pepperoni Kabal!
[ Parent ]
Should be Reported (2.00 / 4) (#74)
by Talez on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 08:12:52 PM EST

Confidentiality my ass. The US is supposed to be a big proponent of the seperation between church and state. If this is allowed to go on it sets a precedent that church elders are indeed above the law and gives them the power to choose who is arrested/trialed/convicted and who is not.

It is my firm belief that putting power in any religious leader is a dangerous thing and often results in corruption.

Also, when you choose to live in a country past the age of adulthood, you have made a concious choice, as an adult, to live within a society and accept the rules and laws that go along with it. If your religion has rules that don't match up with the society you choose to live in, ie, I will not report a criminal who is on the run because we think he's a changed man, get the hell out. We are not in the business of giving you special privelidges just because you think you and your religion are above the law.

Arrest the person committing the murders and then arrest the elders for aiding the murderer in his quest to evade the law. Do the crime, do the time.

Si in Googlis non est, ergo non est
I'll do both, thanks (4.00 / 1) (#83)
by Eight Star on Tue Apr 02, 2002 at 08:54:58 AM EST

When is confidentiality important?
This is not setting the precedent that church leaders are above the law, the law allows them to respect confidentiality, why do you not respect the law?
It does not give them the power to choose who is arrested/tried. They are not covering up any evidence at the crime scene, they are not giving him a false identity. The police have a job to do, they can still do it.

'Putting power' in anyone is dangerous and often leads to corruption. I guess we just have to cope.

Whether or not the criminal is a changed man is irrelevant. What is relevant is that his admission was to a spiritual leader. If you respect law, respect this one.



[ Parent ]
A danger to the community (none / 0) (#76)
by bobpence on Mon Apr 01, 2002 at 09:46:04 PM EST

This multiple murderer, fugitive from justice is clearly a danger to the community, and the Witnesses are dealing with it appropriately: Investigating his reefer habit to see if they need to shun him.
"Interesting. No wait, the other thing: tedious." - Bender
Good story :-) (none / 0) (#78)
by sweetie on Tue Apr 02, 2002 at 12:11:36 AM EST


"If god thinks he's doing me wrong , he'll strike his ass down with a lightning bolt!"
Have you been fucked with the wrong way? If so then post that Bitch or Dick to my Dick
No more principle of sanctuary? (4.44 / 9) (#81)
by Jonathan Walther on Tue Apr 02, 2002 at 02:05:41 AM EST

Have you people never heard of the concept of sanctuary? When the kings men came riding, historically you could seek sanctuary in a church. It was inviolable. It is now more honored in the breach than the observance, but it still holds. Are you proposing that a sacred tradition in the west, and east, for thousands of years, should be thrown out like trash? Did it occur to you such a custom may have grown up because it was needed in a world of tyrants, which we still live in?

I saw nothing in the letter to indicate the man in question actually was a fugitive, merely that the Florida State authorities weren't aware of his past.

I have to give the Witnesses a big thumbs up on this one, if it is true. Religion has no business being an agent of the police state. To the extent I see a religion respecting that, I respect it.

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")


It is old, therefore it is good? (none / 0) (#86)
by mikepence on Tue Apr 02, 2002 at 11:56:14 AM EST

There are many abuses of power and acts of tyranny done by and for religion. Covering up the acts of child molestation by priests and others is just the most recent to gain visibility in the public mind.

We no longer allow religion to directly run our government, or to wage horrific wars like the Children's Crusade - at least not in the USA. It is time to stop the protection of dangerous criminals in the name of some name-brand ritualized mythology.

[ Parent ]

What does that have to do with anything? (none / 0) (#95)
by The Muffin on Tue Apr 02, 2002 at 11:07:08 PM EST

The porblem here is that these people will be going door to door, evangelizing.

Now, many people I know might be more inclined to let these people into their own homes, as they are representing a religious group, and are consided to be of good moral standing, because of that. So, the problem is that these people have access to people's homes... Just because they say they repent their sins or whatnot (I really don't know, I'm quite the atheist), doesn't mean they won't commit the crimes again.

That's the problem -- These people might be hiding behind the church in order to be able to commit more crime. I'm not saying all of these people are, but that they might be. There is no sure way of knowing, so there is still a risk, but countering it is a bit of risky business...


- This is the end.
[ Parent ]
Tough call (none / 0) (#97)
by jmzero on Wed Apr 03, 2002 at 06:08:52 PM EST

Unless we know the circumstances of the past offense. If the past offense was something like "The guy told me to get off his porch, so I stabbed him." then it's different.
.
"Let's not stir that bag of worms." - my lovely wife
[ Parent ]
Sanctuary in the church building (4.00 / 1) (#98)
by Macrobat on Wed Apr 03, 2002 at 10:34:35 PM EST

Have you people never heard of the concept of sanctuary? When the kings men came riding, historically you could seek sanctuary in a church. It was inviolable.

The sanctuary offered was physically in a church, however. It's not like a priest or whomever could simply bless a man and thereby render him immune from prosecution wherever he subsequently went.

Did it occur to you such a custom may have grown up because it was needed in a world of tyrants, which we still live in?

This seems like some variation on the genetic fallacy. You seem to be saying that the conditions under which a practice arose justify any abuses that might arise from it, just because it was a reaction to something bad. Is that what you mean to say?

Religion has no business being an agent of the police state.

What is your definition of a "police state?" Any state that has laws, and police to enforce them? Why don't you just say "state" in that case? No, religion has no business being an agent of the state, either, but it's less Orwellian and melodramatic if you simply say "state" or "government" rather than "police state."

Nevertheless, even if a religious body is not an agent of the state, that doesn't mean that its members are somehow above the law. And it also doesn't mean the elders didn't commit a serious error in judgment by sending out an admitted murderer to proselytize for them (which is, as pointed out in the story, a condition for being a Jehovah's Witness).

"Hardly used" will not fetch a better price for your brain.
[ Parent ]

What are our obligations? (none / 0) (#101)
by phliar on Mon Apr 08, 2002 at 07:08:53 PM EST

Ob. Disclaimer: I'm an atheist and a sceptic. I often rant vigorously to friends about how religions are corrupt, a stupid crutch for the weak, and the root cause of all evil on earth.

That said: what about the concept of the absolute sanctity of the confessional?

If a friend confesses a crime to me, am I obligated to report him or her to the police? I imagine I would make the decision based on the crime and the friend.

If a person confesses a crime to a priest at confession, I believe the position of the church is that this information will go no further; absence of this immunity may keep people from confessing.

My feeling is that for all its evils, religion does play an important and essential role in the lives of many people, and we should not idly throw away the concept of priest-confessor confidence. In this case, there are just about no specific details so it's hard to have an opinion on what the right thing to do is. Did the person get carried away and kill the rapist/murderer of his eight year old daughter? Or did he rape and murder an eight year old girl?

Of course the "smoked marijuana after baptismal" is a ludicrous non-crime.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...

The Murderer at Your Door | 101 comments (96 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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