The unity of the Church was exposed to about 2,500 allegations of sexual abuse of children in its 40-year history, the Royal Commission heard.
The Royal Commission of cruel treatment of children have also heard that there were 1,006 individuals suspected of violence in the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but the congregation did not submit any police officer.
Jehovah’s witnesses, the inquiry heard, was still refusing to change the second-century biblical rule requires two witnesses to prove guilt.
Fostered by Jehovah’s Witnesses, “distrust” secular power – QC of the Commission
The Royal Commission returned to consideration to join churches and Jehovah’s Witnesses on Friday, seeking to understand how each reformed its handling of the complaints of the child.
The lawyer is assisting, Angus Stewart, SC, said that the Royal Commission has analysed the data provided by the uniting Church in 2,504 complaints of ill-treatment of children since 1977.
Of these statements, 133 related to the violence that occurred in places of worship.
The Church had paid about 17.5 million dollars to the victims, and was the subject of 255 civil suits, said Stewart.
The Royal Commission is examining how complex the structure of the Church affect its ability to have consistent measures for the protection of children and mechanisms for grievance management.
The unity of the Church is the members of 1,065,000, which makes it the third largest Christian denomination in Australia.
It has 40,000 employees and 30,000 volunteers, and operates 64 schools and 179 institutions providing services to children, young people or the wider community.
It is governed by the non-hierarchical series of councils, including the Assembly, known as the national Council and state and territory synods, regional presbyteries and individual congregations of believers.
The national Assembly develops policy and promotes the safety of the child and codes of conduct, but each of the various councils are responsible for their implementation.
The Church has developed a national child safe policy, which is based on the recommendations of the Royal Commission. This framework was approved over the weekend.
Royal Commission chair, justice Peter McClellan, asked whether the Church used its considerable influence following the Federal government for the implementation of the national programme of protection.
The unity of the Church President, Stuart McMillan, said that the Church is much less of an impact than they did in the 1950s and 60s years. But McMillan said the Church helps to encourage governments to commit to the scheme.
“We certainly do your honor, I have a meeting of our Ecumenical partners to talk about compensation and the compensation schemes,” said McMillan.
“We had a meeting with the Commonwealth in January to talk about the issues that need to be addressed if they are going to go ahead with the system,” he said.
“There are, of course, good faith on the part of the Church on this issue.”
Earlier the Royal Commission heard evidence of the extent of abuse within the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
He had heard that there are at least 1,008 survivors of abuse, and 579 members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses admitted.
About 400 of the alleged perpetrators was excluded from meetings, and 230 to be recovered later. The Royal Commission reported 514 criminals to the police.
He also heard the victim continues to be shunned if they left the organization.
Jehovah’s witnesses in Australia believe that they are forbidden by Scripture to change the application of the two witness rule that applies in all cases of complaints of misconduct, a Royal Commission has heard.
The Commission found that the organization unlawfully proceeded from this rule in the context of sexual abuse of children, saying that the applicants are subjected to constant traumatization if their claims are not confirmed by a confession of the offender or “credible” witness.
Stewart noted that Jehovah’s Witnesses failed to address many of the recommendations of the study, including to revise or modify the application of this rule.
He said that the organization also did not respond to a particularly devastating practice of avoiding the casualties that apart from Jehovah’s Witnesses because their abuser remained in the meeting, while maintaining it was not policy.
The Commission found that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not adequately respond to complaints of sexual violence against children and do not adequately protect children from risk of abuse.
But senior members of the Australian Church challenged the Commission’s conclusion that the organization has, as a rule, allegations of sexual violence against children to the police or authorities if required by law.
“We’ve never had accountability,” Jehovah’s Witnesses Australian branch Committee member Terrence O’brien told the Commission on Friday.
Jehovah’s witnesses do not protect children from abuse, inquiry finds
O’brien said that hundreds had been registered, although not an organization because he stayed with the elders dealing with the case or with parents.
The Commission heard Jehovah’s Witnesses mention 15 of the 17 allegations of ill-treatment of children to the police, which occurred after the hearings, the Commission, noting that in two cases, adult survivors do not want to, he said.
Rodney Spinks, who encouraged Church elders to deal with cases of sexual violence against children, said that victims or their parents said they had every right to Complain to the authorities and the elders would fully support them.