Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Should "Innocent until Proven Guilty" be a thing of the past?

Imagine you’ve been wrongly accused of sexual misconduct. A 13-year-old tells their parents about engaging in inappropriate sexual conduct and they point the finger at you – unjustly. The parents go to the minister of your congregation. You are called on the carpet. You, of course, vehemently deny any such wrongdoing. The minister questions the child regarding the details. He establishes a time and place of the supposed incident. You have no alibi for that time.

What should happen next? You tell me. Pick the response below that you feel is, not only proper, but scriptural. Remember that it is YOU who has been unjustly accused:

  1. The minister tells you that, in the absence of any evidence, the accusation will be disregarded. Perhaps he further tells you to be especially careful to never be alone with a child so as to prevent any allegations in the future.
  2. The minister calls the police.
  3. The minister tells the parents to call the police.
  4. The minister tells the parents that they may call the police, but they need to be aware that the Bible warns against false accusations the same way that it warns against sexual misconduct.
This one is, I know, even less likely, but it isn't impossible. Suppose the child gets together with friends and they conspire to make several false accusations against you. They still have no evidence since you did not do what you are being accused of.

  1. Should the minister now take disciplinary action against you because there are multiple accusations?
  2. Should the minister now call the police?
  3. Should the minister now urge the parents to call the police?
  4. Should the minister maintain that there is still no evidence and remind the parents about the gravity of making false accusations?
 Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that all, or even a majority, of accusations of sexual misconduct are false. The stories that have come out about Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer and others bear that out. According to some studies, false accusations of rape are rare - possibly fewer than 10%, though I suspect that number may be higher when deep pockets are involved. 
-Continues below-
False accusations do happen. If they didn't, there wouldn't be guidelines about them in the Bible. In Bible times, if someone accused someone falsely, they were liable to the same penalty that would have been inflicted on the innocent party. (Deuteronomy 19:18) Many cases required two eye-witnesses. (Numbers 35:30) 
You can see where this is going. “Innocent until proven guilty” has long been a fundamental principle under the law, because most legal systems are consciously or unconsciously based on Bible principles. When we are unjustly accused we want that principle to be followed in our case.

Unfortunately, when we hear that someone else had an accusation made against them but no disciplinary action was taken, we tend to believe the case was mishandled. Especially if the accused turns out later to be guilty. Especially if there were children involved.

It’s called “20-20 hindsight,” being a "Facebook expert" or a “Monday-morning-quarterback,” named for water-cooler discussions on Monday about the previous day’s football games.

In a case in California involving a former Jehovah’s Witness, a man is suing to obtain Jehovah’s Witnesses confidential records – not just those pertaining to his case, but ALL confidential records of ALL accusations.

If you think that’s a good idea, you need to re-read the example at the top of this column. If you were falsely accused, and an elder in a Jehovah’s Witness congregation heard the accusation, do you want your name and that accusation to become public knowledge? If you are a Catholic and the false accusation was made to your priest, how would you feel about your priest being forced to tell the authorities about the accusation?  

Please leave a polite comment. Comments are moderated, so if you have your own agenda, don’t waste your time. 

Bill K. Underwood is the author of several novels and one non-fiction self-help book, all available at can help support this site by purchasing a book.


  1. This has always concerned me, in the case of sexual abuse it is unlikely that there would be any witnesses, but we know that the enemy can manipulate people in the hope of making Jehovah's servants look bad. How does a person prove their innocence when there is no witness? If a person had this leaning could they take advantage? We know that nothing can be hidden from Jehovah. This is coming up in the news now and I hate to think that shame will be brought on Jehovah's name

    1. True, there are false accusations made all the time. But more importantly, what if a child accuses an adult of rape and the child is telling the truth? I believe the WT publications and articles are clearly stating that it is the primary parents obligation to report it the authorities, including the police. Recent WT statements have made that clear. And historical articles clearly imply that parents are the primary protectors of their children, as a members of the congregation they have every right to report it to the police. An early 1990 WT article clearly state that the Christian Congregation will NOT protect pedophiles from prosecution. While the elders may not be able to do nothing pending a secular investigation of one who claims he is innocent, only by reporting it to the proper authorities, including the police and medical authorities, can evidence be gathered. Elders cannot conduct that type of investigation. In one case I heard of, the parents reported it to the police, a medical exam proved that their child was raped, and DNA evidence proved that the abuser was lying to elders. The elders used the DNA evidence as a 2nd witness, and expelled the abuser and criminal from the congregation. That is why it is so important to teach children to speak up if that awful crime happens to them, so that the evidence can be gathered quickly, while it is still fresh. Waiting too long, or years, may be very difficult to prove. That is why the WT emphasizes and strongly encourage the parents to teach their children to speak up and not be afraid. Healing happens sooner, if it is taken care of sooner.