A clergyman can invoke the right of non-disclosure before a court of law, but only with regard to knowledge entrusted to him in his capacity as a spiritual care and counselor. Under current legislation, elders and other overseers in the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses can be classified as spiritual office holders. In practice, the right of non-disclosure seems to be granted to them rather easily. Police and Justice seem to have little or no knowledge about the type of spiritual care offered by elders in the community of Jehovah's Witnesses.
The report Jehovah's Witnesses and the clerical privilege is intended to provide insight into how shepherical care is shaped by Jehovah's Witnesses. It shows how the religious privilege is used within this religious community, especially in situations involving sexual abuse.
With regard to a duty to report to science of sexual abuse, we looked at how the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses deals with this abroad. Here too, an appeal to the clerical right to refuge plays a role, or the way in which it is understood and applied by Jehovah's Witnesses. As long as they can find an exception in the law that elders and overseers can appeal to, they seem to think they have no legal obligation to report.
I come to the conclusion, through the media and especially through this letter, that it is very important that there is a transparent and legal procedure in which the assessment of the privilege is completely excluded from the religious communities. In short: that the judge comes to a legal decision based on the code. Faith communities should not themselves (internally) proceed to a provision of any nature whatsoever in any case. Declaration at all times is therefore the consequence. This report is completely clear and convincing to me.
- Dr. H. Kuindersma, religious educator