The Jehovah’s Witnesses are a relatively small, Christian, evangelical sect based primarily in the U.S. They have unique beliefs that separate them from mainline Protestant and Catholic religions in the United States.
While some believe that Jehovah’s Witnesses are part of a cult religious group, many others insist that no coercion or manipulation is involved in membership or adherence to the faith.
But some former members of the group, including former Jehovah’s Witness Mark O’Donnell of Baltimore, Maryland, are speaking out about a deeper alleged issue within the ranks of the church: child molesters and child abuse.
O’Donnell claims to have accessed a secret database of child molesters and child predators within the Jehovah’s Witnesses and argues that the church has concealed the widespread problem of sexual contact with children for years.
Mark O’Donnell is a former Jehovah’s Witness who left the church in 2013. After leaving the church, he started blogging about the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ umbrella nonprofit organization) under the alias John Redwood.
O’Donnell claims to have witnessed the sexual abuse of other children in the group when he was growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness in the 1960s and 1970s. A secret database, he and other former members allege, was kept that details members’ confessions and accusers’ details about child molestation.
O’Donnell has leaked contents of the database for years, naming and describing child predators’ behavior and the many ways the church is alleged to have covered it up.
Many former members, some emboldened by O’Donnell’s leaking of accusations within the database, have come forward to say they were sexually abused by church leaders. Others say that they reported sexual abuse by family members or neighbors to church leaders, who then disfellowshipped or otherwise mildly disciplined the child molesters only to allow them to return later.
Throughout the accusations in the past several years, the Watchtower has refused to release the database contents to any legal authorities. Church leaders have paid thousands upon thousands of dollars to fight demands by various courts that they release any potential information about child predators or sexual contact with children within their ranks.