Draffenville, Ky.-- Former Jehovah's Witness elder Bill Bowen, who resigned the leadership position in December 2000 to protest the church's handling of child molestation cases, was disfellowshipped after a brief hearing Wednesday night, he said Thursday. Bowen said Jeff Steen of Murray, one of three elders on the committee, called him Thursday morning, but Bowen told the elders to communicate with his attorney, Rush Hunt of Madisonville, and hung up. Bowen said Steen then called Hunt and said Bowen had been disfellowshipped but provided no other information.
Neither Steen, nor the other elders on the panel - George Bandarra of Murray and Ron Carey of Central City - returned phone messages Thursday.
Bowen has said the church protects pedophiles by not reporting accusations to police and encouraging victims not to go to authorities to discuss the matter with anyone in the congregation. The church has denied any wrongdoing and claims it follows the law.
Bowen said he plans to appeal the decision, made at a hearing that Bowen had asked be rescheduled and was held without him. Bowen said he was across the street from the Kingdom Hall and the elders locked the door and blocked the windows. He added that the three elders appeared to be the only people present.
"The thing they have nailed to the wall is that they require two eyewitnesses before a child molester may be convicted" in the church, Bowen said. "I have flatly denied these charges against me, and they brought no witnesses against me. It's a vast inconsistency in the organization. If I was a child molester, they wouldn't have had a hearing. Because I'm a person who spoke out to protect children, they disfellowship me in 30 minutes."
Bowen said he received the return receipt from a letter Hunt mailed asking that the meeting be rescheduled so that his witnesses, coming from all over the country, could attend.
"They've stepped over about all their protocols, so I think they'll ignore my request for an appeal," Bowen said.
Bowen said being disfellowshipped - which requires Witnesses, including family members, to shun him - is the religion's equivalent of death.
"From my standpoint, the real crime is not disfellowshipping me," Bowen said. "The real crime is, now they're going to silence anyone in the organization who needs help or support. They will face disfellowshipping for logging onto the Web site."
Bowen, who started a support group for Witness abuse victims at www.silentlambs.org, said visitors to the site are split about evenly between current and former Witnesses.
Bowen becomes the fourth Witness disfellowshipped this year for speaking out on the issue, following Barbara Anderson, of Normandy, Tenn., and Carl and Barbara Pandelo, of Belmar, N.J.