In our post-Christian times, bearing false
witness is becoming all too commonplace and the cost is very high. Lets take
a look at some examples:
The young couple was flabbergasted. How could this happen? As the story unfolded, the Does found out that a neighbor had phoned a child abuse hotline because she had seen Joes 2-year old daughter sitting on his lap trying to undo his shirt buttonsomething probably every father who has ever lived has experienced. She interpreted it is child molestation and turned Joe in.
Upon investigation, the police found no culpability in Joe, and no charges were brought. Eventually, the couples children were returnedbut the legal costs bankrupted them, and they lost their home as a result. The emotional stress had been enormous.
All this pain and suffering was the result of a false accusation made via a child abuse hotline.
She quit her job and moved to the mid-West to live with her own parents for a while to get over the hurt and work things through. At some point, she met a man there, whom she eventually married. After marriage, they moved back to Los Angeles where she reestablished contact with her former employer and his wife. Because of financial problems, she had to take another job, so the man and his wife offered to take care of the two children on a part-time basis to help her out.
After a short while, our good Samaritans began to suspect the new stepfather of child molestation. The evidence seemed quite solid. They expressed their concern to the young mother. She reported their fears to her husband who then decided that the best defense is offence. The new husband filed a molestation charge against the man who had sought only to do a good deed.
The result was a long, ugly, costly, court battle in which the professional man was eventually cleared of all charges. The emotional stress levied on this good Christian man was enormous. His reputation suffered, and it was very hard for him and his wife to keep from becoming angry and bitter about what had been done to them.
Again, we see the bitter fruit of false witness.
The situation was both embarrassing and incredibly stressful. The police informed the couple that if their children were determined to be truants, they could be taken from them and placed in foster homes. Because of the false accusation of one mean-spirited person, this young family soon found itself putting the house up for sale and putting as much distance between themselves and that terrible experience as they could. Because of that single, malicious phone call, their whole lives had been thrown into upheaval.
The Bitter Fruit of False Witness
False witness has become a lifestyle for some. In 1992, the last year for which we have statistics, 1,227,223 Americans were falsely accused of child abuse1.
Virtually anyone who has any contact with childrenparents, grandparents, schoolteachers, social workers, scoutmasters, doctors, and dentistsis at risk of false accusation. Yet, according to those who have studied the charges, most are baseless. According to Richard Wexler, author of Wounded Innocents, no more than 13 of every 100 such charges turn out to have any merit.
According to the American Trial Lawyers Association, about half of all divorce cases involving children include allegations of child abuse. Most of these allegations turn out to be false.
The very fact that such charges are so frequently filed has created a climate of paranoia around children. This, in turn, has resulted in draconian measures to "protect" children. For example, in San Mateo County (CA), all volunteers and employees of community groups that have any contact with children must be fingerprinted and must submit to criminal background checks2.
In Colorado, a pending law would require all parents to allow government social workers to inspect their homes for potential child abuse problems. No search warrants would be required, and social workers could enter homes at will. The law is called "The Childrens Welfare Act."
As a result of proliferating false witness, parental rights, the right to privacy, and other rights and freedoms are being eroded. Burgeoning Big Brother government is using this and other pretexts, to invade the sanctity of the American home. What used to be termed "illegal search and seizure" is now being legalized and "normalized."
Who Benefits? Or, "Follow the Money"
The money flows to attorneys, to child abuse counselors and to social workers3. Government agencies at all levels gain ever more power and control over a wider range of American life. Of course with the growth of laws and the agencies to enforce them comes an increase in taxes to fund them. Ultimately, all kinds of people benefit from the false witness industryexpect those who are falsely accused.
Our Role as Christians
You must be certain that you are never guilty of anything that could be construed to be child abuse. If you discipline your children in public, you could find yourself being accused. (In about 80% of all cases where children are separated from their parents, excessive punishment is alleged.)
If your child has any bruises, illnesses, or emotional upsets, those can be construed to be symptoms of abuse by those who are paranoid about such things. If people start asking questions about these things, consider them a threat.
Anytime you are alone with a child who is not your own, you make yourself vulnerable to charges. Try to avoid any situation that gives the appearance of potential child abuse.
If authorities interview your children for suspected abuse, be certain every interview session is videoor audio taped. Be sure to stay in close contact with your lawyer.
America the Changing
In our time, just about any societal problemreal or imaginedcan be used as a pretext for a government power grab. Look, for example, at what has been taking place under the "Wetlands Act," and under the pretext of protecting the environment. Environmental issues, popular in the 60s and 70s are making a comeback. Why? Because they are a way for government to grab land, power, jurisdiction and funding. (I recently read that government now owns up to 28% of all the land in the U.S.)
False accusations about child abuse are a way for myriad interests to grab power, money and control in the lives of anyone so accused. Malicious people, intent on destroying other peoples lives, can use any pretext to force others into costly legal battles. In some cases, the accused, though cleared, never recover from the financial devastation wreaked by legal costs.
Ministries Brought Down
False Witness Epidemic
False witness has become a weapon of competition. It has become a way of getting revenge in bitter divorce cases. It has become a means for employees to get back at employersand vice versa. It has become a way to get rid of unwanted neighbors and to expand government power. Most of all, it has become another way to fill the already bulging coffers of law firms.
The average person in todays America lives in a very precarious financial position. It takes little to ruin him or her. A single, frivolous lawsuit can do it. The same is true for many small to mid-sized businesses. Legal fees are a growing cost of doing business.
The false witness industry is a symptom of the burgeoning evil that characterizes our times. Ravi Zacharias writes, "Can we appeal to our collective conscience while a few still remain who realize there must be fences in life, else predators, with unrestrained and insatiable passions, will break down every wall of protection and relentlessly plunder everything we treasure?"4
As Judeo-Christian values continue to be leached out of our culture by the acids of creeping secularism and paganism, we find ourselves confronted with growing evil on every side. False witness is but one indicator. At some point, Gods people will have to reassert themselves to the point where they again have an impact on the cultural landscape. Zacharias puts it this way:
The apostle Paul warned prophetically, "Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron " (1Ti 4:1,2 excerpts).
Those who accuse others falsely, bringing about heartache, stress and financial crisis in the lives of the accused, do so without conscience. As a culture, we are no longer "one nation under God." We have become one pluralistic nation under multiple gods to the exclusion of the true God. With the dismissal of God from our culture comes the exit of his moral and ethical standards. Ethical monotheism is giving place to unethical pluralism.
The way to stop the false witness industry in its tracks would be to end the payoff. It would impose upon false witnesses all of the damage they had done to their victims. This principle is firmly established in Biblical law:
In our time, false witness has become a great evil. It must be recognized as such. It must be fought. If it is not resisted, it will grow worse and do ever more damage. The writer of Ecclesiastes put it this way:
Evil people will do whatever they can get away with. God has not called his people to be doormats. We do have the right to defend ourselves. Christians must not remain passive in the face of evil. Just as we are to "resist" the devil, we must also resist evil people who seek to take advantage of us. When the rights of villains exceed the rights of victims, its time for the tide to turn. Society is what we have all, collectively, made it. What we have made it is not looking good!
A Word of Qualification
We are our brothers keepers. Evil is present in our culture on a grand scale. Why? Because we have permitted it to grow like yeast in our midst. We have for example, in the Los Angeles area, permitted 150,000 gang members to control whole neighborhoods through threat and intimidation. Now the problem is utterly unmanageable. We have permitted organized crime to corrupt our judges, our politicians, our police, and our business people. Now we live with the results.
We have rendered our borders porousnow we live with the tide of illegal immigrants, drugs, terrorists, and spies that such policies result in. Theres a principle at work here: be prepared to live with whatever you feed! If we feed the false witness industry, well always have to live with it. The same is true of any evil. In Proverbs we read:
If we do not contend with evil, it will grow unopposed.
1. Department of Health and Human Services figures
[Brian Knowles is completing two books: The Book of Repentance; Because There Was No Shepherd.]