NEW YORK (AP) -- Jehovah's Witnesses who publicly criticized how their denomination handles claims of sexual abuse say the religious group has started the process of ousting them from the fellowship.
A former elder, a former researcher in the Jehovah's Witnesses' Brooklyn headquarters and the parents of a girl who was abused say they were summoned to meetings with their local judicial committees.
J.R. Brown, a national spokesman for the Jehovah's Witnesses, confirmed the four had been called to the hearings, but he said the proceedings may focus on ''sins'' unrelated to any public comments on sexual abuse. He would not provide specifics.
The judicial committees will decide if the four should be ''disfellowshipped,'' the religious group's term for excommunication.
William Bowen, the former Kentucky elder, resigned about 18 months ago to protest the denomination's response to child molestation. He has since launched the Web site www.silentlambs.org to highlight the issue.
Bowen has been accused of apostasy and plans to meet with a judicial committee later this month.
The others summoned were former researcher Barbara Anderson of Tennessee; and Carl and Barbara Pandello of New Jersey, whose 12-year-old daughter was molested by her grandfather, also a member of the faith. The Pandellos have already had their meeting, but Brown said no decision has been released in their case.
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