As Christians, we need to presume he is innocent until proven guilty.
As the number of individuals accusing Bill Cosby of rape and/or other sexual offenses has reached 55, there's a large part of the public (including Christians) who are determined that that's plenty of evidence to determine his guilt.
What confuses me though is that I cannot for the life of me figure out why the number of individual accusations is pertinent evidence at all regarding whether or not someone is deemed guilty or innocent.
It would be one thing if someone committed a crime and 55 individuals testified to seeing that exact crime or having information that would suggest the accused's involvement. But that is not what we're dealing with here. We're dealing with 1 person accusing someone of a crime, and another person accusing someone of a crime, and another person accusing someone of a crime, etc, etc,..55 times.
But of course the trial by internet (including many Christians) - without hearing any necessary due process testimony to the contrary - has declared Bill Cosby guilty. These same people (including Christians) have taken his original silence as an implied confession of guilt as well.
So I'd like to just take some time to look at this from a Biblical perspective (Warning: you'll probably disagree with what I'm saying; I only ask that you do it on grounds of Scripture).
False Lines of Reasoning
My fellow Christians, can you think of any reason why quantity of accusers (with no other valid witnesses to their accusations) and silence as a response should not be considered as someone being guilty? ... I can!
For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. ...
We're not told the exact number of people accusing Jesus. Many could have been 10. It also could have been 55. But what we are told is that they had no other corroborating evidence or witnesses (something needed especially in cases of capital punishment - see Numbers 35:30). We are also told that Jesus was silent when demanded to answer these false charges.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not comparing Bill Cosby with the Lord Jesus Christ. For one, Jesus Christ is the Creator, while Bill Cosby is the creature. For another, Jesus Christ had no sins at all (1 Pet. 2:22), while Bill Cosby has even admitted to previous affairs.
But according to what we know from the above and other Scriptures regarding civil jurisprudence should we not presume innocence until proven guilty as a matter of principle, and in connection with Bill Cosby specifically? Could it not be that there are 55 lying accusers, just as there were an undisclosed number (considered "many") lying accusers of our own Lord?
Of course the objections to that question usually run along the lines of, when the number gets that high the probability of them lying no longer seems to fit. The problem with this, though, is that it simply doesn't make sense. Just because 55 different people are saying they've had individual occurences of something doesn't make it true - regardless of what they're saying. Consider that there are larger numbers of people than 55 who say that they have seen Elvis Presley alive - after he'd already been dead (and unlike with Jesus, his body is still in the grave).
And then you have the line of reasoning that they're not seeking any money, so why would they be revealing the degrading events in their life for no reason at all? True enough that they may not be seeking money; but money is not the only thing after which people seek. Sometimes it's their "fifteen minutes of fame." I realize claiming to be a rape victim is not necessarily "fame" (a word about rape in a second). But if you don't think that people in this world would consider claiming to be raped by a celebrity is enough motivation for them to go for the attention, then you don't really understand the nature of sin and/or the sin nature in everyone (Rom. 7:18-20).
The Penalty for Rape
Now let me talk about rape briefly to be very clear on my own stance on the issue. I think our current "justice" system in the United States is deeply flawed (in many ways, but let's keep it to this one issue for now). When anyone who is convicted of rape (from a fair trial) gets to keep his life, it's a tragedy. For some reason we think it's a good idea to lock him up. But when that happens, all that happens is that we all end up bearing an unnecessary financial burden of keeping alive someone who has completely ruined someone else's life in a horrifying way.
On top of that, often enough, after being locked up for a certain amount of time, the rapist is let go. Is allowing someone who ruins someone else's life in such a heinous way to go back to the public and have the chance to do it again to his original victim and/or to someone else really justice?
Of course not. That's why the Bible says the penalty for rape is capital punishment. The Bible treats rape as the same as "a man attacking and murdering his neighbor" (Deut. 22:26, 27). And intentional murder, in God's revelation of justice, is always carried out with capital punishment:
Whoever strikes a man so that he dies shall be put to death.
The Need for Due Process
But if we're truly seeking justice, we must understand what justice is and how to go about executing it.
One thing somehow missing from all 55 accusations is the evidence of any other vetted witnesses. Let me say that again: there are 55 individual accusations; but (unless I've missed something in what is being reported) none of them have the necessary number of other witnesses to support those individual accusations.
Keep in mind, if we're sticking to God's standard of justice, when it comes to a crime so severe that the punishment calls for execution, it cannot just be her word against his (or their word against his). For any of the 55 cases there would absolutely have to be 2-3 vetted witnesses. And I do mean vetted! Speaking of discerning the validity of witnesses, the Bible is clear:
The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness...then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother.
You read that right - if someone is claiming to be a witness to a crime and he or she is a false witness, then the penalty that the accused would have otherwise received is to be applied to the false witness and false accuser.
But lets get back to the accusations at hand concerning Bill Cosby. What does justice demand here? As stated above, if he was found guilty on the testimony of valid witnesses in a fair trial of any account of rape or coercive sexual activity, then justice would demand capital punishment.
The operative word there is was. When a crime has been committed against someone (even a sexual crime), it is paramount that it be reported immediately - even while the crime is in progress if it's possible. Why is that? Because, aside from the fact that if it's not reported immediately the victim now has ammunition for life-long blackmail, if it is not reported immediately it can only be assumed that the victim was complicit in the crime. This is true even regarding sexual assault crimes like rape (Deut. 22:23-24) - again, at least according to Biblical standards.
So if a crime does happen, and the victim waits for years on end to say anything about it, what else are we to make of it?
It's here where people will say, "Shame on you! You have no idea what it's like to go through that kind of trauma in your life. These women were scared and they knew no one would believe them."
I don't know what it's like to go through sexual trauma (for which I'm truly thankful to God). And my heart breaks anytime I hear about a case in which someone else does go through that kind of trauma. But I still don't understand why if these women were so scared to report it back then, that they have now, all at around the same time, the courage to say something about it.
Why would they wait until their accused is so old and less able to defend himself, and when other witnesses (to any of the same individual crimes) won't be able to be found for corroboration?
We could speculate about a zillion reasons for this, all of them seeming to empathize with the accusers. But do we not owe that same empathy (until proven otherwise) to the accused? Again, should we not presume innocence until proven guilty? Otherwise its just her word against his, or their word against his.
Still not sold? ... Consider this:
A Test Case
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
First of all, it seems clear that Jesus, being infinite in knowledge, knew she was guilty. His final words to her were "from now on sin no more" (Jn. 8:11).
But why did he not condemn her?
Jesus upheld the Mosaic law in all other instances (Mt. 8:4, 23:2), why would he not do it here? The thing is, he does do it here. It's called Biblical due process.
In cases of adultery (another instance where people ruin the lives of others in a very heinous way) the Bible again calls for capital punishment - just as the Pharisees said (provided the victim presses charges - see Matthew 1:18, 19). But it's interesting that the Bible calls for both parties to be brought out (Deut. 22:22), yet in this case they only brought the woman.
Again, as was said earlier, in cases of capital punishment, the Bible declares that there must be at least two or three vetted witnesses to the crime (Deut. 17:6). Furthermore (as part of the vetting process), the witness cannot himself be a part of the crime (Deut. 19:15).
Lastly, it is the witnesses to the crime that are to be the first to participate in the execution of the criminal: "The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people" (Deut. 17:7).
So we have here a woman who has supposedly been caught in the act of adultery (yet her accomplice is for some reason not brought out as well). Yet no one is willing to testify as a witness, who was not also participating in the crime (why again was the man not brought out, and yet all the men present "know" that she is an adulterous? - think about that for a second).
And no one throws the first stone - because no one is able to qualify as a legitimate witness to the crime of her adultery. Their own sin ("Let him who is without sin" - in this context the sin of adultery with this woman - "be the first to throw the stone"), has disqualified them from being legitimate witnesses. So in following Biblical jurisprudence they aren't able to throw the first stone, because they were either accomplices to her crime or were otherwise not witnesses to it at all.
Again, Jesus knew she was guilty (Jn. 8:11). But He did not advocate civil cases on the idea of guilty before proven innocent (no matter how many "accusers" there are to individual crimes). He advocated civil cases on the idea of innocent until proven guilty - proven by valid, vetted, legitimate witnesses.
So, church, what do we do about Cosby?
He may have done some terrible things, things even worthy of death according to the measures prescribed by God's standard of civil justice. And to the things he has confessed we ought to preach repentance from those sins and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ for forgiveness and transformation.
But to those left unconfessed, who are we to pronounce guilt on him if we are not witnesses to his alleged crimes and are not giving him a fair trial and are not treating the claimants with the same standard of justice (allowing them to not report the crime for years on end).
It still stands that if a crime is not reported immediately, it isn't permissible for it to be brought up years later. If it is, how are we to ever know the crime was actually committed only by the accused and that the accuser himself or herself was not also complicit in the activity? (And perhaps they just now have some reason to defame or otherwise harm the accused.)
Am I saying he should get a free pass? No. I'm saying he should get a fair trial. And a fair trial would include being tried speedily after an immediate report of the crime from when it took place, and it would include at least two to three vetted, legitimate witnesses to each crime in question where the accuser and witnesses are not also accomplices to the activity in question.
A fair trial is not one that takes place via internet where we have no way of knowing the facts surrounding the case, the line of reasoning is faulty (quantity of accusations for individual crimes = more likelihood of guilt), there are no legitimate, vetted witnesses for corroboration, and the "trial" is taking place decades after the alleged crime. That is not a fair trial; that is passing judgment prematurely.
And friends, Christians, that is something we ought not do!
Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.