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Posts tagged ‘Disownment (shunning)’

Abuse been kept silent by Jehovah’s Witnesses organisation

The Watchtower’s child abuse protocols read like a mashup of Scripture and corporate policy.
From a 1989 Watchtower letter to all U.S. elders describing the importance of secrecy:

“Often the peace, unity, and spiritual well-being of the congregation are at stake.
Improper use of the tongue by an elder can result in serious legal problems for the individual
the congregation, and even the Society.”

Every year in the United States, 60,000 children (aged 11 and younger) are sexually abused.
Every year, 321,500 (aged 12 and older) are sexually assaulted or raped.
80% of all those sexually abused under the age of 18 are abused by a parent or stepparent. (RAINN, 2019).

Normally believing people following Jesus should try to have an immaculate life, taking care of and protecting those around them.

From Jehovah’s Witnesses one would expect that they would show respect for men, women and children and would take care that those who do something atrocious against the Law of God would be punished and would be put out of the community. Often we hear about people have been disfellowshipped for matters which could be talked about and which are not so terrible as for the matters we came to hear about the last few weeks.

At the end of March a documentary was shown on the Flemish state television about reports of sexual abuse by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. At the edition of “Pano” on VRT Eén the documentary brought to light that the organisation had been covering up sexual abuse of minors via an internal ‘disciplinary’ system for years. That way, none of the claims were reported to the police. One of the witnesses, who has been an elder in the organisation, was very straightforward in the documentary, in calling it

“a paradise for paedophiles”.

The (protected and therefore made anonymous) elder made it clear the organisation had in March 1997 already sent a letter to each of its 10,883 U.S. congregations, and to many more congregations worldwide indicating for the dangers if some news about paedophile acts would come into the public. The organization was concerned about the legal risk posed by possible child molesters within its ranks. The letter laid out instructions on how to deal with a known predator:

Write a detailed report answering 12 questions — Was this a onetime occurrence, or did the accused have a history of child molestation? How is the accused viewed within the community? Does anyone else know about the abuse? — and mail it to Watchtower’s headquarters in a special blue envelope. Keep a copy of the report in your congregation’s confidential file, the instructions continued, and do not share it with anyone.

The man in charge for Belgium, Louis De Wit was not really willing to give a reasonable reply for what was going on behind the doors of this religious organisation.  He gave the impression he did not know about such “blue envelope”.

One would think Jehovah’s Witnesses disapprove of sexual abuse, and would do everything to react properly against such unwanted actions. When there were sent “blue envelopes” like many from different countries tell, are sent to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, they must have a large database of undocumented child molesters:

at least two decades’ worth of names and addresses —likely numbering in the tens of thousands — and detailed acts of alleged abuse, most of which have never been shared with law enforcement, all scanned and searchable in a Microsoft SharePoint file.

we known from more than one source.

In recent decades, much of the world’s attention to allegations of abuse has focused on the Catholic Church and other religious groups. Less notice has been paid to the abuse among the Jehovah’s Witnesses, though this Christian group with more than 8.5 million members was much spoken off at several fora and blogs of ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses, stating such and other problems in that organisation.

In the United States already millions of dollars have been paid over the years to keep it secret.

Because the church, and its community, is for many of those victims their life, it is even more difficult to cope with, because they also feel that they can give a negative impression over their religious group. Often they live in a certain way isolated of the outside world. They go to school but friendship with non-JW is not exactly recommended or encouraged. In several countries and several JW families kids aren’t allowed to play sports in school or participate in holiday observances in school.

When the abused persons tell others about what happened they are asked to keep it quiet or are treated as the trespasser and soon after talks with elders they become considered as a “reproofed” member of the congregation, being effectively shunned,  not permitted to speak unless spoken to. Often they even become forbidden from participating in church activities and as such having been made invisible in the eyes of the church.

Having had little contact with the outside world, staying with their own, save for going door-to-door to convince others that their religion was the one and true path to salvation in these, the final days of human history, they feel like betrayed and shut down by their own “family”. For the devout, disfellowshipping feels literally like a death sentence, because according to what they have learned one has to be a JW or to “belong to the Truth” to be able to enter the Kingdom of God.

Jehovah’s Witnesses call their version of excommunication disfellowshipping, a punishment by shunning to rid the faithful of bad associations with those who break the laws of God. Though this time not the abuser is disfellowshipped but the victim which makes she or he as expelled person cannot have any further contact with Witnesses, even polite acknowledgement on the street, until they take back the accusations or allegations and have proved ‘their repentance and willingness to return obediently’ to the organization.

Midway through the last century, the Watchtower took the power to judge and punish Witnesses away from the entire membership of congregations and gave it to the elders in each kingdom hall. The Watchtower also began to emphasize the importance of keeping the organization “spiritually clean.” By the early 1990s, roughly 40,000 Witnesses were disfellowshipped each year, according to Watchtower literature.

For decades, Jehovah’s Witnesses literature has described the importance of cutting off unrepentant sinners, even when they are family members. A 1988 Watchtower article traces the roots of the organization’s shunning policies to Deuteronomy, which says Israelite parents must bring rebellious children before the elders to be judged and executed

“to clear away what is bad from the midst of Israel.”

Israelite parents even participated in the execution of their own children to show their loyalty to God before family, the article states, because such demonstrations of devotion can be necessary to save one’s own life.

From the way the organisation reactions we can have the impression those youngsters who say they are misused are rebellious children who themselves created such situations where the adult fell in their trap.
What is also so ‘funny” is that those people by others are called “man of God” and should receive full respect and as such nothing bad can or could be said about them.

The same as what seems to happen in many other countries (like the Netherlands) the organisation does not have any policies to prevent sexual abuse or report it to the police and even worse want to keep it silent, sometimes even giving the victims the idea that they are the cause or warning them that they may not let outsiders know about this.

Victims that quit the organisation are not only ignored completely but become disfellowshipped and considered outcast nobody of the JW (lower) members may have contact. Only elders are supposedly to have contact with them, but do not seem to do anything to help them really.

According to CIAOSN, an independent centre set up by Belgium’s Department of Justice to study sectarian organisations, there are similar findings in 12 other countries. The report concludes that the issues in all other countries are the same. Due to the strict hierarchy of the organisation, it’s very difficult to come forward, reports CIAOSN. Another issue that returns frequently in CIAOSN’s report is that victims have to give their statements about the abuse in the presence of their abusers. If the accused denies involvement, they’ll only further the investigation after two other witness statements. In all these 13 countries, there is not one woman involved in the internal disciplinary system.

Reclaimed Voices Belgium finds that it is noteworthy how many people that talk about the severe psychological damage that the exclusion by the community brings with it. They say

“In conversations we’ve had with victims so far, it seems that the trauma caused by the exclusion that follows when a victim speaks up about the abuse has an even bigger impact than the abuse itself.”

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Find also to read:

Papers documenting instances of child abuse by the JW

Over the past couple of years, Mark O’Donnell has been leaking stolen letters and other papers documenting instances of child abuse. (Lexey Swall)

  1. A Secret Database of Child Abuse; A former Jehovah’s Witness is using stolen documents to expose allegations that the religion has kept hidden for decades.
  2. Belgian Jehovah’s Witnesses sexual abuse scandal
  3. Sexual or indecent assault in the Belgian Criminal Code
  4. Let’s talk about it
  5. Amendment to hide child sex abuse claims
  6. Jehovah’s Witnesses use 1st Amendment to hide child sex abuse claims
  7. Jehovah’s Witnesses cover up child sex abuse and oust a victim
  8. ‘Punished’ for being sexually abused in York County: Jehovah’s Witnesses’ culture of cover-up
  9. Jehovah’s Witness leader says child sex abuse claims are ‘lies’
  10. She spoke about Jehovah’s Witness abuse, and her home was vandalized
  11. Surviving
  12. A Moment of Silence
  13. Child abuse
  14. Dear Dairy
  15. No Comment: Fordham’s Continued History of Silence on Sex Abuse Claims
  16. George Pell: A Devil in the Disguise of a Saint – One of the worst immoral things/crimes I can think of is child abuse, physical or sexual.
  17. What Do the Church’s Victims Deserve?

The Picture of the Governing Body

Crasizag is a blog that wants to document a family’s journey from what she calls a cult, but what we would consider more a denomination. It is namely very difficult to get in that congregation of believers but very easy to get out of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

It seems she has not had “a bright and happy past” in that organisation, because she is now looking forward to a better “future”.

Is it Asiza (?) whose purpose is

to help people to think for themselves, so they have the freedom to make their own decisions and to give them the love and support they need while on their personal journey’s. To encourage, to strengthen and to inspire them to live their best lives.

that is something every person should do, believer and non-believer.

Lion - M.L KingThe birth of her baby boy changed her life and he taught her about real, unconditional love.

He was a scrap of humanity but in just existing he took my heart, expanded it and helped me understand completely that there can Only be unconditional love for your children. From that point on I knew that no matter what happened I would Always love him and I could never ‘cut him off’ just because of not believing what I believed. {For my son} (editorial note: the shouting with capitals has been removed and replaced with only one capital: by only & always)

In a way that brings us to “shunning of people their own children” which seems to happen by the Jehovah’s Witnesses and which is not only shameful and needs to stop, it is also an unchristian act. But we must know that shunning is being used more as a social control mechanism. Such social control mechanism are used most commonly in small tight-knit social groups to punish those who violate the most serious group rules.

When your child, no matter what age has done something wrong -surely that is when they need their parents the most, they do not need to be exiled and ignored! {For my son}

Whatever children may have done wrongly, even when it would be murder, parents always have to take care of them and should show them their love and protect them against those who could do them harm.

the writer of the above mentioned blog and of this guest-writing came to leave the Witnesses for good, whilst

a great deal revolved around the love for my son, and wanting a different life for him. {For my son}

she writes.

For her

A parents love should reflect how God loves us, not this conditional love that the Witnesses teach, but an all encompassing love and acceptance that cannot be denied.

Leaving has made it possible for our son to have a normal life. A life full of family, friends, joy, and new experiences, without the rules of the Witnesses isolating him from the world around him.

With her husband she writes her blog, where both share their experiences so that other’s can also see there is most certainly life after the Witnesses!

More life and more love than you can ever imagine.

we hope they found out, as well coming to the knowledge they still can keep to the same faith, loving Jehovah and giving their life to Him, instead of giving it to an organisation.

She writes

One of my reasons for leaving – I was dealing with my own memories of child abuse, and during that process I was increasingly sensitive to other’s stories. I read them and shared their pain, one of those stories was Candice Conti, another was the write up in the UK about Gordan Leister and the shocking behaviour of the elders in that case. These articles scratched open a lot of wounds, and forced small cracks into massive ones. I keep on researching paedophilia in the congregations and found the Silent Lambs website, I read Barbara Anderson’s story and Bill Bowen. Suddenly the reality was so ugly that it was hard to look at it, and it was one of the reasons why I had to leave the Witnesses. I could not in good conscience stay associated with them. My heart would not allow me. I could no longer say I was a witness without cringing inside. I felt dirty, degraded and a liar. To rectify that I left, with my head high. Yes, it was scary – the Witness lifestyle was literally all I knew, but having a clear conscience and knowing my young son would be safer out of their clutches gave me strength, and still does to this day. My love for my son is another huge reason I left, but that I will leave for another post.

Lippincott doriangray.jpgComparing the Governing Body of the Jehovah’s Witnesses to the moral fantasy novel “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde has been bouncing around her head for some time. She writes

It occurred to her that

if we were to find those metaphorical portraits of the Governing Body our eyes would scorched by the vile filth there portrayed.

She asks us to imagine the portraits of the Governing Body members, the so called faithful and discreet slave

They have been complicit in death, sexual abuse, in fact every abuse we know of, lies, hypocrisy, shame, fearmongering, guilt inducing their members, controlling their members very lives. Why? All to maintain their power, their money, their empire.

When she looks at the JW and their organisation she writes

To understand a bit better why jw’s think as they do about those that leave, think of it this way. Instead of using the words, disfellowshipped, excommunicated – use the words treason and traitor. No matter what your reasons are for leaving, no matter how justified, no matter how reasonable, those that leave are traitors to them . Being a traitor they can call you whatever they like, they can think you the lowest of the low, simply because you decided you no longer wanted to be part of their delusion. {The usual thing with diaries}

She and her husband both waked up at the same time and by doing so they were lucky to have a real support to eachother,

though it doesn’t always work out that way. If one of you has already woken up and the other is still in deep – well that is where some real mental gymnastics find their true calling. {Taking off the ‘blinders’}

We can imagine that many have problems by accepting that the Governing Body are not God’s spokesmen, because they have been told so for many, many years, and never have seem questioned it thoroughly.

Craig explains from here:

“Trying to reason with someone with blinders on is like bashing your head against a brick wall. They cannot see the fact that they cannot see. One of things that I always loved about my wife was her intelligence, but when it came to the Jehovah’s Witnesses she refused to use it.

… The Witnesses see everything good is for Jehovah, and evil is not for Jehovah, the real world you have to learn to live for yourself and think for yourself. Being honest was not encouraged by the jws. If you were honest you would have to question their decisions, because even God says in the Bible, ‘test me’, the jws say ‘obey me blindly’. I could never accept that.

Trying to open her mind was exceptionally difficult, eventually I had to back off and just lay some seeds so that she would think for herself and trust her own intelligence would prove true. When she did finally wake I was there to support her. Eventually that is what happened, but it wasn’t me that done it, it was the birth of our son. I was full of hate for what they were doing to my wife, but never for my wife! It was sad, the woman I loved was being completely subverted by bullshit that didn’t care about her.” {Taking off the ‘blinders’}

For them they came to see that

If you strip away the ‘spiritual aspect’ of the Witnesses all you have is a corporate pyramid scheme. As long as you don’t scratch the surface  – ask too many questions, their product looks amazing, but under examination its full of holes, it doesn’t make sense, and like a virus its designed to take control of your thinking and tear you away from normal society, to hammer you into another drone to join the ranks of the other drones who have done the same. {How important is that JW image? Part 1}

The writer also came to question

What is the most prevalent news item regarding the Witnesses now? Child abuse. Why can’t they simply acknowledge they have a serious problem? Even the Catholic Church have acknowledged their guilt and are working with the authorities. Why can’t they just change the disgusting two-witness rule? Adhere strictly to reporting to the authorities and letting the professionals take over? I think that it all comes down to their hard maintained squeaky clean image. They will deny, lie and otherwise ‘spin’ whatever they have to because their corporate perfect image is the most important thing to them. Sadly, even death, torture, rape and thousands of molestation cases cannot out weigh the importance of maintaining that image. {How important is that JW image? Part 2}

richard-m-nixon-quote-dont-try-to-take-on-a-new-personality-it-doesnt[1]and she came to see where there is a big danger in the organisation’s focus or saying

Well there it is, anything that comes from the publications and the platform or personal counsel from elders means you have to listen to it and apply it, doing otherwise means you are NOT a full grown Christian and are DISLOYAL. {New personality or cult identity?}

It is that fear of being disloyal that may make many not dare to question.

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Preceding articles

A Society pleading poverty

Male domination and tyranny giving opportunities to defile the Name of God

Belonging to or being judged by

Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses preach?

Oklahoma City Regional Convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses

Random Observations From My Most Recent JW Convention Experience

You Are The Truth

Jehovah’s Witnesses Circuit Assembly and a Pillar to freedom

Jesus’ footstep followers, irrespective of sectarian lines

Authority from the One God to one mediator between God and men

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Additional reading

  1. A visible organisation on earth
  2. Inculturation today calling for a different attitude
  3. Jehovah Witnessess Making sure all records relating to child molestation are in harmony
  4. Jehovah’s Witnesses Shunning ex-members adverse effects on family relationships
  5. Parenthood made more difficult
  6. Growing rift between observant parents and their children
  7. “Prayer 2” – Child Abuse
  8. Not an easy decision to make
  9. Pope Benedict will hide
  10. Last day of Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI
  11. Responsibility for children who were molested by clergy
  12. Catholic church asking for forgiveness and promising to take action against child-abusers
  13. Remember there’s a light in the next day
  14. Joy: Foundation for a Positive Life

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Further reading

  1. As I walked out one summer’s morning
  2. Having Fun at Jehovah’s Witness Convention
  3. Pedophilia amongst the Jehovah’s Witnesses
  4. Jehovah’s witnesses pedophile policy
  5. The Watchtower Punished: Society loses legal battle over child abuse case
  6. “We will decide who is a predator!” – New Watchtower Instructions to Elders on Child Abuse
  7. Jehovah’s Witnesses Child Molestation Victims seek justice
  8. Barbara Anderson’s Anecdotes
  9. Why Watchtower shut down JWsurvey.org for over 24 hours
  10. The Girl Who Took On The Watchtower – Candace Conti Speaks Out
  11. In their own words: Candace Conti and Rick Simons speak out in their 2013 interview videos
  12. Watchtower files reply brief as Conti appeal continues
  13. Kathleen Conti breaks down during emotional SNAP presentation
  14. Kathleen Conti supports new bill for victims of child abuse
  15. Candace Conti speaks out at RNA 2013 conference
  16. Resiliency
  17. If child abuse were a disease, we’d see urgent action. Our culture must change : Guardian.
  18. Chicago Non-Profit Seeking To Prevent Child Abuse And Neglect
  19. The Goddard Inquiry is not the answer to survivors pain
  20. Empty Chairs: Much more than a story of Child Abuse. Excerpt here.
  21. New Zealand judge who headed an independent inquiry into child sexual abuse in Britain has quit
  22. Housemaid saga: Questions for Madam
  23. Did God make her leave?
  24. Jehovah’s Witnesses Instructed to Brutally Kick Their Own Children Out of the Family If They Disobey the Religion
  25. The Shunning
  26. The Watchtower Steps Up Their Demands to Shun, Even Family
  27. The Loaded Language of the Watchtower – Part 1 … Shocking Where We’ve Heard This Before
  28. The Loaded Language of Watchtower – Part 2 … How Words Became an Easy Means to Scapegoat Runaway Slaves
  29. Shunning amidst a crisis
  30. Jehovah’s Witness Shunning Video Depicts Torture as Acceptable
  31. In Shocking Public Discourse, Jehovah’s Witnesses Are Told to Shun Inactive Members, Even Parents!
  32. Bigmouth Strikes Again
  33. When Leaving Religion Costs You Everything…
  34. The Truth About the Watchtower Judicial Committee Process, as Told By a Former Elder
  35. Cult or Not a Cult?
  36. Finding the Way
  37. An Audacious Proposal
  38. Review of talk at “Remain loyal to Jehovah” 2016 convention of Jehovahs Witnesses
  39. Behavior Modification Is Alive And Well In The Scientology Conflict – Horrifyingly So
  40. Them and Us Mentality
  41. community
  42. Is The Church Really Clueless?

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We Chose Freedom

This idea of comparing the Governing Body to the book “The Picture of Dorian Gray” by Oscar Wilde has been bouncing around in my head for some time. It occurred to me that if we were to find those metaphorical portraits of the Governing Body our eyes would scorched by the vile filth there portrayed.

If you are not familiar with this book, here is the plot from Wikipedia:

—Dorian Gray is the subject of a full-length portrait in oil by Basil Hallward, an artist who is impressed and infatuated by Dorian’s beauty; he believes that Dorian’s beauty is responsible for the new mode in his art as a painter. Through Basil, Dorian meets Lord Henry Wotton, and he soon is enthralled by the aristocrat’s hedonistic worldview: that beauty and sensual fulfilment are the only things worth pursuing in life.

Newly understanding that his beauty will fade, Dorian expresses…

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