Controversies regarding Jehovah's Witnesses

Controversies regarding Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses have experienced controversy in their relationships with mainstream Christianity, governments, former members, and the general public.Fact|date=September 2008 They or their representatives have been accused of heresy, racism, child neglectFact|date=September 2008, doctrinal inconsistency and reversals, sedition, double standards, hypocrisy, mistranslation of the Bible, anti-SemitismFact|date=August 2008, self-aggrandising, intolerant religious views, failure to support their own membersFact|date=August 2008, making false predictions, poor treatment of former members, having a high rate of mentally ill devoteesFact|date=September 2008, brainwashingFact|date=August 2008, interference in family affairs, failure to report cases of sexual abuse to the authorities, and insistence on an unduly restrictive lifestyle.Fact|date=September 2008

Doctrinal controversies

Accusations of blasphemy and Heresy

Jehovah's Witnesses have a number of doctrines that differ from those of mainstream Christianity (Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism). Some of these doctrines differ on points which are considered to be of central importance; others are relatively minor. The table below shows a comparison of a number of doctrines of Jehovah's Witnesses those of mainstream Christianity which are considered to be controversial, and of major importance.

These Witness beliefs are typically considered by mainstream Christians to be blasphemous or heretical in nature. For this reason, many Christian denominations consider these beliefs to place Jehovah's Witnesses outside of Christianity.Fact|date=September 2008

New World Translation

The New World Translation Committee's refusal to reveal its members' identities or credentials has brought criticism of the New World Translation. [Penton J, Apocalypse Delayed, Second Edition, University of Toronto Press, 1999, pp. 173-174.] Criticism has also been made about alleged theological bias in the translation.

Theological bias

The New World Translation's concordant (word-for-word) approach has been criticised as out-of-date and ineffective for conveying the meaning of the original Biblical languages. It has also been criticised for inconsistently applying the principles of the concordant approach.Fact|date=September 2008 The criticism of "theological bias" concerns mostly matters of the divinity of Christ (i.e., that Jesus was God), but also concerns other matters such as the eternity of the soul or the return of Jesus to the earth. [Robert M. Bowman Jr, "Understanding Jehovah's Witnesses", (Grand Rapids MI: Baker Book House, 1992); Ankerberg, John and John Weldon, 2003, "The New World Translation of the Jehovah's Witnesses", accessible from [ this site] , which quotes a number of scholars regarding theological bias of the New World Translation; Samuel Hass stated: "While this work indicates a great deal of effort and thought as well as considerable scholarship, it is to be regretted that religious bias was allowed to colour many passages." "Journal of Biblical Literature", December 1955, p. 283]

The most frequently criticized rendering is that of John 1:1. The issues stem from the fact that there is no article in the original Greek text before the last "theos." The New World Translation has inserted the indefinite article ("a") in its rendering to give "the Word was a god", similar to the rendering found at Acts 28:6 in the King James Version where the apostle Paul is thought to be "a god" (Greek, "theos", no article). Arguments against the New World Translation's rendering rely on the context of the Gospel of John and generally-held Christian theology, as well as the application of Colwell's Rule. [C.H. Dodd: "The reason why [the Word was a god] is unacceptable is that it runs counter to the current of Johannine thought, and indeed of Christian thought as a whole." "Technical Papers for The Bible Translator", Vol 28, No. 1, January 1977]

Other New World Translation renderings that form major points of contention include Jeremiah 29:10, Luke 23:43, John 8:58, Acts 20:28, Colossians 1:15-20, 2 Thessalonians 1:9, Titus 2:13, Hebrews 1:8, 1 Peter 2:3, 1 Peter 3:15 and Revelation 3:14.Fact|date=September 2008

tatements by the Watchtower Society

The Watchtower Society has made a number of statements in its publications since its inception that have resulted in criticism, particularly from mainstream Christians and former Jehovah's Witnesses. These critics have highlighted a number of controversial statements, changes of doctrine, and failed predictions made by the Watchtower Society. Lists of controversial statements, such as those found below, are found in a number of books [e.g., Watters, Randall (2004) "Thus Saith Jehovah's Witnesses", Common Sense Publications; Gruss, Edmond (2001) "Jehovah's Witnesses: Their Claims, Doctrinal Changes, and Prophetic Speculation. What Does the Record Show?", Xulon Press; Reed, David A. (1990) "Index of Watchtower Errors", 1879 to 1989, Baker Books] and on numerous websites. [ e.g., The [ Watchtower Information Service] ; [] ; [ Reexamine.Quotes] . See also [] ]

Unfulfilled predictions

Predictions such as the following have appeared in various Watchtower publications: [See [ this page] for a more complete listing]
*1907: Armageddon will culminate in the year 1914. [Russell, C.T, The Time is At Hand, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Inc., 1907 p. 101]
* 1917: In 1918, God would begin to destroy churches "wholesale" and church members by the millions. ["Studies in the Scriptures", Vol. 7, 1917, p. 485.]
* 1922-1923: The resurrection of the dead would occur in 1925. ["Watchtower", May 15, 1922; Sep. 1, 1922; Apr. 1, 1923; "Millions Now Living Will Never Die", 1925, p. 110] In preparation for the 1925 date, the Watchtower Society acquired a property in California and built a mansion they called Beth Sarim. The property was to house people such as Abraham, Moses, David, and Samuel, whom they thought would be resurrected to life in 1925. When they failed to resurrect, their leader, Joseph Rutherford moved in.Fact|date=September 2008
* 1938: In 1938, Armaggedon was too close for marriage or child bearing. ["Face the Facts", 1938, pp. 46-50]
* 1941: There were only "months" remaining until Armageddon. ["Watchtower", Sep. 15, 1941, p. 288]
* 1942: Armageddon was "immediately before us." ["Watchtower", May 1, 1942, p. 139]
* 1969: Human existence would not last long enough for young people to grow old; the world system would end "in a few years". Young Witnesses were encouraged not to bother pursuing tertiary education for this reason. ["Awake!", May 22, 1969, p. 15]
* 1969: Christ's thousand-year reign would begin in 1975. ["The Approaching Peace of a Thousand Years" (1969) (Watchtower publication) Available [ online] ; see also [] ] There was a considerable amount of related speculation in Watchtower publications in the years leading up to 1975. [See, for example, "Awake!", Oct. 8, 1966, pp. 19-20; "Watchtower", Oct. 15, 1966, pp. 628-631; May 1, 1967 p. 262; May 1, 1968, p. 271; Aug. 15, 1968, p. 494; Oct. 15, 1974, p. 635; May 1, 1975, p. 285. See [ this page] (starting about half-way down the page, beginning with "How Much Longer Will It Be?") for full quotes.]
* 1984: There were "many indications" that "the end" was closer than the end of the 20th century. ["Watchtower", Mar 1, 1984, pp. 18-19]
* 1914 (generation): It was taught that Armageddon would take place before the death of those who were alive in 1914. This teaching was abandoned in 1996. Jehovah's Witnesses currently believe that no certain year can be established for Armageddon to occur. [United...worship book] ["The Watchtower", August 15, 1996 ]

A number of Christian apologists have argued that in making predictions about the future, the Watchtower Society has acted as a prophet [Waldeck, Val "Jehovah's Witnesses: What do they believe?". Pilgrim Publications SA. ISBN 1-920092-08-0; Buttrey, John M (2004). "Let No One Mislead You". iUniverse. ISBN 0-595-30710-8; see also some of the books referenced at the start of this section, and the end of the article.] , often citing Watchtower Society publications that use the word "prophet" in referring to the organization. ["This "prophet" was not one man, but was a body of men and women… Today they are known as Jehovah's Christian witnesses… Of course, it is easy to say that this group acts as a "prophet" of God. It is another to prove it. The only way that this can be done is to review the record. What does it show?" "The Watchtower", 'They Shall Know that a Prophet Was Among Them', Apr. 1, 1972, p.197] ["Whom has God actually used as his prophet?... Jehovah's witnesses are deeply grateful today that the plain facts show that God has been pleased to use them. ... It has been because Jehovah thrust out his hand of power and touched their lips and put his words in their mouths..." "The Watchtower", Jan. 15, 1959, pp.39-41] The Watchtower Society itself has condemned others for making false predictions about the future, stating that such people were "guilty of false prophesying". [From "Awake!" Magazine: True, there have been those in times past who predicted an 'end to the world,' even announcing a specific date. Some have gathered groups of people with them and fled to the hills or withdrawn into their houses waiting for the end. Yet, nothing happened. The 'end' did not come. They were guilty of false prophesying. Why? What was missing? Missing was the full measure of evidence required in fulfillment of Bible prophecy. missing from such people were God's truths and the evidence that he was guiding and using them. (Awake!, Oct. 8, 1968, p. 23, emphasis added)] Apologists argue that the Watchtower Society does not represent God, based on Deuteronomy 18:22: "When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him." (ESV) They also mention, Zechariah 13:1-7, which warns that false prophets will say "I am no prophet" yet will be judged by their actions, not by their open admittance of prophecy (as naturally most would want to dimisish their role with failed prophecy after the fact). [ ]

The Watchtower Society has stated as early as 1908, "We are not prophesying; we are merely giving our surmises....We do not even [assert] that there is no mistake in our interpretation of prophesy and our calculations of chronology. We have merely laid these before you, leaving it for each to exercise his own faith or doubt in respect to them." ["Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence" January 1908 "Views From the Watchtower"] They have also stated that they do not have the gift of prophecy. ["The Watchtower" Jan. 1883, p. 425] More recently they have defended themselves against claims of "false prophesying", by saying that they do not claim to be inspired prophets, ["Watchtower", May 15, 1976, p. 297; "Reasoning from the Scriptures", 1985, p. 136] and that their predictions have never been made "in the name of Jehovah" but rather are given only as an interpretation of Scripture. ["Awake!" Mar. 22, 1993, pp. 3-4]

However, the Watchtower Society has also made statements asserting their predictions to be definite. "The date of the close of that 'battle' is definitely marked in Scripture as October, 1914. It is already in progress, its beginning dating from October, 1874." [The Watchtower, 15 January, 1892, page 1355] ; "Surely there is not the slightest room for doubt in the mind of a truly consecrated child of God that the Lord Jesus is present and has been since 1874" [The Watchtower, 1 January, 1924, p 5] (notably, this was written in 1924, indicating that 1914 was not taught as the beginning of Christ's presence until a later period, despite contrary claims by Jehovah's Witnesses that "The Watchtower has consistently presented evidence to honesthearted students of Bible prophecy that Jesus' presence in heavenly Kingdom power began in 1914" [The Watchtower, 15 January, 1993, page 5] ); "We see no reason for changing the figures — nor could we change them if we would. They are, we believe, God's dates, not ours. But bear in mind that the end of 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but for the end of the time of trouble. We see no reason for changing from our opinion expressed in the view presented [earlier] " [The Watchtower, 15 July, 1894, page 1677] ; "Jehovah ... had a “prophet” to warn them. This “prophet” was not one man, but was a body of men and women. It was the small group of footstep followers of Jesus Christ, known at that time as International Bible Students. Today they are known as Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. They are still proclaiming a warning, and have been joined and assisted in their commissioned work by hundreds of thousands of persons who have listened to their message with belief. ["The Watchtower", 1 April 1972, p. 197, ‘They Shall Know that a Prophet Was Among Them’]

Revisionist History

Teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses regarding 1914 are derived from their belief that Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians in 607BC, whereas all secular sources place the event within a year of 587BC.

Changes of doctrine

The Watchtower Society has made a number of changes to its doctrines since its inception. The controversy surrounding this issueFact|date=June 2008 is that the Watchtower Society has said that:
*People can only fully and accurately understand the Bible and God's purposes through their association with the religion. ["Watchtower", Sep. 1, 1954, p. 529; Oct. 1, 1967, p. 587; Dec. 1, 1981, p.27; Feb 15, 1981, p.19]
*Witnesses are encouraged to attain to "oneness" [ Ephesians 4:13 " The Watchtower", Aug 1, 2001 p. 13] and thus not to "harbor private ideas when it comes to Bible understanding", ["Watchtower", Aug. 1, 2001 ] or be suspicious of their teachings, but rather to have confidence in what they print. [ "Qualified", 1955, p. 156]

A number of changes in chronology have occurred, particularly in regards to dates for important events such as Armaggedon, and the return of Jesus to the Earth (see table, right). For example, prior to 1914, it was said that Armageddon would end in 1914. In a 1915 edition of the same book, it was said that Armaggedon would end that year. Today, Witnesses are taught to expect Armageddon imminently.

Other changes in interpretation of the Bible have been noted by critics.Who|date=June 2008 These have included statements about the Bible itself; [e.g., 1902: The Book of Ruth is not prophetic. ("Watchtower Reprints IV", p. 3110, Nov 15, 1902); 1932: The Book of Ruth is prophetic. ("Preservation", 1932, pp. 169, 175, 176)] identification of persons in the Bible; [e.g., 1917: Apollyon is Satan ("Studies in the Scriptures", Vol. 7, 1917) 1969: Apollyon is Jesus ("Then Is Finished the Mystery of God", p. 232)] whether or not people receive a second chance after death; [See [ this page] ] and perhaps most controversially, their standing on blood transfusions. [See [ this page] ] The standing of the Watchtower Society on other matters such as the acceptability of vaccinations [See [ this site] ] or tertiary education [See [ this site] ] has also changed over time.

tatements about itself

Critics of the Watchtower Society (or of Jehovah's Witnesses generally) often cite statements such as those listed aboveFact|date=June 2008 alongside other published statements that the Watchtower Society has made about itself; namely that:
*The Watchtower Society is the "one and only channel" used by God to continually to dispense truth ["Watchtower", Apr. 1, 1919; also "Watchtower", May 15, 1933, pp. 154-155; Jul. 15, 1960, pp. 438-439; "Our Kingdom Ministry", Sep. 2002, p. 8]
*The Watchtower Society is "directed by Jehovah" and "under the direct supervision of Christ Jesus" ["Watchtower", Nov. 1, 1956, p. 666; "Watchtower", Jun. 1, 1955, p. 333] and that it "alone, in all the earth, is directed by God's holy spirit or force" ["Watchtower", Jul. 1, 1973, p. 402]

Critics have used such statements to question the credibility of the Watchtower Society.Fact|date=June 2008The Watchtower has responded multiple times to issues regarding critics claims - mostly to the claim that the Watchtower presents itself as inspired. Here is one such statement:

Jehovah's Witnesses, in their eagerness for Jesus' second coming, have suggested dates that turned out to be incorrect. Because of this, some have called them false prophets. Never in these instances, however, did they presume to originate predictions 'in the name of Jehovah.' Never did they say, 'These are the words of Jehovah.' The Watchtower, the official journal of Jehovah's Witnesses, has said: "We have not the gift of prophecy." (January 1883, page 425) "Nor would we have our writings reverenced or regarded as infallible." (December 15, 1896, page 306) The Watchtower has also said that the fact that some have Jehovah's spirit "does not mean those now serving as Jehovah's witnesses are inspired. It does not mean that the writings in this magazine The Watchtower are inspired and infallible and without mistakes." (May 15, 1947, page 157) "The Watchtower does not claim to be inspired in its utterances, nor is it dogmatic." (August 15, 1950, page 263) "The brothers preparing these publications are not infallible. Their writings are not inspired as are those of Paul and the other Bible writers. (2 Tim. 3:16) And so, at times, it has been necessary, as understanding became clearer, to correct views. (Prov. 4:18)"—February 15, 1981, page 19. [Awake! 1993 3/22 p. 4 "Why So Many False Alarms?"]

United Nations' Department of Public Information association

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the United Nations is one of the 'superior authorities' that exist by God's permission (Romans 13:1, 2, NWT), and that it presently serves a purpose in maintaining order, but they refuse to give political support or to consider UN as the means for the achievement of peace and security. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that only God's Kingdom will bring true peace. Jehovah's Witnesses also believe that UN is the "image of the wild beast", that is, the representative of the global political system referred to in , p 14] and that, like all other political powers, it will be destroyed and replaced by God's heavenly Kingdom. ["A World Without War-When?" Oct.1, 1991, pp.5 "The Watchtower" ] Jehovah's Witnesses have denounced other religious organizations for having offered political support to the UN. ["The Watchtower", 1 June, 1997, p. 17 par. 15: "In the first place, what lies ahead for the world's false religions that have so often been extremely friendly with the UN? They are the offspring of one idolatrous fountainhead, ancient Babylon. Appropriately, they are described at Revelation 17:5 as "Babylon the Great, the mother of the harlots and of the disgusting things of the earth". Jeremiah described the doom of this hypocritical conglomerate. Harlotlike, they have seduced earth's politicians, flattering the UN and forming illicit relations with its member political powers."]

On October 8 2001 an article was published in the British Guardian newspaper questioning the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society's registration as a non-governmental organisation (NGO) with the United Nations Department of Public Information and accusing the Watchtower Society of hypocrisy. [Bates, Stephen (Oct. 8, 2001) [,,565199,00.html "Jehovah's Witnesses link to UN queried"] , "The Guardian"]

Within days of the article's publication, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society submitted a formal request for disassociation, removing all association with the United Nations Department of Public Information, [Bates, Stephen (Oct. 15, 2001) [,4273,4277197,00.html "'Hypocrite' Jehovah's Witnesses abandon secret link with UN"] , "The Guardian"] and released a letter stating that the reason for becoming associated with the United Nations Department of Information (DPI) was to access their facilities, and that they had not been aware of the change in language contained in the criteria for NGO association. [ [ to Editor - The Guardian"] (Oct. 22, 2001) "Office of Pulic Information"] The purpose of membership is to "promote knowledge of the principles and activities of the United Nations". At the time NGO association was sought, "the organization agreed to meet criteria for association, including support and respect of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations". [Letter from United Nations DPI/NGO Resource Centre]

Attitude towards other religions

It has been suggested that "one of the more common criticisms of Jehovah's Witnesses over the years has dealt with their outspoken denunciations of other faiths, religious leaders and clergymen."Penton, James (1997). "Apocalypse Delayed". University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-7973-3 ] In the 1930s and 1940s, the publications of Jehovah's Witnesses were described as "notoriously anti-Catholic", [United States Congress (1943). "Declaring Certain Papers, Pamphlets, Books, Pictures and Writings Nonmailable. Hearings Before a Subcommittee". ] including such images as a semiclad harlot (the World of False Religion) reeling drunkenly into fire and brimstone. Witnesses during the time were openly critical of churches and clergy who they deemed were coconspirators in the war effort. Many highly critical pamphlets were written at the time.

The book entitled "Enemies", published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society in 1938, included some of the more direct denunciations of primarily the Catholic Church but also the Protestants and the Jews. It includes references to the Catholic Church as "the old harlot" who has a "bloody record… many crimes… a filthy record". The same book is quoted as saying, "Today the so-called 'Protestants' and the Yiddish clergy openly co-operate with and play into the hands of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy like foolish simpletons and thereby aid the Hierarchy to carry on her commercial, religious traffic and increase her revenue… the hierarchy takes the lead, and the simpletons follow… poor simpletons." Since World War II, publications of Jehovah's Witnesses have not included the same level of attack against the churches of Christendom, but do continue to view all religions except Jehovah's Witnesses as being included in "Babylon the Great, the world empire of false religion", and are represented as the harlot riding the wild beast in Revelation 13. Jehovah's Witnesses continue to denounce other religions and refuse to participate in any interfaith relations. Publications continue to contain elements of what the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights consider to be anti-Catholic sentiments. An example cited by the "1998 Report on Anti-Catholicism" included a publication depicting a person kneeling in prayer before a statue of the Virgin Mary, with the caption, "Some worship idols. God says you must not use idols or images in worship..." [] The Watchtower organization teaches that "Only Jehovah's Witnesses… have any Scriptural hope of surviving the impending end of this doomed system dominated by Satan the Devil." [The Watchtower, 1 September, 1989 p. 19]

ocial Controversies


Jehovah's Witnesses reject transfusions of whole allogeneic blood and its primary components (red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and plasma), and transfusions of stored autologous blood or its primary components. As a doctrine, Jehovah's Witnesses do not reject transfusion of whole autologous blood so long as it is not stored prior to surgery. (E.g. perioperative extraction and transfusion of autologous blood.) This religious position is due to a belief that blood is sacred and represents life in God's eyes. Jehovah's Witnesses understand scriptures such as Leviticus 17:10-14 (which speaks of not partaking in any blood) to include taking blood into the body via a transfusion. [ [ "How Can Blood Save Your Life?"] (1990). "Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania" ] Controversy has stemmed, however, from what critics state are inconsistencies in Witness policies on blood.

Fractions and components

In the case of minor fractions derived from blood, each individual is directed to follow their own conscience on whether these are acceptable. [ "Be guided by the Living God" (Jun. 15, 2004). "The Watchtower"] [ "Questions from readers: Do Jehovah's Witnesses accept any minor fractions of blood?" (Jun. 15, 2000). "The Watchtower"] This is because it is difficult to define at what point blood is no longer blood. As a substance is broken down into smaller and smaller parts it may or may not be considered the original substance. Therefore some of Jehovah's Witnesses personally choose to accept the use of blood fractions and some do not.

Such a stance of dividing blood into major components and minor fractions rather than either accepting all blood or requiring all blood components to be poured out onto the ground has led to criticism from organizations such as the "Associated Jehovah's Witnesses for Reform on Blood". [ [ Associated Jehovah's Witnesses for Reform on Blood] ] Witnesses respond that blood as the fluid "per se" is not the real issue. They say the real issue is "respect" and "obedience" for God's personal property- blood. ["The Watchtower" November 1, 1961 p. 669 Questions From Readers] ["What Does The Bible Really Teach?" 2005 P.128 ] That the matter blood is not at stake, is seen in the fact that members are allowed to eat meat which will still have some blood left in it. As soon as blood is drained from an animal, the respect has been shown to God and then a person can eat the meat even though it will contain a small amount of blood. Jehovah's Witnesses view of meat and blood thus is different than the Jewish view that goes to great lengths to remove any little trace of blood. [ [] [] ]

According to author Kerry Louderback-Wood, the Watchtower Society misrepresents the scope of allowed fractions. If taken together, they "total the entire volume of blood they came from". ["Jehovah's Witnesses, Blood Transfusions and the Tort of Misrepresentation", Journal of Church and State Vol 47, Autumn 2005 p. 815] An example of this can be seen in blood plasma, which consists of 90-96% water. The remaining amount consists mainly of albumin, globulins, fibrinogen and coagulation factors. These four fractions are allowable for use, but only if taken separately. Critics have likened this to banning the eating of a ham and cheese sandwich but allowing the eating of bread, ham and cheese separately. [ Franz, Raymond. "In Search of Christian Freedom" - [ Chapter Nine] . Atlanta: Commentary Press, 1991. ISBN 0-914675-16-8. p.732. ] When considering such an analogy it is important to keep in mind that Jehovah's Witnesses do not accept the whole blood or any of its major components. And if a fraction, "makes up a significant portion of that component" or "carries out the key function of a primary component" it may be objectionable to them. [" Awake!" August 2006 box on P. 11 ]

The human body contains between 2-3 kg of leukocytes (white blood cells), but only about 3% of these are in the blood. White blood cells are considered a major component of blood and therefore forbidden. Human breast milk contains about 500,000 - 5 million white blood cells per millilitre, [Jackson, K. & Nazar, A. "Breastfeeding, the Immune Response and Long-term Health", "Journal of the American Osteopathic Association", 106(4), 2006. Available [ online] .] however this is not forbidden.

toring and donation

Jehovah's Witnesses strictly reject the storage of blood as being against the direction from the Bible to pour blood out onto the ground. It is due to this understanding that the use of stored autologous blood is prohibited – that is the storage of one's own blood before surgery in the case of an emergency.

In a similar fashion Jehovah's Witnesses accept blood fractions from donated blood but view the donation of blood to be unbiblical. The only way for fractions of blood to become available for use is through the storing and processing of such blood donations. This has led to criticism of perceived contradictory and inconsistent policies. [ Franz, Raymond. "In Search of Christian Freedom" - [ Chapter Nine] . Atlanta: Commentary Press, 1991. Pbk. ISBN 0-914675-16-8. pp.732. ]

Legal considerations

Regardless of the medical considerations, Jehovah Witnesses advocate that physicians should uphold the right of a patient to choose what treatments they accept or do not accept (though a Witness is subject to religious sanctions if they exercise their right to choose a blood transfusion). [ [ Ivanhoe's Medical Breakthroughs - When Religion and Medicine Collide ] ] Accordingly, US courts tend not to hold physicians responsible for adverse health effects that a patient incurred out of his or her own requests. [] However, the point of view that physicians must, in all circumstances, abide by the religious wishes of the patients is not acknowledged by all jurisdictions (for one example, see France).

The situation has been controversial, particularly in the case of children. In the United States, many physicians will agree to explore and exhaust all non-blood alternatives in the treatment of children at the request of their legal guardians. However, some state laws require physicians to administer blood-based treatment to minors if it is their professional opinion that it is necessary to prevent immediate death or severe permanent damage.

An essay entitled, "Jehovah's Witnesses, Blood Transfusions, and the Tort of Misrepresentation", found in the Autumn issue of Baylor University's "Journal of Church and State", published December 13, 2005, discusses the potential vulnerability of Jehovah's Witnesses' legal corporations to significant claims for compensation because of the religion's possible misrepresentation of the medical risks of blood transfusions. According to the essay, constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion do not remove the legal responsibility that every person or organization has regarding misrepresenting secular fact.

Animal blood

The Watchtower has stated that "Various medical products have been obtained from biological sources, either animal or human ... Such commercialization of ... blood is hardly tempting for true Christians, who guide their thinking by God's perfect law. Our Creator views blood as sacred, representing God-given life ... blood removed from a creature was to be poured out on the ground, disposed of." [ "The Watchtower" (Feb. 1, 1997) p30 ]

Reporting of sexual abuse

Critics have accused Jehovah's Witnesses of employing organizational policies that make the reporting of sexual abuse difficult for members. For a report of abuse to be considered "proven" (to the degree that would merit congregational judicial discipline), there need to be two witnesses or a confession by the accused (only in cases where there is no physical evidence of the abuse). [ Robinson, B.A (2005). [ "Jehovah's Witnesses (WTS) Handling of Child Sexual Abuse Cases"] , "Religious" Retrieved Mar 3, 2006.] [ Tubbs, Sharon (Aug. 22, 2002), [ "Spiritual shunning"] , "St. Petersburg Times". ]

Some victims of sexual abuse also assert that when reporting abuse they have been directed to maintain silence to avoid embarrassment to both the accused and the organization. [ [ "Another Church Sex Scandal"] (Apr. 29, 2003). "CBS News". ] [ Cutrer, Corrie (Mar. 5, 2001). [ "Witness Leaders Accused of Shielding Molesters"] , "Christianity Today". ]

The official policy on child protection for Jehovah's Witnesses, which discusses the procedures for reporting child sexual abuse, states that elders obey all legal requirements for reporting sex offenders, including reporting uncorroborated or unsubstantiated allegations where required by law and that they are to discipline pedophiles. It also emphasizes the right of the victim to notify the authorities if they wish to do so. [ [ "Jehovah's Witnesses and Child Protection"] (2003). "Jehovah's Witnesses Office of Public Information". ] A [ Religious website] article on the handling of child sexual abuse cases acknowledges this, stating, The WTS recommends that the victim's parent or guardian — or even the accused person themselves — report the abuse to the police.


Critics of Jehovah's Witnesses (e.g., Randall Watters, Timothy Campbell, David Grosshoeme, Kaynor Weishaupt, Jan Groenveld) object to Witness policy and behavior where, in their view, the integrity of family relationships and the capacity of members to exercise freedom of mind is impacted.

Others believe that some members of anti-cult movements have impinged on the religious freedom of Jehovah's Witnesses through coercive deprogramming and discrimination. [ [ CESNUR] ]

Witnesses teach that "freedom to make decisions [is] to be exercised within the boundaries of God's laws and principles", ["Worship the Only True God" chap. 5 p . 43 par. 4 Freedom Enjoyed by Worshipers of Jehovah] and that "only Jehovah [is] free to set the standard of what is good and bad." ["The Watchtower" June 1 p. 11 par. 7 A Free People but Accountable] As mentioned above, however, it is believed that such principles can only be understood through association with Jehovah's Witnesses. [Watchtower, Sep. 1, 1954, p. 529; Oct. 1, 1967, p. 587; Dec. 1, 1981, p.27; Feb 15, 1981, p.19] In practice, members may face sanctions if they do not abide by regulations set forth by the leadership, which presents itself as the channel through which God instructs members about "what is good and bad".

Religious scholar Sergei Ivanenko stated, "It would be a serious mistake to represent the Religious Organization of Jehovah's Witnesses as a religion whose leadership forces its rank and file believers to engage in one form of activity or another, or place upon them strict restrictions or directives. Jehovah's Witnesses strive to live in accord with Bible principles on the basis of an individual, voluntary choice. . . . This also applies in full measure to preaching." [Expert Opinion, S. I. Ivanenko, p. 10 Golovinsky Intermunicipal Court. Link to full Rebuttal [ JW-MEDIA] ] James Beckford, an expert of the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses and a professor at the University of Warwick, England, mentioned, "It is important for each of them to exercise free moral agency in choosing to study the Bible and to live in accordance with their interpretation of its message." [ Sworn Expert Opinion, prepared by Professor James Beckford, University of Warwick, Coventry, England, November 1998, p. 2 ]

Treatment of members who disassociate

If a member of Jehovah's Witnesses does not comply with the organisation's interpretations, they can be excommunicated, termed disfellowshipping. This involves being shunned by all members of the religion, including any family members that do not live under the same roof. Due to the social nature of the religion, being shunned can isolate a member in a very powerful way and can be devastating if everyone in a member's social circle participates in the shunning. Jehovah's Witnesses say that disfellowshipping is a scripturally-documented method to protect the congregation from the influence of those who practice serious wrongdoing. [] The Encyclopedia of Religion notes: "Any community claims the right to protect itself against nonconforming members who may threaten the common welfare. In a religious setting this right has often been reinforced by the belief that the sanction [of excommunication] affects one's standing before God." ["Encyclopedia of religion" ed. Eliade M, New York Macmillan, 1987 ]

Prior to 1981, if a member disassociated from the religion but was not disfellowshipped, the practice of shunning was not required and normal contact could be maintained. A policy change in 1981 required that all who were considered to have disassociated by their actions were to be treated in the same way as a member who had been disfellowshipped for wrongdoing. The new policy meant that congregation members are not informed whether a person was being shunned due to "disfellowshipping" or "disassociation", or on what grounds. Many of these changes were precipitated by events surrounding Raymond Franz, a former governing body member.

Prior to the early 90's, members who were publishers, but not yet baptized (usually children or relatively new members) who committed wrongdoing would similarly be shunned, in this case being termed "disassociated". This practice was revised in the early 90's when it was deemed that those who had not taken the step of committing themselves to obedience by being baptized (Jehovah's Witnesses condemn infant baptism) could not be sanctioned in the same way as those who had been baptized.

Critics state that fear of being shunned and family break-up causes people who might otherwise freely leave the religion to stay.Fact|date=February 2007 The only way to officially leave the religion is to write a letter requesting to be disassociated or to be disfellowshipped, but both entail the same set of prohibitions and penalties. Critics contend the judicial process involved, due to its private and nearly autonomous nature, contradict the precedent found in the Bible and the organizations' own teachings [Matthew 18:17, "The local court was situated at the gate of a city. (De 16:18; 21:19; 22:15, 24; 25:7; Ru 4:1) By "gate" is meant the open space inside the city near the gate... as most persons would go in and out of the gate during the day. Also, the publicity that would be afforded any trial at the gate would tend to influence the judges toward care and justice in the trial proceedings and in their decisions. ("Insight on the Scriptures", Vol 1, p. 518)] and can be used in an arbitrary manner if there is consensus among just a few to so use their authority. ["In Search Of Christian Freedom" by Raymond Franz, 2002, and "In Search of Christian Freedom, pp.374–390 'The Misuse of Disfellowshipping', by Raymond Franz]


Discrimination has been argued to exist within past teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses [ [ Jehovah's Witnesses, Blacks and Discrimination] ] . For example, Charles Taze Russell taught that black people would become white and Hebrew after Armageddon. [Watchtower, April 1, 1914:110 "A little while, and the Millennial kingdom will be inaugurated, which will bring restitution to all mankind--restitution to the perfection of mind and body, feature and color, to the grand original standard, which God declared "very good," and which was lost for a time through sin, but which is soon to be restored by the powerful kingdom of the Messiah"] [Zion's Watch Tower, February 15, 1904: 52-53 "No. But... what the Ethiopian cannot do for himself God could readily do for him. The difference between the races of men... have long been arguments against the solidarity of the human family. The doctrine of restitution has also raised the question. How could all men be brought to perfection and which color of skin was the original? The answer is now provided. God can change the Ethiopian's skin in his own due time... Julius Jackson, of New Frankfort, Montana, a negro boy of nine years, began to grow white in September, 1901, and is now fully nine-tenths white. He assures us that this is no whitish skin disease; but that the new white skin is as healthy as that of any white boy, and that the changed boy has never been sick and never has taken medicines"] The Watchtower Society also taught that black people were degraded because they were descendants from Ham [Zion's Watch Tower, July 15, 1902:216 "...that Ham's characteristics which had led him to unseemly conduct ... would be ... inherited by his son,--and prophetically he foretold that this degeneracy would mark the posterity of Canaan, degrading him, making him servile. We are not able to determine to a certainty that the sons of Ham and Canaan are negroes; but we consider that general view as probable as any other"] , and that they need to remove their "curse" of dark skin. [Zion's Watch Tower, July 15, 1902:215-216 "] The Watchtower Society taught that black people were in general less interested and had less intelligence concerning the Bible. [Zion's Watch Tower of April 15, 1900 (122)"although we have received letters from several of these, who had intended engaging in the volunteer work, expressing surprise that in the call for volunteers in the March 1, 1900 issue we restricted the inquiry to white Protestant churches. They rightly realized that we have not the slightest of race prejudice, and that we love the colored brethren with just the same warmth of heart that we love the white, and they queried therefore why such a distinction should be made in the call. The reason is colored people have less education than whites--many of them quite insufficient to permit them to profit by such reading as we have to give forth. Our conclusion therefore is based upon the supposition that reading matter distributed to a colored congregation would more than half of it be utterly wasted, and a very small percentage indeed likely to yield good results"] Jehovah's Witnesses also practiced segregation during presentation of the 'Photo Drama of Creation'. [The Watchtower of April 1,1914, p. 105: "Recognizing that it meant either the success or the failure of the enterprise of the [Photo] Drama as respects the whites, we have been compelled to assign the colored friends to the gallery, which, however, is just as good for seeing and hearing as any other part of The Temple."Some were offended at this arrangement. We have received numerous letters from the colored friends, some claiming that it is not right to make a difference, others indignantly and bitterly denouncing us as enemies of the colored people."Some, confident that Brother Russell had never sanctioned such a discrimination, told that they believe it would be duty to stand up for equal rights and always to help the oppressed, etc. We were obliged to explain the facts, assuring all of our loving interest in the colored people, and of our desire to them good, and not injury."We again suggested that if a suitable place could be found in which the Drama could be presented for the benefit of the colored people alone, we would be glad to make such arrangements, or to co-operate with any others in doing so." from [ Apartheid In The Watchtower] ] These views were discarded after 1929.In 1952, the Watchtower stated that black people have "servant" and "teachable qualities". [The Watchtower, Feb. 1, 1952: 95 "our colored brothers have a great cause for rejoicing. Their race is meek and teachable, and from it comes a high percentage of the theocratic increase"] [The Golden Age, July 24, 1929: 702 "...the curse which Noah pronounced upon Canaan was the origin of the black race. Certain it is that when Noah said, "Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren," he pictured the future of the Colored race. They have been and are a race of servants, but now in the dawn of the twentieth century, we are all coming to see this matter of service in its true light and to find that the only real joy in life is in serving others; not bossing them. There is no servant in the world as good as a good Colored servant, and the joy that he gets from rendering faithful service is one of the purest joys there is in the world"] Since then the Watchtower Society claims to have developed high standards against racism.Fact|date=September 2008 An "Awake!" article from 1977 stated that the Catholic Church held racist views about black people until 1873, but declines to mention the similar racist views published by the Watchtower Society in the early 20th Century. ["Awake!", October 8, 1977, page 29]


Books Critical of Jehovah's Witnesses

*"Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah's Witnesses"' by M. James Penton. Penton, who is a former Jehovah's Witness and a professor emeritus of history at University of Lethbridge, examines the history of Jehovah's Witnesses, and their doctrines. Read selections from: [;lpg=PA3&dq=apocalypse+delayed&prev= Apocalypse Delayed: the Story of Jehovah's Witnesses] University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-7973-3 (Canada, 1998) (Google book search)
*"Wolves Among Sheep" by James Kostelniuk. Harpercollins Trade Sales Dept, ISBN-13: 978-0006391074
*"The Orwellian World of Jehovah's Witnesses" by Heather and Gary Botting. Both authors were raised Jehovah's Witnesses and are trained scholars. In fact, the book is based on a doctoral dissertation by Heather Botting. Read selections from: [ The Orwellian World of Jehovah's Witnesses] (Google book search) University of Toronto Press, ISBN-13: 978-0802065452
*"The Truth Book: Escaping a Childhood of Abuse Among Jehovah's Witnesses" by Joy Castro, adopted as a baby and raised by a devout Jehovah's Witness family. Read selections from: [ The Truth Book: Escaping a Childhood of Abuse Among Jehovah's Witnesses] (Google book search) Published 2005 Arcade Publishing, ISBN 1559707879
*"Crisis of Conscience" by Raymond Franz, a former Jehovah's Witness who was a member of the Governing Body of the Watch Tower Society for nine years. This book gives a detailed account of the authority structure, practices, doctrines and decision-making practices Franz experienced while serving on the Governing Body. Sample chapters online: [ 1] , [ 9] , [ 10] , [ 11] , [ 12] . Publisher: Commentary Press. 420 pages. Hardback ISBN 0-914675-24-9. Paperback ISBN 0-914675-23-0. 4th edition (June 2002)
*"The Gentile Times Reconsidered: Chronology & Christ's Return" by Carl O. Jonsson. Jonsson considers the origin of the belief that the Gentile Times began in 607 B.C. and examines several lines of evidence and the methodology for deriving it. ISBN 0-914675-06-0 Publisher: Commentary Press (July, 1998, Fourth edition 2004)
*"Jehovah's Witnesses Defended" by Greg Stafford. The author considers himself one of Jehovah's Witnesses but has renounced affiliation with the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society. This book reviews and thoroughly explores the most common, and/or prevalent, criticisms made about Jehovah's Witnesses and the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society.
*"I Was Raised a Jehovah's Witness" by Joe Hewitt. Hewitt gives a frank and compelling account of his life as a Jehovah's Witness and his subsequent persecution and excommunication after he decided to leave the Jehovah's Witness movement. Read selections from: [ I Was Raised a Jehovah's Witness] (Google book search) Published 1997, Kregel Publications, ISBN 0825428769

External links


* [ Jehovah's Witnesses respond on child abuse, from official site (video)]
* [ Jehovah's Witnesses Official Policy on Child Protection, from official site]
* [ A defense of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures]
* [] - A forum to investigate, discuss and report the latest techniques in blood conservation and alternatives to blood transfusion.
* [ Truth in Translation!] - A deep, positive, examination of the New World Translation.
* [ Your Body Choice!] - A book that shows how Jehovah's Witnesses may have helped your medical freedom.
* - Official Jehovah's Witnesses website
* -United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the stories on how Jehovah's Witnesses did not compromise the bible teachings.


* [ Apologetics index] - Criticisms of Jehovah's Witnesses from a mainstream Christian viewpoint.
* [ Associated Jehovah's Witnesses for Reform on Blood] - A site that promotes reform of the Watch Tower Society's blood doctrine.
* [] - A site for disfellowshipped members.
* [ Exposé on the Jehovah's Witnesses] - From Blue Letter Bible. An examination of the Watchtower Society. Contains relatively brief explanations of each point.
* [] - A site for ex-members.
* [ exJW-Reunited] - website offers help to followers who lose their faith
* [ Jehovah Witness and the Deity of Christ] Article showing how false translation distorts Deity of Christ.
* [ Jehovah's Witnesses, Blacks and Discrimination] - paper about Blacks and the Watchtower
* [ How Race Affects Your Position In The Kingdom Hall] - a personal testimony
* [ Favoritism and the "Jim Crow" Laws Among Jehovah's Witnesses] - The Story of Greg and Penny Peterson
* [ Racism in the Jehovah Witness Watchtower] by Christian Peper
* [ Apartheid In The Watchtower] by Peter Andrews
* [ Free Minds, Inc] - the largest Watchtower dissident site
* [ Watchtower Ban on Education Now "Old Light"] - Free Minds Journal
* ['s_Witnesses.pdf The Gospel According to Jehovah's Witnesses] Online book critiquing doctrines of Jehovah's Witnesses written by a Roman Catholic layman.
* [ The Jehovah's Witnesses and the Theocratic Subversion of Ethnicity] - A Paper Presented to the American Academy of Religion
* [ Historical Idealism and Jehovah's Witnesses] - Documents the historical development of Jehovah's Witness chronology and the claimed "idealized" history of it by the Watchtower Society
* [ Religious] Jehovah's Witnesses Policies & examples of child sexual abuse.
* [ Jehovah's Witness cult (Google video)] - A candid look at the Watchtower Society, also known as Jehovah's Witnesses.
* [ Jesus and the Trinity] - Online book responding to Witness teaching
* [ JW Files--Research on Jehovah's Witnesses] - A site "dedicated to research on Jehovah Witnesses".
* [] - Facts about Jehovah's Witnesses
* [] Silentlamb's official web site.
* [] - A collection of articles examining the doctrine & practice of the Jehovah's Witnesses.
* [ TowerWatch Ministries] - Jehovah's Witness and Watchtower Information Online.
* [] - A site containing information and articles on the beliefs and practices of the Jehovah's Witnesses.
* [ Make Sure of All Things] - A site that is critical of some JW teachings, but is moderate in views
* [ The Watchtower in Light of Scripture] - Online book by former Jehovah's Witness Circuit Overseer
* [ Watchtower Influences on Black Muslim Eschatology: An Exploratory Story] by William A. Maesen
* [ Ex-Jehovah's Witness Forum and Recovery Site] - A Support and Recovery Forum for Ex-Jehovah's Witnesses; those considering leaving the organization; or simply those interested in the jw's.
* [ LambsRoar - Abuse Survivors FOR Abuse Survivors]

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