There are facts and secrets about Jehovah’s Witnesses not commonly known – even to Witnesses themselves. From its beginnings, this website has tried to make it clear that there are many things the Watch Tower has very carefully hidden or simply denied.
One of those hidden truths about “The Truth” (i.e., Watch Tower and its leaders) is that they misrepresent how they actually deal with dissenters, inactive members, and those involved in criminal activity within their membership. They protest that they only want to counsel and help those who “have sinned, brought shame and dishonor within the congregation, or have rebelled against Jehovah and His organization.”
Internal private meetings are often conducted by a “committee” of two to four elders. These “committee meetings” usually involve a baptized Jehovah’s Witness (or, sometimes, an unbaptized child or new member who has been attending for some time) who has been accused or suspected of some “sinful” behavior. This whole function is typically called “a Judicial Hearing.” For those accused unfairly or for some minor offense, this experience will likely be more like a “kangaroo court.”
With very few exceptions, when a Jehovah’s Witness is approached and called to appear before a “Committee of Elders” for a “Judicial Hearing” – that means that everything connected to their JW lifestyle will be jeopardized. A few called before a Judicial Committee may receive only a verbal rebuke and have to sit through some “biblical counseling.” Others will simply be encouraged to “spend more time studying the publications and to become more active and dedicated to Jehovah’s organization.”
That is not the case for those judged and found “guilty” of some serious “sinful behavior.” Their punishment might be likened to a death sentence. They find the enforced loss of normal relationships with JW friends and family (“shunning”) will completely change their lives in ways that are hard to imagine. It’s similar to an average citizen who has been convicted of a serious felony – whether they are guilty or not.
In the secular world, that kind of lifetime punishment is reserved for child abusers, rapists, wife beaters, and corporate thieves who steal the life savings of hard-working families. In “Watchtower World,” all of the above would be welcomed back into the JW organization by “sincerely” repenting their sins and asking for reinstatement. While someone who has not harmed or cheated anyone, but sincerely disagrees with one or more Watchtower teachings or practices would be rejected for reinstatement and continue to be shunned.
All of that is a conundrum that has been discussed at length on this website. For now, however, there is a more important and current issue that all of the above has been brought to the attention of government authorities and courts.
Did you know that some states and countries do not allow non-governmental courts or judicial hearings? Those rules apply to corporations, private organizations, and religious groups. And now the Watch Tower and Jehovah’s Witnesses have run afoul of those laws in at least two countries.
Let’s take, for example, the aformentioned country of Finland in May, 2014…
Justice Minister: “No room for two court systems in Finland”
Justice Minister Anna-Maija Henriksson has expressed concern over claims by a local NGO that Jehovah’s Witnesses in Finland have their own committees that mete out court justice to wrongdoers. Responding to a report by the UUT which advocates for victims of religious organizations, Henriksson said that “Finland has no room for two separate legal systems.”
Alongside a report into disciplinary practices by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the religious victims’ support group UUT called on Justice Minister Anna-Maija Henriksson to investigate the actions of the church.
Based on first-hand accounts of 18 former church members, the UUT report claims an internal court [judicial committee] handed down harsh sentences including ostracizing offending church members. Henriksson avoided directly commenting on the actions of the church, but did say that Finland has a legal system already. “Of course, it can not be that in Finland we have another system [that exists] outside the normal judiciary,” she said.”Also it’s extremely important in religious communities to respect basic rights and freedoms of individuals. And, thinking about that, it also includes our own behavior and practices from the perspective of respecting others,” Henriksson added.The minister advised individuals to file a criminal complaint with police if they feel that they are being targeted in violation of Finnish law. She said that the courts are the ultimate authority on whether or not the organizations of a religious group are operating legally or illegally.
Henriksson said that Justice Ministry Officials will look into the report in greater detail next week.
The matter falls to the present Ministry of Education and Culture who is responsible for freedom of religion legislation and matters relating to religious groups. Also, Henriksson said she plans to discuss the matter with the minister responsible for church matters, Päivi Räsänen.