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JWs Have Their Own Legal System – But Not in Finland

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.

Anna-Maja Henriksson, Minister of Justice.” [Image: Yle]
Anna-Maja Henriksson, Minister of Justice [Image: Yle]
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.

15 replies on “JWs Have Their Own Legal System – But Not in Finland”

any jw is ever wise to maintain friendships with work colleagues, neighbours, people ‘outside’ the so called truth. This helps maintain balance in perspective of realityand despite what the wt says there are a lot of very nice people out there.
The wt has had a first class caning by the Royal Commission in Australia because of the way it i.e. the wt conducts itself. Any jw out there who don’t believe me go look up the ARC on Google the actual footage of the inquiry is all there.

When you hear of a ‘Legal Dep’t or the words ‘Judicial Hearing” you would rightly assume that this involves men and women of high calibre of sound and formal education in law and the practices of a court and with strong and established systems of record keeping and accountability well this is not the case with the wt.

“These Jehovah’s Witness Elders are shown themselves to be woefully ignorant of standard practices in the real world seriously unprepared for the hearings, completely lacking in compassion for the victim and untrained to be real shepherds’; and all have consistently poor memories.”
from the Royal Commission.

I was hauled before a judicial committee for committing adultery, I expressed regret over that, but foolishly said I had lost a lot of faith due to flip-flop doctrinal changes. So they threw me out… Not for the adultery but for doubting what they were teaching.. So I have been shunned by some family members for 40 years. A forty year punishment for committing adultery for which I expressed regret… Inhuman, un Christian (well not really) treatment by a bunch of Brooklyn ####wits. May they rot in hell…

and how old were you when this indiscretion occurred? dont answer of course; but how long can some people keep a grudge

Just to throw a large metal tool into the gearworks–what about multinational corporations that enforce corporate policies? Does that mean no private “reviews” of behavior or performance in compliance with policies or performance standards? A separate civil court system to handle mediation and arbitration of NGO matters before government-appointed judiciary using a hybrid of Finnish constitution and laws merged with an NGO’s policies?

Unfortunately most Jehovah’s Witnesses who are requested to show up at a “judicial hearing” are ignorant of the fact that they could refuse to attend. It’s also unfortunate that this subject is not a part of the early Bible studies that are conducted with newbies so they get a clear picture of what a “judicial hearing” is especially when government policies are in place to contradict the outcome of Watchtower judgments as in the many cases of JW pedophiles. Watchtower belief is that disfellowshiping will lead to repentance. Repentance does not mean the end of an addiction or other life areas that people need help with. Disfellowshiping cuts the strings of any kind of emotional or verbal support. I am still amazed by the ability of those who were born into it to be able to regain a wonderful life outside of the Watchtower system. They are to be applauded.

I was raised a JW and was disfellowshiped when I was 20. I am now 68. The only thing I regret is that I did not send them a thank you card. I do not miss those JERKS for a moment……..

Larry – that’s a good question. The term “states” was used and translated from the original source material in a generic way and was not specific to any of the political and geographic divisions of the United States. That’s not to say that some American states may not have similar versions of these laws. The source material was referring to those countries that allow their “states” to have their own court systems with some laws that expand or subtract from national versions. Just as we do in the USA where states and municipalities have many of their own statutes, regulations and penalties that differ from those enforced by the federal government – so do other countries.

I told my wife that these elder are not qualified to handle delicate matters. When it comes to humans, uneducated men don’t have a clue how to deal with the complexities of human beings, especially child abuse. So many lives have been ruined because of the Organization and elders’ ineptitude judgments, and not just child abuse cases.

I do find it inappropriate that the body of elders that hand down “justice” are a group of men who, in our local hall’s case, have less than a high school education. My father and brother are both elders of long standing. They as well as many in that hall are contractors of buildings and homes, one is a realtor. How the heck does this qualify them to counsel others? My dad laughed at the idea that he was required in junior college to take psychology and english as prerequisites to a degree, which he did not get and dropped out. They seem to think of any education outside of bible education is laughable! I find it sickening that they actually think they have it all figured out. So smug, yet so ignorant. My brother is selfish and greedy, and he counsels others.

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