This press release was co-authored with Joel Martz.
On November 4-5, 2017, a grass-roots gathering of former Jehovah’s Witnesses from across the world will occur in downtown Warwick, New York. This gathering is open to the public, and all are welcome.
The purpose of this event is for former Jehovah’s Witnesses to share their experiences with each other and warn the public as to the true nature of the Jehovah’s Witness religion. Leadership from the Jehovah’s Witness’ corporate entity, known as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, have been invited to this event. Known as the “Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses”, the Jehovah’s Witness leadership has been invited to attend for a public, constructive conversation about reforming the religion’s policies that have proven so destructive to many people.
In our modern era where hate speech abounds, this gathering instead seeks to reveal the truth of what individuals experienced when they were Jehovah’s Witnesses, and what they experience after they leave. When someone becomes one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, they are taught that they should not associate with people who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses. The religion teaches that those who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses are not good association for active members of the congregation. This policy creates a situation where the vast majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses only have friends who are also in the religion. That being the case, if someone decides they can no longer agree with the teachings of the religion – if they decide to leave – all of their former friends will not talk to them anymore. This also applies to their family members. Thus, Jehovah’s Witnesses effectively weaponize their member’s social structure in order to coerce membership retention. This high cost of leaving leaves a trail of broken families, with many trapped mentally and emotionally in the religion.
The high control atmosphere found within the culture of the Watchtower Society can be seriously detrimental to one’s living a healthy and happy life. Many former members report PTSD, and commonly suffer from depression and other psychological issues. From the youngest age, Watchtower teaches their members that one should not get higher education, one should not plan for a future other than performing service for the Watchtower corporation, and any pursuit outside of doing service for the Watchtower corporation is a waste of time. Watchtower literature uses a considerable amount of artwork to reinforce their teachings under the threat of “Jehovah’s wrath”, with imagery found in their publications rivaling “Dante’s Inferno”, with the world being destroyed in a fiery cataclysm at Armageddon. Such imagery is used to reinforce the teaching that leaving the Watchtower organization results in one being marked for death.
Then there are the thousands of victims of sexual abuse. The trail of court cases illustrating Watchtower’s inability/refusal to protect the innocent is well established. Thankfully, many Governments from around the world are waking to the reality of how Watchtower exerts control over it’s membership. It has been legally documented that victims are pressured into forgiving their abusers, the congregations are not warned that a predator is in their midst, and members have actually been punished with being marked and shunned for daring to bring cases to the attention of local authorities. The net effect of treating sexual abuse as a “sin” and not a crime results in pedophiles in close contact with children; knocking on doors publicly as part of Jehovah’s Witnesses preaching work. Policy reform is desperately needed, as a recent Australian Royal Commission governmental investigation revealed thousands of cases of unreported victims of sexual abuse within the Jehovah’s Witness religion.
The gathering in Warwick on November 4-5 is also a celebration of those who have left, and reclaimed their lives. It will be a time for them to get together, share their stories and rejoice in their freedom from such an environment. All of this is happening in the backyard of the world headquarters of the organization that previously held them captive. This will be the ultimate demonstration that the organization that once dictated their very life, and still holds captive some of their friends and family, no longer holds any power over them. While their friends and family are still held by the invisible chains, this is nothing short of a celebration of the triumph of the human spirit over the tyranny of authoritarian oppression.
A global alliance of concerned Former Jehovah’s Witnesses.