Following the recent breakthrough I have just sent the following email to Sky News, expanding on the issue of the "mentally diseased" article to incorporate the issue of UK charitable status. I feel this is a good angle to go at, because Sky News tends to focus on UK economic policy issues quite extensively. £5 million per year in government Gift Aid being frittered away on a charity that condones breaking-up families and blocking medical treatment seems to me to be a newsworthy item.
Here is the email. Let's hope it gets picked up!
I am a concerned Jehovah's Witness, and I would like to bring the attention of Sky News to an issue that I feel is in the public interest.
Last year, the International Bible Students Association, which is the UK arm of Jehovah's Witnesses, raised £25.7 million in donations. I estimate that approximately £5 million* of this would have been donated by the UK government as "Gift Aid", at a time of deep austerity measures and cuts to public spending. Here is a link to the Charity Commission's website confirming the income and expenditure of the charity.
As you will know, new laws have been passed stipulating that charities must operate for the "public benefit" in order to continue to enjoy charitable status. Since the public benefit laws were introduced, Jehovah's Witnesses have been singled out as a religious charity whose actions may be against the public benefit, rather than for it.
This has been highlighted by a recent article in yesterday's Independent, which turned the spotlight on the church's practice of ostracising and shunning any members who disagree with official church teachings, to the point of encouraging family members not to talk to one another.
The practice of shunning family members who disagree with church teachings and branding them as being "mentally diseased" certainly flies in the face of David Cameron's vision of a "big society" in which family cohesion should play a central role.
This is without even mentioning the Witness's stand on blood transfusions, whereby church members are encouraged to turn down certain forms of medical treatment if these should infringe on official church teachings.
I am personally still inside the church, but I am increasingly frustrated by church teachings, and I do not have the option of leaving because, if I were to do so, I would be shunned by my family members for the rest of my life. I value my relationship with them too much to speak out openly against the church I have grown up in. Many are in a similar postion to me. I would therefore be happy to assist in any potential investigation, but I would need to do so on a strictly anonymous basis.
I hope the above information proves helpful to you.
* this figure would need to be confirmed.