Silenced – The Rado Vleugel Story
My name is Rado Vleugel. I was born on January 1, 1973 in the city of Amsterdam while fire crackers where making a lot of noise.
The January 15, 1994 Watchtower page 22 tells something about my history as a Witness of Jehovah:
“Rado, mentioned earlier, was six years old when two pioneers studied the Bible with his parents. When still very young, he regularly accompanied these full-time preachers in the field ministry. Rado himself became a regular pioneer at the age of 17.”
One year after I started pioneering the elders appointed me as a ministerial servant. The same year, when I was still eighteen years old, I was assigned to conduct a congregation bookstudy.
In the autumn of 1998 I purchased a new computer with a built-in modem ready to surf the internet. Within a week I discovered the site of the AJWRB.
For several years I had already had doubts regarding the blood issue. For example, I didn’t deliver the May 22, 1994 Awake! with the topic “Youths who put God first”, about young Witness children who died because they refused blood transfusions.
On the AJWRB-site I found the letter “STOP THE INSANITY”. I felt I had an obligation to translate this letter from English into Dutch. At the end of November 1998 the Dutch translation was finished and uploaded to the AJWRB-site. To inform the brothers and sisters in the Netherlands there was important information for them available on the internet I spoke anonymously with some journalists. Two major Dutch newspapers publicized an article about the AJWRB and my call for reform. In one of these newspapers the spokesman of the Dutch Branch, Ruben van den Heuvel, commented on my actions:
“Happily we have freedom of speech and I say, ‘let this people reveal themselves, then we can start a conversation.’” –Algemeen Dagblad from 11/27/1998.
My identity was revealed a few days later after I appeared disguised with my voice altered on national television talking about the blood issue. The disguise wasn’t good enough. The elders in my congregation where phoned by Witnesses from all over the country that it was me on national television. I was phoned by the elders and told that I had been recognized. Because I had a great fear of being disfellowshipped, I denied that it was me. I regret this lie more than my call for reform.
The day after I denied the fact that I had been on television the elders called again: “Rado, we are now going by car to your parents with the video tape of the broadcast to see if they will recognize you.” There was no place to hide. Before they arrived at my parents house I called my father with the announcement that it was me that had appeared on television. My parents were shocked. The elders showed them the video tape anyway.
As expected a judicial committee was formed. The accusation was apostasy and helping to form a sect. I requested to bring an observer with me. They didn’t permit this (Happily many reform-minded elders who were also active on the internet supported me during the process).
The committee consisted of four elders. All of them were good friends of mine. The atmosphere during the process was a little bit strange. We even made jokes together. The elders asked me if I thought I was inspired by Jehovah. I answered: “If Jehovah used the donkey of Balaam, why should he not use me?” We laughed together.
Although the atmosphere wasn’t very cold and distant, they didn’t listen to my considered arguments. When I asked them probing questions they said: “We don’t comment on these questions, we follow the point of view of the Governing Body.” One illustration I used remained unanswered. This illustration shows the inconsistency of the prohibition of plasma while at the same time the Watchtower Society allows Witnesses to take all of its separate components, with the exception of water. Here is the illustration:
“A physician prohibits a patient to eat soup with the following ingredients: spring water, chicken, garlic and cornflower. At the same time he allows the patient to eat the ingredients separately; but the patient has one restriction: he has to take tap water instead of spring water (spring water = the water of the plasma, chicken = albumin, garlic = immunoglobin, cornflower = factor VIII and IX).
After a few ours of debating I was asked to leave the room so the elders could privately discuss what to do with me. When they called me back the faces of the elders were very sad. They told me that they had decided to disfellowship me. If I had remorse over my deeds I would not be disfellowshipped. Because the Society can’t be the master of the conscience of individuals I decided not to step back again in the footsteps of the Watchtower Society to blindly support an insane and inhumane policy. But I didn’t want to be disfellowshipped!
I appealed the decision of the committee and an appeal committee was formed. Because they where in close contact with the Branch it took a long time before I had to appear before this committee. At the end of February 1999 I had to appear alone before the seven members of this committee without any rights. They also decided to disfellowship me.
I clutched the last straw and appealed to the Society. One thing I wrote in my letter to the Society was:
“I hope the brothers of the Governing Body do not make the same mistake again by confusing a conscientious decision [to accept blood] with apostasy. As the October 1, 1994 Watchtower showed, the decision of “some Christians” to conscientiously accept certain blood-components had the positive influence of the WTS permitting their use for all Witnesses. What if “some Christians” also accept the other blood-components without violating their conscience? I hope that the decision of these “Christians” may have a positive influence on the future decisions of the Governing Body.”
I also clearly referred to the Bulgarian case telling the brothers that it is not fair to disfellowship someone for questioning the blood issue while the Society has made an agreement with the Bulgarian Government stating that Jehovah’s Witnesses can take a blood transfusion without any control or sanction. I asked them to respond in writing. They were too afraid to do that (Where was the promised freedom of speech? Why wasn’t it possible to have a constructive conservation?). After a week or so the elders called me to make an appointment to let me know what the answer of the Society was.
On Saturday March 6, 1999 I heard the final irreversible decision: Disfellowshipping.
Three days later my disfellowshipping was made public to the congregation. That day I lost all my friends.