DF story in Detroit Newspaper on Shirley Jackson

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  • blondie


    The Detroit News

    'Disfellowshipped' Jehovah's Witnesses speak out against practice
    By James Borchuk / St. Petersburg Times

    James Borchuck / St. Petersburg Times
    Shirley Jackson was "disfellowshipped," or excommunicated, from the Jehovah's Witnesses in 1995 after being associated with the church for 30 years. Jackson is speaking out against the organization because "I don't want anybody to go through what I went through."
    Comment on this story

    As far as her children and 6 million people around the world are concerned, Shirley Jackson is as good as dead and has been for seven years.
    In 1995, Jackson, a home health care worker and a nanny who lives in St. Petersburg, Fla., was "disfellowshipped," or excommunicated, from Jehovah's Witnesses. Disfellowshipping is among the Witnesses' highest forms of discipline, reserved for those who disobey religious teachings and will not repent.
    Witnesses are told to immediately shun the disfellowshipped, who are said to be certain to die at Armageddon. Witnesses must pass them on the street without so much as a hello. Sons, daughters, mothers and fathers are expected to cut off relatives, making exceptions only in cases of family business or emergency.
    "No matter what they tell you, you will always be my daughter and I will always love you," Jackson recently wrote in a letter to her daughter, to no avail. Rather than strengthen families, Jackson says, the Witnesses tear them apart.
    Disfellowshipping is little known to outsiders, who recognize Witnesses only as the people who pass out magazines on Saturday mornings. But scandal in the denomination has opened a door to its core beliefs and operations.
    In recent months, at least three Witnesses were disfellowshipped after talking to "Dateline NBC" about church leaders' handling of child molestation allegations. The action made national headlines and spurred former Witnesses worldwide to step forward with their stories.
    Jehovah's Witnesses believe disfellowshipping is an act of love, intended to inspire sinners to change their ways so they eventually can apply to be readmitted to the faith.
    The sanction is based on I Corinthians 5, which directs Witnesses to "remove the wicked from among yourselves" and is necessary, says Witnesses national spokesman J.R. Brown, to preserve the religion's "moral integrity and cleanliness" in a corrupt world soon to be destroyed by God Jehovah.

    Denomination policies
    Jehovah's Witness elders -- all are men -- are the equivalent of ministers in other religions. Though unpaid, they take on responsibilities such as teaching Bible lessons and passing on denomination policy. They also investigate Witnesses accused of committing crimes against other Witnesses. In some of these cases, the police are never called.
    Among the elders' primary tasks is serving on small judicial committees that hear confessions and decide whether an offense calls for excommunication.
    Excommunications are announced to the congregation, but elders never say why a person was expelled. Witnesses can only guess from a long list of offenses that range from smoking cigarettes to manslaughter. Homosexuality, fornication, drunkenness, slander, fraud, gambling, apostasy, fits of anger and violence, and adultery are others.
    The excommunication announcement tells members to begin shunning that person. If they don't, they, too, risk being disfellowshipped.
    Being disfellowshipped, then, means losing your circle of friends, not to mention family members who remain in the faith.
    Elders disfellowship 50,000 to 60,000 Witnesses around the world each year, Brown says.

    Having doubts
    Jackson, 54, had been a Witness for nearly 20 years when she began having doubts.
    In 1993, she says, her husband gathered his belongings and abandoned her as she and her children slept. She says he had been violent, and she decided to divorce him. But Witnesses told her the only biblical justification for divorce is adultery, which she could not prove he had committed.
    Jackson was also on shaky ground with the Witnesses because she had close friends who were not in the faith, she says. In interviews, Jackson and several others say Witnesses are not allowed to socialize with non-Witnesses unless they are proselytizing.
    Brown, the Witnesses' spokesman, says this is not true, although differing interests sometimes make such relationships difficult.
    After her husband left her, Jackson continued going to the Kingdom Hall five times a week and performing 10 hours of door-to-door service each month, but she didn't feel very spiritual. One day while going door to door, Jackson mentioned to another Witness, "When I go into a Kingdom Hall, I don't feel God's presence is there."
    She became even more disillusioned in the mid 1990s when, she says, elders dismissed her suspicions that a fellow Witness was sexually abusing his 8-year-old daughter. No one called the police.
    But law enforcement authorities eventually got involved, and the girl was found in a trashed home, having eaten ketchup sandwiches to quell hunger, Jackson says. Some months later, Kenneth Donald Weaver was arrested and placed on community control in 1995 for sexual activity with a child. Weaver, who has a lengthy criminal history, is now in prison.
    Wavering in her beliefs, Jackson decided not to attend an annual assembly for Witnesses.
    Her daughter was upset and told elders. They went to her home for a visit. They had charges against her, Jackson says:
    One charge was "speaking out against a brother" with regard to the child molestation, she says. She says they told her to stop associating with her non-Witness friends. And someone had told them what she had said about not feeling God's presence in the Kingdom Hall.
    The elders told her she had 24 hours to change her ways, Jackson says. She refused to comply and was disfellowshipped, her name announced in front of the congregation. She was not present.
    Her daughter was 17 at the time. She moved out to live with other Witnesses, has not held a conversation with Jackson since and is now married and living in Alabama.
    Two of Jackson's three sons are also Witnesses and don't speak to her, she says.
    As with the Catholic Church, child molestation cases have brought the inner workings of Jehovah's Witnesses to the forefront. One case in Kentucky prompted former elder William Bowen to start asking questions.
    At the center of the cases is the two-witness rule. The Witnesses abide strictly by their Bible, the New World Translation. The translation is published by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, the nonprofit organization in Brooklyn, N.Y., that acts as the Witnesses' headquarters and overseer.
    Deuteronomy 19:15: "No single witness should rise up against a man respecting any error or any sin, in the case of any sin that he may commit. At the mouth of two witnesses or at the mouth of three witnesses the matter should stand good."
    As far as the Watch Tower is concerned, that means Witnesses can't take action against someone unless at least two people can verify an offense happened.
    That standard is difficult to meet in cases of child molestation, where often only the victim and perpetrator are present.
    About two years ago, Bowen began to suspect that a fellow elder in his congregation near Paducah was abusing the elder's daughter. In a review of Witness files, Bowen found that the elder had previously been accused of molesting someone else. Bowen says he got further proof that the daughter might also have been molested.
    In keeping with Witness policy, he called the Watch Tower's legal department in Brooklyn for guidance. The department is staffed with lawyers who are Jehovah's Witnesses.
    When Bowen described the situation, he says, he was told there was nothing to be done -- the man had denied it, so there weren't enough witnesses. He would have to "leave it in Jehovah's hands."
    Other former Witnesses who served as elders around the nation have since reported similar experiences.
    Disgusted, Bowen resigned as an elder and started a nonprofit organization and a Web site for Witnesses who were victims of molestation.
    Thousands logged onto his "silent lambs" site, he says. Many told stories of abuse that elders did not believe.
    Bowen, 45, went public with his story. He and several other Witnesses were featured on "Dateline NBC." One woman, Barbara Anderson, had worked in the Watch Tower's research department and was concerned that the organization wasn't following up on abuse cases.
    Bowen contends that tipsters told him the organization keeps a database with the names of 23,000 accused molesters.
    Brown, the Witnesses' spokesman, would not discuss specific cases, but he scoffed at allegations that Witnesses protect child molesters. Yes, Witnesses believe in the two-witness rule, he says, but that's not the only way wrongdoers can be caught.
    "It cannot be said that we will do nothing unless there are two witnesses," Brown says. He says Witnesses are not required to report crimes to elders before calling civil authorities. Victims and their families are free to call police at will, he says, although some don't choose to.
    Elders' investigations work hand-in-hand with what Witnesses sometimes call "Caesar's law," Brown says. "We're not handling the criminality of this," he says. "We're handling the sin."
  • abbagail

    Wow, how about that? I didn't realize a local St. Pete story like that would be of interest in another far away town. I guess it's the DF issue that is of interest. And it WAS a really good article. Thanks for keeping us informed, Blondie!


  • hawkaw

    FLAG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! for bx!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  • Crazy151drinker

    Fantastic article!!!!

    One thing that bugged me (of the many examples of WT crap) was: God Jehovah

    Why do they do this??? Just say God, or say Jehovah, but dont link both! Its like they are trying to clarify which god they are talking about. I thought there was only one!!

  • SYN

    "It cannot be said that we will do nothing unless there are two witnesses,"

    As per usual, the things leaving the mouth of JR distinctly resemble the things which leave the arse end of a very large bovine animal called a BULL. Way to go Bill and Shirley! Brilliant article!

    I think I'm beginning to lose track of how many times in these past few months the Governing Body must've been running around like headless chickens, trying to conjure up some spin to cover their arses!

    Edited by - SYN on 30 August 2002 12:53:32

  • outnfree

    Crazy, honey! They ARE trying to "clarify which god they are talking about"! Only THEY worship Jehovah God, and only THEY understand just who Jehovah God is, and only THEY worship him correctly -- doncha know? [8&>] (How long have you been out again?!!! ) Of course, in this article, it's the reporter that used the term God Jehovah....

    Anyway, regarding the article appearing in my own backyard:


    Preparing my letter to the editor right now!


  • waiting

    I have no idea if Shirley Jackson will see this - but I'm sorry for her circumstances.

    Her daughter was 17 at the time. She moved out to live with other Witnesses, has not held a conversation with Jackson since and is now married and living in Alabama.

    Two of Jackson's three sons are also Witnesses and don't speak to her, she says

    To have your husband walk out on you.....and he still a jw, then have your daughter "turn you in", then move out, then never speak to you again, then have 2 of your 3 sons never speak to you - all that's almost more than a person can bear. She's lost almost her entire family.

    And why? For speaking outloud against the WTBTS. Well, congratulations to Shirley for speaking out to the newspapers for the WTBTS's barbaric actions against families.

    A fine article. Thank you.


  • abbagail

    Hi Everyone! Let's remember to Write a THANK YOU to The Detroit News!!! Here's some contact info:

    STAFF EMAILS at The Detroit News: < http://www.detnews.com/search/staff.htm>; The list of contacts is a mile long. I don't know which one would be correct, so here's the Publisher & Editor: Mark Silverman, Publisher & Editor: [email protected]

    You can also post a comment to possibly be displayed in their Talk Back section. Place your Comment on This Story by clicking on the link on the same page as the article: http://www.detnews.com/2002/religion/0208/30/d05w-574630.htm



    Hey Crazy151drinker,if dubs don`t say Jehovah God,how will any one know which Jehovah they`re talking about?The way dubs talk there must be a Jehovah the ice-creme truck driver.Jehovah the mailman.Jehovah the submarine commander.Jehovah the hula dancer ect,ect,ect..LOL...OUTLAW

  • freeman

    Just sent this letter to the ED:

    Congratulations on presenting such a fair and balanced article on this often misunderstood group. Being a member in good standing going on 25 years, I can unequivocally endorse the truthfulness of most of the statements made in your article. The statements that I unfortunately cant endorse are limited to those of Mr. Brown, the Watchtower Societys spokesmen. When Mr. Brown says, it cannot be said that we will do nothing unless there are two witnesses, you could say he is technically correct, but I assure you he is far from being candid.

    If an allegation of child molestation is made, the church Elders will confront the accused and if he denies the charge and there are not two witness to the occurrence the victim will be told that that is all that can be done. The victim is told to wait on Jehovah to straiten matters out. And in some cases is told to pray on the matter and try and find it in her heart to forgive the abuser. In most instances, as brought out recently in both the NBC program DATELINE and the BBC broadcast Panorama, the authorities will not be alerted and the abuser is free to molest again and again.

    Should the victim or the victims parents now warn others in the congregation about the attacker, the victim and the parents of the victim are then subject to dis-fellowshipment and shunning because in the eyes of the church, they are now slandering a fellow Jehovahs Witness in good standing. Mr. Brown didnt tell you that did he?

    Mr. Brown would also tell you that as a Witness I myself am free to write this very letter and have it printed in your paper, however what he would no doubt fail to inform you is that by doing so I may also find myself subject to judicial action, the consequence of which would include having some 6 million people under orders to shun me, to treat me as if I were dead.

    But like Shirley Jackson, Bill Bowen, and scores of others, I too am willing to take that risk if by doing so I can help put pressure on the Watchtower Society to change its policy and start protecting kids instead of pedophiles within their ranks.




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