Criminal court case in The Netherlands against shunning - possible jail time for WT leaders

by AndersonsInfo 5 Replies latest watchtower scandals

  • AndersonsInfo

    "Ex Witnesses open attack on traumatizing shunning policy"

    This follows on the successful court case in Belgium against shunning.

    Since this is a criminal case, the WT leaders could end up in jail in The Netherlands.

    Multiple articles tomorrow on this topic by renowned Dutch newspaper Trouw.

  • AndersonsInfo

    Newspaper article Trouw:

    The community of Jehovah's Witnesses is also known as the 'Watchtower Society'.Image Kwennie Cheng

    After a successful lawsuit in Belgium, a group of Dutch Jehovah's Witnesses is now also fighting the 'discriminatory' exclusion policy. "It's a social death sentence."

    Rianne Oosterom en Marinde van der Breggen10 October 2021, 15:27

    A group of thirty ex-Jehovah's Witnesses wants the judiciary to intervene in what they consider to be 'dehumanizing' exclusion policy of the religious organization. They want to force a criminal investigation into the elaboration of this policy by means of a collective declaration of incitement to discrimination and hatred.

    Anyone who is expelled or resigns from the organization, which has 30,000 members in the Netherlands, will be 'declared socially dead', as the ex-members call it. Witnesses are encouraged to avoid contact with disfellowshipped persons, according to articles on their own website. As a result, they lose all their friends and family. This is also known as 'shunning'.

    Because the Witnesses have to avoid “the world,” the people who leave often have virtually no network, says promoter Henri Dahlem. Ignoring ex-members has traumatic consequences, he says. According to him, there is also internal hateful talk about them. "Some ex-members aren't even allowed to see their children anymore."

    Fine for inciting discrimination, hatred and violence

    The Dutch ex-Witnesses are inspired by the judgment of the Ghent court earlier this year. He stated that not so much the exclusion itself, but the treatment of ex-members afterwards and the way in which they are talked about is punishable. The organization was fined for inciting discrimination, hatred and violence. The Jehovah's Witnesses appealed, which will be held at the end of November.

    Apostates are portrayed in their own publications as children of Satan who try to 'drag' believers with lies. Their names are read aloud at the meetings so members know to ignore them, according to the Belgian verdict, stories from the ex-witnesses, and texts and videos on the Witnesses' website.

    The verdict states that apostates are compared to "the plague." In an excerpt from a 2004 Watchtower issue, they are portrayed as predators: “Like a kidnapper who carries an unsuspecting victim away from his family, apostates target trusting members of the congregation and try to get them away. feed from the herd”.

    Ignoring after exclusion or departure is a “loving arrangement” according to the organization because it “can bring the wrongdoer to his senses.” In addition, exclusion is a way to keep the community 'clean'. However, members who have left themselves are still regularly approached by elders to try to get them back on the right path.

    Biblical Policy

    The Dutch board of the Jehovah's Witnesses informs Trouw that this policy is "based on Biblical principles". “All of Jehovah's Witnesses agree to live by those standards . . . Each individual Witness acts according to his or her personal religious conscience in applying the Bible's counsel to limit or terminate association with a disfellowshipped person. ”

    The ruling of the Belgian court was a huge relief for the victims there, says the Flemish initiator of that case, Patrick Haeck. It is mainly the recognition of the suffering that, according to him, does them good. Dahlem hopes so too. “If the exclusion that has caused so much suffering is considered punishable, it helps ex-members.”

    According to Fokko Oldenhuis, emeritus professor of law and religion at the University of Groningen, the case could have a chance of success. Although he considers a civil procedure, so if the members themselves bring a case, more likely. If it becomes a criminal case, he says it is an "interesting procedure" because *leaders could face fines and even prison terms.

    In a response to Trouw, the Dutch board of the Jehovah's Witnesses points to previous lawsuits that show that they have the right to exclude people from their organization. They do not answer the question of what they think about the treatment of ex-members and the fact that some ex-members no longer have contact with their parents or children due to their policy.

    Also read:

    What it's like to be seen as a 'child of Satan'

    Jim Winter lost everything and developed sleeping problems, the corona time became even lonelier for Gerda Gorter: what the 'inhuman' exclusion policy does to ex-members of the Jehovah's Witnesses.

    "This is our secret. If you open your mouth, I will hurt you.”

    In 2017, Trouw published a series of investigative stories about the way the Jehovah's Witnesses deal with sexual abuse indoors. From the very first abuse stories to a profile of Bethel, the headquarters of the Jehovah's Witnesses in the Netherlands, you can read it in our file on the religious community.

  • Fisherman
    In all fairness, is there a difference between when a church expels a member such as the Mormons and the JW for wrongful conduct and the government when they prosecute and jail individuals or enjoin them with restraining orders or when they proscribe rules of conduct in Court rooms and in other places or when individuals are trespassed, or families are separated when someone is jailed, etc?
  • Biahi

    I think that once individual elders start going to jail or prison for these policies, it will stop the elder arrangement (new light). Or no one will want to be an elder.

  • smiddy3

    I wont hold my breath about the outcome for a religious organization to shun members that they consider to have transgressed their rules & regulations .

    I think it`s a no go zone for the law to get involved in IMHO .

    I would like to be proved wrong though .

  • Fisherman
    I think it`s a no go zone for the law to get involved in IMHO .

    Depends on the country. Canada had that big case on JW DF that went all the way up to the Supreme Court. It could have gone either way. Any country can go the other way.

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