The Jehovah’s Witnesses religion is a sectarian (not cultic) Protestant community whose existence started with affiliates of other faith communities in the Baptist, Methodist, Congregational, and Presbyterian traditions.[i] The Jehovah’s Witnesses are an Adventist schism started by Charles Taze Russell.[ii] Russell started publishing the periodical Watchtower and Herald of Christ’s Presence in 1879, and incorporated of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania in 1884.[iii] This Jehovah’s Witnesses has been hailed as champions of religious freedom and human rights while they are also railed as a destructive cult by the anticult movement.
Jehovah’s Witnesses and Religious Freedom
USA Today hails Jehovah’s Witnesses for the “rich contribution they have made to the First Amendment freedoms we all enjoy.”
In the United States Jehovah’s Witnesses have contributed more to religious freedom in than any other faith community. In the 1940s ten of the thirteen cases about religious freedom that went to the US Supreme Court involved Jehovah’s Witnesses. The faith community initially won six of the ten cases. Two of the remaining four the Jehovah’s Witnesses did not win were later reversed in their favor
Definitely an outsider's viewpoint. As an insider for most of my life, let me give an opposing viewpoint:
The court cases won by the Watchtower Society, as referenced in the article, giving them the freedoms and rights as guaranteed by the government is all good and fair...for the organization, but does nothing for the individual members of the religion.
I have not been given the same oppurtunity to exercise my right to freedom of religion as set forth by the founding fathers of the government of which I live under. I was "born into" the religion of Jehovah's Witnesses and was baptized as a child to become a full fledged member of the JW organization. As a child, I was not able to make a reasonable, informed decision as to what I was doing nor did I know the full ramifications of that uninformed decision.
Now, as an adult, I cannot exercise my right to pursue the religion of my choice because if I do so, I will be treated as an evil person by any and all former associates in the religion. This would include losing my family relations as most of my family are still faithful Jehovah's Witnesses. If I was to attempt to exercise that right and the elders in my congregation became aware of it, they would announce my removal from the congregation. That in itself is not the problem. The problem is that Jehovah's Witnesses are indoctrinated to treat all renouncers of the faith as if they were dead, or worse, as part of Satan's organization. To keep my family ties, I have to remain on the Jehovah's Witnesses membership record and hope to "fade away" from any attention from the elders of the congregation.
If one cannot leave an organization without fear of reprisal or punishment, what kind of organization was that one part of? The actions of the religion speak for themselves. Their actions in shunning of former members is why former members consider them a cult. The Jehovah's Witness religion uses fear and guilt to keep members in line and to keep members from associating with former members. Sounds like a cult to me, despite what court cases they won.