Jehovah’s Witnesses is a millenarian restorationist Christian nomination with nontrinitarian beliefs distinct from mainstream Christianity. The group reports a worldwide membership of approximately 8.68 million adherents involved in evangelism and an annual Memorial attendance of over 20 million. Jehovah’s Witnesses are directed by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, a group of elders in Warwick, New York, United States, which establishes all doctrines based on its interpretations of the Bible. They believe that the destruction of the present world system at Armageddon is imminent, and that the establishment of God’s kingdom over the earth is the only solution for all problems faced by humanity.
The group emerged from the Bible Student movement founded in the late 1870s by Charles Taze Russell, who also co-founded Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society in 1881 to organize and print the movement’s publications. A leadership dispute after Russell’s death resulted in several groups breaking away, with Joseph Franklin Rutherford retaining control of the Watch Tower Society and its properties. Rutherford made significant organizational and doctrinal changes, including adoption of the name Jehovah’s witnesses in 1931 to distinguish them from other Bible Student groups and symbolize a break with the legacy of Russell’s traditions.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are best known for their door-to-door preaching, distributing literature such as The Watchtower and Awake!, and for refusing military service and blood transfusions. They consider the use of God’s name vital for proper worship. They reject Trinitarianism, inherent immortality of the soul, and hellfire, which they consider to be unscriptural doctrines. They do not observe Christmas, Easter, birthdays or other holidays and customs they consider to have pagan origins incompatible with Christianity. They prefer to use their own Bible translation, the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, although their literature occasionally quotes and cites other Bible translations. Adherents commonly refer to their body of beliefs as “The Truth” and consider themselves to be “in the Truth”. They consider secular society to be morally corrupt and under the influence of Satan, and most limit their social interaction with non-Witnesses. Congregational disciplinary actions include disfellowshipping, their term for formal expulsion and shunning, a last resort for what they consider serious offenses. Baptized individuals who formally leave are considered disassociated and are also shunned. Disfellowshipped and disassociated individuals may eventually be reinstated if deemed repentant.
The group’s position regarding conscientious objection to military service and refusal to salute state symbols has brought it into conflict with some governments. Consequently, some Jehovah’s Witnesses have been persecuted and their activities are banned or restricted in some countries. Persistent legal challenges by Jehovah’s Witnesses have influenced legislation related to civil rights in several countries. The organization has received criticism regarding biblical translation, doctrines, and alleged coercion of its members. The Watch Tower Society has made various unfulfilled predictions about major biblical events such as Christ’s Second Coming, the advent of God’s Kingdom, and Armageddon. Their policies for handling cases of child sexual abuse have been the subject of various formal inquiries.
Meetings for worship and study are held at Kingdom Halls, which are typically functional in character, and do not contain religious symbols. Witnesses are assigned to a congregation in whose “territory” they usually reside and attend weekly services they refer to as “meetings” as scheduled by congregation elders. The meetings are largely devoted to study of Watch Tower Society literature and the Bible. The format of the meetings is established by the group’s headquarters, and the subject matter for most meetings is the same worldwide. Congregations meet for two sessions each week comprising four distinct meetings that total about three-and-a-half hours, typically gathering mid-week (two meetings) and on the weekend (two meetings). Prior to 2009, congregations met three times each week; these meetings were condensed, with the intention that members dedicate an evening for “family worship”. Gatherings are opened and closed with hymns (which they call Kingdom songs) and brief prayers. Twice each year, Witnesses from a number of congregations that form a “circuit” gather for a one-day assembly. Larger groups of congregations meet once a year for a three-day “regional convention”, usually at rented stadiums or auditoriums. Their most important and solemn event is the commemoration of the “Lord’s Evening Meal”, or “Memorial of Christ’s Death” on the date of the Jewish Passover.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are perhaps best known for their efforts to spread their beliefs, most notably by visiting people from house to house, distributing literature published by the Watch Tower Society in 700 languages. The objective is to start a regular “Bible study” with any person who is not already a member, with the intention that the student be baptized as a member of the group; Witnesses are advised to consider discontinuing Bible studies with students who show no interest in becoming members. Witnesses are taught they are under a biblical command to engage in public preaching. They are instructed to devote as much time as possible to their ministry and are required to submit an individual monthly “Field Service Report”. Baptized members who fail to report a month of preaching are termed “irregular” and may be counseled by elders; those who do not submit reports for six consecutive months are termed “inactive”.
Ethics and morality
All sexual relations outside of marriage are grounds for expulsion if the individual is not deemed repentant; homosexual activity is considered a serious sin, and same-sex marriages are forbidden. Abortion is considered murder. Suicide is considered to be “self-murder” and a sin against God. Modesty in dress and grooming is frequently emphasized. Gambling, drunkenness, illegal drugs, and tobacco use are forbidden. Drinking of alcoholic beverages is permitted in moderation. The family structure is patriarchal. The husband is considered to have authority on family decisions, but is encouraged to solicit his wife’s thoughts and feelings, as well as those of his children. Marriages are required to be monogamous and legally registered. Marrying a non-believer, or endorsing such a union, is strongly discouraged and carries religious sanctions.
Divorce is discouraged, and remarriage is forbidden unless a divorce is obtained on the grounds of adultery, which they refer to as “a scriptural divorce”. If a divorce is obtained for any other reason, remarriage is considered adulterous unless the prior spouse has died or is since considered to have committed sexual immorality. Extreme physical abuse, willful non-support of one’s family, and what the denomination terms “absolute endangerment of spirituality” are considered grounds for legal separation.
Formal discipline is administered by congregation elders. When a baptized member is accused of committing a serious sin—usually cases of sexual misconduct or charges of apostasy for disputing Jehovah’s Witness doctrines—a judicial committee is formed to determine guilt, provide help and possibly administer discipline. Disfellowshipping, a form of shunning, is the strongest form of discipline, administered to an offender deemed unrepentant. Contact with disfellowshipped individuals is limited to direct family members living in the same home, and with congregation elders who may invite disfellowshipped persons to apply for reinstatement; formal business dealings may continue if contractually or financially obliged. Witnesses are taught that avoiding social and spiritual interaction with disfellowshipped individuals keeps the congregation free from immoral influence and that “losing precious fellowship with loved ones may help [the shunned individual] to come ‘to his senses,’ see the seriousness of his wrong, and take steps to return to Jehovah.” The practice of shunning may also serve to deter other members from dissident behavior. Members who disassociate (formally resign) are described in Watch Tower Society literature as wicked and are also shunned. Expelled individuals may eventually be reinstated to the congregation if deemed repentant by elders in the congregation in which the disfellowshipping was enforced. Reproof is a lesser form of discipline given formally by a judicial committee to a baptized Witness who is considered repentant of serious sin; the reproved person temporarily loses conspicuous privileges of service, but suffers no restriction of social or spiritual fellowship. Marking, a curtailing of social but not spiritual fellowship, is practiced if a baptized member persists in a course of action regarded as a violation of Bible principles but not a serious sin.
Rejection of blood transfusions
Jehovah’s Witnesses refuse blood transfusions, which they consider a violation of God’s law based on their interpretation of Acts 15:28, 29 and other scriptures. Since 1961 the willing acceptance of a blood transfusion by an unrepentant member has been grounds for expulsion from the group. Members are directed to refuse blood transfusions, even in “a life-or-death situation”. Jehovah’s Witnesses accept non-blood alternatives and other medical procedures in lieu of blood transfusions, and their literature provides information about non-blood medical procedures.
Though Jehovah’s Witnesses do not accept blood transfusions of whole blood, they may accept some blood plasma fractions at their own discretion. The Watch Tower Society provides pre-formatted durable power of attorney documents prohibiting major blood components, in which members can specify which allowable fractions and treatments they will personally accept. Jehovah’s Witnesses have established Hospital Liaison Committees as a cooperative arrangement between individual Jehovah’s Witnesses and medical professionals and hospitals.
Criticism and controversy
Jehovah’s Witnesses have received criticism from mainstream Christianity, members of the medical community, former members and commentators regarding their beliefs and practices. The movement has been accused of doctrinal inconsistency and reversals, failed predictions, mistranslation of the Bible, harsh treatment of former members and autocratic and coercive leadership. Criticism has also focused on their rejection of blood transfusions*, particularly in life-threatening medical situations, and failing to report cases of sexual abuse to the authorities. Many of the claims are denied by Jehovah’s Witnesses and some have also been disputed by courts and religious scholars. Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain that they have a strong policy to protect children, adding that the best way to protect children is by educating parents; they also state that they do not sponsor activities that separate children from parents. William Bowen, a former Jehovah’s Witness elder who established the Silent lambs organization to assist sex abuse victims within the denomination, has claimed Witness leaders discourage followers from reporting incidents of sexual misconduct to authorities, and other critics claim the organization is reluctant to alert authorities in order to protect its “crime-free” reputation. In court cases in the United Kingdom and the United States the Watch Tower Society has been found to have been negligent in its failure to protect children from known sex offenders within the congregation. The Society has settled other child abuse lawsuits out of court, reportedly paying as much as $780,000 to one plaintiff without admitting wrongdoing.
In my experience Jehovah Witness followers have the most strict rules to follow among any of the religions. When a follower will jeopardize his/her health and that of their children for a belief that no other followers of the christian faith believes in, is definitely extreme. About the only religious sect that comes close to JW is the sharia law** in the Muslim faith. When a religion has 141 rules and counting, that is just too much control for anybody. To me religion is supposed to give you strength and guidance to live life. People need something to believe in. I believe that you should treat everybody the way you want to be treated. You have the right to live life, raise a family, maintain a home all in a safe and legal manner. I do my best to not adversely affect anybody else. I also believe if you do something amoral or illegal you should pay the price. We are the dominant species in this planet, it is or responsibility to maintain this planet for all the other species, and to protect those weaker than us. Abusers of animals, children, women, elderly and handicapped people are less than human. If you follow these basic rules I think you should make it to a better place after you die. Lie is too short to be sweating the small stuff. 141 rules is just too much. JW can’t even vote, so they are basically removing themselves from civilization. Voting is one of the most basic rights of a democratic form of government, by not doing this, you are saying that you are above all earthly matters. But we live in a free society where religious freedom is one of our unalienable rights. So each to his/her own.
thegospelcoalition.org, “The 11 Beliefs You Should Know about Jehovah’s Witnesses When They Knock at the Door,” By Justin Taylor; thejehovahswitnesses.org, “141 Rules. Things Jehovah’s Witnesses Can’t Do.” en.wikipedia.org, ” Jehovah’s Witnesses,” By wikipedia editors; adc.bmj.com, “Children of Jehovah’s Witnesses and adolescent Jehovah’s Witnesses: what are their rights?” By S. Woolley; billionbibles.org, ” Sharia Law, ”
- Blood represents life and is sacred to God. After it has been removed from a creature, the only use of blood that God has authorized is for the atonement of sins. When a Christian abstains from blood, they are in effect expressing faith that only the shed blood of Jesus Christ can truly redeem them and save their life.
- Blood must not be eaten or transfused, even in the case of a medical emergency.
- Blood leaving the body of a human or animal must be disposed of.
- Certain medical procedures involving blood fractions or that use a patient’s own blood during the course of a medical procedure, such as hemodilution or cell salvage, are a matter of personal choice, according to what a person’s conscience permits.
- A baptized Witness who unrepentantly accepts a blood transfusion is deemed to have disassociated himself from the group by abandoning its doctrines and is subsequently subject to organized shunning by other members.
Certain medical procedures involving blood are specifically prohibited by Jehovah’s Witnesses’ blood doctrine. This includes the use of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and blood plasma. Other fractions derived from blood are not prohibited. Watch Tower publications state that some products derived from one of the four primary components may be so similar to the function of the whole component and carry on such a life-sustaining role in the body that “most Christians would find them objectionable”. For procedures where there is no specific doctrinal prohibition, individuals are to obtain details from medical personnel and then make a personal decision.
The following medical procedures are prohibited:
- Transfusion of allogeneic whole blood, or of its constituents of red cells, white cells, platelets or plasma.
- Transfusions of pre-operative self-donated (autologous) blood.
Permitted procedures and products
The following procedures and products are not prohibited, and are left to the decision of individual members:
- Blood donation strictly for purpose of further fractionation of red cells, white cells, platelets or plasma for either allogeneic or autologous transfusion.
- Transfusions of autologous blood part of a “current therapy”.
- Hemodilution, a modified technique in which equipment is arranged in a circuit that is constantly linked to the patient’s circulatory system.
- Intraoperative blood salvage (autologous) or cell-saver scavenging, a method of collecting blood that has spilled from the circulatory system, washing and re-infusing it.
- Heart-Lung Machine, a method in which blood is diverted to an artificial heart-lung machine and directed back into the patient.
- Dialysis, wherein blood circulates through a machine, is filtered and cleaned, then returned to the patient.
- Epidural Blood Patch, consisting of a small amount of the patient’s blood injected into the membrane surrounding the spinal cord.
- Plasmapheresis, wherein blood is withdrawn and filtered, having the plasma removed and substituted, and returned to the patient.
- Labeling or Tagging, blood is withdrawn, mixed with medicine, and then returned to the patient by transfusion.
- Platelet Gel, blood is withdrawn and put into a solution rich in platelets and white blood cells.
- Fractions from red blood cells:
- Hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying component of red blood cells.
- Fractions from white blood cells:
- Fractions from platelets:
- Fractions from blood plasma:
- Erythropoietin (EPO).
- PolyHeme, a blood substitute solution of chemically modified human hemoglobin.
- Hemopure, a blood substitute solution of chemically stabilized bovine hemoglobin derived from cow’s blood.
YOUNG CHILDREN OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES
Traditionally, where young children are concerned, the power to give or withhold consent to medical treatment on their behalf lies with those with parental responsibility. Legally, except in an emergency, parental consent is necessary to perform any medical procedure on a child. Two commonly used arguments when parents refuse treatment are parental rights to raise children as they see fit and religious freedom. JW parents have expressed both these arguments when defending their right to refuse blood on behalf of their children.
Courts throughout the western world recognize parental rights, but these rights are not absolute. Parental rights to raise children are qualified by a duty to ensure their health, safety, and well being. Parents cannot make decisions that may permanently harm or otherwise impair their healthy development.If treatment refusal results in a child suffering, parents may be criminally liable. However, prosecution rarely occurs. Instead, the courts are asked to exercise their power under the doctrine of parens patriae which allows state interference to protect a child’s welfare. This principle applies whether or not the child is in imminent danger, as parents are always required to make decisions in the child’s best interests. When parental refusal is based on religious beliefs, the court can justify compulsory medical treatment based on the avoidance of physical harm.
In the USA, the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendmen is relied on by parents when defending their right to refuse blood on their children’s behalf. This defence is rarely successful: the freedom to believe is absolute; the right to act on that belief is not. In American courts there is no doubt: the child’s welfare is paramount.
- The child’s interests and those of the state outweigh parental rights to refuse medical treatment42
- Parental rights do not give parents life and death authority over their children12,42
- Parents do not have an absolute right to refuse medical treatment for their children based on their religious beliefs.
Well established in British law, is the fundamental principle that every person’s body is inviolate. Traditionally, under British law, while regarding the child’s welfare as paramount courts respect parental wishes concerning children’s medical treatment. Parents have the right and the duty to give proxy consent, where required, for a minor. Some argue that when parents refuse treatment, any procedure is an assault on the child. However, as parental rights and duties are not absolute, existing only for the child’s best interests, the court, ultimately, has overriding control.
11 Beliefs of a Jehovah Witness:
1. The divine name.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that God’s one true name—the name by which he must be identified—is Jehovah.
2. The Trinity.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Trinity is unbiblical because the word is not in the Bible and because the Bible emphasizes that there is one God.
3. Jesus Christ.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus was created by Jehovah as the archangel Michael before the physical world existed, and is a lesser, though mighty, god.
4. The incarnation.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that when Jesus was born on earth, he was a mere human and not God in human flesh.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus was resurrected spiritually from the dead, but not physically.
6. The second coming.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the second coming was an invisible, spiritual event that occurred in the year 1914.
7. The Holy Spirit.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal force of God and not a distinct person.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that salvation requires faith in Christ, association with God’s organization (i.e., their religion), and obedience to its rules.
9. Two redeemed peoples.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe there are two peoples of God: (1) the Anointed Class (144,000) will live in heaven and rule with Christ; and (2) the “other sheep” (all other believers) will live forever on a paradise earth.
10. No immaterial soul.
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that humans have an immaterial nature. The “soul” is simply the life-force within a person. At death, that life-force leaves the body.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe hell is not a place of eternal suffering but is rather the common grave of humankind. The wicked are annihilated—snuffed out of conscious existence forever.
• Theft is punishable by amputation of the hands (Quran 5:38).
• Criticizing or denying any part of the Quran is punishable by death.
• Criticizing Muhammad or denying that he is a prophet is punishable by death.
• Criticizing or denying Allah is punishable by death (see Allah moon god).
• A Muslim who becomes a non-Muslim is punishable by death (See Compulsion).
• A non-Muslim who leads a Muslim away from Islam is punishable by death.
• A non-Muslim man who marries a Muslim woman is punishable by death.
• A woman or girl who has been raped cannot testify in court against her rapist(s).
• Testimonies of 4 male witnesses are required to prove rape of a female (Quran 24:13).
• A woman or girl who alleges rape without producing 4 male witnesses is guilty of adultery.
• A woman or girl found guilty of adultery is punishable by death (see “Islamophobia“).
• A male convicted of rape can have his conviction dismissed by marrying his victim.
• Muslim men have sexual rights to any woman/girl not wearing the Hijab (see Taharrush).
• A woman can have 1 husband, who can have up to 4 wives; Muhammad can have more.
• A man can marry an infant girl and consummate the marriage when she is 9 years old.
• Girls’ clitoris should be cut (Muhammad‘s words, Book 41, Kitab Al-Adab, Hadith 5251).
• A man can beat his wife for insubordination (see Quran 4:34 and Religion of Peace).
• A man can unilaterally divorce his wife; a wife needs her husband’s consent to divorce.
• A divorced wife loses custody of all children over 6 years of age or when they exceed it.
• A woman’s testimony in court, allowed in property cases, carries ½ the weight of a man’s.
• A female heir inherits half of what a male heir inherits (see Mathematics in Quran).
• A woman cannot speak alone to a man who is not her husband or relative.
• Meat to eat must come from animals that have been sacrificed to Allah – i.e., be “Halal.”
• Muslims should engage in Taqiyya and lie to non-Muslims to advance Islam.