By Jack Ryan
This was a case where in June 1987, the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld the Witnesses' right to shun those who fail to live by the group's standards and doctrines, upholding the ruling of a lower court.
Has there been any cases after this, where DF cases went to court? Have there been cases in other countries were DF decisions were challenged and reversed?
By James Thomas Rook Jr.
Here in the United States we have Cable TV with such things as "History Channel", "Discovery Channel", "Scifi Channel", and "A&E" the "Arts and Entertainment Channel". Apparently around November 13 of this year they had a famous (?) TV star, Leah Remini, who had been a Scientologist since she was eight years old turn Apostate, and she has done at least two TV seasons exposing the ills of the Church of Scientology", do an Expose' of Jehovah's Witnesses.
I do not watch TV as a rule, and missed it, and I spent a few days looking for it and trying to download a copy. It was not on YouTube, but I did find it under "Aftermath Jehovah's Witnesses" on the Russian equivalent of YouTube, "Rutube.ru". It would not download with my usual download software, so I had to find a free screen capture software, which took about four hours to get the settings just right, and I was able to download the two hour program from my monitor, as it was playing.
Therefore, I watched the TV program three times, as I experimented with the settings to get a good screen copy to my hard drive..
I could see both sides of the program viewpoints presented, and did not find us to be misrepresented in any way whatsoever ... but if there was EVER a clear example of the Law of Unintended Consequences, the horror the Governing Body has caused in disfellowshipping the way that it is currently done ... by ripping families apart, and creating irreparable damage that can never be corrected with reinstatement, was chilling, and puts us in the same class as Scientologists ... which completely disregarding the horror and hardsip, and cruelty without any mercy whatsoever it creates locally, shames Jehovah's Name and Reputation over the whole planet.
I don't believe there is anything a local Jehovah's Witness could do ... rob a bank ... have a harem ... have sex with horses ... etc., ad nauseum ... that would besmirch Jehovah's name and reputation globally as much as our current blatantly cruel public policies of destroying whole families for the sins of one person.
I am very glad to have the education I have to know that the TRUTH is still the truth .... even though the 85% drivel has rotted and fermented into rotten sewage.
Most JWs do NOT have this educational advantage ... so their lives are permanently destroyed.
I don't expect much from people, and almost NOTHING from groups of people .... so for me, like getting one of those great salads at the Olive Garden Restaurant, and finding a big chunk of solid sewage in it ... I hold my nose, and eat around it.
This TV Special is global news .... what could I possibly say to the average person that would clear the Name of God, that the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses, NOT THE TELEVISION PROGRAM, has corrupted by its Pharisaic policies that have real world consequences?
The exact same thing happened in ancient Israel, and a system that God blessed and supported for a thousand years and more was abandoned by God.
The exact same thing.
By James Thomas Rook Jr.
CAN A PERSON ... OR SHOULD A PERSON …. BE DISFELLOWSHIPPED IN ABSTENSIA?
Here is the situation ..... a person REPORTED to be one of Jehovah's Witnesses is accused, and NOT convicted ( ... because he is a fugitive from Justice ...) .....
Apparently he was at one time in a "Position Of Authority", which possibly alludes to his being an "Elder", and he may have relocated to another State or even another Country. Possibly using an alias.
The various Congregation Elders cannot find him, the Society cannot find him, and the U.S. Marshal's Service cannot find him.
Not having any indication to the contrary ... at least from the information given in the pseudo-Wanted Poster shown above, he is possibly still officially one of Jehovah's Witnesses.
Whether he is or not, his bad example raises an interesting aspect of trying to figure out how the disfellowshipping "system" protocol actually works.
Can any of the Congregations he went to disfellowship him without his being present to answer charges ?
... and SHOULD he be?
By Srecko Sostar
Watchtower religion has some terminology and wording that not existing in Holy Scriptures text. That is the case with word Disassociation. This word is impossible to find in Bible.
Watch Tower Publications Index 1986-2018
meaning of term: od 142:
30 The term “disassociation” applies to the action taken by a person who is a baptized member of the congregation but deliberately repudiates his Christian standing by stating that he no longer wants to be recognized as, or known as, one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Or he might renounce his place in the Christian congregation by his actions, such as by becoming part of a secular organization that has objectives contrary to Bible teachings and therefore is under judgment by Jehovah God.—Isa. 2:4; Rev. 19:17-21. - https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1102014944#h=41:0-41:511
If you going to read this two Bible verses you will find that there is nothing about JW member who decide not to be member of JWorg any more. JW (WT GB) policy about people who stopped to be JW member is Artificial rule imposed by WT leaders.
It is interesting how WT explanation is that disassociated person in fact "shunning" JW bros and sis and congregation. It is good to notice how person who left JWorg are not shunning people who stay to be JW members. Many ex JW members are ready to give smile and greetings to JW when they met them on the street, or to go for a glass of drink with them. If some do "shun" :))) it is for/to those JW who have orthodox and corporative characters, who are fanatics and purposely blind. Such disassociated ones are decided to separate self from WT Corporation and doctrines that are questionable or wrong.
By James Thomas Rook Jr.
DO WE STILL DISFELLOWSHIP THE MENTALLY ILL ?
I was a teenager in the 60's, and I had a good friend that on Scout camping trips I introduced to the Truth, and I was there in NYC at Yankee Stadium when he was baptized as one of Jehovah's Witness. He was a true "straight arrow", and pioneered, always dressed immaculately, and eventually over the years became an Elder.
One night, at an Elder's Meeting, he announced to the other Elders that he was Jesus Christ, and that his mother was the virgin Mary, and of course he was disfellowshipped.
He spent several years in private mental institutions until his insurance money ran out, then in a State institution for several years.
He called me up, and told me the story, and I told him I was the Great Turtleman, and every November, before I hibernated, I rose from the swamp and gave toys to all the good little boys and girls. I was just pulling his leg, but he was dead serious.
Later, he was in England, while his wife was trying without success to get him to take his medications, and fell over a balcony at Heathrow Airport and got killed.
DO WE STILL DISFELLOWSHIP THE MENTALLY ILL ?
By Jack Ryan
a heartbreaking video has emerged online showing how far reaching and deeply ingrained this shunning policy is; a video showing Jehovah’s Witnesses clapping in applause as a little girl announces she is shunning her own sister.
Little Melody, and the sister she doesn’t have.
The incident appears to take place at one of this years Watchtower conventions. The video was posted on youtube by the girls parents, apprently eager to share with the world how they had trained one of their children to pretend her sister didn’t exist purely on the basis of religious dogma.
The video was comment-protected once viewers began expressing concern and displeasure at what they saw, but at the time of writing the video itself is still live and can be viewed below on the family’s youtube page. (EDIT 11/09/2017 – The video has been removed, but we have linked to an alternate site which has a copy)
t shows a little girl called Melody. She is ten years old, and was apparently baptised when she was 9. This means that Melody is now committed to the religion for life, and will be shunned if she ever leaves, or “unrepentantly” breaks any of its vast array of detailed rules.
During the interview, Melody explains that she has a sister who was “disfellowshipped,” which is the Witness term for one who is excommunicated; someone who was thrown out of the faith rather than leaving of their own accord. We are not told the reason for the disfellowshipping, but one can be subjected to it for a wide range of reasons such as pre-marital sex, celebrating Christmas or birthdays, voting, taking a blood transfusion, joining the military, or simply questioning any of the doctrines of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Melody states that her sister was trying to contact her, and asking her to stay in contact despite Watchtower decreeing that she be shunned. Remember, Melody’s sister has probably lost all her family and friends at this point; everyone she ever knew and loved.
Melody admits that she misses and loves her sister, but states that she was afraid that if she didn’t cut her sister off completely, she might be tempted to keep some form of relationship going. Thus, she has decided to shun her completely, as Watchtower demands. She claims that this was to protect her relationship with Jehovah.
The audience of Jehovah’s Witnesses watching this announcement applaud.
By Jack Ryan
This comes from the final talk at the Birmingham, AL Convention. Herd talks kind of low and there is some background noise, so here is a transcript starting at about 1:25.
I thought this was interesting because it doesn't appear to be in the talk outline. Admittedly, I just skimmed through the outline quickly, so it might be in there. Either way, there is something twisted about comparing the shunning of children to casting out demons from heaven.
Edit: For those wondering, this talk is from August 5. The part before when the transcript starts is Herd talking about King Asa removing his grandmother from her position.
The Supreme Court of Canada Thursday heard arguments in a fight over a church’s “shunning” practice, and said it would release a ruling later, but the congregation involved and several other groups argued that the justices had no right to even take part in the fight.
The fight is between Randy Wall, a real estate agent, and the Highwood congregation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization in Calgary.
Wall was expelled from the congregation for getting drunk and not be properly repentant, court records said. He pursued a church appeals process, unsuccessfully, then went to court because he said the church’s “shunning,” that is, practice of not associating with him in any way, hurt his business.
He explained his two occasions of drunkenness related to “the previous expulsion by the congregation of his 15-year-old daughter.”
A lower court opinion explained, “Even though the daughter was a dependent child living at home, it was a mandatory church edict that the entire family shun aspects of their relationship with her. The respondent said the edicts of the church pressured the family to evict their daughter from the family home. This led to … much distress in the family.”
The “much distress” eventually resulted in his drunkenness, Wall said.
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Wall submitted to the court arguments that about half his client base, members of various Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations, then refused to conduct business with him. He alleged the “disfellowship had an economic impact on the respondent.”
During high court arguments Thursday, the congregation asked the justices to say that congregations are immune to such claims in the judicial system.
The lower courts had ruled that the courts could play a role in determining if, and when, such circumstances rise to the level of violating civil rights or injuring a “disfellowshipped” party.
The rulings from the Court of Queen’s Bench and the Alberta Court of Appeals said Wall’s case was subject to secular court jurisdiction.
A multitude of religious and political organizations joined with the congregation in arguing that the Canada’s courts should not be involved.
The Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms said in a filing, “The wish or desire of one person to associate with an unwilling person (or an unwilling group) is not a legal right of any kind. For a court, or the government, to support such a ‘right’ violates the right of self-determination of the unwilling parties.”
Previous case law has confirmed the ability of religious or private voluntary groups to govern themselves and dictate who can be a member.
But previously rulings also reveal there is room for the court system to intervene when the question is one of property or civil rights.
The Association for Reformed Political Action, described the case as having “profound implications for the separation of church and state.”
Its position is that the court should keep hands off the argument.
“Secular judges have no authority and no expertise to review a church membership decision,” said a statement from Andre Schutten, a spokesman for the group. “Church discipline is a spiritual matter falling within spiritual jurisdiction, not a legal matter falling within the courts’ civil jurisdiction. The courts should not interfere.”
John Sikkema, staff lawyer for ARPA, said, “The issue in this appeal is jurisdiction. A state actor, including a court, must never go beyond its jurisdiction. The Supreme Court must consider what kind of authority the courts can or cannot legitimately claim. We argue that the civil government and churches each have limited and distinct spheres of authority. This basic distinction between civil and spiritual jurisdiction is a source of freedom and religious pluralism and a guard against civic totalism.”
He continued, “Should the judiciary have the authority to decide who gets to become or remain a church member? Does the judiciary have the authority to decide who does or does not get to participate in the sacraments? Church discipline is a spiritual matter falling within spiritual jurisdiction, not a legal matter falling within the courts’ civil jurisdiction. The courts should not interfere. Here we need separation of church and state.”
The Alberta Court of Appeal, however, suggested the fight was about more than ecclesiastical rules.
“Because Jehovah’s Witnesses shun disfellowshipped members, his wife, other children and other Jehovah’s Witnesses were compelled to shun him,” that lower court decision said. “The respondent asked the appeal committee to consider the mental and emotional distress he and his family were under as a result of his duaghter’s disfellowship.”
The church committee concluded he was “not sufficiently repentant.”
The ruling said “the only basis for establishing jurisdiction over a decision of the church is when the complaint involves property and civil rights,” and that is what Wall alleged.
“Accordingly, a court has jurisdiction to review the decision of a religious organization when a breach of the rules of natural justice is alleged.”
By The Librarian
OTTAWA -- The Supreme Court of Canada says a Jehovah's Witness who was expelled from his Calgary congregation cannot take his case to a judge.
In a decision today, the high court says the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench has no jurisdiction to review the congregation's decision to shun Randy Wall over alleged drunkenness and verbal abuse.
Several religious organizations took an active interest in the case, given questions about the degree to which the courts can review such decisions by faith-based bodies.
Wall, an independent realtor, was summoned in 2014 to appear before the judicial committee of the Highwood Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, a four-person panel of elders.
He admitted to two episodes of drunkenness and, on one of those occasions, verbally abusing his wife -- wrongdoing he attributed to family stress over the earlier expulsion of his 15-year old daughter from the congregation.
The judicial committee told Wall that he, too, would be expelled because he was not sufficiently repentant.
By Jack Ryan
Mike MartindaleUpdated 6:11 p.m. ET Feb. 16, 2018 Keego Harbor — A quiet residential street became a horrific crime scene Friday with news that four people — a couple and their adult children — died in what police are describing as a triple murder-suicide.
By late afternoon, some yellow police crime scene tape remained around the two-story wood frame bungalow in the 2300 block of Cass Lake Road where police were sent about 8:10 a.m. on a welfare check after a relative became worried about the family, Keego Harbor Police Chief John Fitzgerald said.
One of four bodies is removed from the home of the 2300 block of Cass Lake Road. (Photo: Clarence Tabb Jr., The Detroit News)
“A relative had concerns and asked us to look into it,” said Fitzgerald. “It’s tragic and our thoughts and prayers are with the family.”
Inside the house officers found four bodies who neighbors identified as Daniel Stuart, 47, his wife, Lauren, 45, and their children, Bethany, 24, and Steven, 27.
Fitzgerald said the “perpetrator” was among the dead but would not provide details other than to stress “we think we know what happened here and there is no danger to neighbors.”
Fitzgerald said police have recovered what is believed to be the murder weapon but would not elaborate. He said all the deaths remain under investigation.
Keego Harbor Police Chief John Fitzgerald briefs the media on the murder-suicide. (Photo: Clarence Tabb Jr., The Detroit News)
Neighbors John and Jackie Tristani said they awoke Friday to learn police were outside the victims’ home.
“My son said police were repeatedly calling out ‘Lauren, come outside,’ " said John Tristani. “When she didn’t respond they (police) went inside. A few minutes later, they came back outside, shaking their heads.”
Tristani said he had been watching television late Thursday night and never heard anything from the Stuarts' home.
Sources close to the investigation said the family pet, a dog, was also slain by the killer. Investigators also found a note which may help explain what led up to the deaths. They would not discuss its contents.
The deaths puzzle the Tristanis, who knew Lauren Stuart as a “hard-working” neighbor who could often be seen working in her yard and remodeled the house largely on her own.
“She would often come over and borrow tools – a saw, a pickaxe – whatever,” said Tristani. “She was always doing something.”
The Tristanis said in one of their first meetings with Lauren Stuart a few years ago she attempted to “recruit” them into the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
“I said we were Catholics and weren’t interested,” he said. “She accepted the answer and it was the end of that.”
Lauren Stuart worked at an area gym, he said, and her husband was involved in some form of medical business in the Ann Arbor area.
Darlene and Dennis Buck, who live a block away on Cass Lake Road, said they were enroute home from a trip to northern Michigan when they learned of the murder-suicide.
“We have lived here since ’74 and nothing like this has ever happened in our neighborhood — not even close,” said Darlene Buck.
Jackie Tristani said she found it all “scary” – not just the deaths but that something might have been going on in a neighbor’s home without her knowledge. She had tried to get Bethany a job at her workplace and her son knew both Bethany and Steven. There was never any mention or indication of trouble inside the home, she said.
“I would hope that if there was a problem inside there someone would have reached out, we would have tried to help,” she said, her voice quaking. “Maybe we could have done something.
“But you never really know everything there is about your neighbors, do you?”
Has anyone ever been disfellowshipped AFTER they died for taking an unapproved fraction blood transfusion ?By James Thomas Rook Jr.
If a Brother or Sister in good standing in the Congregation goes into the hospital, and agrees to a whole blood transfusion, and dies anyway, can they be disfellowshipped post mortem, and what about the funeral arrangements? ( I have heard of this being done, but never explained....)
Can they have a funeral at the Kingdom Hall?
Let's say a Brother or Sister in good standing in the Congregation goes berserk, and commits some crime, and either dies by misadventure, or gets shot by police ....
Can they have a funeral at the Kingdom Hall?
Considering such questions is like a submarine on the surface, at night, in the fog .... firing torpedoes randomly into the darkness, to see what lights up.
.... sometimes survival depends on having the right answer about "What is out there?".
By James Thomas Rook Jr.
Which Pill Would We Take ..... The Red Pill? .... or the Blue Pill?
In the political world, more and more people are rejecting "Fake News" as provided by CNN (Clinton News Network), ABC (All 'bout Clinton) and NBC (Nothin' but Clinton), etc., and are seeking the truth about what they are being told ..... wherever it may be found.
Today John Stossel had an article about this on Foxnews which is incredibly important ... not only for the political ramifications ... but every manner of philosophical thought .... and our very view of how the Universe works, and what "makes it tick".
If you have seen the movie "The Matrix" .... a MUST SEE movie .... you already know the common expression "Red Pill? Blue Pill?".
If you don't ... YOU SHOULD.
The concept behind the expression is incredibly important ... as to whether we live in and artificial fantasy construct world ... or a world of what is actually REAL.
JOHN STOSSEL: More people tuning out mainstream media, embracing 'truth'
Oh ... and if you have not seen it .... get a copy of the movie, so you will actually get a "feel" for the depth of the now commonly understood idiomatic expression.
(For those in Rio Linda, that has nothing to do with sex, it has to do with basic understanding .....)
By Γιαννης Διαμαντιδης
Hi I would like to disassociate my self from Jehovah witnesses but I would like also my brothers and sisters to know the reason why. Is it scriptural to hide this information from the congregation? I am certain that some sisters who dislike me will find opportunity to gossip with lies behind my back and my ex brothers will see me like a monster when in reality I make one step closer to my creator by establishing a new and direct connection to him like he wants ... without human mediators.
“Jehovah’s Witness kids grow up knowing that if they ever mess up, their parents will leave them — and that’s scary,” Sawyer, now 38, said in a recent interview from her home in Pascagoula, Miss. “The shunning is supposed to make us miss them so much that we’ll come back. … It didn’t work.”
Sawyer and many others like her are now denouncing the church's shunning practices in the wake of a recent murder-suicide in Keego Harbor that killed a family of four ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses who were ostracized after leaving the faith. The deaths sparked outrage among scores of ex-JWs nationwide who took to Facebook, online forums, blogs and YouTube, arguing the tragedy highlights a pervasive yet rarely-publicized problem within the church: Shunning is pushing the most vulnerable people over the edge, they say, and tearing families apart.
In the Michigan case, a distraught mother shot and killed her husband, her two grown children and herself in their Keego Harbor home, shocking the small and quiet Oakland County community.
The shooter was Lauren Stuart, a part-time model and personal trainer who struggled with depression and spent much of her time working on her house, her friends say. She and her husband, Daniel Stuart, 47, left the JW faith more than a decade ago over doctrinal and social issues. Among them was their desire to send their kids to college, which many ex-JWs say is frowned upon by the church and viewed as spiritually dangerous.
“University and college campuses are notorious for bad behavior — drug and alcohol abuse, immorality, cheating, hazing, and the list goes on,” a 2005 article in the Watchtower, the church's official publication, stated.
But the Stuarts sent both their kids to college: Steven, 27, excelled in computers, just like his father, who was a data solutions architect for the University of Michigan Medical School. Bethany, 24, thrived in art and graphic design. After the parents left the faith, the Stuarts were ostracized by the Kingdom Hall — the churches where Jehovah's Witnesses worship — community in Union Lake and their families, friends said.
Lauren Stuart, whose mother died of cancer when she was 12, struggled with mental illness that went untreated; isolation and fears that the end was near, said friends and officials familiar with the case. One friend who requested anonymity said she believes the killing was the result of depression, not religion.
"This is a tragedy that has to do with a disease. Depression is so prevalent, and when it goes untreated this is what happens," the friend said. "She needed medical help."
Longtime family friend Joyce Taylor believes depression, shunning and religion-based doomsday fears all played a role. She said that about six weeks before the killings, Lauren started getting religiously preoccupied and telling her "'It's the end times, I know it is.'"
Weeks later, Taylor saw her friend again. Lauren had a vacant look in her eyes. She was emotionally distressed.
A week later, with her home decorated for Valentine's Day, Lauren Stuart killed her family. She left behind a suicide note.
"She said in the suicide note that she felt that by killing them it was the only way to save them," recalled Taylor, who said police let her read the letter. "She said she's sorry that she has to do this, but it was the only way to save them all."
Taylor, a former Jehovah's Witness herself who left the faith in 1986, explained: "Jehovah's Witnesses believe that if you die on this side of Armageddon, you'll be resurrected in paradise."
In Lauren Stuart's case, Taylor believes her friend never deprogrammed after leaving the church — a state she describes as "physically out, but mentally in." She believes that Lauren's indoctrinated doomsday fears never left her, and that the shunning helped push her over the edge.
Had she not been excommunicated by her tight-knit community that was once her entire support system — left with no one to share her fears with — Lauren Stuart may not have done what she did, Taylor believes.
"People do things when they are desperate," Taylor said. "And that was an extreme, desperate act."
Shunning "can lead to great trauma among people because the Jehovah's Witnesses are a very tight-knit community," said Mathew Schmalz, a religious studies associate professor at the College of Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass.
"If you're separated out, you're really left to your own devices in ways that are very challenging and very painful," Schmalz said. "Once you leave a group that's been your whole life — letting that go is a kind of death."
Police have not yet disclosed details about the death of the Stuart family besides calling it a murder-suicide.
The tragedy has emboldened many once-quiet ex-JWs to speak up. Many say they suffered quietly on their own for years until they discovered an online community full of isolated, ostracized people like themselves — people who had lost someone to suicide or attempted suicide themselves because their families, friends and church community had written them off for making mistakes, for being human.
The church calls it being "disfellowshipped." Members can return if they repent, change the behavior and prove themselves worthy of being reinstated. But unless or until that happens, members are encouraged to avoid the sinners, especially those who leave the faith.
Mothers go years, even decades, without talking to their children. Siblings write off siblings. Friends shun friends.
An estimated 70,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses are disfellowshipped every year — roughly 1% of the church’s total population, according to data published by the Watchtower. Their names are published at local Kingdom Halls. Of those, two-thirds never return.
Within a faith representing 8.4 million people worldwide, however, many members believe the religion is pure, good and loving. Those who are speaking against it, current members argue, are disgruntled and angry people who have an ax to grind because they were disfellowshipped. Or, they are lost souls who have misinterpreted the meaning and love behind the faith. Members say they believe the shunning accusations are exaggerated and that the suicides are often more about mental illness than ostracism.
The departed disagree.
In the world of ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses, they maintain, the shunned are considered dead to their families, just like the suicide victims.
These are their stories:
‘A dangerous cult’
It was a difficult conversation to wrap her 8-year-old brain around.
“‘You know your sister was being bad, right?’“ Sawyer recalled her mother telling her after her sister's suicide.
“ ‘And what she did was stupid, right?’ … To take your own life is very wrong,' " the mother continued.
“I didn’t understand what was going on … and I said, ‘Oh. OK,,’ “ recalled Sawyer. “In my 8-year-old brain I was thinking, ‘When I mess up, my mom’s going to hate me.’ "
And so began her painful journey with the Jehovah’s Witness faith, the religion she was born into and grew up in in Pascagoula, Miss., where her fears of abandonment took hold at the age of 8.
Sawyer believes the shunning drove her sister to suicide. After the church disfellowshipped her for getting engaged to a non-JW, the fiancé left her sister, who was thrown into depression. Her sister tried turning to her mother for consolation, but her mom would read scripture and tell her, "until you start acting right, you’re going to have these bad things happen to you.“
Bad things happened to Sawyer, too. At 30, she sought a divorce from her husband because he was abusive and cheating on her, she said. But the church elders and family pressured her to save her marriage.
“I showed them the holes in my walls,” Sawyer said, referring to the damage her ex-husband did to the home during fights. “They told me to pray more … and sent me back home to him.”
Sawyer took up smoking to handle the stress, which got her disfellowshipped because smoking is not allowed. She also went through with the divorce. She ended up losing her home to foreclosure and turned to her mother for help as she had two children to raise.
Her mother took her in temporarily, but when the church elders found out, they threatened to disfellowship Sawyer’s mother — who let the grandkids stay, but not the daughter.
Sawyer ended up homeless for six months, living out of her car in a community college parking lot. She landed on her feet with the help of a student loan. She got an apartment, a job as a hospice nurse and her children — now 10 and 18 — back. She found herself, but lost her family along the way.
Her mother doesn’t speak to her; she said she can’t recall the last time they spoke.
Her sister in Alabama hasn’t spoken to her since Sawyer got divorced in 2010.
“She was on my porch, with my parents … My sister looked at me and said, ‘You’re abandoning me just like Donna did’ And left. And that's the last thing she ever said to me."
Sawyer has kept silent about her pain for decades.
“This is a dangerous cult,” she said of her former religion. “It’s important for people to realize — this is serious.”
Read the rest of the story here:
The judicial committee of a congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses asked the Supreme Court of Canada today to rule that Canadian courts do not have the authority to review the expulsion of one of their members — arguing that judicial review by the courts should not extend to decisions by private and voluntary associations that have no effect on the public at large.
The Highwood Congregation, located in northwest Calgary, brought its appeal to Ottawa after Randy Wall took the congregation to court for expelling him from the church. The congregation’s judicial committee “disfellowshipped” Wall in the spring of 2014 after his family reported to the group’s elders that he had been drunk on two occasions and was verbally and emotionally abusing them — and after determining he was not “not sufficiently repentant” for those actions.
After three internal and unsuccessful appeals, Wall applied for judicial review of the congregation’s decision-making process, insisting it was flawed and that the congregation’s judicial committee had “breached the principles of natural justice and the duty to be fair.” Both the Court of Queen’s Bench and Court of Appeal in Alberta declared that it is within the jurisdiction of the superior court to review Wall’s case.
The congregation’s appeal of those two rulings, heard by the Supreme Court Thursday morning, has attracted a lot of attention from legal experts and religious communities across the country. Echoing the congregation’s plea today in the packed Ottawa courtroom were 12 religious, political and civil liberties groups — all of them unanimous in arguing the top court should not interfere in the membership decisions of religious bodies.
The consequences of such interference, they said, would be detrimental to the self-determination of religious groups.
“It (would) fundamentally alter our nation and not for the better,” counsel for the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms said in court.
“The wish or desire of one person to associate with an unwilling person (or an unwilling group) is not a legal right of any kind,” the group wrote in its written submission to the Supreme Court. “For a court, or the government, to support such a ‘right’ violates the right of self-determination of the unwilling parties.”
This question of jurisdiction is one that has been explored and decided on by the courts — including the Supreme Court of Canada — in the past. Case law shows the top court has recognized the the autonomous ability of religious and private voluntary associations to govern their own affairs and dictate who can and cannot be a member of a congregation.
The courts have determined, however, there is room to intervene in specific cases when a membership decision turns on property or civil rights — or is of “sufficient importance to deserve the intervention of the court.”
Wall — who does not dispute the allegations against him that formed the basis of the congregation’s decision to kick him out — argues his case meets those requirements because his “disfellowship” caused him to lose business clients, suffer “significant economic harm” and experience fraught family relations.
In return, the congregation argues that neither Wall’s property rights, nor his civil rights, were affected by their decision. Justice Russell Brown also remarked during the hearing that “one does not have a justiciable right to earn a living.”
The congregation also argued that it did not ask or force its members to boycott Wall’s business — but people choose to do so in line with their religious convictions. Counsel for the congregation also said that “the door is not closed” to Wall and he can be reinstated in the congregation in the future.
More generally, the congregation argued that it would be inappropriate for the courts to review the internal decision-making processes of religious groups because those processes are ecclesiastical.
In a news release, the Association for Reformed Political Action — one of the 12 intervening groups — said the case before the Supreme Court has “profound implications for the separation of church and state” and it believes the court should maintain a hands-off approach to membership decision-making by religious groups.
“Secular judges have no authority and no expertise to review a church membership decision,” the association’s director of law and policy, André Schutten, wrote in the statement. “Church discipline is a spiritual matter falling within spiritual jurisdiction, not a legal matter falling within the courts’ civil jurisdiction. The courts should not interfere.”
The Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association took a slightly more nuanced position, arguing in its factum that “there will inevitably be cases where judicial intervention in the decisions of religious groups is ‘warranted'” but courts “should intervene … only in the rare case where required by a prevailing public interest.”
Thursday’s hearing was heard by all nine justices on the Supreme Court bench. Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin said the court will reserve its decision after today’s hearing.
Overflow seating was set up in the front hall of the Supreme Court to accommodate all the people who came to see the hearing live.
By Outta Here
Even the highly regarded BBC cannot resist the temptation to indulge in gutter-press standard reporting when it comes to Jehovah's Witnesses.
This report on the Jehovah's Witnesses disfellowshipping process is rather misleading. It associates the disfellowshipping action with totally unrelated experiences and leaves the impression that this action is taken:
1. when a person leaves an abusive relationship
2: when a person does not attend the annual memorial celebration of Christ's death.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Even the most inexperienced researcher could easily find out the circumstances leading to this serious and scriptural measure by looking at https://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/faq/shunning/.
It is unlikely that the interviewees would reveal the real reason for their disfellowshipping which would probably cause personal embarrassment, and there is no way that the official organisation would comment or reveal the details of an individual case.
Mr. Wall was a member of the Highwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, in Alberta, Canada. He was dis-fellowshipped by a Judicial Committee of elders because he was not sufficiently repentant for two incidents of drunkenness, one of which included verbal abuse of his wife. He was shunned by the congregation. As a real estate agent, he lost congregation members and other Jehovah’s Witnesses as clients. He appealed to internal church authorities for reconsideration but failed. Then he decided to go to the regular law courts for compensation for his alleged mistreatment by the church. Justice Wilson of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta ruled that the Court had jurisdiction to hear Mr. Wall’s application for judicial review. The Church lost its appeal at the Alberta Court of Appeal and has now appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The Alberta Court of Appeal (ABCA) decision raises a number of questions that have to be resolved. Generally speaking, courts have been loathed to get involved in church disputes. Courts have no expertise in dealing with theological matters that are often the underlying cause of why members of a church are asked (or told) to leave. Imagine a court discussing topics like the proper understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity; or the process of salvation. Such matters are not part of the law school curriculum. The point is, a court is incompetent in dealing with religious disputes.
The majority of the ABCA decided that the courts have jurisdiction over procedural matters – basically ensuring that the parties were treated fairly. In law, we call it issues of “natural justice.” That is to say, the law protects people in organisations to the extent that the organisations own internal rules of procedure were properly followed. There is a reasonable argument to be made for that position. However, a church is not a public body that should be subject to judicial review.
The ABCA was also of the view that a church could be sued for the economic loss a member incurred as a result of expulsion. This is new ground for Canadian law – new ground for any law of a western democracy. Membership in a religious community is voluntary. No one is forced to stay. If a person is no longer willing to abide by the teachings then they are free to go and make their way elsewhere. If that person limited his business to only those within the church community and subsequently finds that none of his former co-religionists will do business with him that is not the congregation’s responsibility. He took that risk himself when he so limited his business.
Religious communities have been immune from litigation of former members who were asked to leave. Membership in a religious community is privilege not a right. Allowing courts the jurisdiction to hear judicial review applications of such matters will entangle the court unnecessarily in the internal affairs of religion. If a court is granted the right to hear such a review it is then able to grant orders of relief against the religious community for making religious decisions about membership. The law has no business there.
The SCC is scheduled to hold its hearing on November 2, 2017.
Case name: Re: Wall v. Judicial Committee of the Highwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 2016 ABCA 255 (37273) (Wall Case)
(Ezekiel 44:25, 26) “They should not approach any dead human, or they will become unclean. However, they may make themselves unclean for their father, mother, son, daughter, brother, or an unmarried sister. And after the purification of a priest, they should count off seven days for him”
The priest should not contact any dead human… except his nearest relatives. Jehovah is very reasonable and comprehensive when dictating rules.
Would not it be fine to apply the same principle when we deal with disfellowshipped people? Why Paul doesn’t mention these exceptions in 1Cor 5? Why Ezekiel doesn’t mention the priest’s wife? Perhaps, because the common sense would guide the application. It isn’t the same my cousin than my father, it is?
(Leviticus 21:1, 2) “Jehovah went on to say to Moses: “Talk to the priests, Aaron’s sons, and say to them, ‘No one should defile himself for a dead person among his people. But he may do so for a close blood relative, for his mother, his father, his son, his daughter, his brother,…”
For example if children are noisy during the meeting, parents may take them to the restroom or outside the Hall and hit them with a belt or hand?
Could Someone Be Disfellowshipped For Not Believing In The "Overlapping Generation" JW Doctrine AFTER Being Baptized?By PeterR
You would be asking the wrong question Anna.
You need to ask him whether someone could be disfellowshipped for NOT believing it after baptism.
If he says no, he is either misinformed, forgetful, or lying.
Now I grant you, not every elder will apply the letter of the law (although in a JC it's more likely because of the group dynamics). But that there are procedures in place to allow for DF'ing someone who refuses to believe in particular teachings is very real.
Let me ask you Anna - if I could prove beyond doubt that this was true would you accept it, or would you continue to make light of it?
If you are determined to see only what you want to see I have no agenda to change that. But I can assure you that I do not speak from a position of ignorance or partial information in this regard.
Did Christians in the 1st century disfellowship / shun wrongdoers?
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