TV2 – 10th February 2019
Former Jehovah’s Witnesses were to oversee others: – As if I were part of the police
A large number of former Jehovah’s Witnesses say they were overseen by other members.
The Religious Organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses monitors its members to oversee whether they violate the organization’s internal rules.
This is the criticism of David Maagaard, who as a former Witness servant in Jehovah’s Witnesses, told how the ward leaders in closed meetings instructed in the surveillance.
– It seemed as though I was part of a police force where you had to walk and patrol the members’ doings and burden, he says to TV 2.
The chairman of faith, an association of people who have come out of a religious community, Simon Ørregaard, is also formerly Jehovah’s Witness and recognizes what David Maagaard tells.
“You are guided to go to the elders (religious leaders in Jehovah’s Witnesses, ed.), If you see anything,” he says.
Go to the elders if we realize that serious sins have been committed
Text from Jehovah’s Witnesses
WHO ARE JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES?
- Founded in the United States in 1881
- It originates from Christianity, but follows its own Bible translation
- Believe that God’s name is Jehovah
- Congregations do not meet in churches, but so-called Kingdom Halls
- Baptism takes place only after years of training and indicates that the baptized will serve Jehovah and the congregation
- Has, according to its own figures, over eight million members worldwide. In Denmark there are almost 15,000
- Managed by a Governing Body based in New York, USA
- Exclusion happens if a member does not regret a serious violation of the rules of religion. Family members are encouraged not to have contact with the excluded.
Would watch for any smoke cigarettes
In a survey conducted by TV 2 in several closed groups on the Internet for former Witnesses, 64 percent of the 105 participants write that in their time in the organization, they have been overseen by other active ones.
One of those who have felt monitored is 25-year-old Ann Celina, who on TV 2 Sunday says she was extradited on the basis of a private conversation that was recorded and passed on to the ward leadership.
David Maagaard is not surprised that so many former Witnesses have been monitored. He says he himself has been supervised, just as he has been asked to monitor others.
As a church servant, he was a kind of assistant to the ward leaders, the so-called elders. At the first closed meeting with the elders council, where the rest of the congregation was not present, he was amazed at the rhetoric because he experienced that the elders set out clear guidelines for ward servants to keep an eye on members.
– At the regular Kingdom Hall meetings (Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Assembly Houses, ed.), Where the regular members came, it was often wrapped in Bible quotes and more embracing descriptions. But when we came in to these meetings, it became much more concrete, says David Maagaard, who left Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2011.
The parish servants, according to David Maagaard, should, among other things, observe whether members had overnight guests of the opposite sex and whether people were smoking cigarettes.
He compares the role of ward service to being part of a police force – he believed the task was to assist the ward in religious activities.
– You were the elders watchdog. If one discovered something, one should set a good example to Jehovah’s Witnesses and show that one was loyal and faithful to the whole organization and structure. This was usually done by working with the elders around what the different members of the congregation were doing, says David Maagaard.
WHAT MUST JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES NOT?
Jehovah’s Witnesses must adhere to a wide range of rules. For example, they may not:
- Celebrate holidays like birthdays and Christmas
- Have sex before marriage
- Be unfaithful
- Grow oral and anal sex
- Accept blood transfusion for treatments
- Get an abortion
- Smoky tobacco
- Play gambling
- Get drunk
Shepherds for God’s sheep
The chairman of the association Eftertro Simon Ørregaard, who is also the chairman of the Atheist Society, does not have the experience that the monitoring in Jehovah’s Witnesses is put into system by the organization.
But he says that Jehovah’s Witnesses from childhood are brought to each other to the elders if anyone does something wrong.
– It’s an angler community. If you know someone has done something wrong, confront it with it and say, “If you don’t go to the elders, I’ll do it”. You make sure yourself go to the elders because it is sinful to leave, he says.
Examples of members being called upon to enter each other can be found in, among other things, the Witness Watchtower, Jehovah’s Witnesses, says Simon Ørregaard:
“An important way we can also work together is to preserve the moral and spiritual purity of the congregation, both by our own conduct and by going to the elders, if we realize that serious sins have been committed,” in a 1992 edition.
– Jehovah’s Witnesses use the term “shepherds” for the elders and “get” for their members. It is thus the elders who have to guard the flock, and here is one of the functions to keep an eye on others. The elders come to visit people they think they need guidance, says Simon Ørregaard.
Jehovah’s Witnesses reject the monitoring of members
According to the internal rules of Jehovah’s Witnesses, there must be at least two independent witnesses before a judge of elders can decide on an offense.
For example, it means that sex before marriage must be attended by two witnesses before it can become a case. A fact that, according to David Maagaard, is central to understanding why Jehovah’s Witnesses can monitor their members.
“If there are no witnesses and they cannot get a concession from the one who made the offense, then they have no case,” he says.
The headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Denmark have declined to interview TV 2, but in an e-mail they write that they “do not monitor members of the ward”.
However, this answer does not give David Maagaard much to:
– That’s not true. You are trained to have to enter and stick each other.
David Maagaard says that he has never mentioned anyone to the elders himself. In cases where he has experienced members violating the rules, he has made personal contact with the persons.
– I got into it, but I didn’t like being in it. I don’t think I’m the only one who’s had this, he says.
Several types of sanctions
The strictest sanction in Jehovah’s Witnesses is exclusion where the congregation and the family are encouraged not to have contact with the excluded.
According to a special manual for the elders, not all violations leading to exclusion – other forms of discipline such as public prosecution and reprimand in the ward or deprivation of duty also occur.
Rejects the offender and can convince the elders that he or she will try to change his life so that it is again within the rules, he or she will eventually be resumed after exclusion.
Jehovah’s Witnesses Scandinavian branch office in Holbæk has not wanted to participate in this article.
* all translations provided on JWBulletin.com are for information purposes only and are sourced from automated translation services. These are not checked for accuracy. To ensure accuracy, please refer to the original language text.