31 Oct 2010

Despite Deadly Doctrines Jehovah's Witnesses Winning Battle for Church Status in Germany

Spiegel Online - Germany June 10, 2009


By Matthias Bartsch, Andrea Brandt and Simone Kaiser

Several German states are trying to prevent the Jehovah's Witnesses from gaining the same offical status as the main church faiths. But they're unlikely to succeed after the group, controversial because of what former members call "totalitarian methods," won a landmark court case in Berlin.

Marina J. could still be alive today. Her small daughter would have had a mother and her widower wouldn't be a single father. A blood transfusion could have saved her.

On July 3, 2008, Marina J.'s husband took her to the hospital in the town of Lich in the western German state of Hesse. She was 29 years old, the mother of a seven-year-old daughter and a deeply devout member of the Jehovah's Witness church. The doctors diagnosed her with a miscarriage and strong bleeding. A blood transfusion could have been saved her life, but the woman insisted she didn't want one. She was accompanied by several members of her church and she showed the doctor a living will. Two days later, Marina J. was dead.

Prosecutors in Giessen, a city in Hesse, are researching the case to see if it is possible to pursue criminal charges. The case of a woman whose life could have been saved has also attracted the attention of politicians and government representatives in state capitals in western Germany. They are hoping the death might provide new ammunition in a two-decades old dispute between the state and the Jehovah's Witnesses. Followers of the religion, close to 166,000 in Germany, believe the end is near for this world of sin. But they also believe that there are only 144,000 places available in heaven for a few chosen ones who proved to be particularly pious and true to the bible in life. People, for example, who distribute God's word by handing out copies of the Jehovah's Witnesses magazine, Watchtower, on the streets.

For years, the Jehovah's Witnesses have been seeking to obtain legal recognition as a church from the German government so that they can enjoy the same rights and privileges as the Catholic and Protestant churches.

They have already had success in the states of Hesse, Bavaria and Lower-Saxony. But the states of Rhineland-Palatinate, North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg have resisted the church. In Rhineland-Palatinate, Governor Kurt Beck of the center-left Social Democrats is dreading a situation in which the group would get church tax revenues in his state or set up businesses in which trade unions aren't given a say. In Germany, tithing for religions recognized by the government is handled by the state in the form of a church tax.

A few weeks ago, Beck called on all division of his state government to "intensively seek out arguments" that could help hinder any official recognition of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Beck said he had "the most considerable doubts as to whether it could be defined as a religious community that is in keeping with Germany's constitution." After all, the intellectual leaders of the centrally organized group discourage members from voting or participating in elections.

Beck's aides have already collected several cases that could be used against the Jehovah's Witnesses. In autumn 1999, for example, a delegation of the Jehovah's Witness community in the state of Bavaria attempted to prevent a life-saving blood transfusion to a school-age child. The child's father, also a Jehovah's Witness, even used physical violence against the head physician. Ultimately, the blood transfusion had to be administered under police protection. And in Baden-Württemberg in 2001, a 16-year-old cancer patient died because his parents refused to permit a blood transfusion, citing the family's faith.

'Very Clearly a Sect'

The statements of former Jehovah's Witness members who claim the organization used "totalitarian methods" is also being considered. They claim the group is permanently demanding donations and endless work on behalf of the organization. They also claim that members who express any doubts about the Jehovah's Witnesses beliefs are subjected to extreme psychological pressure. And they claim that minors who don't want to subject themselves to the group's rules are punished with hard physical "beatings".

Marc Ratajczak, an expert on sects for the conservative Christian Democratic Union party's group in the state government in North Rhine-Westphalia, argues that the Jehovah's Witnesses are "very clearly a sect" who "damn" and "suppress" any other religions or attitudes about life as "Satan's work." In his free time, Ratajczak conducts rescue operations for the Red Cross, and finds it "inhuman" that Jehovah's Witnesses could fundamentally refuse blood transfusions and, by doing so, even allow children to get into life-threatening situations.

The regional member of parliament says he would like to see his state join the initiative to stop the Jehovah's Witnesses that has been spearheaded by neighboring Rhineland-Palatinate. Monika Brunert-Jetter, a fellow CDU member, says her party, the largest in the state government, will resist any attempt by the state government to recognize the Jehovah's Witnesses. The state's parliament would have to vote on any such decision.

But the opponents of Jehova's Witnesses are going to have a hard time. Three years ago, Berlin became the first German state to be forced to award the organisation official recognition as a church. The Berlin city government lost a 15-year legal battle. The Witnesses filed separate applications for recognition in Germany's 15 other states immediately after that. They were able to point to the Berlin court decision as a precedent that gives the other states very little legal leeway.

That's the conclusion regional government officials on church matters reached at a meeting in Bonn last year. All the organisation had to do was avoid breaking the law to make sure that authorities couldn't take away its official status, officials concluded, adding: "The constitution doesn't demand a loyalty that goes beyond that."

Even if individual Jehovah's Witnesses break the law, that doesn't affect the status of the church as a whole.

Recently even the government in Catholic Bavaria quietly recognized the Jehova's Witnesses, as did saxony and Hamburg. In Baden-Württemberg, Culture Minister Helmut Rau had drafted a government document recognizing the church before Governor Günther Oettinger of the CDU stopped it. "Tolerance for religious conviction" is one thing but recognizing it as an official church was "something quite different."

The head of the CDU parliamentary group in the Baden-Württemberg regional parliament, Stefan Mappus, went further. "A religious community that rejects democratic elections, looks down on individual freedoms and rejects blood transfusions for example, can't be regarded as loyal to the constitution in our opinion." Oettinger now plans to discuss the matter with the big churches.

The Jehova's Witnesses have so far reacted calmly to such announcements. The legal situation is "unambiguous," says Gajus Glockentin, lawyer for the German Jehova's Witnesses headquarters in the Hesse town of Selters. The group argued successfully in the Berlin court case that the events cited against it were regrettable individual cases that the group couldn't be blamed for.

The Witnesses' policy of abstaining from voting wasn't an effective arguement either, Glockentin says. After all, declining to vote isn't aimed at weakening democracy, he argues. It's simply the result of an "apolitical attitude to life."

This article was found at:



Australian starts private criminal prosecution of Watch Tower Society for refusing to submit to child protection law


  1. What a shame the Spiegel did not do some basic research on the JWs beliefs/doctrines before writing this inaccurate article. It would of only taken them just a couple of mouse clicks...

    Our Beliefs

    "A blood transfusion could have saved her."

    Yeah, right. Just because JW's don't use blood, that does not mean they reject treatment. Transfusions kill more people than they "save". You need to do more research on blood transfusion. The alternative treatments used by JW's are fast becoming the standard for all patients. As the medical community wakes up to all the problems & high costs of blood, they are reducing its use and embracing bloodless medicine & surgery. Patients treated with alternatives to blood have the benefits of fewer complications related to transfusions, faster recovery time, shorter hospital stay, less chance of infection, faster healing time for wounds, as well as cost savings.

    Unfortunately many children (non-jw) die every year from cancer, despite receiving many blood transfusions. If these children still die, even though they get blood, what makes you think the JW children with cancer would survive if given blood? Blood transfusions can make cancer worse, because of the negative affect on the immune system.


    The Truth About Transfusions: A PBS Presentation (video)

    They are supposed to save lives, but could a blood transfusion give you a heart attack?


  2. You Feel Like a Freak
    Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Difficult Way Out of Sect

    by Sputnik International, July 31, 2019

    Indoctrination, isolation, and horrification – the things that sectarian exiles tell about their childhood among Jehovah’s Witnesses sound like a nightmare. To share their experiences and point out paths from the sect, they have organised a “Watchtower Remembrance Day” on Berlin’s Alexanderplatz.

    Those who grow up in a family of Jehovah’s Witnesses often led a dramatically different life from their peers – no birthday parties, little contact with people outside the faith community, no blood transfusions in medical emergencies, and no participation in elections later on. If someone decides to leave the sect, they are left with nothing at first, because the Jehovah’s Witnesses will turn their backs on the apostate, who often has no friends or relatives outside the community.

    There are a variety of citizens’ initiatives, such as “JW Victims Help” (“JW Opfer Hilfe e.V.”), whose aim is to shed light on the dire implications of life within the sect and offer support to those who want to leave the faith-based community.

    Last Friday, the association put an information stand on Berlin’s Alexanderplatz and observed "International Watchtower Remembrance Day". On this day, in 1931, the sect was renamed and "reformed", which resulted in it taking a more authoritarian form.

    Giulia Silberger, one of the co-founders of the association, was one of those who came to Alexanderplatz on that hot summer day. In the media, she is known as the founder of "Goldener Aluhut", a platform that deals with conspiracy theories. What many don’t realise is that the young woman herself grew up among Jehovah's Witnesses.

    The woman says that members of the sect would often face emotional abuse. Children are particularly affected; very often their emotional traumas haunt them throughout their lives.

    "Children’s souls are destroyed – they are brought up in fear and violence; they are forced to constantly fear Armageddon, the end of the world, which only those who are pleasing to Jehovah can survive. This is a terrible fear, which one grows up with and which results in mental illnesses, basically making a person disabled," Giulia said.

    According to the woman, the fear she grew up with gave her a mental illness and a disability status.

    "I want that to stop, and I want people to know about the dangers of this organisation. These are not harmless people who you can find preaching love somewhere at the station; this is an ice-cold, almost fascist society that destroys its members."

    In addition, Giulia believes the Jehovah’s Witnesses violate the country’s constitution, in particular, Article 6, which deals with the protection of marriage and the family. According to the woman, this is because even minor children face isolation from community members when they are expelled from the sect; and [their relatives] no longer talk to them.

    Giulia also said that the sect has cultivated its own legal system:

    "When a crime is committed within the community, it is usually not handed over to the authorities, but resolved by the sect's assembly according to their own, very cruel laws. For example, there is a two-witness rule – you have to bring two witnesses or nothing has happened. These are things that simply don’t fit into a democratic society like ours," she said.

    Sophie Jones has also managed to get out of the sect. According to the young woman, she was born into a community of Jehovah’s Witnesses. When one doesn’t know what’s going on in the "outside world", they don’t think that what they see inside their community is weird. The sect members don’t celebrate Christmas or birthdays – from the cradle, children take part in constant sermons and prayers. But the older you get, the more you realise how isolated you are.

    "Of course, one should mainly have contact with others in the community because they are 'good' and

  3. everyone else could dissuade you from the faith. Therefore, for a Jehovah’s Witness child, it’s quite difficult to find normal friends," Sophie said.

    "When you get older, you realise that you’re somehow different; you realise that you’re weird and don’t do the things normal kids do. You don’t know what they’re talking about; you don’t watch the same TV shows. You go to the service; you look different and behave differently. You are even ashamed – that’s normal. Of course, people say that you should be proud of your faith and that you’re chosen by God. But at the same time, you actually feel like a freak.”

    According to Sophie, there are "liberal" Jehovah’s Witnesses; however, her mother was a devout believer and brought her up accordingly. The turning point came at the age of thirteen, when her father was expelled from the community and any contact with him was forbidden, the woman recalled.

    "I couldn’t cope with that; I really suffered a lot from being unable to contact him. You cannot even greet the person, no matter if they’re your family members or not. I realised that I was incredibly unhappy and asked myself what I was suffering for. How can it please God that I suffer so much that I move away from my own family? That made no sense to me and I realised that I had to change something in my life. As soon as I turned 18, I got out of the sect and sought contact with my father and other excluded friends."

    The exit didn’t happen immediately, since the comeback rate is very high, because Jehovah’s Witness apostates usually have no contacts in the outside world. Sophie made a list of the people she would lose by leaving and those she would win back. At the same time, she was looking for new friends and building up new social contacts.

    "When I realised I was ready, I went to the last service, the remembrance service. I told some people that they wouldn’t see me again, and then I left. I got a new phone number; I moved and got a new job. And then it worked quite well."

    Today, Sophie Jones is very happy that she decided to leave and can see her father again.

    "I feel as though I got a new life. I can be who I want. I can do what I want. I can be friends with whom I want. That makes me very happy," she said.

    JW Victims Help seeks to support people like Sophie Jones; they want to raise awareness among the public, the media and politicians about the problems associated with various sectarian organisations. People from the outside have no idea how bad life is for members of sects and for those who have decided to leave their ranks, club activist Stefan Barnikow said.

    "Very often outsiders cannot believe that such a medieval practice can be found today, in the middle of Berlin. With us, the dropouts have someone who listens to them and understands their problems," he said.

    At the same time, according to Barnikow, Jehovah’s Witnesses' door-to-door missionary work, which is perceived by many as intrusive or annoying, don’t violate the constitution.

    "The Jehovah’s Witnesses have managed to get recognition as a public organisation in all federal states. Thus, they are allowed to perform their missionary activities. Of course, as a homeowner, I can say that I don’t want that. You also have to understand that the Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t want to do anything bad to you; they just want to 'save' you. In fact, they have your best interests at heart, but there is nothing good about it."

    There are currently about 170,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany, but the number is declining. Barnikow sees the increased desire to exit as a sign that the activity of his and other online and offline organisations is yielding results.

    However, devout Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t seek a dialogue – not even on Alexanderplatz that day. "The Jehovah’s Witnesses tend to avoid us," Barnikow said.