Paul Grundy Judicial Committee Meeting
I wrote the following summary of my judicial committee meeting after arriving back home. I knew that I would be disfellowshipped shortly and fully understood the repercussions, yet it was like the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders. After feeling trapped by a manipulative cult for over ten years, I could finally move on with life.
I had my appeal meeting today (January 8th 2006). It went incredibly well, but they will disfellowship me regardless. I have to say it was the most fun I have had with a group of Jehovah's Witnesses for a long time. I was feeling extremely nauseated from stress to start with, which was a blessing as it stopped me from becoming too emotional, yet I was still able to control the direction of the meeting.
To summarise, two weeks ago the elders arrived unannounced at my door one evening and said they were to form a judicial committee to charge me with apostasy for my website www.jwfacts.com. I refused to acknowledge it is mine, but was very upset and proceeded to say in no uncertain terms that I am extremely against the practices of the Watchtower Society, no longer consider myself part of their religion and will sue each one individually if they go ahead with the meeting. I had a lawyer send a letter saying that any further harassment will lead to legal proceedings against them. They went ahead with the first hearing without me anyway and called to say I was to be disfellowshipped. I appealed and so a second meeting was arranged with six elders, including three Bethelites and a Circuit Overseer.
When I arrived all six brothers were seated, so I took my seat and asked where I could plug in my tape recorder. They said it was unacceptable to have it taped and if I turned it on they would leave the room. I replied that it makes me very concerned about how they have refused to put anything in writing, refused a tape recorder, refused me to have an observer present, yet have six witnesses against me. That behaviour seriously brings into question the honesty and intentions of those present, and is considered illegal and unethical by most people and corporations as it lacks transparency. (I actually did tape the proceedings with an MP3 player in my bag but it is almost unintelligible; unfortunately I did not have a chance to get some proper equipment)
First they discussed a letter I had sent to have my baptism annulled. They said they would not accept it after consideration by the Bethel Service Department due to the length of time I had been baptised and that I had signed other contracts with the Watchtower Society, such as becoming a pioneer.
They then discussed my website. I had refused to admit it was mine to the first elders, which had made them quite angry. I realised why, they only had the hearsay of one witness and they needed "two witnesses". What they had done to prove it was mine was trawl through comments of mine on jehovahs-witness.com, jwfacts.com, wikipedia.org and an internet registry site. I was impressed with the lengths they had gone to and had to laugh with them at the great job they had done.
I then took over and pushed some doctrinal issues;
- I showed why disfellowshipping is wrong from a scriptural standpoint and aligns with cult behaviour - I used the cult concept repeatedly throughout the proceeding as I had provided them all with Lifton’s 8 identifiers for cult behaviour.
- I asked them to explain why brothers who are fornicating are made elders if holy spirit directs appointments, as stated in the Watchtower. They kept skirting the issue, but I would not let them move on. One brother said Jehovah takes time to disfellowship, which I said was not the question, it was why are they appointed whilst committing gross sin. Another brother then went on to explain that the holy spirit no longer acts in the same way as in Christian times. I explained this is an inadequate excuse. If holy spirit acted visibly during the entire Bible times it should still today, otherwise the Watchtower is no different than any other organisation.
- I then asked them to consider that the meeting we were having would be exactly the same whether they were Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists or Catholics, They all would still sit there saying they are right and I am wrong. What makes them so arrogant as to believe they, 0.1% of the world’s population, are correct and 99.9% are wrong? Again, they are just behaving like any other cult. Why are they Jehovah's Witnesses? Because they are Australian. If they were one of the 4 billion people in other countries that will never hear the word Jehovah they would be a different religion, but equally convinced that their religion was right.
We started to nit pick over some verbal definitions, so eventually I asked to cut to the chase. It was quite strange as at this point the atmosphere became quite jovial; we laughed together quite a bit, even though what follows is very hard hitting. I went on to say I am not a follower of the Watchtower Society, I am not considered one of the congregation anymore, I am not socialising with Jehovah's Witnesses, so the only reason I attended today was to raise enough doubt in their mind as to why they need to attempt to destroy my relationship with my family by formally announcing me. They said they have no choice but to follow the Bible's rules. I corrected them and said they had no choice but to follow Watchtower rules.
They then recited Watchtower policy that they had 3 things to consider;
- Am I affecting Jehovah’s name?
- Am I affecting the congregation?
- Will being disfellowshipped help readjust me?
My response was;
- I have not been to meetings for months and am no longer recognised as a Witness, so am not affecting Jehovah’s name.
- I do not associate with the congregation so am not affecting it.
- I will never return to a cult.
I continued that I just want to be left alone free from Watchtower harassment. However if they announce me I will go to the greatest lengths possible both legally and through the press to make sure everyone is aware of the tactics of the Jehovah's Witness cult. If they announce me I will assist 10 times the number of people to leave the organisation as if I am left alone. Presently the only people I affect are the ones actively searching the internet for answers, but if they disfellowship me I will actively go out of my way to find opportunities to alert other Witnesses to the truth about the organisation. Their actions after this meeting will have significant affect on the name of the Watchtower Society and the congregation.
The chairman responded by saying they have to follow procedure and that the meeting was only to see if the first meeting had been decided correctly. Then, without consulting the others, he said they had deduced that the first meeting had been correct in identifying me as an apostate and that I will be disfellowshipped on Thursday. I said I will appeal the decision. He said I can not. I told him not to lie to me, I know I can and took out a copy of the elders book someone had kindly lent me and showed I am able to appeal directly to bethel.
"Pay Attention to Yourselves and to All the Flock" p.127
I apologised for what they were pushing me to do but said if my name is announced I will have to sue each one of them individually. I pointed to the richest looking one and said I hoped he had plenty of money. He and then some of the others said how they didn’t have any money. I laughed and said I don’t want money, I will only do it to alert others to the practices of the religion. They then requested I seriously reconsider any such action for the hurt it will cause my family (what a joke, it is their action that will be affecting my family).
I did not really have any intention to sue. I had approached a lawyer shortly before the meeting for advice and he advised it would be almost impossible to win a case against them. To start with, the legal system is extremely cautious in getting involved in religious matters. Furthermore, the latest disfellowshipping announcement has been carefully crafted by lawyers to leave no room for claiming defamation of character. Other research I did backed this up as there have been very few cases won by former Witnesses regarding disfellowshipping, and the ones won were when the announcements were a lot more specific.
The chairman concluded by saying he was obligated to advise me that if I ever wish to return to the organisation the offer is always there and I will need to put such a request in writing. I responded that I won’t be taking up the offer, but if any of them wish to understand why the Watchtower Society does not teach truth the offer is always there for any of them to approach me individually, which they had a bit of a chuckle about.
The oldest brother said, "you are only 35, how did you get so far so quick". I am not quite sure what he meant by that.
I concluded the meeting by mentioning that they need to be realistic about the future of the organisation. 1.2 billion hours of preaching had only led to a net increase of 81000 witnesses in 2005. At that point the oldest brother said he can’t listen to it and walked out. I continued that it would not be such a bad organisation if they could fix up the unchristian way in which disfellowshipping is practiced and also the blood issue. The Chairman is the head of the Hospital Liaison committee in Australia, so I mentioned the new legal situation that will seriously affect the Watchtower, and that the current blood stance is in an illogical state of limbo and has to be changed. I finally said that many people need religion and I do not want to affect the faith of those content with their lives in the organisation. I just want to help those searching. But if they are unable to leave me alone when I am not associating with the congregation then this truly is a cult and people need to be alerted to that fact.
I then asked if I could leave, to which they all got up and shook my hand and were incredibly nice. So I apologised once more for the difficulty I was causing them but that I can not let my relationship with my family be affected and urged them to seriously reconsider any announcement being made to disfellowship me.
It was interesting to watch the 3 members of the initial committee as they were observers only. Each is a second or third generation Jehovah's Witness. The leader of the first group looked angrily at the floor the whole time. The single bethel brother listened for a while, than sat flicking through his bible like he was ignoring anything being said. He is the one that had said previously to me that every worldly person deserves to be killed by Jehovah as at heart every worldly person is no different than a German Nazi, with the inbuilt ability for untold evil. But the third brother is about 35 with a wife. He sat for the entire time leaning forward on the edge of his seat with his eyes popping out of his head. He told me last week that this case was having an extremely difficult affect on him. I will be interested to see how his faith is affected in the long term as my last words to him were, "How many families do you plan to destroy during your time as an elder?"
On leaving the oldest brother was standing in the hallway to usher me out. We started to talk and he said he understood how hard it is as his son is disfellowshipped. A deep pit of sadness overcame me thinking of how a seemingly well intentioned brother had destroyed his family for an organisation. I wanted to scream out, "can't you see how wrong this all is?" I hope my family see the futility of shunning and not waste their final years estranged from me.
Why did I go to so much trouble and stress instead of just disassociate myself? I strongly disagree with disfellowshipping and wanted to test every means possible to see if the elders can be encouraged to just leave former Jehovah's Witnesses alone.