The murder trial of ex-police officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd was televised. In the state of Minnesota, it is lawful to televise trials if all parties agree. However, in this case the prosecution did not want the trial televised, but the judge overruled that decision feeling that because of restrictions on the press and public to attend due to the covid pandemic, not allowing televised proceedings would be a violation of both the first and sixth amendments to the Constitution of the United States. This made me consider the possibility that the judicial proceedings of Jehovah’s Witnesses might also be a violation of those two amendments.

The First Amendment protects freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and the right to petition the government.

The Sixth Amendment protects the right to a speedy public trial by jury, to notification of criminal accusations, to confront the accuser, to obtain witnesses and to retain counsel.

Now Jehovah’s Witnesses will dismiss what I’m saying by claiming that the First Amendment gives them the protection of freedom of religion. I am sure they will also argue that their judicial process is based on the Bible and amounts to little more than a means to deny membership to anyone who breaks the rules of the organization. They would argue that just like any club or institution that has members, they have the right to establish acceptable guidelines for membership and deny membership to anyone who breaks those guidelines.

I know this line of reasoning firsthand because I served as an elder in the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses for forty years. They continue to make this claim, and have done so in more than one legal affidavit.

Of course, this is a big fat lie, and they know it. They justify this lie based on their policy of theocratic warfare which allows them to lie to government officials when they need to protect the organization from assault by Satan’s world. They view it as a good-versus-evil conflict; and it never occurs to them that maybe in this case, the roles are reversed; that they are the ones on the side of evil and the government officials are on the side of good.  Bear in mind that Romans 13:4 refers to the governments of the world as God’s minister for administering justice. 

“for it is God’s minister to you for your good. But if you are doing what is bad, be in fear, for it is not without purpose that it bears the sword. It is God’s minister, an avenger to express wrath against the one practicing what is bad.” (Romans 13:4, New World Translation)

That’s from the New World Translation, the Witnesses’ very own Bible.

One case in point is when they lied to the Australia Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.  When the lead commissioner called their policy of shunning victims of child sexual abuse who chose to resign from the congregation cruel, they came back with the wimpish lie that “We don’t shun them, they shun us.”  That is a backhanded admission that they lie when they say their judicial system is merely about controlling membership. It is a punitive system. A penal system. It punishes anyone who does not conform.

Let me illustrate it this way. Approximately 9.1 million people work for the federal government of the United States. That’s approximately the same number of people that claim to be Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide. Now the federal government can fire any worker for cause. No one denies them that right. However, the US government does not issue an edict to all its nine million workers to shun anyone they have fired. If they fire a worker, that worker has no fear that any family member who happens to work for the US government will no longer speak with them or have any dealings with them, nor do they have any fear that any other person they may come into contact with who happens to work for the federal government will treat him like a leper to the point of not even greeting them with a friendly “Hello”.

Were the US government to impose such a restriction, it would be in violation of US law and the US constitution. Essentially, it would be imposing a penalty or punishment on someone for ceasing to be a member of their workforce. Imagine if such an arrangement existed and you worked for the US government, and then decided to quit your job, only to learn that in doing so 9 million people would treat you like a pariah, and all your family and friends working for the government would break off all contact with you. It would certainly make you think twice before you quit, wouldn’t it?

That is precisely what happens when someone leaves the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses whether voluntarily or involuntarily, whether they are disfellowshipped or they simply walk away. This policy of Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot be protected under the freedom of religion statute covered by the First Amendment.

Freedom of religion does not cover all religious practices. For example, if a religion decides to engage in child sacrifice, it cannot expect protection under the U.S. Constitution. There are sects of Islam that want to impose strict Sharia law. Again, they cannot do so and be protected by the US constitution, because the United States does not allow the existence of two competing law codes—one secular, and another religious. So, the argument that religious freedom protects Jehovah’s Witnesses in their practice of judicial matters only applies if they do not break the laws of the United States. I would contend that they break many of them. Let us start with how they violate the First Amendment.

If you are a Jehovah’s Witness and you hold Bible studies on your own with other Jehovah’s Witnesses, exercising your freedom to assemble, which is guaranteed in the constitution, you are likely to be shunned. If you exercise your freedom of speech by sharing your views on certain religious and doctrinal matters, you are almost certainly to be shunned. If you challenge the Governing Body—for example, on the question of their 10-year membership in the United Nations which violates their own law—you will surely be shunned. So, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and the right to petition the government—i.e., the Jehovah’s Witness Leadership—are all freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment that are denied Jehovah’s Witnesses. If you choose to report wrongdoing within the leadership of the organization—like I am doing now—you will most assuredly be shunned. So, freedom of the press, again guaranteed under the First Amendment, is also denied the average Jehovah’s Witness. Now let’s look at the sixth amendment.

If you do something wrong in the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you are dealt with very quickly so they do not violate the right to a speedy trial, but they do violate the right to a public trial by jury. Ironically, a public trial by jury is precisely what Jesus instructed his followers to employ when dealing with sinners in the congregation. He made it the obligation of the whole congregation to judge the situation. He commanded us, speaking of a sinner:

“If he does not listen to them, speak to the congregation. If he does not listen even to the congregation, let him be to you just as a man of the nations and as a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:17)

The organization disobeys this command of Jesus.  They start by trying to minimize the scope of his command.  They claim it only applies to cases of a personal nature, like fraud or slander. Jesus makes no such restriction. The Governing Body claims that when Jesus speaks of the congregation here in Matthew, he really means a committee of three elders. I was recently asked by a witness to prove that it isn’t the body of elders that Jesus is referring to in Matthew.  I told this witness that it is not my responsibility to prove a negative.  The burden of proof falls on the organization which is making a claim not supported in Scripture. I can show that Jesus refers to the congregation because he says that “if [the sinner] does not listen even to the congregation.”  With that, my job is done.  If the Governing Body claims differently—which they do—it falls to them to back it up with proof—which they never do.

When the all-important question of circumcision was being decided by the Jerusalem congregation, because they were the ones from whom this false teaching was originating, it is noteworthy that it was the entire congregation that approved the final decision.

As we read this passage, notice that a distinction is made between the elders and the whole congregation indicating that the word congregation in the context of judicial matters is not to be used as synonymous with any body of elders.

“. . .Then the apostles and the elders, together with the whole congregation, decided to send chosen men from among them to Antioch, along with Paul and Barnabas. . .” (Acts 15:22)

Yes, the older men will naturally take the lead, but that doesn’t exclude the rest of the congregation from the decision.  The whole congregation—men and women—were involved in that major decision that affects us down to this day.

There is absolutely no instance in the Bible of a secret meeting where three congregation elders judge a sinner. The only thing that comes close to such an abuse of Bible law and authority is the secret trial of Jesus Christ by the wicked men of the Jewish high court, the Sanhedrin.

In Israel, judicial cases were judged by the older men at the city gates. That was the most public of places, because everyone entering or leaving the city had to pass through the gates.  Hence, judicial matters in Israel were public affairs.  Jesus made dealing with unrepentant sinners a public affair as we just read at Matthew 18:17 and it should be noted that he gave no further instruction on the matter.  In the absence of further instruction from our Lord, is it not going beyond what is written for the Governing Body to claim that Matthew 18:15-17 deals only with minor sins of a personal nature, and that other sins, so-called major sins, should be dealt with exclusively by men they appoint?

Let us not get distracted by John’s instruction at 2 John 7-11 which was intended to deal with an antichristian movement intent on getting the congregation to deviate from the pure teachings of Christ.  Besides, a careful reading of John’s words indicates that the decision to avoid such ones was personal, based on one’s own conscience and read of the situation.  John wasn’t telling us to base that decision on instructions from a human authority, like the elders of the congregation. He never expected any Christian to shun another on the say-so of someone else. 

It is not for men to assume that God has granted them special authority to rule over the conscience of others.  What presumptuous thinking!  One day, they will have to answer for it before the judge of all the earth.

Now on to the Sixth Amendment. The sixth amendment calls for a public trial by jury, but the reality is that accused Jehovah’s Witnesses are not allowed to have a public hearing nor are they judged by a jury of their peers as Jesus commanded should be done.  Thus, there is no protection against men who exceed their authority and act as ravenous wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing.

No one is allowed to witness the judicial hearing, making it also into a star chamber trial. If the accused tries to make a recording to avoid being victimized, he or she is viewed as being rebellious and unrepentant. This is about as far from the public trial the sixth amendment calls for as you can get.

The accused is only told of the charge, but given no details whatsoever.  Thus, they have no information on which to mount a defense. Very often, the accusers are hidden and protected, their identities never revealed.  The accused is not allowed to retain counsel but must stand alone, not even being allowed the support of friends. They are supposedly allowed to have witnesses, but in practice this element is often denied them as well.  It was in my case.  Here’s a link to my own trial in which I was denied counsel, foreknowledge of the accusations, any knowledge of the names of those who were making the accusations, the right to bring proof of my innocence into the Council chamber, the right for my witnesses to enter, and the right to record or make any part of the trial public.

Again, the Sixth Amendment provides for public trial by jury (Witnesses don’t allow that) notification of criminal accusations (Witnesses don’t allow that either) the right to confront the accuser (very often disallowed as well) the right to obtain witnesses (allowed but with many restrictions) and the right to retain counsel (very much disallowed by Witness leadership). As a matter of fact, if you walk in with a lawyer, they’ll suspend all proceedings.

The irony is that Jehovah’s Witnesses have a decades-long record of championing human rights both in the United States and in Canada, my home country. In fact, in Canada you cannot study law without coming across the names of JW lawyers who were in part responsible for the creation of a Canadian Bill of Rights. How bizarre that the people who have fought so hard for so long to establish human rights can now be counted among the worst violators of those very rights. They violate the First Amendment by punishing through shunning anyone who exercises their freedom of speech, their freedom of the press, their freedom of assembly, and the right to petition the leadership of the organization, their government. Furthermore, they violate the Sixth Amendment by denying anyone judged by them the right to a public trial by jury though the Bible stipulates such to be a requirement. They also violate the rule requiring them to make notification of criminal accusations, the right to confront one’s accuser, the right to obtain witnesses, and the right to retain counsel. These are all denied.

If you are a practicing Jehovah’s Witness, as I was for most of my life, your mind will be scurrying for ways to overcome these issues and justify the JW judicial process as being from Jehovah God.  So let us reason on this one more time, and in doing so let us use the reasoning and logic of the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

As one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you know that celebrating birthdays is considered a sin. If you continue to celebrate birthdays, you will get disfellowshipped from the congregation. Those who are disfellowshipped and in an unrepentant state at Armageddon will die with the rest of the wicked system of things. They will get no resurrection, so they die the second death.  This is all standard JW teaching, and you know that to be true if you are a Jehovah’s Witness.  So unrepentantly celebrating birthdays results in eternal destruction.  That is the logical conclusion we must arrive at by applying the teaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses to this practice.  If you insist on celebrating birthdays, you will be disfellowshipped. If you’re disfellowshipped when Armageddon comes, you will die at Armageddon. If you die at Armageddon, you do not get a resurrection. Again, standard doctrine from Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Why do Jehovah’s Witnesses consider birthdays to be sinful? Birthdays are not specifically condemned in the Bible. However, the only two birthday celebrations mentioned in the Bible ended in tragedy. In the one case, the birthday celebration of an Egyptian Pharaoh was marked by the beheading of his chief baker. In the other case, the Jewish King Herod, on his birthday, beheaded John the baptizer. So since there is no record of faithful Israelites, nor Christians, celebrating birthdays and since the only two birthdays mentioned in the Bible resulted in tragedy, Jehovah’s Witnesses conclude that commemorating one’s birthday is sinful.

Let us apply the same logic to the question of judicial committees. Neither the faithful Israelites nor the Christians that came afterwards are recorded as holding judicial proceedings in secret where the public was denied access, where the accused was denied a proper defence and the support of friends and family, and where the only judges were appointed elders. So that matches one of the same reasons why birthdays are considered sinful.

What about the other reason, that the only occurrence of birthday celebrations in the Bible is negative? There’s only one place in the Bible where a secret hearing away from public scrutiny without a jury was held by appointed elders of the congregation of God. In that meeting, the accused was denied the support of family and friends and not given the opportunity to prepare a proper defence. That was a secret, late-night trial. It was the trial of Jesus Christ before the body of elders that made up the Jewish Sanhedrin. No one in their right mind would defend that trial as righteous and honourable. So that meets with the second criteria.

Let’s recap. If you celebrate a birthday unrepentantly, the process will eventually lead to your second death, eternal destruction. Jehovah’s Witnesses conclude birthdays are wrong because neither the faithful Israelites nor Christians celebrated them and the only example of birthdays in the Bible resulted in death. By the same token, we have learned that neither the faithful Israelites nor Christians practised secret, private, judicial hearings presided over by an appointed body of elders. Additionally, we’ve learned that the only recorded instance of such a hearing resulted in death, the death of God’s son, Jesus Christ.

Applying the logic of Jehovah’s Witnesses, those who participate as judges in judicial hearings, and those who appoint those judges and support them, are sinning and so will die at Armageddon and never be resurrected.

Now I am not passing judgment. I am just applying the judgment of Jehovah’s Witnesses back onto themselves. I believe the reasoning of Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding birthdays is absurd and weak. Whether you want to commemorate your birthday or not is very much a matter of personal conscience. Nevertheless, that is not how Jehovah’s Witnesses reason. So, I’m using their own reasoning against them. They cannot reason one way when it’s convenient and another way when it’s not. If their reasoning for condemning birthday celebrations is valid, then it must be valid elsewhere, such as in determining whether their judicial procedures also constitute sin.

Of course, their judicial procedures are very wrong and for much stronger reasons than those I just highlighted. They are wrong because they violate the express command of Jesus on how to carry out judicial matters. They go beyond what is written and thus violate the laws both of God and of man as we’ve just seen.

In practising judicial matters this way, Jehovah’s Witnesses bring reproach on the name of God and on his word because people associate Jehovah God with the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’ll put a link at the end of this video to another video that analyses the JW judicial system scripturally so that you can see that their judicial practices are completely anti-biblical. They have far more to do with Satan than with Christ.

Thank you for watching and thank you for your support.

Meleti Vivlon

Articles by Meleti Vivlon.




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