Dissent and conflict appear to be growing in the ranks of the Jehovah’s Witnesses after it was revealed that the Watchtower organization was a registered member of the United Nations — a body long condemned by the religion.
In The Tablet (Nov. 3), a British Catholic magazine, Stephen Bates writes that when he reported that the Jehovah’s Witnesses had joined the UN as an accredited non-governmental organization in 1991, he didn’t expect the firestorm of protest and fury he would encounter from members.
For 80 years, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WBTS) had condemned first the League of Nations and then the United Nations as the “Great Babylon” described in the book of Revelations. Bates’ revelation of the WBTS’s membership in the UN (which means that the group had to support the UN charter and be prepared to publicize its objectives) in the Guardian newspaper also had an impact on the church headquarters.
Two days after the article appeared, the WTBTS disaffiliated from the UN. The Witnesses’ message boards on the Internet were filled with hundreds of postings, “virtually all of them outraged with the elders of the Watchtower,” Bates writes.
When members approached their elders about the controversy, they were reproved for bringing it up, with some accused of apostasy and even disfellowshipped (a punishment where former members are shunned by family and friends still in the religion). Bates concludes that “There is a sense in this row…in which disaffected Witnesses feel they have been misled once too often.”
He notes that another confusing issue for members involved an unannounced change that softens the prohibition against receiving blood transfusions.
(The Tablet, 1 King St., Cloisters, Clifton Walk, London, W6 0Q2 UK)