Jehovah's Witnesses
Jehovah's Witnesses are members of an international Christian 'new religious' movement, whose adherents believe it to be the restoration of first-century Christianity. The religion was developed in response “to what they saw as compromise and corruption in mainstream Christianity.” They dispute doctrines such as the Trinity, hellfire, immortality of the soul, and clergy-laity divisions as illegitimate and inaccurate additions to the original Christian teachings.
The name "Jehovah’s Witnesses" is based on Isaiah 43:10, and was adopted in 1931. The Watchtower Society has been publishing religious materials since the late 19th century; its most widely known publications are the magazines The Watchtower and Awake! Jehovah's Witnesses are governed by their understanding of Scriptural laws and principles from the Bible as interpreted by their Governing Body. Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. is a legal entity used by Jehovah’s Witnesses for their ministry work.
Jehovah’s Witnesses count as adherents the number of those attending their meetings, and they also count as members those who report time preaching each month. There are about 7 million members and over 17 million adherent, meaning 24 million have a connection to this religion.
A principal Witness teaching is the use of a personal name for God, Jehovah, and the belief that making this name known to others is an important part of worship. They believe that Jesus' death was necessary to atone for the sin brought into the world by the first man, Adam, opening the way for the hope of everlasting life for mankind, and that 144,000 people will receive immortal life in heaven as co-rulers with Christ, ruling over the rest of mankind during the Millennial Reign. Witnesses believe that during the imminent war of Armageddon, the wicked will be destroyed, and survivors, along with millions of others who will be resurrected, will form a new earthly society ruled by a heavenly government and have the possibility of living forever in an earthly paradise.

History
Jehovah's Witnesses originated with the religious movement known as Bible Students, which was founded in the late 1870s by Charles Taze Russell (1852 - 1916). Various splinter groups arose after Russell's death, particularly with the beginning of the presidency of Russell's successor, Joseph Franklin Rutherford. Those who remained supportive of the Watchtower Society, in 1931 came to adopt the name Jehovah's Witnesses, under Rutherford's leadership.  Those who did not support Rutherford formed various Bible Student groups which have retained Russell's teachings. Jehovah's Witnesses no longer use "Bible Students" as a formal name for their religion.
In the early 1870s, Russell organized a Bible study group composed mostly of Second Adventists (a group that arose after the Millerite Great Disappointment) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania USA. Interest in Bible prophecy was sparked by Jonas Wendell amongst others. In 1876, Russell met Nelson H. Barbour and subsequently adopted Barbour's eschatology (things that will happen when Christ returns to Earth - the 'Last Things'). Barbour had predicted the visible return of Christ at 1873, and when that failed to occur, he revised the prediction to 1874.  Soon after Barbour's second disappointment, his group decided Christ had returned invisibly to Earth in 1874. They differed from most Second Adventists, teaching that all mankind descending from Adam would be given a chance to live in a paradise on Earth. In 1877, Barbour and Russell jointly published the book The Three Worlds expounding their views. A gathering of the saints to heaven was expected for 1878 and the year 1914 was to see the end of Gentile control of the city of Jerusalem and the final end of the rule of human governments, marking a forty-year period from 1874. By 1877, a separation between the Barbour-Russell group and the Advent Christian denomination was apparent:
In July 1879, Russell broke with Barbour over the concept of substitutionary atonement and he began publishing his own magazine, Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence (now known as The Watchtower). After the break-up, Russell retained the bulk of Barbour's eschatological views. He also maintained the Adventist rejection of the traditional view of Hell and by 1882 had rejected the doctrine of the Trinity. In 1881 he formed the legal entity which developed into the non-profit organization: The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania (headquarters are in New York City). In 1884, it was incorporated, with Russell as president. He authored the six-volume series, Studies in the Scriptures. Early editions declared that 1799 marked the beginning of the "time of the end"; Jesus’ second coming occurred invisibly in 1874 as marked by the lengths of the internal passages of the great pyramid of Egypt; the great pyramid at Gizeh is God's Stone Witness and Prophet; Pleiades is the place of the eternal throne of God; and that Armageddon would culminate in the year 1914. Various statements assuring the accuracy and authority of their predictions were issued, such as "We see no reason for changing the figures — nor could we change them if we would. They are, we believe, God’s dates, not ours. But bear in mind that the end of 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but for the end of the time of trouble."  In contrast, Russell also wrote regarding his expectations: "We are not prophesying; we are merely giving our surmises . . . We do not even aver that there is no mistake in our interpretation of prophecy and our calculations of chronology. We have merely laid these before you, leaving it for each to exercise his own faith or doubt in respect to them." In 1914, Russell founded the International Bible Students Association in the United Kingdom.
 
Following Russell's death on October 31, 1916, an editorial committee of five was set up to supervise the writing of the Watch Tower magazine, as set forth in Russell's Last Will and Testament. On January 6, 1917,
Joseph Franklin Rutherford (1869-1942)(also known as "Judge" Rutherford) was elected second President of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. A power struggle soon developed between Rutherford and four of the seven-member Board of Directors of the Society. Matters reached a climax on July 17, 1917 as the book The Finished Mystery was released to the headquarters staff in Brooklyn. Rutherford announced to the staff that he was also dismissing the four directors and replacing them with new members, claiming they had not been legally elected. The four dismissed directors set up the Pastoral Bible Institute and began publishing their own religious journal. Dissension and schisms ensued in congregations worldwide as a result of these events, and of the consequences of new predictions made for the years 1918, 1920 and 1925.

The Finished Mystery, published in 1917, was controversial in its criticism of Catholic and Protestant clergy and Christian involvement in war. Citing this book, the United States federal government indicted Rutherford and the new board of directors for violating the Espionage Act on May 7, 1918. They were found guilty and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. However, in March 1919, the judgment against them was reversed and they were released from prison. The charges were later dropped. Patriotic fervor during World War I fueled persecution of the Bible Students both in America and in Europe.

An emphasis on house-to-house preaching began in 1922. The period from 1925-1933 saw many significant changes in doctrine. Attendance at their yearly Memorial dropped from a high of 90,434 in 1925 down to 17,380 in 1928, due to (i) the previous power struggle, (ii) the failed predictions for the year 1925, and (iii) the evolving doctrinal changes which alienated those who sided with Russell's views. By 1933, 1914 was seen as the beginning of Christ's presence, his enthronement as king, and the start of the "last days" instead of being considered the terminal date in their chronology. The editorial committee was disbanded so Rutherford could have the final say of what went into Watchtower publications. The offices of elders and deacons were also discontinued at this time with all "servants" in local congregations being appointed by headquarters.

Hitler's Nazi Germany persecuted Jehovah's Witnesses and many were imprisoned in concentration camps - their identifying badge was a purple triangle.  In a book on Jehovah's Witnesses under the Nazi regime, Hans Hesse commented: "Some five thousand Jehovah's Witnesses were sent to concentration camps where they alone were 'voluntary prisoners', so termed because the moment they recanted their views, they could be freed. Some lost their lives in the camps, but few renounced their faith". During this time, Witnesses also experienced mob violence in America and were temporarily banned in Canada and Australia because they were perceived as being against the war effort.

Under Rutherford, membership grew from about 21,000 in 1917 to about 115,000 at the time of his death in 1942.

Nathan Homer Knorr succeeded Rutherford as president of the Watch Tower Society. Known as an efficient administrator, Knorr founded the Watchtower Bible School of Gilead to train missionaries, as well as the Theocratic Ministry School to train members for preaching and teaching at the congregational level. Significant United States Supreme Court victories involving the rights of free speech and religion for Jehovah's Witnesses have had a great impact on legal interpretation of these rights for others. In 1943, the United States Supreme Court ruled in West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette that school children of Jehovah's Witnesses could not be compelled to salute the flag.

Knorr's vice-president Frederick William Franz became the leading theologian, and is believed to have been the principal translator of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. Also produced were a Greek-English New Testament interlinear (The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures) and a Bible dictionary (Aid to Bible Understanding). The offices of elder and ministerial servant (deacon) were restored to Witness congregations in 1972, with appointments being made from headquarters. Membership rose from 115,000 to over 2 million under Knorr's presidency.

During the 1960s and early 1970s, various references were made in Witnesses' literature and at assemblies, implying that Christ's thousand-year millennial reign might begin by 1975. The chronology pointing to 1975 was noted in the secular media at the time. From 1975 to 1980, there was a drop in membership following the failure of this prediction. In 1976, the leadership of Jehovah's Witnesses was reorganized, and the power of the presidency passed on to the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses of the Watch Tower Society after Knorr's death in 1977 have been Frederick William Franz, Milton George Henschel and Don A. Adams. However, since 1976, doctrinal and organizational decisions have been made by the Governing Body and they supervise the writing of Watchtower publications. Witnesses no longer teach that the generation of people alive in 1914 will survive until Armageddon, but are encouraged not to lose confidence in "the nearness of Jehovah's day of judgment"
In 1980, the Watchtower Society admitted its responsibility in building up hope regarding the year 1975.


Demographics
Jehovah's Witnesses have an active presence in most countries, though they do not form a large part of the population of any country. Brazil, Mexico, and the United States are the only countries where the number of active Witness publishers exceeds half a million. However, there has been a decline in growth rates, from over 8% per annum in the mid 1970s, to 5% per annum in the mid 1990s, to about 2% - 3% per annum since 1999. Growth rates and activity reports tend to show significant geographical variation.  The official published membership statistics only include those who have reported preaching activity. 'Inactive' members, who have either not been involved in preaching or have not submitted reports, are not included in the reported figures but may be reflected in the attendance at the Witnesses' annual Memorial, with over 17 million attending in 2007.


Recruitment
Jehovah's Witnesses mainly gain new members through favorable response to their preaching work. In particular a schedule of door-to-door canvassing is required where Witnesses distribute Watchtower literature and acquire donations. This is often considered a nuisance, to the extent that various localities have introduced rules restricting this: for example a requirement for a license “to solicit” before distributing literature and asking for donations. In many cases in the United States such rules have been deemed contrary to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and struck down.

Organizational structure
Jehovah's Witnesses are led by a Governing Body located at the Watchtower headquarters. The Watchtower Society was incorporated as Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society in 1884. Its directors served as the central Governing Body overseeing their preaching work. This initial Governing Body was composed of five men and two women. As of 1971 the Governing Body consisted of the Board of Directors of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, a body of seven men, and the agenda of the Governing Body was set by the President of the Watch Tower Society, who was also a member. The Governing Body was enlarged by Nathan H. Knorr to include other members of the Society in 1971, and its membership rose to eleven men. In that year, the chairmanship of the group began to rotate annually. 

The Governing Body, through the departments of its various legal organizations, directs the operation of the 112 branches throughout the world. Members volunteer to operate these facilities. Each branch appoints circuit overseers who travel among various congregations, spending a week with each. Within each local congregation, elders assigned by the branch organize the congregation's public ministry and schedule various speakers for congregational teaching. They also decide on qualified members of the congregation for the positions of elder or ministerial servant, requiring the approval of higher leadership.

Elders are prominent in congregational matters, particularly in religious instruction and spiritual guidance. Ministerial servants generally assist elders in a limited administrative capacity. Both roles are unpaid, but circuit and district overseers receive a small financial living allowance. All baptized Witnesses consider themselves to be ordained ministers, and are expected to be able to provide religious instruction to others. Males are encouraged to qualify for responsibilities in the congregation and to work towards becoming ministerial servants or elders. Within local congregations the roles of women are minimal: they cannot serve as elders or ministerial servants, though they carry out some of the preaching work, mostly helping others in the congregation to become more regular in preaching.

The legal instruments of Jehovah's Witnesses include corporations that represent the religion in legal matters. Most well known is the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. In 2000, three new non-profit US corporations were organized:
Christian Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, Inc. coordinates all service (i.e., preaching) activities, including door-to-door preaching, circuit and district conventions, etc.
Religious Order of Jehovah's Witnesses, Inc. coordinates the activities of those involved in full-time service, including pioneers, missionaries, and circuit and district overseers.
Kingdom Support Services, Inc. controls construction of new Kingdom Halls and other facilities and holds the titles to Society-owned vehicles.
Jehovah's Witness administrations in the other countries throughout the world vary.


Publications
The publishing arm of Jehovah's Witnesses, known as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania engages in extensive publication work. In addition to their two magazines— 'The Watchtower' and 'Awake!' — they also publish many brochures, tracts, books, Bible maps, and encyclopedias including the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.

The Watchtower has been published since 1879.This magazine is published twice a month and is now available in 167 languages. It is the Witnesses' main journal and its articles are considered authoritative. It features articles primarily dealing with Bible topics and interpretation. Organizational news and biographies of various members are also occasionally included. Beginning in 2008, only the first issue of each month will be distributed to the general public. The second issue of each month will not be offered to the public but will contain congregational study articles and other inter-organizational information.
Awake!, a general interest magazine, has a wider scope than the Watchtower, publishing articles on science, nature, and geography, usually with a religious slant. Earlier titles for this magazine were The Golden Age (1919–1937) and Consolation (1937–1946). It is now published monthly and is available in 78 languages.
New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures is a translation of the Bible by the New World Bible Translation Committee, last revised in 1984 in English. It extensively uses the name Jehovah, an English version of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton, also replacing the Greek word for "Lord" some 237 times in the New Testament. It is available in 69 Languages. The translators have opted to remain anonymous but others have identified them as being prominent leaders of the movement.
Jehovah's Witnesses print all publications at 8 branch offices located around the world. Publications are offered free of charge world-wide.

Beliefs and practices
Jehovah's Witnesses meet in buildings called Kingdom Halls. Jehovah's Witnesses consider the entire Biblical canon, excluding the Apocrypha, to be the inspired word of God. They do interpret some scriptures literally, but they believe that biblical writers and characters often employed symbolism, parable, figures of speech, and poeticism. Thus, they insist that they are not 'fundamentalists' who they feel are in error in taking a strictly literal view of the Bible.They hold that the Bible alone should be used for determining issues of doctrine. Interpretation of scripture and codification of doctrines is considered the responsibility of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses. Jehovah's Witnesses view God as the creator of everything and supreme being, the sovereign of the universe. They believe that God's name is Jehovah (an English form of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton YHWH, that incorporates the vowels of the term Adonai ("Lord")), and that its use is a requirement for true worship. Jesus is believed to be God's first creation, and thus is considered to be an independent entity from God who was used by Him to create everything else. Jesus, literally the only-begotten Son of God, is considered to be the archangel Michael and received his life from God. He is the only means by which to approach God in prayer, and is also the means of salvation for all worthy mankind. They believe that Jesus Christ is head of the Congregation, and all must obey him. His role as mediator of the "new covenant" is limited to those going to heaven to rule along with Christ,  whose number totals 144,000. The vast majority of Jehovah's Witnesses expect to live on a renewed paradise on Earth. They believe that Jesus did not die on a cross but on a "torture stake". The holy spirit is not a person but is God's active force. The soul is the person itself, not an immortal non-physical entity that exists inside the body. Thus, souls of deceased persons are considered dead, and death itself is a state of non-existence with no consciousness. Hades or Sheol is the designated common grave of all mankind. They do not believe in any Hell of fiery torment. The year 1914 marks the return of Christ, which is understood to have occurred invisibly in heaven. At that time Christ became Earth's king and the "last days" began. In 1918, those of the 144,000 who had died were resurrected as spirit creatures to heavenly life. Since then, any remaining members of the 144,000 who die are instantaneously resurrected to heavenly life. Armageddon is considered to be imminent. After false religion is destroyed, governments also face destruction. Any who are not deemed faithful by God will be destroyed with no hope of resurrection. The fate of some, such as small children or the mentally ill, remains to be decided by God. After Armageddon, an unknown number of people, both righteous and unrighteous, who had died (prior to Armageddon) will be resurrected, with the prospect of living forever in paradise.

 
The name "Jehovah" is one English version of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton.Their view of morality reflects the usual conservative Christian views, with some differences. Homosexuality and premarital sex are considered sins. Abortion is considered murder. Modesty is heavily encouraged in dress and grooming. Gambling is strictly forbidden. The family structure is patriarchal. The husband is considered the final authority on family decisions, but is encouraged to solicit his wife's thoughts and feelings, as well as those of his children. Marriages must be monogamous. Blood is not to be eaten, stored or transfused. Medical procedures involving certain blood fractions are left to conscience.

Practices associated with nationalism or other religions are avoided. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe only their religion represents true Christianity and expressly teach that no other religion is Christian. Weddings, anniversaries, and funerals are typically observed; however, common celebrations and religious or national holidays such as birthdays, Easter and Christmas are regarded as unchristian and are not observed. Witnesses are perhaps best known for the efforts to spread their beliefs throughout the world. They do this mainly by visiting people house to house, but also in a variety of other ways. They use Watchtower publications to explain their beliefs. Literature is published in many languages through a wide variety of books, magazines and other publications, with some publications being available in over 400 languages. Witnesses are encouraged to devote as much time as possible in preaching activities. College and university education is not encouraged because it makes it difficult to balance his or her spiritual responsibilities. They are told to ask themselves questions, such as,"How might being immersed in an atmosphere of intense competition and selfish materialism affect you?" A similar question cites a study stating that in some universities "Drugs and alcohol are used freely, and promiscuity is the rule" and asks "might living there thwart your efforts to remain morally clean?" But if they must attend a university, they are encouraged to "keep yourself spiritually strong." Young Witnesses are reminded that "some youths who have been obliged to attend university have even managed to be pioneers (full time Witness ministers) by choosing a schedule of courses that made that possible." 

Jehovah's Witnesses are politically neutral. They feel that their allegiance belongs to God's Kingdom, which is viewed as an actual government. Therefore they refrain from saluting the flag of any country or singing nationalistic songs believing that such an act would be tantamount to worshipping an idol. Members are expected to obey all laws, including the paying of taxes, of the country in which they reside, so long as these do not violate what they view as God's law. The political neutrality of Jehovah's Witnesses is also expressed by their refusal to participate in military service, even when such is of a compulsory nature, and by their detachment from secular politics. Aid work after large natural disasters is considered an important part of their work, though secondary to their preaching effort. Large sums of donated money are used in the affected areas to rebuild communities and provide aid. The focus of relief efforts is primarily on helping fellow members and rebuilding Kingdom Halls, but usually, assistance is provided to non-members in need near the area in which they are working.  Examples of relief work include that provided to Hutu and Tutsi victims during the Rwandan genocide, as well as to Congo refugees. Witnesses have also had an active share in the relief work of Hurricane Katrina in the United States of America. The preaching work is promoted to members as a form of humanitarian effort by purportedly giving people hope for the future based on God's Kingdom. Members are encouraged to participate in the preaching work and to donate to the Watchtower Society's "Worldwide Work" fund.

Their most important annual event is the commemoration of Jesus' death (referred to as "the Memorial") held after sundown on the date corresponding to Nisan 14 on the Hebrew calendar (usually in March or April). Onlookers do not partake of the emblems representing Christ's flesh and blood unless they believe they have the heavenly hope. Typically, in most congregations no one partakes since almost all Witnesses today believe their hope is to live on a paradise earth. Weekly meetings are held in buildings called Kingdom Halls and in private homes, featuring a variety of discourses. Elders and ministerial servants deliver the majority of these. Training in public speaking is provided for all members to aid them in their preaching activities. Larger conventions are also held periodically in special Assembly Halls or in rented conference facilities.


Congregational discipline
Jehovah's Witnesses employ various levels of congregational discipline administered by elders in the congregation. The determination of guilt or innocence is made by a panel of judges comprised of local congregation elders. A variety of discipline can be used, from a restriction of duties performed in the congregation to excommunication, known as disfellowshipping, and shunning by the congregation. Members who are disfellowshipped have an opportunity to regain membership.
Congregational discipline is administered by congregation elders thought to be in harmony with Bible principles and edicts. There are various forms of discipline that be used to counsel or attempt to correct individuals within the congregation:

Marking is employed when a member persists in conduct that is considered a clear violation of Scriptural principles, yet not of a sufficient seriousness to warrant disfellowshipping and shunning. If the conduct of the individual is considered a "spiritual danger" to the members of the congregation, a talk may be given regarding the conduct (without naming the individual), thus 'marking' the member in the minds of those who know of the conduct, based on their understanding of 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 13-15. Though such a person would not be shunned, social interaction outside of formal worship settings would be minimized.

Reproof involves sins which are more serious than those for which one would be "marked". Reproof is given before all who have knowledge of the transgression.

The most severe discipline is disfellowshipping. The factor determining whether an individual would be disfellowshipped or not is based on the Judicial Committee's assessment of whether the wrongdoer shows evidence of repentance by his actions. The Judicial Committee asks probing questions and reviews actions of the member being considered, ascertaining which scriptural law has been violated in consultation with guidelines provided by the Governing Body. There are over thirty different classifications for which a person can be disfellowshipped. Baptized members who oppose essential Scriptural doctrine, or organizational teachings may be disfellowshipped for apostasy after repeated admonitions. Once the decision to disfellowship has been made, a person has seven days to appeal. If no legitimate appeal is made, the disfellowshipping will be announced to the congregation by letting them know that the person "is no longer one of Jehovah's Witnesses". If a member does appeal the decision a special Judicial committee is formed of at least 3 different elders, typically from neighboring congregations. After a member has been disfellowshipped, all congregation members avoid all association with that person. Exceptions are made in business and immediate family household situations. If the disfellowshipped person is living in the same home with other baptized family members, religious matters are not discussed, with the exception of minors, for whose training parents are still responsible. Disfellowshipped family members outside the home are shunned. Disfellowshipped members can attend Kingdom Hall meetings, but are not allowed to take an active part in meetings or the ministry. Members can officially leave the religion by writing a letter stating that they no longer wish to be known as Jehovah's Witnesses, 'disassociating' from the congregation; Thereafter, they are treated in the same way as those who are disfellowshipped. In rare cases elders may also determine a member has disassociated himself by their actions. Both result in shunning. If a disassociated or disfellowshipped individual requests reinstatement to the congregation, a Judicial Committee, usually consisting of the elders who sat on the original committee if available, is formed to review the evidence. Disfellowshipped ones must demonstrate that they no longer practice the conduct for which they were expelled from the congregation and they show genuine remorse for the actions for which they were shunned. Once a decision is made to reinstate, a brief announcement is made to the congregation that the disfellowshipped member is once again one of Jehovah's Witnesses. Each year, the elders make an attempt to remind disfellowshipped ones of the steps they can take to qualify for reinstatement.

The current procedure that is followed when allegations of abuse are reported is based on a strict application of the principle at Deuteronomy 19:15: "No single witness should rise up against a man respecting any error or any sin, in the case of any sin that he may commit. At the mouth of two witnesses or at the mouth of three witnesses the matter should stand good" (New World Translation). This is not understood that there must be two witnesses to each event; the Bible only states "two or three" witnesses. If there were two incidents, and there were a different witness to each incident, or if there were a witness along with other evidence (DNA testing or other forensic evidence, or certain circumstantial evidence, such as pregnancy), then such a requirement would be met. If an allegation of child abuse is made, and the alleged perpetrator denies it, the local congregational elders will investigate to see if there can be any others who can substantiate the claim. If there are none, the elders do not disfellowship the accused individual and no request is made for police to investigate. The religion will act only on cases where there have been two witnesses to child sex abuse to protect their congregation. However, according to the Jehovah's Witness Office of Public Information: "Even if the elders cannot take congregational action, they are expected to report the allegation to the branch office of Jehovah's Witnesses in their country, if local privacy laws permit. In addition to making a report to the branch office, the elders may be required by law to report even uncorroborated or unsubstantiated allegations to the authorities. If so, we expect the elders to comply. Additionally, the victim may wish to report the matter to the authorities, and it is his or her absolute right to do so." In 1997 it was also stated that, "for the protection of our children, a man known to have been a child molester does not qualify for a responsible position in the congregation" (e.g. serving as elders, ministerial servants, or pioneers). A similar stand is taken if a woman is known to be a child molester. In general, members are not punished arbitrarily for taking matters regarding the child sex abuse to the police or authorities.

Matters such as these are not made public to the congregation to keep elder/member communications confidential, and to avoid unnecessary damage to individual dignity. This would be upheld even if the crime was committed years before, or prior to the person's becoming a Witness. The general policy is not premised as punishment to the offender, but seen rather, by the religion, as a means of protecting the congregation's members; Therefore, secular law enforcement may not always be contacted to perform an investigation when criminal allegations are raised. 


Jehovah's Witnesses and blood
Jehovah's Witnesses most often reject transfusions of whole allogeneic blood. The official teaching of Jehovah's Witnesses regards blood as sacred and rejects allogeneic and pre-operative autologous transfusions of whole blood, red cells, white cells, platelets or plasma. This is based on an understanding of the Biblical admonition to " abstain from ... blood," based on Acts 15:28, 29, and also on Leviticus 17:11,12, "For the life of the flesh is in the blood ... No soul of you shall eat blood," and of Genesis 9:3, 4, which they understand to be the first instance of "the Bible’s clear prohibition against taking blood into the body." Although accepted by a majority of Jehovah's Witnesses, evidence indicates a minority does not wholly endorse this doctrine.

Baptized Witnesses who violate the prohibition on blood are subject to organized communal shunning. However, it is a personal decision on how their "own blood will be handled in the course of a surgical procedure, medical test, or current therapy." This is qualified by their understanding that "collecting, storing, and transfusing of blood directly contradicts what is said in Leviticus and Deuteronomy," so their position is they do not "store for transfusion our blood that should be ‘poured out." Of course, in current medical practice, whole blood transfusions are very rare, and individual blood components are used instead. While Witnesses may not accept red cells, white cells, platelets or plasma, they may accept any fractions made from these components. However, if a fraction, "makes up a significant portion of that component" or "carries out the key function of a primary component" it may be objectionable to them but is permissible.

Jehovah's Witnesses have highlighted the dangers of blood transfusions. Bloodless surgery and medicine is a viable and life-saving option for these patients and those wary of the safety of the blood supply, and it is safe for a growing number of surgical and medical conditions, except for acute leukemia and traumatic injury. "Bloodless procedures have proven to be safer than blood transfusion because they help eliminate complications resulting from transfusions such as immunosuppression, infection, diseases from emerging pathogens for which our blood supply is not yet tested," said Dr. Ford. "The hospital stay is also shorter for our bloodless patients, a cost savings for the patient and the institution," she continues. Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia is one of the pioneering centers for bloodless medicine and surgery. The bloodless team at Pennsylvania Hospital has saved the lives of many Jehovah's Witness patients who otherwise would not have received care. "We see patients from all over the country who come to us for our expertise in bloodless medicine. The needs of the Jehovah's Witness community have helped us develop practices that can not only save their lives, but can also benefit the entire patient community," explained Dr. Ford. Witness representatives have stated that plasma volume expanders are often sufficient to take care of various medical emergency situations. However, Witnesses explain that their objections to blood transfusions are for religious reasons.

A growing number of hospitals are offering bloodless techniques in medicine and surgery. A number of medical professionals have credited Jehovah's Witnesses and their related organizations for their contribution to the dissemination of information regarding bloodless surgery techniques. Experts in the medical surgical profession have collaborated with Jehovah's Witnesses to produce information regarding the benefits of bloodless techniques and therapies.
Witness publications have acknowledged that abiding by this doctrine has led to premature deaths due to blood loss.
Ethical concerns in managing blood crisis situations in pediatric cases has sometimes led to transfusions being administered to children against family wishes. Some medical ethicists contend that "serious ethical violations are currently used to enforce the blood policy" among Jehovah's Witnesses, including the suppression of dissident views within the religion. Witness leaders have defended these policies as obedience to scripture and religious conscience.


Opposition to Jehovah's Witnesses
Throughout their history, their beliefs, doctrines, and practices have met with controversy. Political and religious animosity against them has at times led to the point of mob action and government oppression, including being among the groups targeted in the Holocaust.
They have also received widespread criticism from leaders of other faiths. Hostility from fundamentalist and evangelical Christians has been particularly virulent; members of such denominations, often characterize Jehovah's Witnesses as a cult. Most 'ordinary' Christians are unable to form any eucumenical sharing with Jehovah's Witnesses, as the Witnesses see themselves as the only Christians and brand all others as 'false'.


Controversies involving Jehovah's Witnesses
Witnesses teach that after the death of the last apostle, the Church gradually diverged, in a Great Apostasy (2 Thessalonians 2:6-12), from the original teachings of Jesus on several major points. Thus most of the doctrines of Jehovah's Witnesses differ from those of mainstream Christianity, and are considered heresy by most mainstream Christian scholars. Possibly the most controversial doctrinal differences relate to the nature of God and of Jesus, particularly the Jehovah's Witnesses' rejection of the Trinity. In contrast with trinitarian doctrine, they believe that Jesus was not God in a human body, but rather that he was created by God. The beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses about hell, the immortality of the soul, the return of Jesus to the earth, and salvation are also controversial. However, the Jehovah's Witnesses are not the only religious group to have held views like this.

Some scholars have criticized the New World Translation, the translation of the Bible published by Jehovah's Witnesses, stating that the group has changed the Bible to suit their doctrine and that the translation contains a number of errors and inaccuracies (a position the Society claims the opponents have not been able to prove). Interestingly, the Jehovah's Witnesses, while holding the Roman Catholic Church as false and in error, have based their version of the Bible on the catholic canon, that is,the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, with no apocrypha or other excluded scripture.

A number of books have been published that are critical of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society. Critics state that the Watchtower Society has made a number of unfulfilled predictions and doctrinal changes over the years, while claiming that it is the "one and only channel" used by God to continually dispense truth.

Raymond Franz, a former member of the Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses, has challenged the Witnesses' policies on blood transfusions, stating that their requirements are inconsistent and contradictory. However, to Witnesses blood as the fluid per se is not the real issue, it is what it represents. They say that "the important thing is that respect has been shown for the sanctity of blood, regard has been shown for the principle of the sacredness of life" represented by the blood. When the blood has been drained from an animal, the respect has been shown to God and then a person may eat the meat even though it may contain minute traces of blood.

Critics have also argued that various Witness policies and practices — including the treatment of members who dissociate themselves or who have been disfellowshipped by the congregation — limit the ability of members to exercise personal freedom. Witnesses teach that "freedom to make decisions [is] to be exercised within the boundaries of God’s laws and principles."  And that “only Jehovah [is] free to set the standard of what is good and bad.” However, the leadership promotes itself as the channel God uses to interpret the scriptures, and to instruct members about what is good and bad.

Some countries such as Uzbekistan, Belarus, and the city of Moscow have opposed the building of facilities (such as Kingdom Halls) and the holding of large conventions in their territory. Though such opposition is at times specifically directed at the religious group, at other times more mundane concerns are involved, such as traffic congestion and noise. In some legal cases, such as Congrégation des témoins de Jéhovah de St-Jérôme-Lafontaine v. Lafontaine (Village), disputes that have apparently been about appropriate land use have come out of religious bias, according to Jehovah's Witnesses' claims.


Links:
Watchtower
JW-Media Site of Public Information

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