In Russia, the trial against Jehovah’s Witnesses continued this week into its fourth day, with the Ministry of Justice attempting to smear the Witnesses by calling former members of the organization to testify. These previous members were all associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses – and in some cases were once baptized in the faith – until they were “disfellowshipped,” or expelled from the congregation.

The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation has targeted Jehovah’s Witnesses, along with their legal holdings, properties and their right to freedom of worship, and is seeking to have the Administrative Center of Jehovah’s Witnesses and it’s nearly 200,000 members in Russia declared “extremist.” A ruling in favor of the Ministry of Justice would criminalize the actions of Witnesses simply meeting together to read the Bible or engaging in their house-to-house ministry.

Former members take the stand against the Witnesses

As expected, the prosecution heard testimony from former members who attempted to paint the Witnesses as anti-social. Russian News Agency TASS reports that one former Jehovah’s Witness, Natalia Koretskaya, from St. Petersburg, who was part of the organization from 1995 until 2009, told the judge that the organization's members live “under full and total control of the Administrative Center,” and that the heads of the organization “formally watch canonical compliance with the norms but in real fact the talk is about total control of an individual’s personal life… his intimate life, education and work.”

Koretskaya was disfellowshipped from her congregation in 2009 after she started a physical relationship with a man to whom she was not legally married to, TASS reports.

After being removed from the congregation, Natalia testified that she had “forgotten how to live” in the world because of the organization’s strict policy of neutrality.

Testimony was also heard from Pavel Zverev, who joined the organization at 16 years of age. Zverev complained that the organization deprived him of a chance to be successful in life because they prevented him for getting a higher education.

Nina Petrova, a former member who was associated with the Witnesses for three decades, testified that her “spiritual mentors” persuaded her not to have a family. “They convinced me that a family was not needed as the doomsday was close at hand. And when I realized that this was a delusion, it was late,” she said.

Witnesses Respond

Lawyers for the Witnesses spoke to the media, stating that the individuals called by the Ministry of Justice to testify were merely “repeating the arguments of so-called sectological literature,” and that some of them are even named in “public sources" as activists who seek to disparage Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their testimony can hardly be considered objective or representative of the organization's ideals. Jehovah's Witnesses do not discourage individuals to seek a marriage mate and children if they choose. Nor do they diminish the value of a good education in order to support themselves.

Disfellowshipping?

Jehovah’s Witnesses practice a form of discipline called disfellowshipping – following the early Christian congregation’s practice of removing an individual who commits a gross sin and remains unrepentant for their actions.

Disfellowshipped individuals are still welcome to attend all meetings with the Witnesses and can still take part in worship, but they cannot associate and cannot engage in the public ministry.

To others, the decision may seem harsh or punitive, but following the principle set out by the Apostle Paul from the first-century congregation in Corinth, anyone who is “called a brother who is sexually immoral or a greedy person or an idolater or a reviler or a drunkard or an extortioner...” should be “removed from among yourselves.” The benefits are that the congregation remains clean in God’s eyes, and the person removed may eventually have a change of heart – in which case they are welcomed back into the fold.

Simply put – There are standards that God expects people to live by. This concept is fundamental to any so-called Christian religion, but over the centuries it has become watered down as individuals look on their faith as a buffet-style choice of what laws and principles fit in with their own personal choices and lifestyles.

That is why, within the doors of any Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you will not find a smoker, an alcohol abuser, a homosexual, an unconfessed murderer or criminal, anyone who is sexually immoral, anyone who practices fornication or adultery, or anyone practicing any form of spiritism or the occult.

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