Every human has a right to believe whatever they want in whatever way they wish as per Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). There are limits to such rights insofar as individuals cannot infringe on another’s rights when exerting those rights as per Article 29.2.
Many former members of Jehovah’s Witnesses argue that the religion denies them their human rights. These human rights violations are as follows:
Article 1 – Former members are not treated in a spirit of brotherhood. Former members are despised and shunned by remaining members.
Article 2 – If everyone is entitled to the rights and freedoms as set out in the UDHR without religious distinction, then it is incumbent upon religious organisations to consider the rights and freedoms of its religious members and former members. In other words, they must recognize and comply with the UDHR. Jehovah’s Witnesses think that because they are a religious organisation, they do not need to comply. This is false reasoning. See violation of Article 30 below.
Article 4 – Former members are held in a state of mental slavery – shunning of such persons will continue until such a time as former members return to being members of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Former members will enjoy a lifetime of shunning if they never return to the religion.
Article 5 – Shunning is a form of psychological torture. It is a cruel, inhumane and degrading form of treatment and punishment.
Article 7 – If all are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of the UDHR and against any incitement to such discrimination, then Jehovah’s Witnesses must desist from shunning former members and desist from writing articles in their publications requiring members to shun former members.
Article 8 – Considering Article 2 & Article 30 of the UDHR, nations need to recognize and insist that religious organisations comply with the UDHR. Religions cannot disregard the UDHR simply because they are a religion. Maybe Jehovah’s Witnesses would not find themselves in their current predicament in Russia if they complied fully with the UDHR.
Article 10 – Jehovah’s Witnesses have judicial committees and meetings that are held in order to discipline members who break their rules and regulations. It has been proven time and time again that these proceedings are not fair or impartial. They have secret policies and regulations that members are not privy to. Furthermore, they only inform members in “broad terms” of any proceedings brought against them. This does not allow a member to defend themselves properly.
Article 12 – Many former members have experienced harassment in varying forms and for various reasons by Jehovah’s Witness elders and other overly-zealous members.
Article 14 – Regardless of religious orientation, one has a right to marry whomever they wish with the free and full consent of the intending party. However, Jehovah’s Witnesses penalize members who do not marry Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Article 18 – Jehovah’s Witnesses violate the very article that they invoke to ensure their religious freedom. How? They deny members the right to change religion. If any member decides to change religion, they will disassociate them and require all remaining members to shun that former member.
Article 19 – Jehovah’s Witnesses do not allow freedom of thought. Any opinions or expressions that go against Jehovah’s Witnesses current teachings, beliefs and doctrines will be dealt with harshly. Members who do not comply will be labeled an apostate, disfellowshipped and shunned.
Article 20.2 – If no one is compelled to belong to an association, Jehovah’s Witnesses need to desist from shunning members who no longer want to associate with them in a religious context.
Article 21.1 – Jehovah’s Witnesses do not allow members to get involved in politics. If any member wishes to, the church will disassociate them and they will be shunned.
Article 23.1 – Jehovah’s Witnesses restrict access to certain vocations. For example, if a member chooses to join the army they will be disassociated and shunned.
Article 25.2 – Jehovah’s Witnesses will disfellowship any member who has a child out of wedlock. While that member remains shunned, it is likely that the child will also be shunned, or endure pain that other children are ever likely to experience.
Article 26.1 – Jehovah’s Witnesses do not deny their members some education. However, they will inhibit or restrict member’s congregational privileges if they pursue third level education. Although not a direct violation of an educational right, it does severely restrict members vocational pursuits.
Article 26.2 – The restriction of education is directly related to the deprivation of understanding, tolerance and friendship among those of a different persuasion. Education is one of the strongest factors associated with social capital in general and greater trust and higher tolerance in particular: the better educated individuals are, the more likely they are to have high levels of interpersonal trust and low levels of discriminatory attitudes and negative attitudes towards migrants (Hooghe et al. 2008; Stouffer 1955; Maykovich 1975; Quillian 1995; Scheepers, Gijsberts and Coenders 2002; Kunovich 2004; Semyonov, Rainmann and Tom-Tov 2004). Jehovah’s Witness members have a restricted worldview and are less understanding & tolerant of non-members and severely limit their friendships with outsiders.
Article 28 – Socially speaking, how can the rights and freedoms set out in the UDHR be fully realized if religions like Jehovah’s Witnesses restrict them?
Article 30 – Jehovah’s Witnesses flagrantly disregard this article of the UDHR by thinking they are exempt from adhering to it simply because they are a religion. They are not exempt. No one is exempt. As per Article 29.1, we must all do out part to exercise our rights and respect the rights of others.
Jehovah’s Witnesses violate 18 articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights either in whole or in part. It is most noteworthy to point out that most of these violations are directly related to their shunning policy. If Jehovah’s Witnesses ended their shunning policy today, the vast majority of their human rights violations would disappear.
Unfortunately, Jehovah’s Witness leaders believe that the bible mandates that they shun former members. They quote 1 Corinthians 5:13 where it says “Expel the wicked person from among you” (New International Version). Yet, Jehovah’s Witnesses interpretation of “wicked” is both broad and vague. It’s left to the interpretation of elders to determine whether a person is wicked. In the real-world sense, the evidence suggests that all who leave the religion, all who question the religion, and all who commit acts of perceived wrongdoing (including those taking certain prohibited vocations, or accepting blood to save their life) are “wicked”. Therefore, the Jehovah’s Witnesses use of shunning is both extreme and cruel as the shunning encompasses those who cannot be categorized as “wicked” when one considers the previously quoted scripture in context.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) Document bellow: