Australian psychologist brands Jehovah’s Witnesses “a cruel cult” as Watchtower ramps up its shunning campaign

The Society’s cruel insistence on shunning family members is bringing it increasing notoriety in the outside world

Watchtower is increasingly coming under fire “down under,” with the Director of Cult Counselling Australia branding Jehovah’s Witnesses a “cruel cult,” according to Fairfax Media.

Psychologist Raphael Aron, author of the book “Cults: Too Good To Be True,” has joined Australian senator Nick Xenophon in placing religious organizations such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Scientology firmly under the spotlight. For his part, Xenophon wants to see a national cult-busting agency set up to police such organizations.

Aron, who has lambasted the Watchtower’s practice of shunning as “draconian, cruel and callous” has expressed his dismay at its psychological effects on young ones. He gave the Australian newspaper The Age one such example, saying, “I am still waiting for a justification for someone to be able to rip away a five or six year old child from their extended family because Mum or Dad have decided to leave the Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

Senator Nick Xenophon (top) and Psychologist Aron Raphael (bottom) are placing the Watchtower organization under scrutiny

Watchtower is already facing almost relentless legal pressure in Australia on account of its poor track record in complying with working with children regulations. Indeed, only a few weeks ago a Witness man appeared in a Victoria court after admitting to child molestation on facebook. Only after being charged in the wake of his surprise confession to his now-adult victim did he stand down as an elder. A wide-ranging Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse has also been set up to investigate various organizations such as Jehovah’s Witnesses regarding their child protection policies.

It’s difficult to say what the end result of this intense political and judicial pressure will be. Senator Xenophon has already acknowledged that “at the moment groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Scientology are subsidised by the taxpayer.” It could conceivably be that the Watchtower in Australia ends up losing its charitable status entirely if things don’t go their way, which would be a serious financial blow for the organization. Certainly Watchtower’s case cannot be helped by more details of their cult-like practices and policies, such as shunning, coming under the glare of the media and political spotlight.

A policy of denial

One of the more shocking aspects of Watchtower’s approach to shunning is that, when faced with media questioning on the subject, Society representatives will routinely deny that there is any such practice. According to this latest article in The Age, the Sydney lawyer Vincent Toole (who represents the Watchtower) has dismissed the idea of shunning among Witnesses as a “myth.”

When questioned about shunning by a major UK newspaper in 2011, a Watchtower representative dismissed it as a “personal matter”

This follows the media storm in 2011 when, in the wake of the publication of shocking “mentally diseased” comments in a Watchtower study article, Society representative Rick Fenton responded to questions from Independent reporter Jerome Taylor by declaring shunning to be “a personal matter for each individual to decide for himself.” (a downloadable copy of the newspaper article is available on this link)

All of this is a world away from what is stated in the April 15th 2012 Watchtower where, after relating an experience (reproduced below) of a man who is shunned returning to the organization, the paragraph concludes: “Think of that if you are ever tempted to violate God’s command not to associate with your disfellowshipped relatives.” (underlining mine)

And so, what is clearly expressed as a command in the publications is shrugged off as being a “personal matter” by a Watchtower spokesman at London Bethel, and even as a “myth” by a lawyer representing the organization in Australia. It seems that, when trying to evade the media and political spotlight, lying and deception is an excusable strategy of theocratic warfare that Watchtower feels entitled to utilize – even though “a false tongue” is listed as one of the seven things Jehovah hates. – Proverbs 6:16-19

Repetition for emphasis

The truth is that shunning is not just conveyed as “Jehovah’s decree” and “God’s command” for Witnesses – it is repeatedly rammed home in the Society’s literature as a test of loyalty to the organization. This is remarkably evident in the latest June 15th Watchtower article, which has recycled the exact same shunning experience it used only 14 months earlier to drive its damaging message home.

It is remarkable to think that Watchtower’s writing department is so desperate to reinforce the organization’s cruel shunning policy that it must resort to re-using material already printed just over a year ago. This takes the principle of “Jehovah’s reminders” (Psalm 119:119), so often used to excuse the repetitive nature of Watchtower literature, to a whole new level!

The experience itself, whether true or not, merely confirms that the predominant motivation for a disfellowshipped one to return to the organization is the renewal of family contact rather than repentance. Such emotional blackmail hardly befits an organization that claims to be identified by the love that is shown between its followers. (John 13:35)

However distressing the Society’s propaganda warfare may be, it is at least comforting to note that Watchtower’s cult credentials are increasingly coming to the attention of outsiders, including the media. This latest article in The Age proves that, even though the Society may brazenly deny its shunning policy when pushed on the subject, politicians and journalists will not be fooled. The more the Society ramps up its hateful shunning rhetoric, the more it shows its true colors.






  • To read the newspaper article in The Age, please click here.
  • The read the The Border Mail’s article “Slamming the door on Jehovah,” click here.
  • To read the above article in Hungarian, please click here.

127 thoughts on “Australian psychologist brands Jehovah’s Witnesses “a cruel cult” as Watchtower ramps up its shunning campaign

  • March 23, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Good comment 70wksofyrs. You opened my eyes. One detail that is important. All we got away from the abuser escaped to WTS. And here we are abused in many ways. What is the worst life abused child is not destroyed just now, but also when he grows up. That he might not have happened if he was not in “God’s organization.” Families that accepted “truth” always lived in harmony, because no one would be disfellowshipped, etc. Believe in Jehovah God, but away from the WTS.

    • September 6, 2015 at 3:09 am

      First of all I am not a Jehovahs witness but my grandmother was. I could not have asked for a better influence in my life! Let me just make this simple, are people that bored that they have to make things up? Really? A Cult! ThatThat’s just stupid!!!

      • March 7, 2016 at 2:39 pm

        What do you call a religion that tells you what to wear, that tells you what to read and most importantly, shuns people for disagreeing with the religion?

        It’s an easy question to answer, but a hard question to think about.

  • March 23, 2013 at 10:02 am

    @Daniel7 ~ “When Israel was at its worst, burning children alive, did Jehovah stop using them?” I’m sorry but I have to clarify one thing that is burning me up!
    The nation of Israel was chosen by God and there was no dispute about that as He had DIRECT communication with Abraham and many others and it was absolute, patent and crystal clear who and what there purpose was in outworking of his plans and Bible chronology…There is no mention of The Watchtower Society or Governing Body or any intermediary between Jesus and Jehovah in the Bible, organizationally speaking or otherwise…His loyalty to them was functional and provided the basis for the coming messiah to provide the ransom sacrifice as all took place in fullfillment of prophecy. They were born into that race and culture and had no choice but to follow it’s extremely harsh and strenuous death dealing code of laws. These self serving, ragtag rebels of self appointed and dangerous, destructive “Men of lawlessness” in New York have absolutely no basis to make any such claims whatsoever. Can you provide a basis? Other than their own claims? But are very much accountable for the death and pain and destruction they have caused in the lives of people according to the very Bibles they have published! Jesus did say that what was “hidden would be revealed”…and “twofold justice” would be rendered to those who took it upon themselves…there is no analogy to Israel! For one basic thing, the Israelites never made numerous stabs in the dark and false prophecies and then went back to the same ones over again! Neither did the first century christians…it wasn’t necessary when they had Jehovah’s Spirit!

  • March 23, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    As a former Jehovah’s witness who decided to disassociate because I no longer believed they are God’s people. Understanding Jesus is Jehovah from the old testament.
    The resulting action of disassociating from ther Watchtower was being marked as “shunned”; Their official term being Disfellowshipped. I never sinned against God! Just believed it necessary to seek the genuineness of God on my own terms.
    Years later no witness communicates despite my attempts.

    So I would like to clarify shunning being a ‘myth’ is complete and
    utter lies spoken by false prophets at the Watchtower. It clearly
    is showing by it’s denials of such practice, such deceit, that they use mind control. JWs wont see this any of this information exposing their hypocrisy because they are not allowed to.

  • March 23, 2013 at 11:42 pm

    Dear Anonymous,
    You have well defined the problem. The GB have evidently ‘sat themselves on the seat of Moses’. There is hardly anything backing up their claim to be found anymore. Their shunning policy negates the most important quality that Christians should be noted for – love. Let us, however, not be responsible for the same sin; namely the lack of love – even for our ‘enemies’. Even when the North Tribe turned away from worshiping at Jerusalem, there were a precious few that continued not to ‘kiss Baal’, but to worship the true God. I still believe that there can be a Christian life possible within the congregations, even though the ‘tentacles’ of the WTS reach the most distant parts of the Earth. We have to let our light shine in the form of love. We need to direct our attention to the ‘sheep’ individually who are battered and bruised, not only by the WTS but also by a world alienated from God. If we see a ‘dfed’ person we should talk to him/her consolingly and see how long we can ‘get away with it’. To those who appear to us to be ‘lording it over us’, we should try to make allowances for their ignorance and show love to them to the extent possible (see,r:46,s:0,i:226). Just leave the results up to God. The important thing is that we live in harmony with our consciences that are based on love and not a written codex. We should try to undue the damage when it is in our power to do so. An uprising won’t change the GB, but our love could make life a little more bearable for our brother/sister.

  • March 24, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    Alden. Interestingly, judicial committees like to place themselves in the seat of Moses and use the Governing Body, who designed this self-serving system, as their authority. Biblically, only Jesus is the Greater Moses, yet humans here claim to be “speaking for Jesus” therefore it follows that they assume the authority. It’s not rocket science.

    It’s as you say, there is no need to have any extraordinary evidence to match the extraordinary claims. They act upon their own authority.

  • March 26, 2013 at 11:51 am

    All anyone has to do is go to the Moon Valley Congregation in Phoenix or the Monroe North Congregation in Monroe Michigan and do an objective and exhaustive investigation of the crimes and corruption, collusion with authorities that took place there as without being influenced by the suspects and see the classic modus oprandi of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society from top to bottom and accross the Internet…That will never happen in the worthless and inept, “For a Buck” Justice in the State of Arizona but there is modicum of hope outside of Monroe County in Michigan…It’s a wonderful opportunity on so many levels that may never present itself again!

  • March 26, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    Cedars, Has this survey been posted on the internet? I’d like to read it.

  • March 26, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    You are right!! I see you have even mentioned John, the Apostle!!
    If your education is Acts 4:13, I guess you cannot even count up to ten as people of your education could not count. Now, let me teach you how to count as my education is NOT Acts 4:13:
    1. (Matthew 28:1) . . .After the sabbath, when it was growing light on the first day of the week, Mary Mag′da•lene and the other Mary came to view the grave. HOW MANY WOMEN? Two I mean 2.

    2. (Mark 16:1) . . .So when the sabbath had passed, Mary Mag′da•lene, and Mary the mother of James, and Sa•lo′me bought spices in order to come and grease him. . .HOW MANY WOMEN? Three (3).

    3. (Luke 24:10) . . .They were the Mag′da•lene Mary, and Jo•an′na, and Mary the [mother] of James. Also, the rest of the women with them were telling the apostles these things. . . HOW MANY WOMEN? Three (3) + The rest = Many.

    4. (John 20:1) . . .On the first day of the week Mary Mag′da•lene came to the memorial tomb early, while there was still darkness, and she beheld the stone already taken away from the memorial tomb. HOW MANY WOMEN? ONLY ONE (1).

    Those are people whose education is Acts 4:13 like you!! They failed HARMONIZE both numbers of women and their stories. Read John 20 you will find a TOTALLY different story from the rest of Gospels!!
    Let me come to the TRUTH “Do not argue with the foolish, people will not tell the difference”!!

  • May 13, 2013 at 1:43 am

    The fact of the matter is, that there are now many thousands and dare I say millions of families all around the world who are suffering on both sides of the equation in some way because of Watchtower Society policies on disfellowshipping and yes shunning as a result. Even those who have left of going to the meetings are somewhat shunned by the majority in their congregation, family and friends.

    I myself was personally disfellowshiped because i had refused to accept that the “faithful and discreet slave” had been inspected and as a result found faithful and appointed over all of Christ’s belongings.

    Now if you look at the recent Watchtower article about the “faithful slave” it would appear that my disfellowshipping was a complete farce and based on a lie that the Watchtower Society has perpetrated on it’s members for many years until now, but still the lie of 1914 as the date of the Kingdom been set up as a physical entity still remains on the table. For how long who knows.

  • May 13, 2013 at 3:23 am

    It is not entirely true that all those who are disfellowshipped are unrepentent practicers of unrighteousness. A JW can be disfellowshipped for any action perceived as rebellion against the so-called appointed of God, i.e., G.B and elders. For example, I know a sister from the U.S. midwest who was disfellowshipped for speaking out against the then prejudicial policies that would have elders counsel and discourage brothers entering an interracial marriage. This innocent sat in the back and conducted an informal ministry on her own for ten years before being reinstated. It became clear to me that this was not “discipline” from Jehovah; this was barberism!

  • June 2, 2013 at 6:45 pm

    I hear you holy grail- I am in the same situation. Though very painful and lonely, I have learned to look and ponder over the positive things that I have gotten out of it. I was married off to a brother in Mexico at 18 (dated at 17). I became bilingual- a big plus in the working world. I am probably more caring and respectuful to my co-workers than most because of the way I was raised. I had a burning desire to rebel and go to college, so I did despit opposition. Had it not been for the WT saying a 4 yr degree and then a Masters Degree was putting worldly things first, I might not have done it.
    Yes, I still suffer. My 9, 14, and 20 yr old children are still brainwashed. They think that Jehovah will kill them as he is going to kill me if they decide they want to leave. I have custody for the summer and they said in a text- we will stay with you for the summer IF you allow us to go to service and meetings. My response was we will talk about it when you get here. I will NOT allow them to go. I am looking for ways to de-program them. All I need is for the older one to say “I want to live with mom” for the court to award me custody. I hope to accomplish this.

    Holy grail- you are not alone. Don’t let that feeling over take your life. Be strong and stand firm. You made the right choice, though very difficult. I have found a non-JW man who has taken me in and shown me true love (along with his family). I now know what unconditional love is. I no longer live in fear or guilt. I no longer have to watch my every move orwatch that of others. You too can experience that if you don’t let those feelings of hurt, guilt, and lonliness rule your life. Good luck. Email me if you ever need someone to talk to.

    • June 2, 2013 at 11:19 pm

      Dear Denney,
      I wouldn’t recommend forbidding your children to go to the KH. After all, it didn’t keep you from going to college! If you want to “deprogram” them, just keep on loving them unconditionally, even if they want to become JWs! Help them to think with their own head and not to take everything the WTS says for pure gospel but for much of what it is; their own peculiar theology. For example, the scriptures must be taken harmoniously; so how can you ‘honor your mother and father’ by not saying a word to them? Just continue to love them and enjoy your time together (if you get it), no chains, just love. The JWs are just another denomination attempting to be Christian, with moderate success. If you know a better way to express your love, then live it!

  • July 8, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    It really doesn’t make any difference what I or anyone says on this or any forum because in reality? In the end? Nothing will change! Especially here in the US and as long as the Society can and will be permitted to use Mentally Ill people as the scapegoats and whipping people for all faillings and everything that is wrong in the congregation and that they do wrong? They absolutely will!
    The American culture and society is not going to do much to help or make any provisions to protect them amy more than they ever have and they are virtually at the mercy (or lack thereof) of these brutal animals)
    In the meantime, Physical disabilities are recognized…”Depression” is sorta considered conveniently as a wrap up for all Mental Illness but other Serious Mental Illnesses are scapegoats and the whipping people in the congregation as stated. Symptoms are absolutely not tolerated and absolutely grounds for any Rights violations and crimes as well as judicial action and as well as having one’s “implied invitation revoked” (Witness babble for being banned from the meetings which has been standard policy and procedure for many years) has anyone ever seen a profoundly Mentally Ill person at a meeting of Jehovah’s Witnesses? They are carefully weeded out and discarded as so much trash rather than cared for and helped lovingly to get the help and treatment that they need as any other disability!

  • September 15, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    I feel bad for JWs. There so blind but its not their fault there just uneducated. They need to sit down and read a book or two other then what the mind altering organization tells them too. I escaped that crazy cult recently. If only my family would see the light. Oh well. I can honestly say since I’ve left I feel REBORN. I no longer look at the world as “a place of Satan”. The future is bright . to any jws that are skeptical of the organization. Please become aware and educate your mind. Research mind control tactics. Evolutionary theories. The nature of the universe etc. I no youll be confused at first and maybe even frightened that it’s “satan” taking u away. But please be open minded . think. Its not only your future at stake. But your mind and human-ness. Be an individual. Not a robot. Peace n love

    • September 16, 2013 at 8:03 am

      Jesus turned to the women and said: “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for me. On the contrary, weep for yourselves and for YOUR children; because, look! days are coming in which people will say, ‘Happy are the barren women, and the wombs that did not give birth and the breasts that did not nurse!’ Then they will start to say to the mountains, ‘Fall over us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us over!’ Luke 23:28-30

  • September 21, 2013 at 7:00 am

    When I look back I know I wasn’t a true christian but I was very very young, to be put through that is brutal the WTS gives you a death sentence no way can anyone stay perfect in any organization or religion ever! no such thing, so I lived and learn and moved on. You know whats funny Alcoholics Anonymous has more love for the brother hood than them and if you fall off the wagon you simply get back on and try again , I just can’t see a human being being thrown out and claim they have love! im sure you have some sick puppies that don’t belong and its complicated but for me life is life its full of ups and downs move on folks dont waste time life is short be happy and pray to God allmighty who knows what the future holds im not a scholar i did not go to college and honestly i dont have the time lol!! what also kicks me in the head is JW’s go out to service with a suitcase and tie and the women very conservative i hated it i never like field service i always thought there had to be better way but they all look like robots generation after generation I keep seeing them on corners with a tie and a suitcase lol and it reminds me of South park.
    anyway its not for me.

  • October 19, 2013 at 7:43 am

    I dissacociated my self a few years ago because I didn’t want to have my stamp of approval left on the’re organization.I don’t bother to contact my JW family,that way I don’t give them any way to shun me.I’m stronger than them,they have voiced doubts about the society in the past but are to trapped by family ties.I hope the Watchtower falls apart,so they could see the light.I probably will never see them alive again,they are fed with this fairy tale of a family member returning to the Watchtower.The reality is they will grow old and die without ever seeing Armageddon or me again.I believe karma will come full circle and set things right some how.There’s really nothing I can do.

  • January 28, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    My ex is a Jw, I am orthodox Christian, our relationship ended and I accept my share of the breakup, I did try… I can not help to think she is also encouraged by her fellow cult members that I slander her, gamble,drink and various satanic and worldly indulgences … Because that helps her end her marriage instead of fixing it… I am so glad my kids are smarter than the both of us… Heartbroken.

  • February 7, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    There have been various techniques employed through their history starting way back with Pastor Russell a free masonry and the founder of this mind control religion thus branding them a cruel cult. I have studied Psychology and there is no doubt in my mind of how deeply covert this religion makes there members be through time and repetition. I left them after 12yrs at age 24 and I have to say looking back how blinded all those I knew were. My son who my x wife tried to raise as a JW now has a masters in Psychology. The more his mom or the brothers told him not go to college the harder he worked to disprove them. No doubt one of the traits he received from Mom in stubbornness he used to his benefit. Now mind you his Grandma was a missionary and her brother in law a Former Branch overseer. So you could imagine the pressure he was under not to disobey not Gods word but the WTBS GB FDS words of so called inspired commands. He is the first of our family to hold a college degree let alone a Masters and beyond. You can imagine now that he is 31 and not involved with this mind control religion what kind of conversations we have just looking from the outside in now. He is extremely intuitive and compassionate toward people and has the biggest of hearts. But if you get up in his face as my Brother in law the elder did at of all places my fathers funeral then your in for it big time. Just the fact that he was questioned by him at such a sad time really goes to show how mind bent those who are Pro JW’S. Needless to say my son had that man looking depressed as he was sitting outside on my fathers front lawn looking down picking picking grass blades out of it after he got done talking to him. This Elder of some 45yrs old had no clue what hit him. In fact the next day he didn’t wake up until noon. The following day at the Funeral home where my Dad specifically wanted no service by his request previously in conversations with my Mom and his children there was a funeral talk given by guess who? Yes you guessed my brother in law. Well after he got done given the standard WTBS outlined funeral talk he added to that my Dad had been depressed due to health reasons and thus was the reason he was not active anymore. When I heard that I nearly had to control myself in fury but somehow composed myself out of respect for my mom. After he was done he asked if anyone else would like to speak. Well by the time he was saying that my son walked up to talk on behalf of my Dad. What is really disturbing is the fact that my brother who lived a half a mile from my parents and who is a Elder never visited my Dad for a number of years because he didn’t agree with the teachings of the WTBS even after my father lost a leg to diabetes. But in order to save face he shows up with his congregation clones at the funeral. At this point it just amazes me to what point these converts will go in order to push there own agenda. Now to me that is total mind control. Well when my son who is his grandfathers name sake got up to talk with his bible in hand you couldn’t hear a pin drop. I as a father I was never more proud of him in how he handled that room filled of JW’S on behalf of my Dad and really the type of man he was and how he thought about the Bible. He set the record straight and clearly stated that he by no means was depressed but full of life but only regretted he got caught up in such a religion. You see my son would have weekly conversations about anything to do about anything with my Dad on any subject. In the end all that was left for me was to go up after him and relate how great a man my Dad had become after leaving that religion behind and not a month prior to that apologizing to me about ever getting involved in it in the first place. After that I read from John 14:6 twice in order to drive home the point that Jesus is the “Truth” not a man made religion. And that my Father put his hope and belief in what the Bible had to say. Me and my son spoke the real truth about my Dad since he could no longer speak for himself. Since my father left that religion he spent the rest of his years trying to restore the relationships he should have had with his children in a loving way. My only hope is that he could have lived longer and enjoyed the next generation of non witness great grandchildren being born and having close relationships with them. People just don’t really realize how much family’s are destroyed by this religion and It’s deep reaching affects of altering proper reasoning when it comes to anything. I relate these facts because I have lived them and they are so far from the reality’s of life on every level. This is the devastating effects of mind control in it’s truest form. As I always say to my Children please break this chain of dependency on a false religion and live your life based on Gods word’s and principle’s only. So far they have done that and i’m happy to say they are way better for it. There is nothing better then a close loving family relationship based on unconditional love. 1 cor. 13:

  • August 1, 2014 at 6:46 pm

    God hates a divorcing though, remember? My mom finally, after 7 years of separation, divorced the JW man she naively married. She is now suffering from extreme guilt because “divorcing is a sin” unless adultery occurred. Well it probably did occur because the man she divorced is a sex addict. But the religion protects him and makes my mom feel like the guilty one.

  • September 28, 2016 at 11:59 am

    Isn’t it funny how both the disfellowshipped ‘brothers’ said pretty much the exact same thing in the exact same wording? I used to believe that the ‘examples’ referred to and talked about in the literature (used to illustrate a point) were ACTUAL REAL people. its only recently – and I left years ago… that I realised how fake and made up and so bloody similar they are!

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