JW Survey
JW Survey

The year 2016 has seen a tidal wave of news, scandals and controversial topics surrounding Jehovah’s Witnesses.

From horrific and seemingly endless child abuse cases to the senseless deaths of Phelicity SneesbyÉloïse Dupuis and others, the Watchtower organization has, from courtrooms to conventions, boldly defied all moral sense , doubling down on it’s blood, shunning, and child indoctrination policies.

The 2016 JW Convention series held in North America was so blatantly outrageous, it was dubbed the “Worst Convention Ever” in social media.

Meanwhile, as Jehovah’s Witnesses in South Korea, Eritrea and elsewhere languish in prison, and as faithful adherents lay at the doorstep of death for lack of blood transfusions, The Governing Body sold billions of dollars worth of prime Brooklyn real estate, packed their bags and moved to upstate New York, assembling a palatial series of buildings which serve as the new JW world headquarters.

Governing Body Member Sam Herd describes the Utopia-like conditions at Warwick

During the 2016 Jehovah’s Witness Annual meeting, Governing Body member Samuel Herd extolled the virtues of their historic departure from Brooklyn, regaling the audience with his description of the idyllic garden-like paradise that permanent members of Watchtower’s staff now enjoy.

Just prior to presenting a manicured documentary explaining the transition from New York City to the fertile and peaceful landscapes of Orange County New York, Mr. Herd waved his pinky ring at the audience and declared:

We’re all happy, and it’s good for us who live there. It’s such a beautiful place indeed. And so restful. All of us feel like we have been able to add years to our lives. (Audience laughter) We can hear birds sing, crickets at night! Frogs! Every now and then there’s and eagle that flies over…and we’re just enjoying ourselves as much as we possibly can.”

The Survey Results

As the Governing Body members and their “helpers” enjoy the benefits of wealth amassed, not by God, but through mandated congregation donations and real estate gains, JW Survey continues to monitor and report on these developments and sponsor its yearly survey, which is open to both Witnesses and former Witnesses. While we normally compile and publish the survey results earlier in the year, the workload for 2016 has resulted in the addition  of several editors, researchers, and volunteers who are tasked with keeping up with the latest developments in the Witness religion. Even with the addition of these dedicated individuals, we continue to fight the clock, with so many tasks at hand.

I would like to thank the more than 6,000 individuals who took part in the 2015 Survey, including the 1,022 active Jehovah’s Witnesses who participated. Of that number, 144 are currently serving as elders. This may seem very unusual to a loyal Jehovah’s Witness, but based upon the communication we receive at JW Survey from Elders, Ministerial Servants, even Circuit Overseers, we are confident that these figures are accurate.

Just as Jehovah’s Witnesses rely heavily upon their JW.org web site to disseminate information and doctrine, the very same web resources have become a fountain of truth and enlightenment to Witnesses who would otherwise be denied answers to questions which their organization cannot, or will not answer. Therefore, we will focus our attention on just a few of the survey results which were provided by active JWs, many being persons currently in the process of “waking up.”

Question #35 – Pedophiles in the Congregation

Nearly 25% of active Jehovah’s Witnesses polled were aware that there were pedophiles or child molesters in their home congregation, with an additional 13% reporting that they knew of such criminals in other congregations.


I was actually surprised that the numbers were this high, as many cases of child abuse or pedophilia are kept well-concealed from congregation members by elders, who presumably take every possible precaution against casting a negative light upon the organization.

As the graph shows, almost 55% of those who responded were unaware of pedophilia within their own congregation, which is one reason Jehovah’s Witnesses have been caught off guard by the rapid proliferation of media reports covering this topic.

Because of the hushed-up nature of how abusers have been handled in the past, thousands of additional victims have been molested as a direct result of the “two-witness” rule still in use by the  JW organization. In other words, when pedophiles are neither reported to the police by congregation elders, nor sanctioned by the congregation because a 2nd witness to the crime could not be located, the perpetrator remains free to molest as many minors as he can, until he (or she) is finally caught.

In my personal experience, among the many sexual abusers who roamed free in the congregations where I grew up, there was one “anointed” elder who molested more than a half-dozen children well into his eighties, but was protected by his fellow elders when the abuse was finally brought to their attention. He died just shy of his 100th birthday, having destroyed the  lives of many of my childhood friends, with dark secrets which he took with him to his grave. The police were never notified.

On the subject of child abuse, please view the following documentary by Lloyd Evans, titled: Jehovah’s Witnesses and Child Abuse – Is there a Problem?

Editors note: on question #82 of our survey, over 72% of Jehovah’s Witnesses polled replied that they do agree Jehovah’s Witnesses have a problem with child abuse. Hence the overall awareness of child abuse within the organization is higher than the number of persons who know of specific instances of abuse within the congregation, which supports the comments above.

Question #41 Witnesses and Blood Transfusions

Question number 41 is likely one of the most emotionally charged questions in our survey, as it is a life-or-death question involving the most precious resource of all – our children.


As a reminder, the survey results we are discussing involve answers provided by active Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves. Over 62% reported that they would not allow their child to die if he or she needed a blood transfusion,with an additional 24% answering the question with “I’m not sure.”

NOTE: only 13% responded that they would remain loyal to Watchtower policy and allow their child to die if the only option were a whole blood transfusion. This topic is front and center right now, particularly in Canada, where two women within one month lost their lives as a result of refusal of blood following complications from childbirth. The outrage has been felt both outside the victims inner Jehovah’s Witness circle and inside their immediate family.

JW Survey has learned that one of the key decision makers and writers for the Witness organization admitted that many holding prominent positions within the faith wish to change this outrageous and deadly policy, but the legal fallout and ramifications from the resultant lawsuits could well jeopardize the financial resources of the organization, likely even worse than the millions which have already been paid to settle child abuse mishandling lawsuits. Some years ago a coalition of a large number of JW elders and concerned Witnesses formed the Associated Jehovah’s Witnesses for Reform on Blood, now called Advocates for Jehovah’s Witness Reform on Blood. The mere existence of such an organization is evidence (as our Survey demonstrates) that Witnesses do not want to lose their life over a policy which has no real basis in scripture or practical medicine.

In recent years, the organization has attempted to placate Witnesses by the allowance of fractional blood components as an “alternative” treatment, even creating a global Hospital Liaison Committee (HLC) with the goal of presenting such alternative treatments to doctors. But, as the survey shows, the writing is on the wall for the ban on blood.

Question #49 -Elders  – Appointed by Holy Spirit?

Another fascinating question we asked our readers was whether they believe that elders are appointed by holy spirit. We found that among Jehovah’s Witnesses, only 9% believed that God’s spirit had anything to do with their appointment. This is a striking blow to the very cornerstone of every Witness congregation, as it reveals a no-confidence vote in the very structure which is designed to maintain law and order among adherents.


77% of the Witnesses polled said elders were NOT appointed by holy spirit, with 14% unsure. There appear to be many factors linked to this feeling among Witnesses. Among them are scandals involving elders, lack of education, poor decision making ability, and the added knowledge that Jehovah’s Witness elders are no longer appointed by the New York headquarters, but are in fact solely appointed by a local traveling overseer, known as a “circuit overseer.”

As reported by JW Survey, in April of 2014, the Organization published a letter to elders announcing this decision, which effectively removed liability for the appointment of elders from the central hierarchy and placed it in the hands of circuit overseers, a decision which has effectively watered down the significance of the  appointment of elders. As with many other Governing Body directives handed down from New York, the true reason behind such changes often involves a completely different story than the one presented to rank and file congregation members.

Question #58 – Armageddon

This JW Survey poll question yields results which I personally expected to see. Most persons who claim to be God-fearing or Christian would never imagine a God of love executing 99.9% of humanity in a global war, commonly referred to as “Armageddon.”


Even a non-religious person would see no correlation between the image of a loving Jesus and the divine execution of all humanity – the two concepts are mutually exclusive. Yet while Jehovah’s Witnesses on paper teach that God will destroy ALL those who oppose his “kingdom”, they refuse to believe that God would actually commit this act of Genocide against his own creation. This of course is why most mainstream Christian faiths fail to accept the global flood of Noah’s day as a real event; instead they view it as an allegorical teaching. Our Survey results indicate that less than 9% of active Jehovah’s Witnesses polled are comfortable with the mass extermination of humanity at God’s “appointed time.” And destruction at Armageddon is not the only thing Witnesses are not comfortable with…

Question #62 – Shunning

When active Jehovah’s Witnesses were asked whether they approve of the practice of shunning or not, the overwhelming  majority checked the box which said “I object to all forms of shunning.”


This core belief of the JW Organization serves as a solid fear-tactic which keeps the majority of Witnesses in line with the directives of the organization. Should a person cross the line and accept a blood transfusion, have an intimate relationship with someone they love, or God forbid they disagree with the organization’s policies or beliefs, they will lose ALL contact with their friends, and even the closest of relatives.

A mother will no longer speak with her daughter, or even answer her calls or text messages. A brother will turn his back on his brother, and anyone failing to tow the line and enforce this shunning policy will themselves be found seated at the back of the Kingdom Hall, in the proverbial disfellowshipped row. It is a humiliation that no God would ever sanction, and the Survey results bear this out.

The Summary, and Question #88 – Do you believe it or not?

While we have insufficient space to reproduce and discuss every question of our 2015 Survey, when examining the results of questions posed to active Jehovah’s Witnesses, one thing is very clear: Witnesses are living a double life, with their personal deep-set feelings at odds with the official policies of the Watchtower organization.


From the chart above, 90% of Witnesses questioned made it clear that they are not in agreement with the complete collection of Witness beliefs. This is a stunning revelation, as anyone who has been baptized will tell you.

Every JW who is baptized reviews dozens of questions with 3 different congregation elders, and only after these elders are satisfied that the candidate is ready for baptism are they allowed to proceed.

That being the case, how do we get to the point where Witnesses secretly decline to agree with Watchtower policy? Could it be that many were baptized at an age where they were far too young to truly understand what they were getting involved with? Could it be that by the time their critical thinking skills began to develop, it was already too late?

Once baptism takes place – there is no reversing course. You are not  permitted any “take-backs” in the JW organization. if you wish to leave, you will pay the ultimate price, suffering the loss of family and friends, regardless of whether you are disfellowshipped, disassociated, or have merely “faded” from the organization. The end result is the same.

For years, despite its loathing of the United Nations organization, the Governing Body has quoted Article 18 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights, in defense of its own global religious freedoms. Article 18 states:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”

While Watchtower’s extensive worldwide legal team cries foul when their international rights are violated, they shamefully pin their own members to the wall and refuse to allow them to “change his religion or belief” without the most severe of penalties.  You cannot claim to support human rights while failing to mention the extraordinary suffering inflicted on Jehovah’s Witnesses who part ways with the organization.

Fortunately governments and courts worldwide are beginning to see the connection between Watchtower’s practice of indoctrination of the young, and the legal term known as “undue influence.”

JW Survey and the Importance of Your Vote

This brings us to the nature and importance of this survey, as it provides the necessary anonymity for any Witness to tell the world how they really feel about the religion in which they are trapped, without fear of reprisal. JW Survey will continue its mission to educate, report and provide surveys which permit an individual to speak his or her mind.

For decades, the power and control wielded by the  JW Governing Body stood largely unopposed by members and former members. The best they could do at the time was to write a book, or spread their concerns one person at a time. But times have changed. Science, law, social media and a general increase in public awareness of critical issues has sounded the death-knell for oppressive and controlling organizations, but it takes time for this knowledge to translate into law. Freedom of religious belief is a tangled mess, and hidden within this freedom is the ability to carry out wholesale indoctrination of minors under the blanket of constitutional protection.

The same is true of freedom of the press, which is supported by Jehovah’s Witnesses, Scientologists, Mormons and other groups – but when members of such groups speak out in opposition to these religions, they are disfellowshipped, disconnected, considered as suppressive and apostate, then subsequently shunned by order of the church.

Please take the time to thoughtfully consider these important issues, share this article, and encourage anyone associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses to take our Surveys. The results are in, and they give a voice to the silent majority.


John Redwood










Mark O'Donnell

Mark O'Donnell is a former Jehovah's Witness turned whistleblower after discovering the disturbing child abuse epidemic within the religion. His story, along with the revelation of a secret database of child molesters were featured in the March 2019 online issue of the Atlantic Magazine: https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2019/03/the-secret-jehovahs-witness-database-of-child-molesters/584311/ O'Donnell continues to investigate allegations of child abuse within the Witness organization, and works with law enforcement, attorneys, and survivors of abuse, writing about his findings on jwsurvey.org and other outlets.

140 thoughts on “JW Survey Results for 2015 and Reflections on 2016

  • December 23, 2016 at 7:53 am

    Don’tknowforsure. Early congregations were autonomous,
    overseers, servants etc were appointed from within each
    congregation, not by some governing body.

    That’s also the way it was in Russell’s time. But Rutherford
    wasn’t having any of that, especially when his methods
    were criticised, He established central and total control.

    Forget governing body, he was the godfather,no one dared
    cross him.

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