How to Rescue
Your Loved One
from the

an online guide
to helping
Jehovah's Witnesses
escape from bondage

also available as a
paperback book

How to Rescue Your Loved One from the Watchtower 2010 edition
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"Rescue" from a Religion?
Don't Delay--Act Today!
Overall Strategy
Techniques that Work
Tools to Use
Step by Step
God's "Prophet"
A Changing "Channel"
Doctoring Medical Doctrines
Strange Ideas Taught in God's Name
"God's Visible Organization"
Providing an Alternative
Can This Marriage Be Saved?
When Children Are Involved
Warning: The Life You Save May Be Your Own
Afterwork: Gradual Rehabilitation
Appendix: Resources & Support Groups

How to Rescue Your Loved One from the Watchtower
Home | Preface | Introduction | "Rescue" from a Religion? | Don't Delay--Act Today! | Overall Strategy | Techniques that Work | Tools to Use | Step by Step | God's "Prophet" | A Changing "Channel" | Doctoring Medical Doctrines | Strange Ideas Taught in God's Name | "God's Visible Organization" | Providing an Alternative | Can This Marriage Be Saved? | When Children Are Involved | Warning: The Life You Save May Be Your Own | Afterwork: Gradual Rehabilitation | Appendix: Resources & Support Groups
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Chapter 14
When Children Are Involved

Seeing a child in the grip of a cult can be as painful as seeing the little one carried off by a kidnapper. If it is a neighbor’s child that your youngsters play with, the pain is real enough; but if it is your own children who are in the custody of an estranged mate, bent on raising them in a cult, it may seem almost unendurable.

Yet every Kingdom Hall is full of children. Many of these have one parent who is not a Jehovah’s Witness, and virtually all of them have at least one grandparent, uncle or aunt outside the sect. The non-Witness relatives of such children suffer much distress over their fate, and with good cause. Children raised as JWs have a difficult road to travel.

Infants can be heard crying and toddlers fussing during all the meetings. One reason for this is that the Watchtower makes no provision for such things as nursery, children’s church, or Sunday school—no youth-oriented programs at all for little ones to attend while parents participate in the regular meetings. Instead, the youngsters are required to sit and pay attention as speakers deliver lectures or conduct question-and-answer sessions using Watchtower study articles.

And if the children of Jehovah’s Witnesses have a hard time at Kingdom Hall, they have an even worse time at school, where they are required to refuse to salute the flag, or to stand for the national anthem, and to avoid participating in holiday-related activities such as coloring Thanksgiving turkeys or singing Christmas carols. In the early grades, where much attention is given to holidays and children’s birthdays, this can mean that a Witness child is excluded from the activities of the rest of the class at least once every week, and daily when it comes to saluting the flag.

And, of course, the plight of a JW youngster becomes a life-and-death matter when need arises for a blood transfusion and a Witness parent or parents refuse to allow it. (Although most hospitals nowadays have contingency plans to obtain a court order in such cases.)

No wonder, then, that disagreement over raising the children is a common factor in Witness-related divorces, with bitter fights ensuing over custody and visitation rights.

In addition to Watchtower articles giving pointers to both custodial and noncustodial parents as to how best to handle issues related to visitation rights, Brooklyn headquarters also makes available to its followers and their attorneys a collection of favorable court precedents, as well as a sixty-four-page booklet titled Preparing for Child Custody Cases. The latter helps them anticipate hostile questions they should expect under cross-examination and during psychological evaluation. Very clearly, the Watchtower Society is prepared to wage war for the children of its members.

What about the other side? What about parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, neighbors, and others who observe children in the custody of Jehovah’s Witnesses? And what about a Christian husband in a religiously mixed marriage who must contemplate raising the children together with his JW wife, or fighting her for custody?

As to neighbors and relatives outside the immediate family circle the answer is painful but simple. Courts generally rule that they have no say in the religious upbringing of other people’s children. As difficult as it may be, they must remain mere onlookers, at least as far as legal rights are concerned. Naturally there may be opportunities to make contact and to impart some religious information or assurances of affection, but these are not guaranteed. The only avenue that is always open is that of prayer to the heavenly Father of us all, remembering that Christ said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matt. 19:14 niv).

Parents of course are in a position to exercise legal as well as God-given rights in connection with their children. The Watchtower Society instructs its followers to do all in their power to raise the children as Witnesses. But in a religiously mixed marriage much will depend on the two individuals involved. What actually occurs will be a product of the interaction of their personalities and will reflect each one’s love, determination, wisdom and reasonableness. I have seen cases where a custody battle reached the court before the infant was weaned, and other cases where husband and wife managed to stay together, to stay in love, and to raise a family of four or more children to maturity. So no one can say that a certain course of events is inevitable.

If the children are the main concern, my observation is that family breakup does far more lasting harm to them than exposure to the Watchtower while growing up. Even in cases of simple secular divorce, where there is no religious issue involved, it has been well documented that the children suffer long-term emotional harm. This is especially so when they themselves are pulled this way and that by estranged parents, battling for their custody and their affections. Adding a religious issue to this only further complicates the situation from the child’s point of view. Studies have proven that children tend to blame themselves for the parental rift, and now they must contend with the thought of offending God as well.

When speaking of the effect of divorce on children, some have said that it “tears them apart.” The Bible tells of a custody battle in which that was nearly the case, quite literally:

Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. One of them said, “My lord, this woman and I live in the same house. I had a baby while she was there with me. The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.”

“During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”

The other woman said, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king.

The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’ ”

Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”

The woman whose son was alive was filled with compassion for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”

But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”

Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother” (1 Kings 3:16–27 niv).

Besides demonstrating the wisdom of King Solomon, this account also pointed out that a loving parent might be more willing to surrender a child to another, rather than see the child torn in two. Similarly, some Christian fathers have decided that it is better to let the children be exposed to the mother’s Jehovah’s Witness beliefs than to tear the little ones apart through a divorce and custody battle.

Whether the family stays together or not, in either case it can be painful for the non-Witness to see his or her children exposed to Watchtower teachings. Yet this is usually unavoidable. So the real question becomes: how should the Christian mate react? Should he tell the little ones that their mother is bad? that she is in a cult? that she is telling them lies about God? The mother may tell them such things about the non-Witness father. But then again, she may not. And if she does, what purpose would be served by responding in kind?

Ideally, for the sake of the children, the parents will be able to reach some sort of compromise. Perhaps they will decide, at least while the children are very young, to emphasize the points that they hold in common, rather than those where they diverge. Perhaps they can agree to disagree agreeably, letting the older children know that they hold differing opinions on some points, but that they still love each other. In cases where parents have taken this approach, it has worked well.

Actually, it is not the lack of agreement between parents that disturbs children, but rather the bitterness and hostility that all too often accompany it. Children are accustomed to lack of agreement and can live with it. They believe that ice cream is better for you, while their parents believe that spinach is. They believe that a messy room looks great, while their parents believe toys should be put away. And they may even grasp that mother believes a vacation in the mountains is best, while father believes in the beach. Disagreement does not harm children, but disagreeable behavior does.

Suppose, though, that the Witness mother tells the children that she is right, that the father is wrong, and even attempts to poison their minds against him? There is no easy answer, but responding with the same sort of attacks against her is not productive. In such circumstances the Christian parent should find some comfort in two facts: (1) Children are very perceptive and look at much more than just the words spoken to size up a situation; and (2) their long-range interests may dictate a different response than what seems immediately appropriate.

Besides what mother says about father, the children notice also how mother acts and how father acts. They can tell whether he loves them and their mother, and over a period of time, they will make their own value judgment on what mother says. Even though they may not verbalize it, the children will know which parent is the peacemaker, which one is firm but loving, which one truly has their interests at heart. Hopefully, both will. But if one does not, the children will discover that.

Another reason for hope, in the long term, is the success rate of Jehovah’s Witnesses with their children. The failure rate would be a more appropriate way of putting it. The experience of being raised at Kingdom Hall tends to convince young people not to remain Jehovah’s Witnesses when they reach the age of decision. As an elder for eight years in a local JW congregation I had to deal with case after case of teenagers breaking the rules. By the time they reached their teen years, most children in the congregation were living a double life—one personality among their friends at school and in the neighborhood, and a put-on Witness personality at Kingdom Hall in front of their parents. When they turned eighteen, or when they moved out of the home, they ceased involvement with the sect altogether.

It is not as though it were a life-or-death matter to safeguard children from exposure to Watchtower teachings during their formative years. Such exposure actually seems to immunize many youngsters against becoming Witnesses when they grow up. On the other hand, some youngsters who have been kept from a JW parent may develop an unhealthy curiosity about that one’s religion, leading them to try it out when they become of age.

According to the inspired counsel of 1 Corinthians 7:14 a Christian need not fear for children in a religiously mixed home, regardless of whether the unbelieving parent is a pagan Corinthian or a Jehovah’s Witness: “For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy” (niv).

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