We also want to provde thelinks to the recent talk given at the SNAP conference in Colorado it is in two parts and runs on Realplayer format.
WH Bowen talk on abuse
WH Bowen talk on abuse 2
The following is a series of articles that ran in Danish newspapers earlier in the month of June 2004
The Danish Jehovah-sect is ruled from billion dollar complex in Brooklyn
NEW YORK (Ekstra Bladet): 25 Columbia Heights , Brooklyn .
World Headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses. Behind the tinted windows of the ten floor tall office building sits the Governing Body, which according to believing Witnesses are in direct contact with Jehovah himself.
More than 6 million human beings - among them 15,000 Danes - blindly follow the ideology, down to the minute detail that is defined at this address. From here the Danish branch office is ruled with an iron hand, who's top leaders - as any other branch office in the world - are only marionettes for the Governing Body's "service department" in Brooklyn.
Ekstra Bladet has for the last few weeks revealed how Jehovah's Witnesses in Denmark regards reports of incest as "hallucinations", if the perpetrator doesn't admit guilt and there isn't at least two eyewitnesses to the abuse. This isn't something the Danish branch overseer Jorgen Larsen has invented.
The orders come from Brooklyn , from which Ekstra Bladet will report in the coming days. In the United States it is the same story. Just a thousand times larger. We have talked to victims of sexual abuse and former "elders". We have been to a meetings and visited the sects gigantic headquarter.
We met a closed society, which down to the minutest detail observes what is held to be the only truth. The truth that according to testimonial of thousands; leaves human tragedies in its wake.
By Brian Askvig
Slaves for Jehovah
Thousands of Witnesses work for free and earn billions for Jehovah
NEW YORK (Ekstra Bladet) Spread out over the valuable Brooklyn Heights area with a view of Manhattan's impressive skyline sits more than thirty buildings with the logo Watchtower on the facade. This is Bethel , the house of God.
Three thousand Witnesses work for free for Jehovah and contribute to the financial wealth of billions that their God has scraped together. The work can be compared to slave work. Particularly in the gigantic printing building, the "factory" on Adams Street , where young witnesses do very boring production line work in honor of Jehovah and his money vault.
The workers by the production line wave and seemingly swell with pride to be able to use their youth in a run down industrial building. Most of them work here one year at the time. Others stay at Bethel their whole life and never have another home but a room at one of the many Watchtower residential units in the area.
No one asks any questions . No one dares to doubt the ideology that is distributed from here.
The price is high. Even the minutest doubt can mean exclusion which for many are worse than death. Jehovah's Witnesses are indeed a society where oppression and exploitation of members by means of fear is the name of the game says former "elder" Charles Riley .
- "Jehovah's Witnesses are a restrictive, racist and hypocritical organization which abuse human rights to protect themselves and their money. This religious community is big business, nothing else," says the 42 year old Riley, which has dedicated himself to the fight against the religious money machine with the same zeal as the young volunteers on Adams Street works for it. Since 1927 the "factory" has spit out a billion printed publications to the whole world and even more billions of dollars into the Watchtower money chest.
Books for the Danish congregations are printed in Germany , but the words are the same. What the Witnesses read in Holbaek, Buenos Aires , New York or Saint Petersburg is exactly the same, something which the Watchtower mentions in their brochures that is distributed to visitors.
The rigid interpretation of the Bible is put in writing in the headquarters on Columbia Heights . Here the Governing Body rules, ten men between 55 and 99 years old which allegedly are in direct contact with Jehovah. That's why every word that comes from the headquarters is considered the Word of God.
And there are many words that have to be communicated. The printing facility in Adams Street is too small and will soon be moved to new facilities in Walkill, New York where the printing capacity are increased to one hundred and twenty "deluxe bibles" a minute. The old buildings will be turned into storage facilities. The existing storage building on Furman Street was recently sold. According to the media at a sum of two hundred plus million dollars, which is about 1,25 billion Danish kroner.
Do not tolerate Criticism
Ekstra Bladet rejected by the Watchtower after critical articles
NEW YORK (Ekstra Bladet): Extra
The newspaper's critical articles made the world headquarter in Brooklyn call off an interview with spokesman and "elder" David Semonian.
After first having been met with exuberant friendliness and gratitude he made a complete turnaround after having talked to the Danish branch office in Holbaek.
"We have discussed the matter and has decided to respectfully decline to cooperate in an interview," said David Semonian suddenly.
You have talked to the Danish branch office in Holbaek about this?
"Yes, it is common routine, that we make a call in order to know with whom we are dealing."
What's your comment regarding the many reports about sexual abuse among Jehovah's Witnesses?
"I won't want to get into this. As I said, we respectfully decline to participate."
"I appreciate your interest and your call, but I can only say we decline to participate, Goodbye," said David Semonian and hung up.
Ekstra Bladet then went to the Headquarters on Columbia Heights . Again we were met with kindness - until we presented ourselves. Journalists are described as the "agents of Satan". They ask questions and questions cause doubt.
In the Watchtower there is no room for doubt. If you doubt the Watchtower you doubt Jehovah himself.
By Brian Askvig
Betrayed her daughter for Jehovah
Jeannie Kraus remained a faithful witness even though her daughter was abused.
NEW YORK (Ekstra Bladet): 56 year old Jeannie Kraus often cries. She knows she betrayed her daughter, and she will never forgive herself. For years she lived in fear of bringing shame on Jehovah with a violent husband - and unknowingly gave her husband free access to her daughter Michele's bedroom.
Repeatedly he abused the girl, only when she reached 15 did she tell her mother. Still Kraus remained in the marriage when the "elders" convinced her it was an "accident".
"I don't understand how I could believe it, I don't understand that Michele wants to talk to me today. I feel guilty for having exposed her to this," says Jeannie Kraus, we met her at her son's house in Queens .
"I was brainwashed. The Watchtower controlled my mind and I didn't even think about going to the police. I was always afraid that Jehovah would be angry with me."
Confessed to abuse
According to Kraus her ex husband confessed to a judicial committee - consisting of among others the present spokesman for Jehovah's Witnesses David Semonian - that he had abused both Michele and Jeannie's minor sister for years.
He was "publicly reprimanded" but not disfellowshiped. Instead Jeannie Kraus was threatened with disfellowshipment if she continued to pursue the case. "We will not tolerate that you talk about this in the house of Jehovah" was the order from the "elders".
"Semonian pulled me aside and emphasized that no one must doubt Jehovah. And Jehovah had decided that my ex husband shouldn't be disfellowshiped," says Jeannie Kraus.
Destroyed for life
Still she was so entangled in the religion that she remained faithful to Jehovah. Only whe she met her present husband, which isn't a Witness, the faith abated. She has been out for five years.
Her daughter Michele left the Witnesses at 17. She is today 34 and has three children. Still she has problems sleeping. It is late night before she dares close her eyes.
"I always tried to stay awake. He always came in when I was sleeping. I still have that fear even though he is out of my life," says Michele, who goes to therapy to deal with her childhood.
"I only remember that he touched me, that's enough right now, I am afraid that the whole truth will destroy me even more," says Michele, who never found the strength to report her father to the police in time.
By Brian Askvig
Photo: claus lunde
Sorrow and bitterness. Jeannie Kraus (on the left) will never forgive herself that she didn't escape with her abused daughter Michele, who is still in therapy to deal with her childhood.
Jehovah's clammy hand
Bible studies - a mechanical repetition of Watchtower literature
NEW YORK (Ekstra Bladet): Jehovah places a heavy clammy hand on his disciples from their early childhood. Through intense indoctrination the Witnesses are programmed throughout life to love their God and despise everything else other than Watchtower "values".
This happens during the many perpetually repetitious of doctrine "bible study" meetings, says the former "elder" Charles Riley . He has lead many a bible study and today he admits that he was actively participating in brainwashing the congregation.
"The programming continues throughout your life. And if you don't look outside, outside the framework of the Watchtower world, you don't notice it," says Charles Riley .
Under the cover of being German tourists, Ekstra Bladet participates in the Bible study in the Kingdom Hall at 124 Columbia Heights . First we are met with distrust, but eventually we are welcomed with curiosity and a clingy accommodating attitude.
The Bible study soon reveals itself to be a mechanical repetition of the study book, which is authored in the "writing department" a little further up the street. A privileged "brother" reads a paragraph, whereupon the conductor asks questions . The questions are also formulated by the "writing department" and printed in the bottom of each page.
A forest of hands shoots up and young men deliver wireless microphones to the "brother" and "sister" that is called on to answer. The answer is in general a repetition of what has been read.
"Excellent, says the conductor after each comment. Particularly good comments are termed: "What a wonderful way to express it!"
There is absolutely no attempt at debate. No one strays from the path set down by the Watchtower. The seance is repeated again and again: Reading , questions , answer, all according to the rules formulated in the "writing department".
Jehovah is happiness
The Study is concluded with song and prayer. The Circuit overseer Robert Cauthen is speaking and by the irony of fate talking about children and youth. He has no idea that two Journalists, "agents of Satan" are present in the hall.
"What does Jehovah feel about the young? He loves them. He wants to touch them, take them on his lap, talk to them, listen to them, so we should do the same,"chants Cauthen and shows the congregation a folder which "Jehovah has produced through his organization".
It is about how children can be happy. This can be achieved by being baptized as Jehovah's Witnesses, says Cauthen. The hunt for money, success and career has never made anyone happy.
"We donýt have to repeat that mistake. No one will have a happy life without Jehovah," says Cauthen.
The Witnesses are clapping and many embrace each other. Next week it all starts all over again.
By Brian Askvig
Photo: claus lunde
Based on Fear
NEW YORK (Ekstra Bladet): The mortar that binds the Watchtower together is fear. Fear of offending Jehovah, fear of the "elders" for humiliation and in the end fear of expulsion. Ekstra Bladet has occasionally spoken to ex-witnesses and all of them have mentioned fear as the fundamental cause for their years of submission to the religious regime.
The absolute worst thing that can happen to a believing Witness is to be disfellowshipped. It means that they are regarded as spiritually dead. No one greets them, their relatives ignore them. Their whole existence is ripped apart.
This happens, according to former "elder" William H. Bowen to at least 60,000 Witnesses a year. Some for only minor divergences from the Watchtower way, for instance smoking a cigarette, says Bowen.
Also milder disciplinary punishment keeps the Witnesses in check and robs them of any critical sense. They can be denied "privileges" in the congregation like handling the microphone during meetings, or making comments during Watchtower "studies".
The removal of such "rights" is a sign that a Witness has brought shame upon Jehovah. It is a public humiliation, which robs the Witness in question of all prestige in the congregation.
"The WT set the standard so high that we feel eternal fear of Jehovah and guilt for not being good enough," says Mary Aquilar, which was expelled after a false accusation of adultery.
By Brian Askvig
Former "elder" about Jehovah's Witnesses: "Pedophile paradise"
William H. Bowen was disfellowshipped when he refused to protect a pedophile in the congregation.
NEW YORK (Ekstra Bladet): The horrible stories told by Danish members of Jehovah's Witnesses about serious sexual abuse in the closed sect doesn't evoke surprise in USA . Forty-six year old Bill Bowen was an "elder" for close to 20 years, has heard such stories thousands of times before.
"Of course it also happens in Denmark . Jehovah's Witnesses is a paradise for pedophiles. It is an organization that protects the pedophiles and leaves thousands of victims unprotected. Jehovah's Witnesses is in this way a safe haven for criminals," he says, and he knows very well he is provoking.
That's something the former "elder" in the Jehovah-congregation in Draffenville , Kentucky has done ceaselessly for three years, and subsequently was disfellowshipped from the sect because he refused to protect a pedophile in the congregation.
He provokes to force the Watchtower - the Witnesses legal corporation - to prove him wrong. The Watchtower has never done that, he says, and he continues to provoke.
"Jehovah's Witnesses abuse problem is like a septic tank. You can open the lid and smell the feces. You don't have to jump in to find out what the content is, says Bill Bowen, who in protest stepped down after several years as an "elder" when an abused girl was threatened not to report the abuse to the police.
Jehovah is without fault
He remained a Witness, but was disfellowshipped, when he went to the media. Today his parents and his friends in the sect don't talk to him. His parents severed their connections with him in a letter where they concluded that God would kill him, because of what he had done.
But William H. Bowen does not regret anything. After 43 years as a Witness he has just begun to live a full life, he says. The Watchtower has become to him a symbol of oppression and injustice, and he is now fighting them with the weapon they fear the most, the internet.
"I have received over 6000 contacts from Witnesses, who have experienced sex-abuse in their families. Many with examples of how the Watchtower did everything to hide the truth," says Bill Bowen, who has established the silentlambs organization to support the thousands that feel betrayed by the religion, that they gave their all to.
Why should a Christian organization hide such serious crimes?
"Because Jehovah's Witnesses see themselves as the only true and pure religion in the world. They claim to represent the highest moral standard. If they admit that something is wrong, it is Jehovah who has made a mistake, and Jehovah doesn't make mistakes," says Bowen.
Bowen denies that he is bitter about his personal loss, and because of that uses all opportunities to blacken the Watchtower. He never has attacked the foundation of the religion, he says. He only wants to protect the children which are abandoned because of the policy that child abusers can only be guilty if they confess or there has to be at least two witnesses to the crime.
"Abused witnesses are told that they should forget the whole thing and put it all in Jehovahýs hands. I have studied thirty years of Watchtower literature and letters with instructions to the "elders" through twenty five years. Not once did I find the simple words of encouraging victims to, "call the police", in connection with child abuse, says Bowen.
He particularly holds the Watchtower accountable for demanding that members report abuse to the "elders" instead of the police. "Only if the law demands it, will cases be reported to the police," says Bowen. In thirty-four states in USA reporting child abuse to the police is not compulsory.
"This policy let thousands of pedophiles escape punishment," says Bowen, who has little regard for the Watchtower assurance that Jehovah's Witnesses regards child abuse as a "detestable sin" and do everything to create justice.
"This is an absurd claim. And thousands of stories on the internet prove otherwise," says Bowen.
By Brian Askvig
Photo: claus lunde