Remain in Control: 5 Tips in a Judicial Committee Meeting

Jehovah’s Witnesses employ a number of methods for social control and discipline of those who are dedicated, baptized members. If one finds themselves before a judicial committee meeting, it usually involves what they term ‘serious sins’.

List of Offenses termed 'Serious Sins' (Click to view)
Sexual Immorality (Porneia)
Adulterous Marriage:
Child Abuse
Gross Uncleanness, Uncleanness With Greediness
Momentary Touching of Intimate Body Parts or Caressing of Breasts
Immoral Conversations Over the Telephone or the Internet
Viewing Abhorrent Forms of Pornography
Misuse of Tobacco or Marijuana and Abuse of Medical, Illicit, or Addictive Drugs
Extreme Physical Uncleanness
Brazen Conduct
Unnecessary Association With Disfellowshipped or Disassociated Individuals
Dating Though Not Scripturally Free to Remarry
Stealing, Thievery
Deliberate, Malicious Lying; Bearing False Witness
Fraud, Slander
Obscene Speech
Greed, Gambling, Extortion
Refusal to Provide for Family
Fits of Anger
Violence, Domestic Violence
Celebrating False Religious Holidays
Participation in Interfaith Activities
Deliberately Spreading Teachings Contrary to Bible Truth as taught by Jehovah’s Witnesses
Causing Division, Promoting Sects
Employment Promoting False Religion
Leaving Jehovah’s Witnesses
Joining another religion
Accepting Blood
Taking a course that violates neutrality as taught by Jehovah’s Witnesses

As a Jehovah’s Witness, we tend to leave the control of our lives in the hands of our congregation elders. We have complete trust in their actions, behaviour and suggestions. We do this for a number of reasons. For example, in one study article from 2013, the writers (evidently elders) tell readers how we are to feel about elders,

We as God’s servants today also love our caring Christian elders and thank Jehovah in our personal prayers for providing them. They add to our joy by showing personal interest in us. We feel enriched by their shepherding visits. Moreover, we are grateful that they stand ready to come to our aid at moments when we feel overwhelmed by the pressures of this world. Yes, such attentive Christian elders truly are ‘fellow workers for our joy.’

The Watchtower January 15, 2013 (emphasis ours)

In the same magazine from 1992, it said elders “are being appointed by the anointed Governing Body to serve as … judges … throughout the Earth. The writer goes on to convince us that “the real judges of each [judicial committee] case are Jehovah and Christ Jesus” when the elders act in a judicial capacity (The Watchtower July 1, 1992). Is it any wonder then that we trust them? Jehovah appointed the Governing Body through holy spirit, the Governing Body appointed the elders through holy spirit, and the elders are representing Jehovah and Jesus.

Therefore when one steps into a judicial committee meeting, we may feel that we do not need to be in control, that we can trust the elders to do the right thing, because Jehovah and Jesus are guiding the whole process. But should we accept everything we read in a Jehovah’s Witness publication? Psalm 146:3 says, “DO NOT put your trust in nobles, nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs” (nwt 1984). This verse provides no exceptions. It doesn’t say, “except the governing body, circuit overseers, or elders”. It refers to us all. This is emphasized by the fact that verse 4 says, “His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; In that day his thoughts do perish” (nwt 1984). These men are not exempt from death just like any other individual on this good earth. On that basis, you trust no one, and you most definitely should not trust men who will put the Jehovah’s Witness organization ahead of your welfare.

Tips to Remain in Control

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.

Chuck Swindoll

Chuck Swindoll is quoted as saying that “life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.” I tend to agree. A Being called before a judicial committee meeting facing 3 elders whom you are trained to trust makes up a portion of that 10%. However, you have the opportunity to be 90% in control of that situation and you can only do that by putting trust, not in the elders, but in yourself. Here are some tips to keep the situation fully in your control.

1. Take Notes

In a judicial committee meeting, there are no less than three elders. That means, you are outnumbered 3:1. There may be even more elders. It all depends on your own personal situation, and if there is, you are further outnumbered. What you will find is that at least one of the elders is going to take notes. They may say, “we are taking notes because our memory isn’t very good and it helps us to remember things you’ve said”, or something similar.

If they can take notes. You can take notes too. Even if they may not say they are taking notes, you should still take notes. You are well within your rights to do so. Bring a small notebook and pen. You are going to make a record of everything:

  1. Note Time and Location. Prior to the judicial meeting, make note of the time and date, and write down the full address of where the judicial committee is held (i.e Kingdom Hall Way, Kingdom Road, Ballymacward, Ireland U78 FG76) . If it is held online (via zoom or some other teleconferencing application), write down the full URL of the link provided and password (if any).
    • When you are arrive, and it’s not an online event, make note of the cars, their registration numbers and where they are parked. Make note of the type of day (raining, sunny etc) and if there is anything particularly interesting taking place in the vicinity (ie. parade, funfair, groups of people etc).
    • Make note of the room used – if online, make note of the room you were in and if you know the elders’ homes, note where they were located. If in a kingdom hall, it could be the library, a second hall, the main hall, or some other room.
  2. Note questions asked and answers given. Take out your notebook and inform the elders that you are taking notes because you want to be sure of everything that you say. Tell them that you intend to write down all questions asked and all answers you intend to give.
    1. Write down the sins you are accused of. This is very important.
    2. Write down the full names of the elders in attendance.
    3. Write down the bible verses quoted. There are usually clues in these verses, especially if you are unsure of what you are being accused of.
    4. Do not be afraid to write down all the questions the elders ask you. You are well in your rights to do so. It may slow proceedings but try and write the questions as fully as possible but if not, a summarized version will be sufficient. Writing out their questions will also give you time to digest what is asked before answering.
    5. Make note of who asked the question.
    6. When you have answered the question, make sure to write down your response. A few key points should be sufficient because you can write out your answers more fully after the meeting.
  3. Do not let the elders stop you from taking notes. If they get frustrated or attempt to prevent you or stop you from taking notes, tell them that you understand this to be a two-way process: they are asking questions and taking notes, and so you too are answering questions and taking notes. You may ask if there is anything in Jehovah’s Witnesses’ publications that prevent you from taking notes. In procedures for judicial hearings provided to elders, and in which they are not authorized to reveal to you, it directs the chairman of the hearing to tell you “that audio or video recordings of the hearing are not permitted.” There is nothing forbidding you from taking notes. It ensures that you too have a measure of control.

2. Be Attentive

Remember that there are at least three elders listening closely to everything you say. They have an unfair advantage over you. With that in mind, it is important that you listen closely to what they ask you and what they may tell you. And you must pay close attention to what any witness they present before you and document what they claim.

  1. Pay close attention to the opening comments made by the chairman and any other elder. The chairman is directed to give opening statements. He may even read a couple of scriptures, including Proverbs 28:13 and James 5:14, 15. He may even invite you to make a personal statement.
  2. Pay close attention to all the questions being asked. Make sure you understand what is being asked. If you are not quite sure of the question being asked, after you have written it down, ask the elder who asked it to rephrase it. Make note of the fact that you asked for the question to be clarified. You can note this by putting a “(C) beside the first question.
  3. Pay attention to what witnesses say. Judicial committee meetings are only set up when the elders have already determined that you are guilty of a serious sin. If you are claiming innocence, they will present testimony from witnesses. Pay close attention to what they say. If no witnesses are forthcoming, or if the testimony is from online statements you may or may not have made, make a note of what online sources were used and make sure to keep all records of these sources after the meeting.

3. Remain Calm

You might think that this is an obvious one. However, being in front of a Jehovah’s Witnesses’ judicial committee meeting is much more intense that any other event you may have to endure. You may get upset, boisterous, anxious, defensive and even accusatory. So it is important to stay calm.

  1. Take deep breaths. Some questions or statements may anger you. Take your time to digest the question. Take a deep breath. This will help to calm you.
  2. Remember to take notes. This too, will give you time to relax.
  3. Use the three P’s. Remember your Kingdom Ministry School training, pitch, pace and power. Take control of your voice.
    1. Pace yourself: Answer all your questions slowly, deliberately and with conviction.
    2. Raise and lower the pitch: Raise your voice when you are making a case in earnest. Lower it when you need to have them listen carefully.
    3. Power: And when you are making really trying to get across your point, put some of that power in your voice behind it. It will also show you mean what you say.

Regrets, I’ve had a few but then again, too few to mention

Frank sinatra

4. Maintain Your Dignity

The purpose of Jehovah’s Witnesses judicial process is to determine if you have changed your viewpoint or disposition and a feeling of regret about whatever ‘gross sin’ you may be accused of. They are also very concerned about keeping the congregation clean which can be interpreted as, ‘if some in the congregation know about it, you are getting disfellowshipped’ irrespective of whether you have changed your view or showed sufficient regret (Shepherd the Flock of God, 2021).

If you are aware that others in the congregation know about whatever you are accused of, no amount of groveling will change the outcome. So keep your chin up. Maintain your dignity. You don’t have to show regret for something you have been doing, that you enjoy doing, as long as what you are doing inflicts no harm on others.

If you have ceased to believe what other Jehovah’s Witnesses believe, you should have no regrets for coming to that conclusion. Remember hundreds of thousands have come to that conclusion too. It is a human right to change one’s beliefs or to have no belief at all. Though Jehovah’s Witnesses may consider walking away from Jehovah’s Witnesses is the grossest of sins, even more gross than child abuse, that doesn’t mean you need to regret it.

If you have found wonderful love with another human being, let no man take that away from you. Each year, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ judicial process disfellowships tens of thousands for sex-related activities of consenting parties more than any other ‘gross sin’ (Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom,1993). Don’t feel regret because you found love, be it with someone of the opposite sex or the same sex. Finding love is a beautiful thing. What you do with another consenting adult behind closed doors is nobody’s business but yours.

5. Control Your Tongue

The Watchtower says that God approved of Rahab’s misleading words to help protect Israelite spies from their pursuers. The publication continued by saying that “[e]ven Jesus Christ did not give full details or direct answers when doing so could have brought unnecessary harm.” It went even further explaining, “[w]hile malicious lying is wrong in Jehovah’s eyes, a person is not obligated to divulge truthful information to people who are not entitled to it” (The Watchtower December 15 1993). No definition was provided as to who are or are not entitled to the truth. That means it is up to the faithful reader to make that distinction.

  1. Divulge only what you are comfortable with. Those who have first hand experience in judicial committee meetings will tell you how sadistic the line of questioning can get. These questions can be utterly invasive. Shockingly so. Do not answer questions you do not want to answer. You do not have to answer a question about how you may or may not have used your genitalia. But make sure to write down the question for your own personal records.
  2. Do not underestimate how humiliating this process is. The line of questioning can become deeply disturbing. Remember to maintain your dignity. Do not react defensively. Do not react offensively. If the question is one you are not comfortable answering, simply say, “I do not want to answer that question.” If they ask why, you repeat, “I do not want to answer that question.”
  3. You have the right to remain silent. Remember the United States’ Miranda rights, in part: You have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer questions. While these rights do not apply to a religious judicial process, you are not obligated to answer elders. If you do not want to talk, you can keep your mouth shut and there is nothing they can do about it. You are in control. Remember, this the second greatest source of control you have in a judicial committee meeting.
  4. You have the right to leave. It is unlawful to detain a person against their will. It’s known as unlawful detention. This is true, even if it is for only a few minutes. If you want to leave the judicial committee meeting at any point for whatever reason, you may do so. The elders have no legal right to detain you. If they do try to block the door, or do something else to restrict your exit, be sure to let them know that if they do not let you out, you will be contacting your lawyer and initiating criminal proceedings against them. Being able to leave at any point in the process is the greatest source of control you have. And remember, if you were taking notes, you’ll have noted where the elders were sitting at the outset and if they were set up to restrict your exit.

Concluding Remarks

Attending a judicial committee meeting is a choice. You do not have to attend. The very fact you attend is giving them some control. If you choose to attend, then these five tips may help you endure. As the writer of this article, I have been disfellowshipped twice. I only attended a judicial committee meeting once and it was truly and eye-opener for me. If I had these tips when I was that naive twenty-four year old boy going in before four individuals I thought were there to care for me, I’d have dealt with my situation a whole lot differently. I’m writing this to help you. And I know it will help.

You do not have to be a victim of a Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Judicial Committee Meeting. Take the control away from the elders and put it firmly in your hands. You have ONE life and it is YOUR life, not theirs. Own it and do not let them own you. We live in a comparatively free world and we need not be slaves to anyone.

Good health to you.

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