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Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses

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Title: Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Religious discrimination, Persecution of Christians, Persecution of Bahá'ís, History of Jehovah's Witnesses, Jehovah's Witnesses
Collection: Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses, Religious Discrimination, Religious Persecution
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses

Throughout Jehovah's Witnesses' history, their beliefs, doctrines, and practices have engendered controversy and opposition from local governments, communities, and religious groups.

Many Christian denominations consider the interpretations and doctrines of Jehovah's Witnesses to be heretical. Some religious leaders have accused Jehovah's Witnesses of being a cult. According to law professor Archibald Cox, in the United States, Jehovah's Witnesses were "the principal victims of religious persecution … they began to attract attention and provoke repression in the 1930s, when their proselytizing and numbers rapidly increased."[1]

Political and religious animosity against Jehovah's Witnesses has at times led to mob action and government oppression in various countries, including Cuba, the United States, Canada, Singapore, and Nazi Germany. The religion's doctrine of political neutrality has led to imprisonment of members who refused conscription (for example in Britain during World War II and afterwards during the period of compulsory national service).

During the World Wars, Jehovah's Witnesses were targeted in the United States, Canada, and many other countries for their refusal to serve in the military or help with war efforts. In Canada, Jehovah's Witnesses were interned in camps[2] along with political dissidents and people of Japanese and Chinese descent. Activities of Jehovah's Witnesses have previously been banned in the Soviet Union and in Spain, partly due to their refusal to perform military service. Their religious activities are currently banned or restricted in some countries, for example in Singapore, China, Vietnam, and many Islamic states.

According to the journal, Social Compass, "Viewed globally, this persecution has been so persistent and of such an intensity that it would not be inaccurate to regard Jehovah's witnesses as the most persecuted religion of the twentieth century".[3] The claim is disputed, as deaths resulting from persecution of Christians of other denominations during the twentieth century are estimated to number 26 million.[4]


  • Countries 1
    • Benin 1.1
    • Bulgaria 1.2
    • Cuba 1.3
    • Canada 1.4
    • Eritrea 1.5
    • France 1.6
      • French dependencies 1.6.1
    • Georgia 1.7
    • Germany 1.8
    • India 1.9
    • Malawi 1.10
    • Singapore 1.11
    • Soviet Union 1.12
    • Russian Federation 1.13
    • United States 1.14
  • Notes 2
  • References 3
    • Bibliography 3.1
  • Additional reading 4



During the first presidency of Mathieu Kérékou, activities of Jehovah's Witnesses were banned and members were forced to undergo "demystification training."[5]


In Bulgaria, Jehovah's Witnesses have been targets of violence by right wing nationalist groups such as the Bulgarian National Movement. On April 17, 2011, a group of about sixty hooded men carrying BMPO flags besieged a Kingdom Hall in Burgas, during the annual memorial of Christ's death. Attackers threw stones, damaged furniture, and injured at least five of the people gathered inside.[6][7] The incident was recorded by a local television station.[8] Jehovah's Witnesses in Bulgaria have been fined for proselytizing without proper government permits, and some municipalities have legislation prohibiting or restricting their rights to preach.[9]


Under Fidel Castro's communist regime, Jehovah's Witnesses were considered "social deviants", along with homosexuals, vagrants, and other groups, and were sent to forced labor concentration camps to be "reeducated".[10] On July 1, 1974 the group was offically banned and their "churches" closed. Following the ban members who refused military service were imprisoned for sentences of three years and it was reported that members were also imprisoned because of their children's refusal to salute the flag.[11]


During both world wars, Jehovah's Witnesses were persecuted for abhorrence of patriotic exercises and conscientious objection to military service.[12]

In 1984, Canada released a number of previously classified documents which revealed that in the 1940s, "able bodied young Jehovah's Witnesses" were sent to "camps", and "entire families who practiced the religion were imprisoned."[2] The 1984 report stated, "Recently declassified wartime documents suggest [World War II] was also a time of officially sanctioned religious bigotry, political intolerance and the suppression of ideas. The federal government described Jehovah's Witnesses as subversive and offensive 'religious zealots' … in secret reports given to special parliamentarian committees in 1942." It concluded that, "probably no other organization is so offensive in its methods, working as it does under the guise of Christianity. The documents prepared by the justice department were presented to a special House of Commons committee by the government of [13]


In Eritrea, the government stripped Jehovah's Witnesses of their civil and political rights in 1994 after their refusal to engage in voting and military service.[14][15][16] Members of all ages have been arrested for participating in religious meetings.[17][18] Paulos Eyassu, Negede Teklemariam, and Isaac Mogos were arrested without charges, and were not allowed a trial.[19][20] Some have been imprisoned, without charges, for over twenty years. International rights groups are aware of the situation of Jehovah's Witnesses in Eritrea[21] and have repeatedly called for Eritrean authorities to end the persecution.[22]


Prior to World War II, the French government banned the Association of Jehovah's Witnesses in France, and ordered that the French offices of the Watch Tower Society be vacated.[Note 1] After the war, Jehovah's Witnesses in France renewed their operations. In December 1952, France's Minister of the Interior banned The Watchtower magazine, citing its position on military service.[24] The ban was lifted on November 26, 1974.[25][26]

In the 1990s and 2000s, the French government included Jehovah's Witnesses on its list of "cults", and governmental ministers made derogatory public statements about Jehovah's Witnesses.[Note 2] Despite its century of activity in the country, France's Ministry of Finance opposed official recognition of the religion; it was not until June 23, 2000 that France's highest administrative court, the Council of State, ruled that Jehovah's Witnesses qualify as a religion under French law.[28] France's Ministry of the Interior sought to collect 60% of donations made to the religion's entities; Witnesses called the taxation "confiscatory" and appealed to the European Court of Human Rights.[Note 3][Note 4] On June 30, 2011, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that France’s actions violated the religious freedom of Jehovah’s Witnesses by demanding 58 million euros in taxes.[31]

Jehovah's Witnesses in France have reported hundreds of criminal attacks against their adherents and places of worship.[Note 5]

French dependencies

During the ban of the The Watchtower in France, publication of the magazine continued in various French territories. In French Polynesia, the magazine was covertly published under the name, La Sentinelle, though it was later learned that The Watchtower had not been banned locally.[32] In Réunion, the magazine was published under the name, Bulletin intérieur.[33]


In 1996, one year after [37]

In cases when the instigators were formally charged, prosecution was impeded by a lack of cooperation by government and law enforcement.[Note 6] In 2004,

  • Persecution and Resistance of Jehovah's Witnesses During the Nazi Regime Edited by Hans Hesse ISBN 3-86108-750-2
  • Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity, ISBN 0-689-10728-5

Additional reading

  • Anonymous (1980). "France". 1980 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses. Brooklyn, NY: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. 
  • Garbe, Detlef (2008). Between Resistance and Martyrdom: Jehovah's Witnesses in the Third Reich. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.  
  • Hall, Kermit L. (1992). The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press. 
  • Peters, Shawn Francis (2000). Judging Jehovah's Witnesses: Religious Persecution and the Dawn of the Rights Revolution. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. 


  1. ^ Cox, Archibald (1987). The Court and the Constitution. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co. p. 189.  
  2. ^ a b Yaffee, Barbara (9 September 1984). "Witnesses Seek Apology for Wartime Persecution". The Globe in Mail. p. 4. 
  3. ^ Jubber, Ken (1977). "The Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Southern Africa". Social Compass, 24 (1): 121,.  
  4. ^ "More martyrs now than then". 
  5. ^ Lamb, David. The Africans. Page 109.
  6. ^ "Свидетели на Йехова — официален уебсайт:". JW.ORG. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  7. ^ Jehovah's Witnesses persecution 17-04-2011 commemoration in Bulgaria. YouTube. 18 April 2011. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  8. ^ "Brawl between Bulgarian Nationalists, Jehovah Witnesses Injures 5".  
  9. ^ "Bulgaria". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  10. ^ Philip Brenner, Marguerite Rose Jiménez, John M. Kirk, William M LeoGrande. A contemporary Cuba reader. 
  11. ^ Calzon, Frank (December 1, 1976). "Report: Jehovah's Witnesses in Cuba" (PDF). Worldview Magazine (12 ed.) (Carnegie Council) 19. Retrieved 9 August 2015. 
  12. ^ Marsh, James H. (1988).  
  13. ^ "Secret Files Reveal Bigotry, Suppression".  
  14. ^ "Eritrea: Torture fears for 28 Jehovah's Witnesses arrested, including 90-year-old man". Amnesty International UK. 19 February 2004. Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  15. ^ Fisher, Jonah (17 September 2004). "Religious persecution in Eritrea". BBC News. Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  16. ^ Plaut, Martin (28 June 2007). "Christians protest over Eritrea". BBC News. Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  17. ^ "Imprisoned for Their Faith". 
  18. ^ "Eritrea - No Progress on Key Human Rights Concerns". Amnesty International Submission to the UN Universal Periodic Review. Amnesty International. January–February 2014. Retrieved 28 December 2014. 
  19. ^ "Twenty Years of Imprisonment in Eritrea—Will It Ever End?". 24 September 2014. 
  20. ^ Hendricks III, Robert J. (July–August 2010). "Aliens for Their Faith". Liberty magazine. North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  21. ^ "Twenty Years of Unjust Imprisonment in Eritrea—Will It Ever End?". JW.ORG. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  22. ^ "Eritrea". USCIRF Annual Report 2014 (PDF). United States Commission on International Religious Freedom. 2014. pp. 54–57. Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  23. ^ Anonymous (1980), pp. 87–89
  24. ^ Anonymous (1980), p. 128
  25. ^ 1976 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses
  26. ^ "Announcements", Our Kingdom Ministry, February 1975, page 3
  27. ^ "France: International Religious Freedom Report 2006", U.S. Department of State, As Retrieved 2009-08-19
  28. ^ "Highest administrative court in France rules that Jehovah's Witnesses are a religion", News release June 23, 2000, Authorized Site of the Office of Public Information of Jehovah's Witnesses, As Retrieved 2009-08-19
  29. ^ a b "France: International Religious Freedom Report 2008", U.S. Department of State, As Retrieved 2009-08-19
  30. ^ "French High Court confirms 60-percent confiscatory tax measure on religious donations", News release October 6, 2004, Authorized Site of the Office of Public Information of Jehovah's Witnesses, As Retrieved 2009-08-19
  31. ^
  32. ^ 2005 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses. pp. 88–89. 
  33. ^ 2007 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, page 255
  34. ^ That is, 'the year after 1995'. See Parliament of Georgia website, As Retrieved 2009-08-26, "THE CONSTITUTION OF GEORGIA Adopted on 24 August 1995"
  35. ^ "Jehovah's Witnesses in Georgia: Chronology of Acts of Violence and Intimidation", Authorized Site of the Office of Public Information of Jehovah's Witnesses, As Retrieved 2009-08-26
  36. ^ "Georgia Country Reports on Human Rights Practices", U. S. State Department, February 23, 2000, As Retrieved 2009-08-26
  37. ^, As Retrieved 2009-08-26
  38. ^ "GEORGIA: INTIMIDATION SABOTAGES TRIAL OF VIOLENT PRIEST" by Felix Corley, Keston News Service, February 7, 2002, Keston Institute, Oxford, UK, as cited by, As Retrieved 2009-08-26
  39. ^ "GEORGIA: Will violent attackers of religious minorities be punished?" by Felix Corley, F18News, Forum 18 News Service, published 16 August 2004, As Retrieved 2009-08-26
  40. ^, As Retrieved 2009-08-26
  41. ^ T. L. v. Ministry of Internal Affairs, V SA 1969/95, Poland: High Administrative Court, 17 September 1996, As Retrieved 2009-08-26
  42. ^ "CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF JUDGMENTS AND PUBLISHED DECISIONS", EUROPEAN COURT OF HUMAN RIGHTS,As Retrieved 2009-08-26, page 203 of 285, May 3, 2007, Listing "7148 3.5.2007 Membres de la Congrégation des témoins de Jéhovah de Gldani et autres c. Géorgie/Members of the Gldani Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses and Others v. Georgia, no/no. 71156/01 (Sect. 2), CEDH/ECHR 2007-V"
  43. ^ As Retrieved 2009-08-26, pages 13–14 (of 53)
  44. ^ "European Court rules against Georgia's campaign of terror", Authorized Site of the Office of Public Information of Jehovah's Witnesses, As Retrieved 2009-08-26
  45. ^ "Firm in Faith Despite Opposition", The Watchtower, June 15, 1967, pages 366–367
  46. ^ "Germany", 1974 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, pages 116–117
  47. ^ Penton, M.J. (1997). Apocalypse Delayed. University of Toronto Press. pp. 147–149.  
  48. ^ Garbe (2008), pp. 512–524
  49. ^ "Foreign Activities Under Fascist-Nazi Persecution", The Watchtower, August 1, 1955, page 462
  50. ^ "Germany", 1974 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, page 138
  51. ^ Garbe (2008), p. 484
  52. ^ [1].
  53. ^ Garbe (2008), pp. 286–291
  54. ^ "Jehovah's Witnesses Granted Legal Status", Deutsche Welle, March 25, 2005,,,1530197,00.html As Retrieved 2009-08-26, As Retrieved 2009-08-26
  55. ^ "Germany Federal Administrative Court Upholds Witnesses' Full Exercise of Faith", Authorized Site of the Office of Public Information of Jehovah's Witnesses, As Retrieved 2009-08-26
  56. ^ "यहोवा के साक्षियों की वेब साइट:". JW.ORG. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  57. ^ "July-December, 2010 International Religious Freedom Report". U.S. Department of State - Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. September 13, 2011. Retrieved 26 December 2014. 
  58. ^ Jess, Kevin (February 16, 2011). "Hindu mob attacks Christian women, police back mob". Digital Journal. Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  59. ^ "Violence against Jehovah’s Witnesses in India escalates as police assist mob attacks", Authorized Site of the Office of Public Information of Jehovah's Witnesses, [2]
  60. ^ "USCIRF Annual Report 2013 - Tier 2: India". refworld. UNHCR The UN Refugee Agency. 30 April 2013. Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  61. ^ Jubber, Ken (1977). "The Persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses in Southern Africa". Social Compass 24 (1): 121–134.  
  62. ^ Tengatenga, James (2006). Church, State, and Society in Malawi: An Analysis of Anglican Ecclesiology. Kachere Series. p. 113.  
  63. ^ Carver, Richard (1990). Where Silence Rules: The Suppression of Dissent in Malawi. Human Rights Watch. pp. 64–66.  
  64. ^ Howard-Hassmann, Rhoda E. (1986). Human Rights in Commonwealth Africa. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 110.  
  65. ^ "Parliamentary Debates". Kenya National Assembly Official Record (Hansard). 19 April 1995. p. 499. Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  66. ^ "Malawi Human Rights Practices, 1993". U.S. Department Of State. January 31, 1994. Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  67. ^ "Malawi A new future for human rights" (PDF). Amnesty International. February 1994. Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  68. ^ a b c "Singapore". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  69. ^ "Singapore", International Religious Freedom Report 2004, U. S. Department of State, As Retrieved 2010-03-11
  70. ^ "Singapore". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  71. ^ a b "Singapore: Fighting faith of stoic witnesses to repression". Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  72. ^ "Singapore Police Swoop On Jehovah's Witnesses". Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  73. ^ "Fighting faith of stoic witnesses to repression". Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  74. ^ "Jehovah's Witnesses Jailed in Singapore for Meeting". Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  75. ^ "Singapore:Jehovah Witnesses charged in Singapore". Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  76. ^ a b "International Religious Freedom Report 2002: Singapore". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  77. ^ "Singapore". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  78. ^ a b "Singapore". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  79. ^
  80. ^ "Singapore". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  81. ^ Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Sword and the Shield, New York: Basic Books, 1999, ISBN 0-465-00310-9, p.503.
  82. ^ a b Pavel Polian. "Against Their Will: The History and Geography of Forced Migrations in the USSR", Central European University Press, 2004. ISBN 978-963-9241-68-8. p.169-171
  83. ^ Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Sword and the Shield, New York: Basic Books, 1999, ISBN 0-465-00310-9, p.505.
  84. ^ "Recalling Operation North", by Vitali Kamyshev, "Русская мысль", Париж, N 4363, 26 April 2001 (Russian)
  85. ^ Валерий Пасат ."Трудные страницы истории Молдовы (1940–1950)". Москва: Изд. Terra, 1994 (Russian)
  86. ^ Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Sword and the Shield, New York: Basic Books, 1999, ISBN 0-465-00310-9, p.506.
  87. ^ "Christan Believers Were Persecuted by All Tolatitarian Regimes" Prava Lyudini ("Rights of a Person"), the newspaper of a Ukrainian Kharkiv, December 2001 (Russian)
  88. ^
  89. ^ "RUSSIA Russia, attacks on Jehovah's Witnesses and Pentecostals increase under anti-extremism law - Asia News". Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  90. ^ "ECHR looks into Russia’s treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses". RAPSI. Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  91. ^ cf. Peters (2000), p. 11
  92. ^ Hall (1992), p. 394
  93. ^ a b Hall (1992), p. 395
  94. ^ Irons, Peter. A People's History of the Supreme Courtp. 341. New York: Viking Penguin, 1999.
  95. ^ Peters (2000), p. 10
  96. ^ Peters (2000), p. 8


  1. ^ "THE ORGANIZATION IS BANNED In mid-October 1939, about six weeks after the beginning of the war, the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses was banned in France."[23]
  2. ^ "[The French] Government has a stated policy of monitoring potentially 'dangerous' cult activity through the Inter-ministerial Monitoring Mission against Sectarian Abuses (MIVILUDES). … In January 2005, MIVILUDES published a guide for public servants instructing them how to spot and combat 'dangerous' sects. … The Jehovah's Witnesses were mentioned"[27]
  3. ^ "Jehovah's Witnesses awaited a ruling by the ECHR on the admissibility of a case contesting the government's assessment of their donations at a 60 percent tax rate. The government had imposed the high rate relative to other religious groups after ruling the group to be a harmful cult. If the assessed tax, which totaled more than 57 million euros (approximately $77.5 million) as of year's end, were to be paid, it would consume all of the group's buildings and assets in the country."[29]
  4. ^ "France's highest court of appeal, the Cour de cassation, has handed down its decision in a case between the Association Les Témoins de Jéhovah, a not-for-profit religious association used by Jehovah's Witnesses in France, and the national tax department, the Direction des services fiscaux. Following a tax inspection lasting 18 months, the tax department established that Association Les Témoins de Jéhovah, whose sole revenue consists of religious donations by its adherents, was run in a completely benevolent fashion, and that its activities were not commercial or for profit. Nevertheless, the tax department levied a 60-percent tax on the religious donations made over a period of four years, between 1993 and 1996. … This is the first time in their 100-year existence in France that Jehovah's Witnesses have been taxed in this manner. … Furthermore, this tax has not been imposed on any other religious organization in France. The Association Les Témoins de Jéhovah has decided to institute proceedings against this confiscatory taxation before the European Court of Human Rights."[30]
  5. ^ "According to representatives for the Jehovah's Witnesses community, there were 65 acts of vandalism against the group in the country through December including Molotov cocktails aimed at Jehovah's Witnesses' property. … According to the leaders of the Jehovah's Witnesses community in the country, there were 98 acts against individuals for 2006 and 115 acts in 2007."[29]
  6. ^ "[A lawyer for Jehovah's Witnesses] does not believe judge Chkheidze did enough. "He should have done more to protect the security of participants. Five policemen were present but left the courtroom before the hearing started. We don't know why. Maybe they were instructed to do so." In a statement issued after the trial, the Jehovah's Witnesses reported that about three hundred of Mkalavishvili's supporters, mostly men, armed with metal and wooden crosses, tried to invade the courtroom before the hearing began. "Many entered and occupied areas reserved for attorneys as they rang their religious bell and waved large anti-Jehovah's Witness banners. As the victims' attorneys made their way through the mob to Judge Ioseb Chkheidze's chambers, they overheard security police being ordered away from the scene. The courtroom was left with no security." Attorneys explained to Chkheidze that under these circumstances it was impossible to proceed with the trial as it was too dangerous for the victims or their attorneys to attend."[38]
  7. ^ "On 12 May 1995 during the "status interview" conducted by the officer of the Ministry of Internal Affairs' Office the applicant declared additionally that, among others, she could not return to the country, because since 1989 she had been the Jehovah Witness sic and she feared that she could be arrested for that reason."[41]
  8. ^ "A Berlin court ruled on Thursday that Jehovah's Witnesses are entitled to the same privileges enjoyed by Germany's major Catholic and Protestant churches, ending a 15-year legal fight about the group's status."[54]


The American Civil Liberties Union reported that by the end of 1940, "more than 1,500 Witnesses in the United States had been victimized in 335 separate attacks."[95] Such attacks included beatings, being tarred and feathered, hanged, shot, maimed, and even castrated, as well as other acts of violence.[96] As reports of these attacks against Jehovah's Witnesses continued, "several justices changed their minds, and in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943), the Court declared that the state could not impinge on the First Amendment by compelling the observance of rituals."[93]

The persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses for their refusal to salute the flag became known as the "Flag-Salute Cases".[92] Their refusal to salute the flag became considered as a test of the liberties for which the flag stands, namely the freedom to worship according to the dictates of one's own conscience. It was found that the United States, by making the flag salute compulsory in Minersville School District v. Gobitis (1940), was impinging upon the individual's right to worship as one chooses — a violation of the First Amendment Free Exercise Clause in the constitution. Justice Frankfurter, speaking in behalf of the 8-to-1 majority view against the Witnesses, stated that the interests of "inculcating patriotism was of sufficient importance to justify a relatively minor infringement on religious belief."[93] The result of the ruling was a wave of persecution. Lillian Gobitas, the mother of the schoolchildren involved in the decision said, "It was like open season on Jehovah's Witnesses."[94]

After a drawn-out litigation process in state courts and lower federal courts, lawyers for Jehovah's Witnesses convinced the Supreme Court to issue a series of landmark First Amendment rulings that confirmed their right to be excused from military service and the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

During the 1930s and 1940s, some US states passed laws that made it illegal for Jehovah's Witnesses to distribute their literature, and children of Jehovah's Witnesses in some states were banned from attending state schools. Mob violence against Jehovah's Witnesses was not uncommon, and some were murdered for their beliefs. Those responsible for these attacks were seldom prosecuted.[91]

United States

On December 8, 2009 the Supreme Court of Russia upheld the ruling of the lower courts which pronounced 34 pieces of Jehovah's Witness literature extremist, including their magazine The Watchtower, in the Russian language, and the book for children, My Book of Bible Stories. Jehovah's Witnesses claim that this ruling affirms a misapplication of the Federal Law on Counteracting Extremist Activity to Jehovah's Witnesses. The ruling upheld the confiscation of property of Jehovah's Witnesses in Taganrog (Rostov Region) in Russia, and might set a precedent for similar cases in other areas of Russia, as well as placing literature of Jehovah's Witnesses on a list of literature unacceptable throughout Russia. The Chairman of the Presiding Committee of the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, Vasily Kalin, said: "I am very concerned that this decision will open a new era of opposition against Jehovah's Witnesses, whose right to meet in peace, to access religious literature and to share the Christian hope contained in the Gospels, is more and more limited." Kalin also stated, "When I was young I was sent to Siberia for being one of Jehovah's Witnesses and because my parents were reading The Watchtower, the same journal being unjustly declared 'extremist' in these proceedings."[88][89][90]

Russian Federation

In September 1965, a decree of the Presidium of the USSR Council of Ministers canceled the "special settlement" restriction of Jehovah's Witnesses, though the decree, signed by Anastas Mikoyan, stated that there would be no compensation for confiscated property. However, Jehovah's Witnesses remained the subject of state persecution due to their ideology being classified as anti-Soviet.[87]

Importation of Jehovah's Witnesses' literature into the Soviet Union was strictly forbidden, and Soviet Jehovah's Witnesses received their religious literature from Brooklyn illegally. Literature from Brooklyn arrived regularly, through well-organized unofficial channels, not only in many cities, but also in Siberia, and even in the penal camps of Potma. The Soviet government was so disturbed by the Jehovah's Witnesses that the KGB was authorized to send agents to infiltrate the Brooklyn headquarters.[86]

In April 1951, over 9,000 Jehovah's Witnesses were deported to Siberia under a plan called "Operation North".[84][85]

The Minister of Internal Affairs, Viktor Semyonovich Abakumov proposed the deportation of the Jehovah's Witnesses to Stalin in October 1950. A resolution was voted by the Council of Minister and an order was issued by the Ministry for State Security in March 1951. The Moldavian SSR passed a decree "on the confiscation and selling of the property of individuals banished from the territory of the Moldavian SSR", which included the Jehovah's Witnesses.[82]

Jehovah's Witnesses did not have a significant presence in the Soviet Union prior to 1939 when the Soviet Union forcibly incorporated eastern Poland, Moldavia, and Lithuania, each of which had a Jehovah's Witness movement. Although never large in number (estimated by the KGB to be 20,000 in 1968), the Jehovah's Witnesses became one of the most persecuted religious groups in the Soviet Union during the post-World War II era.[81] Members were arrested or deported; some were put in Soviet concentration camps. Witnesses in Moldavian SSR were deported to Tomsk Oblast; members from other regions of the Soviet Union were deported to Irkutsk Oblast.[82] KGB officials, who were tasked with dissolving the Jehovah's Witness movement, were disturbed to discover that the Witnesses continued to practice their faith even within the labor camps.[83]

Soviet Union

As of 2015, there are 19 members of Jehovah's Witnesses incarcerated for refusal to carry out mandatory military service.[79] The initial sentence for failure to comply is 15 months' imprisonment, with an additional 24 months for a second refusal. Failure to perform annual military reserve duty, which is required of all those who have completed their initial two-year obligation, results in a 40-day sentence, with a 12-month sentence after four refusals.[78][80] There is no alternative civilian service for Jehovah's Witnesses.

Singapore authorities have seized Jehovah's Witnesses' literature on various occasions from individuals attempting to cross the Malaysia-Singapore border. In thirteen cases, authorities warned the Jehovah's Witnesses, but did not press charges.[76][77][78]

In 1998 a Jehovah's Witness lost a lawsuit against a government school for wrongful dismissal for refusing to sing the national anthem or salute the flag. In March 1999, the Court of Appeals denied his appeal.[68] In 2000, public secondary schools indefinitely suspended at least fifteen Jehovah's Witness students for refusing to sing the national anthem or participate in the flag ceremony.[76] In April 2001, one public school teacher, also a member of Jehovah's Witnesses, resigned after being threatened with dismissal for refusing to participate in singing the national anthem.[68]

In 1996, eighteen Jehovah's Witnesses were convicted for unlawfully meeting in a Singapore apartment and were given sentences from one to four weeks in jail.[74] [71] In 1998, two Jehovah's Witnesses were charged in a Singapore court for possessing and distributing banned religious publications.[75]

In February 1995, Singapore police raided private homes where group members were holding religious meetings, in an operation codenamed "Operation Hope". Officers seized Bibles, religious literature, documents and computers, and eventually brought charges against 69 Jehovah's Witnesses, many of whom went to jail.[71][72] In March 1995, 74-year-old Yu Nguk Ding was arrested for carrying two "undesirable publications"—one of them a Bible printed by the Watch Tower Society.[73]

In 1972 the Singapore government de-registered and banned the activities of Jehovah's Witnesses on the grounds that its members refuse to perform military service (which is obligatory for all male citizens), salute the flag, or swear oaths of allegiance to the state.[68][69] Singapore has banned all written materials (including Bibles) published by the International Bible Students Association and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, both publishing arms of the Jehovah's Witnesses. A person in possession of banned literature can be fined up to S$2,000 (US$1,333) and jailed up to 12 months for a first conviction.[70]


[67][66][65] In 1967, thousands of Witnesses in


In another incident, on December 6, 2011, three Witnesses were attacked by a mob in Madikeri, in the state of Karnataka. The male Witness "was kicked and pummeled by the mob" and then the mob dragged them towards a nearby temple; while making lewd remarks, the mob "tried to tear the clothes off of the female Witnesses." According to the report, the police came and "took the three Witnesses to the police station and filed charges against them rather than the mob."[59] During a July 2012 incident, a group of fifteen men assaulted four Witnesses in Madikeri. The group was taken to a police station and charged with "insulting the religion or religious beliefs of another class" before being released on bail.[60]

Jehovah's Witnesses' Office of Public Information has documented a number of mob attacks in India. It states that these instances of violence "reveal the country's hostility toward its own citizens who are Christians."[56] There have been reports that police assist mob attacks on Jehovah's Witnesses or lay charges against the Witnesses while failing to charge other participants in involved.[57] In the city of Davangere on December 20, 2010 a mob confronted two female Witnesses. The mob broke into the home of one of the Witnesses where they had taken refuge. Property was damaged and one of the Witnesses was assaulted. When the police arrived, the Witnesses were arrested and charged with blasphemy.[58]


Despite more than a century of conspicuous activity in the country, Jehovah's Witnesses in Germany were not granted legal recognition until March 25, 2005, in Berlin;[Note 8] in 2006 Germany's Federal Administrative Court (BVerwG) in Leipzig extended the local decision to apply nationwide.[55]

About 10,000 Witnesses were imprisoned, including 2000 sent to concentration camps, where they were identified by purple triangles; as many as 1200 died, including 250 who were executed.[51][52] From 1935 Gestapo officers offered members a document to sign indicating renouncement of their faith, submission to state authority, and support of the German military. Historian Detlef Garbe says a "relatively high number" of people signed the statement before the war, but "extremely low numbers" of Bible Student prisoners did so in concentration camps in later years.[53]

On October 4, 1934, congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses in Germany sent telegrams of protest and warning to Hitler. According to one eyewitness account Hitler was shown a number of telegrams protesting against the Third Reich's persecution of the Bible Students. The eyewitness, Karl Wittig, reported: "Hitler jumped to his feet and with clenched fists hysterically screamed: 'This brood will be exterminated in Germany!' Four years after this discussion I was able, by my own observations, to convince myself … that Hitler's outburst of anger was not just an idle threat. No other group of prisoners of the named concentration-camps was exposed to the sadism of the SS-soldiery in such a fashion as the Bible Students were. It was a sadism marked by an unending chain of physical and mental tortures, the likes of which no language in the world can express."[49][50]

[48] During 1931 and 1932, more than 2000 legal actions were instigated against


[44][43][42] On May 3, 2007, the

[Note 7]

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