The Jehovah’s Witnesses, prosecuted in particular for inciting hatred against former members of this community, will appear before the Ghent Criminal Court on Tuesday. The former Center for Equal Opportunities and the Fight against Racism Unia and about fifteen people have joined as civil parties.
Originally published on Le Vif on 16 February 2021.
A former Jehovah’s Witness turned to the Ghent prosecutor’s office in 2015 for slander, defamation, insult and violation of anti-discrimination law. He claimed that once the members left the community, they were ostracized and completely isolated socially by order of the organization.
The prosecution decided to prosecute Jehovah’s Witnesses for four charges: incitement to discrimination against a person, but also a group, on the basis of his religious beliefs, incitement to hatred or violence against of a person and a group.
The case was brought before the criminal court last year. About fifteen people became civil parties, and Unia did the same.
The case will be pleaded on Tuesday. Only the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses is being prosecuted, no natural person is involved in the case.
Jehovah’s Witness Exclusion Policy Has Severe Consequences
The civil parties highlighted on Tuesday, before the Ghent Criminal Court, the consequences, both physical and psychological, of the exclusion policy operated by Jehovah’s Witnesses. The latter are prosecuted in particular for inciting hatred against former members of this community.
“Jehovah’s Witnesses consider that the former members should be avoided like the plague”, pleaded Mr Pieter-Bram Lagae, who notably assists the former witness who started the affair. He “sat on the legal committee (of the organization, editor’s note) and participated in decisions on exclusions, until he realized that it was going too far,” explained his lawyer.
“The policy of exclusion strikes at the very heart of relationships and victims suffer both physical and psychological consequences. We represent a man whose woman is still a member and who is ignored in his own home – or a woman – who has not been able to see his father since his expulsion, “he explained.
A former Jehovah’s Witness turned to the Ghent prosecutor’s office in 2015 for slander, defamation, insult and violation of anti-discrimination law. He claimed that once the members left the community, they were ostracized and completely socially isolated by order of the organization.