On Thursday November 2, 2017, the Supreme Court of Canada heard a case involving a disfellowshipped Jehovah’s Witness who challenged the fairness of the procedures. In his opening statement, Jehovah’s Witness elder and lawyer, David Gnam (a managing partner of W. Glen How & Associates LLP), claimed that “normal family relations continue with the exception of spiritual fellowship…”
David Gnam in Court
Segment from the Supreme Court of Canada on November 2, 2017 with David Gnam giving a false statement.
Note: Full hearing is available to stream or download at the end of this blog post.
… As the meeting progressed with Mr. Wall, the elders came to the decision that Mr. Wall was not sufficiently repentant for his disgraceful conduct and the congregation elders took the decision to disfellowship him. That word is used by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t use the word ‘shun’ or ‘shunning’. They refer to it as disfellowship, disfellowshipping, disfellowshipped because that really gives the sense of what’s taking place within this particular religious community. Disfellowship literally means “no further spiritual fellowship with the individual”. […] As I point out at paragraph 22 of my factum, the nature of the relationship, then, of a disfellowshipped person is not completely shunned. The disfellowshipped person is able to come into the congregation meetings, they’re able to attend in the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, they’re able to sit wherever they like, they can sing the spiritual songs with the congregation. As far as their family members are concerned, normal family relations continue with the exception of spiritual fellowship. And, the door is not closed to Mr Wall either. The person who is disfellowshipped can, after a period of time, ask to be re-instated in the congregation, because that is the purpose of the discipline.
(Text bolded for emphasis)
Is David Gnam a Liar?
It may be true that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not use the word ‘shun’ or ‘shunning’ but this is disingenuous. Jehovah’s Witnesses may use the words “disfellowship, disfellowshipping, disfellowshipped” instead of shun but according to dictionary.com, it defines ‘disfellowship’ as a person who is “officially shunned by other members”.
Furthermore, for David Gnam to say “a disfellowshipped person is not completely shunned” because they can attend meetings, sit where they like, and sing songs does not mean they are not completely shunned. A disfellowshipped person can also enjoy the same ball games, go into the same food stores, attend the same doctor’s surgery as any other Jehovah’s Witness. In all cases, whether it is a Jehovah’s Witness sponsored event or not, the disfellowshipped person will be shunned by all other Jehovah’s Witnesses
David Gnam tells the Supreme Court of Canada that “normal family relations continue”. This is not true. The ‘authorized website of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ jw.org has this to say when referring to the bible story of Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu being killed by God:
Our loyalty to Jehovah can be greatly tested when a loved one is disfellowshipped. Jehovah’s instruction to Aaron provides a clear message to those who must cut off association with a disfellowshipped relative. Our love for Jehovah must be stronger than our love for unfaithful family members. – Love For Jehovah Stronger Than Love for Family
What does ‘cut off association’ mean? The Jehovah’s Witness publication Insight on the Scriptures, gives the answer. That publication refers to it as punishment of ‘death’, ‘expulsion’, and even uses the word ‘shunned’.
David Gnam is an elder within the Jehovah’s Witnesses. As such, he is very aware of church doctrine. He knows that when one is disfellowshipped, normal family relations do not continue. Jehovah’s Witness family members must ‘cut off association with a disfellowshipped relative’. That means that disfellowshipped ones are treated like they are dead, ghosts walking among them: parents completely cut off their children, children completely cut off their parents, grandparents cut off their grandchildren, grandchildren cut off their grandparents, and so on.
Further Proof of Shunning
There are a number of videos that the Jehovah’s Witness leaders use to encourage families to completely cut off their disfellowshipped family members. Do you think they show up David Gnam to be a liar? We’ll let you decide.
The above video depicts the shunned son as wanting to leave the family home, or wants to be troublesome. This is rarely the case. Note how the mother ignores the text message from her son. That is how shunning works. This dramatization also reveals that the couple have been shunning their son for over 5 years.
In the above dramatization, the Jehovah’s Witnesses present shunning from the perspective of a formerly disfellowshipped member. The video depicts disfellowshipped persons as being selfish and bad persons, which is rarely the case. Her parents are presented as victims of her actions. The video reveals that the daughter had been shunned for over 15 years. No mention is made of what happened with the father of her children. Non-Jehovah’s Witnesses are depicted as faceless, without emotions or feelings.
Did David Gnam lie to the Supreme Court of Canada?
If he did, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favor of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ shunning policy based on a lie. And following in the footsteps of Scientology, the Jehovah’s Witnesses ‘rejoice’ over this win on the jw.org website.