The UN itself admitted yesterday that it was surprised that the
sect, whose formal name is the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of
New York, had been accepted on its list of non-governmental
organisations for the last 10 years.
A former member said: "There is a glaring inconsistency which has
emerged between the WTBTS's frequent portrayal of the UN as an evil
organisation and its behind-the-scenes attempts to curry favour with
that organisation. Were individual members to be aware of any formal
link they would be devastated.
"By no stretch of the imagination could the WTBTS be considered to
share the ideals of the UN charter unless you suppose that destruction
of the UN by God is consistent with that charter."
The Witnesses, most frequently encountered by non-members when they
attempt to make doorstep conversions, have faced accusations of bad
These have been most notably over the hierarchy's insistence that
members should not accept blood transfusions and over accusations that
sexual abuse of children by Witnesses' ministers in the US have been
Followers who criticise the Witnesses' leaders or question their
decisions are routinely "disfellowshipped" which means fellow members
including their families must shun them.
An obscure and ill-publicised decision by the hierarchy in New York
last year modifying the prohibition on transfusions by deeming that
God had revealed to them that transfusions of some blood components
might be acceptable, providing there was later repentance, has come
too late for many hundreds of followers known to have died because
they refused blood.
In child abuse cases, the hierarchy insists there must be two
independent witnesses - an almost impossible stipulation - before
accusations are investigated.
The Watchtower Society has been denouncing the UN and its
predecessor the League of Nations for 80 years, believing them to be a
world empire of false religion, predicted in the Book of Revelation.
A recent publication since the organisation obtained its
recognition describes the UN as "a disgusting thing in the sight of
God and his people".
In an internal document, the WTBTS describes its policy as a
"theocratic war strategy". It claims: "In time of spiritual warfare it
is proper to misdirect the enemy by hiding the truth. It is done
unselfishly; it does not harm anyone; on the contrary it does much
Being a recognised NGO with the United Nations - as more than 1,500
organisations are - gives status though not grants.
To qualify, organisations must show that they share the ideals of
the charter, operate on a non-profit basis, "demonstrate interest in
UN issues and proven ability to reach large or specialised audiences"
and have the commitment and means to conduct effective information
programmes about UN activities.
Disaffected Witnesses believe that the association, which has not
been publicised to followers, is intended to increase the cult's
respectability to sceptical governments, such as France's, which have
refused to recognise it.
Paul Gillies, the Witnesses' spokesman in Britain, said: "We do not
have hostile attitudes to governing bodies and if we are making
representations on issues to the UN we will do so."
"There are good and bad bodies just as there are good and bad
politicians. We believe what the Book of Revelation tells us but we do
not actively try to change the political system."
A spokeswoman for the UN said: "I think we may not be aware of
their attitude, which seems to be really strange."