An interesting video has recently been uploaded to JW.org that casts considerable doubt over the state of the Watch Tower Society’s finances. The video, which is a staged interview regarding the organization’s recent victory over the French Government in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), appears to suggest that the Society is only 45 million Euros ($60 million) away from “liquidation.”
As mentioned on pages 34 to 36 of the 2013 Yearbook, on 30th June 2011 the ECHR found the French government guilty of violating the religious freedom of Jehovah’s Witnesses through their 1998 imposition of a 60% tax on all donations, to be applied retrospectively from the years 1983 to 1996. The Society appealed against the decision, and only after repeatedly bringing the matter before the ECHR was the French Government penalized – forced to pay more than 8 million dollars (or 6 million Euros) in illegally confiscated money, legal fees and accrued interest. Predictably, the Society has hailed this as a huge victory – but in toasting their success they may have inadvertently let slip a damning piece of information.
In the video, Jean-Claude Pons, a member of the national headquarters in France, is interviewed (seemingly by another Witness posing as a reporter) for the purpose of recounting the legal victory. During the interview, Pons goes so far as to reveal that the consequences of the French government’s taxation of the Society would have been devastating.
When asked how this tax would have been a violation of the religious freedom of the Witnesses, Jean-Claude responds: “Because it was so huge! It could have resulted in the liquidation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses Headquarters, and it would have been a major interference with our religious activities in France.” You can listen to the comments yourself by watching the full video below…
Exactly what Pons means by the “liquidation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses Headquarters” is unclear, but this startling admission certainly seems to suggest that the Society would have faced serious or even terminal financial consequences if the French Government had been let off the hook over their admittedly preposterous taxation attempts.
If the Society’s situation IS so grave that they are only $60 million away from meltdown, it may go some way to explaining why they are fighting the $11 million Candace Conti verdict with such voracity. It may be that they simply cannot afford to lose. The admission will also cause thinking Witnesses to pause for thought. If the Watch Tower Society is truly enjoying Jehovah’s rich blessing, as repeatedly implied, then why is their situation so perilous?
It could be argued that this must be an exaggeration on the part of Jean-Claude Pons, or perhaps a slip-up that can be blamed on his poor English. After all, according to the 2013 Yearbook report, the Society spent $184 million on the expenses of missionaries, special pioneers and travelling overseers in 2012 – an increase of $11 million on the previous year. However, regardless of what money the Society claims to be spending annually, it can only spend what it receives in donations. If the comments made by Pons are accurate (and they certainly seem assertive), then they suggest that the Society may have an annual operating surplus of less than $60 million for contingencies.
Whether the situation is really as dire as this interview would seem to suggest remains to be seen. It is certainly baffling as to why the Society would knowingly allow this piece of information to leak out in one of their new polished publicity videos unless (1) they are not adequately censoring the output of their video production teams, or (2) they WANT to subtly inform Witnesses that their financial situation is precarious, because they are in need of extra donations.