The Story of AAWA: An organization to take on the Watchtower

Activists like Bo Jensen (left), Barbara Anderson (center), and Paul Grundy (right) are joining forces to raise more awareness about Watchtower’s damaging practices.

Everything has a beginning. And for me, the first glimpse of AAWA, albeit without a name, occurred during a phone conversation. I was writing a story about Bo Juel Jensen for jwsurvey.org back in January 2013.

After being interviewed, Bo remarked, “So Richard, why don’t we use a business model to get the Tower’s full attention? Let’s form a not-for-profit corporation to rally and unite the worldwide ex-JW community. A well organized and focused business could force the Tower to change many of its harmful policies.”

Having been a successful businessman for thirty-three years, what Bo said made perfect sense. Even so, I thought it couldn’t hurt to get a second opinion. So I phoned my friend John Cedars, and asked if he’d ever thought about using a business model—a business plan—to get Watchtower to rethink its damaging policies.

At first, Cedars seemed strangely irritated. It seemed the word business was a sticking point for him. He couldn’t associate such a word with activism against the Watchtower. I persevered, and figured out that it was all just semantics. After all, it does sometimes take a while for a Brit and a Yank to reconcile their English.

When it finally dawned on Cedars that Bo and I were suggesting we apply a business model to the development of an activist organization, he said, “Ooooh! About a month ago I sent John Hoyle an email pitching him that very idea. Would you like to see a copy of it?”

Bingo! Cedars had already drafted a preliminary business plan for a “Council” of Anti-Watchtower activists. It was a great place to start, so we began tweaking Cedars’ original email into a workable business document. We needed a Mission Statement, at least that’s what I called it. Cedars preferred calling it a “Charter.” Again, it was semantics.

An organization takes shape

I suggested that we needed to clearly define the culture of our company—our personal and business values. Amazingly, it didn’t take long to come up with a workable solution. Soon it was time to get advice from critical-thinking ex-JWs who we could rely on to challenge us on our plan, and recommend improvements. So we approached an international panel, bringing in Barbara Anderson, Bo, Paul Grundy, Danmera (Mickey Hudson) and John Hoyle for their input. What it would take to get their buy-in? What should we add, delete or change? And so, gradually, the “light got brighter and brighter” on our idea! The seven of us became founders, making decisions collectively. An organization began to take shape.

After much deliberation, we reached consensus on a name for our brainchild, The Association of Anti-Watchtower Activists (AAWA). The purpose for our business would be to to raise awareness and help people escape a damaging cult. No person in our organization would be allowed to rise to prominence, or use his or her efforts to further any personal agenda.

AAWA would be religiously neutral. Our gripe was not so much with JW beliefs. We all believe that most JWs are good people; all of us having JW family members that we love. AAWA will focus its efforts on five of Watchtower’s most harmful policies, which the Governing Body in their Ivory Tower needs to urgently address. We will extend an offer to meet with them in person to discuss these if they so wish. If they choose to listen and respond wisely, we close up shop. The five policies are:

  1. The shunning of family members.
  2. The mishandling of child abuse cases.
  3. The mishandling of domestic abuse cases.
  4. The ban on certain medical treatments involving blood.
  5. The stigmatizing of higher education (college) as the pursuit of materialism and a waste of time.

AAWA was incorporated as a non-profit company on March 7, 2013 and is in the process of being organized into specific teams. Lee Marsh, who has qualifications and experience in the field of support work, joined as an Advisory Board member on March 31, 2013 – bringing the total number of board members to eight. Lee will lead the Support Team, and we are grateful to be adding her skills and experience to our project.

More information about AAWA can be found on our new website at jwactivists.org.

Standing on the shoulders of giants

AAWA aims to build on the legacy of visionaries such as Ray Franz and Randall Watters, who were among the first to take meaningful steps to free the minds of Witnesses

AAWA would not have been possible without the hard work and visionary minds of Ray Franz, Randy Watters, Barbara Anderson, Simon Green and his wife, Angharad – real heroes, who in my mind will take centre stage in the history books as those who bravely stood up to the Watchtower. All of them are critical-thinking people who have helped thousands of people escape the Watchtower’s mental chains. And the number of modern-day internet vigilantes continues to expand.

Marvin Shilmer‘s research and writing skills related to the blood issue are second to none. Ruben Ortiz has created a social networking model on Facebook that has helped hundreds of people, a model that can be used all over the world by ex-JWs. Brenda Lee continues to reach out to young women who have been disfellowshipped, offering them a safe community of friends.

Translators like Roberto di Stefano have already pledged their support for AAWA

And now an international army of AAWA supporters is emerging. Nestor & Toni Kuilan (former missionaries and a District Overseer from Spain) and Roberto di Stefano (former Watchtower translator in Europe and an ex-JW activist) have already committed themselves to help make AAWA’s vision a reality.

My guess is that the Bullies in Brooklyn have underestimated the growing army of passionate people who are saying, “Enough is enough!” We will not remain silent. The leaders of the Watch Tower Society must be held accountable for the harm they inflict daily on current and former JWs alike.

 

 

 

 

Richard E. Kelly is the author of Growing Up In Mama’s Club, and The Ghosts From Mama’s Club, which are available on Amazon.com

Visit AAWA’s official web page at jwactivists.org

AAWA’s inaugural video…

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134 Responses to The Story of AAWA: An organization to take on the Watchtower

  1. KtotheRAD "Konrad" says:

    Jehovah’s Witnesses and former Jehovah’s Witnesses both should view this short link and see the lengths that were taken to cover up JF Rutherford and his behavior. If that isn’t evidence of what you are dealing with then I don’t know what is…

  2. Anonymous says:

    as for the reports of the AAWA outing faded JWs on facebook? adding them to the group without the individuals knowledge?

    if you’re going to take on the WT on grounds of morality, and how they treat dissenters, you have to be spotless in your own actions. they will use ANYTHING to vilify the group. this action only hurts the community of ex JWs who are still searching for a way out.

    • Erik says:

      Ha, ha! It’s not so easy being an organization. is it? After raising a family I’ve learned to treasure this quote; ‘If you want to have a happy family you’d best be prepared for the expression of a lot of UNhappiness!”-unknown. All of this relatively open commenting, even critisizing is evidence that people feel that AAWA is approachable, isn’t it?

  3. David says:

    I agree with putting our trust in Jehovah. I also know that Jehovah invites his fellow worshipers to express their opinions.

    Jehovah Humbly Delegates and Listens.
    *** cl chap. 20 pp. 202-204 pars. 10-13 “Wise in Heart”—Yet Humble ***
    Furthermore, Jehovah listens. He once asked his angels to suggest various ways to bring about the downfall of wicked King Ahab. Jehovah did not need such help. Yet, he accepted the suggestion of one angel and commissioned him to follow through on it. (1 Kings 22:19-22) Was that not humble?
    11 Jehovah is even willing to listen to imperfect humans who desire to express their concerns. For instance, when Jehovah first told Abraham of His intention to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, that faithful man was puzzled. “It is unthinkable of you,” Abraham said, adding: “Is the Judge of all the earth not going to do what is right?” He asked whether Jehovah would spare the cities if 50 righteous men could be found there. Jehovah assured him that He would. But Abraham asked again, lowering the number to 45, then 40, and so on. Despite Jehovah’s assurances, Abraham persisted until the number was as low as ten. Perhaps Abraham did not yet fully grasp how merciful Jehovah is. At any rate, Jehovah patiently and humbly allowed his friend and servant Abraham to express his concerns in this way.—Genesis 18:23-33.
    12 How many brilliant, learned humans would listen so patiently to a person of vastly inferior intelligence? Such is the humility of our God. During the same interchange, Abraham also came to see that Jehovah is “slow to anger.” (Exodus 34:6) Perhaps realizing that he had no right to question the doings of the Most High, Abraham twice begged: “May Jehovah, please, not grow hot with anger.” (Genesis 18:30, 32) Of course, Jehovah did not. He truly does have the “mildness that belongs to wisdom.”
    Jehovah Is Reasonable
    13 Jehovah’s humility is manifest in yet another beautiful quality—reasonableness. This quality is sadly lacking among imperfect humans. Not only is Jehovah willing to listen to his intelligent creatures but he is also willing to yield when there is no conflict with righteous principles. As used in the Bible, the word “reasonable” literally means “yielding.” This quality too is a hallmark of divine wisdom. James 3:17 says: “The wisdom from above is . . . reasonable.” In what sense is the all-wise Jehovah reasonable? For one thing, he is adaptable. Remember, his very name teaches us that Jehovah causes himself to become whatever is needed in order to fulfill his purposes. (Exodus 3:14) Does that not indicate a spirit of adaptability and reasonableness?

    I thought it would be better for me to cite thereference which shows there is nothing wrong with raising questions. Jehovah is a humble and reasonable God.

  4. David says:

    KtotheRAD “Konrad”
    I suppose this is where I again digress then since it was made quite clear that the “Pharisees” at one time were approved and the teachers of Jehovah’s Word even if The Society ever was or not, I personally have the Society to thank for teaching me about the paradise and the ransom and the basic Bible truths aside from the brutal and unspeakable crimes and abuses that were committed against and witnessed by me in amass…We saw or at least have record of what happen to the Pharisees and their system even though they were absolutely certain beyond certain that they were “Children of Abraham” and had Jehovah’s approval!
    If the punishment for Moses who had a close personal relationship with God and was come to be called “Jehovah’s Friend” was never to enter into the land of Canaan for his presumptuousness, then I hate to think what lying usurpers who beat, rape and abuse the sick and weakest innocents of their own and defend the ones who do with every scheming machination of man’s law to the deceit of those they claim to call their own sheep!
    Does it take an alliance of men to oppose them? I think not!
    I will still choose to wait on Jehovah and his justice which by the looks of events “In the sunrising” and around the world may not be that far off and even if so? I will wait any way…rather than presume upon men to take justice other than authorized law enforcement which looks mighty slow in coming! That’s my take anyway…

    I agree with putting our trust in Jehovah. I also know that Jehovah invites his fellow worshipers to express their opinions.

    Jehovah Humbly Delegates and Listens.
    *** cl chap. 20 pp. 202-204 pars. 10-13 “Wise in Heart”—Yet Humble ***
    Furthermore, Jehovah listens. He once asked his angels to suggest various ways to bring about the downfall of wicked King Ahab. Jehovah did not need such help. Yet, he accepted the suggestion of one angel and commissioned him to follow through on it. (1 Kings 22:19-22) Was that not humble?
    11 Jehovah is even willing to listen to imperfect humans who desire to express their concerns. For instance, when Jehovah first told Abraham of His intention to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, that faithful man was puzzled. “It is unthinkable of you,” Abraham said, adding: “Is the Judge of all the earth not going to do what is right?” He asked whether Jehovah would spare the cities if 50 righteous men could be found there. Jehovah assured him that He would. But Abraham asked again, lowering the number to 45, then 40, and so on. Despite Jehovah’s assurances, Abraham persisted until the number was as low as ten. Perhaps Abraham did not yet fully grasp how merciful Jehovah is. At any rate, Jehovah patiently and humbly allowed his friend and servant Abraham to express his concerns in this way.—Genesis 18:23-33.
    12 How many brilliant, learned humans would listen so patiently to a person of vastly inferior intelligence? Such is the humility of our God. During the same interchange, Abraham also came to see that Jehovah is “slow to anger.” (Exodus 34:6) Perhaps realizing that he had no right to question the doings of the Most High, Abraham twice begged: “May Jehovah, please, not grow hot with anger.” (Genesis 18:30, 32) Of course, Jehovah did not. He truly does have the “mildness that belongs to wisdom.”
    Jehovah Is Reasonable
    13 Jehovah’s humility is manifest in yet another beautiful quality—reasonableness. This quality is sadly lacking among imperfect humans. Not only is Jehovah willing to listen to his intelligent creatures but he is also willing to yield when there is no conflict with righteous principles. As used in the Bible, the word “reasonable” literally means “yielding.” This quality too is a hallmark of divine wisdom. James 3:17 says: “The wisdom from above is . . . reasonable.” In what sense is the all-wise Jehovah reasonable? For one thing, he is adaptable. Remember, his very name teaches us that Jehovah causes himself to become whatever is needed in order to fulfill his purposes. (Exodus 3:14) Does that not indicate a spirit of adaptability and reasonableness?

    I thought it would be better for me to cite thereference which shows there is nothing wrong with raising questions. Jehovah is a humble and reasonable God.

  5. David says:

    Based on my terrible experience with the elders my dad and I worked with and our CO (I called him the Devil’s agent right to his face and threatened to charge him withy harssment), many times elders are the ones who cause trouble for the Society and then the Society looks bad. I hope to contact Cedars and share my experience.

  6. Erik says:

    I am one who was cheated by an elder in business, then when I attempted to show him his “error” in calculating his work and his expenses, I was treated with disgust and contempt by the other elders at his khall for finally taking it to Cesar’s court.
    Does anyone know of class action suits against the wtbts in America? Are there any being planned, and if so, what kind would they be?

  7. Hi Chuck, I am of similar background as you with the same two issues and experiences. But WOW: twelve children ? What a prize for the WT to cause so much trouble for your sisters and the rest of your family. I am sure they are quite self-exonerous and proud of themselves for wronging you as they have done.
    I dont say much anymore except that I am tired of religious leaders who are duped by demons and evil men who turn on me and expect me to blindly have their same brand of “loyalty” that they possess. I have written til I am blue in the face about the evils of destructive sectarianism, appointed child molesters at large, and the sorceries of the pioneer spirit since 1992, and am settled that it is the most useless effort in the eyes of God and men. Tell your sisters you love them, because in the end, I am sure that is what they really want to know.

  8. Erik says:

    Susanna, What is going on with Barbara and her lawyers?

  9. Erik says:

    Yes, thank you for bringing that out, the God of the bible asks us for our ideas. Beautiful!

  10. I’m not saying that the Watchtower doesn’t deserve to be taken on by most ex-JW’s and currently disgruntled ones alike, and in my internet browsing experience since 1995 I can say that I understand many of the problems that cause the anger and frustration that we all experience due to their policies. However, I must say that forming an organization as a united front against them will simply make it easier for them to ignore you. I think that is why Jehovah used individual prophets who bore the ill-treatment willingly while dwelling in tents and caves of the earth. God bless all who have truly suffered from Watchtower policy, but I wish nothing but failure for those who simply wish to beat the hornets nest and cause the sting of Watchtower leaders against our family members who remain inside the org’, yet still have a heart for their disfellowshipped ones who are currentlty deposed and held in derision by local elders who are ruled by fear and paranoia. These are more dangerous than even the false teachers and prophets whom they excuse and support.

  11. Bella says:

    Thank you Cedars, I just started reading over this site and these type of comments were getting upsetting. I was dfed about 5 months ago, because I confessed something I did, not got caught, confessed. So they ‘read my heart’ and found that it wasn’t repentant enough…isn’t that the definition of confession?? So I have a mother, a cancer stricken sister and an oldest son still in it and who do no speak with me. Nice organization, lots of love there. Just tell me what you guys need to support this and I will do what I can to help.
    Thank you!

  12. Bella says:

    Noooo, I say bring down the castle! who’s is with me on that??

  13. enlightened says:

    Our family was instrumental in the forming of our congregation. We were good salespeople.
    Now the Wt. has ruined our family……………members don’t speak to each other, it is very sad……….This is a destructive Wt. organization. Publishers say we are squealing that no one will talk to us because we are morally corrupt. NOT SO…………we just questioned their authority. We are NOT losers…………we speak against evil practises.

  14. k.chambes says:

    Hi Cedars, this chap Frank V makes some excellent, reasonable points. He did not at all give me the impression “violence” was on his agenda as you imply. Then you end up threatening him! Bullying someone who cares enough to voice his legitimate concerns is unacceptable. Am I to receive a threat of excommunication for speaking out of turn?
    Kind regards, kc

    • Cedars says:

      Welcome kc. I never accused Frank V of having a violent agenda, I merely noted that he implied that I (or AAWA) had one through his deliberately inflammatory comments in the wake of AAWA’s launch, which he opposed. I won’t be “excommunicating” you as you put it (a ridiculous and frankly insulting analogy to apply to a website, by the way) – I will simply urge you to read comments more carefully in future so that you can avoid repeating your mistake and looking quite so silly.

  15. skally says:

    Cannot believe I missed such a brilliant, on-point comment from “Jen”:

    Maybe you have to be a German (I grew up in the West of Germany) to see what I see, but alone the word “watchtower” always reminds me of walls, that are built to separate people.

    Metaphorically speaking it looks as if the Watchtower Company has built up a wall that is made of their believe, their truth and their business ideas. Those you are trapped inside that wall are not allowed to be part of the beautiful world outside, because the world outside doesn’t support the Watchtower business ideas. So the Watchtower strictly observes the wall and manipulates the trapped ones to keep them silent inside. The Watchtower tells them many lies about the world outside. Finally the trapped ones feel save inside. And of course, they are also afraid to resist against the Watchtower, now that they believe that the Watchtower protects them of the world outside, a world that finally turned ugly because of Watchtower propaganda. They don’t even dare to think about looking over that wall again. I could go on and on describing further metaphorical connections between walls and watchtowers due to historic events I have experienced.

    In this internet age it is just not possible anymore to hide people away from the truth. Therefore the mental wall which the Watchtower controls got chapped. Someday it will break. Both sides of the mental wall will need a lot of help and time to feel united again, when the wall finally collapses. There will be a lot of hurt and emotional abuse to get over, but it will get better day by day and lots of families will find together again. I am sure, as years go by and wounds will heal, nobody will miss the Watchtower. Humanity does not need watchtowers.
    ___

    THIS is exactly what WTBTS is. A wall that was built for destruction.

    ~~Raises a glass to Jen~~

  16. skally says:

    I just replied to Jen, yet it is not showing up cedars. Yet, yesterday my post on another topic, submitted immediately. Meaning, you were not able to ‘screen’ them until today; and are now screening my comments as to whether you think anyone else has the right, as Jen, to read them.

    Am I correct in my assumptions here, sir?

    ~skally~

    • Cedars says:

      Skally, no you’re not correct. I’m not screening comments unless a comment breaches the posting guidelines. I apologise if there are certain inconsistencies thrown up by our spam filter. It provides an invaluable service in shielding this site from an almost relentless barrage of spam, but it has its idiosyncracies. Please bear with us.

  17. skally says:

    Willow,

    Thank you for your contribution here, which did not get any response as to the merit it holds. Allow me to re-iterate for the newer viewers:

    The one area of Human Rights that should be targeted is the European Court of Human Rights in relation to the family, the family has rights that no corporation can interfear with. Organizations are quick to go to this forum and demand their rights. How would it look that such an organization was withholding family rights?//// Human Rights!!!
    If you want to be an activist, then put your case together and present it to the European Court of Human Rights. In all fairness give the Watchtower notice of your intention. Registered mail. If ignored present your case and let them decide. The rights of the family will not be ignored. They are the foundamental foundation of all communities, governmental and religious. When the rights of the family are abused society falls apart. Every mother,father,son and daughter,brother or sister,grand mother or grandfather, aunt or uncle is important. As the European Court of Human Rights will confirm!!!!!!
    ____
    ~skally~

  18. skally says:

    Jen,

    For the newer viewers, who may have passed by or not seen this masterful way of catergorizing the ideology of the WTBTS, please consider Jen’s post above:

    Maybe you have to be a German (I grew up in the West of Germany) to see what I see, but alone the word “watchtower” always reminds me of walls, that are built to separate people.

    Metaphorically speaking it looks as if the Watchtower Company has built up a wall that is made of their believe, their truth and their business ideas. Those you are trapped inside that wall are not allowed to be part of the beautiful world outside, because the world outside doesn’t support the Watchtower business ideas. So the Watchtower strictly observes the wall and manipulates the trapped ones to keep them silent inside. The Watchtower tells them many lies about the world outside. Finally the trapped ones feel save inside. And of course, they are also afraid to resist against the Watchtower, now that they believe that the Watchtower protects them of the world outside, a world that finally turned ugly because of Watchtower propaganda. They don’t even dare to think about looking over that wall again. I could go on and on describing further metaphorical connections between walls and watchtowers due to historic events I have experienced.

    In this internet age it is just not possible anymore to hide people away from the truth. Therefore the mental wall which the Watchtower controls got chapped. Someday it will break. Both sides of the mental wall will need a lot of help and time to feel united again, when the wall finally collapses. There will be a lot of hurt and emotional abuse to get over, but it will get better day by day and lots of families will find together again. I am sure, as years go by and wounds will heal, nobody will miss the Watchtower. Humanity does not need watchtowers.
    _______

    Thank you Jen. It is highly refreshing to see that some really do ‘get it, in all of Its entirety.

    ~skally~

  19. skally says:

    Thank you for the timely reply cedars.

    It is good to Know that I am not being unduly censored here. Yet, I do have saved posts that I submitted here on other topics that were indeed deleted, or was ‘glitched’ in some way. I usually save all postings, anywhere I post, so that in these instances, they are not lost on the superhighway somewhere.

    Good day.

    ~skally~

  20. k.chambes says:

    Unless this is not a Christian website, the threat of excluding someone for disagreeing could quite rightly be called excommunicating. The Watchtower are harming enough children daily so as to be recognised as a non-Christian cult but i’ll bet you are happy to use the term when they exclude another because their view differed. Don’t be like a Watchtower Elder please?

    • Cedars says:

      k.c. – a small tip for you, if you want to make friends on a new site, don’t go attacking the ones running it with outrageous accusations right off the starting block. If you have anything remotely to do with Jehovah’s Witnesses you will know how ridiculous it is to compare being blocked from a website to being shunned by one’s family. Making such a juvenile and far-fetched analogy tramples on the feelings and sensitivies of those like me for whom shunning is a very real and painful thing. I would sooner be blocked by a hundred websites than be shunned for one day by a loved one. Please cease this stupidity or I will be only too pleased to help you test out your theory.

  21. KtotheRAD "Konrad" aka Kurt Hennig says:

    David says:

    On April 23, 2013 at 1:38 pm:

    “Hopefully the FBI will take the required action against the elders who acted in a shameful way and disgraced Jehovah’s name”

    Well, that’s where we are with that…

    http://jwsurvey.org/cedars-blog/arkansas-man-accused-of-firing-19-rounds-at-jehovahs-witnesses#comments

  22. Erik says:

    I guess that public bickering is a part of the costs of freedom. But why not use the PM (private messaging) option to snipe at each other, or to better yet; work out our petty annoyances and misunderstandings with each other?

  23. Janine Garcia says:

    Hi Skally,

    We are filing a complaint, with several of the offices within the UN, that are not listed on the petition. There are a number of human rights “articles” that we are addressing; i.e. the right to have no one interfere with your family. Copies of the “complaint” will be submitted to all the appropriate offices within the UN that handle the matter.

  24. Thank you for sharing valuable information. Nice post. I enjoyed reading this post. The whole blog is very nice found some good stuff and good information here Thanks..Also visit my page Affordable Accountants Auckland

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