(Investigator 114, 2007 May)

In 1987 solicitors in a divorce and child custody case sought information from Dr Bob Potter on the possible detrimental effects to children if raised as Jehovah's Witnesses:

Mr. R------- contends that for the children to be brought up as Jehovah’s Witnesses which is what Mrs. R------- requires is likely to be detrimental to them and although he appears, certainly for the time being, to be content that care and control of the children stay with Mrs. R------- he would want certainly joint custody if not sole custody to ensure that the children are not indoctrinated as Jehovah's Witnesses.

We understand that you have carried out research centred on the Jehovah's Witnesses, in particular that research being as a psychological study of the sect.

If you feel that you can help Mr. R------- we would be grateful if we could hear from you. What we would like to do would be to see you so that we can prepare an Affidavit which we can get you to swear out and in due course you would be called as witness at the hearing…



Some points that should be considered…

Bob Potter

(1) A Witness environment is a total environment. There is no such thing as an 'inactive' Witness. Becoming a Witness is adopting a new 'way of life'. If a person claims to be an Anglican, a Catholic, a Methodist or a Quaker, then little is being claimed beyond a sensed commitment. But if a person is a Jehovah's Witness, then it means that each week no less than five meetings are attended, in addition to private prayer, study and several hours spent hawking Watchtower and Awake magazines on the doorstep.

If all of these activities are not carried out, then the person is not counted (literally) as a Jehovah's Witness.

Children of Witnesses partake in all of these activities. The meetings held in Kingdom Hall are frequently conducted against the background noise of screaming infants.

Congregation elders are responsible for ensuring that the younger members of the congregation, the children or Witnesses or contacts, are won over to the views of the Watchtower Society. As the current Society textbook on Organization puts it:

.... the elders are particularly desirous of 'gaining' the young brother or sister and in their efforts to do so they will seek the co-operation of the parents working through them in all ways possible.... (p 175)

(2) The Witness congregation holds itself apart from the world. The world and its institutions are in the control of Satan; Witness children, like their older brothers and sisters, are urged not to socialize with those who are 'outside the truth'. Not only do Witness doctrines refuse participation in celebrations of birthdays, Christmas or any other public festival (all of which are seen as originating in the machinations of Satan and his Demons), but there is continual emphasis on the need not to socialize with the community at large, not to support in any way any social or political activities.

Even charities such as Oxfam are deceptions inspired by the Devil. The child of a Witness is thus alienated from the world from the inception of consciousness.

(3) Witness ideology is anti-intellectual and anti-education. The child is taught that truth is to be found only in the Bible and in publications of the Watchtower Society. At the time of writing, the Watchtower is infallible, and understanding of the Bible is only possible by means of the intervention of the Jehovah's Witness organization. Hence the insistence that all congregation members attend all five meetings each week -- at these meetings, which are very authoritatively structured, there is never any opportunity for discussion -- indeed that a person might have a critical thought vis-a-vis a point being made by an elder is evidence of the ever present presence of Satan and his millions of Demons, always attempting to disrupt the understanding of God's disciples.

Witness children are discouraged from aspiring to Higher and Further Education. In his book Crisis of Conscience, Raymond Franz, for nine years a member of the Governing Body of the Watchtower Society, relates how a special, meeting ruled that a father who allowed his child to enter Higher Education showed he was not worthy to be a Congregation elder.

Education is a means of 'investing' in the future, and for this reason the Society opposes their next generation aspiring to go to university. The 'End' is soon to be; for this reason teenagers are encouraged to apply to be 'pioneers', to work full-time for the Society, selling literature on the doorstep in-return for a small commission. This 'constant expectation' is captured by the May 1974 issue of Kingdom Ministry:

.... Reports are heard of brothers selling their homes and property and planning to finish out the rest of their days in this old system in the pioneer service. Certainly this is a fine way to spend the short time remaining before the wicked world's end.

  (4) Witnesses live in a dual world. The spiritual forces of good and evil, light and dark are ever present. Jesus Christ has already (albeit invisibly) returned to earth, and he has personally taken over control of the Watchtower Society. There are millions of evi1 spirits loose in the World, "with the help of these demons Satan is misleading the entire inhabited earth" (The Truth that leads to Eternal Life p. 59, the first text book to be studied and mastered by all would-be recruits). And these spiritual creatures are regularly in attendance at meetings in Kingdom Hall:

  …Satan, although he has long known the Bible, has understood but little of it… We may presume, therefore, that his representatives, the fallen angels, are frequently present at the Bible studies of God's truly consecrated people to learn something of the divine plan…. (The Battle of Armageddon pp 611-2)

Living in an environment such as that described above, one would expect that the congregation member would incline towards schizophrenia. Recent research suggests that this is indeed the case:

In a mammoth study, MacDonald and Luckett (1983) studied the relationship between religious affiliation and psychiatric diagnoses in a sample of 7,050 patients at a mid-western clinic in the USA and found that sect members (of several kinds) were significantly more likely than those of other groups to be diagnosed as psychotic. (Jnl for Sc Study of Religion 22(l) 15-37)

Spencer (1975) studied patients admitted to Mental Health Service facilities in Western Australia -- it included fifty Jehovah's Witnesses. Spencer found that Witnesses were three times as likely to be diagnosed as schizophrenic as the norm, and that they were four times more likely to be diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic as members of the general population. (Br J Psychiat 126, 556-9)

My own research thesis:

A Social Psychological Study of Fundamentalist Christianity for Doctor of Philosophy Sussex University S2322 is on microfilm at British Library D 66164/86

Bob Potter
September 1987

Dictionary of Jehovah's Witnesses at: