Watchtower's United Nations Association
In 1992 the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York applied to be a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Associate Member of the United Nations Department of Public Information and remained so until 2001. This is the closest relationship an NGO can form with the UN. The application was renewed annually and is a matter of public record.
This involvement has stumbled many brothers due to:
- The double standard the Watchtower holds for itself when compared to its members
- Such membership being hypocritical considering the Watchtower history of condemning Christendom for doing so
- The dishonest information the Watchtower has released in attempting to explain the situation to its members
As of January 27th 2007 an official UN letter describing this status appears on the United Nations website at http://www.un.org/dpi/ngosection/pdfs/watchtower.pdf
As the above letter outlines, the Watchtower was an associated NGO and to become associated required the Watchtower to accept the following:
- “that the NGO share the ideals of the UN Charter;
- have a demonstrated interest in United Nations issues and a proven ability to reach target or specialized audiences, such as educators, media representatives, policy makers and the business community;
- have the commitment and means to conduct effective information programs about UN activities by publishing newsletters, bulletins and pamphlets, organizing conferences, seminars and round tables; and enlisting cooperation of the media.”
A copy of the 1991 application form that the Watchtower filled in shows that there was a yearly requirement to provide information to the United Nations. It states; “provide us with proof of your organizations non-profit status and with an annual report on its activities related to United Nations.”
Shown later are several Watchtower articles from the 1990’s that praise the efforts of the United Nations, an apparent attempt to comply with the above requirements.
Application to the United Nations is a double standard when compared with the Watchtower principles enforced upon the members.
The Watchtower has made very clear that any role of employment or simple membership with a disapproved organisation is considered apostasy, and results in judicial action.
“The Bible condemns things such as stealing, idolatry and the misuse of blood, so a Christian could hardly engage in work where he directly promoted such things.
Would doing the work so closely link a person with a condemned practice that he would be a clear accomplice?
Even a janitor or a receptionist at a blood bank or a plant making only weapons of war is directly linked with work contrary to God’s Word.”
Watchtower 1982 July 15 Box on p.26 Employment Factors to Consider
“Is it true that for religious reasons Jehovah’s Witnesses may not become members of the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association)?
Yes, that is so. We have long recognized that the YMCA, though not being a church as such, is definitely aligned with the religious organizations of Christendom in efforts to promote interfaith…. In joining the YMCA as a member a person accepts or endorses the general objectives and principles of the organization. … Membership means that one has become an integral part of this organization founded with definite religious objectives, including the promotion of interfaith. Hence, for one of Jehovah’s Witnesses to become a member of such a so-called “Christian” association would amount to apostasy.”
Watchtower 1979 January 1 pp.30,31 Questions from Readers
“Jehovah's Witnesses maintain neutrality with regard to the political and military affairs of the nations. (John 17:16; rs pp. 269-76)
They do not interfere with what others do as to voting in political elections, running for or campaigning for political offices, joining non-neutral organizations, shouting political slogans, and so forth. (w86 9/1 pp. 19- 20; w68 6/1 pp. 351-2)
Since true dedicated Christians are "no part of the world," if a member of the congregation unrepentantly pursues a course in violation of his Christian neutrality, he thereby disassociates himself from the neutral Christian congregation. (John 15:19; 17:14-16; w82 1/15 p. 31)”
Pay Attention to Yourselves and to All the Flock p.140
With these statements in mind there can be no question that the Watchtower Society violated its own rules in regards to neutrality when applying for affiliation with the United Nations.
Christendom has regularly been condemned for its involvement with the United Nations, being pictured as the Harlot that rides on the back of this prophetic scarlet beast.
"Such dwellers on earth wondered admiringly at the revived scarlet wild beast. Much reliance was placed in its ability to be a power for world peace and security. Great expectations were held out for it, and it was given designations that were really blasphemous from the standpoint of the Holy Bible. How so? In that to this “wild beast” powers were ascribed and tasks were assigned that really belong to God’s kingdom and its Messiah or its Christ. Back in 1919 the scarlet League of Nations had been seriously called “the political expression of the Kingdom of God on earth.” And now the United Nations, the successor of that League, has been called the best means for peace, yes, even more than that, the “last hope for peace.” So today we can see in actuality what the apostle John saw in symbol, that that scarlet-colored wild beast is “full of blasphemous names.” Those expressions of admiration for it turn false religionists, not to the worship of Jehovah God the Creator, but to idolatry of a man-made creation, the worship of a political image, the worship of an international organization for world peace and security.—Rev. 17:3."
Watchtower 1963 November 15 p.697
Babylon The Great Has Fallen! — God’s Kingdom Rules (1963) p.577
“The United Nations is actually a worldly confederacy against Jehovah God and his dedicated Witnesses on earth.” Watchtower 1987 September 1 p.20
As late as the 1991 June 1 p.17 issue of the Watchtower Christendom was condemned for its involvement with the United Nations
“If Christendom had sought peace with Jehovah’s King, Jesus Christ, then she would have avoided the coming flash flood.—Compare Luke 19:42-44.
10 However, she has not done so. Instead, in her quest for peace and security, she insinuates herself into the favor of the political leaders of the nations—this despite the Bible’s warning that friendship with the world is enmity with God. (James 4:4) Moreover, in 1919 she strongly advocated the League of Nations as man’s best hope for peace. Since 1945 she has put her hope in the United Nations. (Compare Revelation 17:3, 11.) How extensive is her involvement with this organization?
11 A recent book gives an idea when it states: “No less than twenty-four Catholic organizations are represented at the UN. Several of the world’s religious leaders have visited the international organization. Most memorable were the visits of His Holiness Pope Paul VI during the General Assembly in 1965 and of Pope John Paul II in 1979. Many religions have special invocations, prayers, hymns and services for the United Nations. The most important examples are those of the Catholic, the Unitarian-Universalist, the Baptist and the Bahai faiths.”
The partial quote above is from a New Genesis—Shaping a Global Spirituality by Robert Muller (1982) chapter 6. The preceding sentence stated
“All major world religions are accredited to the United Nations as non-governmental organizations. For example, no less than twenty-four Catholic organizations are represented at the UN.”
This shows the Watchtower condemning Churches for NGO accreditation less than 12 months before lodging their application to the UN.
In 2001 the UK Guardian ran the introductory article that brought to light the Watchtower involvement with the United Nations, resulting in shock amongst many Jehovah's Witness. Two days later the Watchtower Society withdrew its UN membership. The Watchtower went on to release information justifying its actions with reasoning ranging between irrelevant to out right dishonesty.
In a letter to the Branches membership was explained away as the Society’s research department requiring access to United Nations library, claiming that in 1991 “it became necessary to register as an NGO to have continued access”.
A similar letter was sent to the Guardian.
The letter to the Guardian and to the Branches is quite untruthful. There are over 400 UN libraries worldwide that can be accessed by anyone. Since 1946 these libraries have had the same access rules, with no change in access requirements in 1991.
“Since 1946, the Dag Hammarskjold Library of the United Nations Secretariat in New York has arranged for the distribution of United Nations documents and publications to users around the world through its depository library system. At present, there are more than 400 depository libraries in over 140 countries maintaining United Nations material from the date of designation as depository to the present. The general public can consult the material free of charge at any depository library.” http://www.un.org/Depts/dhl/deplib/deplibsystem.htm
Even if it were true that access to the UN library required becoming an affiliated NGO, the Society has made quite clear to its followers that membership with a political organization is never justifiable and certainly access to a library is the poorest of excuses.
The Watchtower justification fails at many levels.
- Library access is not an acceptable reason for breaking its own rules
- There was no requirement to join the UN in order to access the library
- There was no change to the application process specifically in 1991
- The Watchtower was required to lodge annual applications between 1992 and 2001
- The UN affiliation was only revoked due to media publicity. If a Witness confesses only after their sin is public knowledge there is high probability elders will not see their confession as a sign of repentance
- If a Witness can be disassociated for membership with political organizations, the same standard should apply to the Watchtower Society
What was the real reason that the Watchtower Society affiliated itself with the United Nations? Without an honest statement from the Watchtower this can only be speculated, though most likely it was in order to gain political favour to enhance Watchtower rights in countries under ban.
When the League of Nations was initially established the Watch Tower praised and espoused its virtues.
“We cannot but admire the high principles embodied in the League of Nations... Truly this is idealistic, and approximates in a small way that which God has foretold that he will bring about after this great time of trouble.”
Watch Tower 1919 February 15 p.51
Later, the Watchtower became vocal in regular condemnation of the League of Nations and United Nations, referring to it as a blasphemous and idolatrous organization and labelling them the scarlet wild beast of Revelation.
“True, the 138 members of the United Nations organization know that Jehovah’s Christian witnesses are no part of Christendom, no, no part of harlotrous Babylon the Great as a whole. They know that Jehovah’s witnesses have not messed themselves up with the dirty politics of this world and have not tried to ride the symbolic scarlet-colored “wild beast” having seven heads and ten horns.”
Man’s Salvation out of World Distress at Hand! (1975) pp.339-340
“Human governments have schemed to form the most brazen and defiant conspiracy against divine rule that has ever existed. (Compare Isaiah 8:11-13.) They have done so, not once, but twice, creating first the League of Nations and then the United Nations.”
Awake! 1990 December 8 p.24
It was somewhat surprising when in the 1990’s a number of complimentary articles were written praising the work of the United Nations.
““THE preamble to the United Nations Charter expresses these noble aims: “We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, . . . and [desiring] to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, . . . have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims.”
Did the UN “accomplish these aims”? Did it get the nations to unite their strength and maintain peace and security? No, not so far, although the UN has sincerely tried to be a significantly better way than the League of Nations.
…Jehovah’s Witnesses firmly believe that the United Nations is going to play a major role in world events in the very near future. No doubt these developments will be very exciting. And the results will have a far-reaching impact on your life. We urge you to ask Jehovah’s Witnesses in your neighborhood for more details on this matter. The Bible clearly paints a picture showing that the United Nations will very shortly be given power and authority. The UN will then do some very astonishing things that may well amaze you. And you will be thrilled to learn that there is yet a better way near at hand that will surely bring eternal peace and security!”
Awake! 1991 September 8 p.10
“WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, . . .”—Preamble to the charter of the United Nations.
“OCTOBER 24, 1995, marks the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. All 185 current member States are committed to the organization’s original principles and goals as expressed in that charter: to maintain international peace and security; to suppress acts of aggression that threaten world peace; to encourage friendly relations among nations; to protect the fundamental freedoms of all peoples without discrimination based on race, sex, language, or religion; and to achieve international cooperation in solving economic, social, and cultural problems.
“For 50 years the United Nations organization has made notable efforts to bring about world peace and security. Arguably, it may have prevented a third world war, and the wholesale destruction of human life through the use of nuclear bombs has not been repeated. The United Nations has provided millions of children with food and medicine. It has contributed to improved health standards in many countries, providing, among other things, safer drinking water and immunization against dangerous diseases. Millions of refugees have received humanitarian assistance.
In recognition of its accomplishments, the United Nations organization has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize five times. Yet, the lamentable fact of life is that we still do not live in a world without war.
“… In Bible prophecy, human governments are often symbolized by wild beasts. (Daniel 7:6, 12, 23; 8:20-22) Hence, for many decades the Watchtower magazine has identified the wild beasts of Revelation chapters 13 and 17 with today’s worldly governments. This includes the United Nations, which is depicted in Revelation chapter 17 as a scarlet-colored beast with seven heads and ten horns.
“However, this Scriptural position does not condone any form of disrespect toward governments or their officials. The Bible clearly states: “Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God. Therefore he who opposes the authority has taken a stand against the arrangement of God; those who have taken a stand against it will receive judgment to themselves.”—Romans 13:1, 2.
“Accordingly, Jehovah’s Witnesses, who are maintaining strict political neutrality, do not interfere with human governments. They never foment revolution or participate in acts of civil disobedience. Rather, they recognize that some form of government is necessary to maintain law and order in human society.—Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1.
“Jehovah’s Witnesses view the United Nations organization as they do other governmental bodies of the world. They acknowledge that the United Nations continues to exist by God’s permission. In harmony with the Bible, Jehovah’s Witnesses render due respect to all governments and obey them as long as such obedience does not require that they sin against God.—Acts 5:29”
Watchtower 1995 October 1 p.3,7
The Awake! 1998 November 22 devoted a number of pages to discussing the fine efforts of the United Nations as did the Awake! 2000 December 8.
The turnaround in Watchtower discussion on the United Nations during the 1990’s clearly coincides with the UN application requirement for affiliated NGO’s to publicly support their Charter.
In the 1960’s the Watchtower decreed that Malawian Witnesses were not to hold a political card in a one party state. This resulted in many thousands of deaths, rapes and displacements of innocent Witnesses between 1963 and 1992. (Yearbook 1999 pp.149-223) Whilst these atrocities were occurring to followers of Watchtower regulation, their headquarters were ignoring the same regulation by being politically affiliated with the “blasphemous” United Nations. The Society freely wields its power to disfellowship its constituents for associating with or working for organizations that are acting contrary to Watchtower principles, and praises followers who die upholding Organization regulation. Yet they violated their own principles; for a library card. Never has there been an apology or admission of wrongdoing, rather there has been no more than a brief and dishonest attempt to make this indiscretion appear justifiable. Is it any wonder that Witnesses have left the Organization in disgust at such hypocrisy?