Alberta court weighs in on JW disfellowshipping

//Alberta court weighs in on JW disfellowshipping

Alberta courts are wading into the controversial territory of jurisdiction over religious organizations after the Alberta Court of Appeal decided to allow the Court of Queen’s Bench to hear an application relating to the 2014 expulsion of a member of the Highwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The appellate court sided with Randy Wall, a local real estate agent and member of the Congregation who faced expulsion after admitting to being drunk on two occasions and verbally attacking his wife.

Two of the three appeal judges dismissed the application from the congregation with a dissenting opinion from Thomas W. Wakeling, who wrote that the congregation is a private organization that is “like a bridge club.”

“The decisions the bridge club makes – when and where to meet, the obligations of the host, the duration of a session, who may be invited as a guest when a regular is unavailable – are not enforceable promises and have limited, if any, impact outside its small circle.”

“I’m very impressed with the dissenting judge,” said David Gnam who represents the congregation.

That dissenting opinion gives the congregation an automatic right to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada but Gnam says the decision is still in the hands of his clients.

“I’m still in process of formulating my recommendations to my clients and will leave it to them to make that decision,” said Gnam.

It’s been nearly 25 years since the country’s top court visited the issue of judicial jurisdiction over religious organizations.

In 1992, the court ruled that religious groups had to give details relating to the reasons for expulsion to members in order to give them an opportunity to respond.

‘Alleged wrongdoing involves drunkenness’

In 2014, Wall was accused of “alleged wrongdoing involves drunkenness” and was directed to appear before the Judicial Committee of the Highwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. That committee was comprised of four elders.

Wall told the panel his behaviour stemmed from stress related to the expulsion of his 15-year-old daughter who he and his wife were required by the church to shun.

The congregation had already kicked the teen out of the community and as a result, even though she was a dependent child living with her parents, the family was pressured to evict the girl from the home, leading to “much distress.”

At the meeting, Wall admitted he’d been drunk twice that he’d verbally abused his wife once.

The judicial committee found Wall was “not sufficiently repentant” and he was disfellowshipped, a decision that then compelled his wife, children and other Jehovah’s Witnesses to shun him.

Wall appealed that decision and a panel of three elders was selected and asked to consider “the mental and emotional distress he and his family were under” following his daughter’s disfellowship but the committee sided with the original panel’s decision.

Church’s appeal avenues exhausted

Finally, Wall sent a letter of appeal to the Watch Tower and Bible Tract Society of Canada but he was told the Canadian Branch would not overturn the decision.

After exhausting the church’s appeal avenues, Wall made an application with the Court of Queen’s Bench in Calgary which ordered a hearing to first determine if there was jurisdiction for the court to hear the application.

A judge decided that the superior court did have jurisdiction to hear the application because “he was satisfied the disfellowship had an economic impact on


The congregation and its judicial committee then appealed Wall’s right to have a Court of Queen’s Bench judge hear his application.

One of the congregation’s arguments was that the Court of Queen’s Bench judge erred when he found the religious practice of shunning infringes civil and property rights.

1992 Supreme Court of Canada decision

That was one of the grounds for the judge finding the court did have jurisdiction to “review the merits of a membership decision of a voluntary religious association.”

Wall said his clients refused to do business with him following his expulsion because they were from the Jehovah’s Witness congregation. For that reason, he argued his property and civil rights were affected by the disfellowship so the court had jurisdiction to hear the application.

The 1992 Supreme Court decision regarding a Hutterite man who was expelled from his Manitoba colony noted that the courts “are slow to exercise jurisdiction over the question of membership in a voluntary association, especially a religious one.”

The exception was when property or civil right hinged on membership.

Since 1992, there have been other cases that set the precedent for courts to have jurisdiction when “there has been a breach of the rules of natural justice or the complainant has exhausted the organization’s internal processes.”

Wall argued the internal process was unfair — that the church’s framework for expulsion was unclear.

He submitted that he wasn’t told whether he could retain a lawyer, if there would be a record of the proceedings, the details of the allegations against him or whether there would be written reasons for the committee’s decision

On the basis of those allegations, and because Wall had exhausted all avenues of internal appeal, the panel found the Court of Queen’s Bench has jurisdiction to hear the application.

Wall, who represented himself could not be reached for comment.


2016-12-08T15:09:54+00:00 September 13th, 2016|JW News|44 Comments
  • Joe Dman

    I couldn’t help but think that this situation may allude to how the disgusting thing will stand where it ought not. Given the fact that laws are being passed in the U.S. that gives consideration to international laws embraced by the U.N., when U.S. Sovereignty is given over to the U.N. then an international court could decide what rules the WT will play by, thus having the disgusting thing standing where it ought not. Other than appeals, If any are allowed, The UN decisions will be final and immediate. The WT will have no choice but to accept and play along or be dissolved. Just a thought.

    • T L C

      Interesting thought


      Yes, I am watching the “gay rights agenda” being forced on religion expecially the transgender mandates…this could legally fracture the wall of the watchtower along with the abuse cases…we shall see

  • Please8834

    Hello Robert..
    Just wandering what your thoughts on this article? I tried to listen to one of podcasts, however it stops playing just as your about to answer the question..would you mind adding your thoughts on Shunning about this article? Thank you

    • ewatchman

      Disfellowshipping is a biblical mandate. Obviously, though, it is mis-used in some cases. I think JW parents should not allow their children to even be baptized since it exposes them to possible ostracism at a formative time of their lives.

      But I think if the Canadian ruling stands it will set an ominous precedent for governmental control over religious affairs on lots of other things. It is like the Arab proverb about, if you allow a camel to stick his head into your tent the next thing you know he’s in the tent.

      • Didn’t Jesus set the BEST example for getting baptised? 30 years old!!!

        • T L C

          Exactly! I was baptized at 9 and that made things sooo difficult for me:-( I wish my parents would have made me wait because I dealt with guilt for EVERYTHING growing up.

          • RLALLEN

            I was 14…there was pressure to become baptized, I was NOT ready to deal with that much responsibility, and to face serious consequences for what is suppose to be a dedicated service to God for life, I was a child…In many cases, baptism under pressure and not pure intent, can cause irreparable harm…I know so many in that position

            • Man from the lions pit

              Pressure and reasoning why to get baptize asap in JW is mostly a tool how to multiply membership and get authority about one.

            • RLALLEN

              In my personal experience I have found this to be correct…I regret deeply the baptismal vow to the watchtower, the blasphemous insertion of the org as equivalent to Jehovah and Christ!..My dedication as now that I am an adult is only to Jehovah, in following Christ and not men…May Jehovah forgive my youthful inexperienced ignorance!

            • Man from the lions pit

              He will because he is LOVE .It was not about your ignorance you were not correctly or truthfully and thoroughly informed in contrary you were misled.Same apply to me.
              I was baptized at 18.My father was and elder at that time and he hold me back because the pressure was big on me since my teenage years but he stood like a protective wall for me in this respect because he new what it was about and he didn’t wanted to get me baptize before the legal age in my country which was and is 18.In my personal opinion 30 plus exactly as Jesus did.
              Anything below is at least question able.

            • Kevin b

              Without control there would be no organization.

            • Man from the lions pit

              yap and that is what are those sitting up there in HQ of JW .org are afraid of….loosing control = loosing org.

            • SJ Bobkins

              Really, just how were the early Christians under control of the church led by Jesus and then by the Apostles? A church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum of the saints. You should test the doctrines by living them, then decide if they are from God or man (John 7:17).
              You look at meetings as a way to come together with like minded people to help and support each other while studying and learning together. Nothing good comes out of forcing people to do what you think they should be doing. If you produce a good product people will come with no force

        • Shelley.

          Where I live you need to be 18 to hold a drivers license,get married or vote.Getting baptized is the most serious decision in a persons life.I believe Jehovah does not approve of these babes getting baptized.We are not completely mature until we are around 30 and some not even then.I agree with brother King 100 percent.I know from personal experience how devastating it is to a family when a child is baptized and then disfellowshipped when in their teens.There are way too many families who have experienced this pain.Disfellowshipping is biblical but child baptism is definitely not.

        • Man from the lions pit

          Not according to the WT or JW.

      • Please8834

        I remember my dad telling me that proverb as boy.I thought it halarious then.and now ,only now it represents the fact we have no privacy because of the bigger animal in the room the proverbable elephant os in everything we do now..thx Robert a true sage

      • Kevin b

        IMO. I feel like watchtower has gone above and beyond the scriptures. Yes, the flock needs to be protected from bad influences. They use dfing as a control mechanism. Everyone has a right to go to the Kingdom Hall and take in spiritual food, with out being shunned because of a sin you made. To shun someone just really makes my skin crawl. It’s just like bullying in a since. It’s not like being kind to someone and saying hello to someone at the hall or having a conversation with that person is gonna weaken your faith, aren’t we all sinners at the Kingdom Hall anyway. It’s just a self righteous thing to do. The Kingdom Hall should be a place to go to for encouragement. Don’t associate with them outside of the Kingdom Hall, simple as that. Satan knows disfellowshipping destroys families. He’s the puppet master and the governing body are the puppets he controls. They make the rules we have to follow. There could be a much more loving way to discipline someone than full on disfellowshipping. Just my opinion.

        • T L C

          I agree with you. The scripture that is used to support the practice of disfellowshipping in 1 Corinthians talks about not “even eating with such a man” and “removing the wicked person from among yourselves” …obviously all witnesses know that this refers to association. So, as you state…merely saying “Hello” to a person does not constitute association. I was df’d in the past (currently now just inactive) but I remember that the friends wouldn’t even make eye contact with me when I would walk into the kingdom hall. It felt pretty unloving to say the least…

        • rajan

          @Kevin – I agree that in certain cases disfellowshipping is biblically mandated – but it is for the truly unrepentant person in the case of the Corinthian congregation
          There was need for this. Being drunk is not grounds for this – take the case of Noah who was a faithful man but he got drunk and he was not punished by Jehovah God
          In fact Ham was cursed because of his disrespect for his father a true and faithful servant of Jehovah.

        • Anderiega

          I concur with rajan and you. Plus, from reading this article, this man appealed TWICE! My brain thinks if he wasn’t repentant at all, he wouldn’t have shown up for any meetings. It sounds like he was fighting for his life and family. I personally know of several families where parents have turned to drinking because they are not allowed to speak to disfellowshipped children. I’ve read the “shepherd the flock” book. There are degrees of sin according to the book, so even if you truly are repentant in your heart, the elders gotta follow the book and df you. It happened to me. I’ve spent thousands on therapy. Being DFed really messes with your brain and sense of self. But I’m ok…I have a deeper empathy

          • Kevin b

            Thanks for sharing. Even as a parent, you wouldn’t ignore your child for a year and shun them and call that discipline. I would call that abuse. That’s what the organization does and everyone welcomes it with open arms. It’s mind numbingly ridiculous how JWs are such followers who can’t see through the BS.

          • THE DRIFTER

            Would be interesting to see what would happen if the mandate went out for the congregations to throw “big rocks”, eh?

            Wonder how many would have the stomach for it?

            Enjoyed your post btw, …

          • Srecko Sostar

            Hi! Excellent illustration at the end. Wish you all best!

      • Hope you feel better soon brother Robert!

        • e.v.g

          I agree

      • SJ Bobkins

        Am I worried that JW leaders will lose a little of the power they use to humiliate, and break up families? Not in the least. Who monitors high control churches to insure that they don’t use fear to ruin the peace and well being of a child, or drive a hurting person to suicide? We all have to be accountable to someone or something, please don’t insult my intelligence and tell me that God handles this situation. I haven’t seen God shuttîng down churches/TV Evangelists that maintain that you must send them your food money, rent, or mortgage payment in order to be right with God, or to have a Healing.

      • I can’t even fathom that in this day and age people would actually believe that the earth is flat, stupidity in the first degree!
        Planet Earth is full of useless idiots ?

  • Bobby 6343

    This is insane! “Wall told the panel his behaviour stemmed from stress related to the expulsion of his 15-year-old daughter who he and his wife were required by the church to shun”. “she was a dependent child living with her parents”!

    He could not keep his child at home even though she was disfellowship!? She was still dependent on her parents!

    ” the family was pressured to evict the girl from the home, leading to “much distress.”
    Micah 3:1 and 9.
    Verse 1. I said; “hear, please, you heads of Jacob and you “commanders of the house of Israel. Should you not know what is just?

    Verse 9. Hear this, please, you heads of the house of Jacob and you “commanders” of the house of Israel, Who detest justice and who make “crooked” all that is straight.”

    Micah 6:16 last verse. “And you will bear the scorn of the peoples.”

    • Joe Dman

      I’ve never heard of anything like this happening where a family had to kick their dependant child out of their house. You have to consider this is a worldly court case. We only read what a worldly reporter wrote and what an angry EX witness sensationalized. I think the emphasis here as Robert commented is the precedence set by the courts.

      • Man from the lions pit

        I know about such cases unfortunately.It’s exactly what Shelley wrote.Some elders are over righteous narrow minded zealots.In order to please ORG. more than God they are completely blinded in what they do.Doing more damage than help ! Very sad and disappointing.

        • T L C

          Very true!

    • T L C

      Yeah I thought it was crazy as well. I don’t get why it was suggested that their daughter leave home. That’s way too extreme…

    • Shelley.

      In Canada a child can not leave home until they are 16 and the parents are still legally responsible for them until 18.This is definitely a situation where the elders went beyond the scriptures,telling parents to put their minor child out of the home.These type of situations bring serious reproach against Jehovah.These situations could be completely avoided if baptizm was only allowed when a person reaches maturity.At least 18-21 years of age.Even the world so to speak has the common sense to prevent marriage and consumption of alcohol ,driving,and voting until this age.So many lost and broken sheep,no wonder Jehovah has to start with punishing his own people and set matters straight before the eyes of all to see.

  • Man from the lions pit

    WT and GB must reap what they sow. Although DSF and Shunning are biblical concepts the twisted and misused application and implementation of it brings pain and shame on families and all congregation.
    Its example of how power/authority spoils.

  • Burt Reynolds

    They condemn themselves. They cared not a jot for the welfare of the child….child abuse again….broke the family and destroyed the reasoning of the father, drove him to drink, being unable to reason with them in their hard hearted lack of insight, caused his wife to shun him, effecting a divorce situation and ruined his business. Where is their justice, their love, compassion and forgiveness? It is very saddening to see brothers behaving in this way, soaked in the pernicious evil of Satan.

    • Bklyn Kevin

      Concerning the watchtower.
      James 2:13
      13 For the one who does not practice mercy will have his judgment without mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
      Matthew 7:
      2 for with the judgment you are judging, you will be judged, and with the measure that you are measuring out, they will measure out to you.

  • KB
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