If you think this is an isolated case read more....
From The Halifax Herald,
Sun Feb. 13, 2000
* also letters to the editor received by the paper Sun Feb 20 th follows this article.
* more added Feb 22 and also later. The rest of the stories were originally published Feb 13th.
If you have had personally, or know of other stories similar drop
a note off to Susan LeBlanc / Staff Reporter at the Halifax (NS) Herald.
It's a startling tale, which Randy Duplak, his lawyer at the time, remembers to this day. "It was an unbelievable scenario that people just wouldn't co-operate, denied knowledge, denied knowing where his wife and children were," says Duplak, now a provincial government lawyer. "It was almost like a spy game you see on a TV movie. You didn't see it in real life."
Duplak says he had no reason to doubt Fox's theory, because Fox appeared credible and had been "an insider" - a Witness - until being evicted from the group, or disfellowshipped, two months before his family vanished.
Fox says smoking was the reason he was given for being kicked out of the Witness congregation in Dartmouth's Woodlawn area. Smoking is still grounds for being disfellowshipped. Fox had smoked "for a thousand years . . . played the fiddle and drank and all that good stuff" after running away from his Halifax home, and his Jehovah's Witness mother, at age 16. Within five or six years he returned and, on May 11, 1957, he married Catherine Lilley Brecknell in Bethany United Church in Halifax.
Influenced by Fox's mother, Catherine converted to the Witnesses. Fox got involved "to a degree," though he says it was half-hearted. Sadly, his wife suffered from mental illness and attempted suicide twice, he says. In 1965, she took their young son Terry and left Arnold, aided in hiding by Witnesses in Toronto, he says. He found her and, "after having to talk to about 16 bloody Witnesses," brought her home.
Afterwards, they lived what Fox calls "a roller-coaster ride." According to 1974-75 medical records contained in Fox's legal file, and which he has allowed Duplak to show to The Sunday Herald, the Foxes shared an "unhappy" and even "unhealthy" relationship.
Duplak says the medical records were obtained to satisfy lawyers that Catherine wasn't running because Fox was abusive. In 1975, the couple was living on Bella Vista Drive in Dartmouth and had three children - Terry, 17, Daniel about eight, and Coleen, about six.
"I'd had enough religion - and that's putting it in very short form - but the last thing I had said was, 'The children shall no longer attend the Kingdom Hall,' " Fox says.
He knew that made him vulnerable with the Witnesses, because as the father and an obvious doubter, he could try to override the group's ban on blood transfusions if his children were under medical care. Fox was summoned to the nearby Kingdom Hall to appear before a judicial committee. He went, knowing he was to be disfellowshipped.
Using smoking as the grounds "was a ploy. They had to use something. . . . The point is, they couldn't have helped (my wife) away on a permanent basis unless I was disfellowshipped. . . . And two months later, they were gone." On Aug. 24, 1975, Fox returned home with Daniel and discovered his wife had fled with Coleen.
On Sept. 15, Daniel "was picked up at school, a ticket was put around his neck and he was put on board a flight to Toronto" to meet his mother, Fox says.
He says son Terry, a devout Witness who would soon marry, admitted that he and "others" had taken Daniel to the Halifax airport. This story is contained in Fox's affidavit dated Oct. 28, 1977, which was filed with the courts in the preliminary stages of Fox's child-custody application. The affidavit was also used to access telephone records in the search for the family. Fox later dropped the custody proceeding because he could not locate the children.
The Sunday Herald tracked down Terry Fox at his home in Lethbridge, Alta. He is still a Jehovah's Witness. He is hesitant to discuss his father's allegations. But he does not deny Arnold Fox's version of events. He will only say his father is being unfair about the role of Jehovah's Witnesses in the affair.
"The family didn't ever split up over religious reasons," says Terry Fox, 41. "It was such a wild situation. It was so odd and all the rest of it. I don't feel able to elaborate and lay the rest of it on the table." Terry Fox says he last spoke with his father in 1977 and "left the ball in Dad's court" as far as future contact. "I haven't heard from him since."
An ex-Witness supports Arnold Fox's story, saying he knew the elder who helped take Daniel to the airport. That elder has since died, he says.
By the time Daniel disappeared, Fox had already hired Duplak, a young lawyer then with the Dartmouth firm Weldon Misener and Covert. The matter was "the kidnapping of his child, Coleen Heather Fox," Duplak alleged in his Nov. 10, 1977, affidavit filed in the early stages of the child-custody application.
Duplak squirrelled away Fox's file because the case was so intriguing. Inside are the photographs Fox supplied to help identify his family. One shows a smiling young girl and an older boy standing outside, barefoot and proudly holding a fish between them. Another shows Catherine, with a beehive hairdo and glasses, posing with the two boys near a lake. The third photo is a shot of a young Arnold, Catherine and two of the children huddling against the wind. The loss of the children left Fox "almost out of my mind with grief and sadness." He also feared for their safety because he believed Catherine was suicidal.
He says he went immediately to police, who told him it wasn't a crime for a mother to take her children. (In 1982, the Criminal Code was amended to make it an offence for a parent to abduct his or her child, even when there is no court custody order.) Fox says police were able to verify that the children were OK, but said they could do nothing further.
Fox asked Duplak to hire private investigators, and World Investigation Service of Toronto was chosen. (The firm no longer appears in the telephone directory.) From November 1975 until October 1976, investigators followed the family from Toronto to various addresses in Victoria, B.C., always coming up short.
Fox had learned through a friend in airport security, who is now dead, that the limousine carrying Daniel had gone to a Toronto address, but this was a string of over 100 townhouses. Because Fox wanted the search done quietly to keep the family from bolting, investigators opted against banging on each of those 100-plus doors.
In a letter to Duplak dated March 5, 1976, World Investigation Service reported they had noticed a Jehovah's Witness Kingdom Hall near the townhouse development, but "following Sunday services . . . no one resembling the photographs of Mrs. Fox was observed."
Duplak says there was little police could do. Fox's file refers to a Dartmouth police investigation running from August 1976 until Feb. 16, 1977. Police concluded Catherine and the children might have moved to the United States. That lead was checked, but the U.S. Consulate in Victoria reported Catherine Fox had not applied for an immigration visa.
Fox even speculated that the family had changed its name.
In his 1977 affidavit, Duplak stated, "Our investigations show and I do verily believe that Catherine Fox and Coleen Heather Fox (and Daniel Patrick Fox) were transported by members of the Jehovah Witness sect . . . (and) are being harboured and hidden by members of the sect." Today, Duplak still thinks Catherine had help.
"Somebody had to be helping them, for whatever reason she might have left," he says. "It was impossible to trace. It was well done. . . . There were no mistakes."
Dennis Charland, public affairs director for the Witnesses' governing Watchtower Bible and Tract Society in Canada, says there would be nothing wrong with fellow Witnesses helping a woman who wants to leave her husband. Charland cannot comment on Fox's story, but says, "to suggest that (his family disappeared) because of the church, well, that's heresy.
"We have nothing to hide," Charland said from Halton Hills, Ont.
In metro, community relations chairman Grant Avery said he does not know the circumstances of Fox's case. "We keep those matters (of disfellowship and membership) very confidential, and the individuals, they know that as well," Avery says.
During the three or four years following the disappearance, Fox also hired police officers in British Columbia and Ontario to do private sleuthing for him. He says he spent about $15,000 trying to find his children. "Quite frankly, I would rather deal with the Mafia than deal with that organization," he says with bitterness.
Fox moved to Newfoundland, trying to forget. He met Betty, whom he would later marry and have a son with. It was a new life. But when Fox returned to Nova Scotia around 1980, the tragedy hit him all over again. "I folded up for about two months. There were just too many nights I sat in that old La-Z-Boy of mine and cried my eyes out," he says. "I don't care who the man is, unless he's made of granite, it literally tears you apart."
In 1983, he started divorce proceedings against Catherine. Not knowing her whereabouts, he had the papers delivered to her sister in P.E.I. He did not hear from Catherine, and the uncontested divorce was granted on June 4, 1984. Fox stated in documents he did not know the children's whereabouts and did not request custody. Last Valentine's Day, his daughter Coleen telephoned out of the blue, and they had an awkward 15-minute conversation. He learned his ex-wife had committed suicide about three years earlier.
Coleen said she was calling from Western Canada, that she was married to an older man and had children. Fox assumed she was still a Witness. She promised to write and send photos of the grandchildren he has never seen. She has not contacted him since.
"There were a lot of things I would love to ask her. I don't know where all this fear comes from (on her part), because as children ages six and seven, when I came home, they'd come running to me with open arms, and we had a great rapport." Fox has heard that his oldest son is in Alberta, is married and has children. He hasn't tried to contact him again, because "it would be to no avail. He won't speak to me."
Copyrite 2000 Halifax Herald Ltd.
More victims....... If you think this is an isolated case read more....
The articles about the Jehovah's Witnesses, written on my suggestion, were excellent (The Sunday Herald, Feb. 13). Congratulations to Susan LeBlanc. Many have expressed commendations for her and the paper.
As far as I remember, no articles like these were ever written in Atlantic Canada before; and I am afraid this time it happened because the Witnesses drove me to the very edge, where I had nothing more to lose by coming forward.
They have destroyed my family and keep destroying others, keeping the "obedient" for the Watchtower. I wonder when the government of Canada will step in and do its duty to Canadians: impose a total ban on the Watchtower, or at least impose due tax on its commercial profits, as happened in France.
I consider the articles in your paper a fine beginning on the road to regaining freedom for many in our country who suffer under the heavy boot of religious despotism.
I'd like to suggest the newspaper publish articles regarding other religions or religious cults. Let our prime minister and members of Parliament know at least 108,000 in this country of ours are trapped by the Watchtower.
Adam Kroscen, Halifax
Needs your love
I was very pleased and impressed by your articles in the Sunday, Feb. 13, newspaper about the Jehovah's Witnesses. I lived in Lower Sackville when I was a child and I like to keep up on things that happen there.
I was particularly encouraged to see Arnold Fox's story presented. The public needs to hear the truth about some of these goings-on within the Jehovah's Witnesses organization.
A few years back, I personally had been talking to a gal in Salmon Arm, B.C., who was thinking about leaving this sect. When her blended family heard of this, she said they sent her away to live with JW families throughout Canada and the U.S. She said they threatened her that she would not be allowed to see her younger sister again if she didn't do what she was told. This sending-away process, with the threat, was meant to get her back into the fold. She told me of other youths in her organization who had been manipulated in this way.
My heart was saddened for Mr. Fox. My thoughts and prayers are with him and if his kids should happen to read this, please, please, contact your dad. He needs your love, not your condemnation.
Darrin Pettitt, Fort St. John, B.C.
Another shot fired
I am writing in response to your articles on Jehovah's Witnesses. I have been happily married for 20 years. I have associated with Witnesses for 12 years, my wife has been baptized for 10 years, my daughter for a year and my son now studies, as I did.
I studied for 12 years off and on. I am NOT one of Jehovah's Witnesses, although I have a thorough knowledge of their beliefs, all based on the Bible.
They do not disfellowship lightly; one is given many chances to repent before that happens. And Witnesses would not "hide" or "kidnap" anyone.
I believe the comments made by individuals in your articles are misleading. Anyone knowing the truth, as offered free of charge by the Witnesses from God's word, the Bible, can see that. Everyone owes themselves that, to learn the truth, especially if it's free.
Those who do know the truth recognize your article for what it is: just another shot fired in a war that has raged on for over 6,000 years. The issue in this war is universal sovereignty, Jehovah God or Satan the Devil. There is no third option.
By the way, they are not forced to buy or sell literature. And they are not under pressure to put a certain number of hours in. Waiting to hear the next shot.
Brian Sarson, Tatamagouche
Thank you for "Witnesses cost me my family." Although not as shocking as his story, I have also an interesting story about why I am not a Jehovah's Witness anymore. I publicly spoke out against the Watchtower's view regarding blood.
Rado Vleugel, the Netherlands
Feel the pain
This is in response to the heart-breaking story about Arnold Fox and his ordeal with the Jehovah's Witnesses. I, too, am an ex-JW, and can tell you that there are more stories about this sort of thing than you can imagine.
This sect does all of these things in the name of God. Imagine a group that tells you that you have to totally cut yourself off from your family if they are non-believers, or if they decide that they no longer wish to remain in the religion. You cannot imagine the heartache and the emotional toll that it takes on a person.
I could feel the pain that Mr. Fox felt when he sat in his recliner, crying his heart out. I've been there. It took years of therapy and a very supportive husband, not to mention medication, to deal with the pain.
I wish someone would expose this group for all of the horrible things that they have done to families in the name of God.
Tina Richter, Paola, Kansas
I want to thank you for your article on the Jehovah's Witnesses man who lost his family. It is a great shame that this sort of thing does go on, but as an ex-Witness myself, I can attest to what happens in the Watchtower Society.
I now run a ministry in Australia to help folk like Arnold Fox, and I have many folk whose lives have been shattered by this society claiming to be Christian and loving, but falling far short in the way they conduct themselves.
Congratulations on exposing this sort of thing.
Ray Beharrell, Free in Christ Ministries
I am writing to thank you for a thoughtful, well-written, and factually presented article on the Jehovah's Witnesses. Your timing was impeccable!
This week, we held the monthly meeting of our support group for former Jehovah's Witnesses here in the San Francisco Bay area, and I was able to print off the article and give everyone there the opportunity to read it.
I am a former Jehovah's Witness, disfellowshipped almost 20 years ago. I am very active in the ex-JW movement on the Internet. I am also a frequent visitor to Nova Scotia and have been captivated by your fair province since my first visit more than eight years ago!
Thanks again for this courageous, outstanding piece of journalism!
Jim Moon, San Francisco
I appreciated your story "Witnesses cost me my family." You have brought out into the light of day a disturbing situation that has gone on for years in the Jehovah's Witnesses.
A number of similar incidents have been related to me over the years. Support group organizations that help ex-JWs could furnish hundreds of similar cases from their files.
JW spokesman Dennis Charland says there is nothing wrong with fellow Witnesses helping a woman who wants to leave her husband. If the JW spouse takes the children to an unknown location, the children will suffer from the loss of the relationship with the other parent for the rest of their lives - that's what's wrong with it. The JWs do not want the influence of the non-JW parent and will use their wealth and legal resources to prevent it, even threatening the JW parent with loss of eternal life if they do not co-operate. Even if the relative is in the same community, the practice of shunning brings so much heartbreak.
Maybe your article will make people think when they open their doors to the clean-cut, smiling JWs.
Linda Greenfield, Ontario
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the story "Witnesses cost me my family" is the misleading subtitle, "Church kept kids away - Waverley man." After carefully reading the article, I could find no verified evidence of the "church" itself being involved with any official effort to deprive Arnold Fox of his wife and kids.
There is little doubt that his wife would turn to her friends for help if she had wanted to leave her husband. Further, if most of her friends were also fellow members of her Jehovah's Witnesses congregation, it comes as little surprise that these people might extend assistance to her in a time of need. However, it is a logical error to conclude that the organization of the Jehovah's Witnesses themselves would somehow be involved in a massive conspiracy to hide this family.
Why is it that the multitude of investigators and police officers could not find evidence of such a conspiracy?
James Long, New York, N.Y.
Relief to be free
I am delighted that you have shown what goes on behind the Watchtower curtain! Thousands have suffered at the hands of this pseudo-Christian religion.
My husband and, later, my son both served prison sentences during the Second World War and Vietnam, respectively, due to the Watchtower policy on being in the military. I am thankful we never had to choose death during a blood transfusion issue.
We have suffered shunning. Our goal is to keep others from falling into the trap and to release those already in their system. I gave 43 years of my life. What a relief to be free.
Diane Gholson, Spring Hill, Fla.
Happens all the time
Thank you for the article about Arnold Fox. It is encouraging to see this side of the Witnesses being exposed.
In my many dealings with those involved with the JWs, this is an issue they avoid or deny. I know from those who have come out of the Witnesses that this happens all the time.
Patty Thoresen, Sarasota, Fla.
Need similar stories
Thank you for publishing the story "Witnesses cost me my family." I wish more newspapers would do similar stories.
The JW spokesman who suggested that it was OK to help someone to leave their husband was misleading. If the man had not been disfellowshipped, the woman would have been told to stick it out and make the marriage work.
Linda Redding, Campbell River, B.C.
Behind the smiles
Thank you for the articles on the Jehovah's Witnesses. Our family has been torn apart because of this religion also.
My brother, little sister, myself and my family have not been allowed to have any contact with our mom and two sisters for over four years now. All this just because we finally realized the religion is a cult led by men who claim to be led by the Holy spirit.
We have all left for other Christian religions, which caused us to be disfellowshipped out of the Jehovah's Witnesses organization, to be cut off by all members.
It was wonderful to see them exposed for who they are and what is behind the smiling faces that come to your doors preaching love and peace.
Cindy McDonald, Chino Valley, Ariz.
I read your Feb. 13 article "Witnesses cost me my family," written by staff writer Susan LeBlanc. The article was superb and very much needed!
I can assure you that Arnold Fox's story is not the only one of its kind. Thank you for printing this story and express my appreciation to Susan LeBlanc!
Larry Hall, Grand Junction, Colo.
Copyright © 2000 The Halifax Herald Limited
Following were more articles printes in the Herald.....
From: Kimberly Sherry <email@example.com>
Date: February 18, 2000 7:49 PM
Subject: Re: your newsletter
Congratulations and thanks for the words of encouragement. Was born and raised and left at the age of 38! In case you haven't seen the latest from your Canadian papers, it follows:
Please find below a complimentary copies of the articles you requested. If you need future assistance, please note our charges are $5.00, $1.50 per e-mailed story and 15% tax. Sincerely, Louise Higgs Information Services 2000/02/13 The Halifax Herald Limited Metro Homes A1
Society prefers to keep separate
By Susan LeBlanc / Staff Reporter
You likely know them as the ones who grace doorsteps, offering their publications. Yet Jehovah's Witnesses largely separate themselves from a world they deem decadent and doomed to end at any time. The belief in the Apocalypse is why Witnesses try to convert others to the side of the saved - theirs. And the feeling the world is decadent - indeed ruled by Satan - is why that knock on the door is all many outsiders know of them.
From its American beginnings in the 1870s, the Christian movement has practised "radical separation" from society at large, says Tom Faulkner, professor of comparative religion at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
Jehovah's Witnesses tend not to write about themselves, so studies usually come from the disillusioned and those who have been excommunicated or "disfellow-shipped," people who "have a powerful incentive to portray the Witnesses in the worst possible light," Faulkner says.
And while ex-members may be telling the truth, verifying their stories becomes "very difficult."
What is evident is that Witnesses are immersed and baptized into the faith and are required to live moral lives and attend weekly Bible study groups and Sunday meetings at the local Kingdom Hall.
Ex-members tell of being disfellowshipped for smoking or light sexual activity and being criticized for wearing short skirts.
Followers keep a close eye on the religious guidelines published in The Watchtower, the twice-monthly publication produced at international Witness headquarters, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Local congregations are run by male elders and overseen by a structure stretching to Canadian headquarters near Toronto, and to Brooklyn, where a body of men governs the society.
The Brooklyn complex is the home of what one writer and ex-Witness called "a highly sophisticated printing and publishing empire."
The Watchtower has a world circulation of 22 million, while Awake!, which addresses current events, has a circulation of slightly less, says Dennis Charland, public affairs director for the Canadian headquarters in Halton Hills, Ont.
Ex-members complain they were forced to pay the society 25 to 35 cents percopy for these publications that they, in turn, had to offer on people's doorsteps while fulfilling their quota of 10 hours per month "preaching" or spreading the word.
"I don't mean to split hairs, but technically we never sold literature (to our members). It was only suggested on a contribution basis," Charland says.
He also disputes the strong contention that members must meet a preaching quota. "There's no mandatory number of hours that any individual must spend in the public ministry," he says.
Converts join a conglomeration of 5.6 million Jehovah's Witnesses in 234 countries. Of that 5.6 million, 108,000 are in Canada, including 3,500 to 3,700 in 42 Nova Scotia congregations.
For followers, military service, saluting flags, joining political parties and voting are banned.
This stance got Witnesses persecuted during the two world wars, when some were imprisoned and even executed for not supporting the war effort.Quebec premier Maurice Duplessis was especially harsh to the group.
Today, followers cannot celebrate most holidays because it's felt they have pagan ties. And based on a biblical reference, blood transfusions are taboo.
Charland says he knows Witnesses who are doctors and teachers, and he sayspursuing higher education is a personal decision families make.
Yet ex-members say attending university was frowned upon because one could adopt "worldly ideas" and get distracted from preaching. Besides, why invest in an education when the world could end?
In fact, ex-members say an ideal job for a Witness is with a cleaning company at night, so he or she can go door-to-door by day.
The running of cleaning businesses by Jehovah's Witnesses is noted in the 1985 book Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah's Witnesses.
The book is the second by James Penton, a fourth-generation Witness who based his first work on the group's contributions to civil rights law. Lauded as champions of free speech and worship, the Witnesses played an important role in Canada's 1960 adoption of a Bill of Rights.
But the Alberta professor grew disillusioned over "the severe chastisement to which individual Witnesses everywhere were being subjected by their leaders when they dissented in any way from official organizational doctrines or policies."
Penton was disfellowshipped about 1981.
Speaking out can get one disfellowshipped.
The practice of disfellowshipment draws much of the criticism from ex-members and on dissenters' Internet sites. Disfellowshipment may occurafter one faces charges before a three-person committee of fellow Witnesses. Those decisions can be appealed.
Charland says disfellowshipment occurs rarely, though he had no current figures. Because Witnesses believe only they will live an everlasting life either in heaven - where a select group of 144,000 will go - or in an earthly paradise ruled by Christ, retaining membership is crucial.
The movement has pegged various dates for the coming apocalypse. Stories abound of the hardship followers suffered after preparing for the heralded end - whether in 1925 or 1975. People quit their jobs and sold their businesses; farmers refused to reseed their fields.
Penton says the Watchtower society "left no doubt" the end was coming in '75. The number of converts soared.
Truro resident Sid Lively, who was a Witness from 1974 to '84, says he knew a Saskatchewan farmer who, anticipating the end in '75, sold his shares in the prosperous family farm. His wife, a teacher, allowed her credentials to lapse.
"He wound up cleaning parks, mowing lawns. She's a substitute teacher making way less than she would be," Lively says.
"We talked to people who didn't get dental work done in the States because they thought their world was going to end."
The Watchtower society "blamed people for blowing (the date) up themselves," says Lively, a point that writer Penton notes as well.
In the CBC documentary Children of Jehovah, a young woman says she wouldn't even buy clothing at end-of-season sales, feeling she wouldn't need them.
Being disfellowshipped is a double-edged sword - eternal life is taken away and one's standing in the community can collapse.
In countless stories told to The Sunday Herald or in documentaries or publications or on the Internet, people describe being cut off from other Witnesses - including immediate family - after being disfellowshipped.
The Watchtower society says it has no policy advising followers to disassociate themselves from disfellowshipped Witnesses.
Charland says people choose their level of involvement with a disfellowshipped relative. Disfellowshipment "does not sever family relationships," Charland says, calling it "a loving relationship" that is for the good of the fallen one.
John, an ex-elder raised in the faith, says some members shun the ousted in the real belief they must learn a lesson. Others fear they will be marked as rebels by association, so they stay clear.
Faulkner says cutting off an ex-member - and preserving one's Witness status - is "a matter of life and death. Now, the fact that the stakes are so high doesn't mean that they're right to do it."
The implications are so serious that people have tried to sue the society over disfellowshipment.
In 1979, a disfellowshipped Calgary couple unsuccessfully launched a $900,000 lawsuit against the Witnesses for what they called wrongful expulsion. They said they had entered a contract with the group and had been promised "spiritual paradise and the favour of God."
In 1994 in British Columbia, a disfellowshipped Jehovah's Witness won a court order restricting her ex-husband's religious activities with their children. She worried that if her children kept attending Witness services, they would turn against her.
In court, she presented a 1981 issue of The Watchtower that stated that anyone who greets a disfellowshipped person "is a sharer in his wicked works." And those who associate with the disfellowshipped "must be removed from the congregation."
Those who criticize disfellowshipment come from traditions that ignore God's commandment to expel the wicked, The Watchtower said, adding, "Their 'tolerance' is unscriptural, unchristian."
In 1996, an Ontario lawyer and longtime member won an interim injunction against the society, preventing it from holding a second set of disfellowshipment proceedings against him.
The lawyer argued that, given the group's published views, he as a disfellowshipped member could not communicate with his former Witness clients and properly defend himself against charges the Law Society of Upper Canada brought of misapplication and misappropriation of clients' funds.
The judge called the evidence of shunning "convincing."
2000/02/13 The Halifax Herald Limited .
Adam Kroscen plays his violin in his Spryfield apartment. Once he lost his faith, he lost his children 'I just want them to know that I still love them'
By Susan LeBlanc / Staff Reporter
In the beginning, Adam wanted to know God.
So when the Jehovah's Witnesses knocked on his Halifax door in 1973, he was receptive.
A native of Czechoslovakia who had immigrated to Canada in 1968, Adam Kroscen was then a violinist with the Atlantic Symphony Orchestra. He had begun reading the Bible while on tour.
"I was religiously inclined. Since I was a little boy, I desired to know God, and I was totally fascinated by the stuff they were telling me, that in '75 we would be in a paradise here on the earth, that we won't have to die and we'd survive. All the wickedness and the wicked people would be gone," he says.
Kroscen, then 32, was baptized a Witness in 1974. His life began to change quickly. He split with the orchestra, because the musicians frequently had to play national anthems and God Save the Queen. To Witnesses, "this is considered idolatry," he says. Then his wife, a concert pianist, left him, "embarrassed . . . and very unhappy. "I lost her, and she was a wonderful woman," he says.
When paradise did not arrive in 1975, members were told to be patient. Kroscen was. He remarried the next year. Adam Kroscen, 33, and Monica Dorothy McCormick, a 21-year-old native of Ontario, were married in Kentville by a Witness clergyman on July 3, 1976.
Witness elders had asked them to move to Kentville, where there was a need for preaching. Kroscen opened a small music studio. In 1977, the couple had a son, followed two years later by a daughter. When she was two, doctors said she required heart surgery.
The Kroscens heard about a doctor in Buffalo, N.Y., who could do the surgery without blood transfusions, a treatment the Witnesses oppose. And though they could not afford it, they took their daughter to Buffalo under the understanding the Watchtower society would pay the bills, he says.
On the trip there, Kroscen sold a few violins to cover some expenses. As well, the family stopped at Canadian Watchtower society headquarters in Halton Hills, Ont., where, he says, they were told again not to worry. The operation was successful, and the Kroscens returned home. The bills started arriving. "I'd go to the (Witness) brothers and say, 'Brothers, I need your help now because they say they are going to employ their collection agency if you don't pay these ($7,000 in) bills." Though Kroscen was worried sick about it, he remembers people telling him not to fret.
Then someone suggested he talk to the provincial ombudsman. Maybe he could argue the government should have paid for the operation. Though Kroscen was hopeful after meeting with the ombudsman, the word was passed on to stop the process.
Months later, he called a Watchtower society lawyer and discovered the society had paid the medical bills, using leftover funds collected by a Witness trying to get a New Brunswick family out of a similar jam. "They paid it a few months before, and nobody even bothered to tell me," he says. "And my nerves were . . . I was just ready to collapse. . . . My faith in these people started to erode." The Kroscens returned to Halifax around 1980 and joined the Fairview Kingdom Hall.
Kroscen grew to feel he had become a marked person because he was questioning decisions. Yet he claims he always believed in the movement's teachings, even after he was disfellowshipped, or thrown out. That occurred after his wife announced one day - Kroscen remembers it as Oct. 12, 1996 - that she was leaving with their four children. Kroscen was shocked. "I don't know what happened to (Monica). Eventually, she was on their side."
Monica Kroscen did not want to comment to The Sunday Herald.
Kroscen sobs as he describes the confusing months during which he tried to solicit the help of one fellow Witness after another, in hopes of reuniting his family. Finally, Kroscen was summoned before a judicial committee in early 1998, where, he says, the charges seemed to be mental and physical abuse of his family. He was disfellowshipped. Kroscen was allowed to appeal, and he says he went to that hearing armed with letters he had solicited in defence of his character - letters which he says the elders ignored.
"We have never had any reason to believe that these (four Kroscen) children were anything but happy and well adjusted," wrote James Barrett, principal of Tantallon Junior High School, in March 1998. "There was never any indication or disclosure that these children experienced any kind of family abuse."
The family's doctor, David Saunders of St. Margarets Bay Medical Centre, wrote he had never observed "any situation involving family violence, or abuse of any individual, at home, or elsewhere. Mr. Kroscen's personal health record suggests a kind, sensitive person, who is striving to achieve peace and harmony in his life."
Grant Avery, metro community relations chairman for the Jehovah's Witnesses, says cases of disfellowshipment are confidential, so he cannot comment. "Even those familiar with (Kroscen's case), they wouldn't be able to discuss it," he says. In July 1998, Kroscen started divorce proceedings, and it became final the following year.
He lives now in a small Spryfield apartment. Kroscen has pages of worn notes from the days when he was fighting disfellowshipment. He is confused and hurt by events of the past few years. He teaches the violin, and repairs and makes the delicate instruments. He talks about giving recitals, and attends All Nations Christian Reformed Church in Halifax. But he is lonely. Kroscen says his ex-wife and children refuse to see him.
"My oldest son got married last September, and they wouldn't tell me when," he says. "I just want them to know that I still love them."
--- 2000/02/13 The Halifax Herald Limited NovaScotia Steve Proctor / Staff
Sid Lively stands in front of the Kingdom Hall in Truro.
Unspoken rule is to shun those who've left the church
By Susan LeBlanc / Staff Reporter
John and Jane have kept a count - 15 Witnesses or ex-Witnesses whom they knew. All committed suicide.
"You can't imagine what it's like when they kick you out like that," says Jane, who was a Witness for 30 years until she and her husband left the group a number of years ago. "That ostracizing from your family is worse than a war."
The couple say they must remain anonymous for fear they, too, will be cut off from their Witness relatives. John and Jane are not their real names. They may not be disfellowshipped after all these years, but speaking out would make it difficult for some relatives to associate with them, explains John, who was raised in the faith and served as an elder.
Dennis Charland, spokesman for the Witnesses in Canada, says the rarely exercised practice of disfellowshipment "does not sever family relationships." He says there is no society policy against associating with disfellowshipped relatives, and families set their own limits.
That may be the current case, says John, but the unspoken rule is, don't do it. People are too afraid to do otherwise. "A good number of Jehovah's Witnesses still take a very, very hard stand," he says. People are shunned.
John and Jane lead this delicate existence - lapsed and no longer attending Kingdom Hall, scornful of the organization that once controlled their lives, but hesitant to criticize publicly.
"If (our relatives) knew we were here tonight (being interviewed), oh, it would be a disaster," says Jane. "I'm not recognized as a Jehovah's Witness, but the thing you must never do is you must go to your grave and never speak about any of this. So they have a wonderful way of keeping all this information very secret."
Sid Lively of Truro says he, his wife and son are still shunned, 16 years after quitting. In 1984, the Livelys had a lawyer write the Witnesses society to ask that their names be erased from the membership list. Their story made headlines and the Livelys even took to picketing Witness conventions.
"We lost customers that were Jehovah's Witnesses," says Lively, 58, who runs a sign-making business. "We were shunned by all the people."
Nevertheless, the Livelys were thankful to have escaped the organization as a unit.
For 10 years, until 1996, Lively ran a free recorded telephone message for doubting and ex-Witnesses. As part of a network of dissatisfied followers, he has spoken to troubled people from all over North America and helped many summon the courage to leave, he says. Some were suicidal. Others worried about being severed from relatives, a threat Lively calls "an awful club to hold over your head." In his opinion, "people should be allowed to not be a Jehovah's Witness," he says.
Charland says leaving is completely voluntary, as is joining.
Lively still has a business card announcing himself as "helping people who encounter problems with Jehovah's Witnesses and other authoritative religions." After being baptized a Witness in Regina around 1974, Lively found he enjoyed the door-to-door preaching that was expected but which some members loathed.
The tactic was to ask the person at the door a question they could not answer negatively, such as: "Would you like to live in a perfect, new world?" That would get people talking.
"People are lonely out there," Lively says. Jane recalls with shame one tactic she used to approach people about converting. "We'd take The Halifax Herald and we'd take those obituaries and we'd write to (the survivors). Oh, when I think about what I did. "We'd say, 'I am a minister and I saw that your husband died,' and then you'd start, 'but he'll be back in the resurrection' and all this stuff." No one ever responded, she says, but "you could count your time. We'd do that all the time. Isn't that terrible?" she says.
Counting one's time was important, for each member had to "preach" or spread the news for at least 10 hours a month, say numerous ex-Witnesses.
Charland says no such quota exists.
Sent: Friday, February 18, 2000 1:22 PM
Subject: your newsletter
I am in nova Scotia, Canada. Your web site and newsletter is wonderful. Who said we cannot still "pioneer". Thank you for your good work. I was in for 30 years.......free at last !
Subject: A heartbreaking story from Eastern Canada
Date: Friday, April 28, 2000 3:55 PM
(This young woman has just come out to tell her story.....It can be substantiated by several of us here in Eastern Canada area, including her Doctor......who we have spoken to....I have spent several hours with her in the last week since she went public........the media have been contacted and are considering press coverage) She wrote this story herself this week.
April 26, 2000
To all those who may benefit from this story:
These memories are very painful for me to recollect. My mother became a Jehovahís Witness when I was two years old, my father joined the Witnesses six years later.
When I was 5 years old, we lived in the downstairs apartment of a home owned by Witnesses. They were in strong standing in their congregation, and were supposedly trustworthy. They had a teenage son, who went to the meetings and from door to door regularly.
All the time we were living there, which was about two years, their son was sexually abusing me. He used threats as a means to keep me quiet. For reasons pertaining to me needing to remain anonymous, I cannot convey the exact words he used to threaten me, but to put it in other words, he said that if I told anyone what he was doing to me, that he would bludgeon me to death! He went into the gruesome details of how he would do this. I realize how shocking and unbelievable this sounds, but, it certainly did happen exactly the way Iíve told it.
It goes without saying that this kind of severe abuse at such a young age, has left me with very deep emotional scars. My mother knew about this, because she told me years later that she overheard him threaten me in this way, although, out of fairness to her, she did not know why he was saying such horrible things to me, she said nothing about it. The abuse continued until we moved.
Not much more than a year passed in the new congregation we were in, when I suffered another traumatic experience of sexual, emotional, and verbal abuse by another family who were Witnesses, and of course, as before, was told I could trust them.
They had a daughter the same age as me and two adopted sons. I was abused by two members of the family sexually, and verbally and emotionally by three members. My parents knew about this, and also other Witnesses who were close friends of this family; unbelievable, again nothing was said or done about it!
I was the victim, I suffered, and even now at the age of thirty-four, am still suffering because of the abuse I endured. I have had to see a psychiatrist now for six years, and am glad to say that I am making good progress, but it has been a very long and painful road. I attempted suicide on several occasions, feeling that I wasnít worthy to live and suffering severe guilt feelings, as well as extreme confusion.
When I was a teenager, the sexual abuse stopped, but I experienced emotional abuse from others in the congregation. There were other young people my own age, who, although they would pioneer (fulltime missionary preaching), and consider themselves so "good", they would treat me in a way that made me feel like an outcast, even though I was known to be a nice person, and gave them no reason whatsoever to treat me in such a way. They would have the occasional get together, and not invite me. As a Jehovahís Witness one has a very limited social life as we are instructed not to associate in a social way with so called "worldly" people.......so no invitation hurt me
My parents were upset about this, and knew that it was wrong and very un-Christian, but there was nothing they could do. I didnít even know about these gatherings, until I heard about them later. I could not understand why they were being so mean.
They would put on an act at the kingdom hall, but in school they were entirely different. When I mentioned this to others in the congregation, they cornered me during the lunch break at school, and called me names, and said I was a trouble maker. They wanted to cover up what they really were, and when the circuit overseer and his wife came to the congregation, my peers again would put on a veneer of doing everything right to the letter of the law, so to speak. They had everyone fooled.
The circuit overseerís wife gave me quite a hard time, because "I wasnít pioneering like the other young ones and that I should follow their "good example". This made me very angry, and I became withdrawn.
I know I had to go to the meetings, and from door to door with the same ones that were making it hard on me. They wouldn'tít let on what was really going on when others were around, but when they got me alone, they really made me feel like a worthless piece of dirt. By this time, I became severely depressed, and dreaded going to meetings, even though I knew I had to!
This same circuit overseer announced after a meeting one night, that there were to be no more get-togethers, or parties at all, because he said something "wrong" might happen! I feel that he had absolutely no right to make up a rule like this on his own, much less at all.
I put up with this all during my teen years, and most of my twenties. I look back now with a feeling of loss, because all those years I feel were wasted. I did eventually tell the elders what happened, but they never did anything; they swept it under the carpet.
In the J.W. organization, the chances of finding a mate are narrow. I wanted to get married, settle down and maybe have children, the governing body discouraged this because they wanted everyone to devote their whole life to knocking on doors, and trying to convert as many people as possible to their own beliefs. This made it even harder than it already was to find someone to marry. This depressed me very much.
There was one young man in the congregation who seemed to show an interest in me, and I liked him as well. He was a pioneer, and hardly ever missed a meeting. What happened was one time he got me into a position where he took advantage of me physically. It became known, and we were both called up before the Judicial Committee separately. He was put on reproof, whereas I was disassociated, and "marked" as someone to shun.
This appeared very unfair, because the elders knew at the time that not long before this happened, he had been guilty of criminal behavior, to the point that even his own father (who never was a witness) had to report him to the police because he was breaking into his home and stealing some of his fatherís belongings, and they also knew that he had recently physically assaulted an ex-girlfriend who was studying with the witnesses at that time. She also went to the police, and they gave her a restraining order, which he violated on a number of occasions. This can all be substantiated with Police Records. I would also like to add that he was doing these things after he was baptized. When I found out about all this I was shocked. He would say things about the elders behind their backs, and referring to them in language I wouldn'tít want my cat to hear, and then heíd go to the meetings, and put on such a hypocritical act with them; it was downright sickening!
When I was twenty-seven years old, I decided I could no longer carry the burden of these things all on my own. I went to several psychiatrists, some of whom didnít understand Jehovahís Witnesses strange beliefs, but finally I found an excellent psychiatrist, and he gave me the best help and support he could. I will always be very grateful to him for seeing me through very difficult times.
I am happy to say that I have come a long way in recovering from the emotional turmoil. Unfortunately, I still have times of depression and anxiety attacks, but this is certainly understandable considering what I went through in the past.
Now I have the support of others who have had similar traumatic experiences within the J.W. organization, and I no longer feel alone and unworthy to enjoy life, and look forward to my future, instead of fearing it.
I hope that by telling my story, it will help others to know that they are certainly not alone, and that there is help and support available.
A Thirty Four Year Old Ex Jehovahís Witness in Canada
If you think this is an isolated case read more....