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Jehovah’s Witnesses learn that scaring children in Sweden comes with a price

[From the Metro investigation]

What an interesting and odd story coming out of Sweden today. We were alerted to it by a Lloyd Evans tweet, and then spent part of the morning reading translations of articles from the Swedish version of Metro, the free daily newspaper.

It turns out that last summer, Metro ran a series of articles on Jehovah’s Witnesses, which was having a big annual gathering in Stockholm. At the event, which was open to the public, about 8,000 people were in attendance, including several hundred children. The audience was shown a slick US-produced film that had an anti-LGBT message, as well as frightening stuff about an imminent Armageddon. Metro quoted an ex-JW who said, “They do not realize how dangerous this is for children.”

The ex-member reported the meeting to the State Media Council and to the police. It turns out that because the event was open to the public, a permit was required before showing a film to an audience that included children.

In December, Metro reported that a criminal investigation was happening. And now this morning Metro has reported that a local Jehovah’s Witnesses representative (who is unnamed) has been convicted and was sentenced to a fine of $43,000 SEK, which is about $4,600 US.

“The fine is set low because the defendant has low income,” Lloyd tells us. “It would be far higher if it was directed at Watchtower itself. But still, the main issue now is that they can’t ignore this and go on as before.”

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The Bunker: So the lesson is, scaring children in Sweden comes with a price.

Lloyd: Indeed. Sweden has acted entirely properly in this instance. It’s yet another example of governments finally waking up to the harm cults are doing, and acting accordingly. It should be happening in every country. You shouldn’t be able to churn out extremely traumatic, hateful video propaganda and force families with kids to sit through it. Watchtower is finally discovering this the hard way.

The Bunker: That might be tough to regulate here. We’re trying to think where a complaint could be lodged if a film scaring children about Armageddon was shown at a public venue here in the US. Considering the crap we subject children to on our TVs every day, we’re not sure anyone would notice.

Lloyd: Which just demonstrates how far behind we are in Western society. Cults are allowed to get away with almost anything in the name of religion, including forcing kids to watch videos encouraging them to hate and fear gay people (and their allies), and films depicting men with guns coming for them just before Armageddon erupts. We’re living at the wrong point in history. Leah Remini has already demonstrated this by putting together compelling evidence of Scientology abuse and corruption, putting it on national television, and the government barely shrugging their shoulders.

The Bunker: It’s a quandary. There’s no doubt these groups are exploiting vulnerabilities in our social fabric by using things like free speech and religious freedom in a way that perverts their purposes. But plugging those holes is not going to be easy. We like our freedoms.

Lloyd: Freedom is everything, but so is freedom to be protected from abusive, corrupt, manipulative groups that prey on the young and emotionally vulnerable. So far, society apparently isn’t interested in even trying to strike a balance. It’s all in favor of the cult leaders. At least in countries like Sweden, and the Netherlands where the government has ordered an investigation into child sex abuse among JWs, politicians are starting to wake up. So there’s hope.

 
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Posted by Tony Ortega on April 3, 2019 at 12:00

E-mail tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Tony Ortega is a journalist who was formerly the editor of The Village Voice. He’s written about Scientology since 1995, and in May 2015 released a book about Scientology’s harassment of Paulette Cooper titled ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely,’ and more recently a compilation of his stories, ‘Battlefield Scientology.’ He continues to monitor breaking developments in the Scientology world, as well as other subjects such as Jehovah’s Witnesses. You can reach him by sending him a message at tonyo94 AT gmail.com (Drop him a line if you’d like to get an e-mail whenever a new story is posted.)

 

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