French Hearing on JW's Call 800-762-9227 For a Free
Audition of Nicolas Jaquette and Alain Berrou
ex Jehovah witnesses
(minutes from the session of September 26, 2006)
Mr. Georges FENECH, President
President: Gentlemen, we thank you for answering to the
enquiry commission's invitation. I remind you that according to
article 142 of our assembly the commission may decide to
quote in its report, either in part or in whole, everything that
will be said here. The minutes of this audition will be
transmitted to you. Your observations will be submitted to the
commission. According to article 6 of the ordinance of
November 17th, 1958 regarding the unfolding of parliamentary
assemblies, auditioned parties are required to testify in
conformity with article 226-13 of the penal code forbidding the
violation of professional confidentiality as well as article 226-14
of said code which authorizes a breach of that confidentiality in
cases of deprivation or prejudice, including those of a sexual
Said ordinance also requires that auditioned parties swear to
tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Please,
raise your right hand and say "I swear". (the witnesses oblige.)
I finally remind representatives of the press article 39 of the
act of July 29th, 1881, which states that a fine of 15,000 Euros
applies to anyone publishing any information regarding the
identity of a victim of assault, sexual or otherwise. I, therefore,
ask you not to quote the names of children who may have been
victims of such crimes.
Nocolas Jaquette: I am 24 years old and I spent the first 22
years of my life amongst Jehovah Witnesses. My parents were
followers. I was raised in that movement from which I escaped
2 years ago with the help of my friends from ADFI of Lille. I am
now writing my personal testimony and I am continuing my
reconstruction work as I come before your commission.
I, therefore, have lived the life of a child who was indoctrinated
and never asked to be, who had no critical thinking
whatsoever on what was transmitted to him or imposed onto
him and who was brought up as a person conditioned to serve
the interests of the movement with a language, an education
and a codification system transmitted to me by my parents.
Jehovah's Witnesses brag about not being a cult and say that
their children are not shut out from the rest of the world: they
go to school, sometimes even reach university level and work
in the external world but there's no doubt that the
indoctrination exists in them.
It causes prejudice to their identity, their personality, their
affective, moral and physical life even though the child is
conditioned to conceal them from the external world. After 22
years one cannot escape the movement without any
psychological and moral effects with which they will have to
live the rest of their life. 2 years are not enough to get rid of
everything that was thought, induced and programmed since
early childhood. Even now I don't know how much time I'll
The word "effect" may seem vague when we talk about cults.
It's the loss of self esteem because the movement convinces
the individual that he\she is nothing except a sinner who's only
hope resides in God, as represented by the group, and the
hope of an afterlife in paradise where he\she will reach
perfection. The world was presented to me in such a way that I
felt it was bad enough for me not to feel good in it, let alone
live in it as a normal individual. It took me a huge
reconstruction process to learn how to live in that external
world, as I was psychologically and mentally prepared to learn
how to live away from it and in the bubble of the cult.
Life is regulated by all sorts of decrees on the nature of
entertainment, relations with the opposite or the same sex,
love and friendship, relationship with science or education etc.
All aspects of an individual's life are managed in such a way as
to rid them of what characterizes them as an individual. As I
spent 22 years learning nothing but that way of life it was
something completely normal for me. I have yet to learn what
it's like to live as a free individual, able to live with his choices
and decide for himself as opposed to being told by scriptures.
President: What was your daily life like since childhood? What
was a day in your life between school and the Kingdom Hall?
Nicolas JAQUETTE: It was hectic but it needs to be assessed
using a period of one week. You were attributed a "spiritual
program" each day. As was the case for every Jehovah
Witness children had to attend the 3 meetings as well as the
preaching, even though they were neither baptized, nor
publishers. On top of that is added a personal program for the
child where, away from the family environment, they have to
prepare each meeting all by themselves using literature
provided by the cult, check the accuracy of Bible verses, that
generally takes an hour to an hour and a half the day before
each meeting, not to mention the activities within the family
environment : The "text of the day", from a booklet, read each
day with the explanations given by the cult, 45 minutes of
family bible reading and personal reading a child must also do
for 45 minutes.
I estimated that an elementary school child dedicates 23 hours
a week to the cult.
President: Did you have time to play with your friends outside
of the community? Did you participate to secular celebrations
Nicolas JAQUETTE: Relationships with others are obviously
something children are very sensitive about, mostly when it
has to do with parties or celebrations which are, indeed,
moments of social cohesion. To give a good image to the cult
children are allowed to socialize with others but in a very
limited and supervised fashion. Amongst what is repeated to
them regularly we hear: "you have friends in the congregation,
don't make friends with anyone anywhere else. Bad association
destroys useful habits." In other words, seeing friends from
outside will spoil your faith by allowing into your ideas that are
contrary to what the cult teaches you and push you to leave
your religion. People from the outside world are constantly
demonized. Linguistically speaking we say that someone is "in
the truth" to designate a Jehovah Witness. By constantly
hearing this as a child we come to a point where we can't
separate "Jehovah's Witness" and "Truth". Simultaneously,
people from outside are called "the world", which all the JW
literature describes as nasty, possessed by the devil and
bound to be destroyed. Demonization applies to friends at
school of whom we learn to beware. We also learn, however,
how to evangelize them while respecting the law imposing
secularism at school. We are, therefore, prepared to consider
them potential enemies. Thus, the child meets his\her friends
at school with both an agenda to proselytize them and a fear of
them. They'll push friendship only far enough to show that
Jehovah's Witnesses are not a cult as evidenced by their
ability to make friends.
Holidays are a particularly delicate topic for JW children even if
we try to teach them that it's not the case. Each year, they see
Christmas and the new year pass as if they were ordinary days
and then hear their friends talk about their presents. As a
reaction to their pain they have to reply that Santa Claus
doesn't exist, that they know the truth and that that is a lie. We
are thought slogans to protect ourselves against the pain of
such a discriminatory type of circumstance. Not being allowed
to go to a birthday party and not even being allowed to have
ours celebrated. I don't even know how old my parents are.
They never celebrated their birthdays. To ordinary people that
day allows them to see time as it goes by for others. I don't
have that notion, even for those who are close to me. That can
sound like a banality but if we think about it seriously, those
situations piled up to one another become quite a heavy load
to carry in the end. If we manage to leave the movement we
realize all the power we were subjugated by and how un-
adapted we are to the real world. We have to learn to live a
President: We all know that one of the fundamental principles
of the Jehovah Witnesses' doctrine is the Apocalypse, or the
announcement of the end of times. Have you been taught in
that perspective as a child?
Nicolas JAQUETTE: That is weird... Hope, according to the
Jehovah Witnesses' predictions, is that of Paradise. In their
meetings, however, even though they don't talk about it that
much, so as not to look too much like a scary and negative
"apocalyptic cult", Paradise is directly related to the
Apocalypse. In fact, their hope for a future eternal life is linked
to the destruction of their fellow human beings... To a child,
1+1=2, so hope for a Jehovah Witness is motivated by some
perverted desire to see fellow humans die because that means
Paradise is near, hence, the need to evangelize is taught to
kids early in their life: You are responsible for the life of your
friends. Let's say you know there will be an earthquake: If you
don't warn anyone you are a murderer. The same goes for that:
if you don't tell them that they need Jehovah's Witnesses in
order to be saved you bear the responsibility of their death
when the world is destroyed. Adults and children alike bear
that responsibility. As soon as they are able to understand
what is said in the movement, 5 or 6 years old, they get that
sword above their head. They are, thus, convinced to try and
save their friends. "You don't want them to die, and you don't
want to die either just because you didn't warn them..." All this
mess mixes up with the promise of the Apocalypse.
President: You heard this discourse in your family but not at
school... How did you manage to live with that contradiction?
Did you manage to solve it somehow?
Nocolas JAQUETTE: The solution was prepared in advance by
the cult, which has the privilege of aiming at kids well before
their school days. I already knew how to read at 5 years old
thanks to my mother who made me learn on the literature of
the Watch Tower Society. My learning method wasn't traditional
but that of the cult. I, therefore, started to assimilate those
ideas on education, philosophy, history and science.
When they start school kids are already prepared to what will
be taught to them by the cult: what fits with the doctrine is
acceptable whereas what doesn't fit is shunned. We really
think we are superior to the rest of mankind because we know
the “truth.” Even the child is convinced of his\her superiority
compared to his\her friends. He\she doesn't believe in Santa
Clause, doesn't celebrate birthdays because he\she knows it's
a pagan celebration. He\she doesn't believe in the theory of
evolution because the Bible taught him\her that humanity was
6, 000 years old and that evolution is a farce...
All those thoughts induced by the cult make enough sense,
obviously without any evidence, so as to convince the child
who starts going to school that he\she will be taught
incompatible ideas and that they have to be rejected. He\she
is, therefore, warned in advance that he\she will hear about
philosophy, evolution and ideas that are contrary to his\her
faith. He\she is conditioned to react by transmitting his\her
faith. I experienced it many times when taught about evolution
and religion. I too, exposed my convictions to my teachers and
schoolmates thinking some of them might be interested and
that I could start proselytizing when I was not in school.
President: You spent 22 years amongst Jehovah's Witnesses
and you are able to analyze this only 2 years after you left the
movement. We can only be surprised by your reasoning and
your critical thinking . How did you manage to get to such a
maturity and have such an elaborate critical spirit?
Nicolas JAQUETTE: First of all, when I left the cult, I was
encouraged to write my testimony. Writing is a very effective
process to link together stuff I thought was commonplace and
natural. As I was writing I started to understand the JW system,
how it worked and the way different elements were connected
together to form a very effective mental incarceration
Secondly, I always had some sort of a double personality due to
the fact that I am a homosexual and that homosexuality is
repressed in the cult. Aware that I had a preference for boys
since I was about 8 years old and as I heard so often from the
pulpit that I was hated by God and condemned to destruction I
had to lead a double life in order to protect myself during the
whole of my childhood and adolescence as well as my adult
life. The constant fear of what I was and what was denied to
me along with the fact that what was imposed to me didn't fit
made it so that I was always aware of what was going on and
was studying it without realizing it. As I left everything
crumbled and I could see more clearly what I had felt for years.
Anyway! I lived as a schizophrenic person until I was 22 with a
double personality, split between my sexuality and my religion,
of course it was pretty bad: I thought of committing suicide
many times to end my misery, as it was so unbearable to see
two conceptions inside of me which were totally opposed to
Suicide, however, was also condemned by the cult because I
would have been barred from eternal life so I was convinced
not to do that, and that was a chance... That's the one and only
thing I can be thankful for as far as the Jehovah Witnesses are
Martine David: Did the idea of leaving the cult come to you all
of the sudden or was that something you had prepared for long
in advance? Did you keep a relationship with your parents? Do
you have brothers and sisters? What remains exactly from the
family? We always say that we have to try and keep ties with
the family, did you manage to do that? Finally, have you been
pressured in any way since you left the cult?
Nicolas JAQUETTE: Only one element was preparing me to
leave and that was my homosexuality. It gave me a chance and
was an external element for me to hang on to. 2 months before,
though, I was still proselytizing to a close friend. So much so
that the people who helped me also had to work with that close
friend of mine in order to get out of his head what I took just a
few months to indoctrinate him with, thanks to cult literature. It
worked quite well because after reading only a few pages he
already had that sword above his head... I was lucky to find
people on my path who had already been involved with cults
and who, by lack of preparedness, had failed in having those
they wanted to help leave the movement; when they met me
they thought they wouldn't let me go so easily and immediately
contacted ADFI to initiate a plan.
Martine David: Were you supported by ADFI?
Nicolas JAQUETTE: In fact, I think I was a bit "manipulated" by
my friends and by ADFI in that I was completely unaware of
what they had planned: they orchestrated a retaliation against
sectarian indoctrination and helped me open my eyes and
discover myself as a person, with my own judgment, my
freedom of movement, etc. The method was quite effective
because if the sectarian system works well in a closed
environment, its defects will show up very quickly as soon as
an external element is introduced. It's the support that allowed
me to leave but I was advantaged by the fact of having friends
outside of the cult.
One of the elements that will discourage someone from
leaving, which should answer your second question, is the fact
that the cult forbids its members from having any contact with
those who leave or who are excluded from the cult. Given the
fact that the member only has contacts with other members,
leaving means that you are leaving behind all of your
environment only to find yourself in a world where you have no
That constitutes some sort of blackmail which the Jehovah
witnesses are very good at in order to keep members and
even have some of those who left come back because of the
state of emotional distress they found themselves in, having
no relationships outside of the cult. I don't have any contact
with my parents ever since I left the cult. Phone conversations
just became shorter and shorter. "You are responsible for your
own choices." They completely abandoned me, I am not their
son. I have a big brother and 2 little sisters who are also
members of the cult. My 2 sisters live in the same town as my
parents and are obviously still under the domination of the
cult. It's a small remote and isolated town where the
possibilities, as far as friendships are concerned, are quite
restricted. It's quite different from Paris, where there are many
congregations and people often switch from one to the other.
I also had a chance, and that should answer your third question
about harassment, because one of the leaders of the
congregation suddenly died from asthma as I was leaving. I
was, then, able to go without even being noticed at a moment
when everything was disorganized. I finally received several
phone calls from very close friends who were extremely
worried about my spiritual health after what they thought was
my departure... Luckily, some of those who helped me leave
were with me and could witness the hypnotizing aspect of the
means that were used. The system that is always used is one
which consists in destroying arguments: I think it's not
possible so I refuse. The surface is always attacked instead of
deeper issues to avoid the risk of it being questioned. I was
confronted several times to such a situation; by chance, I was
prepared for what was coming thanks to my friends at ADFI, the
risk of being harassed by my family and by the cult. I was lucky
to have several months of rest which allowed me to strengthen
myself and to avoid being caught off-guard, as many of those
who leave are when confronted to tons of phone calls and
letters which often times end up doing what they are supposed
to do. I elaborated an answering system with the help of my
friends which is quite simple. "Thanks, I am continuing my
research and I'll think about it..." This type of indecisive answer
allowed me to avoid a lot of harassing.
Serge BLISKO: What academic level did you reach in those first
Nicolas JAQUETTE: I did my BA plus 2 years.
Serge BLISKO: The main point of encounter with the external
world for young JWs is school. Why don't they have a separate
school system as many cults do by schooling the children
themselves, even if they had to rely on distance learning?
Isn't that a great danger for the movement to allow kids to be in
contact with the external world? During your school years
didn't your "weird" behavior (holidays, biology courses, sports,
coed schooling, etc) alert your teachers or supervisors? We
are having a hard time understanding this extraordinary lack of
sensitivity of school staff towards your behavior...
Nicolas JAQUETTE: Even before they start going to school,
children are prepared to beware of their friends. You have to
understand that school represents for the movement an
excellent recruitment pool. Teachers and children alike are
potential members. They, therefore, teach the children to
proselytize but in a very subtle way. As soon as I started going
to school I knew every detail of the French law of secularism at
school. I knew what to do and what not to do.
Serge BLISKO: They told you about it?
Nicolas JAQUETTE: Yes, and in a very clear manner in the
literature we had to study: how to evangelize a friend without it
being considered proselytizing at school: The child learns right
from the start how to gauge what he\she can or cannot do at
school in order to install his\her ideology.
The child is also taught to clearly identify him\herself as a
Jehovah witness in front of teachers and pupils alike.
Teachers will worry systematically but parents in the cult are
trained with demonstrations and literature to set appointments
with teachers to explain their beliefs, reassuring them
regarding the child as well as proselytize them also. The child
is also encouraged to behave as a model student and never to
cause any trouble at school.
Serge BLISKO: Nothing in the school curriculum was prohibited
Nicolas JAQUETTE: No. They let you go but warn you about
what's good or bad in what is taught to you. I was laughing
inside when I was taught about homo sapiens thinking, “They
are so dumb, they don't even know man is only 6, 000 years
old.” I was unable to allow anything new educationally that
conflicted with church teaching to be accepted at school.
Serge BLISKO: In other words, as opposed to other cults that
see a threat in sending children to school, you were prepared
and allowed to attend every class, including sports...
Nicolas JAQUETTE: We knew the content of every course in
advance and we were warned about some of them. We weren't
allowed to go on field trips if they lasted more than a day
because parents had to sign a waver in case of emergency
which included the possibility of blood transfusions. We were
also forbidden to attend sports competitions.
Serge BLISKO: Because of the risk of injury?
Nicolas JAQUETTE: Not necessarily but mostly because of the
competitive spirit. We were also forbidden combat sports. In a
more general manner sports at school were authorized but not
outside of school because they unavoidably involved
As for the "weird" behavior a child has to adopt towards
his\her friends, denial of birthday parties, or express
ourselves as thought by the cult, etc. it's obvious that it
generates laughter, which makes the whole thing painful. As
teenagers we don't even need to be a Jehovah Witness to be
bullied so imagine that for someone who can't dress in a
fashionable manner, has to go door to door in a suit and tie
and is not allowed to celebrate his own birthday or go to
parties, that's quite a heavy load... Confronted by school
bullies, the JW child is comforted in his\her victim status as
presented by the cult: the world is persecuting you because
you are one of the chosen; you'll be persecuted just as Jesus
was; if you are persecuted at school it's because you are "in
the truth." That works quite well: the child thinks it's normal to
be persecuted, even if it's extremely painful and unbearable.
For a teenager having boyfriend or girlfriend is a must to be
accepted at school; that is obviously forbidden by the cult for
which sex has to be within marriage. A simple flirt is
considered an unacceptable risk of deviation. Moreover,
children are encouraged by the cult to spy on one another: in
the presence of other JW children in the same school we will
adopt the behavior dictated by the decrees of the cult so as
not to be accused of a sin with regard to the teachings of the
cult. The child is, therefore, constantly under the watchful eye
of "Big Brother."
Philippe COCHET: I thank you for your extremely precise
testimony. Given those 2 years of rest, it is a lot but very little
at the same time, do you see other places or activities or
places, apart from school, where one could hang on to in order
to send distress signals or find potentially receptive people?
Do you think there are people in the cult who's job is to bring
back quitting members?
Nicolas JAQUETTE: I don't see that many places or activities
like that. Maybe in the medical field. When I was 13 I didn't want
to go to school anymore because of what I was going through
when I was there. My family doctor was hesitant to prescribe
antidepressants to me. He should have done something but
given the fact that he had been my parents' doctor for many
years he was warned about the blood transfusion thing and
willing to respect my parents' wishes: he was disregarding and
could care less about me. He should have rang the alarm bell
since he had the opportunity to see that I was not feeling good.
I had the opportunity to meet other ex-JWs at ADFI. The
experience of some of them was a lot more painful then mine
and just as violent and they were traumatized in such a way
that they will never recover. I, on the othe hand, think I am on
the right track. I lead a satisfying an happy life and I believe I
have it better then some others who were affected a lot more
deeply and intimately. My testimony won't be focused on the
violence generated by some particular events but rather that
of daily life, which has its own psychological consequences.
I don't think there are people in the cult who have a specific
mission to bring back leaving members. If there are it's not
really widespread. Members of the cult avoid organizations
such as ADFI like the plague... Maybe the head of the JW
movement gives some members a mission to infiltrate those
organizations; I think I heard about this sort of thing regarding
other cults , but never in the Jehovah Witnesses. I don't really
Jaques MYARD: You stated that JW children were made to
proselytize. Did you also go through that phase?
Nicolas JAQUETTE: Absolutely! Right from the cradle JW
children follow their parents in their proselytizing activities.
They don't have a choice. Up until I was 22 I devoted 2 hours
every Saturday morning of my life to that.
Jaques MYARD: What about the other kids at school? How did
the non believers react?
Nicolas JAQUETTE: Jehovah Witnesses are warned in advance
that they will be confronted to denial and incomprehension
almost permanently, be it at school or in regular proselytizing
activities. At school however, the Jehovah Witness' personal
behavior of exclusion attracts other excluded kids, those who
are not in the cohesion system of other groups of kids and who
are seeking acceptance from people who are eager to
understand them. I was confronted to this situation as a child
and I was socializing with other marginalized children who
were quite receptive to what I was telling them. I distributed
JW literature to many of them. One of those publications was
titled "Questions Young People Ask: Answers that Work",
supposed to be a living guide but that slowly brings them to
integrating JW principles into their way of life.
President: You seemed to have quite a grudge against that
doctor in your answer to Philippe Cochet's question: You said
that the doctor was willing to take responsibility for his actions
if anything happened to you. You are now a young adult who
realizes a few things. Do you think that all those people
(teachers, doctors, etc) were turning a blind eye? You think
that doctor should have felt more responsible... What should
have happened? What should he have done?
Nicolas JAQUETTE: I can't possibly blame that particular doctor.
Parents are supposed to chose their doctor in accordance with
the criteria of the cult, meet with them, discuss their medical
positions with them and reassure them about their beliefs.
Jehovah Witnesses have orchestrated a real disinformation
campaign aimed at the medical, educational and judicial
sectors by using parents. They specifically aim at those fields
who would normally worry about behaviors they don't consider
to be normal, warn others and take adequate measures. All of
those institutions suffer from a lack of information on cults and
that one in particular, which now is the most important in
France. Those particular points which are affecting kids more
and more should be part of the training in the medical,
educational and judicial bodies. Otherwise the only information
they receive comes from parents and there's nothing to
compare it to in order to have a balanced and objective
President: You are now heard by people who are voting laws
and may influence public authorities to take action. Would it be
safe to say that what you are talking about could go as far as
not bringing assistance to a person in danger? That's the
question we are trying to ask you: it is so rare for us to hear
such an elaborate discourse. It's the first time I’ve heard
something like this, could you go on further? Do you think that
there's some sort of a failure somewhere?
Serge BLISKO: or blindness...
President: ... From the part of society with regard to those
children you are talking about?
Nicolas JAQUETTE: The creation of a commission such as yours
is already evidence of a step further. That's precisely what
encouraged me to come: I see positive elements in that
showing an obvious awareness. Jehovah's Witnesses,
however, have a great strength. They learned discretion and
how to blend into society without being noticed. It's really
amazing to see just how much they managed to do that. Even in
the X-Files TV series: 2 FBI agents knock on a door and are told
by the 3rd person that if they are Jehovah Witnesses they are
wasting their time.
Jaques MYARD: It's an American TV show?
Nicolas JAQUETTE: It's the French version so the translators
have all the latitude to transpose. That thing, which seems
commonplace, serves as evidence that the Jehovah Witnesses
managed to integrate discretely to French society. They are
just those nice but dumb folks who'll bother you by knocking
on your door on a bright Sunday morning. They usually
generate more laughter then fear.
President: In other words, society is asleep.
Nicolas JAQUETTE: Exactly! We usually think that the JWs'
issues are only about blood transfusions.
Jaques MYARD: You told us about how you were laughing
when you heard about the homo sapiens. How is it still
possible today for people to go on thinking this way given the
amount of scientific information we have everywhere? How
does cult teaching still manage to integrate into people's
minds such archaic ideas? Isn't man a being with reason?
Nicolas JAQUETTE: The procedure is extremely dishonest but
very simple. It consists of using scientific information out of
their context in order to validate their opinions. It's something
they've always done. Organ transplants were authorized, then
forbidden, then reauthorized around 1979: Jehovah Witnesses
were calling it cannibalism, quoting scientists. By reading their
data, however, we realized that quotes from the earlier studies
originally used by those scientists were obviously taken out of
context in an effort to make people believe that they were the
current thoughts of scientists with up to date research.
Members of the cult who, given the density of the spiritual
programs imposed to them, spend all of their time studying cult
literature and usually have a very low level of education. When
they hear the name of that scientist it will appear to them as
something undeniable. Sentences such as "everyone knows
that..." are also constantly repeated to induce a feeling that if
you don't think the same as everyone else you are stupid.
Scientists' credibility is ridiculed: They'll make you notice that
this one said that and the other one said this... They disagree
so they are not credible. We, therefore, come to a point where
we hate scientific information, and that's if we have access to
it. JWs can still watch the 1pm TV newscast but let's face it, the
media are not exactly the best place to hear about scientific
discoveries. In order to have access to it one must first be
interested in it and go towards specialized organizations.
Jehovah Witnesses are often told: if there's good literature
from outside we will tell you about it. Don't go read anything by
yourself though. You should, instead, spend more time
studying in order to strengthen your faith but don't read
anything from outside."
This aversion towards historians, scientists, education and the
medical world transforms the Jehovah Witness into a child,
completely closed to anything new taught to him at school: as
soon as it doesn't fit the cult's ideology it's rejected.
Some sort of self defense mechanism will block everything
without the person even being aware of it. I am aware of it now
that I left the cult because I tried to warn my friends in the cult
of rather obvious stuff. The reaction is instantaneous as soon
as we start dealing with fundamental problems: "I don't want to
talk about it. I don't have a problem with my faith and I don't
want you to spoil it." That instinctive movement is planted into
the mind of the child even before he\she starts going to
school. They are prepared to reject everything of that nature.
Philippe VITEL: You are not the only one who left the cult. In
what proportions did people like you choose to leave the
Nicolas JAQUETTE: I'll let Alain Berrou talk to you about this.
President: The transition is all done...
Alain BERROU: I am 36 years old and I spent 10 years amongst
the Jehovah Witnesses. I was indoctrinated at school when I
was 17. I left the cult in 1998 and started college in order to
analyze what had happen to me. I also worked for ADFI.
I was indoctrinated at school but it wasn't by accident. It was an
international campaign adapted to each country. What I thought
were simple conversations with friends were, in fact, part of a
vast proselytizing program . In my case it took about 2 years to
be convinced of a certain number of ideas as a result of
following pseudoscientific process which was flawed. As time
went by I started to change and accept ideas I would normally
be suspicious of. Curious about one of my classmates I
engaged myself into what I thought were simple conversations
with them. I hate the word "baptism", which gives it the look of
something confessional. It was, in fact, an indoctrination
process which lead me to bond with an organization and an
ideology by a contract. We are persuaded, little by little, to go
thru "dedicaton" which is a contract that bonds you with an
My testimony will be mostly about subjugation and the way they
do it. I'll take this opportunity to thank the members of
parliament who voted in favor of the "About-Picard" act on
June 12th, 2001, even if I couldn't use it. Now, at least, this
crime is covered by the law.
This indoctrination had consequences on my family and my
education because all of my time was spent on the cult. I was
lead to get involved more and more into the movement to a
point where I involved myself into some sort of a special
service for children they called the "pioneer service" where I
was spending all of my time proselytizing which was the main
goal of the cult in France or anywhere else. The more active
we are in practicing a mental and intellectual discipline of self
persuasion and self censorship and less eager we are to meet
people with subversive ideas. The consequences of that are
the break-up of family ties and giving up on my education and
even a trade because I was reduced, as many others were, to
having a small nightshift job in a newspaper, devoting the rest
of my time to the organization. As a local representative I
received "training" to act as a liaison between the national
headquarters and local representatives. I was ordered to go
on a mission in Cisjordania and obeyed. I risked my life there
for six months. That period was probably a peak. I also had four
surgeries refusing blood transfusions each time which would
not have been my position neither before nor after being in
What is both the strength and the weakness of such an
ideology is its artificialness. People are surprised, when they
hear ex members, talk about all this system of concepts
integrated into you and by which you think and judge, by which
you either feel guilt or gratitude and which can suddenly
crumble as soon as you disobey. The problem is that I was
conditioned to obey and feel guilty if I ever had subversive
ideas. Mostly, I was conditioned to do, several times a day, this
exercise of self persuasion and self censorship, whereas in
the beginning they hammer you with tons of pseudoscientific
arguments. Aside from Jehovah's Witnesses themselves
American evangelical groups are devoting millions of dollars to
disinformation campaigns while in Europe, the debate on
"Intelligent Design" certainly has something to do with those
When I came back to France from Cisjordania I found myself in
another congregation. My health finally made me aware of the
exclusiveness of the ideology. I was at the end of my rope
working nights at the newspaper and devoting my daytime
hours to the cult. I was just hammered physically and
psychologically; my body commanded me to rest and that made
me stray from all the eternal gymnastics. The indoctrination
began to lose its grip on me and my critical thinking started to
wake up. Little by little I became aware that I had integrated an
ideology that had the characteristic of maintaining itself by
legitimizing self censorship and self persuasion; the more I
believe the more I obey and the more I obey the more I
believe. I had put myself on auto-pilot for 10 years; even
though I could distance myself the prejudice remains. One
doesn't spend 10 years conditioned like this without keeping a
certain relationship with guilt, duty and obligations.
I deeply regret wasting 10 years of my life even though I had a
chance to open my eyes and make a very big change.
We have to understand that this is not a system that allows
someone to think freely. It induces in them a mechanism that
makes them feel guilty as soon as they think for themselves
and imposes in them a duty of self persuasion. We can see the
consequences of that: denial of blood transfusions, seizure of
goods, etc. But the "ordinary crime" is to have made people
lose their individuality and critical thinking for a cause they
didn't choose. I would under normal circumstances never
asked to serve as a human target in Cisjordania or to give up
my education to do proselytizing or to mess up my career...
President: Contrary to Mr. Jaquette you weren't born in the
Jehovah's Witnesses movement. Didn't your family try to warn
you or discourage you?
Alain BERROU: No, They weren't aware of anything. That's how
it goes traditionally: It's underground indoctrination. They tell
young adults or teens that it's better not to talk to parents who
could see as weird the fact that their spiritual project is only
between them and God and that they will be free to make their
choice 2 or 3 years afterwards once they have looked at a few
things together. When parents notice something it's usually
too late. They have already integrated some of the parts of the
self defense mechanism, some immunity system has already
developed which operates on its own a bit like a an oyster that
closes its shell as soon as the knife approaches as well as a
"cognitive dissonance" : scientific arguments and ideas heard
at school just can't overcome the huge disinformation
campaign elaborated by very well organized structures that are
using scientists and isolation claims. This disinformation is
such that young people become completely immunized against
information transmitted at school.
President: Blood transfusions are a major problem for
Jehovah's Witnesses. You said you went through four
surgeries as a member. How did you deal with that? Did you
need blood transfusions? What do you know about the DVD
produced by the Jehovah Witnesses Association on alternative
methods to transfusion? What do you know about blood
Alain BERROU: Worldwide, in the JW organization, there's a
committee called hospital liaison formed by members who have
an intellectual training that is a bit more elaborate then that of
average members. They are equipped with textbooks
produced by experts in infiltration campaigns aimed at
hospitals and doctors. They favor arguments that are at times
pseudoscientific and at times quite elaborate in order to
convince doctors of the choice of their patients which, I must
insist, are the result of indoctrination: As soon as they realize
that, no ex member will refuse a blood transfusion.
Along with those disinformation campaigns, hospital liaison
centers list doctors who are "receptive" and towards which
Jehovah Witnesses facing a surgery requiring a blood
transfusion can be oriented following a procedure that is very
well known from members. They are required to inform local
elders of the problem hospitals who will orient them towards
determined doctors or clinics.
The conditions in which members sign wavers regarding blood
transfusion are also interesting: Aside from the official
ideology which requires denying blood the waver is actualized
in a congregation meeting organized in January of each year.
People are divided in groups affiliated to a local
representative to which each member has to show their
"card". They also make sure that everyone signed the wavier.
Jacques REMILLER: What about you? Did you get transfused?
Was that ever medically required in your case? What were the
blood substitute products?
Alain BERROU: My state didn't require transfusions but it could
President: What would have happened then?
Jacques REMILLER: He wouldn't be here...
Alain BERROU: I can thank a doctor who knew it wasn't my
President: In other words there's a risk.
Alain BERROU: Absolutely!
President: Have you ever heard of cases of Jehovah
Witnesses who died as a result of refusing a transfusion?
Alain BERROU: I knew one person who was transfused against
her will and who is now thankful for those who understood that
her position was the result of indoctrination.
Nicolas JAQUETTE: In one of the three groups of my
congregation in Paris, a young girl was suffering from leukemia
and was treated for three years with alternative methods: it
worked for a while until she died...
Notice that children are persuaded just as much as adults are
by the cult that they have to deny blood transfusions. Up until
recently children still had to wear a card signed by both
parents. A law was just adopted to forbid that: Parents must
now, under instructions from the cult, indicate "personally" on
a blank page, their choice for their children. The cult's seal of
approval is not on it, which relieves them from all legal
responsibility. Only parents are, therefore, responsible. An
article published in the magazine Awake! on May 22 1994 made
a lot of noise: titled "Youths Who Put God First" we could see
24 pictures of children who died as a result of refusing a blood
transfusion, threatening to unplug the IV if needed, etc., which
tells about the circumstances of their death.
President: Was that in France?
Nicolas JAQUETTE: No, those weren't French kids. That issue
was distributed worldwide, including France, and
systematically quoted in those January special meetings which
were used to show a "good examples" to children. There was a
double language: Not only did they force children to respect
the decree but they were told of how the attitude of those
children had a positive effect for the cult on the medical staff
who were asking questions. Some of them even allowed
themselves to be indoctrinated. I would have had the same
reaction, had I been hospitalized at that time.
It still feels strange today. After un-constructing all of that, I
think that blood is not bad but the idea of a surgery that would
require a transfusion makes me feel bad, sort of weirdly
disgusted. Alain compared it to a situation where a Muslim
would be required to eat pork... The first thing I did when I got
out was to eat black pudding, eating blood was also forbidden.
I got sick on it... I have been induced with extremely invading
President: You know that decisions rendered by French
jurisdictions, fiscal advantages are granted to local JW
associations. What do you make of that?
Alain BERROU: That money comes from "donations" from
members subjugated by an extremely dishonest campaign.
President: That decision grants some organizations a cultural
status. Do you have an opinion on that?
Nicolas JAQUETTE: Contrary to Alain, I was still a member when
those decisions were rendered and obviously applauded by
the cult. As soon as the announcement of tax exemptions was
made they told us it was possible for us to give twice as much...
Another outstanding discovery for which I could almost
congratulate Jehovah’s Witnesses is their wish to dissociate
themselves from the Catholic church with which they share
most of their Christian faith. They think Catholics are "false
religion" whereas they are "in the truth." One of their sayings
is that contrary to Catholics they don't do the collection:
donations are put in a box in the back of the room in which
members are invited to freely deposit. Since a few years,
however, they found something amazing: "resolutions."
Letters are sent to congregations exposing a need for funds
for a given purpose and asking the congregation if it would be
able to give a certain amount each month to the JW society.
The vote is done by raising hands: obviously, everyone will
raise their hand. There's no factual collection but a voluntary
donation from the group. That is primarily taken from the
member's donations. The congregation still has to make
monthly fees (electricity, telephone, etc.) if their's enough left.
If they lack funds they'll ask members to be more generous. As
is the case in many cults the unwritten rule suggests members
to donate 10% of their wages. My parents had four children and
very little resources; I don't know how my mother could
manage but each month, as the paycheck came in, an envelope
was used to give money to the cult. Members were told that
the end of times was coming and that it was, therefore, useless
to make any plans for the future; The cult will put your money to
Jaques MYARD: When is that supposed to be? Looks like they
missed a few times...
President: Hasn't it been seven times already?
Nicolas JAQUETTE: It's more then that
Jaques MYARD: What is the official prediction?
Nicolas JAQUETTE: Each announcement is strangely followed
by a period of collective amnesia... There was an
announcement in 1975 I had never heard of until I arrived to
Paris in 2001. Some Jehovah Witnesses, who felt a bit more
free then others, told me that the end of times was to be in
1975 because the earth's history was arriving to the end of its
sixth millennium, as established by the biblical calendar.
Weirdly enough, the date disappeared... Jehovah Witnesses
could care less about how the rest of society perceives them;
what is important is the people inside. They speak a double
language. The head of the cult is called the Governing Body
and it is infallible: its members are the instrument of God that
informs the people. When it's wrong, however, and that
happens quite often mostly when it has to do with dates, they
remind everyone that they are only humans and that a new
spiritual clarification lead them to a new interpretation of a
verse from Bible.
There are the "anointed", the generation of which they say
"this generation will not pass away until all these things have
taken place"(1). Up until the end of the 1990s all the literature
stated that the generation in question was that of 1914 and it
was said that the end of times should occur before that
generation disappears... We can observe the perversion of
that as most people from that generation died in the last few
years. It became rather obvious that the Governing Body was
Matthiew 24:34:36 : "I say to you, this generation 20 will not
pass away until all these things have taken place."
They explained that the word "generation" should be
understood in a larger sense. Each time they find a way to play
with words to claim that they weren't completely wrong, that
the end of times is a sure thing and it's coming. Since 2000
however they don't prophesize any dates however. They seem
to have learned...
President: Why are you both wearing dark suits? Was that just
a random thing or was that related to your cult experience?
Nicolas JAQUETTE: The majority of the assembly doesn't
generally wear bright suits. No sir. That was completely random.
Alain BERROU: I wish to inform this commission, and I am fully
aware of the consequences of my statement: Jehovah
Witnesses are extremely procedural... I remember, as a
representative, being asked to copy, as dictated, unwritten
instructions regarding cases of sexual abuse on children. I
wish to read you instructions I have personally received, in a
perfectly official situation from a representative of the national
branch of the Jehovah Witnesses. The movement has a whole
system of parallel justice and local representatives receive a
manual on how to deal with members who assert too much
intellectual freedom. In cases of sexual abuse on children this
is what they made me write:
"Article 62 of the penal code states that anyone aware of an
assault on a child who doesn't warn authorities is liable for
legal procedures. If the perpetrator of such abuse is a baptized
member of the congregation here are the instructions to follow:
First of all, call the “Service Department” (headquarters) of the
society to get instructions.
Secondly, immediately investigate the facts.
Thirdly, form a judicial committee.
Then, eventually, call the authorities.
Elders are the eyes of the law, of the ministers of the cult and,
as such, are bonded by confessional confidentiality derived
from the professional confidentiality (article 378 of the penal
code). They are freed from that obligation only in cases of
incest, sexual prejudices or illegal abortions. The Governing
Body will determine the best solution for the congregation and
Though I have never been faced to such a situation I did
attend "judicial committees" and heard many victims say that
their complaints were buried. They were pressured into
"forgiving" if the assault wasn't too obvious.
President: In other words, there's some sort of a parallel
justice system that substitutes that of the republic?
Alain BERROU: Exactly!
President: To conclude, what do you expect from a commission
such as ours in order to improve the fate of the children in that
Alain BERROU: Amongst the places eager to react to eventual
alarm signals is school. Unfortunately teachers, the school
doctor or social worker are not always aware they are dealing
with a cult due to the seduction campaign orchestrated by the
parents who are methodically debriefed. Maybe we should
make them aware of the objections those children may
occasionally have in philosophy or history courses; aside from
the Jehovah Witnesses the danger could be fundamentalism.
Members of parliament could also work on the prescription
period of the "About-Picard" act: a victim needs a lot of time to
elaborate his\her point of view, take the necessary distance,
analyze, realize he\she was victimized and learn to live with
that. My attorney warned me that after being 10 years in the
cult I had to be prepared to sustain 10 years of proceedings,
forensic psychiatry and counter-expertise without even being
sure of the final result: I finally gave up on that. Not only is it
hard to understand the law but time is also needed to
comprehend, analyze and finally commit.
Nicolas JAQUETTE: I agree with Alain Berrou on the question of
education. Action is needed from the teachers but also from
the medical field, to counter the seduction campaigns used in
hospitals by the Jehovah Witnesses that, at times, become real
threats. Fiscal decisions made by the government, however,
are hard to understand and lived the hard way by ex members:
It's not normal that some fines take so much time to be paid...
How does a lobby manage to maintain public authorities
inactive for so long?
Mostly, we would like to shout about what we went through; we
are glad we could do just that today but the chances are
extremely rare. We should multiply them, knowing that many of
those who managed to leave would prefer to stay put and
hesitate in getting more involved in the fight against cults;
because of that we tend to minimize the number of victims.
Contacting ADFI is not for everyone: many people disappear
from the landscape without talking to anyone and without ever
finding solutions. They remain with heavy consequences. I
realized, by meeting many of them, that traces of the cult's
conditioning were still in them because they didn't work on
reconstruction. Support for victim associations is, thus,
extremely important. One would think they lack visibility and
consideration and that they were kept out of the debate. Your
initiative shows that this is not the case and I hope there will
be others, It has the merit of allowing the deciders of this
country to analyze the situation without relying solely on
experts, lawyers, jurists and psychologists who can only have a
fragmented view of the problem. We thank you.
President: The commission thanks you also.