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Homosexuality as viewed by different Christian denominations:

Jehovah's Witnesses / Watchtower Society (WTS)

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Conflicts between science and religions concerning sexual orientation:

Over time, many Christian groups' views and practices in the U.S., Canada, and other countries concerning treatment of women and minorities have changed:

  • During the 19th century, the main debate was over human slavery.

  • At the start of the 20th century, there were conflicts in many U.S. states about allowing marriages by profoundly deaf couples.

  • Later, the main conflict concerned whether to allow women to vote.

  • During the second half of the 20th century, major U.S. conflicts existed over racial segregation, and the decriminalization of sexual activity by same-sex couples.

  • During the early 21st century, the main topic was allowing same-sex couples to marry.

  • During 2015-JUN, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages across the U.S. except for the Territory of American Samoa.

  • Immediately after the High Court's decision, many Christian groups diverted attention to transgender persons. These are inviduals who were identified as being of one biological sex at birth, and who identified later in life as having the opposite gender, or both genders, or neither gender. Many Christian groups taught that this is caused by "gender confusion."

By the year 2020, Christian groups' beliefs concerning homosexual orientation vary. Some teach that homosexuality is chosen, perhaps during teen age years, and can be reversed through reparative therapy. Exodus International promoted this belief unsuccessfully for over three decades, and finally gave up, apologized to the LGBT community for the harm that they had done, and closed down in mid 2013.

Most lesbians, gays, and bisexuals believe that their orientation is fixed before birth. Researchers searched for a "homosexual gene" with little success. Finally, studies found that the cause was epigenetic: a layer on top of a person's DNA that turns individual genes on and off. A saliva test has been developed that examined the epigenetic layers of male adults and determined who were homosexual with an accuracy of 83%. This layer is first developed long before birth and remains unchanged through life.

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Jehovah's Witnesses expectations of persons with a homosexual orientation:

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania (WTS) is a conservative Christian group whose theology differs significantly from that of Fundamentalist and many other Evangelical faith groups. However, their attitude towards homosexuality is similar that seen in other conservative religious groups. They require that:

  • Gay and lesbian members must remain celibate.
  • Bisexual members must not engage in same-sex behavior.
  • Any opposite-sex behavior must be restricted to one man and one woman who are married to each other.
  • The WTS does not recognize a same-sex marriage as legitimizing two sexually active men or women living together.

If detected, gays and lesbians who refuse to remain celibate are expected to repent of their actions and to refrain from same-sex behavior in the future. Those who refuse are often disfellowshipped.

If a member is disfellowshipped, other members are required to shun him/her completely, avoiding all contact. If the disfellowshipped person is a family member, then they are treated normally within the family, except that they are made to understand that their actions are disapproved of. There is no discussion about church matters in their presence. This can have a devastating effect on a person whose entire religious, family and social life were grounded in the Society.

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Confidential Textbook

The Society publishes a confidential Kingdom Ministry School Textbook which is titled "Pay Attention to Yourselves and to all the flock." The name comes from Acts 20:28. It is used by congregation elders and traveling overseers.

Pages 92 to 94 deal with "wrongdoing," which they regard as increasing "in frequency and depravity..." in society. In the area of sexual misconduct, they differentiate among three escalating levels of seriousness

  • Uncleanness (e.g. momentary touching of another person's sexual parts outside of marriage). This does not require a judicial hearing.

  • Loose conduct (e.g. heavy petting outside of marriage). This requires judicial action.

  • "Pornei'a" which:
    "... involves immoral use of the genitals of at least one human (whether in a natural or a perverted way), and there must have been another party to the immorality: a human of either sex or a beast...It includes oral and anal sex or mutual masturbation between persons not married to each other, homosexuality, lesbianism [sic], fornication, adultery, incest, and bestiality."
    Any person who engages in such activity must be handled through judicial action. Neither actual penetration or orgasm need be involved.

    It seems that this text defines "homosexuality" in terms of actual behavior. This is common among religious conservatives. More liberal faith groups usually define "homosexuality" in terms of sexual orientation.

    The reference to "lesbianism" appears to be redundant because homosexuality includes both male and female same-sex behavior.

In Page 111, the handbook covers the evidence required to convict an accused person. Either two eyewitnesses or a confession of wrongdoing are adequate. However, evidence that "the accused stayed all night...with a known homosexual...under improper circumstances, is acceptable proof."

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Article in Awake! Magazine comparing child sexual abuse to homosexuality:

"Awake" is one of two mass-circulation magazine published by The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York. Their issue for 1995-FEB-8 commented on homosexuality, drawing a comparison between pedophilia and homosexual orientation:

"Scientists may never resolve exactly how much of a role nature and nurturing play in same-sex attraction. But one thing is clear: All humans are born with the tendency to succumb to wrong thinking and inclinations. --Romans 3:23. A youth who desires to please God must therefore conform to his moral standards and shun immoral behavior, though doing so may be agonizingly difficult. True, some individuals may very well be prone to homosexuality..."

"Similarly, a Christian cannot excuse immoral behavior by saying he was 'born that way.' Child molesters invoke the same pathetic excuse when they say their craving for children is "innate." But can anyone deny that their sexual appetite is perverted? So is the desire for [sexual activity with] someone of the same sex."

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Related essay:

See also our essay on the Jehovah's Witnesses and same-sex marriage

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Paul Grundy, ""Watchtower View of Homosexuality & Transgenderism," http"//jwfacts.com. at: https://www.jwfacts.com/
  2. A Common Bond is an international "support network for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender former and current Jehovah's Witnesses." The California chapters have a web site at: http://www.gayxjw.org/ They have a list of web sites maintained by other "A Common Bond" chapters at: http://www.gayxjw.org/links.html
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Copyright 2002 to 2020 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2020-JAN-13
Author: B.A. Robinson

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