The recently registered Australian company “Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Australasia)” has issued a body of elders letter, dated August 28, 2019, instructing elders to destroy judicial hearing records and certain congregation records.
Background: a new corporation is formed
On 12 April 2019 a new Jehovah’s Witness company, “Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses (Australasia) Limited” (CCJWA) was formed in Australia to administer congregations, congregation charities, and bodies of elders.
On 15 April 2019 CCJWA commenced formally trading in Australia under the business name “Jehovah’s Witnesses” despite that trading name being registered to Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia Limited (Watchtower Australia) since 31 July 2000.
Also currently operating in Australia is another legal entity called “Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses” (CCJW) which was registered as a business on 3 December 2012.
On 5 November 2013, Watchtower Australia sent out a body of elders (BOE) letter instructing all congregations to form as independent legal entities and charities and to register with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission << ACNC >>. By the end of the month over 800 congregations within Australia had become their own legal entity trading under the business name “[NAME] Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Under this legal arrangement congregation records, including judicial records and membership records, are the property of the individual charity and not CCJWA.
These 800 congregation charities and their corporate structure will be discussed in detail in a follow up post on JW Leaks, along with copies of all internal documents and correspondence issued by Watchtower Australia to each congregation on how to set up each new legal entity and charity.
CORPORATE DOCUMENT DOWNLOADS
Body of Elders letter dated August 28, 2019:
In one of its first issued body of elders letters, the newly formed CCJWA, issued instructions to all elders to review congregational records, their personal computers, hard copy files, and their meetings bags for the purpose of record destruction.
[EXTRACT] Review of Current Records:
After discussing this letter as a body of elders, we would like the secretary along with the coordinator, or another assigned elder, to review what is currently in the congregation’s confidential file. They should examine the contents of all sealed envelopes in the file to confirm that they contain only the documents mentioned in the Shepherd book, chapter 22, paragraphs 22-23. The assigned elders should adhere to the direction in paragraph 26 when determining if the entire contents of the envelope should be destroyed. If the elders are not sure if a particular document needs to be retained, they should feel free to contact the Service Department for assistance.
Please ensure that all records kept in the file are in harmony with what is outlined in the Shepherd book, chapter 22, and our comments above. Additionally, we ask that each elder check his personal computer, or hard copy files, and even his meeting bag, to ensure that no confidential correspondence is retained outside the congregation’s confidential file. We would like the secretary to confirm with each elder that this has been done.
Destroying congregation records
Over the past few months in Australia, various congregations, and Watchtower Australia have received written requests from individuals for lawful access to documents, including judicial hearing records, as held on them. These records as requested included child abuse records and personal records. The right to access your personal information and congregational records is granted under the Commonwealth Privacy Act 1988 and the Australian Privacy Principles. See the link below for more information.
In addition, a number of law enforcement actions and investigations have commenced into various legal entities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia as well as into individual leaders of the religion.
The documents referred to in the above cited body of elders letter to be destroyed, as sent out by the newly formed CCJWA, are among the documents currently being sought for both criminal and civil cases. As such the destruction of them may constitute the destruction of evidence.
For the purpose of assisting individuals so as to protect information held on them, the body of elders letter sent out by the CCJWA, dated August 28, 2919, is available for downloading below:
How to protect your right to access documents on yourself
For Australians, below are copies of two letters, in MS word doc format, that some individuals have recently used for the purpose of protecting their records; and so as to access information held on them from the Jehovah’s Witnesses:
Current Watchtower Australia Document Retention Policy
Please note this is not the document retention policy for CCJWA and individual congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia who are registered as a charity.
WATCHTOWER DOCUMENT RETENTION POLICY
The primary purpose for recording and retaining this information is to enable Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Australia (“the Society”), which is responsible for the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Australia, to supervise the religious activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout the country, individually and collectively. This includes:
(1) Being aware of anyone who is no longer a member of the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses;
(2) Knowing what spiritual help and assistance has been given to the individual concerned;
(3) Providing whatever direction is needed to ensure that the Scriptural standards, as set out in God’s Holy Word, the Bible, are maintained in the Congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses; and
(4) Ensuring that the individual concerned is given whatever spiritual help and assistance is needed if he or she wishes to again become a member of the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the future.
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