Frequently Asked Questions

Why are Jehovah’s Witnesses not a sect?

The term "sect" has no legal definition in Russian legislation. Instead, the law operates with the concepts of "religious association", "religious group", "religious organization". None of the meanings of the word "sect" apply to Jehovah's Witnesses.

Jehovah's Witnesses are not a sect in the narrowly scientific sense of the term. The concept of "sect" is used in the sociology of religion to refer to one of the types of religious association, along with the other two - "denomination" and "church". Religious scholars agree that Jehovah's Witnesses cannot be typified as a sect. The Encyclopedia Britannica defines this religion, which unites more than 8 million active followers in more than 200 countries around the world, as a denomination.

Jehovah's Witnesses are not a sect in the everyday sense of the word. According to Ushakov's explanatory dictionary, a sect is "a religious community consisting of people who have broken away from the dominant church and adopted a new creed." Jehovah's Witnesses never broke away from the mainstream churches, but emerged independently from the Bible study circle. To this day, the study of the Holy Scriptures is the cornerstone and "calling card" of their activities. They publish the world's most popular religious magazine that encourages biblical enlightenment.

Ushakov's dictionary gives another definition of the word "sect": "A group of people who have fenced themselves off from communication with others, closed in on themselves." Religious scholar Sergei Ivanenko, who devoted his doctoral dissertation to the study of this religion, wrote: "The epithet 'sectarian' is usually applied to gloomy, aggressive, embittered people. Jehovah's Witnesses, in my opinion, are the exact opposite of this image. They behave openly, give the impression of free people, open to the modern world and striving to make people better through their preaching of the Bible. Jehovah's Witnesses do not isolate themselves from people. On the contrary, it is well known that they themselves come to people to talk to them about the Bible. Jehovah's Witnesses do not build monasteries or live as hermits, but live and work side by side with their fellow citizens of all views and faiths. The useful work of Jehovah's Witnesses for the benefit of society has been repeatedly recognized .

The unethical use of the term "sect" to Jehovah's Witnesses was confirmed in its decision by the Judicial Chamber for Information Disputes under the President of the Russian Federation (1998): "The Judicial Chamber also notes that there is no such thing as a 'sect' in the legislation of the Russian Federation. At the same time, this term, due to the prevailing ideas in society, certainly carries a negative connotation and, using it, journalists can offend the feelings of believers. According to the Russian Constitution, all religions in the country are equal, and religious discrimination and humiliation on the basis of religion are prohibited.

Labeling such as "sect" is one of the signs of stereotypical thinking, which leads a person to make ineffective and erroneous decisions. A personal acquaintance with Jehovah's Witnesses living in the neighborhood will help to make sure that these are ordinary people who deeply believe in God and sincerely wish good for their neighbors.