Originally published on Danish Media, TV2 by Jonas HR Moestrup
Religious leaders used a hidden recording against Ann Celina to expel her for having a boyfriend. Now she has no contact with her family.
Never has Ann Celina felt so offended in her life as when she was facing three men who asked her about her intimate private life.
– We are here because I have access to such a recording and have listened to it, said one of the men.
Like the other two men, he was a so-called elder – a leading member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, in which Ann Celina was affiliated with.
– It shows that you have got a new boyfriend, the man continued.
She only knew the men superficially. Yet she was now sitting with them and had to answer questions about her private and sex life based on a secret recording she didn’t know existed.
Ann Celina chose to record the meeting with the elders, and TV 2 can therefore document what was said.
A woman recorded the private conversation and gave it to the elders
Ann Celina is 25 years old and born into Jehovah’s Witnesses. At the age of 18, she was married to another member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but in 2016, the marriage broke down.
She began to see a man who was not a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and she slowly discovered a world outside of Jehovah’s Witnesses and it did not seem as dangerous as she had been raised to believe.
As a member of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Ann Celina knew that, according to the internal rules of the faith community, she should not have a relationship with someone “outside the walls”. She would risk facing major consequences if discovered.
One day Ann Celina met a woman who was related to her ex-husband. They were at a café in Aarhus, and Ann Celina told her about the new guy she had met. She told her about their sex life.
What Ann Celina didn’t know was that the woman recorded the entire conversation and sent the audio file to the elders of the congregation.
The recording was shared illegally
A few months later, Ann Celina was summoned to a so-called judicial committee meeting with the three elders. Here she was to account for the conversation the woman had recorded.
The elders told her that they had listened to the conversation and began to question her on the details of it. Among other things, it was about how the new boyfriend looked and how good he was in bed.
– I just think it was so disgusting to have to talk about something like that with three men you don’t even know, Ann Celina says today.
Ann Celina felt that Jehovah’s Witnesses had watched her. The elders used information from a private conversation, and now they would expel her – a punishment that meant she could no longer see her mother, father and little sister.
– To sit and be asked for very private things from three individuals who have been listening to a recording where you have been discussing your private life. It is simply degrading and abusive, she says.
Later, Ann Celina got the court’s order that the woman’s sharing of her admission was illegal because it contained private information.
– I can’t possibly be the only one
Just before Ann Celina entered the meeting with the elders, she chose to turn on the sound recorder on her mobile phone. She recorded the entire meeting, which took just under an hour – a recording that TV 2 has extracted from.
She had several reasons to do so, but first and foremost she wanted the public’s insight into the practice of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
– People need to know what’s going on. How it works, what things take place behind closed doors. Only four people sitting in that meeting know what is taking place. If I have been monitored and something is being used illegally against me, then I cannot possibly be the only one, Ann Celina says about the reason she recorded the meeting.
No contact with her mother, father and little sister
The elders disfellowshipped Ann Celina because she would not give up her new life outside of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
– Unfortunately, we have not been able to see any other options than to disfellowship you based on the situation. We have not been able see signs of repentance that we really wanted to find. In order for us to rectify this situation, you must show regret for what you have done and wish to change it, was the explanation of the judgment, which can be heard on Ann Celinas’ recording of the meeting.
On April 6, 2017, the decision was announced to the congregation. This means, according to the internal rules of Jehovah’s Witnesses, that members may risk being ostracized if they have contact with Ann Celina.
Since then she has not seen her mother, father and little sister.
She is not angry with her parents because she knows their world view – that it is against the rules of Jehovah’s Witnesses to contact their outcast family members.
– On a bad day, I am really sorry that they have chosen their religion over their daughter. But on a good day when my reason speaks, I think that they do what they have learned is right. Therefore, it is difficult for me to get angry with them, she says.
Jehovah’s Witnesses would not permit an interview
TV 2 had talked to two of the elders who sentenced Ann Celina, but they did not want to be interviewed.
Nor did the Scandinavian branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses want to make an interview. In an e-mail they write that they “do not monitor members of the congregation”.
Ann Celina lives today in Aarhus with her boyfriend and loves her new life. She has no doubt that she made the right choice by leaving Jehovah’s Witnesses.
– I suddenly became a completely different person – could feel myself and be able to think for myself. I hope that one day my family will have the same experience, she says.
For the sake of her family, Ann Celina does not want her last name mentioned. The editors are familiar with her full name.