Some Christian denominations allow their members to marry whomever they please, others discourage it, and others just don't allow it (you are either disfellowshipped or the church refuses to perform the marriage).

What position do Jehovah's Witnesses hold on interfaith marriage?

  1. If it is allowed, is the ceremony different in any way?
  2. If it is discouraged, is it for social reasons (interfaith marriage is hard) or doctrinal reasons (the Bible says...)?
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    Excellent question! Falls nicely within the new guidelines, too! +1
    – Richard
    Commented Oct 17, 2011 at 21:47
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    I can answer this off the top of my head, but I have no time to look for sources right now, so I'll put it in a comment. It would have to be a registry office marriage. It wouldn't be allowed in the Hall. It would be accepted, but strongly discouraged. A person who made such a marriage might possibly be removed from positions of responsibility within the congregation.
    – TRiG
    Commented Oct 17, 2011 at 22:08

6 Answers 6


I feel that the previous answer might be a bit one sided.

0) First of all, persons who are not baptised as a JW, but only raised as a JW, are free to live their lives as they see fit (there is no infant baptism among JW's). They are not considered as JW's and the society can not officially sanction any of their life style choices. The same goes for disfellowshipped persons or persons who disassociated themselves from the JW's.

So many persons who are raised as a JW, do not consider themselves JW's (although the outside world might perceive them this way) and they live with partners whom they choose 'freely' (of course one has to take into account some pressure from family, peer pressure and pressure from society in general, which limits the free choice of most persons).

1) Since many JW's are married and belong to a different religion before they get baptized as a Jehovah's Witness, interfaith marriages are not so rare among JW's (typically only the wife converts to JW's). In those situations Paul's advice to the Corinthians apply. Basically he advises to stick with your partner (1 Cor. 7:10-16). So in that case, JW's are married with non-witnesses and have to do everything in their power to make the marriage work.

2) Persons who are unmarried adults and baptised as a JW, are encouraged to marry only other baptised JW's (of a different gender). Again this is based on the advise of Paul to the Corinthians.

  • 1 Cor. 7:39: '...she is free to be married to whom she wants, only in (the) Lord'.
  • 2 Cor. 6:14-15: 'Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what fellowship do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what sharing does light have with darkness? (...) Or what portion does a faithful person have with an unbeliever?'

Baptised male JW's who do not follow this advise, might lose some 'privileges' (e.g. they may not teach the audience in public anymore). It is however not a disfellowshipping offence to date or marry a non-JW.

I do not know if there are any official sanctions against female JW's who marry non JW-men (the position against women is more relaxed, I think). When they do marry, the same advice as given in 1 Cor. 7:10-16 apply.

3) Many persons who are baptised as a JW, fade away and become inactive (this means they do not go knocking on doors anymore for a period of 6 months or more). According to some studies 2/3 of the children who are raised as a JW, do not consider themselves as a JW when they reach adulthood (this is apparently the lowest retention rate of all the religions).

Most of time, the inactive single persons are also free to do whatever they like, because the congregation of JW's will probably not keep track of what they are doing.

It is also possible that two partners are baptised and only one of them (very often the husband) becomes inactive (and has a different outlook on life, becomes agnostic, atheistic,...). In that case, the same advice as given in 1 Cor. 7:10-16 applies. Often the JW partner is quite disappointed in the decision of the partner and this can put a strain on the marriage, but in many cases the relationship continues as usual. Also the relationship with other JW's can continue as usual, however some JW members might not be so cordial anymore with a person who has become inactive. So sometimes situations might arrive where e.g. JW's give a party and only invite the JW partner and not the 'inactive' mate.

It is also not very uncommon that young persons who are raised as a JW (and baptised) marry each other and once they are married both stop practising the religion.

So in these cases you have relationships between real JW's (who go door to door and to all the meetings) and only 'name' JW's (inactive ones who do basically nothing).

The bottom line is that JW's are allowed to marry outside the faith, but it is discouraged.

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    "I do not know if there are any official sanctions against female JW's who marry non JW-men (the position against women is more relaxed, I think)." I don't think it's officially "more relaxed". It's just that women would, typically, have fewer "privileges" to lose.
    – TRiG
    Commented Mar 14, 2012 at 12:48
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    As being raised in a JW family, and having to attend all services for the first 13 years of my life, I will say that whilst it's not an offence to marry someone outside of the JW faith, there is social exclusion applied. Remember, JW's are extremely lawful in their dealings - damagingly so - whilst not officially excommunicating an individual, they can make them feel like they have been. Commented Mar 19, 2012 at 14:30
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    @Kezzer. That's definitely true. There can be a strong social sanction. And Witness literature is very good at not actually giving orders as such. (Correspondingly, Witnesses become adept at reading between the lines, and interpreting and enforcing the orders which aren't directly there in the text.)
    – TRiG
    Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 0:42

Marrying a non-believer is highly discouraged for practical and biblical reasons. Even people who are not Jehovah's Witnesses and belong to other churches would find it wise to marry someone who shares the same faith. It is just one of the many compatibility aspect of finding a mate. If two share a common thing there would be less drama in life and therefore less strain.

However, the organization do not interfere in their members' personal decision-making and thus cannot control those who will decide to marry outside the religion, so each person who decides to marry a non-Witness must be willing to face the consequences and not blame the Bible for giving such wise advice that the person did not follow.

It is not a disfellowshipping offense but that does not make it a less serious law. It is a wise advice that each one has a choice to take or not to take, and each choice has corresponding pros and cons.

The reason why others got disfellowshipped is not their marriage to a non-Witness in itself, but the immorality or pre-marital sex involved, which is very common when a Witness develops a relationship with a non-Witness, simply because they may not share the same views on this matter. However, dating couples who are both Witnesses are not free from the dangers of immorality even though they both should have the same views on pre-marital sex.

There are different reasons why some sisters and brothers choose to marry unbelievers, either voluntarily or out because they have drifted away from close association with brothers and sisters. For example, I know some people who intentionally find mates outside because of their past. For example, if a sister was once disfellowshipped, from a human standpoint it may be hard for her to find a suitable brother who is not judgmental and would accept her everything and marry her, so she can either date an inactive passive Witness or go out to the world and scan through a lot of other options and just get married, with all the consequences she will be facing in mind. It is a big risk.

Some brothers also choose to marry outside because they always get rejected by sisters inside. And no wise words such as, Wait for Jehovah's provisions, Wait till the new system, can ever convince them to stay single. That is why they find a mate outside the orginization.

Different reasons, different circumstances. Brothers and sisters involved in such situations surely are not having the time of their life, so being sensitive to what they are already facing, it would help a little if people around just stop making comments and judging, which is common in some congregations. But what can we expect? This world is full of imperfect people.

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    This answer could probably do with a glossary. Brother and sister are just terms for fellow Witnesses. An unbeliever is any non-Witness. The World is non-believers in general. The new system is the "new world order" after Armageddon.
    – TRiG
    Commented Mar 20, 2012 at 0:40

JW are allowed to marry outside their faith. I am married to a non-active JW, but it can be very hard at times. JW's seem to think that Christians outside of JW's really do not have the truth.

For a Born again believer, Jesus is the truth and as a Christian it was the other way around for me. My husband couldn't marry me until he understood that I would not become a JW. Often times I have been asked to attend meeting and I went to a few. Now I don't attend because no one can give me a biblical reason as to why I should leave my faith which is outside of JW. I feel sorry for my spouse because he often does thing to please the family but my faith is in Christ and I can't help but praise Him because he has done so much for me.

It is natural that I have a relationship with Christ. He is my all and I can feel his presence and for many believers in Christ we gave that - I couldn't imagine stepping into a church or opening my mouth without saying "Thank you Jesus." I don't see why that is so hard for some to see.

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    Ma'am, the first part of your answer clearly addresses the question, but the rest wanders somewhat. It seems that you may have some knowledge of the subject, however. Could you edit it to be more to the point?
    – Kazark
    Commented Sep 22, 2012 at 20:44

Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the Bible highly discourages an interfaith marriage (1 Corinthians 7:39). This is a logical thing, because JW beliefs are very different than Christendom. For example JW don't celebrate Christmas or Easter. If the other spouse celebrates, then there is no unity in very basic views in the marriage, something very important for JW. Also if there is a child how will they grow up? With what teachings? JW also have a very "heavy" theoretical week (meeting, preaching, study, family worship).

If a JW chooses to have an interfaith political marriage they are not disfellowshipped, but if the ceremony takes place in a place of another religion, then it is more possible (Revelation 18:4)


There is an old saying, a biblical one: bad associations spoil useful habits. As a JW in my youth I must say the faith system is similar to that of all other true Christians. You are free to do as you want within the boundaries of the faith system. Being a JW requires hard work and dedication to the faith. It's not easy for the modern world to accept sometimes. As far as I know, to be disfellowshipped takes a serious offence to the group like being unrepentant of sins i.e sex, drugs, evil acts, not taking christian duties seriously.

As for marrying non-JW, it strikes me as the same reason Catholics would prefer you marry Catholics or any other sect. Its just sectarianism. Every group thinks they have the interpretation of the word down perfectly. But I will say this about JW, they believe in looking into the Bible, not just listening to sermons talking about doom and gloom but a real understanding of scripture and its relevance to us even now in the 21st century and hopefully what lies after this all ends.


Are they allowed to marry is a bit tricky, but the answer is most likely no, only because, if a person is dating a non-believer then their belief is probably weak, and will be suspect. Also, the church elders can step in and order that the couple break up, else the JW member will be disfellowshipped, which is more extreme than just being excommunicated, more like being kicked out of an extended family and given the silent treatment for life.

These links will not be official answers from the JW, but I expect that they won't be too forthcoming on much of this (see source at end of answer).

  • See here for an idea on what the rules are on being friends with a JW member.

  • See here to get an idea on disfellowship you can look at:

  • See here for 141 things JW can't do, and look at #4 for.

  • Here are two questions where people are dating or engaged to a JW.

If a person is a member of good standing with the JW then where is the free time to date outside of their religion?

So, I would guess that the ceremony won't be any different since it probably wouldn't be recognized.


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