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Those who leave the faith are called "apostates" and are "disfellowshipped", a term for formal expulsion and shunning, where members are "prohibited from talking, and even from saying 'hello' to them", according to Ohmyjw.

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They also believe the holidays are rooted in paganism and therefore - like birthdays - inherently displeasing.

One seemingly innocuous yet incredibly restrictive rule is that Jehovah's Witnesses are not allowed to befriend people of other faiths.

When asked how women were regarded in JW society, the former elder said they were thought of as "a complement for a man", adding: "She should be submissive to her husband, who is the head of their family and it is he who makes all the important decisions.

"Women cannot teach in the congregation, they cannot deliver public talks or say public prayers.

He also criticised the group for having a "big problem with child abuse," saying "they believe child abuse is only a sin, not really a crime, the elders in almost all cases don't report to the authorities, instead they try to handle it inside the congregation".