Jehovah's Witnesses and Delaware Settles a Class Action Child Abuse Case

Lawsuits are common these days, and Jehovah’s Witnesses recently settled one in Delaware, and paid fines totaling $19,500 to the Delaware Department of Justice. The offense sued over was knowing of cases of child sexual abuse in previous decades and not ‘going beyond the law’ to report them to police agencies. One provision of the settlement was stated here by a lawyer involved:

“A third requirement mandated by Delaware included the signing of an affidavit stipulating that Jehovah’s Witness elders must comply with all Delaware statutes involving the reporting of child abuse.”

This is presented as though it represents a setback to the JW organization. In fact, it is just what Geoffrey Jackson pleaded for three times before the Australian Royal Commission: Make mandatory reporting laws universal, across the board, everywhere. Then it would “make our job so much easier.”

Why should he have to make that plea in 2017? Given the present crusade over child sexual abuse, by now getting quite long-in-the-tooth, seemingly no policy change should be easier. And if this is the patchwork of conflicting laws in 2017, it is not hard to envision what it was in the 80s and 90s, the time period from which almost all of these cases stem, where the prevailing ‘crime’ is not going ‘beyond the law’ with regard to reporting. If it is so crucial to go beyond the law, then surely that should become the law. Condemning ones for not going beyond the law simply allows for Monday morning quarterbacking, assigning invariably bad motives to persons or organizations who are not liked.

My take is that this Delaware stipulation will make Jehovah’s Witnesses quite happy. It alleviates a situation full of minefields for those who feel the responsibility of policing their own for all types of wrongdoing, not just this one. It also means they can pursue their ‘two-witness’ rule to their heart’s content (one witness always being the victim him/herself, another perhaps a similar report of the same individual) without thwarting the interests of the State, which proceeds with different standards of proof.

If a crime is heinous enough, you want somebody to go to jail for it. But we are routinely reading of persons exonerated and released from prison after doing decades of time, convicted over ‘proof’ less strenuous than ‘two-witness’ and finding justice only with the advent of new DNA evidence. That is why Witnesses are not in a hurry to abandon the two-witness standard, a biblical principle which, until recently, was bedrock to Western law. But again, with universal reporting law, it all becomes superfluous. Both can pursue their own missions, neither thwarting the other.

Jehovah’s Witnesses will be happy with this development, I predict. It is a win-win.

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Text A Lot? A Threat to Civilized Society

Without (much) comment, I will run this gem from 'The Week' magazine:

"A Texas man sued his date for the $17.31 he paid for her movie ticket after she allegedly ruined the film by constant texting. Brandon Vesmar called Christal Cruz "threat to civilized society" in his suit, claiming she used her phone up to 20 times during the first 15 minutes of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 [well....no wonder]. When Cruz refused to stop texting a friend of hers, Vesmar suggested she step outside the theater to use her phone. She left and didn't return - but did repay Vesmar after he filed his case in small-claims court. "I'm not a bad woman," Cruz said. "I just went on a date."

It is well that she paid up. It is well if she leaves her phone at home from now on. It is also well that she never got to know this character better [anal, anyone?] perhaps to the point of (gasp!) marriage. Image


Beating Swords Into Plowshares

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ determination not to make war was never so severely tested as during World War II, when the whole world came down with war fever.

Their determination, of course, stems from the Bible's directive to learn war no more. These words adorn the U.N. building in New York:

And they will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.    Isa 2:4

For the U.N. it makes a catchy and inspirational slogan. For Jehovah’s Witnesses it makes a way of life. If you’re not going to apply those words in time of war, just when do you apply them?

Yet, the course is much easier said than done. In nations under Nazi rule, following the course landed you in concentration camps. Jehovah’s Witnesses were among the first inmates there, preceding the far-more-numerous Jews. They were the only group who could “write their ticket” out by renouncing their faith and pledging Nazi support. Only a handful took advantage of the offer.

In the United States, Jehovah’s Witnesses took the same stand amidst much opposition. Where applicable…that is, where persons had ministerial duties in the congregation or occupied themselves full time in outside ministry…. some would request the 4D “ministerial” exemption their local draft board. “Church” ministers never had the slightest difficulty obtaining such exemptions. For Jehovah’s Witnesses, they were invariably denied. Draft boards recognized not the scriptural or even legal definition of “minister,“ they only knew the popular definition of a minister: one who “had a church“ and “got paid.”

Paul the apostle would not have fared well under this definition.  He was not paid for his ministry. He worked to support himself. He ministered mostly to those on the outside, not inside a "church." (the word rendered "church" in the NT always refers to a group of people, never a building. Accordingly, the New World Translation renders the word "congregation.") For example:

….on account of being of the same trade he [Paul] stayed at their home, and they worked, for they were tentmakers by trade. However, he would give a talk in the synagogue every Sabbath and would persuade Jews and Greeks.    Acts 18:3,4

And:

Certainly you bear in mind, brothers, our labor and toil. It was with working night and day, so as not to put an expensive burden upon any one of you, that we preached the good news of God to you.    1 Cor 2:9

For that matter, Jesus wouldn’t have fared well.  Everyone knows he worked as a carpenter. And sending his followers out to preach, he told them “you received free, give free.”    Matt 10:8

Both Paul and Jesus would have been denied 4D ministerial exemption. Would they have gone to war?

Neither did Jehovah’s Witnesses fare well. Though their ministry might plainly be the most important thing in their lives, and the time spent thereof exceed time spent in any secular work, draft boards would generally only recognize the “mercenary ministers,“ those who did it for pay.

Occasionally a judge or two would rule our way. Attorney Victor Blackwell tells of a young Witness he represented who, per the Biblical and legal definition, plainly was a minister. Before he could complete his argument, the District Court judge took up his case, saying:

"If I remember my Bible, our Lord was a carpenter, Peter and John were fishermen, and Paul a tent-maker. They were ministers. Young man, I commend you for working at an honest occupation to support yourself and your ministry. I wish my preacher would go to work."

Mr. Blackwell represented hundreds of our people during the hot years of WWII and immediately afterwards. He recorded his experiences in his 1976 book Oer the Ramparts They Watched. (Carlton Press, NY)

Far more typical was another experience he relates:** After giving light sentences, each one suspended in favor of probation, to a dozen or so who had confessed to various crimes against society, some quite serious, the judge turned his attention to our brother:

“Your whole life record is spotless. You were a model young man in high school, no smoking, no drinking, no fighting, no running around. One of the finest pre-sentence reports I have ever read.

 Do you have any words to say before I sentence you?”

 The youth replied he did not.

 “Do you, Mr. Blackwell, wish to say anything in behalf of your client?”

 “Considering that fine report Your Honor has just read, and the leniency shown toward the others who just appeared before you, it would be unthinkable that you would send this youth to prison.”

The sentence: “I cannot tolerate that someone like this will defy the law. I sentence you to serve two years in some institution to be designated by the Attorney General.”

Often our youths were sentenced with considerable emotion, which runs high in wartime. Like this one:

“I sentence you to five years in a federal prison to be approved by the Attorney General. My only regret, you yellow coward, is that I cannot give you twenty five years.”

Better than a German concentration camp, to be sure. Nonetheless, there was price to pay for all who would actually apply the words of Isaiah 2:4 and refuse to “learn war.”

It was only after the war, after hundreds of youths had been sent off to prison, that some judicial high courts began to see matters differently. From the opinion of Wiggins v U.S. for instance:

….Ministers of Jehovah’s Witnesses are not paid a salary, furnished a parsonage, or even given funds for necessary expenses to carry on their ministerial work. As pointed out, they have no choice except to engage in secular pursuits in order to obtain funds to make the ministry their vocation. The Act (Selective Training and Service Act, 1940) does not define a minister in terms of one who is paid for ministerial work, has a diploma or license, preached and teaches primarily in a church. The test under the Act is not whether a minister is paid for his ministry but whether, as a vocation, regularly, not occasionally, he teaches and preaches the principles of his religion.

This favorable [to us] decision was of the Fifth Federal Circuit Court and thus was not binding everywhere, but nonetheless stood as a template. When the government appealed the case to the Supreme Court, that Court declined to review it, letting the case stand.

………………………………...

** Unlike the preceding and succeeding cases, this youth was a “rank and file” Witness and thus made no claim for ministerial exemption. He was assigned 1-O status (conscientious objector) status and assigned to “civilian work of national importance.” Finding this work squarely in support of the war effort, his conscience would not permit him to comply, and for this he was prosecuted.

Nearly two centuries prior to this, General George Washington had written descendents of William Penn [Quakers]:

Government being, among other purposes, instituted to protect the person and consciences of men from oppression it certainly is the duty of rulers, not only to abstain from it themselves, but according to their station to prevent it in others.

I assure you explicitly, that in my opinion the conscientious scruples of all men should be treated with great delicacy and tenderness; and it is my wish and desire that laws may always be as extensively accommodated to them, as a due regard to the protection and essential interests of the nation many justify and permit.

But in wartime, emotions run very hot.

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The foregoing all happened in the United States. Each nation has its own story, and some continue right up to the present. The country most behind the curve today appears to be South Korea. Awake! Magazine (December 2008) interviews Chong-Il Park, who was the first of a long line of Korean Witnesses to be sent to prison for refusing military service.

“Coward! You are afraid of dying at the front lines. You are trying to evade military service of the pretence of your religious conscience.” With those words, he was beaten and subsequently sentenced to three years imprisonment. That was in 1953, when there were less than 100 JWs in the entire country and their beliefs, let alone those of neutrality, were little understood.

Today there are  94,000 Witnesses in South Korea. “Many who were imprisoned as conscientious objectors when they were young men have seen their sons, and even their grandsons, go to prisons for the same reason,” relates Mr. Park. Specifically, the numbers are 13,000 over the years, and 600 at present. Park expresses hope the situation may change. “One lawyer who had prosecuted a Witness conscientious objector even wrote an open letter of apology for what he had done, and it was published in a well-known magazine,” says he.

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Another exchange from Mr. Blackwell’s book:


Judge:  "This whole matter troubles me. What, with Jehovah’s Witnesses increasing and spreading out all over the earth, if everybody got to be Jehovah’s Witnesses, where would we be…."

Blackwell: "Your honor, if everybody on earth became Jehovah’s Witnesses, there would be no war, and no need for armed forces of any kind, in any nation. Would the Court object to that state of affairs?"

Proceed with the case, the judge said.

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me                    No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Engardio, Gobitus, and the Flag Salute

As a teenager, Joel Engardio broke his mother's heart. He declined to pursue the Witness faith in which he was raised, diving into journalism, which he imagined could change the world now, not later.

As a young man, he broke it again. He declared he was gay. That’s a problem within JW congregations. Scriptures are scriptures and we're not authorized to change them. We don't go on anti-gay rants and witch hunts, like the fundamentalist groups, but to say we "discourage" homosexual practices would be an understatement.

But as an adult, he's done his mama proud.

Mr. Engardio has written, produced and narrated Knocking, probably the best documentary ever about Jehovah's Witnesses. Others think so, too, not just me.

Best Documentary, Jury Award, 2006 USA Film Festival (Dallas)

Best Documentary, Jury Award, 2006 Trenton Film Festival (New Jersey)

Best Documentary, Audience Award, 2006 Indianapolis International Film Festival

Its website, www.Knocking.org, lists 10 other film awards.

Some aspects of Jehovah's Witnesses, Mr. Engardio relates better than the Witnesses themselves do. For example, while it's well known that the U.S. leads the world in protecting basic freedoms from government abuse - freedom of speech, of press, of assembly, of expression, of worship - the reason is less well known. It is, in large measure, Jehovah's Witnesses.

Towards the end of ensuring freedoms, Jehovah's Witnesses have tried 50 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Except for the government itself, no other group has done so more often. The victories they've wrestled trickle down to groups of all stripes, including some with principles quite opposed to those of Jehovah's Witnesses. Such groups owe a large debt to JWs, but instead they take pot shots at our beliefs! Freedoms defined in the U.S. set the standards for other nations as well, particularly emerging ones.

An example of a basic freedom defined:

We all know that there is true patriotism and there is phony patriotism. There is the flag salute that reflects true love of country and the flag salute that is just going through the motions. The symbol means nothing in itself; it’s what the symbol means to a person which is significant. We all know that terrorists, spies, scoundrels, and what-have-you feel no compunction about saluting someone's flag, if only so as to avoid drawing attention to themselves.

All the same, politicians are sometimes satisfied, not with true patriotism, but with the appearance of true patriotism. In the late 1930's, shortly before America's entrance into WWII, "patriots" [real or phony?] thought it a good idea to make all schoolchildren salute the flag. Some communities wrote it into school bylaws. It was to be obeyed upon pain of expulsion. This created a problem for the children of Jehovah's Witnesses, who do not salute any country’s flag. Their reason is religious, not political. It’s based on the Ten Commandments. (1 and 2)

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them…       Ex 20:4,5  (NIV)  Saluting a flag, for them, violates this command.

Granted, not everyone interprets those verses as we do, yet it is clear that JWs’ not saluting the flag has nothing to do with love of country. It’s a religious stand, based on avoiding "idolatry."

Their motives made no difference to a certain Pennsylvania school board. With World War II threatening to draw in the United States, they wanted patriotism, or at least the appearance thereof. Further, they imagined that forcing students to salute the flag would instill the real variety. Religious conscience was of no concern to them. There was the flag - salute it! Two Witness children, William and Lillian Gobitus, would not. They were 12 and 10 years old, respectively. They stood their ground, and were expelled from public school. Through their father, they took the matter to court.

Early court decisions went in favor of the Gobitus children. Two lower courts ruled in their favor. The second wrote into its decision the words of a certain Colonel Moss, who had authored several WWI training manuals:

"Another form that false patriotism frequently takes is so-called Flag-worship - blind and excessive adulation of the Flag as an emblem or image - super-punctiliousness and meticulosity in displaying and saluting the Flag - without intelligent and sincere understanding and appreciation of the ideals and institutions it symbolizes. This of course is but a form of idolatry - a sort of "glorified idolatry," so to speak. When patriotism assumes this form it is nonsensical and makes the "patriot" ridiculous."

"The court also noted that "there are schools all over the United States in which the pupils have to go through  the ceremony of pledging allegiance to the flag every school day. It would be hard to devise a means more effective for dulling patriotic sentiment than that. This routine repetition makes the flag-saluting ceremony perfunctory and so devoid of feeling; and once this feeling has been lost it is hard to recapture it for the "high moments" of life."

Nonetheless, those who wanted the appearance of patriotism appealed each victory. The case reached the United States Supreme Court, which reversed the lower court decisions by an 8:1 vote.  [!]  "...We live by symbols," the Supreme Court declared. "The flag is the symbol of our national unity..." The school board could indeed compel students to salute the flag. Get over it, they seemed to say to minorities. Religious (or any other) conscience, though it harmed nobody, was stomped upon so as to please the majority.  Justice Harlan Fiske Stone, the only one who voted against the decision, wrote the dissenting opinion. Three years later that dissent would become the majority opinion. 

The year was 1940, and war fever ran high, a mood hard to imagine today. Any action thought to be snubbing the flag brought public vengeance,  and everyone knew by then that Jehovah's Witnesses would not salute it. The Court decision lit a fire of intolerance. Mobs formed, waving the flag and demanding Witnesses salute it. When they would not, they were attacked and beaten, even into unconsciousness. Their homes, automobiles and meeting places were torched or wrecked. In small towns run by the “good ‘ol boys,” some were rounded up and jailed without charge. In four years over 2500 mob-related incidents occurred.

The Solicitor General of the United States took to the NBC airwaves:

“Jehovah's Witnesses have repeatedly been set upon and beaten. They have committed no crime; but the mob adjudged that they had, and meted out punishment The Attorney General has ordered an immediate investigation of these outrages.

“The people must be alert and watchful, and above all, cool and sane. Since mob violence will make the government's task infinitely more difficult, it will not be tolerated. We shall not defeat the Nazi evil by emulating its methods.”

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt echoed the plea of the Attorney General. The ACLU also spoke out:

“It is high time we came to our senses regarding this matter of flag-saluting. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not disloyal Americans….They are not given to law-breaking in general, but lead decent, orderly lives, contributing their share to the common good.”

Was it this vigilante atmosphere that led three of the justices to declare, in another case, that they believed Gobitus had been wrongly decided? Yet another two justices retired, and they were replaced by ones thought to be more on the side of individual liberty. If compulsory flag salute was presented anew to the Supreme Court, would the decision be the same?

The children of Walter Barnette, Paul Stull and Lucy McLure, in West Virginia were expelled from school for non-salute, and their parents were threatened with prosecution for raising delinquents. In response, they filed suit, just as the Gobitus children had done three years prior. The first court to hear the case, the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia - has this ever happened before? - refused to follow the precedent of the Supreme Court decision and ruled in favor of the Witness children!

Ordinarily we would feel constrained to follow an unreversed decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, whether we agreed with it or not.... the developments with respect to the Gobitus case, however, are such that we do not feel it is incumbent upon us to accept is as binding authority....The tyranny of majorities over the rights of individuals or helpless minorities , has always been recognized as one of the great dangers of popular government. The fathers sought to guard against this danger by  writing into the Constitution a bill of rights guaranteeing to every individual certain fundamental liberties....We are clearly of opinion that the regulation of the Board requiring that school children salute the flag is void insofar as it applies to children having conscientious scruples against giving such salute...

The issue was again appealed up to the Supreme Court, and this time that body reversed itself! By at 6:3 majority, the Court ruled that compulsory flag salute was unconstitutional. Their verdict was announced on June 14, 1943 - flag day!

In writing the dissenting opinion, Justice Frankfurter grumbled: “As has been true in the past, the Court will from time to time reverse its position. But I believe that never before these Jehovah’s Witnesses cases [there were several more besides those concerning flag salute] …..has this Court overruled decisions so as to restrict the powers of democratic government.”

Yes, that’s how it is with these governments, democratic or not. They want more power. They don’t want to give it up. A certain amount is necessary, of course, so as to maintain public order and safety. We cede it to them willingly and render obedience. But when they grab for yet more - the consciences and souls of their citizens, someone has to call them on it. And that someone has often been Jehovah’s Witnesses.

………………………………............

Knocking concludes with the observation that Jehovah's Witnesses are, at present, litigating 400 human rights cases worldwide.

 

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More on Knocking here

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Resume Padding at MIT

MIT Dean of Admissions Marilee Jones got pretty good at spotting applicants who had padded their resumes. Nevertheless, the school fired her (April 27). She had padded hers!

Padded it quite a bit, actually. She'd claimed BS and MS degrees from Union College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Albany Medical College. That's how she'd landed her first job 28 years ago. But she'd only studied at Rensselaer for a year and had never graduated anywhere.

They caught someone in Rochester doing that too. She had been director of the Urban League. Alas, I cannot recall her name. Turned out she'd fudged everything. The lawyers, I heard, were going to have a field day, retrying every case in which she had testified!

Sheepandgoats, righteous as he is, could never countenance lying. I suppose you have to kick these people to the curb without mercy. But amidst all the indignant blather, one fact should not be ignored. These two had proved themselves excellent at their jobs!

Frankly, you cannot read Marilee Jones without liking her. She wrote an editorial for USA Today (1/5/03) in which she related a note she'd received from an applicant's dad: It read "You rejected my son. He's devastated. See you in court."

The next day came a note from the applicant himself: "Thank you for not admitting me to MIT. This is the best day of my life."

In an era where hard-driving, ambition-blinded parents can push their more have-a-life offspring to the point of suicide, Ms. Jones offered unheard of nurturing and common sense: lay off on the self-stress, enjoy life, stay healthy, stop trying to be perfect. MIT officials, even as they canned her, were universal in their praise. "She's really been a leader in the profession," said her predecessor Michael Behnke. Her peers concurred. Ms. Jones was "one of those people who was trying to bring sanity back to the whole admissions world. She's spoken persuasively and thoughtfully both to parents and admissions deans about restoring the humanity to this process and taking some pressure off kids," said a fellow dean of admissions Bruce Poch. But now she's gone and insanity can reassert itself.

The surface lesson here has to do with always-tell-the-truth and so forth. But the real lesson I've not yet heard anyone state: what a load of horse manure all these "credentials" really are. They exist for two reasons, neither of them noble.

1. They make hiring easier, since you can cart two thirds of all resumes to the trash, unread.

2.  They inflate the education industry, ever eager to dream up new areas of expertise, for which they can teach and write outrageously overpriced textbooks.

The process serves to eliminate the creative and innovative folks in favor of the plodders and the dull.

My wife, Mrs Sheepandgoats, and I ran up against this mindset when we set out to homeschool our kids, many years ago. There were plenty of educators who huffed at our not being certified teachers. It led us to uncover the truth that certified teachers taught absolutely no better than uncertified ones. (yet they cost far more) Catholic schools rarely use certified teachers, yet achieve results as good or better than public schools!

It's in this light that we can understand the recent Democrat and Chronicle headline: "Computer Workers May Have to Report Child Abuse." (5/2/07) Lawmakers in two states think this is a good idea, and it's hard to resist a notion like this, since anyone who does obviously thinks pedophilia is a good thing. Apparently, the technician at Best Buy and even the shop two doors down now, should this become law, will have to alert the cops when they spot something unsavory on your hard drive. I suspect most of them already do, just on the basis of being decent people

Michael Wendy, spokesman for a the Computing Technology Industry Association, based in Illinois, offered some common sense hedging. Sure, technicians want to help out, he said, but they're concerned about liability should they miss something.

As well they should be. Lawyers, undoubtedly, will love this new proposal. As will insurance people. Technicians will have to load up on liability insurance. Repairs will be so expensive that no one will bother....you'll just junk your machine and buy another. And repairmen will need a Master's Degree to touch your machine, with advanced courses in sociology and human sexuality.

Educators will like that.

 

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Tom Irregardless and Me             No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Virginia Tech and the Blame Game

A student gunman killed 32 people on Virginia Tech campus Monday, and wounded 15 others. There were two attacks, one at 7:15 claiming two persons, and the other across campus 2 hours later. Hordes of media descended, asking all questions except the important ones. Like:

Did you ever imagine, when you came to class this morning, that such a thing would happen?

Has it sunk in yet?

The blaming began within hours. There was Katie Couric, so somber, oozing love and compassion, ever so gently probing college president Charles Steger. Didn't he bear bloodguilt, she implied, for not locking down campus immediately after the first shooting?

No, he didn't. He'd already explained the first incident bore every mark of a domestic dispute. No reason to think differently. Besides, thousands of non-resident students were just then arriving for 8AM class. "Where do you lock them down?....You can only make a decision based on the information you know at that moment in time. You don't have hours to reflect on it." West_Virginia_Flying_WV_logo.svg

That made sense to me. God help us if we start shutting down entire communities (30,000 plus at Virginia Tech) every time domestic violence flares up.

But Mr. Steger is my age, brought up in a different time. The younger you are the more likely you were to disagree. Today's students were born in the late 80's, not the domestically tranquil 40's, 50's and even 60's. A madman on rampage is not so unusual for them, so that it seemed the college should have taken this in stride. They should have known and been ready. Reporters searched until they found SWAT team experts, guys who live and breathe and dream CSI. Yes, they affirmed, the college should have known. All night, cable and satellite stations pushed the theme.

Lawyers have facilitated this thinking by successfully implanting the notion that money can compensate for life. Of course, that only happens if someone is found blameworthy. So someone must be.

On the other hand, local radio guy Bob Lonsberry found someone here who's a student there. He chatted a few minutes on air with Doug MacEvoy. Doug didn't fault anybody. Absolute madman, who could have known? totally out of the blue was all they could say from the start. But within hours, the same media folks were in full court blame press.

So maybe it's not young people at all. Maybe it's entirely lawyers and media, two groups who distinctly gain by finding parties to blame. [media, because it extends the life of the story]

For those who view such violence as, if not everyday, at least common enough that everyone should always be ready, the important question was not asked. How did society get to be this way?

In the last days, so says the apostle Paul at 2 Timothy, people will be .... without natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness.

They've always been like that, some today counter. So was Paul giving a non-prophesy? Of course he knew what people were like. But there would be a time, he advised, when such traits would be off the charts. Is such the case today? Do we not entertain the nagging suspicion that we are just this close to such events becoming absolutely routine?

Jesus said the dangerous times he foretold...times that would serve to seal the dismal record of human self-rule...would find people "faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth." [Luke 21:26] Those with faith would also be affected by events. A sign is a sign.

Yet knowing the meaning behind it all would give them a different outlook, even a hopeful one. "In this way you also, when you see these things occurring, know that the kingdom of God is near." [vs 31]

Announcing this kingdom forms the core of Jehovah's Witnesses ministry.

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Tom Irregardless and Me        No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


Wheatandweeds Defends Jehovah's Witnesses

Last year that alternative newspaper City! published a cute article (they thought) poking fun at Jehovah’s Witnesses. We weren’t mentioned by name, but the description fit us exactly. Within hours, Tom Wheatandweeds zinged back a knee-jerk response. But it wasn’t enough! He pondered the matter for a day or so and responded again, this time on a more fundamental level. City! did not publish his first letter. They did his second. They’re not bad folks over there, but they get some goofy ideas about God.

Dear City!

Normally City! displays journalistic inquisitiveness, a penchant for accuracy, and a sensitivity toward minorities. When it comes to Jehovah’s Witnesses, however, you blithely repeat every slur and derogatory stereotype you hear. To ridicule a subject you understand is one thing. To ridicule one you don’t is beneath City! With respect, the article makes clear that your reporter doesn’t have a clue as to what we’re about. And yet, there is much about Jehovah’s Witnesses that he (she?) would admire, were he aware.

Rights of free speech and assembly that benefit groups of all stripes, including many admired by City! have been largely influenced by Jehovah’s Witnesses. To that end, 46 Supreme Court appearances over the years have resulted in 37 Constitutional precedents clarifying these rights. No other group has appeared more often before the Court. Now that we are in the Patriot Act era, City and others are nervous that basic civil rights are being redefined.  In this charged environment, Watchtower Bible v Stratton, a 2002 victory, continues a tradition of upholding our fundamental right of free speech. One would expect a journalist to celebrate, not ridicule, a group to whom he owes such a debt.

It is not difficult for bland people to get along, but such is not the case for those with strong views. Alas, the all-to-frequent pattern today is for religions to, at best, manipulate governments in an effort to impose their morality on others, and, at worst, engage in terrorist acts. Jehovah’s Witnesses do neither, and are thus an example in peaceful co-existence, even while standing for values many do not embrace. We declare, to the best of our ability, a message we believe to be true. Some people find it so attractive that they join us and adopt our style of living. But we have no desire to force others to live according to our ways. Our arena is that of ideas. We fancy ourselves neither judges nor enforcers. God can sort it all out. We don’t feel the need to.

Normally, a group representing non-violence would enjoy City!’s profoundest respect. Why is this not the case with Jehovah’s Witnesses? The premiere example of our peaceful stand under trial remains Germany during the Hitler years, during which thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses were among the very first concentration camp prisoners, preceding the far-more-numerous Jews, and other groups. They are the only inmates who can properly be termed martyrs (as opposed to victims) in that they had power to secure their own release by signing a document renouncing their faith and pledging cooperation with the Nazi regime. Only a handful  took advantage of the opportunity. To this day, many of our people are imprisoned for the same neutral stand towards government saber-rattling. How many groups do you cover who would go so far so as not to violate conscience?

Please take these facts into account the next time your articles touch on us. We are not deserving of the ill-treatment you have dished out.

Sincerely,

Tom Weedsandwheat

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Tom Irregardless and Me              No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash


The Practice Gets it Right on Blood Transfusion

When TV writes Jehovah’s Witnesses into the plot, look out! We get clobbered. It not malicious, usually. They just don’t have a clue as to what we’re about. Nor are the hatchet jobs confined  to us. Religious folk never fare well on TV. There’s just not that many TV writers with religious backgrounds out there and they can’t picture the other side. Not that they toss and turn at night worrying about it. It’s much easier to use caricatures and stereotypes.

So I was blown away when an episode of The Practice episode featured Jehovah’s Witnesses and they got it right, and even, amazingly, treated us with dignity.

Do you remember Rebecca the receptionist? Well, it turns out she is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, though nobody knew it until she got caught in a bomb blast. And who would plant a bomb in the Practice’s office? This creepy psycho fellow, wasn’t he a former client? who’s been up to no good the past few episodes.

Anyway, they rush Rebecca to the hospital, where doctors decide only a blood transfusion will save her! But, lo and behold, Mama, a hitherto unknown character, shows up and declares that daughter is a Jehovah’s Witness who’s very serious about her faith. She has affidavits from the congregation to back her up. Head lawyer Bobby will have none of it. Rebecca needs blood, doctors say, and Bobby’s going to see that she gets it!

And so the stage is set for a drama that, incredibly, gets it right….mostly. We don’t come across as right-to-die extremists, nor death-wish martyrs. We aren’t doctor wannabes, telling medical personnel how to do their job. Our blood stand is Bible-based. Someone in the writing staff did some research. (for a change) Not absolute accuracy, but that's allowable, since no case is ever "typical," there’s always individual variation. We all have quirks.

Now, it should be pointed out that in the real world such situations shouldn’t pop up too often. You don’t just spring Surprise! No blood! on your doctor. Ideally, JW’s speak to their doctors beforehand, in good times. Not all doctors are comfortable with the added challenge of bloodless medicine. It’s not right to broadside them. Not to mention the anesthesiologist, who often frets more than the surgeon.

However, as mentioned, this was an emergency, brought on by a unabomber. They never wait for you to ask your doctor if bloodless medicine is right for you (and them).

In court, Bobby doesn’t believe Rebecca’s a Witness. Jehovah’s Witnesses talk about their faith, he says. Rebecca never did. That’s a good point, Bobby. They do. But Mama has an answer. Rebecca, who is black, is so worn down by facing prejudice that she has learned to keep her mouth shut. Well…… maybe. It’s not impossible. Especially if you’re the poor girl from the humble background working for hot-shot TV lawyers! (though she always seemed to hold her own pretty well)

What about blood cards? Bobby wants to know. Jehovah’s Witnesses carry blood cards. Rebecca didn’t have one. Right again, Bobby. They do. They’re called Medical Directives. Baptized witnesses have them. It’s odd Rebecca did not.

In fact, I’d almost side with Bobby around now: that Rebecca is not really a Witness, and Mama’s just an imposter. But what about those affidavits?

Lots of courtroom drama follows; The Practice could keep you riveted with courtroom drama. Bobby works himself into a frenzy. Rebecca can be saved, he charges at the bench, but…but for this….Voodoo religion! Mama calls him on it, and she never loses her cool. Yes, Bobby, you tipped your hand. This is not about respect for Rebecca’s conscience. This is about your own religious prejudice, pure and simple.

The judge rules for Mama. I couldn’t believe it!

Afterwards, no hard feelings. Indeed, there is respect, for Mama proved herself dignified and sound of mind. As if admitted to the bar, she and all the lawyers close the show around Rebecca’s bed, praying for recovery.

The Rebecca actress must have received a better job offer that year, for they wrote her out of the plot. The transfusion episode was her last. Thus we don't know how she made out!

Three videos are available from Jehovah’s Witnesses with regard to bloodless medicine. Click here to view them: (the 3rd, 4th, and 5th listings)

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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash

 


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Tom Irregardless and Me     No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash