During the 1940s, after the U.S. Supreme Court held that American Witness children could be required to salute the flag, a wave of violent reprisals broke out from ordinary citizens suddenly turned thugs. Elanor Roosevelt, wife of the President, spoke out to stay the violence.1 So did the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), declaring: “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.”2
Alarmed over what they had unleashed, three years later the Court, with several new members, overturned their own decision. Foregleams of it had already appeared. “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 Gobitis case, however, are such that we do not feel it is incumbent upon us to accept it as binding authority,” stated a lower court (United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia), as a similar case wended its way toward the top Court. There, the prior decision was reversed by a 6:3 majority, and the verdict was announced on Flag Day, June 14, 1943.3 Will there similarly emerge men of conscience in Russia, who cannot abide what they have unleashed?
Schoolteachers and principals in Russia have turned upon Witness children; persecution is not confined to adults and the Devil is not tender-hearted. Children become the new pawns. One 8-year-old girl’s parents were summoned to her school after she had sung a Witness song and talked about God to classmates. She was threatened with expulsion. In Ufa a policeman demanded a Witness mother explain why she “involves minors in extremist activities” as the eldest daughter recorded the conversation on her cell phone camera. In the Rostov region, a teacher sent a 14-year-old girl to the principal’s office, having previously confiscated her phone. There a police officer began to tell the girl that her mother forces her to go to a “terrorist organization” in which “they are robbed” and “are taught to kill people.” The officials brought the child to tears, in asserting that Jehovah’s Witnesses would “take control of her and send her to blow up the school,” and that she should “show her mother her individuality and not go to meetings.”
Another teacher told a child who had refused to sing a song heralding the military: “You are now banned and we are already fed up with your religion.” To her mother she reiterated “You are now extremists and there will be no indulgence.” At the family’s request, she allowed a song about nature to substitute for a music lesson but lowered the child’s grade on that account. A Witness once living at St. Petersburg Bethel (the Administrative Center) told of yet another 8-year-old girl who was forced by her school principal to sing a patriotic song at school in front of her classmates. Bullying children has become the new norm.4
It is the same scene in Russia that once played out in the United States. As brainwashing ever does, thought is replaced by rote. In the chain of events leading up to the United States Gobitis decision over the pledge to the flag, one Coronel Moss noted: “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.”5
Another court went on to observe 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.”6
Would the enemies of Jehovah’s Witnesses accuse them of brainwashing? Just who are the real brainwashers? Is it truly a fine thing that children of each nation must sing their respective patriotic song and salute their respective flag? Is it truly a gift from God to divide people in such a way? Start when they are young, for is that not the most effective time to brainwash?
“Officials who were already inclined to take action against Jehovah’s Witnesses are now emboldened, and ordinary people who have long disliked them are also emboldened,” said Felix Corley, a Norway-based religious rights activist. Within a month of the ban, assaults on Witnesses became legion. One enraged man in Belgorod shouted “You have been banned” as he repeatedly punched a Witness in the head, face and upper body. In Lustino, the home of a Witness family was burned to the ground. Outside of Moscow, a plainclothes policeman told Witnesses gathered to worship in a private home that the Court decision meant that they could no longer do so.7
Andrew Sorokowski, a columnist with the Religious Information Service of Ukraine posed the question: Why would a nation of some 144,000,000 risk its international reputation to persecute a religious sect numbering no more than 175,000 followers? The persecution is not illegal, according to its own laws, he points out. The federal law on Combating Extremist Activity punishes “propaganda of exclusiveness, superiority or inferiority of an individual based on his/her religious identity.” That law means no one but the Orthodox Church and an approved Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim selection can claim to be the one true path.8
Legally, they can do it. But why would they? The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom promptly labeled Russia one of the “countries of particular concern,” along with Iran, North Korea, Nigeria, and Sudan.9 There is a reputational price to pay for any nation that would carry on outrageously. Few are willing to pay it. They do not want to paint themselves before the whole wide world as a land of ruffians dictated to by house religions.
The most absurd accusations about Russia emanate from Western media these days. Surely a news report that Russia utilized the Pokemon Go game to undermine the American morale takes the cake.10 “Is there no end?” Russian outlets have, in effect, asked. “Is there no accusation too preposterous?” Unfairly, perhaps, but also predictably, Russia’s bullying of all minority religion and the outright ban of one suggests that there is not—that all accusations must be carefully considered. All but the most repressive nations on earth have learned to accommodate the human urge to worship as each individual sees fit. Russia sides with the forces of repression in this regard, and even surpasses them when it bans the Jehovah’s Witnesses website as extremist, the only country on earth to do so. Everyone else on the planet can visit and plainly see that it is not. How can Russia not lose face? Everyone know what extremism is and they know that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not it.
The latest one to complain in this way is Sergey Lavrov.11 He grumbles at a press briefing that “Russia is blamed for everything that goes wrong on this planet.” Ought he not look in the mirror for the reason? He was among the six officials that Witnesses everywhere were invited to write. He received several million letters. Did they touch his heart? Addressing a question from the media in December of 2017, he said: “As concerns Jehovah’s Witnesses, Russia bans organizations that encourage their supporters to openly break Russian laws. This is exactly what this cult was doing. They were warned several times but they would not listen and continued to involve their members in anti-constitutional activity. There may be no question about this.”12
Lavrov was one of those who received a letter from Bob’s Cleaning Service. Say what you will about Bob, but you will never find a more decent, unassuming and honest man. Bob worked hard on his letter—he doesn’t write too many of them. Lavrov could have read it, taken it to heart, spoke to his five other friends, and saved his country untold grief. Instead, he sided with the Court expert who scribbles “any sort of nonsense” and the anti-cult hero who “disseminates hate speech,” that description supplied by Human Rights Without Frontiers.13 If you do this and criminalize 175,000 peaceful citizens who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, and then continue to make life miserable for the Pentecostals and the Baptists and the Evangelicals and the Mormons and the Salvation Army and the Adventists and the Roman Catholics and, in fact, any group professing Christianity that is not Russian Orthodox, not to mention non-Christian groups, you cannot say at the press conference “Why do people think we do bad things?”
In one of my individual blog posts that I cobbled together to make Chapter 2, reflecting a time before I was up to speed on so many things, I laid down the challenge: “If it is to be, let Russian officials look themselves in the mirror and publicly declare: ‘I believe, what with all the villains and scoundrels on the loose today in our country and throughout world, that taking out Jehovah’s Witnesses is the most important thing we can do.’” Mr. Lavrov and his friends rose to the challenge! It is the theme of Fedor Chistyakov’s new album, “Unwanted Song.” Dyadya Fyodor belts out: “We’ll seize the world later, for now…remove the witnesses!”
Chistyakov, too, is bringing his gift to the altar. He has been busy since his exile, writing and recording music that he never foresaw himself writing and recording, music that for him is a first. “So we lived to see emigrant music,” the web source Sobesednik says from Russia. Yes, that’s because they chased him away from his homeland. He’s holed up in New York, right now, and not by choice. Sobesednik offers the best explanation for his plight that it can envision: “Chistyakov is an extremist? And what did he do? Never mind.” It makes no sense at all to them.
“To the punk rockers I became a punk rocker,” Paul would have said had he thought of it. No one can say that the cat has got Fedor’s tongue. “The muzzle of a furious red-brown bear [emblazons the cover, along with] biting texts with a lot of allusions and direct analogies with the current Russian reality.” But Fedor enters a world strange to him. Is this an album of “defiance,” as Bershidsky would say? No. It is a tactic of last resort, just as when Chistyakov’s eight million brothers wrote to Putin. Who were they to write to Putin? Never in their lives would they have imagined it. They did it when the situation became desperate and an opportunity to do something opened up. It is the same with Chistyakov. “I’m a believer, and I should not interfere in politics,” the musician explained to Sobesednik. "At the same time, I’m not blind, I see what’s going on, and I’m terrified of this….Maybe the album will help someone. This album is not a protest. This is the essence of things.” 14
Yes, why would a nation of some 144,000,000 risk its international reputation to persecute a religious sect numbering no more than 175,000 followers? It is a good question. Yet Russia has done so. Religious repression hardly accounts for American media accusations, which are driven more by its own internal concerns, and in some cases border on hysteria. But it suggests to the unpracticed eye that all such accusations just might be true and that there is no accusation too fantastic to be dismissed out-of-hand. On Twitter someone sarcastically writes: “Don’t forget to check under your bed before you go to sleep tonight. There may be a Russian under there ready to give bad dreams.” “Thanks for the tip!” says anyone familiar with the plight of Dennis Christensen, jailed for nearly a full year without trial for merely leading a Bible study, and he peaks under the bed to check. How can people not imagine Russia capable of unlimited villainy? Perhaps whatever they hear is but the tip of the iceberg. It is sad to see the self-inflicted wound of a great nation.
Jesus’ command is the one to follow, say the Witnesses. “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the world as a witness to all nations and then the end will come,” he instructs his followers.15 “Not here!” this or that king says. “We have our own religion here. We’re good. Peddle it elsewhere!” I can recall right now a certain local speaker with a dramatic flair, twirling a globe he had brought onstage with him, repeating Jesus words, and then interrupting himself with: “This gospel of the kingdom will not be preached in my part of the earth,” and covering with a finger or two the human nation that would defy God. Should nations truly do that? Should they truly seek to neutralize faith? Should they let the house religion tell them that all bases are already covered more than adequately—particularly when it covers none of them with regard to Bible literacy?
It is not unlike how religious enemies treated Amos of the Old Testament after he uttered words they deemed not patriotic. Priest Amaziah, ever close to the king, “sent word to Jeroboam, king of Israel: ‘Amos has conspired against you within the house of Israel; the country cannot endure all his words.’” It is the same with Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia. Prominent ones assure Putin that the country cannot endure all their words.
The answer Amaziah decides upon is to send Amos far away—outside the borders. It is the same answer once arrived at in Russia. “Off with you, seer, flee to the land of Judah and there earn your bread by prophesying! But never again prophesy in Bethel for it is the king’s sanctuary and a royal temple.” It is not just the high-handed command that rankles; it is also the insult, for Amos does not “earn his bread” prophesying, just as Jehovah’s Witnesses do not. He works to support himself, just as Jehovah’s Witnesses do. His is a humble line of secular work, as is generally true of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Amos knows the work that he must do. For some reason, the pre-eminent Amaziah and his bunch have not done it. No matter. Amos will. “I am not a [paid] prophet, nor do I belong to a company of prophets. I am a herdsman and a dresser of sycamores, but the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel,” he replies to the lofty one.16 They are humble people, those who God selects; they are not the bombastic bigwigs who love to hog the stage. Is it an absurd play in which herdsmen are the central actors? Yes. But just because something is absurd does not mean that it is untrue.
Enemies make trouble for Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Witnesses simply have to plow through it as best they can. Jesus’ direction cannot be shunted aside, not even for the king. Ultimately, if he stops them, he stops them. They then become an example of Jesus’ other words: “If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you.”17
On behalf of her country, Russian Parliament Council member Lyudmila Narusova submitted a paper (July 2017) to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly calling for others to show religious tolerance. It is another Kafkaesque event: taking the tolerance lead publicly while running in just the opposite direction privately.
“Today political, religious and public figures should make efforts to prevent intolerance and discrimination on a religious basis. There is nothing worse than sectarian strife, and history has shown that many times,” the head of Russian delegation told that body. The resolution pointed out each person’s rights on the freedom of thought, religion and beliefs called for interreligious dialogue. It even added that terror attacks committed by followers of a particular religion cannot justify religious intolerance.18 It’s unbelievable!
The 2017 Russian resolution dovetails with and even surpasses a statement of Vladimir Lenin made prior to the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, exactly 100 years ago: “Everybody must be perfectly free, not only to profess whatever religion he pleases, but also to spread or change his religion. No official should have the right even to ask anyone about his religion: that is a matter for each person’s conscience, and no one has any right to interfere.”19
Is it blatant hypocrisy? Is it one hand that doesn’t know what the other is doing? Is it internal discord within the government? It is nothing that this writer can figure out. Adding a note of further irony, Ms. Narusova’s now deceased husband was once considered a prime mentor of Vladimir Putin, in earlier post-glasnost days.20
Further indicating either that opposition to Witnesses is not monolithic or that the right hand does not know what the left is doing, or that it knows it very well but is content to send a signal—is the letter received by two Jehovah’s Witness elders from the Sergiev Posad City Prosecutor’s office, with apologies: “On behalf of the state, I bring you an official apology for the moral damage caused to you, connected with unreasonable criminal prosecution under art. 282 part 2….You have the right to demand the sending of written statements about the decision that justifies you, at the place of work, study or place of residence. In the event that information about…the illegal actions you have been applied to have been published in the press, distributed by radio, television or other media, you have the right to require the relevant mass media to make a report on rehabilitation.” Furthermore, their names and that of other believers have been removed from the list of “persons for whom there is evidence of their involvement in extremist activities.”21
This favorable decision toward the Witnesses was arrived at after years of investigation, trial, acquittal, and renewed trial. In 2010, two agents posing as persons interested in Bible study secretly recorded the program at the area Kingdom Hall. “Overcome evil, restrain anger,” and “What reputation do you deserve before God,” were the themes then discussed. The same expert—the mathematics teacher, who would later testify to the Vyborg court that the New World Translation was extremist—testified that these two meetings also contained content that was extremist. For three years, authorities in Moscow disagreed, but in 2013, they reversed themselves. The two men were arrested at their respective homes. The first court acquitted them and found the experts biased against Witnesses. This judgement was appealed to an appellate court which also acquitted them. From start to finish the ordeal lasted seven years, and the inclusion of one on the extremism list caused his loss of employment.22
It turns out that the Court expert is an “expert” on many things. Olga Nikitova, of the Agency of Political News, says that she “undertakes any research in the field of linguistics, culture, social sciences and even sexology and heraldry.” She and her colleagues are rather like hired guns, mercenaries; her expertise, which Nikitova calls “malignant expertise,” was rejected by the Sergiyev Posad court as “inconsistent, biased, contradictory and unacceptable.” Several months later a member of the St. Petersburg Chamber of Lawyers filed an application with the Investigative Committee to initiate criminal proceedings against her and her fellows. Vladimir Ryakhovsky, member of the Presidential Council for Human Rights, further complained of the “abuse of this expert, the dishonesty of this expert.”
It is “nice work if you can get it,” to quote the popular George Gershwin song. “Examinations are a profitable business: each examination is paid by tens, or even hundreds of thousands of rubles from the state budget,” says Nikitova. Alexander Verkhovsky, director of the information-analytical center “Owl,” further writes that “they are just legendary experts who are ready to write about anything, absolutely anything. For that, in fact, they are loved by customers. They write quickly their expertise and with the result that is always necessary.” He is embarrassed for the entire Russian justice system that makes such ready use of them.23
Somewhere I read (and cannot find it again) the Witness resolve: “We will continue to declare the good news tactfully.” Is it a concession—to do it tactfully? It has always been the goal—though perhaps not always. When Witnesses paraded around 80 years ago with placards emblazoned with: “Religion is a Snare and a Racket!” that was hardly tactful, was it? Still, all things must be considered in their context; the placards were displayed amidst the backdrop of the two World Wars, throughout which the major Christian faiths played major supporting roles on both sides.24
Who is it among the Witnesses who said: “You should strive for truth and tact. But if you have to sacrifice one, sacrifice tact,”—who said that? Was it Nathan Knorr, the third Watchtower President? Or is the entire line apocryphal? There will be more emphasis on tact today, but not at the expense of truth. Let’s face it, tactfulness doesn’t come easily to some of our people. They are real people, coming from the real rough and tumble world. They are not from the airy world of etiquette, of people who have come to realize that they must behave, if only superficially, so as to advance in their careers. There is only so much tact you can muster when telling people that their goose is cooked if they remain where they are. But Witnesses try. The goose of human rulership is indeed cooked. The training to preach is in place, and members improve over time. “Don’t sacrifice truth, but let your words be winsome, and not wincing,” they are coached.25 Set up literature carts, where persons can approach you instead of you them. Set up a website so that they can do the same.
It is not a piece of cake to perform such a ministry. It does not come naturally. The average Witness is an average person, not given to diplomacy, often conscious of inequality, much as Amos was, and much as Jeremiah was: “Ah, Lord GOD!” I said, “I do not know how to speak. I am too young!” But the LORD answered me, Do not say, “I am too young.” To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you—oracle of the LORD. Then the LORD extended his hand and touched my mouth, saying to me, See, I place my words in your mouth! Today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to uproot and to tear down, to destroy and to demolish, to build and to plant.”26
Russia is not a Western country and thus is not so enamored with human rights as are its Western counterparts. Some feel the prospects of Jehovah’s Witnesses there are doomed on that account. Why go there? Plenty of people suffer harm in places where human rights supposedly carry the day; they are simply different people. One should never forget the dictum that a “king’s heart is channeled water in the hand of the LORD; God directs in where he pleases.” Vladimir Putin is a national leader, but he is also a man with a heart.27
Sometimes a powerful person will overturn an established opinion of Jehovah’s Witnesses based upon personal contact with one of them. During the 1960s civil rights era of the United States, Alabama governor George Wallace was considered the epitome of racism. A black American Witness who regularly called upon him did not remember him that way. Concluding a conversation with Wallace, he heard upon returning to those in his car rumors that the Ku Klux Klan planned to disrupt an upcoming circuit assembly. He returned to Mr. Wallace, by then engaged in discussion with State Police authority. Upon hearing the man’s concern, Wallace directed the lawman to see to it. The story could be apocryphal, but I doubt it. It was related by someone too guileless to lie.
Just prior to a meeting with the circuit overseer, local pioneers were engaged in hubbub over the challenge of witnessing to certain ones considered opposed. John Wayne’s name came up. An uber-patriotic American film star, everyone assumed he would be hostile. The circuit overseer corrected everyone with his observation of how, in a prior circuit, a Witness had called on Mr. Wayne, who could not have been more polite or respectful. He had the highest regard for Witnesses, he told his visitor, and expressed the frank regret that he felt unable to live up to their standards. It is likely due to his friendship with Mickey Spillane, to whom he gave a Jaguar automobile. Spillane, author of the most shockingly violent fiction of his time, became a Witness in 1952, and his work thereafter pivoted 180 degrees. He worked in entertainment venues for the duration of his life—sometimes with John Wayne.
Okay, it’s a bit of a stretch to say Putin is on some Witness’s return visit route. I won’t say it. However, perhaps at the next Kremlin picnic he will run across his 3rd cousin twice removed who will tell him about the wonderful Jehovah’s Witness who returned his ruble-stuffed wallet he had accidentally dropped on one particularly hectic day.
The point is, there can always be a human connection, just as there was when Median king Ahasuerus thwarted a decision to kill off the Jews in his realm. “If you do not act,” Mordecai had told his niece Esther, “salvation for the Jews will arise from some other source. But how do you know that you have been placed where you are for the very purpose of your speaking out?”—and she thereafter did speak out.28 In the same way, there was a human connection when Cyrus was shown the scripture foretelling the action he had just taken in overthrowing Babylon; Josephus relates the account. It was just that way when Saul, the former chief persecutor of Christians, did an about face, and became their foremost advocate. That one even went beyond a human connection, but who is to say that the other ones did not as well?29
Will Putin become an Ahasuerus or a Cyrus? I’m not holding my breath. Still, stranger things have happened and you never know how things will turn out. “The kings of the earth take their stand as one against Jehovah and his anointed one,” says Psalm 2. You never know when a given king will read ahead and not want to play that game. Saul, holding high religious office, came to do a complete turn-around and wrote with regret of how he had once been a “blasphemer, persecutor and an arrogant man.”30
When Charles T. Russell, who was widely traveled, visited the Russian field in the late 1800s, he saw little prospect for the kingdom hope to catch on there. “In Russia the government holds an intolerably tight grip on every man in the empire. And the stranger within their gates is always to them a suspicious character. His passport must be produced at every hotel and railway station before entering or leaving a city or town. The hotel proprietor receives your passport and hands it over to the Chief of Police, he retains it until you are ready to leave, so that any stranger could be readily traced as to just when he entered or left the country. Officers and authorities are simply civil, indicating that your presence is only tolerated, and any books or papers in your possession are carefully scrutinized to make sure that nothing in them is calculated to interfere with their ideas.”31 Yet look at what happened. By the time of 1991 legal registration, Witnesses numbered 45,000. They made hay while the sun was shining and grew to 175,000 in 26 years. Who is to say those days are finished?
Having declared the New World Translation of the Bible extremist, the next step was to make a grab for all Witness religious property. An unexpected glitch arose when reaching for the crown jewel in St. Petersburg, the administrative center complex of buildings that has been valued at $15 million (US).32 It was discovered that it was foreign-owned. The center had been specifically denied representation at the April 20th trial on that basis—that they were a foreign entity and thus the trial did not concern them. Now in order to seize the facilities, that rationale had to be reversed.
It was done without too much fuss. Since there was close cooperation between the Center and local witnesses, it was deemed that Russian interests owned it after all, and so it could be confiscated without creating an international incident. This was despite the fact that the foreign owners in New York had made regular tax payments for seventeen years, per the terms of the original agreement.
Denis Korotkov, writing for fontanka.ru, summed matters up this way: “In the resort area, the prosecutor’s office and the court made a gift to Jehovah’s Witnesses. The property is worth…about 2 billion rubles. As a result, the American church lost its burdensome property and received almost one hundred percent chance of a generous return. International scandal—a bonus.” What Mr. Korotkov is saying is that Russia is giving the Watchtower Society a “gift” in the form of a sure international scandal now and a generous financial return on their seized assets once that scandal has forced the government’s hand to undo the mischief they have just done. In the meantime, the 14-building complex that was a burdensome property for the Watchtower, since they could no longer use it but had to maintain it, no longer is. What appears to be a lose-lose for the Watchtower he reframes as a win-win. The article goes on to say that if Russian higher courts uphold the property grab, “there will inevitably be an appeal in European and American jurisdictions, and Russia will have to pay. Given the legal costs and fines, the amount can significantly exceed the cost of the complex in Solnechny.”33
Will the court decision be appealed outside of Russia? “Yaroslav Sivulsky, representative of the European Association of Christian Witnesses of Jehovah, one of those who defended in the hall, spoke about expropriation. ‘Of course, we will appeal this decision. It is based on nothing, except the desire of the prosecutor’s office to simply seize the property. We did not hear a single legal argument. This is expropriation. Russia encourages foreign business to invest in the country, but what investments can be made if the property is not protected and can be seized at any time?’”34
This writer agrees with Korotkov and is of the unusual opinion that if you are going to ban the Jehovah’s Witness organization in Russia, then it is a good thing, not a bad thing, to also ban the New World Translation and seize the Administrative Center buildings. Each action draws in people who might not otherwise care. Human rights people protest when Witness activity is banned, but it is partly offset by: “Well, they are a pain and they do call unannounced at the most inconvenient times.”
But when you ban the Bible—even ringleader Dvorkin thought that was going too far.35 It plainly is a Bible; he doesn’t like it, but it plainly is one. He says, in effect: “We cut them off from U.S. organizational and monetary support. That’s enough. Break both their legs and they will die! You don’t ban the Bible as well, which will only make us look like a country of backward rednecks.” I say ban it for exactly that reason. Let the sensible people of Russia observe how the anti-cult ideologues have sullied their reputation.
The academic community couldn’t believe it. The Russian expert witness, who copies any sort of nonsense off the Internet, which thereby becomes “essentially plagiarism,”36 had the court believing it wasn’t a Bible because it said: “Holy Scriptures” on the cover and not “Bible!” In her voluminous expert analysis that she said took 287 days to complete, how could she have missed that the Forward of the Russian edition plainly states that it is a translation of the Bible? Witness attorneys asked her that. She attacked the use of God’s name—nothing will get Jehovah’s Witnesses going more than that—fretting that “in the New World Translation, the dominant factor is the ‘Jehovah concept.’” Whereupon Witness attorneys had the judge reading from ten different Russian translations that also say “Jehovah,” creating the appearance of a “well-prepared Bible study,” said Moses Adjubage, who was present and later interviewed on JW Broadcasting.37
Faithful Chivchalov, who tweets like Trump, also covered the hearings, and one gets the sense that it is not easy for him. Let us join the poor fellow, so that he does not lose his mind. With but a few superfluous tweets omitted, he says, all on a single December day:38
All experts who previously declared #NWT extremist came to testify to the court. Also representatives of US, UK, and Netherlands.
The experts will testify from Moscow on video conference call. #NWT
Switzerland embassy representatives also came. Europe wants to know what is wrong with Russia. #NWT
This time a larger court room is used, more people are able to attend. #NWT
A real philology expert, Anatoli Baranov, who defended #NWT at the lower court, is allowed to testify from Moscow too.
Let’s hope Internet won’t go down as he will start speaking. #NWT [Chivchalov is not personally present but is monitoring the proceedings online.]
JW attorney explains that previously 2 believers were criminally charged based on these false experts study (Kruykova, Batov, Kotelnikov). Later the study was found erroneous, and they were acquitted. #NWT
Sorry, the experts in that case were Kryukova, Tarasov, Kotelnikov. While the #NWT experts are Kryukova, Batov, Kotelnikov. They are essentially one team. They produced more than 50 studies against JWs in Russia in various cases.
Attorney files motion for disqualification of these “experts” as incompetent based on 280-page brief. #NWT
Court rejects motion for disqualification of the experts. #NWT
Judge asks questions to N. Kryukova: Why is the book you studied has different titles in the study, sometimes Russian, sometimes English? - This was an error. #NWT
Judge: What does the English word "Greek Scriptures" mean? N.K. It means “Gospels.” #NWT #facepalm
Judge: Is it a Bible? N.K. This is not a Bible from the viewpoint of traditional Christianity, but a sacred text of Jehovah’s Witnesses only. #NWT
JW attorney asks Kryukova why she thinks #NWT is not a Bible. She replies: the Bible is only a translation with the ROC Patriarch blessing or a book 100% consistent with such a translation.
Judge: How can we know which translation it bad? Expert Tarasov: It can be determined on the basis of the activity it produces. If this activity is bad, the translation is bad as well. #NWT
Judge asks expert Baranov to clarify. He replies there is a lot of criteria, but the one stated by Tarasov is unknown to him. This is the end of the experts’ testimony. #NWT
But on hearing all this nonsense, judge rejects the motion to order a new study of the #NWT with new experts.
Court rejects the JW attorneys’ motion to ask the Constitutional Court to clarify what the Bible is. #NWT
But court accepts the motion to file new proofs of the plagiarism of the study based on Wikipedia analysis (yep, the study has numerous quotes from Wikipedia). #NWT
It’s paradoxical that Kryukova’s study doesn’t contain a single quote from the #NWT it studies! But the court doesn’t seem to care about it.
The court also doesn’t care that Kryukova and her team claim to have studied the Russian #NWT version but quoted Wikipedia about the English version which are technically two different books.
JW attorney points out studies of #NWT by authoritative scholars and reviews of Kryukova’s own study that show serious flaws of it.
One such study stated: “[Kryukova’s text] shows that it is not JWs who are hostile to other religions but Kryukova and her colleagues are hostile to JWs.” #NWT
Prosecutor: “#NWT defendants pursue only one goal - to engage the court in religious debates about what is God, Bible, and religion, which is inacceptable.”
That’s all, the judges leave to discuss the ruling. Almost 10 pm on the clock. #NWT
Oh and here is the ruling: leave the decision of the lower court in force, reject the appeal. #NWT
So friends, if you live in Russia and want to ban something, all you need is a math teacher who knows how to use Wikipedia. The ruling will be appealed in Supreme Court now. Stay tuned!
It is good that Chivchalov showed endurance. Let the record reflect that nobody in that courtroom knew anything of biblical scholarship and their expert witness used that fact to showcase them all as ignoramuses before the world. See if they will thank her for that the next time they are laughed off some academic stage. She stated: “The only book that can be called a Bible is one approved by the Russian Orthodox Church and that is marked by the blessing of the Patriarch or that matches word for word that translation.” Good. Let them explain before educated people how they went along with her on that one. “Again and again we had the impression sitting there in the courtroom that the purpose of the hearing was not to establish the facts or evidence but to go through the legal formalities quickly since the decision had been already made and was to be announced today,” said Adjubage. It took the judges four minutes to review seven hours of testimony before giving their decision.
The decision regarding the branch headquarters draws in the potentially much more influential business community. I say it is a good thing for them to seize the building. It cannot serve its intended function anyway. Let it serve its new function of calling attention to theft. Let the business community reflect upon how, should they upset the government, their assets might be seized. Within days a Finnish business delegation being courted by Russia for investment had declared it “a very bad sign.”38 Mr. Devine related that the hearing was in a small cramped room where “our attorneys and prosecutors literally were two feet apart facing each other over a small table.” Several congregation members who attended to offer support were relegated to the small barred holding area for criminals, where they might find themselves at any rate for a related reason on another day.
If you are going to go unjust, do it big time and make sure everyone knows. The Governing Body saw to it that the initial trial was videotaped in the largest venue possible. The sham nature of Russian justice toward kingdom interests has been exposed there. At one point the Russian judge asked the Ministry of Justice whether it had prepared for the trial, so unsupported by facts did the prosecution appear. In the end, he did what he knew he had to do if he wanted to keep his job, but his interaction with them clearly exposed a sham system, and that exposure was repeated at the appeal, repeated again at the hearing over the Bible, and again at the decision to confiscate the branch headquarters. And it was repeated in the case in the imprisonment without trial of Dennis Christensen, a dangerous criminal that everyone can plainly see is not.
A lot of people don’t like Jehovah’s Witnesses. They are a hot-button topic in several ways. But they do know that rule by law and even common sense is a good thing, not a bad thing, and when they see it so blatantly violated, some get more worked up than they would over the Witnesses themselves.
- Joel Engardio, “Russia’s Bans on Jehovah’s Witnesses,” ACLU, December 10, 2009, accessed March 23, 2018, https://www.aclu.org/blog/russias-bans-jehovahs-witnesses
- Haig Bosmajian, The Freedom Not to Speak (New York, NYU Press, 1999) 112
- Ibid., 114
- “After the Decision of the Supreme Court, the Pressure on Children of Jehovah’s Witnesses Increased in Schools,” Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, May 15, 2017, accessed March 12, 2018, https://www.jw-russia.org/news/17051512-161.html
- James Alfred Moss, Patriotism of the Flag, Moss, The Flag of the United States, Its History and Symbolism (Washington: The United States Flag Association, 1941) 85-86
- W. C. Ruediger, The George Washington University, 49 Schools and Society, February 25, 1939, p. 249, as located the post: Minersville School District v Gobitis, accessed March 23,2018, https://www.leagle.com/decision/1939791108f2d6831582
- Lauren Markoe, “Persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia Intensifies and Targets Children,” Salt Lake City Tribune, Religion News Service, accessed March 23, 2018, June 2, 2017, http://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=5358906&itype=CMSID
- Andrew Sorokowski, “Witnesses to Persecution,” Religious Information Service of Ukraine, May 5, 2017, accessed March 23, 2018, https://risu.org.ua/article_print.php?id=66964&name=asorokowski_column&_lang=en&
- Joseph Curl, “A New Low: CNN Says Russian Meddling Extended To Pokemon Go,” Daily Wire, October 13, 2017, accessed March 23, 2018, https://www.dailywire.com/news/22235/new-low-cnn-says-russian-meddling-extended-pokemon-joseph-curl#
- “Coverage of Double Agent’s Alleged Poisoning is Hysterical Propaganda – Lavrov,” RT.com, March 9, 2018, accessed March 12, 2018, https://www.RT.com/news/420842-double-agent-poisoning-skripal/
- Press Service – The Minister’s Meetings, “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation,” July 12, 2017, accessed March 8, 2018, http://www.mid.ru/en/vizity-ministra/-/asset_publisher/ICoYBGcCUgTR/content/id/2981131
- “Laicite And Religious Freedom: A Coalition of NGOs Questions France at the United Nations,” Human Rights Without Frontiers, January 16, 2018, accessed March 12, 2018, http://hrwf.eu/laicite-and-religious-freedom-a-coalition-of-ngos-questions-france-at-the-united-nations/
- Bakanov Konstantin, “Cult Icon of Russian Rock Fedor Chistyakov Settling in the US, Recorded the Album ‘Unwanted Song’,” sobesednik.ru, March 6, 2018, accessed March 10, 2018, https://sobesednik.ru/kultura-i-tv/20180306-okolo-nolya
- Mathew 24:14
- Amos 7:12-15
- John 15:20
- Viktor Tolochko , “OSCE PA Supports Russia’s Proposed Resolution Against Religious Discrimination,” Sputnik News, August 8, 2017, 15. accessed March 23, 2018, https://sputniknews.com/world/201707081055363864-osce-russia-resolution/
- Lu Daji and Gong Xuezeng, Marxism and Religion (Leiden, Kininklijke Brill N V, Ethnic Publishing House, 2014) 284
- Viktor Rezunkov and Tatyana Voltskaya, “15 Years Later, Questions Remain About Death Of The Man Who Made Putin,” RadioFreeEurope RadioLiberty, February 24, 2015, accessed March 23, 2018, https://www.rferl.org/a/questions-remain-about-death-of-man-who-made-putin/26867539.html
- “The Prosecutor’s Office brought official apologies to the Sergiev Posad Elders,” Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, November 7, 2017, accessed March 23, 2018, https://jw-russia.org/news/17110712-228.html
- “The Court of Appeal confirmed the acquittal of the Sergiev Posad Elders,” Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, August 24, 2017, accessed March 23, 2018, https://jw-russia.org/news/17082417-208.html
- Olga Nikitova, “Malignant Expertise,” The Agency of Political News, September 20, 2017, accessed March 12, 2018, http://www.apn.ru/index.php?newsid=36670
- Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom (Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania) 447
- Luke 4:22 The verse states those in the synagogue were amazed at Jesus ‘gracious’ words. The 2013 NWT also says gracious. But the 1981 edition says ‘winsome’ and it is from this choice that someone devised the winsome/wincing witticism.
- Jeremiah 1:6-10
- Proverbs 21:1
- Esther 4:12-14
- Galatians 1:23
- 1 Timothy 1:13
- 2008 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 70
- Video Report: “Pure Worship Under Attack in Russia,” JW Broadcasting, accessed March 23, 2018, https://tv.jw.org/#en/mediaitems/pub-jwb_201801_12_VIDEO
- Denis Korotkov, “The Paradox of the Exile of Jehovah,” Fontanka.ru, December 8, 2017, accessed March 23, 2018, http://www.fontanka.ru/2017/12/08/047/
- Korotkov, “The Paradox”
- Alexander Dvorkin, The Decision of the Vyborg Court to Recognize the New World Translation as a Extremist Material is a Huge Mistake,” Pravoslavie.ru, August 22, 2017, accessed March 23, 2018, http://pravoslavie.ru/105915.html
- Anton Chivchalov, “The trial of the Bible is resumed in Vyborg,” Porta-Credo, July 26, 2017, accessed March 9, 2018, http://credo.press/site/?act=news&id=126993...
- “Pure Worship Under Attack,” JW Broadcasting, accessed March 27, 2018, https://tv.jw.org/#en/mediaitems/pub-jwb_201801_12_VIDEO
- A detailed description of the proceedings, updated approximately every 5 minutes, can be found in the tweets Anton Chivchalov, starting https://twitter.com/Chivchalov/status/943447491768410114, and also Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, accessed March 27, 2018, https://jw-russia.org/pages/17081610-203.html. The latter is a news only site run by Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russian and it appears to have been overlooked by authorities until it was banned in March of 2018.
Photo: the Struggle, by lutmans