Be it proactively or in response to a summons, the reason you legally defend the good news in court is in order to give a witness. You do it to keep the path open for witnessing, as with Paul’s “defending and legally establishing of the good news,” (Philippians 1:7) since there are ever factions that would like to rule it illegal. And often the defense you present in itself becomes a witness.
“Why, you will be haled before governors and kings for my sake, for a witness to them and the nations. However, when they deliver you up, do not become anxious about how or what you are to speak; for what you are to speak will be given you in that hour,” says Jesus. (Matthew 10:18-19)
So it is that Jehovah’s Witnesses challenged FECRIS in a German District Court with regard to 32 separate statements from them, each one picked up and even acted upon by some as though fact. Please rule as to whether or not they are defamatory, they asked the court.
It all makes for a witness when you publicly expose ones lying about you, and that is why you do it. If it leads to a reversal of unjust policies, that is icing on the cake. Word on the street is that, while the friends in Russia are obviously distressed at the villainies visited upon them, they also take consolation that their own undeserved suffering serves to focus world attention on the kingdom hope they proclaim.
FECRIS, is the acronym for the “European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults and Sects.” It is funded by the French government, and it is the source of significant trouble for Jehovah’s Witnesses and a host of other “new religions.”
“New religion” is the scholarly term for any religious group originating in relatively recent times. Scholars deliberately choose “new religion” over “cult” to sidestep the incendiary overtones of the latter word. Non-scholars favor “cult” because they wish to make it as hot as possible for the “new religions.” The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has identified FECRIS as a main international threat to religious liberty.
The Hamburg court agreed that 17 of the 32 FECRIS statements of Jehovah’s Witnesses were, in fact, defamatory. (Actually, it was 17.5–one was partly defamatory.) This, despite the court’s recognition that there is much latitude in making critical statements of a religion, and that even an incorrect expressed opinion nevertheless is usually protected speech. Even so, FECRIS, with 100% hostility toward the Witnesses, had crossed the line of what was permissible 55% of the time. They were just flat-out lying, to put it in layman’s terms. And yet, ones with influence pick up on their lies, and even implement law based upon them.
There can be no better example of this than Russia. It turns out that the VP of FECRIS, Alexander Dvorkin, rides high in Russia as a government minister—exercising a duel role. He is a chief architect of the ban of the Jehovah’s Witness organization as “extremist.”. Therefore, police arrest Jehovah’s Witnesses in that land, and they do so violently, with fully armed FSB teams (the American equivalent of SWAT teams). After all, if you declare someone “extremist,” you must treat them that way. If you arrest them as you would a jaywalker, you proclaim to all that you know full well they are not extremists and that your entire premise is a lie.
It all falls upon Dvorkin, and his Western FECRIS organization. Anti-cultism in Russia is a Western import. It is not native Russian at all, just like the communism of 100 ago was not Russian, but was injected into that land in hopes destabilizing the Allied powers of World War I. Is Russia forever to be manipulated by outside powers?
Armed with FECRIS ideology, Dvorkin shouts “CULT!” in the crowded Russian theater with “facts” that are incorrect 55% of the time. Thus he and his FECRIS is responsible for the mayhem that results. Each time a Witness is beaten, jailed, detained, robbed of belongings, or harassed, it falls upon him. It is the same as how someone shouting “FIRE!” in a crowded theater would be held accountable. Hopefully, now that his credibility is seriously undercut, the government may reassess the degree to which they wish to rely upon his “expertise.”
Now, of course, I’m not holding my breath. Perhaps they will say, “Well, he doesn’t lie all the time. We’ll stick with him.” It is a bizarre world in which we live, increasingly irreligious, but a fine parallel one might consider is when the US Supreme Court ruled during WWII that Witness children could be compelled to salute the flag. A wave of persecution broke out across the country that saw widespread destruction of property, and even some Witnesses lynched. In the aftermath of what had been unleashed, three of the justices gave to understand they thought the case had been decided incorrectly. Another two retired and were replaced by ones thought more agreeable to individual liberty. The case came before the court once again, just three years later, and the decision was reversed. Would that such a thing were to happen in Russia.
“FECRIS comes out of the Hamburg decision with its image of an organization of ‘experts,’ who deserve to be supported by taxpayers’ money in France and elsewhere, deeply shattered,” comments religious scholar Massimo Introvigne. “It rather emerges as a coalition of purveyors of fake news, which systematically use defamation to attack groups they label as ‘cults.’ Hopefully, the German decision will become a model for others in different jurisdictions, teaching FECRIS-affiliated anti-cult movements that they may have powerful patrons but are not above the law.”
Introvigne covers the 17 false statements in a piece he writes for BitterWinter.org. A handful of FECRIS statements were actually just fed them by their VP Dvorkin and uncritically repeated. They are that among the “characteristic features” of the Jehovah’s Witnesses are “illegal possession of property,” that they “took possession of citizens’ apartments,” commit “religiously motivated crimes,” and bring “adult and children to their death.” Untrue statements of fact, all of them, said the Hamburg District Court, leaving out only the adjective ridiculous.
Because the charges are Russian, I dealt with them in I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses: Searching for the Why. It turns out that others had found them outrageous as well:
“Katerina Chernova pushes back at “money-pumping” allegations. Yes, they are heard all the time, she acknowledges, but “when [people] are asked to name just one victim from whom “money, apartments, or something else was taken by the Witnesses, NOBODY was able to remember A SINGLE case in fact! [Caps hers] So we asked to show us or give the address of just one cottage of a Jehovah’s Witness, built with money stolen from people. And again, nobody knows a single real instance.” She goes on to relate a small fact that is actually huge and that says it all: with Jehovah’s Witnesses, baptisms and weddings and funerals are conducted “on a cost-free basis.” With the Orthodox Church? “We have heard many complaints against it regarding the impossibility of performing any ritual in the event that a person does not have money. That is, you want to be ‘baptized,’—some ‘donation;’ you want to be ‘married,’—it takes so much cash; a ‘funeral,’—it is also not for free.”An avaricious organization is not going to cut off these most dependable of all generators of cash.”