FECRIS Rebuked by the Hamburg District Court for Defaming Jehovah’s Witnesses.

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.”

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

A Modern-Day Voltaire

One might think of Introvigne, the fellow who runs CENSUR and does battle with FECRIS (among others), as though in a great Bond movie, as a modern-day Voltaire. Voltaire (many will know) is from the 17th century, and is considered founder of the Enlightenment. He was a fierce critic of organized religion, particularly the Judeo-Christian variety. He was also firmly deist, that is, he never doubted the existence of God, and he came to be much distressed that his body of work was used as a stepping stone into atheism—to break free of God altogether. His dream was that there be religious tolerance, that all religions should get along peaceably. It never occurred to him to change them internally or to mush them into one incoherent whole. He just wanted them not to wreak violence upon one another. 

Early in his life a dispute with a French aristocrat caused Voltaire to flee to England. While there he noted how there were dozens of religions, many (maybe all) claiming to be the one true path (people took religion more seriously then), yet they all co-existed without rancor. (In his native France, the Roman Catholic Church was torturing those professing other faiths.) It never would have occurred to Voltaire that a faith calling itself the one true faith was doing violence to any other one—that view is a uniquely modern one. They all used to do it in the England Voltaire visited, yet they got along without cutting each other’s throats.

Voltaire’s Letters from England conveys his amazement and delight that here was a country, so different from back home, where people could worship as they pleased without anyone trying to ban them or beat up on them. He sets himself up as a chump interviewing a Quaker, just about as weird a religion as one could envision backed then—they ‘quaked’ when they became filled with spirit. He paints himself as though a devout Catholic thoroughly scandalized by Quaker beliefs, and he gives dialogue with one in which the Quaker ties him in knots, whereupon Voltaire sums up the exchange with an observation of how you just can’t talk sense with a fanatic.

It never occurred to Voltaire that the Quakers should change—he was just delighted that, given their “weirdness,” they could coexist so easily with the rest of society. In short, “intolerance” had nothing to do with doctrines or beliefs within a religion. He took for granted that internally each religion would be sufficiently different from other religions. If they were not, there would not BE separate religions—they would all blend into the same. It didn’t matter to him if Quakers were weird; if you conclude they are, don’t be one, would have been his obvious conclusion. 

Being a strict religion, serious about their beliefs, there would be severe internal strictures for any Quaker doing a 180 and leaving his faith. This was of no concern to Voltaire, who personally had no use for any of the established religions. Whatever strictures a departing Quaker would encounter would be more-or-less human nature: turn your back on previously cherished beliefs and you will of course find yourself on the outside looking in as regards those still holding fast to those beliefs. It only adds “fuel to the fire” that the Christian scriptures can so easily be read that way. It’s the same with Jehovah’s Witnesses today. It’s the same with most of the “new religions” that FECRIS labels as “cults,” as it seeks to homogenize religions, extracting whatever teeth they have making them stand out from others, and mash them all into something common that doesn’t stand for much of anything other than putting a God-smiley-face on humanist endeavors.

Voltaire’s firm deism, his belief in God, stems from what the Jehovah’s Witness organization has called the “Book of Creation.” It stems from the observed design of creation, and from what he called first cause, the utility that created things are put to. He rejected any “book of revelation,” that is, any sacred scriptures from any source that would attempt to explain the creator. But he also famously, after years of soul-searching, declared insoluble the “problem of evil.” There is undeniably a God, and there is undeniably evil. He could not reconcile the two, though he was the foremost thinker and deist of his time.

To say that it is dumb as a prima facie mindset to reject any revelatory information from God might be going too far, but it certainly is self-defeating. Voltaire yearns with all his heart to discern the problem of evil, yet he confines his gaze to where the answer certainly will not be—in the book of creation. There is only so far that book will take you. His aversion is understandable, given the horrendous abuse practices by the religions of his day, but it was still self-defeating as for discerning the problem of evil or any other aspects of God’s personality.

If there is an answer to the “problem of evil,” it will be found in the new religions. Of course, my view is that it will be found specifically within the the tenets of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Indeed, the wording may differ, but “Why is there Evil?” has been a staple of each of their basic study guides almost since their founding. Mainstream religions have so homogenized their views, so eager not to be out of step with intellectual or scientific trends, that they have modified their own foundation to the extent that the problem of evil cannot be solved given their revised terms. FECRIS gets around the issue by ignoring it. There is no answer to such questions, they maintain—forget about them. Focus on making the world a better place now. Nevermind arcane spiritual concerns that will distract from how we must, in the words of the Beatles, “come together.”

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….In the greater scheme of things, what really was Voltaire? A brief point of relative light, but also a bridge connecting one train wreck to another.

The train wreck of religious intolerance he battled all his life, and to a significant degree, he won that battle. But in a very short time, even during his lifetime, atheists usurped his work to provide underpinnings of their own rising movement—another train wreck. Voltaire was an initial hero of the French Revolution, but in short order, as inferior atheistic thinkers took over, he was downgraded as too moderate. Many of his own followers (Voltaire himself was dead by then) fell victim to the guillotine themselves when they resisted the fanatical excesses of those atheists.

Meanwhile, the light that he offered was but relative, in that he refused any revelatory look at God, and thus missed out on solving the problem of evil, since that is only solved through such searching. He may even have represented “one step forward, two steps back.” The step forward is to win against intolerance. The step back is to repudiate the means though which God gives explanation of himself AND to smoothe the way for atheism. Maybe even three steps back, for in declaring the issue of evil insoluble after grappling with it the better part of his life, he plants the notion in the educated people that adore him that it actually is. 

So is he required reading for JW members? No. He is an elective. Read him if you will. It will be beneficial if you do. But by no means is he indispensable to having one’s head on straight. Make him the centerpiece of your education, and it all but guarantees you will not have your head on straight. The JW organization will never recommend that members read Voltaire. Nor will they ever disparage him, at least no more than I have done above. They would have members direct their primary focus on what does deliver with regard to life’s more important things.

 

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The Foes Duke it Out With the Acronyms of a Bond Movie—CENSUR vs FECRIS

The foes duke it out with the acronyms of a Bond movie, CENSUR vs FECRIS, whilst the ordinary people sleep on, blissfully unaware of threats to their well-being. At stake is the free expression of ideas, be they be from religious or philosophical movement, historically the birthplace of new ideas, some of which turn out to be keepers, some of which turn out to be duds. There’s no telling what is what, so if they are not violent, keep them, CENSUR says. If they go against mainstream thinking, they’re “cult-like,” FECRIS says. Ban them.

(See FECRIS rebuked by German court)

CESNUR stands for Center for the Study of New Religions. It is roughly the opposite of FECRIS, which stands for the European Federation of Centres of Research and Information on Cults and Sects. The difference between the ideology of FECRIS and the ideology of CENSUR is that the first stands for intolerance and the second for tolerance. CENSUR would allow all law-abiding faiths to exist. FECRIS would not. CENSUR draws the line at defaming faiths with false statements. FECRIS does not. 53% of the statements its makes regarding Jehovah’s Witnesses are factually incorrect, a German court recently ruled. It is not enough for FECRIS to say they don’t like Jehovah’s Witnesses. They have to lie about them, too.

The United States [bipartisan] Commission on International Religious Freedom denounces the “anti-cult” ideology, of which FECRIS is a foremost part, for its “pretension to standing as the final arbiter of religious truth.” FECRIS is a humanist organization. It will tolerate religion only so long as religion embraces humanist goals. If religion is eviscerated to the point where it becomes a majority-rule affair, and thus as subject to contemporary trends as anyone else, FECRIS has no problem with it. If the will of the people is showcased as the will of God, FECRIS has no problem with it.

You can be sure that FECRIS would have a problem with Paul’s recognition that Christ gave “some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelizers, some as shepherds and teachers, with a view to the readjustment of the holy ones...until we all attain to the oneness in the faith ... in order that we should no longer be babes, tossed about as by waves and carried hither and thither by every wind of teaching by means of the trickery of men, by means of cunning in contriving error.” Let them be “tossed about,” it would say. To take a stand against that is mind control.

How does FECRIS know what model is agreeable with God? It doesn’t, and it doesn’t care. Humanist goals are what it champions. It is plain that Christianity never would have taken root in the first century had FECRIS been around then. The manifest human authority revealed in New Testament writing would have been denounced by them as outside interference. “It is necessary to shut the mouths of these men,” Paul wrote of one situation back then. (Titus 1:1) You think FECRIS would have stood still for that?

It just may be that human authority is inherent in how God leads his worshippers. Any reading of scripture, such as the above Ephesians passage, would certainly suggest so, yet that is a suggestion that FECRIS will not let stand. So it is that they presume to stand “as the final arbiter of religious truth.” 

It matters not whether one agrees with the leadership of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the above court matter. That was not the issue taken up by the German Court (or CENSUR). The court looked the presented material over and judged that Jehovah’s Witnesses were being defamed. It was not their mission to make any judgment upon the faith itself. Doubtless it reasoned that, in the event that Jehovah’s Witnesses are unorthodox, even weird, one can easily solve the problem by not being one of them, and if one already is, one can quit and go elsewhere. It’s a big world.

The author of the report cited above is Massimo Introvigne, the lead scholar at CENSUR and founder of that group. He himself obviously doesn’t agree with Jehovah’s Witnesses in all things, maybe in none of them. Otherwise, he would be one. He is not. He is Roman Catholic. What he is is a voice calling for tolerance between religions. Tomorrow he will write a post about the Scientologists, the next day about the Falun Gong, the next day about some group you never heard of.

If I recall correctly, early Christianity was controversial, so much so that 40 years after Jesus death, Nero was throwing individual Christians to the lions. Introvigne would just prefer not to see the scenario repeat. Anything wrong with that?

Jehovah’s Witnesses are a one true faith religion. There are many one true faith religions. As such, they are known to criticize other religions, as all one true faith religions criticize other religions. It is a valid read of the Scriptures that any perusal will suggest just might be true—that there is one true faith. But in order to pose any danger to other faiths (or lifestyles), they would have to call for violence against them. They would try to get politicians to pass laws against them, a “soft violence.” Instead, the “weapons” of Jehovah’s Witnesses are words only. Tell them ‘no’ and they go away. Joel Engardio has stated how Witnesses provide a fine example, perhaps our last hope, of how groups with strongly polarized views can yet co-exist peacefully in today’s world.

Update here:

 

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Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses—Searching for the Why’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)