Credibility and Damage Control

“When you have the TRUTH ... we would not have to knock on THEIR doors ... they would be knocking on OUR doors.”

No. I don’t think so:   “And the 70 returned and they were bummed. The Lord said, “Why are you bummed.” They answered, “We sat at home from morning through the burning heat of the day, straight into evening, and nobody knocked on our door.”    (Luke 10:1-17, Sheepandgoats Translation)

Didn’t happen that way.

 

The fact of the matter is this ... day by day, in the eyes of the World, Jehovah's Witnesses are losing what credibility we USED to have, with general nuttiness .... and the Governing Body, in it's self aggrandizing attempts at damage control, are day by day, losing THEIR credibility”

I don’t think that this is true, either. The nuttiness is no more than it has always been, and is in many respects less. To some extent, it is exactly what one would expect. Jesus said he did not come to call on those who do not need a physician—he came to call on those who do. When our people go nuts, they nonetheless would still not hurt a fly. When those outside go nuts, for many of them you’d better call the SWAT team. The best way to escape “nuttiness” is to simply distance yourself from whomever is not your cup of tea, and this most people have done. Witnesses have not. Their congregations are close, family-like, and mirror Paul’s observation that God’s will is for “every sort of person [even nuts] to be saved”—for most people are nuts in one way or another. Keep the varieties of nuts separate and they never chafe. Jehovah’s Witnesses mix them all together.

The conventions invariably make a good impression. Both the website and the literature carts add a measure of dignity not always conveyed by any given publisher. They are not likely to ever replace the door-to-door activity, but they sure do supplement it. And the online Bible study feature on the home page: I am looking forward to telling someone—the timing and circumstances will have to be just right, you wouldn’t do it with everyone—“I don’t want to study the Bible with you. Do it yourself. It’s right there online.”  We spoon-feed people too much.

Events transpiring in Russia paint us as downright champions of human rights.

Yes, the charges of CSA are bad, but they are largely offset by the fact that there is no sizable group of persons not also enmeshed in them, as well as a general weariness of lawyers. You well remember when premiere television or billboard sponsors were manufacturers or vendors. Today they are lawyers, and people weary over the massive transfers of cash that they enable, whilst skimming off at least the top third. They think of all the things they used to be able to do that they no longer can do on account of lawyers making things cost-prohibitive, and it qualifies any zeal forwhatever cause they might represent. Even as people as individuals hope that their turn winning the lawyer-lottery may come next, people as a group share a general sense that the barristers have destroyed the fabric of life. Insurance premiums of all sorts skyrocket at a time that overall inflation is quite low. Everyone knows why. Nonstop lawsuits on everything under the sun amounts to a tax on everyone else.

Moreover, the nature of the CSA charges are different. With most groups, it is those in positions of leadership perpetrating the abuse. With Witnesses, that is rarely the case. Instead, CSA is uncovered in their membership and it turns out that it has not come to the attention of the police. It is uncovered because Jehovah’s Witnesses take responsibility for their own—are people actually living the faith that they profess?—and they look into reports of wrongdoing of all sorts, CSA being but one. Not everyone will buy the line of opposers that it is because leadership wishes to “control” every aspect of the members’ lives. Instead, many will say: “It’s a shame all religions don’t do that. Overall conduct of people might improve were that the case.”

I think the perception is too much you pumping life into anti-Witness memes—living and breathing that life. You are consumed with them, and thus you come to think they far more occupy people’s attention than they really do.

It is like that with every cause. It is like that even with us. We start to imagine that everyone on earth is turning over in their minds and hearts the kingdom cause, siding for or against. But when I met an author in the dog park, he said: “Watchtower—that’s the Mormons, isn’t it?”

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photo: nuts, by elimani 

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Geoffrey Jackson Before the Commission - the New Requirement to Go “Beyond the Law”

Excerpt:

In fact, certain persons cannot go ‘beyond the law’ with impunity. A doctor in the U.S. absolutely dare not go beyond the HIPPA law ensuring confidentiality; it is a meticulously enforced law, leading some to wish that more major crimes were so quickly avenged. Three confidential relationships are bedrock to Western law: confidentiality of doctor-patient, lawyer-client and clergy-penitent,36 for none of these relationships can work without the expectation of confidentiality. If law is not written otherwise, it is illegal to go beyond the law in such cases. Without a clear legal mandate, a Witness elder cannot go ‘beyond the law’ because the default law says he cannot violate confidentiality in matters where the wronged individual would prefer it so.

Geoffrey Jackson of the Witness Governing Body three times pleaded for such a consistent mandate across all territories before the Australian Royal Commission to Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse mentioned above. When it was his turn to testify, he said:37

  1. Jackson: “Thank you for the opportunity to explain this. I think very clearly Mr. Toole pointed out that if the Australian Government, in all the States, was to make mandatory reporting, it would make it so much easier for us.” …
  2. Jackson: “The point being, here, another aspect that an elder needs to consider is he does not have the authority to lord it over or take over control of a family arrangement, where a person—let’s say it is a victim who is 24 or 25 years of age—has a right to decide whether or not they will report that incident. They also respect the family arrangement that the appointed guardian, who is not the perpetrator, has a certain right, too. So this is the spiritual dilemma that we have, because at the same time, we want to make sure that children are cared for. So if the government does happen to make mandatory reporting, that will make this dilemma so much easier for us, because we all want the same goal—that children will be cared for properly.” …

Council Assisting (Stewart): “Leaving aside the question of overriding mandatory law from the civil authorities, do you see the possibility within the scriptures as you have identified them for a change in the practice of Jehovah’s Witnesses?  In other words, would it be within the scriptures for the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization to adopt a policy which says that in cases where there are others at risk, a report must be made to the authorities?”

G Jackson: “That is a possible thing for us to consider, and I think, already, the assumption is there, that if any elder was to see that there was some definite risk, that their conscience should move them to do that. But the point I was trying to make, Mr. Stewart, is there are other scriptural factors that maybe make that a little complicated, and it would certainly be a lot easier if we had mandatory laws on that.”

He is pleading for sanity to prevail. Sometimes reporting is mandated. Sometimes it is not mandated, and in such cases, Witness elders run legal, even moral, risks in doing it. Where not mandated, they are not free to override concerns of family members if they choose not to report; yet they are held to account if a victimized one, years later, regrets that decision, and blames, not the family members who made it, but the elders themselves. Sometimes, doing their best to navigate a maze, our people have likely stumbled. Other times, the maze itself has tripped them up. Jackson pleads for an across-the-board policy, with no room for misunderstanding or misapplication, so that it won’t matter if a given family wants to avoid airing its dirty laundry on the 11 PM News. Even today, families do not line up to do that, whether religious or not.

If going beyond the law is so laudable, then that should become the law. With the prioritized, near-sacred quest of protecting children, one would think nothing could be easier. Failure to go ‘beyond the law’ is an invitation to Monday morning quarterbacks assigning motives, invariably bad ones, to parties they don’t like. However, in most things legal, careers are built on complexity. They are all undermined when the course is made simple.

The reader will have noted by now, and may even have been an exasperated by, this author’s disdain of the greater world for being so disunited; it has never presented itself otherwise, he or she might note. When the agency says “United Nations” and even affixes the Isaiah quotation about nations beating swords into plowshares, it is just joking. It is not to be taken seriously. It is just dreaming of an ideal it knows full well is unattainable. This author must be forgiven because he comes from a people who have pulled it off. He comes from where they are not just joking about such things and where the dream has become reality. Unity among Jehovah’s Witnesses is a commonplace and unremarkable fact. It is not in the Witness world that one hand plants the seed which produces the plant that the other will eventually have to uproot.

So the following is admittedly sarcastic—which is risky because Thomas Carlyle said sarcasm is the language of the Devil. Forgive me. The Devil made me do it. Here is my fictionalized hearing with the commissioner, not speaking specifically of Australia, but for the overall world:

 

Lead Commissioner: “Mr. Jackson, I hope that you people will straighten up and fly right and cooperate more fully with what we are trying to do. I emphasize the word “trying,” Mr. Jackson, because we are terrible at it and the overall track record of the world would be laughably bad were it not so tragic. But our hearts are in the right place.

“Mr. Jackson, I am impressed by your humility, your distress at what clearly is a problem, and your overall demeanor. We have so many people strutting their stuff about here and you almost can’t stand them. We appreciate your willingness to work with us and we hope we can further work with you along this line.

“You have pleaded with us, Mr. Jackson, to make our policies the same across all territories, for that would make your job so much easier. It is a reasonable request. Unfortunately, Mr. Jackson, we cannot comply, though we would like to, because we represent squabbling and disunited governing entities that cannot collectively tie their own shoe. You would think it would be the easiest thing in the world to do what you request. Unfortunately, it is impossible.

“And this is just one area. Don’t get me going about international efforts to fight child sexual abuse. Children in many third world countries are routinely abused every day without anyone at all to stand up for them. That’s because there is no money over there, and consequently, no interest. But we do have a lot of money here.

“We have a request for you, Mr. Jackson. I know it’s a bit irregular, but can you take this off our hands for us? I have looked into your organized nature and have concluded that you could do it. Aren’t you the people who set up and take down your buildings of worship almost as easily as our people set up and take down Coleman tents? I know you do not have grandstanding politicians who will push and shove to do whatever will keep them in their jobs, and that you can focus on the real issues, undistracted by personal agendas. I know you can separate the truly worrisome pedophiles from the run-of-the-mill ones, who appear to be almost everyone. I know too, that you care about poor people just as much as you care about well-off people. Listen, we just want to save our kids here, and we think that if we funneled all reports to you, you would be able to handle keeping a centralized list and handle its distribution.  I know it is not your main line, but surely you can devote a committee to it. Ten of your people are worth 10,000 of ours because your people know how to work together and our people do not. The more people we add to our efforts, the more chaotic the overall picture gets.

(in my dreams)

from the book: Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia

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Skirmish # 338060: Why Can’t This Yo-Yo be Like Me?

I never comment on what the lawyers are up to because it is a tangled mess that they must operate in where justice does not necessarily prevail.

The courts, particularly the civil courts, are not so much a forum to establish truth as they are a forum to establish blame. There is some overlap here, but they are far from the same thing. 

In a real forum for establishing truth, you lay out each and every fact, in no particular order, without regard for whether it makes you look good or not. If you do that in the courtroom modeled on the adversarial system of justice, your adversary sifts through the facts, seizes the one most to his advantage and your detriment, and beats you over the head with it. 

Is it not so? Anybody who has ever watched a lawyer show on television knows it. Lawyers themselves know it. “Anyone who acts as his own lawyer in court has a fool for a client,” they say. Why would they say this were it not common knowledge that there are endless headgames and intrigues played out in the courtroom, and anyone who does not know how to play the game gets his head handed to him on a platter.

In many areas, a significant conflict of interest is enough for a person to be removed from the venue. In the field of lawyers, it is the name of the game.

I would prefer my case heard by a judicial committee any day. No, they are not perfect. It is just that they have a better track record than the alternative.

***

I would prefer my case heard by a judicial committee any day. No, they are not perfect. It is just that they have a better track record than the alternative.

The only reason I did not "upvote" TTH's excellent post was this quoted line .... as my experiences and observations have been quite different.  Congregational trials disallow representation, recordings, witnesses to the proceedings,  or transcripts, and are held in secret, and the results often secret as well....I was the subject of a Congregational Committee Trial once, and the three judging me REFUSED TO TELL ME THEIR NAMES.

***

The only reason I did not “upvote” TTH’s excellent post was this quoted line

If I edit it out, can I count on your ‘like’? It is just a little blip tossed in at the end anyhow—hardly the main point. And I do like likes.

***

I was the subject of a Congregational Committee Trial once, and the three judging me REFUSED TO TELL ME THEIR NAMES.

Are you sure that you didn’t just leave your hearing aid home that day?

Look, in the entire big wide world of theocratic doings, I would never say that such and such could never happen. What I can say is that it is nothing of which I have ever heard. Even Mark O (who blocked me), who cries how people are after him, even “high-level” people, and who is victim prima dona in some circles, does not allege that anyone is unnamed:

In view of your astonishing disrespect and never-ending tirades, perhaps some extraordinary measures were resorted to, but even then, I can hardly imagine it. Why in the world would they withhold their names? It is not anything that we do. UNLESS, in view of your open enthusiasm for carrying weapons—extremely ususual for Jehovah’s Witnesses, even for hangers-on—they began to fear, rightly or wrongly, that they might be risking life and limb to be more candid. I mean, in the courts of law that you revere, steps can be taken to protect ones thought to be at risk from suspects supposed violent. Not so in the congregation, where they are unlikely to try to enlist a cop should they fear that someone might get ornery.

When I worked a part time job that attracted some oddball characters, and my immediate supervisor was fired (for explosively angry speech in front of all the customers), I later tried to get his job back for him—it was a crummy job and they used him shamelessly—‘the most selfish company in the world,’ one former manager told me, but it was all he had. Much as they liked me, they wouldn’t hear of it. They had locked down the HQ office for a week after firing him, fearing reprisals that never came. They were not necessarily overcautious to lock it down, either, for he did have a violent temper. He had legitimate things that could provoke it, but that does not mean that he didn’t have it.

It is just speculation on my part to apply parallel perceptions to you, but in view of your love of guns and the crass way you sometimes express that love, it is one way to explain something that is otherwise inexplicable.

If so (and if it is not this, it will be for some other good reason, because I have never heard of such a thing as unnamed judges, even though I have been around forever) it is rather like drawing a foul in basketball. Or it is like ones who carry on so outrageously that authorities finally deal with them with some harshness, after which they scream at how they—lovable, harmless they—have been viciously attacked for no reason at all.

I think of arrangements in the Mosaic Law of various penalities for various offenses—if you had done this, then you were to do that as a penalty and recompense. But if you blew off the whole arrangement as nothing and simply refused to comply, you were put to death. I can picture allies of the offending lout back then misrepresenting matters as though it were someone being put to death for a relatively minor offense, whereas it was really being put to death for contempt toward the arrangements that God had put into place through Moses.

Perhaps something akin to this was active in your case. I would not be surprised.

***
 
Okay, time’s up. I am not rescinding that part of how judicial committees are superior to the world’s system of justice, even if you give me 100 likes.

I mean, you must really really really give them a run for their money, if you are even the slightest bit there as you are here. Yes, maybe they should exert superhuman effort to discover that beneath your incendiary manner, there lies a loveable fuzz ball. However, I have exerted such effort and even i could not swear that it is the case.

I mean, with me........

”A better adjudicator.you never will find.

If I was a grumbler

who’d seen it all,

being hailed by opposers

both great and small,

would I start weeping like a cesspool overflowing?

or carry on as if my home were in a tree?

Would I run off at the mouth, not knowing where I’m going?

WELL, WHY CAN’T THIS YO-YO

be like ME?”  (*sung to the tune of “Why Can’t a Woman be More Like a Man?’)

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photo: American Gladiator SVU, by numberstumper

 

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Is It Time for Jehovah's Witnesses to Apologize? Part 4

See this series' beginning here.

The Old Testament tells some very strange tales and one of them is told at 2 Samuel. David, the Israelite king, on the ropes because he is facing an armed insurrection from his own son, enters a town where loyalty is not assured. He and his men are received hospitably, but there is one man decidedly not hospitable. The account reads:

“...a man…came out shouting curses as he approached. He was throwing stones at David and at all the servants of King David, as well as at all the people and the mighty men on his right and on his left. Shimei said as he cursed: “Get out, get out, you bloodguilty man! You worthless man!”

“…Then Abishai the son of Zeruiahm said to the king: “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over, please, and take off his head.” But the king said: “…Let him curse me, for Jehovah has said to him, ‘Curse David!’ …Here my own son, who came from my own body, is seeking my life… Leave him alone so that he may curse me, for Jehovah told him to! …With that David and his men kept going down the road while Shimei was walking alongside the mountain abreast of him, shouting curses and throwing stones and a lot of dust.”  (16:5-19)

Imagine! David is not too hung up on himself, is he? The fellow curses him, throws stones at him, shouting he is bloodguilty and worthless. And David as much as says: ‘Well, maybe he has a point. I mean, if God is letting it happen, who am I to smash in his head?’

The passage is included in the midweek meeting study material for October 15, 2018. That program also incorporated a passage at Matthew chapter 11, in which Jesus said of his detractors that they criticize you no matter what you do, so the best recourse is to go full speed ahead and let 'wisdom be proved righteous by its works.’ Meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses are essentially Bible studies that one can prepare for, organized around themes suggested by current needs and the pre-determined schedule of Bible reading that members have observed for 100 years—work your way through Revelation, and start in again at Genesis.

Nothing gets in the program without the okay, if not the direct insertion, of Witness governing members, who serve on various supervisory committees. The Matthew verse demonstrates how they respond to public criticism. They like Psalm 38:13 as well, another verse of David, about how he determined to muzzle his mouth as his adversaries kept “muttering all day long” about him. Luke 9:62 is also a favorite. That one records Jesus saying: “No man that has put his hand to a plow and looks at the things behind is well fitted for the Kingdom of God.” They press ever forward. They content themselves with a Newsroom tab on their public website that does not get into specific complaints, much as one would not expect to find a citing from the building inspector on the restaurant menu.

It is a program that October week on how Jesus set the pattern for those who would follow him, not specifically concerned with how to answer criticism, but also not avoiding the topic, particularly in the final half-hour segment. And Shimei’s tirade is right in there, with David conscious of the abuse he is receiving, and acquiescing to receiving it, as though it were discipline of sorts, as though he says “Well, maybe I had it coming,” even as he expresses hope that perhaps “Jehovah will see…and will actually restore me to goodness instead of his malediction this day.” (vs 12)

Do not think that the Witness Governing Body, as they are teaching others by means of the scriptures, do not also teach themselves. ‘If David was subjected to it, I guess we will be too,’ they seem to say. One should not think that they will not reflect on just how they got into this predicament in the first place, as David surely must have, with stones bouncing off his helmet. They will remedy it to the extent they can, but it will not be at the expense of betraying their prime directive of leading through Bible principles, and they have been loath to pull rank on family heads, reporting abuse which is sometimes entirely within a family, usually a step-family as was the case in Montana, and assume their responsibility or prerogative.

Likely they will say of these courtroom battles as they did of Russia banning the entire organization within its borders, that it is an area of “concern,” but not “worry.” They don’t get overly attached to things, even things of their own devising. They put it all on the line routinely as they do their best to advance kingdom interests, not cowering before their enemies. They plow where they plow as they apply their view of the Bible, unconcerned, sometimes unaware of the quicksand that may get them into, confident that, should that happen, God will somehow get them out of it. They do not deliberately court opposition, but they do expect it. The king makes a law and Daniel is thrown into the lion’s den. Another king makes another law and his friends are thrown into the furnace. Still another king makes another law and the entire nation of Jews faces extermination until Esther the queen opens his eyes to the sinister scheme he has been maneuvered into. It happens to their spiritual descendants to this day and the Witness organization expects no less. They are ‘insular,’ separate from the world, and the latter finds no end of reasons to oppose them for it.

They have really stepped in it this time, or at least it has been made to appear that way. It is not like last year, when Russia banned them, declared the Bible they favor illegal, and confiscated their property, doing so for completely separate reasons that never even mentioned child sexual abuse. It is not like Jehovah’s Witnesses of decades past, trying issue before first amendment issue before the U.S. Supreme Court, nobody engaging more frequently other than the government itself, so that Justice Harlan Fiske Stone wrote: “The Jehovah’s Witnesses ought to have an endowment in view of the aid which they give in solving the legal problems of civil liberties.” No. This time it is the unsavory subject of child sexual abuse, and the question that cannot be answered: If they did not go ‘beyond the law,’ why didn’t they?

Is it to be included as among the “wicked things that they will lyingly say against you?” that Jesus speaks of? (Matthew 5:11) Nobody can ever say that the charge is not wicked, on the same level as first-century charges that Christians were cannibals who burned down Rome. Just possibly it takes their breath away, as it is a legitimate bad that they never saw coming. With Shimei’s stones knocking on their helmet, just possibly the drop to their knees like Hezekiah besieged by an enraged enemy. Just possibly they look to outsiders like deer caught in the headlights while they are doing so. Just possibly they are like Adrian Monk, a good and upright man who nonetheless finds himself both outside of his normal element and in a pickle because he cannot choose which chair in which to sit until Natalie gently pushes him down on whatever one he hovers over at the moment.

Drive this sucker to the Supreme Court, if need be. If they decide to hear it, it will be case number 50-something that Witnesses have tried before that body, more than any other group besides the government itself. Let it be resolved once and for all when the time is right. Many person are being sued over child sexual abuse these days, and it is generally the same scenario. Though groups as the Boy Scouts manifestly benefit children in ways not readily duplicated, their deep pockets permit a pummeling such as cannot be visited on unorganized society, though it be every bit as accommodating to child sexual abuse, only minus the benefits. It will be so with groups that instill religious values into youth, as well.

Don’t be put off by the sordid backdrop. The world wallows in sordidness these days and is accustomed to everyone being accused of everything. The Week Magazine reports (09/03/2018) that referrals of child abuse online images have increased seven-fold over five years. On average, one child in every primary school classroom has received nude or semi-nude pictures from an adult. They respond not always well: “A girl from my primary [was] sending half-naked pictures because it’s what everyone does,” said one. Don’t let this be painted as a Witness pandemic or even a pandemic of any religion. What! It is only where there are deep pockets that child sexual abuse occurs? It is only taxpayer-funded schools, scouting organizations, or faith groups that suffer child sexual abuse? The origins don’t line up. Christianity, where it remains true to its roots, is an offshoot of Judaism, where pedophilia was exceedingly uncommon in Bible times A verse from the Sibylline oracles, a collection of oracular utterances written in Greek hexameters ascribed to the [prophetesses] Sibyls, claims that only the Jews were free from this impurity. They were “mindful of holy wedlock, and they do not engage in impious intercourse with male children, as do Phoenicians, Egyptians and Romans, spacious Greece and many nations of other, Persians and Galatians and all Asia, transgressing the holy law of immortal God, which they transgressed.” 

And where does the mainstream educated world find its underpinnings? Is it not the world of ancient Greece, the cradle of democracy? It is also the cradle of pedophilia, a societally accepted practice no where condemned. The only condemnation to be found is from Christians who withdrew and became insular as regards that world, and it is found in 1 Corinthians 6:9: “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (NABRE) A footnote to the New American Bible – Revised Edition on ‘boy prostitutes’ and ‘sodomites’ reads: “The Greek word translated as boy prostitutes may refer to catamites, i.e., boys or young men who were kept for purposes of prostitution, a practice not uncommon in the Greco-Roman world. In Greek mythology this was the function of Ganymede, the “cupbearer of the gods,” whose Latin name was Catamitus. The term translated sodomites refers to adult males who indulged in homosexual practices with such boys.” They even had a god for it! 

Montana law being what it appears to be, it is hard to imagine this could not be appealed successfully. The Montana court’s greatest mistake may have been the excessive punitive damages, clearing indicating they felt the Witness organization was trying to violate law. If it can be shown that they made every conscientious effort to follow law, everything might reverse. Whether they are insular or not should not factor in. Separateness from the overall world is not yet a crime. It may factor into public opinion, but not yet that of law.

What would be the repercussions in the event of a higher court reversal? Not necessarily positive for Jehovah’s Witnesses, who always sought, perhaps to a fault, not to ‘sully God’s name.’ It’s a little late to worry about that now. Or maybe it is not. A higher court reversal of the Montana verdict may cause the average person who learns of it to say: “It’s unbelievable! The Court says it’s okay for Jehovah’s Witnesses to abuse children!” But if there was a sincere expression of regret in the interim, for children truly have been harmed, they might say, “Oh. I understand. They did bollox things but now I see how it happened.”

People, by and large, are fair, even when they don’t especially care for Witnesses. They don’t buy for a minute that Jehovah’s Witnesses, Latter Day Saints, Boy Scouts, and taxpayer-backed institutions are the only settings in which child sexual abuse occurs. They understand that these parties have deep pockets, and there is no sense in going after anyone who does not. Yes. A higher court victory giving opportunity to ‘come clean’ as to how the whole mess began may well clean up that Name Witnesses are so concerned about.

Let it be framed as it is. An attack on separate religion, in which child abuse matters are employed as a righteous smokescreen. It is not merely Jehovah’s Witnesses under the gun. It is religion in general and the more determined it is to resist mainstream thinking the more of a target it becomes. Prejudice against the Jehovah’s Witness faith runs deeper than most, and it is a very real child abuse tragedy that enables it to be disguised as justifiable outrage. But the attack on religious freedom ought be the subject of focus.

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Is It Time for Jehovah's Witnesses to Apologize? Part 3

(To work one's way through the entire thread, start here.)

A former elder quits his faith and posts his reason here. It is the JW child abuse policy. Yes, he shines as a pillar of conscience. Point taken. Got it.

He chose to leave and there were “many reasons for his decision,” which he does not go into. Abuse policy is not his only reason, though at first glance it might appear that way. He could have reported any abuse allegations to police as he became aware of them. True, he would have to step down as an elder, because one holding office in anything must carry out the policies of those making them. But it is all volunteer service anyway. He could have taken his place as a regular congregation member and not thrown everything away with regard to his belief system.

Instead, it appears that he did throw it all away in order to become a warrior for a cause. He has thrown in his lot with the ones crusading against this one grievous wrong, who appear, for the moment, to be enjoying greater success in the war. Or are they? They are undeniably good at outing and punishing perpetrators of child sexual abuse, but are they proving any good at stemming the evil itself? Thirty-plus years of all-out war has produced little result; you can still throw a stone in any direction and hit five molesters. In contrast, there is good reason to believe that the Witness organization overall has significant success in prevention. 

What of the reasons that he became a Witness in the first place—the clear answer as to why God allows suffering, the knowledge of what happens to people when they die, and even the reason that they die? He has forgotten all about it. What of the Bible principles that have succeeded in producing one group, and practically only one group, that has not been molded by changing tides of morality, sexual and otherwise? Not worth the bother, his course suggests. What of the effort to educate ones the world over in knowledge of God’s purposes and the one true hope that conditions will not always be as they are now? It no longer interests him. What of the work to make known God’s name known and defend it against those who would malign it? None of it seems to be a concern any longer. If he remembers God at all, he will address him as ‘The LORD,’ since the rule elsewhere is to bury God’s name.

He throws it all away to become a foot soldier in a cause. The cause is certainly not nothing, but neither is it everything. Every notion he once had about God taking a separate people for his name appears to have vanished. Christianity should not be separate from the world, in his apparent revised eyes. It should jump in and help fix it, even if most of the tools it offers will be scorned. If the world scorns them, perhaps it has a point, he seems to suggest. His new course says it loud and clear: Elders should put aside concerns of safeguarding the congregation, and should become agents of the state, so as to do their part in safeguarding the whole world.

He has bought completely into his new role. It is not enough for him that elders, at present, leave it to parents and victims as a personal matter whether they will seek help from outside counselors. He is upset that they do not encourage it. Seemingly he would hold them accountable even if they did encourage it, which they do at present with regard to authorities, and the parents/victims yet declined. They did not encourage it enough, he would maintain. Too, he is concerned that an offender might go door to door as a Witness in search of new victims. Well, nothing is impossible, but it seems an extraordinarily difficult way to go about it. The house to house ministry is a challenge even when done for the right reasons. Privately, some Witnesses grumble about how difficult it is to find people home today, at least at the most customary times to call. How many of them are going to be unsupervised children? How many of those children are going to be trusting of strangers? It’s ridiculous, but the former elder has swallowed it all. Why not simply hang out where children are? Volunteer at a children’s camp. Coach youth sports. Drive a school bus.

He could have just relinquished his office and reported whatever allegations that he became aware of. Instead, he has flushed everything away to focus on the popular crusade. If he remains religious, he will probably lean right. If he has gone atheist, he will probably lean left. They mostly do. Nor should it be a surprise. If you go atheist, you put your full trust in human self-rule. Obviously, nations have to band together for this to be successful, so any populist movement is counterproductive. The question reverts right back to that of 1919, when the Bible Students chose God’s kingdom as the true hope for all mankind, and their opponents, throwing in their lot with human efforts, chose the League of Nations.

All of this said, the former elder prefaces his diatribe by his having seen “the extent that the organization would go to in order to defend their position.” It is a point that merits addressing.

Those brothers most eager to not air dirty laundry in an attempt not to sully God’s name appear to have succeeded in sullying it, albeit unintentionally, more than if the authorities were called the instant any congregation member so much as hiccupped. The very reason there is an expression ‘skeletons in the closet’ is the universal instinct to keep them there, and that universal tendency is exacerbated in direct proportion to consciousness of reputation. Few are more conscious of reputation than the Witness organization, even as though drawing support from a 1 Corinthians 6:7 mission statement.

It is not hard to understand how this can happen, yielding to the instinct to not air dirty laundry. But it is not useful here, and any hint that one is concerned with reputation as more than an insignificant footnote will incur the wrath of those focused on one and one thing only. They will say ‘If you really do abhor child sexual abuse why do you even think for a moment about reputation?’ It is a very difficult road to traverse.

Everyone except those in Bethel watches the television show Bull today, and there they learn that playing to the jury on the jury’s own terms is critical. Does the Watchtower attorney in Montana do that? Or does he give evidence of being ‘insular,’ quoting Bible verse a couple of times when it is not necessary to do so, when a more contemporary argument might have better resounded? He is a fine brother, I am sure, with a monumental job, but I suspect the verses hurt more than help with a jury composed of persons who simply do not hold scripture in the same esteem as was once the case. They might even reckon it an attempt to schmaltz them and pull the wool over their eyes. Might his explanation fall flat that the ‘regular Montana folk’ who are Witnesses call ‘because they love you,’ and since ‘many of you are Bible readers,’ they will recognize that Jesus followed just that course? How many people are regular Bible readers these days? He misses completely the political nuances of the expression ‘fake news’ that few of them will miss, and he spins a folksy story of the caught fish that gets bigger with each telling to suggest, fair enough but it plays a little tone deaf, as though suggesting boasting as a motive, that abuse victims might exaggerate with the passage of time. He covers all the right points but with a backdrop that will suggest to some that he just doesn’t ‘get it’ as regards the pain of those who have suffered abuse. Courthouse proceedings are not therapy sessions and one can only be so therapeutic with plaintiffs seeking millions, thereby clearly indicating their chosen means of comfort. But more putting oneself into their shoes can hardly be a bad thing. 

He commits these lapses, if lapses they be, because he comes from a faith described as insular. ‘Insularity’ is not a crime (yet) but it does here present obstacles to heart to heart communication. His talk would play well indeed to persons on the same page as he, such as he might find in a Kingdom Hall, but to a public conditioned by events to be skeptical as to whether Jehovah’s Witnesses truly do ‘abhor child abuse,’ as they say they do, it seems to show stress cracks.

The ones who appear to be mainly interested in reputation have been caught in their own righteous trap and it is being played out in plain sight before all the world. The only thing that takes away from their detractors’ efforts to make maximum hay out of this debacle is that there are so many atrocities to compete for attention today, many of which are far worse, that it is a challenge to keep the spotlight focused on where they want it. 

Rather than try to maintain the illusion that ungodly deeds could never have occurred among true Christians, these Witnesses might have let the chips fall wherever they might and trust that a relative scarcity of abuse will be enough in a world where one out of every five children suffers molestation before age 18. Instead, their insularity made them miss the determination and progress of outside authorities to stamp out child sexual abuse, slow to acknowledge the cause when they did hear of it, and thus they are readily framed by their detractors to make it seem that they oppose it.

It could have been me. I am not better than these ones. I, too, might have become distressed when the media did not seem to notice the elephant in the room. Will the greater world enjoy success when it embraces every permutation of sexual interaction as fine and good, except for one that will not be tolerated? The world today nurtures the pedophilia with one hand that it seeks to eliminate with the other, and even the New York Times swoons over a child model in an 11/22/2017 article. “His eye makeup is better than yours,” it says, and gushes that he has 330,000 Instagram followers. How many of them are pedophiles? Why, the Times does not think of going there. And what of this story, showing that there are clear limits in fighting child sexual abuse. It is not so bad if it is customary where you come from, a Finnish court finds.

Meanwhile, the organization that teaches family values from the Bible, that specifically warns about child sexual abuse, that doesn’t settle for merely punishing the wrong, but significantly prevents it as compared to the overall world—what of that organization? That is the organization on the hot seat, tried by those dubious of it and a few that outright despise it. However ill it plays today, one can understand a reluctance to broadcast shortfalls believed to be comparatively scarce—a lot of them, to be sure, but proportionately much less than in the greater world. But that reluctance serves nobody well in this instance.

Are Jehovah’s Witnesses insular? Try these words of Jesus on for insularity: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before it has hated you. If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.” (John 15: 18-19)Christianity as defined in the Bible is insular. It is not part of the world. It is separate from the world, and from there it tries to extend a helping hand to individuals therein. To the extent contemporary variations of it are not insular, it is due to compromise over time so as to conform to whatever might be disapproved by overall society, something Jehovah’s Witnesses do not do. One will have to ban the Bible itself to forestall insularity and there are plenty in an irreligious age who would like to do just that. No longer is it the legal climate of decades ago, when the Watchtower lawyer could cite his Bible and the judge would follow along, nodding thoughtfully. Even Hayden Covington, a Witness attorney of the 1940’s, renowned for his ability to sass Supreme Court Justices and get away with it, would be hard pressed today.

The Australian government has just issued an apology in the wake of a Royal Commission looking into child sexual abuse, an investigation that spanned several years. That apology is lauded as the example for everyone to follow, but it is worth noting that the victims did not accept it. Prior to that victims of child sexual abuse from the Boy Scouts did not accept an apology from that organization. Now, the Boy Scouts take you camping and teach you how to tie knots. Jehovah's Witnesses take you out of your normal routines and wake you when you are sleeping in late. Will they be forgiven when the Australian government and the Boy Scouts were not.

Many of victims of child sexual abuse will never accept any apology. What they will only accept is for their abuse never to have happened—something that surely speaks well as regards prevention being the prime focus.

Detractors are chagrined that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not specifically mentioned in the apology, but it may be because for most institutions investigated, the leaders were the perpetrators. With Jehovah’s Witnesses that was rarely the case. Their ‘wrong’ was to investigate first, and in so doing, fail to coordinate with outside authorities. Seeming frustrated, one Witness opponent tweets: 

‘So sick of Watchtower apologists trying to say that it's OK to protect pedophiles & for child sexual abuse to go unchecked & unpunished.  I wonder if now they will use the same defenses to support the Catholic Church & its mishandling of child sexual abuse?’

I answered that one: ‘They have made their own bed & must lie in it. Unlike JWs, where leaders were seldom the perpetrators, theirs exclusively were. Heaven help us if the members are ever looked at, as with JWs. Still, to the extent faith in God is destroyed, it is a tragedy even greater than that which triggers it.’

End of Part 3. Part 4 to begin here.

 

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Are We Looking at Insurance Fraud? Part 1.

There was a series of tweets from former Jehovah’s Witnesses hoping to stir up discontent with present ones. The politics involved are likely not of interest to the general reader so I pass over it here. Suffice it to say that it is that way.

It turns out that when the Watchtower organization oversees disaster relief they afterwards suggest to ones that happen to have insurance that they might donate whatever insurance might pay out to the Worldwide Work relief fund itself. Why this should infuriate the ex-Witnesses I’ll never know but infuriate them it does. To me, it seems only just that those who do the disaster rebuild should receive the insurance monies if there are any. I could be wrong but I suspect insurance companies will love it that way; the work gets down promptly and without haggling over amount. However, the more important question to be raised is, if the Watchtower doesn’t get the insurance money, who does? The more I looked at these tweets the more I came to feel that I was looking at encouragement to commit insurance fraud.

With that backdrop, here are some of the tweets. I have excluded irrelevant ones as well as those from opposers calling me an a*****e. Apparently, a recent shipment of relief supplies was destroyed and that is how the topic is introduced. I will reproduce a few tweets which may or may not interest the reader, all in italics, and then return to the main point. I am TTH. Others I will refer to by their initials. Everything is captured in screenshots.

EDL: The donations from local Jehovah's Witnesses caught fire - but the article fails to mention that JW donations and disaster relief is ONLY ever for other JWs.  JWs only support their local community by preaching to them, never with practical help.

TTH: Yes. They cannot do everyone because they are near exclusively volunteers using vacation time. The best they can do is set an example for others to imitate so that they will not be beholden to astronomically wasteful agencies.

CF: Interestingly enough, WT usually pressure any JW’s they help to “dontate” the insurance payout they get back to WT to “thank” them.

TTH: ‘Pressure is a subjective term. However, if they do the work voluntarily at no cost that certainly would not be an inappropriate way to acknowledge it. Many people have no insurance at all, especially in the case of flooding. It is something immaterial to JWs. They do not check beforehand.

SL: Agreed, the WT does not do the work on the understanding the insurance cash will come their way…

 For a brief moment, I thought I had found an ally, but it was not so:

SL: I've given up my time in my JW past to do this work and it's lovely to feel you are helping someone in need.  In my experience few, if any, feel the need to solicit thanks from a victim of disaster let alone "suggest" the insurance money comes one's way.

CF: To clarify - it’s not the individual JW’s helping who do this. It’s something that happens afterward, organized via the branch and handled by the elders. Most JW volunteers never even know this has happened. JR is putting together an article that exposes multiple instances of WT leaning on JW’s after a relief effort to hand over the insurance money.

I was getting a little fed up at this point. In three tweets combined, I said:

TTH: Tell him to not ignore the end result: distressed persons quickly having life & property restored, vs waiting weeks or months for relief that will only come if they are adequately insured, insurers sometimes being known to weasel out of full coverage when they can. Tell him also to spotlight the atheist and opposer agencies that do the same for their people so that they do not find themselves sh*t out of luck when insurance or build execution proves inadequate. And make sure he tells of the premier agency in the Haiti earthquake, squandering practically to the penny the half billion dollars donated. (I linked to a Propublica article detailing breathtaking incompetence in America’s chief relief agency and (alas) even exaggerated some, for they didn’t waste all of it, just most of it.) I am looking forward to this article, confident John will not forget these things.

Someone made a snotty comment about Watchtower making a lot of money off their volunteers and the insurance companies. I replied that it was in return for doing exactly what the insurance company wanted done

The former Witnesses turned bitter opponents work tirelessly to stir up discontent in those loyal. They do a great deal of talking amongst themselves, but present Witnesses are their target audience. While the Watchtower organization may well afterwards make the suggestion, I doubt very much that they ‘pressure’ anyone because the idea of simply pocketing both work AND insurance payment would never occur to most Witnesses. And even if they were to ‘pressure’ anyone, it would clearly be for their own good; otherwise they would be committing insurance fraud, and the insurance companies are very good at sniffing such things out.

Say they succeed in finding some Witnesses who are outraged that the Watchtower Society should mention money after they have restored a person’s life. What are they recommending these ones do? Are they recommending that they say to their Christian brothers, who are generally on the scene long before relief comes by any other way, “Brothers, no. Don’t bother. I am afraid that the organization may afterwards mention money. I will wait instead for the insurance company to pay and hope that the amount is enough to restore what I have lost and that when the harried contractors at last get around to it they will not in their haste do a half-assed job.” I don’t think so.

I have never heard that advice from these characters or anything even approaching that. What the opposers appear to be doing is encouraging disgruntled ones, if they can find any, to accept the Watchtower’s help and then refuse any suggestion that they sign over an insurance check. What, then, will they do with the insurance money? Give it back to the insurance company? Again, I don’t think so. Why have they been paying premiums for all these years? No, they are encouraging them to keep the money, perhaps to thereafter spend on a new car, overseas vacation, or college tuition.

Look, this may be an overgeneralization, but this illustrates exactly why people who are Jehovah’s Witnesses should think twice before they leave the faith. I see these former Witnesses on Twitter. Some excoriate Trump and some excoriate Obama. They once had unity. Moreover, they cavalierly float an idea that would shock most Witnesses: take the money and run. What is wrong with these characters? I mean, who would propose repaying the work of volunteer rebuilders with closed fists, and who would propose chiseling the insurance company out of their money at the same time? There is such a thing as hating so much as to lose all decency. My bet is that when insurance companies do sign over checks to the Watchtower, they find it a pure joy, knowing well how difficult customers can be when under extreme pressure. Jerod Kushner said with Jehovah’s Witnesses a handshake deal means something when he bought some of their Brooklyn property. Even arch-enemy Barbara Anderson says that, overall, they’re very nice people.

Look, possibly what they are advocating is not illegal. Perhaps it is just astonishing mean and ungrateful. Either way they look very small as they focus their unreasoning hatred to cripple the most effective disaster relief program the world has known. Parts 2 and 3, which follow, are not specifically on matters of insurance and can be skipped by those interested in those matters alone.

See Part 2 and Part 3

 

Spy

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Kavenaugh Plays His Trump Card: He Was a Virgin!

Kananaugh unloads his secret weapon when he states he was a virgin and had nothing even resembling sexual intercourse until well after school days. It is obviously true, for in today's culture, nobody admits to such a thing. It is to scream from the rooftops: "I am a loser!"

Now, he doesn't view it that way. And I come from a religious background where such is more common than uncommon for unmarried persons of that age, due to their beliefs on the sanctity of marriage and their conviction that the One who have the gift of sex knows best how it is to be employed, and , so I don't view it that way either. But his most vociferous opponents, irreligious almost to the person, cannot conceive of such a thing. It catches them completely flat-footed. Some of them pursue sex almost as though it is the purpose of life.

He tells them he was a virgin? It is the most definitive answer he could give and ought take the wind completely out of their sails. They would never ever ever admit to such a thing were it true in their case. It would be a matter of deep shame. In fact, wasn't there a shooting recently by someone who hasn't scored with the females, and he and his are passed off as 'of all men, the most be pitied,' to misquote 1 Corinthians 15:19? I think they have even coined a word for that type, as though it is an ethnic group. Yes, here it is: They are ‘incels.’

Kavanaugh is not ashamed of it at all. He is proud of it. That doesn't mean he willingly advertises it, for it is a personal matter. But when backed into a corner, he states it as his perfect defense to charges that he is raping here and raping there. Not likely, he says, since he was a virgin. 'Well.....well....just when did you have sex, anyway?' say his opponents, since this is a hugely important topic for them. But there is a limit to how much he will indulge them, for next they will want video footage. It is enough to say 'well after.

It is too much. There is no better way to defang an enemy than to freely admit to a weakness. This is especially true if you do not regard it as a weakness at all. Not getting the true sense of it, one pundit, sympathetic to he and his cause, complained how disgusting it was that he should have been maneuvered into revealing his then-virginity. He didn't get maneuvered at all. He played his trump card. And, yes, I will indulge his enemies and state that he also played his Trump card.

 

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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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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.

……………………………….......................

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.

……………………………….................

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

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)

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.

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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

Defending Jehovah’s Witnesses with style from attacks... in Russia, with the ebook ‘Dear Mr. Putin - Jehovah’s Witnesses Write Russia’ (free).... and in the West, with the ebook ‘TrueTom vs the Apostates!’ (free)