Watchtower "Community Facility" Draws Fire of Protest - 1988

In 1988 the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society applied for building approval to construct a twenty-story "community facility" in Brooklyn.  One of the objectors was Chris Christensen, a dissident JW from Canada.  It is thought that his presentation of hidden facts about the Society led the Board to turn down it down.   (The following correspondence is reproduced with Chris’s permission.) 


Box 447
Lac du Bonnet, Manitoba
Canada – ROE 1AO
September 20/88
New York City Board of Estimate
City Hall
New York; New York
10017 - U.S.A.
Mr. Ed Koch - Mayor
Mr. Andrew Stein - Council President
Mr. Harrison J. Goldin - Comptroller
Mr. David Dinkins - Manhattan Borough President
Ms. Claire Shulman - Queens Borough President
Mr. Ralph Lamberti - Staten Island Borough President
Mr. Fernando Ferrar - Bronx Borough President
Mr. Howard Golden - Brooklyn Borough President
Dear Board Members:
This is to notify you of my intention to attend the September 29/88 meeting re: the Watchtower building application. I have been informed by the Board of Estimate Bureau of the Secretary’s office that I would be welcome to make a presentation on this matter. I would very much like to add my voice to that of the local Brooklyn Heights residents who are opposed to this application.
My reasons for protest are much more serious in nature than those put forward by the local residents. There is a great deal of documented evidence which clearly proves that the Watchtower Society is deliberately abusing Jehovah’s Witnesses. Civil rights violations are standard policy. The basic freedoms of conscience, thought and speech are being systematically denied, on pain of expulsion from the church with its attendant shunning. The internal disciplinary system employed by the Watchtower flagrantly ignores the principles of natural justice.
While some legal minds believe that religious organizations are free, as voluntary associations, to conduct themselves this way, it must be understood that prospective converts to the Watchtower movement are never told that these conditions would apply to them as members. Individuals are invariably deceived into joining this religion.
At the very least, the Watchtower is guilty of "false advertising". However, I will demonstrate that these practices stem from an unmitigated desire to deceive and defraud unsuspecting people, making Jehovah’s Witnesses abject slaves to further propagate their system of mind control over yet others.
My expertise in this area comes from the fact that I am one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, having served in various organizational capacities, including membership on a judicial committee which handled matters of internal church discipline. I was unjustly expelled from the organization in 1972 because I would not remain silent concerning the injustices I was becoming aware of. Since that time I have conducted a campaign of publicity within and without the church, writing circulars to thousands of, Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide, and pursuing litigation against the Governing Body. (My case was the first one attempted against that ruling council, unsuccessfully, in 1977 in the Court of Queen’s Bench, here in Manitoba.)
Directly and indirectly I have been responsible for many Jehovah’s Witnesses coming to the realization that the Watchtower is an enslaver. Many others have begun to share in this work of exposing the injustices of the Watchtower through publishing activities and legal action but this loose-knit network of dissent is finding a serious impediment prevents a truly effective exposure of the Watchtower’s system of injustice.
That impediment is secular authority. More specifically, ignorance of the Watchtower prevents governments from understanding the scope of the problem. For one thing, the reputation gained by the Watchtower in its legal fight on behalf of civil liberties, particularly during the 1940s and 1950s is excellent. Why would governments consider the Watchtower today to be violating the very principles they fought so hard for? In view of the fact that the Watchtower is quite insular, secretive and cynical of secular powers, it is not surprising that governments are unaware of the problems I cite.
However, there is another factor to this problem that must be addressed. Evidently there are certain legal misconceptions about religious organizations that have developed over the years that tend to cause judges and legislators to adopt a hands off approach in connection with religious organizations and their internal disciplinary matters. As a result, even when courts are made aware of the serious violations of civil rights and the disregard for the principles of natural justice that characterize cases of injustice being experienced by Jehovah’s Witnesses at the hand of the Watchtower, the courts rule in favour of the Watchtower. It seems that freedom of religion is organizational and not individual within the context of United States’ law.
Perhaps it is due to the passage of time with its consequent dimming of the lessons of history that the American Constitution’s First Amendment is being interpreted today to mean the exact opposite of what it originally intended.
In any event, no matter how one interprets the First Amendment, it cannot be denied that the fundamental freedoms of conscience, thought and speech are generally accepted to be inalienable to the individual. Neither government (free and democratic) nor business or other organization has the right to alienate such freedoms from their members/citizens. How ironic that religion, which, more than any other human influence extols these God given rights, should be the very means to deny them, and that with impunity.
With respect to the Watchtower there is another aspect that must be pointed out in this connection. Were you aware that Jehovah’s Witnesses are an unincorporated body of believers but that the Watchtower Society is only comprised of a few hundred Jehovah’s Witnesses? Since Jehovah’s Witnesses are not, for the most part, members of this legally registered society, how is it that it can dictate its beliefs and practices to those who are not members?
These and other issues need to be discussed in detail so that the civil authorities can know how they ought to deal with the Watchtower organization. It is my belief that the Watchtower should pay taxes on its real estate holdings, in view of the fact that it violates civil rights. The American Government should not be giving the Watchtower a tax free endorsement. I further believe that the Watchtower should be forced to respect the civil rights of its members. If it refuses to do what is right, the American Government should revoke its charter.
I look forward to the Board of Estimate’s meeting. Although I may only be allowed a few minutes to make a presentation, I hope to have a more detailed written presentation to submit for your perusal, at that time. Perhaps there will be necessity to lay the board’s decision over until its next regular meeting on October 13/88, in order to discuss these and other issues in more detail. If so, I would be more than happy to make another trip to New York.
Chris Christensen [signature]

(718) 520-3220
[City of NY Seal]
September 22, 1988
Mr. Chris Christensen
Box 447
Lac Du Bonnet Man, Manitoba
Canada, ROE 1AO,
Dear Mr. Christensen:
I am in receipt of your letter regarding the request for a rezone by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York for the construction of a 20-story community facility in CB #2 in Brooklyn
I understand your concerns.
The Board of Estimate (BOE) has scheduled the public hearing on this issue for September 29, 1988 at 10:30 a.m. in City Hall. I urge you to attend and express your opinion about the rezoning request.
Please be assured that when this issue comes before the Board of Estimate for a vote your views will be given careful consideration.
Thank you for writing.
Borough of Queens

Submission to New York City
Board of Estimate. re:
Watchtower Bible and Tract
Society of New York, Inc.
September 29/88
The Watchtower Society teaches that God’s kingdom under Christ was set up invisibly in the heavens in 1914 C.E., thereby ending the lease of authority to all secular kings and governments which began 2,520 years earlier when God’s earthly kingdom, Jerusalem, was overthrown by Babylon in 607 B.C.E. When this era, known as the times of the nations or gentile times, ended, secular authority was to be relinquished to God’s kingdom, according to the Watchtower Society.
The Watchtower Society now proclaims that, due to the refusal of the secular powers to turn over the reins of government to God, those governments will be destroyed at the time of Armageddon. God will evict all man-made governments and usher in the thousand year reign of Christ at that unknown time, expected in the very near future, thus bringing to completion that period of time called the "last days" which commenced in 1914.
It is also taught by the Watchtower that in 1914 Christ, came to inspect his earthly "temple class", that group of people led by Charles Taze Russell, founder and first president of the Watchtower Society, that are today known as Jehovah’s Witnesses. Christ allegedly discovered a group of faithful Christians who, because of their work in declaring the 1914 kingdom, were deemed fit to be appointed as Christ’s collective "faithful and discreet slave".
This group, considering itself to be anointed by holy spirit to be part of the body of Christ (144,000 members) which is destined to share the administration of millenial rule with Christ as his joint kings, priests and judges, believes itself to be the group that is rightfully appointed over all Christ’s belongings (here on earth). Matthew 24:42-47 is the basis of this claim.
One can now appreciate the context of the dealings between illegally constituted secular governments and the only properly authorized faithful and discreet slave rulership of spirit anointed Jehovah’s Witnesses through the corporate entity of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. The New York City Board of Estimate, along with all other types and levels of secular administration, are not seen to be operating with divine sanction so they must be operating with Satan’s support.
The Watchtower Society cannot conduct business with the Board of Estimate with the sincerity and good faith normally expected in such dealings. Guile and deception are standard elements in their style of dealing with civil authorities. It is considered "theocratic war strategy" as referred to by Linda Yglesias in her article in the New York Daily News magazine, July 31/88.
Whereas the official published policy of the Watchtower repudiates deliberate lying, especially under oath, and advocates not telling civil authorities any more than necessary, in actual practice, lying, even under oath, is encouraged. As a Jehovah’s Witness for most of my 44 years and as a disfellowshipped dissident for the past 16 I have observed the employment of this strategy.
This information is submitted to alert the Board of Estimate to the fact that it is dealing with an insincere and deceitful applicant in the legal person of the Watchtower Society. When appropriate time is taken to understand the Watchtower perspective, it becomes evident that the so-called "faithful and discreet slave" has misled, not only civil governments, but their own followers as well. It is time for a full review of the legally chartered Watchtower corporation which is being used illegally to deceive and defraud the unincorporated religious body of people known as Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Watchtower Evolution - from Servant to Master
Despite the fact that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not members of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., nor of the parent corporation, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, nor any of its associated corporations in other countries, they do mistakenly consider themselves to be. Even though the Watchtower magazine has published the fact that the parent organization’s charter limits membership to a maximum of 500 individuals, yet Jehovah’s Witnesses, who number in the millions, when asked if they belong to the Watchtower Society, invariably answer affirmatively. W’tower Dec. 15/71, p.758.
It is understandable when non-members conclude that Jehovah’s Witnesses and their corporate organization are synonymous but what explains the general ignorance of Jehovah’s Witnesses? Are they simply naive or uneducated people or does the Watchtower deliberately create this illusion?
Actually, all these factors play a part in this widespread misconception among those who look to the Watchtower for spiritual guidance. The majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses are ordinary working-class people with high school education. Consequently they are not very knowledgeable in matters of corporate law. As for the Watchtower; the constant emphasis it places on organization (used as a noun to denote God’s arrangement of things pertaining to the congregation) as it relates to all of the church’s functions, makes it very easy to see the corporate entity as including all Jehovah’s Witnesses because the corporation does all of the organizing. Added to this is the fact that any discussion of the structure and workings of the corporate entities is almost totally avoided. The Watchtower Society is so distant from the general church membership, most people not even being familiar with the names of the directors, that there is no opportunity to understand it.
Evidently there is deliberate ambiguity being utilized by the Watchtower corporation in order to create this illusion. Therefore there must be some ulterior motivation behind this ambiguity. Jehovah’s Witnesses’ misconception has allowed the Watchtower Society, over a period of many years, to evolve from a publishing agency serving the interests of Jehovah’s Witnesses (called International Bible students prior to 1931) into the absolute and authoritarian governing body and spiritual arbiter of Jehovah’s Witnesses today.
Actually the evolution has proceeded even further. Now, supposedly since 1972 but truthfully since 1976, another governing body has superseded the corporate one and is not even legally registered. In effect there are really two governing bodies operating in tandem. The corporate governing body has become redundant but still exists because the Watch Tower charter has not been amended to accommodate the change. The gross ignorance of Jehovah’s Witnesses respecting corporate law is abundantly manifest by the fact that none of them perceived this anomaly.
A review of the doctrinal history of Jehovah’s Witnesses will clearly reveal that the changed perception of the Watch Tower corporation was made possible through a process of change respecting Bible interpretation of certain key points.
Whereas the Bible Students were strong advocates of democratic church government and were extremely wary of denominational sectarianism with its centralized control, referring to religious organizations as false and dictatorial, like ancient Babylon; Jehovah’s Witnesses today repudiate democracy, have become a distinct denomination with the most organized form of worship under a centralized authority that can be found on earth.
Perhaps the most significant change in scriptural interpretation relative to these radical changes was of Romans, chapter 13, which outlines the apostle Paul’s inspired explanation of the role of secular government, the superior authorities or higher powers. C.T. Russell taught that the higher powers were allowed a relative position of authority over God’s people. That is, governments had the right, in the interests of the peoples’ welfare, to make laws, collect taxes, etc., but only to the point where there was conflict with God’s law. This view is generally held today by most religions and is believed by Jehovah’s Witnesses also.
However, during the term of Joseph F. Rutherford as second president of the Watch Tower, a serious deviation occurred. Rutherford taught that Romans 13 referred to total or supreme authority (despite the obvious comparative language, i.e. superior or higher, not supreme or highest which denotes the superlative degree) and that Paul must have written about Jehovah God, Christ and their congregational agents, the overseers, ministers and corporate board of directors in particular.
It was Rutherford that introduced the extreme view that all governments of men were opposed to God and demonized. Having previously written in favour of democratic forms of government, he later denounced democracy, saying that such was opposed to theocracy. As a result of these changes the Witnesses were manipulated to accept a program of change from complete congregational control with local, democratic elections of elders to centralized control emanating from the Watch Tower Society. Pennsylvania and later Brooklyn would make all appointments of overseers and ministerial servants.
Romans 13 was used to elevate those taking the lead within the religious body from a relative position of authority (the sheep of Christ’s flock are understood to be cared for by the elders as subordinates of Christ; they do not own the sheep) to an authoritarian one. This was theocracy. God’s way of dealing with his people from the top, the opposite of democracy which governed from the bottom.
This doctrinal aberration was corrected by the third president of the Watch Tower, Nathan H. Knorr, in the early 1960s. However, while Jehovah’s Witnesses again learned the proper scriptural reasons for showing respectful, relative subjection to secular rulers the authoritarian tradition of the Society was not relinquished. Ecclesiastical democracy was not restored.
Along with the strange situation respecting the existence of two governing bodies, these two inconsistencies remain as clear evidence of the strategy of the Watchtower to control Jehovah’s Witnesses by deception.
An examination of the Watch Tower charter plainly discloses that the Watch Tower is legally, to this day, a democratic corporation. As amended in 1944 it continues until now and it states that; "The purposes of this Society are: To act as the servant of and the legal world-wide agency for that body of Christian persons known as Jehovah’s Witnesses;.." ( Italics mine ) W’tower Dec. 15/71, footnote p. 759.
Anyone with a fair understanding of the English language can understand the meanings of the words servant and agency or agent. This is language which describes representative democracy as understood by all but the most simple-minded. It will come as no surprise to learn that each Jehovah’s Witness does not have a copy of this charter nor does each Kingdom Hall have a framed copy hanging from a wall or placed in some other conspicuous place for Jehovah’s Witnesses to be able to read and reflect upon it.
The assertion by the Watch Tower Society, that full theocratic control was initiated in 1938 when the congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses voted to have the corporation make all appointments of church officers, is totally absurd. Obviously, that which is set up democratically can be done away with likewise. Therefore, the theocracy that supposedly prevails among Jehovah’s Witnesses only does so by voluntary democratic will. In other words, Jehovah’s Witnesses have a democratic form of theocracy, as does Canada which, in preamble to its 1981 Charter of Rights and Freedoms, recognizes the supremacy of God.
The Bible gives unmistakable details to establish that theocracy operates at all times no matter what the style or form of government is. God’s chosen people of ancient times had patriarchal, judicial, hierarchical and royal forms of government, alone or combined. Theocracy even existed when foreign rulers controlled Israel. The king and emperor of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, was graphically made aware of this fact.
Regardless of style, all civil administrations are subject and accountable to God, even those that do not believe God exists. As long as God’s people adhere to God’s truth and justice, it does not matter what kind of government is employed by them.
Russell and his associate Bible Students understood that personal self-government, in accord with one’s own conscience, meant that each- individual was accountable to the leader of the Christian congregation, Christ Jesus. Only when each individual’s conscientious beliefs are respected can there be personal religious freedom. This same understanding was held by the founders of the United. States of America over 200 years ago, causing them to-declare, in the first amendment to the Constitution; "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;..."
It is because of the fact that this concept has been forgotten that Jehovah’s Witnesses have been led astray into acceptance of centralized and excessively organized control by a corporate religious entity. Thus did the servant, which was called a mere business association by its founder, C.T. Russell, become the master over those it formerly served.
Without the necessary vigilance, all human organizations, be they religious or any other kind, tend to gravitate toward eventual control by the sort of people who care more for authority than for caring for others’ needs.
For the most part, Jehovah’s Witnesses are idealistic, moral and law-abiding citizens of their respective countries. They are the nice, easygoing kind of people that can be taken advantage of. Their zeal and determination are remarkable. It is directly due to their generosity and hard work that the Watchtower organization is so materially wealthy.
Despite these facts the Watchtower corporate leadership mistreats them. Hundreds of thousands of Jehovah’s Witnesses have become disillusioned with the organization and have left it behind. Many thousands of others have been falsely accused and wrongfully put out of the organization that is said to be the haven of safety for anyone wishing to survive Armageddon.
Many thousands more continue to be drawn into association with the Watchtower every year. They will bring their contributions into the organization, adding to its material prosperity. Like a revolving door they will come and go and the corporation will simply keep on growing.
It is a perfect formula to amass fortune and increase the control and influence over people. Even though the membership increases, none of those remaining have any share in the holdings of the corporation, with the exception of the few hundred members who happen to be part of the corporation’s membership as well.
It is too bad that the deception of the Watchtower leadership could not be perceived by individuals before joining this religion. Unfortunately, the method of conversion and indoctrination is so subtle and refined that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not realize how it works even though they may have been using the Society’s technique for many years. Even those Witnesses that have seen the error and injustice of the Watchtower do not fully understand it.
Watchtower Indoctrination Program Explained
There are several factors that work together to effectively cause individuals to want to accept the message brought to them by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Most of them could be characterized as packaging, the kind of details that appeal to our senses, that attract "consumers". The other factor could be called the "product", that which we want to buy.
To simplify the explanation as much as possible, I will identify the "faithful and discreet slave", Christ’s appointed representative on earth, as the item being sold. As with any product, it is important to the producer to sell the thing produced and to have the product used as directed so that profits will come to the producer as more and more people learn of his product and buy it as well.
In this case, the product and the producer are one and the same. The Watchtower corporation’s board of directors and/or the alleged unincorporated governing body that is supposedly associated with that directorate, claims to be the true faithful and discreet slave, the one that has direct connection to Christ whom, it is claimed, they directly represent. They are selling themselves.
It is extremely important to know this slave’s identity for it is only by association with that slave that anyone can know for certain what the truth of the Bible is. In turn, knowing what the truth is will assure one salvation from destruction at Armageddon and will guarantee everlasting life in a paradise new earth.
It is a simple enough proposition to explain that the unique system of interpretation employed by the Watchtower is very convincing when demonstrating to others the seeming parallels between the Witness religion and that of the first century Christian congregation. Likewise it is easily understood that a good case can be made that Christ’s anointed disciples oversee that religious body very much like the apostles did the early church.
However, how do we explain the process which takes people from a questioning, doubtful perspective and converts them to a gullible, unquestioning one? This is particularly puzzling in view of the emphasis placed by the Witnesses on the necessity and obligation to make sure of all things, safeguard thinking ability, use discernment and keep testing every teaching by comparing it to the Bible’s teachings.
For example; in a book designed specifically for effective conversion of interested persons within six months, the Watch Tower wrote: "We need to examine, not only what we personally believe, but also what is taught by any religious organization with which we may be associated. Are its teachings in full harmony with God’s Word, or are they based on the traditions of men? If we are lovers of the truth, there is nothing to fear from such an examination. It should be the sincere desire of every one of us to learn what God’s will is for us, and then do it.- John 8:32. The mere fact that church members may have the Bible or that it is occasionally read to them from the pulpit does not of itself prove that all the things they are taught are in the Bible. It is good to have the Bible; each and every person should. But we must also know what it says and believe it. If a religion really accepts the Bible as God’s Word, it is not going to use certain parts of it and reject other parts. "All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight." (2 Timothy 3:16) Since this is so, the religion that is approved by God must agree in all its details with the Bible." The Truth that Leads to Eternal Life (1968) p. 13.
That book, believed to have been the most effective teaching aid ever produced by the Watch Tower, makes plain that the true religion must agree in all details with the Bible. Obviously there is a lot of questioning to be done by Witness converts, even after their membership is formalized by baptism, for they have only learned the basics by that time.
Whenever an interested person hesitates to get baptized because of feeling he does not yet know the complete theology of Jehovah’s Witnesses, that one is told that it is a mistake to put off baptism. After all, once one comes to know Jehovah God and accepts his son as our saviour, what else is necessary for salvation? The rest will be learned later.
From this it can be appreciated that the indoctrination program is designed to give a person sufficient knowledge of the Bible to make a commitment to join the Witness religion, with the understanding that the learning process will continue after baptism. Never is there any suggestion that questioning of doctrine will be disallowed.
The Bible study program begins with the explanations of doctrinal matters. The truth is taught and that which is not true is presented superficially ma manner that seems to be true. However, as the weeks go by, the Witness conducting the study begins to bring up the subject of the organization, explaining all the fine and commendable points about the preaching work it does, the high moral standard it follows, etc. Naturally, this leads to discussions about that group of men who are responsible for directing this fine religious organization. Over a period of time the prospective convert is encouraged to consider the Society’s leaders as possibly being the faithful and discreet slave appointed by Christ.
Having been allowed and encouraged to check Watchtower teachings with the Bible until the time he comes to believe that he is being taught the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, the prospective convert logically accepts the Witness leaders as being the faithful and discreet slave.
Now we are coming to the crucial period of transition from outspoken questioner to submissive follower. Having seemed to be proven truthful, the governing body is now seen to be trustworthy. Consequently there does not need to be the same degree of scrutiny and testing as there was in the beginning, does there? Now the convert believes he is safe from deception. Surely the faithful and discreet slave would adhere unerringly to the Word of God, just as Christ himself did.
The new convert is now vulnerable to being deceived. He is not making his membership decision on the basis that he fully knows the truth of the Bible. His commitment is based on his belief that he does not have to know the truth fully because he knows who the slave class is and they know the truth. Whereas it was previously the position that one must and can identify the real faithful and discreet slave on the basis that his teachings concur with the Bible truth, now the position is changed so that one can identify what is really the truth of God’s Word the Bible because it comes from the faithful and discreet slave.
Here we discern the ambiguity and duplicity of the Watch Tower organization. They correctly teach that every inspired expression is to be tested, even if it comes from an angel, as the apostle Paul said. That is because each one is directly accountable to God for what he believes. Each one must have his own faith. Even if they were part of the faithful and discreet slave, there must be a testing of their teachings by every Jehovah’s Witness. Furthermore, any deviation from Scripture is properly subject to criticism by any Jehovah’s Witness member. Galatians 1:8.
No prospective convert is forewarned about this change in the rules. It is abundantly clear that had each new member been told of this change, no one would become a Jehovah’s Witness. Especially would this be the case if they were also told that disagreement with the so-called faithful and discreet slave would result in disfellowshipping from the church on the charge of apostasy. Therefore, the inducement to "buy" the faithful and discreet slave and become a member of the Watchtower movement and contribute to its growth is fraud.
Used as directed, the faithful and discreet slave makes faith so much easier. It is designed to simplify the task of thinking, similar to our household appliances making our domestic tasks less demanding in terms of time and effort. Bluntly put, use of the faithful and discreet slave allows Jehovah’s Witnesses to check their brains in at the door of entrance to the Watchtower movement.
Part of the reason for the success of this strategy rests with the inherent need for security that humans have. It is reassuring to have someone take charge and look after our needs. People who are totally dependent on others to do their thinking and decision-making are like children and those they depend upon are like parents.
Interestingly, the Watch Tower Society portrays itself as mother to the religious association thereby setting the context of the church in a parent/child relationship with the general membership.
In his book, I’m OK - You’re OK, Thomas A. Harris, M.D., observed: "The Parent-Child nature of most Western religions is remarkable when one considers that the revolutionary impact of the most revered religious leaders was directly the result of their courage to examine Parent institutions and proceed, with the Adult, in search of truth. It takes only one generation for a good thing to become a bad thing, for an inference about experience to become dogma. Dogma is the enemy of truth and the enemy of persons. Dogma says, "Do not think! Be less than a person." The ideas enshrined in dogma may include good and wise ideas, but dogma is bad in itself because it is accepted as good without examination." p.260
How accurately this observation fits the situation of Jehovah’s Witnesses! From a position of challenging the doctrines of the major religions to the suppression of thought, speech and conscience of its own members today.
The Watch Tower has not applied the counsel of Jesus Christ concerning the acceptance of parental authority within the church. He said; "Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly one." Matthew 23:9.
The apostle Paul exhorted Christians to become adults in a spiritual sense. "Brothers, do not become young children in powers of understanding, but be babes as to badness; yet become full-grown in powers of understanding." 1 Corinthians 14:20.
In the days of C.T. Russell there was allowance for differing opinions. Today there is no tolerance for sincere conscientious disagreement. Until several years ago, one was not accused of sectarianism if privately held differences of opinion were expressed on, another’s enquiry. It was held that only if a person persisted in propagating different views with the obvious motive of splitting the congregation was he to be considered as an apostate or sectarian. Today, if it is suspected that someone may have a serious doubt concerning Watch Tower doctrine, the elders will interrogate that one in their attempt to ferret it out. If successful in discovering there is a difference of opinion with the Society that one will be expelled from the church, even though he has never spoken to any other members of the church concerning the issue.
It has even become the policy of the Watch Tower to ostracize by disfellowship and its related shunning, those who quietly leave the organization without so much as one word of dissent.
Personal conscience was given more respect in earlier times because of the meaning of baptism. For many decades, in harmony with Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 28:19, baptism was understood to involve a direct relationship of the one baptized to God, Christ and the holy spirit which teaches Christians the truth. Christians did God’s will as revealed by the enlightening power of holy spirit. Since June of 1985 the spirit comes indirectly through the organization. Consequently, new Witnesses cannot learn truth on their own.
Civil Liberties Suppressed and Natural Justice Denied
The previous section explains some of the contributing factors of the extremely effective indoctrination technique which, in turn, lays the basis for the suppression of the freedoms of religion, conscience, thought and speech.
One of the most controversial issues affecting Jehovah’s Witnesses is that of blood transfusion. Especially does it become controversial when minor children are involved. The manner in which this issue is handled by the Watch Tower serves to demonstrate quite clearly how civil liberties are suppressed.
The Watch Tower Society used to view the decision of a Witness to have a blood transfusion as a matter of personal conscience. That was due to the opinion that since there is no specific prohibition of blood transfusions mentioned anywhere in the Bible, it would be wrong to say someone was breaking God’s law.
God’s principles are not always stated as clearly as is His law. The Bible texts which touch on the subject of animal blood could be interpreted to imply that blood transfusions are wrong. This would allow for an individual the right to exercise his own judgment in making a decision in this matter.
At present, despite there being no explicit law of God respecting blood transfusions, the Watch Tower Society prohibits, on pain and penalty of disfellowship, the acceptance of this form of medical treatment for adult Witnesses and their children.
Furthermore, there has been no little confusion as a result of changes to the Society’s line of argumentation and policies in this matter of blood. They used to say transfusion of human blood was the same as human organ transplants; cannibalism. In the last few years they have dropped the view that organ transplants are cannibalism. Blood fractions such as white cells were not to be accepted by injection but the Society has made an exception for hemophiliacs who require a particular blood factor for clotting.
In this context, imagine the quandary Witness parents are likely to find themselves in in the event a child requires emergency surgery. Usually, child welfare agencies will try to obtain custody of such children against the wishes of the parents. While the Watch Tower vehemently protests what it considers to be a violation of civil liberties on the part of the government, they themselves will not allow the Witness parents the right to choose a blood transfusion, even though the parents sincerely feel, in their own minds, that such is not wrong. The Watch Tower displays gross hypocrisy in such a case.
Witness parents do not want their children to die but neither do they wish to suffer disfellowshipping and risk what they believe will be eternal destruction at God’s hand, with no hope of a resurrection.
The Bible instructs Christians to make allowance for those with weak consciences. God does not consider a mistake based upon sincere conscience to be unforgivable. The Watch Tower teaches these principles yet they refuse to make allowance for individual conscience in such a case as that involving blood transfusion.
In view of the foregoing, it is not strange to observe that the principles of natural justice are also being denied. Although the Society teaches that it adheres to the very highest level of justice, that of Jehovah God, it has been documented time and time again that it does not.
However, because internal disciplinary hearings are conducted privately, away from the general membership of the congregation, Jehovah’s Witnesses are not in a position to know the facts of any particular case. This, in itself, is a violation of natural justice. A common expression among judges and lawyers is; "Justice must be seen to be done." It is very important that justice be administered publicly as noted by the Watch Tower Society on page 384 of its reference book entitled, Aid to Bible Understanding, under the heading, Court, Judicial.
Other principles of natural justice that most people readily understand are: the right to an impartial hearing, the right to make a defense, the right to face one’s accusers in cross-examination. An accused should be told what the specific charge against him is and the details of the incident(s) allegedly involved as well as the names and testimony of the witnesses accusing him. Other points could be added but these should suffice to show what is meant by natural justice.
Here again we are confronted with hypocrisy by the Society. I, personally, am familiar with many cases of injustice committed by church tribunals against Jehovah’s Witnesses. My own case is among the many. Although the rules of the Society allowed me to have trial de novo appeal (a complete trial, a rehearing of the original case), I never received such. That is documented in the transcript of my hearing before the secular Court of Queen’s Bench of Manitoba, Canada - 1977.
Many have been summarily expelled from the congregations without even having a hearing. Many persons have been expelled ex post facto (retroactive from enactment of law). Many have been subjected to hearings at which members of the judicial committee also served as witnesses and accusers against them.
Concerning ex post facto law: the Constitution of the United States, Section 9 (3) states that; "No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed." The French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789 - reaffirmed by the constitution of, 1958) says, in Article 8; "The Law must prescribe only the punishments that are strictly and evidently necessary; and no one may be punished except by virtue of a Law drawn up and promulgated before the offence is committed, and legally applied." The United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) states, in Article 11 (2); "No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed."
Obviously the idea of retroactive punishment is repugnant to peoples’ sense of justice. Furthermore, the Watch Tower Society has, itself, acknowledged that it is not proper to retroactively judge cases. Kingdom Service Questions booklet, (1961) p. 60.
Nevertheless, Raymond Franz, former member of the governing body and nephew of Fred Franz, president of the Watch Tower, was disfellowshipped retroactively. He was convicted of sharing a meal with another Witness, someone who had resigned from the organization. However, this incident occurred before the Watch Tower made it a policy to disfellowship such resigners. (Jehovah’s Witnesses are forbidden to socialize with disfellowshipped persons, but the individual in question was not yet disfellowshipped when Ray Franz was seen with him.) This is detailed in Ray Franz’ book, Crisis of Conscience (1983) pp. 384-5.
Others similarly expelled have taken their cases to the civil courts in the United States and have had their petitions denied. There seems to be some strange rationale on the part of the judiciary, that civil liberties violations and disregard for the principles of natural justice by a church should not be actionable in a court of law because of the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Apparently churches can act with impunity except in extreme cases of wrongdoing. Religious liberty is interpreted to mean organizational rather than individual liberty, and that interpretation creates a, number of legal anomalies that have to be examined so there can be some satisfactory resolution to this growing problem of injustice.
First Amendment Misinterpreted
It has become necessary to review the historical background of the United States’ Constitution in order to correctly understand the proper meaning of the first amendment re: religious freedom because the passage of time has contributed to the loss of its original meaning and intent.
When the thirteen colonies revolted against England it was due to the fact that the colonists were not being treated as free men. Whereas most people today are aware of the economic and military oppression of the American colonists, many, it seems, have forgotten the element of religious oppression that was also experienced by Americans.
Patrick Henry once saw a man whipped so mercilessly that he later died. That man was a preacher who refused to buy a licence to preach. William Penn was once on trial for his life because of disagreeing with the doctrine of the Church of England.
Religious freedom for individuals was what was on the minds of the early Americans as they drafted the Constitution and its first Amendment, not organizational religious freedom. A few simple questions about the wording of the first amendment will make this clear.
When it says that; "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" is the first amendment using the word ‘establishment’ as a noun or a verb? Although the word establishment comes from establish, which is a verb, it is predominantly used as a noun but is sometimes used as a verb when referring to the act of establishing something.
Evidently, the ability to interpret establishment either way creates ambiguity. To determine which is correct, we need to ask what the term establishment of religion meant back then. Actually, it still carries the same basic meaning today. The religious establishment back then was the Church of England, as it continues to be today. There are established religions in many countries today and the term established church means the identical thing now as it did 200 years ago. A particular church is sanctioned by the government of the land to be the official state church.
There is one very significant difference between then and now. Most countries enjoy a condition of relative religious tolerance. Where there are established churches there is usually freedom of religion for other beliefs as well. Two hundred years ago established churches were not at all tolerant of those who differed. The pages of history are filled to overflowing with the details of religious tyranny and persecution. The doctrine of the established church was part of the law of the land. Disagreement with that doctrine was a crime and was punishable even to death.
While the Anglican Church continues as the established church in England, what religion became established in the United States? None, of course. Why? Because the first amendment prohibited Congress from making any law respecting an establishment of religion.
To interpret ‘an establishment of religion’ to mean any church organization is to ignore and downplay the special significance attached to it by hundreds of years of common tradition. Our modern usage of the word establishment allows us to call any kind of business or organization an establishment.
When it is realized that only a state-sanctioned church can be properly called an establishment, and when it is noted that the United States has no religious establishment according to the proper meaning of the term, then it becomes clear that the first amendment would have to be totally unnecessary. How could Congress make any law respecting religious establishment (to regulate or interfere) when there is no religious establishment anywhere in the United States to be interfered with?
When secular courts treat all religious organizations as establishments of religion, free from governmental regulation, they create serious inconsistencies in law. As already mentioned, they allow inalienable rights to be alienated from American citizens. They allow the outrageous ex post facto injustices to stand. That is not all.
In effect, whereas Congress has not made, nor can it make any law which establishes a religious organization to be the official state church, the courts have made law which makes all religions official. All the various religions have state sanction to mistreat their own members much like the medieval churches did to their members except they are not allowed to burn them at the stake or otherwise execute them for exercising their consciences.
According to legal doctrine, organizations are considered to be the equals of humans and are accorded status as legal persons. What happens to the principle of equal justice before the law? One individual cannot impose his personal beliefs on another, nor restrict another from the exercise of free speech. However, if an individual registers a corporate agency, he can vicariously, through that corporation, suppress other persons’ civil rights.
When courts allow religious organizations, such as the Watch Tower, to violate what is normally the law of the land, by violating civil liberties and denying natural justice to others, they are parties to these illegal activities. They aid and abet.
It must be remembered that when courts place their seals on corporation charters, they do so after inspecting them to see whether or not they comply with the law. If someone wanted to register a charter with purposes similar to those of the Watch Tower, to preach and teach the Bible, etc., etc., but included the notice that he would endeavour to fulfill these goals by fraud, deception and the suppression of civil liberties and natural justice, what court of law anywhere on this earth, let alone the United States, would authorize such a charter? None, of course.
Finally, it must be noted that the purposes and goals of the Watch Tower Society are stated to be accomplished lawfully. The Society was not coerced into lawful pursuit of these objectives. They willingly accepted the limitations of the law. How can the courts be reluctant, in this context; to hold the Watch Tower accountable for its actions? W’tower Dec. 15/88, footnote p. 760.
Much more information could be presented, if time were available, to prove beyond the shadow of doubt that the Watch Tower Society is unjust, hypocritical, deceptive and harmful to the spiritual and emotional well-being of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Hopefully the New York City Board of Estimate will see fit to initiate some sort of review of the operations of the Watch Tower. Please, bear in mind that it is not the body of believers in general that are the problem. They are dupes of the Watch Tower, and its victims. I believe that the Witnesses’ are being defrauded by the Watch Tower and that they should be reimbursed. If the Watch Tower will not correct its injustices then it should have its charter revoked.
Submitted on appearance before the New York City
Board of Estimate by Chris Christensen of the
Rural Municipality of Lac du Bonnet of the Province
of Manitoba, Canada on September 29, 1988
[Attached was a copy of pages 748–762 of The Watchtower December 15, 1971]
 reference quotes from The Watchtower