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Roundup of JWs in the News

Roundup of JWs in the News

Recent conversations in the comments have reminded me that I haven’t done my posting of recent news related to Jehovah’s Witnesses. The purpose in doing this is simply to highlight, over time, the kinds of issues that the JW mindset and set of demands can create or intensify in some. It is meant to encourage more compassionate and ethical policies and behaviors within the Watchtower organization and to help former JWs understand some of the clusters of danger that may be worthwhile to (even further) transcend.

Ex-JWs: Use What You’ve Got

First off, there is a very humorous treatment of growing up as a JW in a new book by Kyria Abrahams called I’m Perfect, You’re Doomed: Tales from a Jehovah’s Witness Upbringing. It’s on my wishlist, and I’ll let you know what I think of it once I’ve had the chance to read it. It looks promising as a bit of comic relief.

Given that Abrahams is now a stand-up comic and spoken-word poet, it makes perfect sense to begin her very funny memoir with her performance debut at the Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Kingdom Hall, at age 8 (her presentation was about freedom from demon possession). She describes the children’s books she read as a child as a cross between “Dr. Seuss rhymes and tales of how sinners would scream and gnash their teeth at Armageddon.” In her world, Smurfs were “little blue demons” and yard sales were enticements from Satan. As a bored teenager with OCD, she didn’t know what to do with herself or how to make sense of the world. On the verge of 18, she married a 24-year-old part-time college math teacher because, even if his interest in her was, at best, halfhearted, she wanted a boyfriend and didn’t know any other Jehovah’s Witnesses who liked her. Anyway, she reasons, “this is what adults did, and I was an adult.” It wasn’t long before she longed to be out of the marriage.

Author Lisa Foad writes in a fractured, variable, and somewhat surreal style – trying to say the unsayable takes you on some funky roads sometimes. She thinks her approach to writing might be a side effect of her Jehovah’s Witness upbringing.

“After an assembly where they were talking about the folly of music,” Foad recalls from her early childhood, “I went home and broke records with my dad. We broke Led Zeppelin, Cream. But I had this Wham! record I really liked. I didn’t want to break my Wham! record but then he reminded me that in the paradise I would have a pet tiger, a pet lion. What are you going to do? It was a trade I was willing to make. There’s so much fodder in that.”

Check out her book: The Night Is a Mouth

In other, depressing but illuminating JW book news, get a child’s eye perspective on Jehovah’s Witnesses by reading William Coburn’s The Spanking Room: A Child’s Eye View of the Jehovah Witnesses.

I had stopped vomiting, but still shook and sobbed. Mom returned to the room to sit on the edge of my bed. Again she asked, “Billy what’s wrong?” “That was my bus route,” I whispered when I could get words out. “What if someone I knew came to the door?” “So?” “They’d find out I was a Jehovah’s Witness.” Mom’s hand met the side of my head in a flash of brilliant white light and an explosion of pain. I collapsed onto the mattress while she flailed at me, her rage-clenched fists thudding into my eight-year-old body. “How dare you?” she shrieked. “You awful, rotten child! How dare you be ashamed of Jehovah? I hate you! I hate you!”

The Spanking Room is the true story of a young boy’s upbringing, and how the unorthodox doctrines of the Watchtower Society encourage violence against its most helpless members–the children.

Artist Lindsay O’Leary’s piece “Pedaling Backwards, Moving Forward: How to Lose 100 pounds in 365 days” is part of an exhibit in the opening of “Gestures 13” at the Mattress Factory. She has created a scaled model of her childhood home that is controlled by a stationary bicycle to represent her “old self and old habits.”

“Inside my childhood home, there’s a silhouette of me praying,” O’Leary says. “All of the silhouettes of me (except the biking one in the garage) are of me when I was obese. I was a Jehovah’s Witness from birth to (age) 21. We had to pray every day and attended five ‘meetings’ at the Kingdom Hall each week.

“It’s a really strict religion, so, to say that it has had a huge impact on who I am today would be an understatement,” she says. “From not being able to recite the Pledge of Allegiance throughout elementary school to not celebrating birthdays to being forbidden from participating in any competitive sport, again, the imprint it has had on my life was/is massive.”

O’Leary says the real irony is in where she has found her new home. The Mexican War Streets is where Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the precursor to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, lived and preached.

Media Talk

Katherine Jackson has been taking Michael Jackson’s three children to the meetings at the Kingdom Hall (of Jehovah’s Witnesses) to “help them deal with the death of their famous father.”

Michael stopped being a Jehovah’s Witness 1985 but reportedly resumed attending the Church’s meetings throughout his child molestation trial. Katherine and the eldest child Rebbie are the only two remaining Jehovah’s Witnesses in the family.

I would prefer to remember Michael for his music and performances, and his work to help fight AIDS. I wish I’d gone to talk with him as I felt called to do.

Oh, and this season of Big Brother features a former JW, Kevin.

He is a 30 year old graphic designer who was excommunicated at 21 from his Jehovah’s Witness raising. Therefore has lost contact with his family and friends. However, he has chosen to work through it instead of letting it tear him down. He is of Japanese/ African-American heritage. Adversity is something he is used to overcoming so the prediction is he will do well in the house.

Murder

The most horrific story in the news right now has to be about the Texan JW Otty Sanchez, 33, who decapitated, dismembered, and partially cannibalized her 3-1/2-week-old baby, Scott Wesley Buchholtz-Sanchez. She claims the devil told her to do it. She told him Scott W. Buchholz, the infant’s father, that she was schizophrenic a week before the slaying. She was diagnosed, however, with depression. Buchholz, who said he is schizophrenic, has announced that she said that she was going to leave him, and he wants her to receive the death penalty.

McManus, who appeared uncomfortable as he addressed reporters, said Sanchez apparently ate the child’s brain and some other body parts. She also decapitated the infant, tore off his face and chewed off three of his toes before stabbing herself.

In Bielefeld, Germany, an 82-year-old man who blames the Jehovah’s Witnesses for making him lose contact with his daughter, stormed a gathering of some 80 Jehovah’s Witnesses. He was wearing a mask and was armed with a machine gun. No-one was injured; the gun didn’t fire. He was seized by two congregation members as he headed back to the car. Officers also found a samurai sword, three clips of bullets and a knife in the man’s car, parked nearby.

In the tiny hamlet of Porth Kea, near Truro in England, Jonathan Cock – a 24-year-old RAF veteran from Moor Vue Fram, Penzanze – murdered his girlfriend’s Jehovah’s Witness father (41-year-old Adam Hustler) and shot her mother (Amanda Hustler) in the back in revenge for ending the couple’s “forbidden” love affair. Ex-girlfriend Danielle Hustler, 20, (are they for real with these names?) had a minor injury in the arm from a bullet graze. Mr. Cock was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Jonathan Cock blamed Jehovah’s Witnesses Adam and Amanda Hustler for thwarting his romance with their daughter Danielle because the religion bars relationships with outsiders…. The court heard Cock and Danielle fell in love while working for her dad’s drain clearing firm. He converted to her religion, but she later split with “controlling” Cock. He carried out the killing three weeks later.

Estranged JW husband Michael Smith, 37, is on trial for first-degree murder of Eugena Smith. Eugena had written a letter of disassociation from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, saying that her decision was final. The letter, which was read aloud to a trial jury, was found by investigators “lying among a pile of clothing on the floor of Eugena Smith’s bedroom, shortly after the 33-year-old St. Thomas woman was found murdered.”

The Crown argued in an opening statement Tuesday that Eugena Smith was trying to leave both her husband, and her church, just days before she died on June 7, 2007. Michael Smith, the Crown says, thought she was having an affair.

After JW William Redman murdered his 12-year-old daughter, he told a 911 operator that she was dead because that was “…the way Jehovah does things.” Evidently he “fell on her” with a knife.

Police arrived at the Roadrunner RV park to find the father covered in blood in front of the home, the mother, Rosemary Redman, screaming, “What did you do to my baby?” Inside, their daughter was lying in a pool of blood, a knife lying under her chest and her neck deeply gashed.

Sexual Violence / Pedophilia

New Hampshire resident JW, Robert Matheson, pleaded guilty repin Salem Superior Court to four counts of indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14. He had been planning to run away to Plum Island with a girl he had been molesting at his beach house for the last three years. The JWs alerted authorities (this must be a state where it’s required to do so).

Matheson told police that he began molesting the girl during a time when he was struggling with unemployment and disconnected from his faith, and said he was “persuaded” by Internet pornography. The sentencing was pushed to Friday in order for Matheson to face sexual assault charges on a “compatible case” in New Hampshire.

Wigan Today reports that Daniel Simonetti, a 31-year-old Jehovah’s Witness, let himself into the home of an 89-year-old woman and brutally assaulted her. He denied rape, which was dropped, but admitted assault by penetration. Jailing Simonetti indefinitely, Judge John Roberts branded him “dangerous to vulnerable females.” Simonetti had previously assaulted a 4-year-old girl, for which he was never prosecuted.

Francis Gandhi a Jehovah’s Witness elder/ministerial servant (the article says “pastor”) was detained at the Kailahun Police Station for the alleged rape of an 11-year old student of the SLMB Mission in Kailahun.

On 4th of April 2009, she said that they came home from work and discovered that the girl has not returned home and immediately they contacted her grandmother who told them that the young girl had left for her home around 5pm. “We went in search of her moving from one place to place, relatives to relatives we could not find her and we returned home as it was getting close to 10pm” she said while in bed somebody knocked on her window and when asked she heard the voice of her daughter. “I jumped out of my bed and enquired from her where she was coming from only to tell me that she was in the room with a man of God.”

Robert Edward Bill, 54, a former teacher, businessman and “senior Jehovah’s Witness” attempted to abduct a five-year-old and was sentenced to six years in prison.

He has been found guilty at separate trials of the attempted abduction of the girl in Holywell two years ago, of indecently assaulting a seven-year-old 10 years ago, and of possessing 730 pornographic images of children. … Mr Medland said Bill of The Roe, St Asaph, Denbighshire, had been driving slowly around areas where he was likely to come into contact with children that same day. He’d claimed that he was trying to fix a mechanical problem with his car.

His wife and son were also sentenced:

Jacqueline Bill, his 51-year-old wife, received a suspended six-month jail sentence after pleading guilty to trying to pervert the course of justice by destroying a laptop hard drive, and must do 250 hours unpaid work. Bill’s son David, 24, of Mount Road, St Asaph, must do 150 hours unpaid work after also admitting that he tried to pervert the course of justice.

Thirty-five-year-old JW Shane Thomas Thorne had a child pornography collection of more than a thousand images, many of which involved children as young as five years old. He was sentenced to two years, but is due to be released on November 16, 2010.

Evidence was heard that Thorne grew up in a violent family environment and was sexually abused as a teenager. …”There is nothing to indicate that he has acknowledged the injury caused by his actions,” Mr Johnson said. “There is no realisation expressed or reported of any acknowledgement of the harm done to children in child pornography.” He told Thorne that a sentence must be imposed that would reflect the community horror and the disgust for the use of children for sexual gratification.

Selective Clampdown on Freedom of Religion, or “The Persecution Justification for Claims of JW Righteousness”

Novoshakhtinsk prosecutors from the Rostov region in Russian have sent case files to an investigative body to consider a criminal prosecution local members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization for preaching in public places, propagating the exclusivity and supremacy of the Jehovah’s religious doctrine above all others and promoting refusal from civil duty, voting at elections and serving in the army. The regional prosecutor also asked the Rostov regional court to order the closure of the organization in Taganrog for extremist activities, including the incitement of religious hatred and human rights violations. This situation is heating up…

The deportations of four lawyers since March strike at the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ already pressed defence against attempts to ban their literature as extremist, one of those deported, Mario Moreno, has told Forum 18 News Service. The lawyers – two Americans and two Canadians – were defending in four out of seven simultaneous local extremism cases against Jehovah’s Witnesses. A recent police detention allegedly involving torture and a raid on a Sunday service – after which one worshipper had a miscarriage and another was sent to a children’s shelter – suggest the law enforcement agencies continue to view Jehovah’s Witnesses as religious extremists even without a ban.

In Israel, the Human Rights Report for 2008 shows that police needed to be reminded (again) that it is their duty to fully investigate crimes against minority religious communities:

Members of Jehovah’s Witnesses reported an increase in assaults and other crimes against their membership in 2007 and during the year and noted the difficulties their members faced convincing the police to investigate or apprehend the perpetrators. Between September 2007 and September, members of Jehovah’s Witnesses filed 46 criminal complaints against antimissionary activists, most of whom belong to the Haredi antimissionary organization Yad L’Achim. The crimes ranged from harassment to assault. Police responded to 15 of 35 calls for assistance during the same time period, according to the Jehovah’s Witnesses legal department. The JIJ noted a similar increase in crimes and violent assaults against members of the congregations it represents.

JW Disappearance

Eridania Rodriguez, a 46-year-old married mother of three, disappeared from her night job as a cleaning woman in Manhatten. Police found her cleaning cart on the eighth floor and her street clothes and purse in her locker.

“I think she was kidnapped,” said Figueroa. She said she was suspicious of a DOT worker who her mother often saw on the eighth floor. “She was really terrified of him,” she said.

Rodriguez’s brother, Cesar, 28, ruled out the possibility of a jealous lover. “My sister is not like that,” he said. “She does not have a boyfriend. She is a Jehovah’s Witness.”

Money, Money, Money

Securities industry regulators report that say Kenneth George Neely, a Jehovah’s Witness stockbroker from St. Peters, MO ran an eight-year ponzi scheme in which he swindled brokerage customers, fellow church members and a cousin. It seems that Neely ran up some bills buying dinners and drinks for clients and friends at his country club just at a time when his personal income had declined.

“It was during this period of personal financial stress that (Neely) conceived and effected his ponzi scheme,” FINRA said in its order. He invented the “St. Louis Investment Club” and the equally phony “St. Charles REIT,” promising 20 percent returns. He made up investment “certificates” for the club and REIT to give to clients. His first investor was a cousin who invested $30,000, expecting returns of up to 10 percent.

Neely portrayed membership in the investment club as exclusive. He told a retiree, a longtime friend and fellow church member (Neely is a Jehovah’s Witness) that he would tell her when “openings” occurred in the club. “Seven or eight” other church members invested in the scam, said James Shorris, executive vice president at FINRA.

Maxine Kennedy, the JW school secretary for Scotlandville High School in Lousiana, ran amok with the school’s credit card. For some 28 months, she bought groceries and furniture, paid bills, and got cash advances. She also allegedly allowed her daughter, Toni, to use the card, including for large cash advances, and a Jehovah’s Witnesses convention.

Legal News

Lawrence Hughes abandoned his Jehovah’s Witness faith to fight for a blood transfusion for his daughter, Bethany, who had acute myeloid leukemia. He has since lost his daughter and been disfellowshipped. But he’s still fighting, even after divorce and bankruptcy.

What it most clearly does not say is that Mr. Hughes is necessarily wrong in claiming that his daughter received problematic advice from lawyers working not just for her, but also for a religious body intent on seeing her denied the blood she needed. “If I was advising [the Watchtower Society and its lawyers] I would now say, ‘At some point, this is no longer going to work out for you,’ ” Ms. Woolley says.

When Bethany Hughes died in the summer of 2002, her story was national news; the girl, just turned 17, had been diagnosed earlier that year with acute myeloid leukemia, but had fought, legally and physically, blood transfusions prescribed by doctors on religious grounds, her resistance abetted by lawyers from a firm that, by all available evidence, is a branch of the Watchtower Society itself, retaining the church as its primary client – a “captive law firm” as one judge described Glen How and Associates, employer of Bethany’s lawyers David Gnam and Shane Brady. The firm is even located within the Watchtower Society’s Georgetown, Ont. compound.

Armageddon’s Gonna Git-choo

A sweet blog post on the moon landing reminds us that on the day in 1969 in Chicago, 38,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses, who had crammed into Comiskey Park, saw the landing as “a sign that our universe is in its last days.”

I get the sense that there has been a serious effort towards positive PR. To a current JW, this must be a little bit humorous, in a macabre sort of way. Here’s the new approach:

JWs “don’t mean to scare people,” they say, but just to “provide believers with a revelations roadmap. A spiritual survival guide to emerge from Armageddon intact.” The May assemblies offered guidance on how to “avoid Satan’s snares. Because we know that the goal of Satan is to hamper people from surviving.”

The summer assemblies deny that JW’s approach Armaggeddon in a “fanatical way” but only to use “careful judgment in everyday life.”

Along with spiritual gains, he added that avoiding negative behaviors has very real benefits: money can be spent in better ways and a greater focus can be on family, for instance.

“People are being barraged all the time by different viewpoints of morality, different concerns for the economy,” West said. “We know by trusting God that we can cope with the most difficult situations in life and it gives us a positive hope in him.”

By lunchtime on Friday, the thousands of Witnesses and others who packed the Convocation Center, Northern Illinois University’s sports arena, had just finished listening to the keynote speaker. Darien Hanson called on the group to be “watchdogs” and to be alert to the signs of Jesus’ presence. A slackening of Christian expectations, he said, is detrimental to this.

Hanson also announced a very exciting offer: A DVD on creationism was being released that weekend, and each family in the audience could take home a copy. This is what Jean West was most excited about, as it would help illustrate God as a creator, she said.

“It tells us we have a maker who’s intelligent,” her husband added.

Though the Bible teaches that God both created the world and will someday end the world, neither the 24th chapter of Matthew nor Jehovah’s Witnesses know when that will be.

“We feel that there is going to be this change,” West said.

As written in Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples that preceding this time will be wars, famine, false prophets and the like. This makes the 2009 district convention theme very “timely,” West said, noting how much has changed since the onset of World War I.

Research

The Pew Forum comparative study on religious beliefs and practices is very interesting and worth a read.

Donate for Watchtower Blood Lawsuit

Donate for Watchtower Blood Lawsuit

I’ve made a donation myself and I hope that you can send any amount via PayPal or postal service. It’s a reasonable fund-raising goal and I think it is very important to support this case. One man against the whole legal apparatus of the Watchtower Society is facing a hard road but there is a chance here for some amount of accountability. Here is the letter from Barbara Anderson:

Dear Friends,

For those unfamiliar with Lawrence Hughes, he’s a 55-year-old Canadian (Calgary, Alberta) architectural technician whose 16-year-old daughter Bethany was diagnosed in February 2002 with acute myeloid leukemia. The conventional treatment is chemotherapy with blood transfusions, treatment resisted by the Hughes family because they were Jehovah’s Witnesses. It was late afternoon, Feb. 13, 2002, when Lawrence Hughes and his wife were told by the local Hospital Liaison Committee (HLC) of Jehovah’s Witnesses that the Watch Tower Society (Jehovah’s Witnesses Corporate head) had already dispatched lawyers who were on their way to Calgary to represent the family.

In the hospital, Witnesses were standing guard in shifts in Bethany’s hospital room, to make sure no one forced Bethany to take blood, choking the corridor and pressing religious tracts on everybody. Hughes says Watch Tower representatives promised Bethany her resistance would be celebrated in the church publication Awake! That magazine, in the mid-1990s, fed a thirst for martyrdom with a cover showing the smiling photos of 26 “Youths Who Put God first,” by dying after refusing treatment.

After obtaining medical opinions, the Director of Child Welfare appealed to the Provincial Court to gain control of Bethany’s medical treatment. Control was granted on February 18, 2002 and medical treatment commenced over the objections of Bethany. By this time Lawrence Hughes was supportive of the blood transfusion treatment, but his wife was opposed.

The order was appealed but dismissed because the Court concluded that the treatment was in Bethany’s best interests. The Court determined Bethany to be a mature minor and entitled to be consulted, but decided that she was not in a position to make independent decisions about her treatment.

Shane Brady and David Gnam are Watch Tower attorneys and also Jehovah’s Witnesses. They represented Bethany and her mother in the appeal. Hughes endeavored to have them removed as counsel for Bethany on allegations of conflict of interest but was defeated. Brady and Gnam appealed to the Court of Appeal to stop the transfusions, but their appeal was dismissed. Also, leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada was refused.

By July 2, 2002, Bethany received some 80 transfusions, but the treatment was not effective and the doctors decided no more transfusions for Bethany. By her insistence, she was discharged from Alberta Children’s Hospital on July 13, 2002 and immediately sought an alternate form of treatment, namely, arsenic trioxide and Vitamin C, at Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton under the care of Drs. Turner and Belch. Bethany died September 5, 2002.

When Lawrence Hughes rejected Jehovah’s Witnesses teachings on blood transfusions and agreed to allow Bethany to undergo transfusions during her chemotherapy treatments, this, in effect, destroyed his marriage and he was shunned by Jehovah’s Witnesses. He and his wife divorced, October 2003.

After the court approved Hughes as an administrator of his daughter’s estate, he began litigation in 2004 on behalf of his daughter’s estate and in his own right against: Shane Brady, David Gnam, Merrill Morrell, Thomm Bokor, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Canada, Dr. A. Robert Turner, Dr. Andrew Belch, Cross Cancer Institute, and Alberta Cancer Board in a $1-million wrongful death suit. He alleged, amongst other things, inappropriate treatment of his daughter by the doctors at Cross Cancer institute; a conspiracy to prevent her from getting the proper treatment, and undue influence of his daughter causing her to withhold her consent to appropriate medical treatment.

In February 2006, the Watch Tower Society and its lawyers brought an action to strike out the statement of claim. Subsequently, the court struck out all of Hughes claims. He appealed the decision. On September 1, 2007, the Appeal Court agreed with the lower court except on two major claims—that Hughes has the right to sue the Watch Tower and its attorneys for deceit and misrepresentation; (Hughes contends that it was the attorneys who convinced Bethany, a minor, to go with the arsenic treatment. They misrepresented the benefits of withholding blood transfusions by pointing out to her that chemotherapy/blood transfusion protocol for her leukemia was experimental, which the high court stated was not.) Previously, in the lower court, Hughes had been removed as administrator of Bethany’s estate, but the Appeal Court ruled that Hughes should be restored as administrator. The decisions meant that Hughes could proceed with his legal action on behalf of his daughter’s estate over allegations the church’s influence hastened her death. Part of his argument will be that his daughter’s death certificate states her death was due to arsenic poisoning.

A while back, producers at the Canadian Broadcasting Company (CBC) Television Network planned to do a documentary on Lawrence Hughes’s case, but changed their minds when his lawsuit was thrown out. However, when he appealed the lower court decision, and the Court of Appeal overturned the previous decision in Hughes favor, re-instating him as the Administer Ad Litem of his daughter’s estate (being Administrator Ad Litem now gives him certain powers that places him in a good position legally), CBC producers once again contacted him to say they were interested in doing the one hour documentary.

As his daughter’s representative in behalf of her estate, Hughes asked Bethany’s lawyers to give him a list of the documents they possess in her file which relate to the “wrongful death” lawsuit that he has filed against them and the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Inc. of Canada, who they also represent. However, the attorneys are claiming Client/Counsel Privilege and refuse to provide an Affidavit of Records or give him pertinent documents. The hearing was April 16th and now he’s waiting for the decision. However, the court did rule Defendants can’t introduce videos taken of Bethany into the next court hearing, May 29th, where their application for Summary Judgment is to be argued.

If Lawrence Hughes loses Summary Judgment, the lawsuit will be dead. This means that CBC may decide not to do a documentary. It is very important that Hughes receive donations to hire an attorney. Hughes, representing himself, was in court as many as five times in the past few months. The attorney who was assisting him is running for political office and no longer has time for Hughes lawsuit. There is a law firm that has expressed interest in representing him but requires a retainer of $5,000. Simply put, Lawrence Hughes is broke and worn out. He has spent nearly $50,000, some of that money being donated. Because the Watchtower lost the decision at the Appeal Court level, under Canadian law the loser has to pay all the other side’s cost of litigation. Within a few months, with an attorney’s assistance, Hughes will be able to collect his past expenses from Watchtower and should be able to carry on with future expenses of the lawsuit without further donations—that is—if he wins Summary Judgment.

Simply put, right now Hughes is not able to pay any attorney a $5,000 retainer, and without the money, an attorney will not take the case. Not having an attorney to represent him means he will most likely lose the court hearing at the end of May. This could end CBC’s interest in doing a one hour documentary for TV.

Lawrence Hughes has pointed out that Bethany’s attorneys are employed by the Toronto law firm, W. Glen How and Associates. In reality, though, this law firm is a front for the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the corporate entity used by Jehovah’s Witnesses, and headquartered in Georgetown, Ontario. The facts are that Watchtower’s Legal Department is made up of these same attorneys who work with W. Glen How and Associates, and, Attorney, W. Glen How, is an important Jehovah’s Witness in Canada.

For decades, W. Glen How and Associates have been deceiving courts and the public by deliberately misrepresenting themselves as an independent law firm which, they say, occasionally represents Jehovah’s Witnesses. This “independent law firm” assertion is found in their Notice of Motion and, as such, the attorneys with W. Glen How and Associates contend they did not have a conflict of interest when representing Hughes’s daughter and her mother. Although the attorneys are Jehovah’s Witnesses and work with a law firm that was and continues to be a front for the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, they claim they gave Lawrence Hughes’s 16-year old Witness daughter and her Witness mother, proper, unbiased legal advice. Hughes discounts this assertion and believes it is important that people write the media in Calgary, Alberta, the Law Society of Alberta and the Law Society of Upper Canada to expose this deception of W. Glen How and Associates.

The following is a list of lawyers that have been involved in this case on behalf of Bethany, her mother, and the Watchtower Society over the past six years. Lawrence expects he will be up against most or all of these lawyers at the May 29th and 30th court hearing:

David Gnam, Watchtower Society (a.k.a.:W. Glen How and Assoc.), Georgetown, Ont.
Shane Brady, Watchtower Society (a.k.a.:W. Glen How and Assoc.), Georgetown, Ont.
John Burns, Watchtower Society (a.k.a.:W. Glen How and Assoc.), Georgetown, Ont.
Daniel Pole, Watchtower Society (a.k.a.:W. Glen How and Assoc.), Georgetown, Ont.
David Day, Lewis Day, St. John’s, Newfoundland
Terry Davis, Parlee McLaws, Calgary, Alberta
Jeremy Hockin, Parlee McLaws, Edmonton, Alberta
Eugene Meehen, Lang Michener, Ottawa, Ontario
Philip Huband, Calgary, Alberta
Allan Ludkiewicz, Ludkiewicz, Bortoluzzi, Winnipeg, Manitoba

Also, two of the largest law firms will be representing the doctors and hospital:

David Steele, Bennet Jones, Calgary, Alberta
Brent Windwick, Field, Calgary, Alberta.

On May 29th and 30th, as usual, Lawrence Hughes expects he will be standing alone on one side of the court room representing himself. On the other side of the court room will be a crowd of lawyers, mostly senior partners in these large firms; the Jehovah’s Witness Lawyers; HLC members, and members of Jehovah Witnesses. As you can see, he is vastly out-numbered. He asks that you pray that he succeeds in this endeavor.

Few people in Hughes’s financial situation can expect to win a lawsuit in Canada against an extremely wealthy religious organization such as the Watchtower Society. However, Hughes has always believed that winning is possible with help from a group of persons. As long as this lawsuit continues, it will mean more ongoing worldwide news coverage exposing the Watchtower Society, which might put enough pressure on them to put an end to their ban on the use of blood transfusions for Jehovah’s
Witness patients in need of such. This would then stop many pointless and unnecessary deaths. And if Hughes wins this lawsuit, it could be instrumental in other people suing the Watchtower for causing loved ones to refuse a life-saving blood transfusion and then die. Thus, this could be another way this religious organization will be forced to change its “blood ban” or go bankrupt from litigation.

Money donated to this cause in the past has helped Lawrence Hughes accomplish so many positive things. He had a land-mark win; and the massive Canadian media coverage about the lawsuit and subsequent victory has been invaluable to show Canadians how harmful this organization’s policies are. Let’s keep up the momentum.

If just 500 people contribute $10.00, Hughes will have the $5,000 necessary for the attorney retainer. Please put $10.00 in an envelope and send it to him. And tell your friends. Just think what we can accomplish together to help this man win his lawsuit! If he does not win, none of us will have lost much money, but we will have the satisfaction that we tried to help.

For those who would like to contribute more, Hughes has set up and registered a
trust fund in the Province of Alberta named, WATCHTOWER LAWSUIT. He also has opened a bank account by that same name and arranged for a chartered registered accountant to do a financial statement each year. Anyone who donates and asks will receive a copy of that statement. As soon as a law firm comes on board, an attorney will take care of the fund. When this lawsuit is won, donations will be returned.

And for the convenience of contributors, a Paypal account has been opened and a donation can be made at the following email address: watchtowerlawsuit@yahoo.com.

Your check or $10 cash money can be mailed to:

WATCHTOWER LAWSUIT
Lawrence Hughes
Box 20161
Calgary Place RPO
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
T2P4J2

Thank you,

Barbara Anderson and other friends of Lawrence Hughes

(thanks to Brenda Lee)

JW Blood Loss Death, Under 15 is Parental Abuse

JW Blood Loss Death, Under 15 is Parental Abuse

A Japanese women has died for lack of a blood transfusion after a Caesarean birth.

The hospital said it had agreed with the woman before the surgery that it would not administer a transfusion.

Although she bled a great deal after delivering the child, doctors only took steps to arrest the hemorrhaging. She died several days later, the hospital said.

“We briefed her about the danger (before the surgery) and we repeatedly urged her family to accept a blood transfusion. But in the end we respected the patient’s wishes,” a hospital official said Tuesday.

Jehovah’s Witnesses’ officials said the hospital acted appropriately in treating the woman in accordance with her wishes.

Also from Japan, a joint committee of the Japan Society of Transfusion Medicine and Cell Therapy, Japan Surgical Society, Japan Pediatric Society, Japanese Society of Anesthesiologists and Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology has judged that refusing a blood donation for children under 15 who are considered to be immature in terms of their self-determination capabilities constitutes an abuse of parental rights. Their new guidelines stipulate that doctors should give necessary blood transfusions during surgery on patients under 15 years of age – even if their parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The joint committee started discussing the refusal of blood transfusions by Jehovah’s Witnesses in response to requests from doctors who have said they are troubled about prioritizing either religious freedom or respect for life.
… The committee said it would finalize the common guideline agreed by the five societies this year after hearing opinions from followers of the religious group and bioethicists at a symposium to be held at Tokyo Medical and Dental University on Saturday.

What the blood policy means for JWs in the real world – and how fellow JW’s treat people in life-and-death situations:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kBW_nKOdfgY[/youtube]

Jehovah’s Witnesses in the News

Jehovah’s Witnesses in the News

Are JWs training more tennis players?

DUMBO’s only open-air tennis court will soon be open for business. The hard-surfaced court, which sits atop a five-story building at 69 Adams St., has been drooled over by the net set, which has long hoped the court would be returned to service. Excitement volleyed around the neighborhood after workmen were spotted refurbishing the rooftop court.

“We are resurfacing it and patching it up,” said Richard Devine, a spokesman for the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, which owns the building. But Devine cautioned locals to not start practicing their backhand: The court is only open to Jehovah’s Witnesses who live in other Watchtower buildings in DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights — not to the general public. Talk about a double fault!

~ ~ ~

Melanie D. Popper, 29-year old attorney, has filed a lawsuit (pdf) alleging that her Jehovah’s Witness father sexually abused her for a decade, beginning at the age of 8. She also claims to have witnessed the rape of her twin sister. The Apple Valley Cheyenne Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses is also named in the suit.

In May 2004, Popper sent her letter of dissociation to the congregation. She said that she sent them a demand letter and that they have had two investigations but believe that they are not liable. “If it wasn’t for the very cult-like nature of the church,” Popper said, “I would have had somewhere to turn.”

~ ~ ~

America’s Most Wanted featured Frederick “Rick” McLean, a JW “Ministerial Servant” who used his position to commit multiple sexual crimes against young girls. My previous post has more details on how he ended up on the U.S. Marshal’s Fifteen Most Wanted list.

As one victim’s parents told AMW, they had no clue that an alleged sexual predator was amongst them — even though church elders had prior knowledge of complaints against McLean from another congregation.

~ ~ ~

As the Vancouver case (about whether blood transfusions should have been forced on any of the surviving premature sextuplets of Jehovah’s Witness parents) heats up, academics and ex-JWs are raising questions about why Jehovah’s Witnesses will refuse blood transfusions for themselves or their children – even unto death.

“We’ve all come together because of the number of people who are dying,” says Juliet Guichon, who teaches health law and medical ethics at the University of Calgary.

In a recent public statement, Guichon joined two religion scholars and two former Jehovah’s Witnesses with legal expertise in saying that the actions of the Watchtower Society “suggest that these leaders value doctrinal adherence more than they do the lives of their members.”

The statement says senior medical officials confronted by Jehovah’s Witnesses who refuse blood transfusions for themselves or dependents are often unable to make sound ethical decisions because they’re limited by their own “ignorance of the Watchtower’s authoritarian rule.” In other words, the statement claims, medical staff often don’t realize individual Witnesses in medical emergencies may be overwhelmed by their fear of the religious and social repercussions of accepting a transfusion.

Three of the babies are home with their parents, one remains in the hospital, and the other two (who did not receive blood transfusions) have died. The JW parents want a statement that their constitutional rights were breached in the case. I guess the survival of the children didn’t make much of an impact. The case has been postponed until at least July.

Jehovah’s Witnesses Child Custody Help

Jehovah’s Witnesses Child Custody Help

The founder of SilentLambs.org has started up JWChildCustody.com to highlight the issues connected with JW divorces, and to help to protect the children of divorcing parents when only one of the parents is a Jehovah’s Witness.

If you are a parent who is going through a divorce from someone who is a Jehovah’s Witness, this site is a valuable resource for you. There is a toll free number to set up a free consultation as well as email correspondence for specific legal issues. Know that it is always in the interest of the organization for the children to stay with the JW parent. The Watchtower Bible and Tract corporations provide legal help to help ensure that this happens. Parents who may have left the organization are frequently “demonized” to their own children! There have been few resources as yet for parents who are targeted for this treatment, and little recourse in a legal system that remains largely unaware of the psychological issues involved.

If you are a former JW, please take action! Individuals are needed who can write legal affidavits (a personal, written, and notarized statement) regarding their personal knowledge or experience of the following:

  1. Medical Issues – Blood and how you were affected: why you believed in not taking blood transfusions or other blood products of any kind. Did you or any member of your family suffer any kind of loss as a result of the blood doctrine?
  2. Alienation from Non-JW Family Members, including parents and siblings – how (and why) you or family members made a choice not to have normal relations with non-JWs. How did you view non-JW members of your family if you grew up as a JW? How did others in your family view them? How were non-JW members of your family treated by JW adults and children?
  3. Isolation from Society – How (and why) you personally were affected as a child by beliefs about worldly associations, school activities, higher education, careers, patriotism, and interaction with people outside the organization as a whole.
  4. Theocratic Warfare – Your personal belief as a Jehovah’s Witness about being truthful (and whether you were ever encouraged to lie) to worldly authorities. What was acceptable behavior if you felt your beliefs or religion were being threatened in any way? In what ways or circumstances was there a different standard for within the organization, and outside it?

I am pleased to see some action on this area. The most heartbreaking letters I receive have to do with destructive family dynamics. Shunning and alienation from non-JW family members can be very extreme.

All by itself, divorce is a hard enough thing for children to navigate.

Silent Lambs has been speaking up for the powerless for some time. Thanks for caring about the children. I am very proud of Bill and Janet Bowen, and of all the people who have contributed – in all their different ways – to getting the message out there. Public awareness has grown, and there are now documented resources for anyone who cares to look.

Kudos to Silent Lambs – silent no more, victims no more.

Since the inception of silentlambs the purpose of the website was to give victims a voice, protect children and educate about child abuse issues. After hearing over 6,000 abuse stories in the last seven years everything that was stated in the beginning has proven itself to be the truth about the cover up of abuse in the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

We have simply asked for specific actions to protect children.

Report all allegations of abuse to police

Never reappoint pedophiles to positions of authority.

Never allow pedophiles to call on the homes of the public.

To this day not one of these simple requests has been enacted as policy of the organization.

I continue to hope that even within the JW congregations, there will be recognition that major reforms are long overdue, that policies of cruelty and fear and domination and exploitation show no signs of the spirit of love. I hope this for the wider community too…

Marianne, you have an admirer

Marianne, you have an admirer

Marianne Meed Ward of the Toronto Sun has my admiration. She has written an opinion piece – in the Lifestyle Section, yet – that connects some of the dots in the conflict between the Jehovah’s Witness belief in the total abstention from blood and the welfare of children in cases where life-saving blood transfusions may be needed.

There are big themes here – civil liberties, freedom of (and from) religion, freedom of (and from) speech, child welfare, biblical scholarship, and the line between religion and the state.

Are such deadly biblical interpretations and movements a matter of natural/cultural selection? Or are they, as believed by followers, a mark of God’s true people?

What if you wanted to sacrifice, say, geese – at the town square every Sunday morning?
What if people decided, as Jehovah’s Witnesses used to, that vaccinations were also to be banned by God’s people?
Or – public education?
Or that we should pluck out what offends us – such as the eyes of the youngest, or oldest, of our nuclear family as a “body”?

Shall I become more ridiculous, or are you following me here? This debate could go anywhere. I hope some talented people get involved – Jehovah’s Witnesses have been a good place to practice such debate before.

In my reading of the various holy books, life always trumps law.

Thank you, Marianne. That is a great place to start! It’s a good place to start for a lot of the debates we should be having. Go read the article, people.

(Thank you again, Danny, for keeping me up to date)

The case really is one that should be debated. It probably needs some general unearthing even for some JWs – they don’t actually keep to kosher laws about meat and blood, and the leadership has gotten a bit technical on the “parts” of the blood that are not covered by the ban on blood transfusions. Presumably some bits of the blood are excluded as being without that elusive “soul” element that cannot be shared. Incidentally, the “soul” element is also completely distinct from the “spirit” of/in breath, which is not considered sacred and it therefore ok to share in life-saving circumstances. Imagine if we were arguing about resuscitation or oxygen therapy!

This would be a fascinating debate on many levels – in and out of the courtroom. In larger terms, it would be good for the planet (I hope) to confront some of the conflicts between some religious behavior and the general welfare. At this point, I have to say, however regretfully, that I believe that any debate of that sort could be better argued in Canada, far from the neo-legalististic pseudo-theocrats of America* – or those of the Middle East.

The issue of blood transfusions is not likely to create sources of destructive violence. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t fight in wars. Nor do they vote. That seems pretty safe. They are, for the most part, good people who are trying to do what they believe is right.

Let’s start talking again about what is right. Let’s have more of a meta-discussion.

I define “religious” very broadly. I can’t actually say that I have met very many people whose ultimate concern really seemed to be God, but perhaps I am not as perceptive on that as I would like to be. One thing, though, the ones I trust tend to have little need to trumpet pronouncements.

In any case, the peoples of the book have got to talk, and this is a good place to start. It can be a practice run to learn terms of reasonable, spiritually responsible, terms of (and for) debate.

Think of the possibilities for discussion! Jehovah’s Witnesses are a minority group, who believe that “persecution” proves their righteousness in the end times. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Corporations (and their governing body of a dozen men in New York at the Watchtower building/block next to the Brooklyn Bridge) hold great sway over many aspects of their followers’ lives. For the most part, the stated aims have good effect, although there are some harmful aspects too (destructiveness to families, abuse, psychological problems, and other issues discussed here and elsewhere). Still, they are no worse than many other groups in terms of their somewhat totalitarian hold.

Cognitive dissonance can be a problem for JWs, and against that the leadership limits information and damps down possibilities for debate (unlike the Jews and early Christians they say they admire). The scholarship is questionable, the learning is by rote repetition of selected, highly interpreted biblical passages.

Despite the leadership’s changing policies on the blood issue, most Jehovah’s Witnesses consider this life-or-death decision as an important way to choose to stand for God. By doing so, they believe that they may be chosen to live forever on a Paradise Earth (after the oft-rescheduled impending Armageddon). It’s a blind faith fundamentalist fixation, reinforced.

Yet I believe that this debate – the debate itself – may save lives. Once people are used to debate and critical thinking, I believe that they can love it. There will be some for whom the cognitive dissonance will finally become irrepressible. They may be thrown into crisis and may start to think things through for themselves. This could have a larger impact on the population at large.

On the negative side, Jehovah’s Witnesses may be told that the debate is being brought – as persecution – from the worldly reality of Satan’s control. Some of these will hunker down and refuse to think at all. Independent thinking (outside the guidance of the “organizaton”) is against their religion. It may be that the leadership simply gets “new light” from God. One possibility is that they could say that each person is responsible for themselves. Who decides for children? Parents? Doctors? A corporation in New York? Can they decide for themselves? It’s a very messy issue, and a fruitful one.

I also have a personal interest in observing what religion scholars have to say. I’ve read a lot on this issue, and it would be extremely fun for me. I wrote a chapter in my dissertation comparing communion and vampirism along viral questions of framing, and it is also a theme in my novel (the writing of which still doesn’t get enough of my time). I have always wanted to see the issue of blood debated by the very best of minds. What is this quasi-spiritual, quasi-physical substance of soul, and sacrifice? Where and when does spiritual communion turn into literalism, into cannibalism? What is this that promises immortality, and what is the cost of such beliefs?

*P.S. The intrusive side trains of thought. These should really be separate blog entries, but to me they are related.

Most Americans can’t get their heads around why it might be a tad bit idolatrous to take a pledge of allegiance to the nation’s flag. Indivisible? Oh, please. Don’t get me started on liberty and justice…for all. I don’t think most people even think about what they are saying. It’s a ritual, like “Heil.” The reds. The blues. Yet our world is fractal, complex – not dualist. We need a new synthesis of thought – a breakthrough to a better path.

If there is a God, whatever that God might be, we all would have to be (by definition?) “under God,” all the time. And not only “America,” not only people of one particular religious path or discipline. What do we mean by “under God” anyway? Under God’s rule? Under God’s banner? Under God’s protection? Under God’s blessing? Can anyone truly claim God as their property? Or it is meant to be a statement of humility? Nah. Don’t think so.

A lot of people look for the Kingdom in the world. But didn’t God warn against the desire for human kings? The kingdom (the corporation? the tribe? the nation?), the relationship to the cosmos, the eternal, is within you.

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