Condemned by Their Own Words


More than likely, everyone here with an interest in the way in which the Society's policy on blood has continued to unravel in the last year or two is familiar with the complaint against Bulgaria brought before the European Commission Of Human Rights by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.

On 9 March 1998, this complaint was resolved in the amicable settlement between the WTBTS and the government of Bulgaria mediated by the European Commission of Human Rights. In this settlement the Society agreed to the following concession:

"The applicant undertook with regard to its stance on blood transfusions to draft a statement for inclusion in its statute providing that members should have free choice in the matter for themselves and their children without any control or sanction on the part of the association." (Information Note No. 148 on the 276th Session of the European Commission of Human Rights -- Section B II)

Since then, the Society at all levels, from individual elders, to branch overseers, on up to the Public Affairs Office in Brooklyn have denied that any real concession was made at all, emphatically stating that there has been no change in the blood policy.

For example, on 27 April, 1998 the Society's Public Affairs Office issued a statement which said:

"The terms of the agreement do not reflect a change in doctrine of Jehovah's Witnesses. Rather, the agreement reflects an increased understanding of the concerns and actions of both parties."

The March 15, 1998 issue of The Watchtower states on page 20:

"True, they are closely knit together by the bond of Christlike love as a worldwide association of brothers. But as a free moral agent, each one has personally decided to [...] abstain from blood. These are not decisions forced upon them." [bold added]

In a letter dated August 27, 1998 the Society gave the following response to a private inquiry:

"Does this agreement mean that Jehovah's Witnesses have changed their stand in connection with medical treatment? No. The phrasing that is to be incorporated into the statutes of the Christian Association of Jehovah's Witnesses in Bulgaria describes the manner in which Jehovah's Witnesses have traditionally handled these matters."

In the October 1998 issue of Journal of Medical Ethics Society spokesman and hospital liaison committee member David Malyon said the following:

"Each Witness will give his own personal answers, as is to be expected if the person's individual conscience, and hence that person's personal autonomy, is at work." (p. 306)

So it can be seen that in the viewpoint of the Society, as expressed by its writers and representatives, there is no "enforced refusal of blood" in the congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. There is only a voluntarily chosen refusal of blood that is a prerequisite for Jehovah's Witnesses.

Therefore, with regard to blood, the Society sees no distinction between the notion that Witnesses are forced into refusal and the policy of enforced refusal through the threat censure and sanctions for non-compliance. This of course is blatantly hypocritical because the Society certainly recognizes this distinction in contexts other than the blood issue. For example in the February 22, 1999 issue of Awake! the Society published the following letter and response:

"For some years I have been a reader of your magazines. I have to protest your one-sided reporting about the doctrines of the Catholic Church in the article "The Bible's Viewpoint: Is Celibacy a Requirement for Christian Ministers?" There is no "enforced celibacy" in the Catholic Church! There is only a voluntarily chosen celibacy that is a prerequisite for a certain profession. Whoever claims that he was forced into celibacy is lying."

"We believe that there is an important distinction between the phrase enforced celibacy and the notion that people are forced into celibacy. If, for example, a corporation establishes a dress code and hires only those who agree to adhere to it but fires those who violate it, then it could be said that the corporation has an "enforced" dress code. In a similar sense, it is fair to say that there is an "enforced celibacy" in the Catholic priesthood."

Indeed. By the same argument, it is equally fair to say that the Society maintains an "enforced refusal of blood" which fact becomes painfully obvious if you reread the quoted material substituting "celibacy" with "refusal of blood." They are condemned by their own words.

Watchtower writers and Jehovah's Witnesses' apologists like David Malyon have tried to obfuscate this issue by asserting that Witnesses do in fact have "freedom of choice" in regard to the blood issue when what they really have in mind is the similar but unrelated issue of ultimate freedom of choice.

While it is true that the threat of adverse consequences do not take away an individual's ultimate freedom of choice, this fact for all intents and purposes is virtually meaningless, as it is almost impossible to take this away from anyone. To cite a graphic example, if David Malyon were to find himself backed against a wall with the flash suppresser of a terrorist's Kalishnikov painfully pressed into the soft tissue under his jaw, his ultimate freedom of choice would still remain intact. He would still be a free moral agent. Malyon would be perfectly free to disregard any imperative that was shouted at him under those circumstances and suffer the consequences, however messy they may be. What has been taken away is not his freedom of choice, but the ability to freely exercise it without coercion.

Now while having the business end of an automatic rifle pressed against your neck is a much more immediate and deadly form of coercion than having your good name ruined and suffering the alienation and loss of your family and friends, the latter is no less real a form of coercion. Further, it is no less real a manifestation of the Society's policy of "enforced refusal of blood."

Claims to the contrary are lies told by those with no respect for truth.