People of France, Deceived?
Well, let's break down this tract and see what is true and what is false:
PROTEST against the false and slanderous declarations made on December 15, 1998, by a handful of members of parliament during a debate at the National Assembly regarding the timely creation of a new Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry into the finances, patrimony and fiscal standing of sects.
In other words, don't call us a sect!
Is it acceptable to hear the following statements within the walls of the Bourbon Palace [location of the French National Assembly]?
"The financing of Jehovah's Witnesses operates on the basis of contributions sent to the American mother house ... and on access by the sect to the bank accounts of adepts."
-- False and slanderous. Not a single franc has ever been sent to the United States. All funds are spent in France or aiding people in Africa.
More than a single franc has been sent? The francs are converted to dollars and then sent? The money is electronically wired?
It may well be so that the Watchtower Society sets up its branch offices to operate financially independently, but I find it hard to believe that no money whatsoever has ever been sent from the France branch to the United States.
"The sale of The Watchtower brings in 14 million francs [US$2,500,000] per month, and that of Awake!, 50 million francs [US$8,900,000]."
-- False, slanderous and absurd. Our publications are left free of charge.
Yes, 'sale' is not the right word. Of course the publications are left free of charge. And perhaps France is one of those countries where the brothers aren't charged at the Kingdom Hall for the magazines. But even so, when the magazines are left, contributions are asked for, and the brothers themselves are expected to, and constantly reminded to, contribute to defray the "printing costs." Those numbers sound about right in that case. The Watchtower Society is avoiding the question by dishonestly focusing on the word "sale".
"The recent condemnation of Jehovah's Witnesses is mainly related to the fact that they were using several hundred unpaid workers with no social cover, and selling the products that were made, leading to considerable profits."
-- False and slanderous. All the members of their religious community in Louviers are engaged in a purely non-commercial activity and are socially covered.
Oh? They get the equivalent of Social Security and pension payments? The rest is quite true, assuming they are talking about Bethel. They do use unpaid workers (vow of poverty, and all that) to produce literature that brings in millions of dollars a month. How is this false and slanderous?
PROTEST against the recent false declarations of M. Jean-Pierre Brard, Parliamentary member for Seine-Saint-Denis, recently heard on various radio stations:
Jehovah's Witnesses constitute "one of the most dangerous sects, responsible for numerous suicides." (October 2, 1997)
-- In its verdict dated November 3, 1998, the Versailles Court of Appeal judged that this statement was prejudicial to honor and respect, and was undeniably defamatory in nature.
It was an inflammatory thing to say, in my opinion. You can argue about responsibility -- does the person who committed suicide take the blame, or does the system that "drove" him to it? I tend to shy away from assigning blame to others, the 'victim mentality', though I know others feel otherwise. But one thing cannot be denied -- many JW's commit suicide. Whether to a greater or lesser degree is not said in the government statement, just that there are numerous suicides. Note that the Watchtower Society does not deny this point, just notes that a judge didn't like it.
In the face of taxation, "Jehovah's Witnesses are screaming like pigs having their throats cut." (June 20, 1998)
"Fraud is perhaps the least of the violations committed by Jehovah's Witnesses." (July 2, 1998)
We leave it to you to judge these declarations.
Both statements are quite accurate, though the language about 'screaming pigs' was unnecessarily inflammatory. Still, full-page ads on the New York Times complaining about being taxed shows that they did scream about this. The second statement is true as well, for what is fraud compared to the deaths from a failed blood policy?
PROTEST against the constant harassment to which they have been subjected since 1995 in such a climate, namely:
A tax inspection that has been under way since 1995, and which aims to tax the religious contributions of followers at 60 percent. Unheard of for a Christian confession that is over a century old! Will it be your church next?
No, it won't be your church next. The French government only went after sects, not religions. And calling payments for literature "religious contributions" is using language designed to make it sound like mainstream religious contributions, which is resembles not in the least.
Investigations that encroach on the freedom of conscience of some 250,000 French citizens. Who will be next?
This is absolutely false! There is no encroachment on the freedom of conscience going on. A tax is not a ban.
Key figures from all schools of thought have publicly acknowledged the respectability of Jehovah's Witnesses:
Here comes the anecdotal evidence the Society is so fond of...
Accordingly, Alain Vivien, now chairman of the Interdepartmental Mission to Combat Sects, declared that Jehovah's Witnesses are, just like Protestant movements, "perfectly respectable." (Le Monde, December 3-4, 1978)
A twenty-one year-old quote of exactly two words. What else did Alain Vivien say? What does he say now that he is combating sects?
In April 1947, Léon Blum wrote: "When I was imprisoned in Germany, I was able to experience the steadfastness and the loyal convictions of your friends. That is why I willingly accept to be a witness for 'Jehovah's Witnesses'."
Irrelevant. Of course the rank and file mostly served as shining examples of integrity during World War II. What does that have to do with taxes of a sect today?
Madame Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz praised the steadfastness of the Christian Jehovah's Witness women that she met in the Ravensbrück concentration camp during her deportation. Shortly after her liberation, she wrote: "I have true admiration for them. They underwent very great suffering for their beliefs.... All showed very great courage."
More irrelevant quotes. What does their courage have to do with bookkeeping practices today?
Are these the only words of support they could find? Two praises for the concentration camp victims, and two words of support from more than two decades ago?
Today, more than two million Jehovah's Christian Witnesses and their associates live in Europe. They respect the laws of the States of which they are citizens by upholding the values of the Gospel.
The rank and file Jehovah's Witnesses are, mostly, a law-abiding lot. There is no question of this. The question is: should a sect be taxed? This is one law that the law-abiding Jehovah's Witnesses seem to want to fight. They have that right, of course, but we'll see what the outcome is.
My take on the tract? Some facts, some lies, some deception, some waving of hands, some complaints. Typical Watchtower Society's writings.