"True Freedom"?

Norman Hovland

The Watchtower Society regularly brag about the incredible "freedom" all Jehovah's Witnesses are supposed to enjoy. This is of course in stark contrast to the downtrodden masses in the world, not to speak of the poor Catholics and Protestants which are in bondage under their clergy.

"Millions now enjoy true freedom as Jehovah's Witnesses"
(Watchtower, March 15, 1992, page 15.)

Because of their many strange rules Jehovah's Witnesses often get into conflict with society in general. One such conflict was reported from the Philippines in 1993, where some Jehovah's Witness' school children were refusing to salute the flag. Awake! stated among other things the following:

"The Meaning for Lovers of Freedom
All lovers of freedom certainly rejoice in this decision to uphold the right of free choice in the matter of religion and in the dictates of one's conscience, while at the same time being subject to the relative authority of the state. (Romans 13:1, 2) In protecting the rights of individuals, the State does not open the way for anarchy but, rather, serves in the role mentioned by the apostle Paul at Romans 13:5, 6, where he states: "There is ... compelling reason for you people to be in subjection, ... on account of your conscience. For that is why you are also paying taxes; for they are God's public servants constantly serving this very purpose." Jehovah's Witnesses in the Philippines respect the jurisprudence of the justices of the Supreme Court and realize that final credit must be given to our Creator, Jehovah God." (Awake!, January 8, 1994, page 23.)

A case of a similar nature was reported from Greece. This time it was about the right to preach. Here the Watchtower quote the Human Rights convention:

"Since Greece is a member-state of the Council of Europe, it is obliged to conform to the Articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 9 of the Convention reads: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance." (Watchtower September 1, 1993, page 30.)

In both of these cases the rulings was in favor of the Witnesses. Something that without any doubt was right and just, and good examples that democracy and the legal system really works. It is however very sad, tragic and a paradox that absolutely none of these freedoms is extended to the Watchtower Society's own members! Let us take a closer look at what conditions there is for those human rights and that freedom which the Watchtower cult yell and scream about, internally in the Watchtower organization. We will get a pretty good idea by reading the following "Questions from readers" column in the Watchtower:

"Why have Jehovah's Witnesses disfellowshipped (excommunicated) for apostasy some who still profess belief in God, the Bible, and Jesus Christ?" (Watchtower, April 1, 1986, page 30.)

In the answer to this question the Watchtower states among other things the following:

"Those who voice such an objection point out that many religious organizations claiming to be Christian allow dissident views. Even some clergymen disagree with basic teachings of their church, yet they remain in good standing. (Watchtower, April 1, 1986, page 30.)

Well, what's the situation in the Watchtower organization? Do its members enjoy the same freedom? Can a Jehovah's Witness disagree with any of the "basic teachings" of the Watchtower Society and remain in "good standing"? The magazine says this about the practice in these churches:

"However, such examples provide no grounds for our doing the same."
(Watchtower, April 1, 1986, page 30.)

What do they mean by this? Let us find out:

"Teaching dissident or divergent views is not compatible with true Christianity"
(Watchtower, April 1, 1986, page 31.)

This comment should make it pretty clear that the Governing Body doesn't take kindly to "divergent views". But how should one view Jehovah's Witnesses who hold such views? The magazine states:

"Approved association with Jehovah's Witnesses requires accepting the entire range of the true teachings of the Bible, including those Scriptural beliefs that are unique to Jehovah's Witnesses." (Watchtower, April 1, 1986, page 31.)

The magazine continues to show that anyone who can't accept all of those "unique" teachings will be disfellowshipped. It is therefore a fact that freedom of thought, freedom of expression and what we simply call religious freedom is non existent within the Watchtower organization! Freedom loving people within the Watchtower Society have absolutely no reason to rejoice over enjoying "true freedom" as the Watchtower magazine above boasted. Jehovah's Witnesses have been completely stripped of all the freedoms of article 9 in the European Convention on Human Rights. As we have just documented, they have to accept the teachings of the Watchtower or be disfellowshipped. Jehovah's Witnesses don't enjoy the "freedom to change his religion or belief and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief," Jehovah's Witnesses' only "right" in this regard is to "accept" whatever the Watchtower currently teaches. They have no right to disagree with their leaders. This becomes crystal clear when you investigate their literature:

"Beware of those who try to put forward their own contrary opinions"
(Watchtower, March 15, 1986, page 17.)

"Avoid Independent Thinking" (Watchtower, January 15, 1983, page 22.)

"Fight Against Independent Thinking" (Watchtower, January 15, 1983, page 27.)

It is of course extremely difficult to exercise anything even remotely resembling human rights in an organization where you have to be "Beware of those who try to put forward their own contrary opinions". Where you must "fight against" and "avoid" independent thinking! But at this point some Jehovah's Witness genius will no doubt point out that it is "independent thinking" Brooklyn is warning against, not "thinking" as such. Well, please point out the difference between independent thinking and thinking in general. Duh! But to deal with this once and for all let us firmly establish the Watchtower Society definition of independent thinking. We find it here:

"Yet there are some who point out that the organization has had to make adjustments before, and so they argue: "This shows that we have to make up our own mind on what to believe." This is independent thinking. Why is it so dangerous?" (Watchtower, January 15, 1983, page 27.)

If you want to make up your own mind this is "independent thinking". Yes, read it again. Making up your own mind about something must per definition be avoided, yes even fought against! Incredible isn't it? Although one can actually observe the tremendous success many loyal Jehovah's Witnesses have had in this regard right here on H2O. But seriously, don't forget what you just read and take a look at this quote from the Awake!:

"Freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order." (Awake!, January 8, 1994, page 23.)

Yes, what wonderful principles, what freedom. It's a pity that the Watchtower Society only has the death penalty for anyone who dares exercise such rights within their organization. The hypocrisy is staggering. Imagine the nerve of the Watchtower Society, paying lip service and giving praise to lofty principles that are totally banned within their own organization. How does the Watchtower Society stand up to the test when it comes to "The test of substance" when it comes to the "right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order"? How does an organization where it is death penalty for "putting forward a contrary opinion", respect "freedom to differ? But the Awake! had more:

"The idea that one may be compelled to salute the flag, sing the national anthem, and recite the patriotic pledge, during a flag ceremony on pain of being dismissed from one's job or of being expelled from school, is alien to the conscience of the present generation of Filipinos who cut their teeth on the Bill of Rights which guarantees their rights to free speech and the free exercise of religious profession and worship." (Awake!, January 8, 1994, page 22.)

The sad fact of the matter is that the Jehovah's Witnesses' children didn't enjoy this much hyped freedom at all. They were in fact forced NOT to salute the flag. If any of these children had even tried to exercise their rights and actually saluted the flag, they would have been subjected to disfellowshipping, regarded as dead and shunned by all Jehovah's Witnesses.

According to the Awake!, the Supreme Court in the Philippines understood that "In protecting the rights of individuals, the State does not open the way for anarchy". This is something that the Governing Body in Brooklyn doesn't understand at all. If everybody doesn't think and believe exactly like themselves, anarchy is a fact in their world.

The Supreme Court naturally found it illegal to force anyone to salute the flag. But at the same time they were totally ignorant of the fact that the Watchtower Cult systematically deny its own members these rights by forcing them to NOT saluting it, by holding the "gun" of disfellowshipping and shunning to their head. The Watchtower willingly gives lip service to these democratic ideals and writes such things as this:

"The Meaning for Lovers of Freedom
All lovers of freedom certainly rejoice in this decision to uphold the right of free choice in the matter of religion and in the dictates of one's conscience," (Awake!, January 8, 1994, page 23.)

While doing this they trample on anything even reminding of such principles within their own organization. The Watchtower Society has absolutely no intention whatsoever to let any Jehovah's Witness "rejoice" over such freedom. On the contrary, the leaders of the Watchtower Cult is understanding such court rulings as an opportunity to strip their own members of all these rights which they outwardly praise oh so highly.

When confronted with this obvious lack of respect for everything that reminds of freedom in their organization, the following comment is the usual: "Of course we have freedom! Those who disagree can just leave!" If the Supreme Court in the Philippines should use the same reasoning the ruling of that court would have been the following:

"Of course we won't force you to salute the flag, just do as you please! But you must leave the Philippines immediately, all citizens will be forbidden to help you and have any contact with you!"

If any "worldly" court should have used such utterly ridiculous and uncivilized methods and reasoning as the Watchtower Society we wouldn't see the end of furious yelling and screaming complaints about lack of respect for human rights and religious freedom in the Watchtower literature. What a display of hypocrisy!