Article: What does the banning of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia mean? Part II

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What does the banning of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia mean? Part II

How is the Jehovah's Witness Governing Body playing the Russian situation?
Jehovah's Witnesses have had a lot of opposition during the past hundred years from individuals and governments alike. They learned some of their strategy from their struggles with the German Nazi Government leading up to and during World War II. They also had legal cases within the United States in the first and Second World Wars. Today I would like to zoom in on two strategies that they employed in two specific instances. Firstly their banning in Germany in 1933 and secondly their post War legal victory in 1938. From those specifics I want to make some conjectures as to the Watchtower organization's current strategy regarding their banning in Russia. Lets start with their banning in Germany in 1933.

After the Nazi government seized the Jehovah's Witness printing presses and property at Magdeburg, the Bible Students as they were then called, held a convention with JF Rutherford (The then president of the organization) as their prime speaker. Afterwards they sent a letter to Adolph Hitler. The Watchtower Society claimed in their 1974 Yearbook on p.110-111 that the letter was altered, but the same ‘altered’ letter was originally printed in the 1934 yearbook on p.135-136 with the governing body's approval. In the letter the organization attempted to portray themselves as friendly towards the German National Socialist government and that they even shared some of the same values.

Here are two excerpts from the letter:

...The Brooklyn administration of the Watch Tower Society is and in the past has been outstandingly friendly to Germany. For this reason, the president of the Society and seven members of its Board of Directors in the United States were sentenced to 80 years imprisonment because the president refused to use two magazines published by him in the United States for war propaganda against Germany.” and also “...At the convention, it was stated that there are no opposing views in the relationship between German Bible Students and the National Government of the German Reich, but that, to the contrary, respecting the purely religious and apolitical goals and objectives of the Bible Students, it can be said that these are in complete harmony with the similar goals of the National Government of the German Reich.”

Hitler was not impressed by the Watchtower overture and dissolved the Bible students in Germany that same year. He considered the Bible Students an American religion with the subversive objective to corrupt the German people. The fact that it was headed by an American judge made him all the more suspicious. In response the Watchtower Brooklyn headquarters went from flattery to hostility and sent the following telegram: “Your ill-treatment of Jehovah's witnesses shocks all good people of earth and dishonors God's name. Refrain from further persecuting Jehovah's witnesses; otherwise God will destroy you and your national party”. Hitler was furious and vowed to exterminate “this brood” as he called them. Well this certainly sealed the deal and after that the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Nazi government remained at odds with each other until the end of the second world war.

Now in dealing with the legal challenges posed by the United States in the First World War against the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Witnesses tried to respond with a legal defense. Because their anti-religious message against the Catholics and Protestants was viewed as subversive and because the War was still raging in its closing stages, the Watchtower governing body was arrested and sentenced in 1918 under the espionage act. After the war ended the sentiments in America turned towards peace and the courts proceeded to release the governing body within a year of sentencing.

It is interesting to note that the Governing body viewed and still views this act of prison release as a miracle provided by God. Over time they have tried to write themselves into Biblical lore by saying that Revelation 11:11 applied to those men released from prison and to the resumption of their preaching.

Take note that the governing body's prison release is the only ‘evidence’ I am aware of that the organization can point to try and support their claim that they are the only organization ordained by God. So the entire authority structure of Jehovah's Witnesses rests on this one event.

After the First World War ended the most significant development from a legal standpoint was the appointment of Olin R. Moyle as the legal counsel for the Witnesses. Between 1935 and 1939 he made great strides in securing their right to preach their unpopular message. He won the case Lovell v. City of Griffin in 1938 that found it unconstitutional for a person to have to seek government sanction to distribute religious material. Since that time there has been a tradition to contest any attempt to curb their message. I would say that this victory was their first real significant taste of law victory and it set the president for decades to come. Another footnote is that minority groups like homosexuals have inadvertently benefited from the Jehovah's Witness program of litigation in securing their own rights. So from that point of view I could even say that their legal work has been commendable.

Historically when dealing with dictatorships the Witnesses have fared badly but when dealing with democracy's they have fared much better. So with the Russian Federations developing democracy I think their odds of success are about fifty-fifty. Looking at the examples above I also think one can make a reasonably fair assessment on their current and future strategy in dealing with the Russian Federations pressure.

Their current strategy is to legally contest all banning in Russia in the Watchtower organizations tradition. They are contesting their cases on appeal in the highest courts in Russia and on failing to succeed they turn to the European courts. They bargain on the fact that because they have had successes in other legal arena's they might get positive results in Russia in the long run. This could possibly work but one has to remember that Russia is not a fully developed democracy yet. As part of this strategy they also alert the media and by implication organizations like Amnesty International and the United Nations to their plight by using their own media, printed and on-line, or any other media outlet that will report on the developments. They are currently reasonably neutral in their reporting unlike their strategy in Germany in World War II. This is because if they antagonize the Russian Government at this point with overly subjective reporting they will give them ammunition in their charge that the Watchtower is a subversive cult. So they have to be careful in their opposition and they also have to garner as much popular support as possible to divert some pressure back onto the Russian government. This strategy will only work if the Russian Federation upholds the principles of Freedom of religion and Freedom of speech. If successful it will still take many years to filter through to local and provincial authorities and they can expect a tough time.

If this strategy fails and the witnesses are driven underground I would expect a retort in a similar fashion to the way it happened in Nazi Germany. They will grow hostile in their literature and attitude towards Russia. I think that to emphasize the point to every Jehovah's Witness and to strengthen the witnesses in Russia, the Governing Body in Brooklyn will declare the Russian Federation as their King of the North which they derive from the biblical book of Daniel chapter 11. Now in Jehovah's Witness religious lore they have not identified who they consider to be this specific prophetic king. This ‘final’ king of the north has not been identified yet and Witnesses are strongly discouraged by the governing body to speculate on this kings identity. It is privately discussed by witnesses in hushed and muted tones because the identification of this king would bring them closer to their hoped for day of Armageddon.

So I speculate that in this scenario that the governing body as an attempted act of psychological revenge will probably make the following declaration known to their members: According to Daniel 11 the final king of the North is identified as The Russian Federation and its allies. It will stand up against the King of the South (Anglo America) but internal troubles in this kingdom will prevent its opposition to come into full bloom and so it's power will ultimately be destroyed. This destruction will happen in the blink of an eye. They will make this prediction with reasonable confidence because the collapse of Soviet Russia in the early 1990’s will be viewed as a lightly repeat scenario. Now if this prophesy turns out to be hot air, as has been the case whenever they have attempted a prophetic interpretation, they will probable do what they have always done, change their story and move on to the next prediction ;-)

Greetings

Watchtower Information South Africa

References:

Watchtower Society letter to Hitler
http://www.docbob.org/modules.php?name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=25

The Watchtower’s Nazi Conflict
http://www.seanet.com/~raines/conflicts.html

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Nazi Germany
url:www.youtube.com/watch?v=VRGfAhWioTM

Did the WT Society denounce Hitler, and why were JWs banned in Germany?url:www.youtube.com/watch?v=cN2I1obHGPc


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