An Analysis of the Theocratic Warfare Doctrine of the Jehovah's Witnesses
Jerry Bergman , Ph.D.
Northwest State College
Archbold , Ohio
Cultic Studies Review:
An Internet Journal of Research, News, and Opinion
2002, Vol. 1, No. 2
P.O. Box 2265
Bonita Springs , FL 34133
Jerry Bergman , Ph.D.
Northwest State College
Archbold , Ohio
This review of the problem of religious justified lying in court focuses on the Jehovah’s Witnesses and their theocratic war doctrine. The history of the development of this doctrine and the problems of lying in society are reviewed. Also discussed are examples of the use of this doctrine in court and a survey of active and former Witnesses designed to determine the awareness level of this doctrine among the average Witness. It is concluded that the longer someone is a Witness, and the higher the attained rank in the Watchtower, the more likely the person is to understand and to use the doctrine.
Honesty is a central Western value, and so important that fully 95% of Americans agree with the statement, “a primary goal of schools is to teach honesty and the importance of telling the truth” (Johnson and Immerwhr, 1994, p. 24). Honesty is also critical for the court process to function properly, and one of the most common impediments to determining truth is lying by court witnesses. In Judge Schwelb’s (1989, p. 3) words, “if witnesses lie successfully, the blindfold over the eyes of Justice will not serve its intended benign purpose.” Judge Schwelb stated he has encountered “many hundreds of instances of perjury or deception” in his thirty years as a lawyer (1989, p.3). He found that lying is especially common in domestic cases and if the deception is not exposed, liars can profit from their fabrications.
Cases involving other motivations for lying are more complex, such as when lying defined as a violation of the oath to tell “the whole truth and nothing but the truth” occurs because of deeply held religious convictions. Even lying that is exposed requires evaluating a variety of issues, such as whether so-called white lies, stretching the truth, or exaggerations constitute perjury (Stewart, 1986, p. 84). Lying also normally includes employing words “to obscure communication” so as to “manipulate” others for one’s own advantage (Wolk and Henley 1970 pp. 90-94, 232). The whole truth and nothing but the truth requirement in court was historically designed to avoid the problem of a court witness, for example, claiming that he honestly "didn't steal" from his employer when in his mind he meant he "didn't steal” from him yesterday , but to listeners he implied that he never stole because the yesterday remains unsaid. The whole truth is that he has stolen from his employer in the past (Bok, 1978).
Until recently the Jehovah’s Witnesses were one of the fastest growing religions in the world. Their ruling body, the Watchtower Society, claims that almost 15.4 million people are now associated with the church (Watchtower, Jan. 1, 2002, p. 22), and according to their Dun and Bradstreet report (a credit report available only from Dun and Bradstreet by request), their American income in 1992 alone was over 1.2 billion dollars. Founded in 1879 by C. T. Russell, they are best known for their legal conflicts over the flag salute and other government requirements.
Among the unique Watchtower doctrines is a prohibition against blood transfusions and a teaching called theocratic war strategy that justifies “lying” in court and elsewhere. Only three religions could be located that openly teach this doctrine. One is the Aryan Brotherhood, a white supremacist group that teaches it is appropriate to lie in order to further its interests (W. Caughey, personal interview, Feb. 3, 1991). Another is the Unification Church , which critics claim practices a similar doctrine they call Heavenly Deception (Levine, 1980; Elkins, 1980). Boettcher claims that
One of the central tenets of the [Unificationists] faith is the Doctrine of Heavenly Deception. Good must deceive evil. The non-Moon world is evil. It must be lied to so it can help Moon take over. Then it can become good under Moon’s control. In the Bible, Jacob lied to Isaac. God rewarded Jacob by making him the father of the nation of Israel . (Boettcher, 1980, pp. 343-344)
The third is the Watchtower Theocratic War doctrine, which teaches that it is appropriate to withhold the truth from “people who are not entitled to it” if it will further the Watchtower’s interests (Reed, 1992; Reed, 1997, p. 129; see also Franz, 1971, pp. 1060-1061, and Raines, 1996c). In the Watchtower’s words, Witnesses are required to “use Theocratic War Strategy” against any and all persons who have a “wolf-like disposition,” defined as anyone who does not accept the Watchtower as God’s organization and the head of God’s people. All other religions are defined as evil and of Satan (Franz 1991; Watchtower May 1,1957, pp. 285-286 and p. 288 — this latter article was censored in new Watchtower reprints).
Reed defines Theocratic War Strategy as “hiding truth from persons not entitled to it—i.e., lying to outsiders when deemed necessary” (Reed, 1995, p. 40). He adds the Watchtower defines lying as “. . . deceiving outsiders to advance the organization’s interests. Falsehoods presented to God’s enemies are not considered lies, due to the state of war existing between God’s forces (the JWs) and Satan’s (the rest of the world).” In the words of Kotwall (1997, pp. 1-2) the Watchtower’s teaching “to lie and deceive in the interest of their religion is Scripturally approved. They call such lying theocratic war strategy.” Wilson says:
although a basic belief of Jehovah’s Witnesses is that liars will receive eternal death with no hope of a resurrection, exception is made when it comes to lying or pretending to be someone one is not if the purpose is for the good of the organization. An example of this sort of deception that I had personally experienced was the time a Witness friend invited me and several other Witnesses to her house when a Witness missionary was visiting her, as he was to give a slide presentation about his work in Israel … To protect the facility and the other Witnesses who were to live there, the Society instructed this missionary to pose as an eccentric millionaire who has a fetish about being clean, and to inform any inquirers that this was his own house that was being built. This story was fabricated to cover up the real purpose of the building—that of being a Watchtower factory having bedrooms with sinks in them to house the factory workers. This incident was another example of theocratic war strategy (Wilson, 2002, p. 249).
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not always lie outright, but they often lie according to the court’s definition—not telling “the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” which means the court requires the whole story, not half-truths or deception. The Watchtower claims to condemn lying, but only lying as they define it, namely “saying something false to a person who is entitled to know the truth and doing so with the intent to deceive or to injure him or another person” (Franz, Vol. 2, 1988, p. 244, emphasis mine). The purpose of the oath is to discourage evading the truth by being truthful only in a narrow way. In a popular discussion designed to define lying to the lay public, Savant explains that when witnesses are asked to tell “the truth” in court, it means that they are not to lie and are also required:
... to tell “the whole truth.” … For example, if a governor says that “in my state, we’ve moved 17,000 people from welfare to work” and omits adding the fact that in his state, 25,000 other people moved from work to welfare at the same time, he has told “the truth” but he hasn’t told “the whole truth.” That is, the net effect was that 8,000 more people were on welfare, not 17,000 fewer … Third, witnesses are asked to tell “nothing but the truth.” This is yet another concept. For example, if a person tells the truth in response to a question and then adds a lie, he or she has told “the truth” but hasn’t told “nothing but the truth.” And although none of this will stop truly dishonest people, at least it gives us good ammunition to charge them with perjury. (Savant, 1996, p. 12)
In the words of Raines, theocratic warfare in practice means “deceiving” or misdirecting the “enemy” with untrue and misleading information to protect and advance the interests of “God’s people” and his “organization” (1996, p. 20). Magnani added that the Watchtower
has a special policy towards outsiders. Those who question its teachings are considered “opposers” and are treated in a special way. The Watchtower actually teaches Jehovah’s Witnesses to cover up or LIE about certain facts. This tactic is called THEOCRATIC WAR STRATEGY. (1979, p. 1, emphasis his).
The Watchtower tries to clarify its stand by adding that, although
malicious lying is definitely condemned in the Bible, this does not mean that a person is under obligation to divulge truthful information to people who are not entitled to it … Jesus on certain occasions refrained from giving full information or direct answers to certain questions when doing so could have brought unnecessary harm (Matt 15:1-6; 21:23-27; John 7:3-10). Evidently, the course of Abraham, Isaac, Rahab, and Elisha in misdirecting or in withholding full facts from nonworshipers of Jehovah must be viewed in the same light—Gen 12:10-19; chapter 20; 26:1-10; Josh 2:1-6; Jas 2:25; 2 Ki 6:11-23 (Franz, 1971 p. 245).
An example of how this doctrine is in fact applied is explained by Reed as follows:
When a Witness knocks at a door, gives a brief sales pitch, and sells a small book for a dollar, local laws may require him or her to collect sales tax. (A credit report on the Watchtower of New York, Inc., revealed $1.25 billion corporate sales figures for 1991, up from just over $1 billion in 1990.). To evade this obligation the organization instructs JWs to say they did not sell the book; rather, they placed it. They did not receive the dollar in payment; rather, the money was received coincidentally as an unrelated donation. Another illegal activity covered by cloaking expressions relates to violating child welfare laws and ignoring court orders regarding medical treatment. When taking such drastic steps to prevent blood transfusions for sick or injured children JWs commonly refer to their actions as keeping integrity or putting God first … Cloaking expressions [with] obscure words … to conceal information from outsiders unfamiliar with the sect. Witnesses resort to such devices when organizational instructions require them to violate tax laws, refuse military conscription, evade child welfare laws, and so on. Falsifications on these matters are not considered lies, but theocratic war strategy (1997, pp. 22, 28).
Yet another assessment of this doctrine by a long-time, once high-ranking Witness:
They [the Watchtower] adamantly teach that it is okay to “hide the truth from your enemies,” since they are in “Theocratic warfare,” which is taken as permission to lie. And who are their enemies? Everyone but themselves...Lying has been described in their literature as permissible, especially to your “enemies” (which is everyone except the elitist governing body). It depends on whom you’re lying to. They give the example of Abraham, in a life threatening situation, misrepresenting his wife’s status, calling her his sister instead of his wife. So, do they reason it is a little thing for us to lie to the “other sheep,” to tell them that they are “Christians,” and can preach, that Holy Spirit will protect them, etc? What difference does it really make? (Ford, 1996, pp .7, 84)
The Watchtower teaches that lying to “God’s enemies” is not really lying but theocratic “war strategy” and that:
God’s Word commands: “Speak truth each of you with his neighbor” (Eph. 4:25 ). This command, however, does not mean that we should tell everyone who asks us all he wants to know. We must tell the truth to one who is entitled to know, but if one is not so entitled we may be evasive. ( Watchtower, June 1, 1960, pp. 351-352)
The Watchtower then adds “we may not tell a falsehood,” but this again refers to their definition of a falsehood. This Watchtower (1960, p. 352) also states that if a Watchtower adherent takes the witness stand in court and swears “to tell the truth, then, if he speaks at all, he must utter the truth.” This “truth,” though, is what the court defines as truth, but it is overshadowed by the focus on “hiding the truth” from God’s enemies. Other articles and the actual practice of Witnesses both show that this latter advice is not strictly followed. For example, the May 1, 1957, Watchtower adds:
Lies are untruths told for selfish reasons and which work injury to others. Satan told a lie to Eve that worked great harm to her and all the human race. Ananias and Sapphira told lies for selfish reasons. But hiding the truth, which he is not entitled to know, from an enemy does not harm him, especially when he would use such information to harm others who are innocent … So in time of spiritual warfare it is proper to misdirect the enemy by hiding the truth. It is done unselfishly; it does not harm anyone; on the contrary, it does much good. (pp. 284-285).
As William Blake once said “ the truth that is told with bad intent beats all the lies you can invent.” The doctrine is best summarized by, The Measures Taken , a play by Bertolt Brecht:
Whoever fights for communism must be prepared to fight or not to fight, to tell the truth or not to tell the truth, to give his services or to refuse them, to be recognized or to be disguised. Who fights for communism, has only one single virtue, that he fights for communism (Quoted in Perutz, 1989, p. 139).
Wilson gives an example of how the doctrine is used today:
the elders asked this young man to call our daughter and fabricate a reason to get her to come over to the house. Under the guise of “theocratic warfare,” lying was acceptable if it served the needs of the organization. Consequently, the truthfulness of the reason he gave her to get her to agree to meet him at the house was insignificant. He feigned helplessness about some aspect of taking care of things at the house, asking her to meet him there at a specified time so she could help him out. Trusting that he would never betray her, she agreed (2000, p. 118).
That the Watchtower specifically teaches their followers to lie as the word is normally used in English is illustrated by their discussion about when Abraham told Sarah to “hide the fact” that she was his wife ( Watchtower , Feb. 1, 1956, p. 78). The Watchtower notes that years later when Abraham was in the Philistine country of Gerar, Abraham repeated the lie about Sarah, blatantly claiming that his wife “is my sister.” This, the Watchtower Society concludes, is not lying because Abraham represented Sarah as his sister for a laudable reason, namely:
to prevent violent controversy over his wife. Sarah recognized Abraham as her Lord and agreed to the arrangement, willing to take the consequences … She was willing to do her part to preserve the life of Jehovah’s prophet … But critics ... view Abraham wholly as a lying, prevaricating, weakling coward. (Feb. 1, 1956, p. 79)
Ironically, this example that the Watchtower Society uses to justify lying backfired because of lying. The Pharaoh, thinking Sarah was Abraham’s unmarried sister, took her for his wife, causing a plague on “Pharaoh and his house.” When Pharaoh found out about Abraham’s lie and returned Abraham’s wife, he protested to Abraham, stating that what happened would have been prevented if only Abraham had told the truth (Gen. 12:10-20). Thus, instead of being an example that justifies lying, this scriptural example actually condemns lying by showing that it can seriously backfire. Abraham also lied about his wife to Abimelech and as a result nearly caused him a disaster (Genesis 20). The latest discussion appeared in the Feb. 8, 2000 Awake!, which, under the title “Cautious as Serpents,” notes:
Of course, being truthful does not mean that we are obligated to divulge all information to anyone who asks it of us. “Do not give what is holy to dogs, neither throw your pearls before swine, that they may never ... turn around and rip you open,” warned Jesus, at Matthew 7:6. For example, individuals with wicked intent may have no right to know certain things. Christians understand that they are living in a hostile world. Thus, Jesus advised his disciples to be “cautious as serpents” while remaining “innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16; John 15:19) Jesus did not always disclose the full truth, especially when revealing all the facts could have brought unnecessary harm to himself or his disciples. Still, even at such times, he did not lie. Instead, he chose either to say nothing or to divert the conversation in another direction.–Matthew 15:1-6; 21:23 -27; John 7:3-10 (Feb. 8, 2000, p. 21).
The Watchtower Society claims that they condemn direct lying and advocate only hiding the truth. But their using Abraham’s case as an example to emulate in situations where doing so can protect the Watchtower indicates that they in fact advocate direct lying. Reed comments on this doctrine:
By instructing Witness kids to testify in court to say the opposite of what they are really taught to believe, the Watchtower Society requires them to engage in a form of double-talk that most people would consider lying. And unless the youngsters are to consciously see themselves as liars, they must also engage in doublethink, the mental gymnastics described in George Orwell’s novel … where people are forced by a totalitarian society to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies. (1996, pp. 230-231)
Yet another example shows that the application of the doctrine involves open lying:
While doing this research ... I met a woman who showed me a scar on her upper arm that she said was caused by an acid burn. She explained that bribing a doctor to produce a scar on a child’s arm that mimicked the scar left from a smallpox vaccination, and then signing a certificate of vaccination [certifying that they were vaccinated] to enable the child to go to school, was a common practice among the Witnesses during the years of the Society’s ban on vaccinations. One can only imagine how many Witnesses or their children died of smallpox due to this practice of theocratic warfare to avoid vaccinations (Wilson, 2002, p. 180).
A detailed discussion of the doctrine and how it is applied was included in the court testimony in the case Gouvitsa v. Gouvitsa in which the sworn expert witness said, in answer to the question “What is within Jehovah’s Witness’ theocratic war strategy?”:
Theocratic war strategy is very common among Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s on different levels . . . first, one has to understand the definition of what a lie is. And because it’s so important, I’d like to just read it ... “In the Aid to Bible Understanding,” which is their encyclopedia, it says, “Lying generally involves saying something false to a person who is entitled to know the truth.”
... Now, the reason I emphasize the word “entitled” is because Witnesses … look at the world in two types of people ... the sheep and the goats ... the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the non-Christians being the rest of the world ... God’s people and Satan’s people ... The only people that are entitled to know the truth 100 percent of the time are Jehovah’s Witnesses. The people that are opposing God’s Word, according to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, are people in Christendom … They are in opposition, so consequently they are not entitled to know the truth all the time … We have met people in our own work and heard of many cases, the one that comes to mind is a gentleman who had written a pamphlet exposing the Watchtower organization as a cult. And he met up with a Jehovah’s Witness. And somehow they got into a dialogue on this particular pamphlet ... And the Jehovah’s Witness was downing the pamphlet as being totally false, and not only that he was claiming that he knew the writer of the pamphlet and that the writer of the pamphlet was immoral and he had been kicked out of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, was an apostate and so forth, and the information in the pamphlet could not be reliable.
Then this individual told the Jehovah’s Witness that he was, in fact, the writer of the pamphlet ... That is an example called theocratic war strategy. In other words, the Jehovah’s Witness [felt] ... what was important was to downgrade the information to make the organization look better. Theocratic war strategy is basically a method employed in many, many different ways. Not just outright lying, but sometimes evading the truth, sometimes telling half truths … the organization employs it [theocratic warfare] not only to the general public, but also on Jehovah’s Witnesses ( Joy Hutton Gouvitsa Arnold plaintiff, v. Gus Konstantine Gouvitsa , Testimony of Duane Magnani, pp. 109-113 ).
The earliest printed reference to the Theocratic Warfare doctrine in official Watchtower publications dates from 1936 in a book titled Riches ( Rutherford , 1936):
A lie is a false statement made by one to another one who is entitled to hear and to know the truth, and which false statement tends to work injury to the other. A false statement made for the purpose of deceiving and working injury to another is a deliberate and malicious lie. (Rutherford, 1936, p. 177)
Raines concludes that the quote above implies some people are not “entitled” to
… know the truth and that if a person makes a false statement without intending to “work injury” to another, it isn’t a lie, but what Goodrich called a “Rahab technique.” Otherwise, why didn’t Rutherford simply say a lie is a knowingly false statement, period? Goodrich viewed it this way and this is the way the Society has since defined lies versus using “theocratic war strategy.” (Raines, 1996, p. 20).
An early example of the use of theocratic warfare by one Witness on another Witness that occurred in the early 1940’s involved Roy Goodrich, a former science teacher and for many years a congregation overseer. Goodrich sent a letter to a Mr. M. A. Howlett at the Watchtower world headquarters expressing his concern about the Watchtower’s use of the E.R.A. machine to treat illness. E.R.A. is an “oscilloclast machine” invented by Dr. Abrams, a notorious quack well known to historians of science quackery (Warner, 1941). Goodrich was concerned because he concluded the E.R.A. technique involved demonism. For this reason he wrote Howlett to determine if the rumors he heard about the E.R.A. machine still being used at Bethel (the Watchtower headquarters) were true.
Howlett answered Goodrich as follows “You have evidently been misinformed regarding my connection with E.R.A. I know nothing of it and have never used it. There is none such in Bethel ” (Goodrich, 1944). Goodrich knew that Howlett’s claim was erroneous because he possessed firsthand knowledge that a Chester Nicholson was “treated” with the E.R.A. machine by Howlett. Goodrich also knew that the E.R.A. had been used by a “Dr.” Work at Bethel since 1922. Furthermore, since Howlett started working at Bethel before 1922, Goodrich knew Howlett’s claim about not having “even heard of the ERA” was absurd because Howlett was a Bethel doctor. Consequently, “Goodrich therefore believed that Howlett lied to him” (Raines, 1996, p. 20).
In response to Howlett’s letter, Goodrich wrote a lengthy letter to both the Watchtower board of directors and Watchtower’s president, Nathan Knorr. Goodrich, who was then a Witness in good standing, wrote specifically about what he believed was Howlett’s misuse of theocratic war strategy (in the 1940s the doctrine was called the Rahab technique, after Rahab who lied to protect the spies). Raines notes this technique involved “misdirecting” someone with “false information,” a response that “most people would call … lying” (Raines, 1996, p. 20). Goodrich was nonplused because, as he explained to Howlett
the one possible import of those words [from Howlett] conveys an impression entirely contrary to the fundamental facts as I know them. I must believe, however, that your motive in writing them is the highest—a desire to honor Jehovah’s name. Remembering Rahab’s approval and the statements at the top of Page 177 in RICHES, you have seemingly clear and logical justification, no doubt, in your own mind [to lie]. (Goodrich, 1944, p. 1)
What Goodrich was concerned about was that the doctrine justifies lying only to those who are not entitled to know the truth , and Goodrich felt as a fellow Jehovah’s Witness, and for many years a presiding overseer, he did have a right to know the truth in this matter. Raines comments that the Theocratic War doctrine
implies there are some who are simply not “entitled” to know the truth and that if a person makes a false statement without intending to “work injury” to another, it isn’t a lie, but … a “Rahab technique.” Otherwise why didn’t Rutherford simply say a lie is a knowingly false statement, period? Goodrich viewed it this way, and this is why the Society has since defined lies according to their “theocratic war strategy” doctrine. (Raines, 1996, p. 20)
Goodrich responded charitably, concluding that Howlett
did in fact intend a faithful Rahab technique … in all kindness then, Bro. Howlett, the inescapable logic of fact is that your postal to me, must be one or the other of the two following things, to wit: (1) A potentially malicious lie; or (2) an admission before the Lord that you have been practicing demonism and “fibbing” out of it. (Goodrich, 1943, p. 1)
Goodrich’s efforts to bring his concerns to the Watchtower’s attention eventually resulted in his disfellowshipping (forced explosion from the Watchtower Society, which denied him almost all contact with members in good standing). Interestingly, a decade later The Watchtower drew the same conclusion about E.R.A. for which Goodrich had been disfellowshipped (Raines, 1996, p. 20). Some details on the development of this now infamous Watchtower doctrine were related in a study by Frakes:
In his Sunday-morning discourse on “Cautious as Serpents among Wolves,” … Franz interpreted certain Old Testament passages as proving that when it meant preservation of his own, Jehovah approved lying to one’s enemies; hence, such lying is not to be condemned so long as it is addressed to outsiders. Thereupon the chairman thanked him as the agent of the Watchtower Society for the “new light” he had brought. (1955, p. 819)
In Sherrill’s words this new doctrine meant that “Lying is part of ‘theocratic war strategy.’ A JW can lie to someone if they are not entitled to know the truth” (1995, p. 56). The Watchtower teaching that “the truth should be told” only to those who have “a right to know,” means that Watchtower “opposers” (the term the Watchtower uses for knowledgeable critics; see Reed, 1997, p. 101) and critics do not have a right to know the truth:
As a soldier of Christ [a Witness is] ... in theocratic warfare and he must exercise added caution when dealing with God’s foes. Thus the Scriptures show that for the purpose of protecting the interests of God’s cause, it is proper to hide the truth from God’s enemies. … This would come under the term “war strategy,” ... and is in keeping with Jesus’ counsel that when among wolves we must be as “cautious as serpents.” Should circumstances require a Christian to take the witness stand and swear to tell the truth; then ... the mature Christian will put the welfare of his brothers ahead of his own, remembering Jesus’ words: “No one has greater love than this, that someone should surrender his [life] in behalf of his friends”—Matt. 10:16; John 15:13. ( Watchtower, June 1, 1960, p. 352 See also Feb. 1, 1956, p. 78)
All critics and opposers of the Watchtower are considered “wolves” who have declared war on the Watchtower, all of whose followers are labeled “sheep.” Furthermore, it is “proper for the inoffensive ‘sheep’ to use war strategy toward the wolves in the interests of God’s work” ( Watchtower , Feb. 1, 1956, p. 86).
The case of Elsa Abt (see Watchtower , May 1, 1957, p. 285) is a good example of how the Watchtower teaches more than hiding the truth, namely, openly lying. According to the Watchtower account, when she was questioned by the police about the whereabouts of a mimeograph machine and “the identity of the one taking the lead in carrying on the underground preaching work,” she answered contrary to the truth and “pretended not to know anything.” Her openly lying here is provided as a good example that Witnesses are to emulate. In an entire chapter title “Justified Lying,” Thomas concluded that Witnesses
… are permitted by the Society to lie ... in the interest of their religion. The JWs, of course, do not call this lying. ... [the Watchtower leadership has] invented a new name for this kind of deception, they call it practicing “Theocratic War Strategy” (Thomas, 1972, p. 95).
Thomas then quotes the Watchtower (May 1, 1951), which he claims “clearly shows that JWs do indeed lie whenever it suits their purpose.” This article discusses a Witness who, while going from house to house to proselytize, met a Watchtower opponent:
… Knowing at once what to expect she changed her red blouse for a green one in the very next hallway. No sooner had she appeared on the street than a Communist officer asked her if she had seen a woman with a red blouse. No, she replied, and went on her way. Did she tell a lie? No, she did not. She was not a liar. Rather, she was using theocratic war strategy, hiding the truth by action and word for the sake of the ministry. (p. 285)
Thomas concludes that in this case the Witness “lied to save her own skin” and
the Watchtower’s bold attempt to use this incident as an excuse for all JW’s to deceive and lie in the interest of their religion [should be condemned]. Instead of feeling sorry for one of their own kind, who lied about the fact that she was the JW in the red blouse, the Watchtower congratulates her for acting wisely! (1972, p. 95).
Explaining who a proper target for theocratic war strategy is, The Watchtower (April 15, 1957 p. 256) specifically states any enemy of “God’s organization” (meaning the Watchtower Society) and those who “hate what it teaches” and “want to stop others from learning (about the Watchtower) … to keep the ‘wolves’ from hindering efforts to aid sheep like people who are hungering for knowledge of truth and righteousness. Upon meeting ‘wolves’ Christians will use [war] strategy, being wise as serpents yet innocent as doves.” In other words, a Witness is justified in using theocratic war strategy against anyone who interferes with the Watchtower’s work, including Watchtower critics who are themselves Witnesses, as the Goodrich example above shows.
That the Watchtower openly teaches lying is proper as a deception to defend their interests is indicated in the following exchange that occurred between Watchtower attorney Carolyn Wah and Duane Magnani, who was being deposed in the case of Marcus Reyes (C ase 6939-C. Abilene , TX . In the District Court of Taylor County , TX , 326th Judicial Court ):
Magnani: … [Witnesses teach that they are] in theocratic warfare and he must exercise added caution when dealing with God's foes. Thus the Scriptures show that for the purpose of protecting the interests of God's cause, it is proper to hide the truth from God's enemies.
Wah: Thanks. Would that suggestion be any different than a soldier supporting a government who is captured by an opposing Army?
Wah: How so?
Magnani: Well, in this situation, when we are talking about hiding the truth ... in terms of theocratic warfare or spiritual warfare Jehovah's Witnesses believe that all non-Jehovah's Witnesses are in the camp of Satan and all Jehovah's Witnesses are in God's camp …
Wah: So then you are saying in a war, that during World War II, for example, that German soldiers captured by American soldiers would not have a problem with lying between the two?
Magnani: It depends on the circumstance. With Jehovah's Witnesses, their main motivation in life is to present whatever the Watchtower organization desires them to present. If the organization has said something which an opposer, i.e., a non-Jehovah's Witness wants to discuss, then it is the duty of the Jehovah's Witness, in our experience and from the documentation that we have, to, in essence, cover up, lie, [or] distort ... to make the Society look good ...” (R.T. p. 47).
After a study of Watchtower policies and practices, Attorney Thad Nugent concluded that the Watchtower recommends
the giving of testimony under oath which is known to be untrue. ... By the statutory definitions, that is perjury [and] … it is very clear that [the Watchtower] instructs the “Jehovah’s Witnesses, who find themselves involved in custody cases, how to avoid getting themselves into a position [in which] ... they have to say what it is they are really practicing with respect to their kids, with respect to the way that their children live, and with respect to the limitations that are placed on those children for their psychological and emotional and social development [and this conclusion is] real clear!. (Witness, Inc., 1994, taped interview with T. Nugent).
In one case , which is evidently not atypical, the Watchtower attorney allegedly informed a Witness trying to achieve custody that the court “may be biased against Witnesses because of their religion. Therefore, any example of abuse that you can recall would be very helpful to your case.” After the Witness stated that she could not think of any, the Watchtower attorney allegedly then coached her to mislead the court with the following words: “If you cannot [think of an example of abuse], it is going to be far more difficult to prevail in your case. Think hard, and I am sure you can come up with an incident when you at least felt frightened of your husband.” The attorney allegedly encouraged lying by explaining to the Witness that the outcome of this trial meant her children’s everlasting life and emphasized that giving custody to her husband, an opposer, would surely mean their destruction at Armageddon, arguing as follows:
Would you want your children to die the horrible death at Armageddon? Don’t you want them in the New World with you? Their life is in your hands, and you must do what you can to insure that you receive custody. If a deranged man, foaming at the mouth, came to your door asking for your mother, would you openly tell him that your mother was upstairs, allow him to force his way in and go up there and harm her? No, of course not; you would say anything to mislead him. After all, he has no right to the truth. Likewise, in this situation the court has no right to the truth. (From a taped transcribed transcript with a former JW, source not identified due to client confidentiality. The author was a consultant to this case.)
In another case in which the author was a consultant the Witness claimed that her husband only “mouthed” that he wanted to harm her, yet in court he was accused of physical abuse, quite in contrast to her earlier claims. By using such tactics the Watchtower attorneys may prevail upon their client to use theocratic war strategy in court. The Watchtower also not uncommonly uses unscrupulous ad hominem attacks, presenting wholly inaccurate evidence against the people who testify in these kinds of cases.
An earlier example of the Watchtower's use of theocratic war strategy was provided by a Watchtower official in Sweden , a Johan Henrick Eneroth, who states that during World War II it “became necessary to use theocratic war strategy in order to maintain desired contact with occupied countries.” He then explained he had to deceive the government and misrepresent his purpose in order to obtain a visa. Specifically Eneroth misrepresented himself as “a wholesale dealer in guts” ( Watchtower Feb. 1, 1965 p. 94). He then used theocratic warfare again in order to smuggle contraband Watchtower literature into Norway by sending food packages, especially eggs, with “each individual egg wrapped with several sheets of The Watchtower [magazine].” He adds, “when this was finally discovered by the Germans, we found another way” (The Watchtower Feb. 1, 1965 p. 94). This other way involved packing Watchtower magazines in food stuffs that were then taken to the military airport at Aalborg , Denmark to be “carried by Hitler's own aircraft into Norway !” ( Watchtower Feb. 1, 1965 p. 95). The author then relates several other similar methods he used to smuggle contraband literature into other countries.
Another case that occurred in the Netherlands was related by Robert A.Winkler. When he was threatened with interrogation, he “... knew this meant the use of theocratic war strategy for the sake of the Kingdom work and the protection of my Christian brothers” ( Watchtower March 15, 1967, pp. 188-189). This statement shows how intimately the theocratic warfare doctrine is connected to Watchtower theology.
The importance of theocratic warfare was again repeated in another Watchtower article, (May 15, 1988, p. 20) that relates that Winkler used theocratic warfare strategy to protect his fellow Witnesses and that Witnesses must at times use this technique to defend the Watchtower organization. The expression using theocratic war “for the sake of the Kingdom work and for the protection of Christian brothers” here refers to withholding the truth to protect the Watchtower organization and its activities. The doctrine covers not only lying, but also deception. The Watchtower put it this way:
In warding off the immediate threat, Hezekiah agreed to pay tribute to Sennacherib, and he even cut off the overlaid doors and doorposts from Jehovah’s temple, in order to make this payment (2 Ki. 18: 13-16). No doubt this was part of Hezekiah’s theocratic war strategy, a move to gain time, and to put him in a better position to grapple with the enemy. Likewise, today, there are occasions when Jehovah’s Witnesses have to move cautiously in preserving their God-given right to true worship (March 15, 1968, p. 170).
The article teaches that Witnesses can violate the government’s laws either by finding loopholes in the law or by skirting the law. The Watchtower tends to prefer this focus instead of working lawfully to change what they consider unjust laws, as do most churches.
A good example of lying at the highest administrative Watchtower levels reportedly occurred in Europe as a result of a July 23, 1993 , burglary at the Watchtower branch office in Holbaek , Denmark . The case relates to a Danish ruling called the Registertilsyn that declared on September 14, 1992 , that the Watchtower practice of keeping certain confidential information about its members is in violation of Danish law. As a result of this ruling, the Watchtower agreed to destroy all personal and confidential information related to disciplinary cases by November of 1992. A short time before this deadline, the Watchtower branch office stated that “they had carried out the order of the registertilsyn” (Henricksen, 1993, p. 2).
Whether the Danish law, which is similar to the American Privacy Act, is a just law is another question. The concern here is the honesty of the Watchtower’s statement that the relevant files were destroyed. The branch office is required to specifically follow the policy book called The Branch Office Procedure , which outlines the official Watchtower policy . This volume teaches theocratic war strategy, noting that the branch leaders are to use their judgment to determine if it is in the best interest of the Watchtower Society to be honest, noting that “sometimes it is best not to say certain things, even though they are true” (Henricksen, 1993, p. 3). The burglary uncovered documents that revealed that the
Watchtower applied the rule in this case, and openly lied about destroying the documents. In Henricksen’s words:
From a typed transcript of interview with the client and his attorney. The case is not cited because of lawyer-client confidentiality. The author was a consultant in this case.
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