Table II. Definition of the Theocratic Warfare Doctrine
The court’s definition of truth “One must tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth” must be strictly adhered to.
We do not have to follow the rule, i.e., they can withhold the truth from those who have no right to know it.
To protect the interests of the Watchtower and God’s organization, it is appropriate to tell what the world might conclude are little white lies.
One must use words in such a way to defend God’s organization--even if this means lying in worldly terms.
An examination of the questionnaires of those who claimed they were not aware of the doctrine shows they were far less involved in the Watchtower—some were at best nominal Witnesses who attended meetings often as a result of family pressure. Dedicated Witnesses who held administrative positions were, with only one exception, very aware of the doctrine and its significance (elders and circuit overseers). Most (98%) knew of the practice or could define it, but some Witnesses did not recognize it by the proper term. Some may have still thought of the doctrine by the old term “Rahab technique.” Some persons may not be aware of the term because the word “theocratic” is used less often now than formerly, but is still common. An example is their official songbook Singing Praises to Jehovah (1984), which is used at all meetings and lists 13 songs under “Theocratic Warfare.”
The Watchtower uses several Scriptures to justify lying aside from those already discussed. As Thomas comments, the Watchtower attempts to justify lying by noting that
… in the Bible, Rahab the harlot lied to the King of Jericho in order to protect the Israelites spies. The JW’s argue that when Jericho was destroyed, Rahab was spared because she lied to protect the spies. The Bible reveals, however, that Rahab was spared because she acknowledged Israel’s God to be the true God (Josh. 2:11). God spared Rahab’s life not because she lied, but in spite of the fact that she lied. The Watchtower further points out that Abraham, Isaac, and David also hid the truth at times. But all this proves is that even the best of men have had their failings. Surely one cannot use the mistakes of any man (no matter how great he may be) as an excuse for wrong-doing. The command of the New Testament is clear: “Wherefore putting away lying, SPEAK EVERY MAN TRUTH WITH HIS NEIGHBOR” (Eph. 4:25 ). Jehovah’s Witnesses, by their own admission, do not speak the truth with their neighbor if it is in their interest not to do so. If they deem it advantageous, the JW’s will deliberately lie to their neighbor! (emphasis in original, Thomas, 1972, p. 96)
On the use of the Rahab strategy to justify lying, Robbins concluded:
Scripture does not praise Rahab for lying; that is an invalid inference… It would be odd if the Bible, which repeatedly condemns lying, were to praise someone for lying. Given [this] ... why ... infer that God commends Rahab for lying alone? Her prostitution was equally important in the saving of the Jewish spies, and inferring that the Bible therefore endorses prostitution would be just as valid. ... [Yet some persons] suggests that Rahab and [others] … are adequate precedents for lying when needed. (1994, pp. 1-4)
The position that lying is justified if it misleads only those who have “no right to know the truth” was never taught by any Christian church as a formal doctrine, and Thomas concludes that many Christian martyrs could have saved their lives
... if only they had employed the so-called “Theocratic War Strategy” of JW’s. With many of them their very lives hung on the answer to this one question. “Are you a Christian?” If they dared to answer “yes,” terrible torture awaited them. All they had to do, in many cases, was to deny being a Christian and their lives would be spared. But these great stalwarts of the Christian Faith ... did not stoop to Watchtower trickery to escape “the tyrant’s brandished steel or the lion’s gory mane.” They lost their earthly lives for the cause of Christ but gained everlasting life and eternal honor. This is our Christian heritage and we have every right to be proud of it. (Thomas, 1972, pp. 97-98)
The Watchtower’s stand on lying is actually inconsistent. A good example occurred during World War II involving Witnesses in the Nazi concentration camps. In order to be released from some camps, Witnesses merely had to sign a paper renouncing their allegiance to the Watchtower—yet the Society instructed them not to, even teaching that to deny the Watchtower in order to protect themselves would dash their hopes of everlasting life. They were instructed to lie only to protect the Watchtower, not themselves (Buber, 1946). As may be expected, though, Witnesses’ lying tends to extend into other areas. Thomas relates an experience that allegedly occurred when he offered a Witness one of his tracts that critiqued Watchtower beliefs:
This JW did not know me personally, but he said that he knew the writer of the tract personally. (He was lying!) Thinking that I was someone else, he began defaming the writer stating that “yours truly” had been booted out of the Watchtower Society in the East for stealing funds from them. (I have never been a JW.) He then sneeringly began denouncing me as an idiot, claiming that I must be really stupid to allow this tract writer to dupe me into handing out his pamphlets. As this JW was venting his spleen against the tract writer ..., I showed him my driver’s license which proved that I was the tract writer in question. I demanded an apology from this lying JW. ... The Watchtower gospel had so twisted this man’s mind that he couldn’t even blush for shame, let alone apologize. This is an example of JW theocratic war strategy—deliberately lying in the interest of their religion. This JW thought that by lying about the author of the anti-JW tracts that he could discourage Christians from giving them out. Certainly this JW knew that he was lying, but it did not bother him! For had not the Watchtower taught him that it was scriptural for JW’s to deceive and lie in the interest of their religion? ... It is well known that the policy of evil and unscrupulous men is that the end justifies the means. Seemingly the JWs have adopted this policy. (Thomas, 1972, pp. 96-97)
Of course, it is difficult to determine if a person is consciously using Theocratic War Strategy or just playing loose with the facts to escape an embarrassing situation. The situation Thomas recounts may include a bit of both (Raines, 1998, p. 30).
The teaching of the Watchtower theocratic war strategy doctrine that it is appropriate to withhold the truth from those who could use it to harm the Watchtower is intended to further their interests (Bergman, 1994). Evidently, with only two exceptions that I know of, they are the only religious group that directly teaches, as part of official doctrine, that it is appropriate to lie, according to the court’s definition. While this doctrine may be advantageous in the short run, in the long run it will harm the Watchtower’s interests far more than help them.
Probably the major effect of the doctrine of theocratic war is the psychological harm it causes Witnesses when they become aware of the Watchtower’s record of deception (Bergman, 1996). This was clear in the interviews of 92 Americans and 39 Italians completed for the study cited earlier. Awareness of the Watchtower’s lack of full honesty is often disillusioning, resulting in members leaving the sect. Leaving is incredibly traumatic for many people–especially those who are highly committed. As Duron states:
I was a third generation Jehovah’s Witness before my departure from that religion in 1975. I am married to a second generation former Witness. My husband and I, with a combined total of nearly sixty years of exposure to Witness beliefs and activities, have spent many hours, both separately and together, searching for rationality in our lives. The focus of that search, aside from trying to learn how to rebuild our lives after living through the intense spiritual upheaval of rethinking all of our moral, religious, social, and personal values and beliefs, was to deal rationally with “who gets the kid?” We had two children to think about (Duron, 1991, pp. 16-17).
The example Witnesses use of Abraham lying to Pharaoh, stating that Sarah was his sister and not his wife, may prove to be prophetic here. Watchtower dissidents widely cite the doctrine as an issue that was part of their decision to leave the Watchtower, and opposers commonly tout this doctrine as partial justification for their condemnation of the Watchtower. Their lack of honesty is often noted by their critics (for example see Branden, 1988, and Dahlin, 1988, and most of the references noted in this paper).
Openly reversing the doctrine is unlikely because a reversal will support the conclusion that it was taught and commonly practiced. Furthermore, and most important, reversing it would also be an admission that it was wrong. The Watchtower, in view of their expectation of the imminent Armageddon, is hoping that this predicted battle will save them from having to deal with this problem. No need will exist for the theocratic warfare doctrine in the new world since there will be no opposition to the Watchtower because all non-Witnesses will be destroyed at Armageddon. In view of the repeated failure of the Watchtower’s prediction of the “great day of God the Almighty,” they may be forced to face the doctrine and either quietly let it fade away (which does not seem to be the case—the doctrine has been reiterated in the most current Watchtower publications) or face up to their exegetical mistakes and develop policies involving functional ethics.
The author served as an expert witness in a case in which a jury agreed with a family’s claim for reversal of the will of their family member, Otterbein Duesler, who unexpectedly and abruptly changed his will and left most of his $338,000 estate to the Watchtower Society ( Redman et.al., vs. WTBTS Appeals No. 91 WDO 71, Trial Number C-88-835). Duesler was not a Witness, and had expressed some dissatisfaction about the Watchtower when alive. The family claimed that he left his money to the Watchtower Society because they convinced him that if he did not, he might lose out on everlasting life (W. Caughey, personal interview, Feb. 3, 1991).
The Wood County Court of Appeals reversed this decision (Court of Appeals for Wood County, No 91-WD-07 Decided Aug. 14, 1992). The appeals court ruled that the expert witness's “testimony would allow one to conclude that: (1) Attorney Walter Kobil was a believer (2) the church theology encourages perjury to protect the church (3) Attorney Kobil was willing to lie to protect the church and (4) therefore Attorney Kobil is not credible. Evid. R. 610 prohibits this type of attack on the credibility of a witness. The admission of the evidence was, therefore, error" (p. 11) and "required a new trial" (p. A-19). The appeals court ruled that if a church teaches its members to lie or withhold the truth in order to defend the interests of the church, and if this fact is brought out in court, it is a reversible error.
The Wood County Court of Appeals decision was upheld by the Ohio Supreme Court ( Redman v. Watchtower Bible and Tract Soc. of Penn . 69 Ohio St.3d 98, 630 N.E.2nd 676 reh. denied, 69 Ohio St. 3d 1445 (1994) 632 N.E.2d 913). The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that “Questions concerning a witness’s religious beliefs [including if his religion teaches its members to lie] are not an additional permissible method to test truthfulness” ( Redman v. Watchtower , supra, p. 101). The court also appeared to question the existences of the theocratic war doctrine even though the Watchtower authorities in this case admitted it exists, as will be explained below. On its face, then, this ruling openly protects lying if it is done for religious reasons and if this doctrine is noted in court by the opposing party.
The case involved an older mentally borderline-functioning man, Otterbein Duesler, who also had emotional problems. According to Mr. Caughey, the attorney for the family, the Jehovah Witnesses would not accept Mr. Duesler as a member because his behavior violated Watchtower policy, and they concluded that he would not convey the image the Watchtower is trying to present to the public. Had they genuinely endeavored to help him as a person, the family would have been less concerned about his bequest to the Watchtower. In short, they felt angry and exploited by the Watchtower (W. Caughey, personal interview, Feb. 3, 1991).
The family’s attorney was aware of the “theocratic warfare” doctrine as a result of his own research, and the author was retained as an expert witness to discuss its application. He explained that, in contrast to the court requirement that one tell only “the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” the Watchtower teaches that it is proper to withhold the truth from those who they believe have no right to know it, specifically those that are part of Satan’s system of things, which include all Watchtower opposers, all churches, and the secular governments, including the court system.
This information was related in court to aid the jury in understanding the motives of Jehovah's Witness Elder and attorney (but not the attorney for the case) Mr. Walter Kobil and others in allegedly influencing Mr. Duesler to change his will. The concern of the family was that Mr. Duesler was inappropriately coerced into changing his will. Concern over a changing of a will after a lonely elderly person becomes involved in the Watchtower is not an uncommon event.
The appeals court ruled on “the question of the admissibility of evidence of a witness’s religious beliefs or opinions,” in this case the theocratic warfare doctrine. The court concluded that “no analysis is necessary; the evidence is simply not admissible by virtue of evid.r.610.” This rule reads: “Evidence of the beliefs or opinions of a witness on matters of religion is not admissible for the purpose of showing that by reason of their nature his credibility is impaired or enhanced.”
The Ohio Supreme Court said that the plaintiff elicited expert testimony at the trial, “concerning the beliefs and practices of the Jehovah’s Witnesses” and that the plaintiff’s expert witness “testified that the church engaged in a practice he termed ‘theocratic warfare.’ This practice allegedly includes a church policy to encourage members to perjure themselves in order to protect the church and its followers” (emphasis mine). The court also concluded that much of plaintiff's case centered on the expert witness’s “testimony concerning theocratic warfare and his allegations that Jehovah’s Witnesses would lie to protect the congregation” ( Redman v. Watchtower , supra, p. 100, 69 Ohio St. 3rd, p. 98, 100-101, emphasis mine).
The court also claimed that “most of plaintiff's case was controverted by the defense. Kobil (a Toledo attorney who, at the time of this case, claimed that he had practiced law for 35 years and was, according to the court records, a Witness for 60 years) testified that he was a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but that lying under oath was not a tenet of their teachings. Kobil’s testimony was corroborated by John Schabow, an elder in a local Jehovah’s Witness congregation.” As documented below Kobil did not deny the existence of the doctrine, but only the specifics of its application.
John Schabow testified that he became involved with the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1944 and was an elder in the local congregation (Schabow testimony court transcript, p. 750). When asked by Mr. Kolb, the attorney for the Watchtower in this case (not to be confused with attorney Kobil, a witness in the case), if he “ever heard of the doctrine of theocratic warfare before this case,” he avoided the question by answering, “I don’t know what that refers to. It’s not something that we teach in the congregation or that we study.” In the next question Shabow indicated that he did know what the doctrine referred to. Specifically, Mr. Kolb asked, “does it [the theocratic war doctrine] appear regularly in your writings?” Schabow then denied that it appears regularly, and added that the Watchtower magazine “is distributed freely to the public around the world, and anyone would see that. I don’t see that [doctrine] in the Watchtower magazines.” The concern is if the doctrine is taught, not if it appears “regularly.” Answering no to the question “does the doctrine appear in your writings” would be against the facts.
The term “theocratic warfare” is the term that the Watchtower Society itself coined and regularly uses. In the 1930-1985 Watchtower Publications Index , the term “theocratic warfare” refers the reader to the main topic, “warfare, spiritual.” The official Watchtower teachings, such as in the official Watchtower reference book Insight on the Scriptures , (1988) plus many articles in The Watchtower (e.g. June 1, 1960, p. 351, May 1, 1957, p. 284, and February 1, 1956, p. 78) show that this teaching is officially required dogma. To deny the existence of the doctrine is an illustration of its application. In answer to the question if a person is justified in not telling the truth under some circumstances, Mr. Schabow avoided the question by answering, “we hold highly to telling the truth” (Schabow’s testimony, p. 762-763).
Another witness for the Watchtower, Walter Kobil, in answer to the question “had you, in your 60 years of being a Jehovah’s Witness, ever heard of that doctrine [theocratic warfare] before?,” said “no, I hadn’t.” Mr. Kolb then asked Mr. Kobil, “is it preached? Is it discussed in your literature extensively ?” (note again the use of the word extensively ) In answer, Kobil stated “no, it isn’t.” Then, in answer to the question about the testimony on this doctrine “two days ago” the attorney asked “have you researched that topic?” Kobil said
Yes, I have. . .I was curious about what he was talking about, so I did extensive research and I located a question and answer to. . .from the readers in Watchtower , June the 1st 1960, which is 30 years ago, and. . .those two words appear together, theocratic warfare and. . .the question was: if testifying in court or dealing with officials, must we always speak the truth? And the. . . answer was that we must always speak the truth. The only variation. . .in court or dealing with public officials. . .was that in the case of one of the people in our church who's lives are in jeopardy, that we would avoid giving all of the truth. . . so the article had applications to living under totalitarian governments, and it only had to do with saving lives. . . our beliefs are that we must tell the truth, and this was only that we didn’t have to tell all the truth if it put. . .somebody’s life in jeopardy” (Court transcript, pp. 823-825).
Note, Mr. Kobil did not deny the existence of the doctrine, only the specifics as to when it is appropriate to apply it. This is something quite different than stating the doctrine does not exist as the court implied. Actually, the article says nothing about saving lives or that theocratic warfare is to be used only under totalitarian governments. As the article makes clear, it applies to all governments (see Reed, 1997). Furthermore, the attorney for the appellee, Richard Kolb, in his closing argument, admitted that the appellants do “ not deny the existence of the controversial church [theocratic] war strategy doctrine ” (Appellants’ Reply Brief p. 2; emphasis mine).
In the closing argument, counsel for appellee conceded that the theocratic war doctrine exists, but said that the jury should conclude that it did not apply to Kobil’s or Schabow’s testimony in this case (Court Transcript, pp. 1037-1038). Why it would not apply was never documented. Mr. Kolb contended in his closing argument that the doctrine taught Witnesses don’t have to “squeal on your friends,” (Court Transcript, pp. 1037-1038), meaning you need not tell “the whole truth” in court in contrast to the court oath that requires “the whole truth.” Furthermore, appellant stated
Mr. Kobil’s been a Jehovah’s Witness all of his life, [and has] never heard of the doctrine, and neither did Schabow, but when Kobil looked it up, they found that under certain circumstances such as when your member’s life is in jeopardy. . .if you’re supposed to testify and squeal on your friends then you don’t have to do that. Is that such a terrible thing? Wouldn’t you do the same thing? (emphasis mine). (Court Transcript, pp. 1037-1038)
Kobil also testified in opposition to the expert witness’s claim that Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught to withhold the truth and hence are less credible. Contrary to what is taught by the Watchtower, Kobil stated that the “appellant takes exception” to testimony of the plaintiff’s expert witness “regarding the concept of theocratic warfare” (page 29 of the Kobil's appellant memorandum, written in opposition to plaintiffs’ memorandum). The appellate court evidently agreed in part with Kobil and concluded that the expert witness
was also allowed to testify, over objections, about the alleged doctrine of theocratic warfare. According to [the expert witness]..., the church was an adherent of isolationism. This is a belief held by many church members that their own church is favored by God over others. However, [the expert witness]... testified that the alleged doctrine of the Jehovah’s Witnesses goes further in that the church allegedly teaches its members that at a ‘theocratic ministry school’ that, because the church is favored by God, it is permissible to lie to nonbelievers in court in order to protect the church (entry decided August 14,1992, p. A15 emphasis mine ).
The court’s use of the term “alleged doctrine” implies that the plaintiff, in the court’s view, didn’t convincingly demonstrate that the doctrine exists and that, even if the court had been so convinced, it would have disallowed testimony about the Theocratic War Doctrine because of rule 610, even though that theocratic Warfare is taught by the Watchtower was admitted by Kobil and the Appellants (See appellents' reply brief pp. 2-3 and trial transcript pp. 1037-1038).
The appeals court ruling concluded that the admission of the testimony “regarding the alleged doctrine of theocratic warfare” requires a new trial (p. A19, emphasis mine). The specific testimony at issue, which was close to word for word from the official Watchtower publications, was that Jehovah’s Witnesses consider themselves “more like foreigners or sojourners in this country” and non-Witnesses
are considered evil, at least until they become Jehovah’s Witnesses, so therefore, they feel that they are. . . in a war situation with people in this country, and in every country, and part of the strategy of a war situation is if someone brings you on the stand or asks you a question and answering that question honestly would hurt the Watchtower Society, . . .the Watchtower has ruled very explicitly that if what you are going to say is going to hurt the Watchtower society in any way, then you are to, as they say, withhold the truth. You are not to reveal the truth, in their words, to one who doesn’t deserve to know the truth or learn the truth (R.T. p. 412).
To clarify this, in answer to the question how this doctrine applies to the court, the expert witness testified that
if, in a court room, you are asked a question which could incriminate or hurt the Watchtower society, you are to, in their words, withhold the information. You are not to reveal information which could hurt the Watchtower society. You are to do whatever you can to protect the Watchtower society, and, of course under the oath, you are to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth , and by that definition, of course, that would be lying (R.T. pp. 413-414 emphasis mine).
The Watchtower doctrine (which must be followed by all Witnesses under pain of expulsion) was elaborated by providing situations in which a person has a right to know, such as giving full disclosure to the Watchtower elders, or a prospective mate. The Watchtower notes an exception to the rule that one should provide full disclosure is one
that the Christian must ever bear in mind. As a soldier of Christ he 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. ( Watchtower January 1, 1960, emphasis mine).
The Watchtower article adds that in a court situation “when faced with the alternative of speaking and betraying his brothers or not speaking and being held in contempt of court, the ... [Watchtower follower] will put the welfare of his brothers ahead of his own ” ( Watchtower January 1, 1960, emphasis mine). The Watchtower defines lies as “untruths told for selfish reasons and which work injury to others” ( Watchtower May 1, 1957). This article says nothing about life and death situations as claimed by Kobil, but speaks only about “betraying his brothers.”
The expert witnesses possessed copies of these Watchtower publications on the stand and paraphrased from one of them. They indicate, given the court’s definition of lying: “the whole truth and nothing but the truth and using words with an intent to deceive,” that lying was involved in this case (Lewis and Saarni, 1993, p. 156).
A review of the background of the rule the court used to reverse the juries decision, rule No. 610, indicates that this rule has little bearing on this case. The rule historically refers to, for example, using the belief that one was healed of an illness to ridicule a court witness’s personal faith in areas not related to the case, or the belief of an atheist that some may try to use to impugn the credibility of a court witness who happens to hold this belief (Ratcliffe, 1941). The testimony in this case involved not a belief or opinion, but a doctrine openly taught in official Watchtower publications, a doctrine that must be accepted and practiced under pain of being cut off from the church (Franz, 1983). Of note is the fact that Mr. Kobil ridiculed Emma Kriston’s religious beliefs in his brief as witness for the plaintiff, stating her testimony “reached the incredible” because she claimed her “45 year emphysema was cured by a prayer request to the Wings of Hearing [sic-healing] radio station” (Kobil testimony, pp. 23-24). Kobil added that her testimony “was so far out that it did not satisfy the basic requirement of competent, credible testimony.” Today millions of people believe that faith can heal, and this kind of response appears to be exactly what evid. 610 is designed to prevent (Ratcliffe, 1941).
This rule derives from the once common belief that only a fear of supernatural punishment can make a witness faithful to his oath (Ratcliffe, 1941, p. 339). It is for this reason that a line of questioning that reveals a witness is an atheist (or professes another religion) is forbidden ( Malek v. Federal Ins. Co. 994 F.2d 49 (2nd Cir. 1993). In this case, the religious beliefs of both Kobil and Schabow were a major part of the case that had to be raised in the court trial.
A Utah statute and a New York court opinion provided that persons shall not be excluded from testimony on account of their opinions on religion, but those opinions can be used to question the credibility of a witness (Ratcliffe, 1941, pp. 336-337). Although in Stanbro v. Hopkins (28 Barb (N.Y.) 265 (1859)), the court ruled that questions on religion can be asked to help evaluate a witness’s character and honesty, more recently the courts have usually held that religious beliefs or unbeliefs cannot be used as part of cross examination to question a witness’s credibility (Ratcliffe, 1941; Chadbourn, 1930). The justification often given for this rule is that theological orthodoxy is not to be used as a test of truth, and if a witness holds views different from the jury, this line of questioning could cause the jury to discount the testimony presented.
The court also implied that one of the Jehovah’s Witness elders who testified in this case claimed that the Watchtower does not teach the theocratic warfare doctrine. If this had occurred and the theocratic warfare doctrine was indeed JW teaching, then the elder would have been applying the doctrine to defend the Watchtower. In fact, however, this Elder did not dispute the doctrine in court, but claimed only that it is no longer applied in contemporary court cases in America . The other elder was evasive and claimed the highly unlikely situation that he was unfamiliar with the doctrine even though he was an active Witness for about a half a century.
As noted, the Watchtower teaches in print that it is proper to withhold information from those who they feel have no right to know if such knowledge could damage the Watchtower’s interests. This is in direct violation of the court oath that requires one to tell “the whole truth and nothing but the truth.” Watchtower religious beliefs were critical in this case, and there is no purpose in having a trial in these types of cases unless the effects of the theocratic warfare belief can be evaluated. Furthermore, if asked about this doctrine, the proper response is to tell the truth as required by the court oath, but a JW following Watchtower teachings would not necessarily honor that oath because the court is part of Satan’s system.
The court appears to have concluded — incorrectly in my view — that the theocratic warfare doctrine did not influence JW witnesses to a degree that would make their testimonies suspect. Moreover, the court seems to have implied that even if it had been convinced that the theocratic warfare doctrine was currently operative and influencing testimony, it still would have disallowed expert testimony on the matter because “evidence of the beliefs or opinions of a witness on matters of religion is not admissible for the purpose of showing that by reason of their nature his credibility is impaired or enhanced.” Both of these rulings, in my view, invite serious abuses in future court cases and ought not to have been made in Redman .
Consider for example, the Yahweh Ben Yahweh sect, which teaches that it is proper to murder to defend their church ( U.S. v. Beasley 72 F.3d (11th Cir. 1996)). To be fully consistent with the Ohio Supreme court ruling, if the prosecutors note this religious teaching in court, evidence rule No. 610 would indicate that the murder conviction would be reversed on appeal. The court ruled that the followers of Yahweh Ben Yahweh were involved in at least 14 murders, and that their religious beliefs were critical in establishing the motivations for the murders, a decision that the courts have upheld ( U.S. v. Beasley, 72 F. 3d 1518 (11th Cir. 1996) cert. denied, James v. United States , 518 U.S. 1027, subseq. appeal, United States v. Yahweh , 1996 U.S. App. LEXIS 24977 (11th Cer.), and cert. denied, Yahweh v. United States , 519 U.S. 866 (1996)).
The courts also ruled that teaching that promotes or justifies murdering dissidents (Yahweh Ben Yahweh’s religious teaching) was a proper area of inquiry. Furthermore, the reasons for a death must be established to determine if a murder or a manslaughter conviction is most appropriate. The circuit court also ruled that one cannot hide behind one’s religion in committing illegal acts, in harmony with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the American Indian Religious use of Peyote case ( Employment Division, Dept. of Human Resources v. Smith 494 U.S. 872 (1990)). The court in the Redman case has condoned hiding behind the theocratic war beliefs. Other commentators have concluded that both the appellate court decision and the Ohio Supreme Court decision would appear to give carte blanche permission to lie when lying is based on religious beliefs if the religious belief is brought out in court by the prosecution:
The Ohio Supreme Court in April, 1994, ruled that evidence that Jehovah’s Witnesses use “theocratic war strategy” (i.e., deceive or lie, even in court if necessary to protect the interests of the organization) cannot be used in court. This ruling, in effect, seems to allow JWs to use deception in Ohio courts in the name of religious freedom (Raines, 1996, pp. 29-30).
The Watchtower theocratic war doctrine teaching may result in rather blatant dishonesty if the Witness perceives that this approach will benefit the Watchtower's interests. Numerous examples were given that illustrate how the doctrine is interpreted and applied by active Witnesses in a wide variety of situations. Bias and slanting of information in court to favor one’s position is not unusual in the American judicial system. A major distinction is that the Watchtower institutionally supports and condones what many people regard as dishonesty. Furthermore, many of the cases cited here were custody cases, and in custody cases lack of candor and open dishonesty are more of a problem than in many other types of court cases. This is partly because of the bitterness commonly observed in divorce and custody cases. The application of the doctrine is not limited to custody cases, though, and is used in a wide variety of situations, sometime those that benefit the Witness more than the Watchtower society.
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Jerry Bergman , Ph.D. earned a Ph.D. in evaluation and measurement (minor in psychology) from Wayne State University in Detroit and two masters degrees from Medical college of Ohio . He currently teaches in the life science and social science area at Northwest State College in Ohio . He is a licensed professional clinical therapist and has worked at psychological clinics in Toledo , Ohio and other cities for several years. He has also published widely on the Jehovah's Witnesses and similar groups. He has so far published 20 books and several hundred articles and his work has been translated into 12 languages.