Dec 252004
 

6 things elders are not supposed to put on disfellowshipping reports

During the Kingdom Ministry Schools that were held during November and December of 1994, elders in the United States were given information that was to be written into their “Pay Attention To Yourselves And To All The Flock” book. This information concerned the S77 and S79 forms that local judicial committees use to report disfellowshippings to the branch office in Brooklyn. The following was read to the elders, twice, for them to write word for word into their books.

1. Anything alluding to or naming one of the Society’s attorneys

2. Any mention of the Legal Department

3. Any comments referring to direction from the Society

4. Any comments mentioning anyone other than the committee itself as a possible influence in the decision reached

5. Any comments that might suggest to someone with a critical eye that the committee did not reach its decision on its own but, instead, somehow yielded to the influence of an outside party

6. Any comments indicating that the elders mishandled the case or committed any error in the investigation or the judicial committee process.

I will now take these points one at a time and pose some questions and make some comments about them.

1. Anything alluding to or naming one of the Society’s attorneys

2. Any mention of the Legal Department

The first two points are closely related, so I will take them together. Normally, the Society’s Legal Department would be consulted only under very unusual circumstances. There would not likely be any inclination for the judicial committee to mention either the Society’s Legal Department or their attorneys by name on the S77 or S79 forms unless they had been consulted on that case. If the Legal Department had been consulted, then it would have had some effect on the conduct and possibly the outcome of the judicial hearing. That being so, why is the Society telling the elders on the judicial committee not to mention them if they had to be consulted?

3. Any comments referring to direction from the Society

Why are the elders told not to mention it when every aspect of the judicial process is conducted according to direction from the Society?

Using Google or your own favorite search engine, search on the title “Pay Attention to Yourselves and to All the Flock” book. This is the book that is given only to elders. When you find the book online, look at Units 5a and 5b to see how precisely the Watchtower Society directs the elders in their conducting judicial matters.

This proscription against mentioning any direction from the Society, presumably includes not referring to any comments referring to direction from the Society not to mention direction from the Society. But I have to ask, why does the Society not want the judicial committee to mention this direction from the Society?

4. Any comments mentioning anyone other than the committee itself as a possible influence in the decision reached.

Notice that there is nothing that says that the committee cannot be influenced by someone else when trying to come to a decision. The elders are just told not to mention it if there was any such influence. I would think that the most likely sources of outside influence would be elders who were not serving on the committee who might be related to, or be especially close friends with, the accused, or perhaps the circuit of district overseer.

This leaves the way open for circuit or district overseers, who are directly appointed by the Society and thus are its direct representatives, to exercise influence in a judicial situation and never be called to task for it. At that point, the local elders are left with total responsibility and any legal liability for their decision.

Why doesn’t the Society admonish the elder not to allow anyone outside the committee to influence them rather than tell them not to report it if such influence was exercised?

5. Any comments that might suggest to someone with a critical eye that the committee did not reach its decision on its own but, instead, somehow yielded to the influence of an outside party.

Who, with a critical eye, would have access to these forms? They are for internal use only. Even the local elders who were not on the judicial committee that handled the case in question are not supposed to see them. One possibility is that a friend within the congregation would somehow gain access to them and call the committee to task for yielding to an outside influence. Another possibility is that the Society is worried about these forms either being seized or subpoenaed.

Again, the judicial committee members are not told to disallow any outside influence, but just not to put it on the report if it occurs.

6. Any comments indicating that the elders mishandled the case or committed any error in the investigation or the judicial committee process.

Is this a problem? Does the Society receive disfellowshipping forms that say “We disfellowshipped this person, despite the fact that we mishandled his case.”?

Of course, on the other hand why would a body of elders appoint a brother to be an elder, much less to a judicial committee, if he had no better sense than to put that he had mishandled a judicial case on forms that go to Brooklyn?

Other Related Information

Here are some items from my notes from various meetings that were conducted from outlines supplied by the Society.:

September 1987 meeting with circuit and district overseer in connection with circuit assembly. “Protect the organization from ‘legal exposure’ by adhering to organizational procedure in judicial affairs.”

From the same meeting: “Confidentiality – failure to keep can cause loss of respect, legal problems, may destroy claims of ecclesiastical privilege in court.”

Jan 1988 KM school – Similar admonition about preserving ecclesiastical privilege by maintaining confidentiality in judicial and shepherding situations

September 1989 meeting with circuit and district overseer in connection with circuit assembly: “Confidentiality – don’t make statements to secular authorities without direction from the Society. If subpoenaed – contact Society. In cases of child abuse or serious criminal offense, contact the Society.”

Some Observations

It appears to me that legal concerns have become a very high priority for the Watchtower Society despite the fact that, as far as I have been able to ascertain, there has not been a successful lawsuit over a disfellowshipping since Olin Moyle in the 1940’s. From the six items mentioned above, and from other indications, I get the impression that the Society is trying to establish some kind of legal firewall between the local judicial committees and the Society.

This would keep any potential legal action at the local level where the pockets are shallow and out of Brooklyn where they are extremely deep.

The Society encourages congregations and circuits to put their excess funds “on deposit” with the Society so they can be used. I know that our circuit had about $10,000 on deposit with the Society as of a couple of years ago. This makes funds available to the Society to use (at no interest, by the way) but it also has the effect to making artificially shallow pockets at the local level where any legal action would likely be confined.

Many Kingdom Halls are mortgaged with the Society (with interest). This makes the Society the primary lienholder. If a local congregation was successfully sued and a lien was placed on the Kingdom Hall, it would be second to the primary lien held by the Society.

So it appears to me that the Society want to have it both ways. On the one hand, they want to closely control every aspect of the operation of the congregations. On the other, if any legal difficulties occur, they expect the local congregation to absorb them.

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