DF Form No-No’s

 Organization  Comments Off on DF Form No-No’s
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.

Dec 242004
 

Two days after I sent Letter 1, I received a call from two the the elders of my congregation. They asked if I were formally disassociating myself. When I replied that I was not, I was invited to appear before them to face charges of apostasy. I sent this letter as a reply to that invitation. The elders never replied either in writing or verbally.

December 17, 1999

Dear Brothers,

I realize how difficult all of this is for you in dealing with me, what I said in my recent letter and where all of this is likely going. My purpose in writing that letter was not to cause any of you any trouble, but just to let my old friends know what was happening with me. In that letter, I was able to address you and the others I wrote to as friends, some of whom I have known for more than twenty five years. I know that you are doing what you think is right, but please realize that I am doing the same. None of what follows in this letter is meant to cause any of you any personal grief. Despite all this I love you brothers very much.

In my recent phone conversation with Paul W___ and Paul D______, I was not surprised at all at the way our conversation went. Having dealt with many judicial situations while I was an elder, I know that friendship ends up taking second place to organizational concerns in situations such as this. Since you are dealing with me, not as friends, but as elders appointed by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Incorporated, and since I think there is good reason to believe that you will be consulting and/or reporting to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Incorporated, I feel I must respond to you as agents of that corporation rather than as I would like to – as friends.

I have decided that I will not formally disassociate myself from the Portsmouth Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses or from Jehovah’s Witnesses in general. I came to this decision for several reasons. First, there is nothing I see in the Bible that calls for a formal letter of disassociation in my situation, or any other. It seems to me that the provision of formal disassociation is a matter of convenience for the legal department of the Watchtower Society rather than serving any real religious purpose. It allows people to be pigeon-holed into nice neat little categories rather than dealing with the real issues involved. Also, I have no problem with the Portsmouth Congregation or its members. My disagreement is with certain actions, policies, teachings and writings contained in publications that are produced and in oral teachings promulgated either individually or collectively by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses and its legal corporations, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, Inc. and the International Bible Students Association.

The purpose of this letter is to clarify certain matters and to secure and protect what I consider basic human rights in dealing with agents of the multinational, multi-billion dollar Watchtower corporations.

Since you have asked me to appear before a judicial committee to face charges of apostacy, there are a few things that I must ask for and which I feel must be clarified before I will even consider meeting with a judicial committee.

1. I shall be notified in writing of the time, place and purpose of any meetings with a judicial committee.

2. I shall be notified in writing of the exact purpose of the meetings.

3. I shall be notified in writing exactly on whose behalf the judicial committee was convened and is acting: the Portsmouth Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses or its legal corporation the Portsmouth Company of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses or its legal corporations, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, Inc., the International Bible Students Association or any other agency not here named.

4. If any other agency other than the one for whom the judicial committee has informed me they are acting for is consulted, reported to, or allowed to have any bearing on the outcome of the judicial process, I will consider the judicial committee as acting in the their behalf.

5. I shall be notified in writing as to my status as a member of any and all of the organizations for which the committee is acting or to which the committee will report.

6. I insist that the judicial committee immediately cease, and in the future desist from any actions toward or against me in behalf of any corporation or organization of which I am not a member.

7. I shall be notified in writing of any accusations against me, the names of persons making such accusations and the substance of any evidence against me.

8. I shall be notified in writing of any and all of my rights and responsibilities involved in the judicial process.

9. I shall be given sufficient time between notification of any meetings with a judicial committee and the time of the actual meeting to prepare a response to any accusations.

10. I shall be allowed to have one person of my choice present during all meetings between me and the judicial committee as an observer. Since I think there is good reason to believe that the judicial committee may consult with one or more lawyers, specifically those employed by the Legal Department of Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Incorporated, the person of my choice may also be a lawyer.

11. During the meetings with the judicial committee I and/or my observer will be allowed to take whatever notes we feel are necessary.

Additionally, if the judicial committee takes any judicial action against me :

12. I will not recognize any action taken by the judicial committee as valid unless it is communicated to me in writing, stating the exact nature and reason for the action.

13. In this written communication the judicial committee must state exactly on whose behalf they have taken the action, specifically the Portsmouth Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses or its legal corporation the Portsmouth Company of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses or its legal corporations, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, Inc., the International Bible Students Association or any other agency not here named.

14. If the judicial committee has stated that it is acting only for the Portsmouth Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, it is enjoined from notifying any agency outside the congregation of their action. If the judicial committee or anyone acting in their behalf notifies of reports to anyone outside the Portsmouth Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I may take any appropriate legal action.

15. I may appeal any action taken by the judicial committee.

16. Before I will meet with an appeal committee, that committee must notify me in writing of the names of all of the members of the appeal committee and who each one represents: the Portsmouth Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses or its legal corporation the Portsmouth Company of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses or its legal corporations, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, Inc., the International Bible Students Association or any other agency not here named

17. There shall be no contact between the judicial committee and the appeal committee other than to inform them of the time and place of my meetings with them. If I determine that there is any contact, communication or attempt on the part of any of the members of the original judicial committee or anyone acting on their behalf to, in any way prejudice or sway the appeal committee, I will insist that a new appeal committee be formed.

18. I shall be notified in writing of any and all of my rights and responsibilities involved in the appeal process.

19. I shall be allowed to have one person of my choice present during the all meetings between me and the appeal committee. Since I think there is good reason to believe that the appeal committee may consult with one or more lawyers, specifically those employed by the Legal Department of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Incorporated, the person of my choice may also be a lawyer.

20. During the meetings with the appeal committee I and/or my observer will take whatever notes we feel are necessary.

21. I will not recognize any action taken by the appeal committee as valid unless it is communicated to me in writing, stating the exact nature and reason for the action.

22. In this written communication the appeal committee must state exactly on whose behalf they are taking the action, specifically the Portsmouth Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses or its legal corporation the Portsmouth Company of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses or its legal corporations, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc. the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, Inc., the International Bible Students Association or any other agency not here named.

23. If the appeal committee has stated that it is acting only for the Portsmouth Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, it is enjoined from notifying any agency outside the congregation of their action. If the appeal committee or anyone acting in their behalf notifies or reports to anyone outside the Portsmouth Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I may take any appropriate legal action.

24. I understand that if I am disfellowshipped by the judicial committee and the disfellowshipping is upheld by the appeal committee that I am, at that point, no longer considered to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I also understand that it is necessary to make a brief announcement that I have been disfellowshipped. From then on, I will consider any attempt to convince by speeches, talks or teaching; to coerce by implied or actual threat of similar judicial action; or to encourage by private counsel or suggestion any of Jehovah’s Witnesses to treat me differently from any other person that is not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses to be a serious violation of my civil rights and I may initiate any legal action, civil or criminal that I deem appropriate. This includes any attempt to convince by speeches, talks or teaching; to coerce by implied or actual threat of similar judicial action; or to encourage by private counsel or suggestion any present Jehovah’s Witnesses to shun or avoid me, cease or otherwise modify their doing business with me, or terminate or otherwise abrogate any lease, rental, mortgage, or any other legal agreement that I may presently have with them. I may consider such to be an infringement of free trade and may initiate appropriate legal action.

25. I consider any communication between the members of the judicial committee and myself and the appeal committee and myself to be ecclesiastically privileged. Any attempt to reveal the substance or tone of those communications to any other person or group will be considered by me to be a breach of that privilege and may result in legal action. This includes any announcements beyond the fact of my disfellowshipping, speeches, talks, or any other communication, written or oral, public or private.

I fully realize that you may be unwilling or that the Watchtower corporations will not allow you to comply with the preceding.

I respectfully await your written response