One morning at Bethel in 1989, after the usual text discussion before breakfast, there was an announcement to the staff about the legalization of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Poland. We were told that no longer were the Witnesses banned although the Watchtower had been given legal recognition in that country for some years.1
The announcement left me perplexed. Later, while walking home with Governing Body member Dan Sydlik (now deceased) after work, I asked him, “How come the Polish government didn’t know that the Watchtower and Jehovah’s Witnesses were one and the same?”
Dan thought for a moment and then turned a serious face to me and said, “Well, they’re Polish, you know.”
I laughed heartily over Dan’s playful remark and forgot all about my question. After Dan went his way and I went mine, I chuckled all the way home and could hardly wait to tell my husband, Joe, about Dan’s comical observation.
(Dan was of Polish descent as I was. And Joe loved the Polish jokes popular in those years and oft-times repeated them knowing that I didn’t take offense but enjoyed them too.)2
As strange as it might seem, I never gave another thought to the question I asked Dan about until I read an article on Israel’s National News Internet site, Arutz Sheva, about “Mitzpe L’Yisrael,”a non-profit organization that rented space at a school in Netanya in 2001 to conduct daily afternoon activities. The article stated that the school authorities canceled the contract with the group when they discovered Mitzpe L’Yisrael was in reality the “notorious missionary sect of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” Mitzpe L’Yisrael quickly filed a lawsuit against the school authorities for voiding the lease. It was on February 2, 2014 when the Tel Aviv Magistrates Court announced the rejection of the lawsuit. When I read the news article on March 11, 2014, I wondered who in the world was Mitzpe L’Yisrael?3
It was later that day when I found out the name “Mitzpe L’Yisrael” in English meant “Israel’s Watchtower,” or “Watchtower Society of Israel,” and immediately I had an “aha!” moment. The actions of the Watchtower not to use the name Jehovah’s Witnesses when renting the space in an Israeli school fit with the Polish government not being aware that Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watchtower were the same organization.
In light of the actions of the Witness organization in Poland and in Israel over twenty-five years later, I realized that this must be a long-standing practice for Jehovah’s Witnesses to hide their “notorious” identity by using Watchtower as their front in unwelcoming countries – or even in circumstances where people are not favorable to the beliefs and actions of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The United Nations
My “aha!” moment started a chain reaction in my head and I recalled a conversation I had around 2002 with a former Jehovah’s Witness who was a secretary in one of the departments at the United Nations headquarters in New York. This person told me that after the publicity about the Watchtower’s ten-year association with the United Nations agreeing to uphold its charter as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) under the direction of the UNs Department of Public Information (DPI), she decided to ask a DPI official why the Watchtower was approved for association in 1991 by DPI when Watchtower leaders routinely condemned the UN in their literature? Here is the official’s reply which I have never shared before:
“Back then,” she said, “we were not aware that the Watchtower and Jehovah’s Witnesses were the same organization. If we had known that the application for NGO status came from Jehovah’s Witnesses, it would never have been approved!”
If my memory serves me correctly, when I read the contractual paperwork which the Watchtower’s representatives signed, nowhere was there any mention that Watchtower was the corporate entity used by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
How could UN officials in New York not know that the Watchtower and Jehovah’s Witnesses were one and the same group in view of the fact that these two organizations are located not far from each other?
Although the Watchtower proclaims its existence with a huge sign installed on the roof of their office building located at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge on the Brooklyn side that literally can be seen across the East River from Wall Street, the words, “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” which would identify the place as their world headquarters, can not be found.
Why is “WATCHTOWER” the only name found on top of the building anyway? Isn’t that odd in light of the fact that Jehovah’s Witnesses claim near and far that only they are “proclaiming Jehovah’s name.” Wouldn’t the sign on the roof of Jehovah’s Witnesses headquarters, known as The Watchtower, be the perfect place to advertise the name “Jehovah”?
Ciro Aulicino, a senior staff member in the Writing Department told me in 1991 that a press-pass to access the UN building and events would be provided to any publishing company that requested one and that’s how he obtained his. Ten years later, I learned what Ciro had wasn’t just a press-pass – it included NGO status along with many perks provided by the UN.
It’s obvious from the actions of Watchtower in Israel, as well as in Poland years earlier, that they know the name “Watchtower” is accepted in international circles as a religious book-publishing corporation; whereas the name Jehovah’s Witnesses carries with it overwhelming negative baggage: non-support of the military, politics, blood transfusions, higher education, or societal improvements due to their belief in Jesus Christ’s imminent second-coming and the end-of-the-world. Moreover, Watchtower’s leadership are cognizant of the fact of governmental distaste for the Witnesses policy of shunning members which oftentimes has led to disastrous results.
In the instances mentioned above, it’s obvious Watchtower’s leaders applied “Theocratic Strategy” or maybe even “Theocratic Warfare,” and their scheme did work for a while. Although the news article reporting the “Mitzpe L’Yisrael” story was a short one, I have every confidence that among international leaders, the news of the duplicity of Watchtower of Israel will spread.
I find the arrogance of the Watchtower to turn to the courts to demand in their lawsuit compensation for mental anguish and legal expenses most nauseous. Obviously, to do such a thing, Watchtower leaders felt no guilt for consciously misleading school authorities by using deceitful tactics; but to me and many others, their actions are reprehensible.
What would Watchtower leaders do if they discovered a Witness used deceit to get accepted as a Bethel staff member by using another name, not their own name because it was associated with conduct unacceptable to the group? The answer is simple: That person would immediately be disfellowshipped and shunned!
Names and More Names
The name, Jehovah’s Witnesses, was new in 1931 to a group known as “Bible Students.” The Witnesses history book, acknowledges that followers of Charles Taze Russell, the first president of (Zion’s) Watch Tower Corporation, were disparagingly dubbed “Russellites.” However, they “…referred to themselves as Bible Students and starting in 1910 they used the name International Bible Students’ Association with reference to their meetings. In 1914, … they adopted the name Associated Bible Students…” After the death of Russell, “some former associates refused to cooperate with the Watch Tower Society and the International Bible Students Association even opposing the work of these societies.”4
This happened when the second president of the Watch Tower, Joseph F. Rutherford, changed many of Russell’s teachings. To put miles between his supporters and dissenters, Rutherford came up with a new name that came to him in a dream, “Jehovah’s witnesses.” Notice the lower case “w.” Later, the “w” was capitalized.
Due to Rutherford’s antipathy towards all religion especially the Christian religion as expressed in Witness literature and on the Witnesses’ radio station, WBBR, the name Jehovah’s Witnesses was looked upon with distaste by many around the world. Consequently, in their door-to-door ministry, Witness evangelizers avoided telling people who they were. If asked, they said they represented the Watch Tower Society. That’s the name used by the woman who studied Watch Tower literature with me and my mother in 1954 after I asked her what was the name of the religion? It took her three months to finally tell me that the group went by the name of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
And since the 1920s, whenever Watchtower members spoke about their organization, they always called it “The Society.” (Rutherford made constant use of this term.) But more than a half century later, those who paid attention to such things noticed the term was disappearing in the literature. And after the 21st century rolled in, the use of the term “The Society” was specifically discouraged.
Since the year 2000, Watchtower logos have been removed from Kingdom Hall signs around the world and then a new corporation was announced, the Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Inc. That’s the name stamped at the end of all correspondence from the Watchtower’s Service Department, although minus the “Inc.” By putting “Christian” in front of the name Jehovah’s Witnesses, do Watchtower leaders think the name will be more palatable?
As far as I’m concerned, today’s Watchtower leaders are going through a CIC, or Cult Identity Crisis. My use of the word “cult” in this instance is according to the following definition:
“…an ideological organization held together by charismatic relationships and demanding total commitment.” (Zablocki, 1997). This definition is compatible with some definitions of new religious movements, but cult can also refer to nonreligious organizations. As defined here, cults are at risk of abusing members, but do not necessarily do so.”5
With the Internet more and more accessible everywhere and the strange history of the Watchtower and of Jehovah’s Witnesses doctrinal flip-flops readily available, many members are bailing. Recruitment of new members is down. Consequently, the Watchtower is having a CIC panic attack which is not going away but getting more intense with the result that this cult is changing its identity by rebranding itself as an “e-religion” named “JW.ORG”.
This conversion of Jehovah’s Witnesses carefully cultivated door-to-door image to an important educational e-religion in the minds of the members reminds me of the old story of the emperor wearing new clothes. The emperor was convinced by his weavers that he had on new, extraordinary clothes which they made for him, but in reality he was naked. One aspect of the moral of this story is, “don’t believe everything you’re told by those who seek gain.”
Watchtower is still Watchtower, whatever name is used to push their interests forward. Watchtower members are being misled by the so-called “New Light” that Watchtower leaders claim is “progressively” shining only on their Governing Body. To continue to delude the Witnesses, Watchtower leaders are giving their old failed apocalyptic doctrines a modern look and feel. But nothing has changed – it’s still the same old-time apocalyptic religion using a new way to dispense old fables.
Some might say that Jehovah’s Witnesses have to hide the their true identity because of religious persecution. If they gave in, they would not be able to preach their message. Well, in my opinion that would be best for the reason that many of their beliefs are harmful. This is not a case of Belief vs. Belief. It’s about beliefs that divide families through shunning or cause death because of the Witnesses blood transfusion ban.
If the leaders of this religion think they can escape from the results of their harmful beliefs by changing their image or even their doctrines, they are deceiving themselves in as much as thousands of former members will continue to expose the deceitful practices of a corporation that masquerades as a benevolent religion.
In October 2014, when Watchtower leaders are putting on a new face and celebrating a new image at their Annual Meeting, we will continue to announce the truth to the world that Jehovah’s Witnesses end-of-the world message preached since the first Watchtower journal was published in July of 1879 was and still is false!
Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Watchtower can not hide their true identity. Since 1931, the name Jehovah’s Witnesses has been identified by most of the world as being an incomprehensible and annoying religious group that foments religious unrest and noncompliance in national observances. And since 2002 their name has been identified by national news media in many countries as an organization that protects pedophiles.
If that isn’t bad enough, governments concerned about human rights violations have taken notice of the notorious shunning policy of Jehovah’s Witnesses if a member questions their leaders about the pedophilia problem or about any inconsistencies in the religion. In addition, of great concern to educators, children of Jehovah’s Witnesses are basically made to shun school-mates and higher education. On their website, the new e-religion, jw.org, lies about having a pedophilia problem, and continues to claim that shunning is not a policy of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Statistical researchers have found that as many as 70% of people born and raised in cultic groups leave when they become adults. This is happening in the Watchtower cult. In response to this loss, if Watchtower leaders announce momentous changes to their failed, more than a century-old message about the impending return of Jesus along with his destruction of the world, the departure rate will escalate for everyone knows that “big winds come from empty caves.”
When gray-headed Watchtower adherents die, there will be no replacements because accurate information can be found on the world-wide web about the Watchtower organization’s duplicitous and hypocritical history.
For years, “The Society” has operated as a “Secret Society” with virtually no transparency, but the power of the Internet has made secrecy impossible. No matter what name they go by in the United States, for example: Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society, Inc., changed to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, Inc.; Bible Students; International Bible Students Association (IBSA); Associated Bible Students; Peoples Pulpit Association of New York later called Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.; Watch Tower Society; Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and now JW.ORG, they are all one and the same. As the school authorities in Netanya, Israel, found out, they are all front organizations for “the notorious missionary sect of ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses.’”
“It began when a missionary group, via a non-profit organization called ‘Mitzpe L’Yisrael’ rented space at the Raziel school in Netanya to conduct daily afternoon activities. Shortly after signing the rental agreement, the school authorities discovered that the group was, in reality, the notorious missionary sect of ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses.’ The school immediately announced it was cancelling the contract. In response, the missionary group turned to the courts, demanding that the school carry out the contract and pay the NIS 108,000 in damages.
“The Magistrates Court rejected the sect’s suit, saying they (the missionaries) knew no school administration would ever have agreed to enter into a contract with them had they not used another organization as a front.”