Letter to Members of Bulgarian Government

[Letter posted to several members of the Bulgarian Government (June 28, 2000)]

Dear Sir;

I am writing to alert you that your government has been deceived by representatives of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society (the primary legal corporation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses) in relation to European Commission of Human Rights Application No. 28626/95 [1].

The application concerned the re-registration of the Bulgarian branch of the society KRISTIANSKO SDRUZHENIE “SVIDETELI NA IEHOVA” (Christian Association Jehovah’s Witnesses). As I understand the situation, concessions were negotiated between the Bulgarian Government and KRISTIANSKO SDRUZHENIE “SVIDETELI NA IEHOVA” in relation to alternative military service and free choice regarding blood transfusions.

It has recently come to my attention that the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, through its official journal “The Watchtower” and through announcements to the public media and by internal memos, has modified its official stance in relation to whether individual Jehovah’s Witnesses have free choice regarding blood transfusions. This directly affects the agreement negotiated in March 1998 between the government of Bulgaria and the society KRISTIANSKO SDRUZHENIE “SVIDETELI NA IEHOVA”.

The first way in which the Watch Tower Society modified its teaching is in harmony with this official agreement. An article in the official journal “The Watchtower” asks the question, “Do Jehovah’s Witnesses accept any medical products derived from blood?” [2]. The article answers that “Jehovah’s Witnesses hold that accepting whole blood or any of those four primary components (red cells, white cells, platelets and plasma) violates God’s law.” The article goes on to state that only in relation to fractions of these four major components of blood are Jehovah’s Witnesses allowed to make their own conscientious decision whether to accept such or not. This represents a positive change from the previous policy that explicitly
disallowed most blood fractions containing hemoglobin.

The second way in which the Watch Tower Society has modified its policy has to do with the specific agreement finally reached between it and the government of Bulgaria. As of June 2000, if a Jehovah’s Witness accepts a transfusion of blood or of one or more of its four major components, there will be one of three outcomes in relation to that individual’s standing in the Jehovah’s Witness organisation. If the individual, during formal or informal counseling sessions by Jehovah’s Witness elders, acknowledges that he has sinned against God and expresses heartfelt repentance, he will be allowed to remain in good standing. If after counseling he expresses that he feels that his actions were proper, he will be deemed to have disassociated himself by accepting the transfusion and will be completely shunned exactly as if he had been disfellowshipped (excommunicated). If he refuses to meet with Jehovah’s Witness elders, and the elders decide that he has indeed taken some form of “blood transfusion”, the local elders such as those in Bulgaria, and the Watch Tower organisation, will deem him to have disassociated himself.

These new policies are clearly stated in the Watch Tower Society’s recent internal memo to Hospital Liaison Committees [3] as well as in a press release from the Jehovah’s Witnesses Public Affairs Office in Brooklyn, New York, dated 14 June 2000 [4].

Whilst Jehovah’s Witnesses may attempt to distinguish between those who supposedly choose to leave voluntarily (“he has ‘disassociated’ himself”) and those who are forcibly expelled (disfellowshipped by the local elders and the Watch Tower organisation), in reality there is no difference whatsoever. The result is that a sanction has been imposed and the person is shunned by the entire community of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The difference is strictly semantic, a distinction without a difference. In point of fact, the disassociation contrivance is a speedier expulsion process.

The threat of such action is a powerful deterrent for an individual to make a free choice in the matter of blood transfusions and, in my view, amounts to undue coercion and an automatic sanction, in complete violation of the Watch Tower Society’s agreement with the government of Bulgaria in Application No. 28626/95, Part II, Section 2.1., that “les patients Témoins de Jéhovah recourent systématiquement aux soins médicaux pour eux-mêmes et leurs enfants ; il appartient à chacun d’entre eux d’utiliser son libre arbitre, sans aucun contrôle et sanction de la part de la requérante”, or in English, “that members should have free choice in the matter for themselves and their children, without any control or sanction on the part of the association.” The looming threat of sanction robs members of such free choice.

If a Jehovah’s Witness takes a blood transfusion and refuses to meet with local elders, the Watch Tower Society as of June 2000 authorizes these local elders to declare that the person has by his actions implicitly pronounced a sanction upon himself, namely, that he has “disassociated” himself by explicitly rejecting this tenet of the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, even if the person does not actually and explicitly and formally so declare, and even if he explicitly and publicly announces that he has not done so. This declaration by local elders is by definition an automatic “sanction on the part of the association” and a stratagem of speedy expulsion.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses Public Affairs Office on 15 June, 2000 issued another news release titled “Jehovah’s Witnesses reaffirm religious doctrine on blood transfusions” [5]. This news release is a good example of how the Watch Tower Society covers up and confuses issues, because it touches on
none of the important issues I’ve considered so far in this letter.

The Watch Tower Society’s Public Affairs Office maintains a media website to answer general questions [6]. In the section “Beliefs—Frequently Asked Questions” it answers the question “Do you shun former members?” [7]. The answer given is: “Those who simply cease to be involved in the faith are not

The answer given is not true. Those who “simply cease to be involved in the faith” by deliberately taking a blood transfusion will be automatically sanctioned by being labeled by the Watch Tower Society as “disassociated”. As discussed above, this implies complete shunning by non-family members and
virtually complete shunning by even intimate family members. The Watch Tower Society makes this policy explicit in the 14 June 2000 press release:

“If a baptized member of the faith willfully and without regret accepts blood transfusions, he indicates by his own actions that he no longer wishes to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The individual revokes his own membership by his own actions, rather than the congregation initiating this step. This represents a procedural change instituted in April 2000 in which the congregation no longer initiates the action to revoke membership in such cases. However, the end result is the same: the individual is no longer viewed as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses because he no longer accepts and follows a core tenet of the faith.”

Clearly, and despite the claim made in the press release, the act of “no longer viewing the person as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses” with consequent shunning is a step taken, not by the person who took a blood transfusion, but by a local body of elders of Jehovah’s Witnesses who are instructed to act by the Watch Tower Society. This constitutes an automatic sanction and directly violates the agreement supposedly reached between the Watch Tower Society and the Bulgarian government.

No doubt the Jehovah’s Witnesses you meet appear to be honest, pleasant, unassuming people. But beware, they will not be truthful if it suits their purpose. They rationalise such untruthfulness by claiming that their first allegiance is to God, who solely has the right to demand complete truthfulness.

In European Commission of Human Rights Application No. 28626/95, “In respect of the refusal of blood transfusion, the applicant association submits that there are no religious sanctions for a Jehovah’s Witness who chooses to accept blood transfusion” [8] but as stated in the letter to Hospital Liaison Committees: “The individual is no longer viewed as a member of the Christian Congregation because he no longer accepts and follows the Biblical prohibition to abstain from blood.” [9]. Again, the Watch Tower Society’s publicly stated policy directly violates the application made to the European Commission of Human Rights.

I must now ask, “Do Jehovah’s Witnesses practice their faith differently in Bulgaria from the rest of the world, or just profess to practice it differently in Bulgaria to suit their present political goals in this country?” The answer is self evident.

[1] INFORMATION NOTE No. 148 on the 276th Session of the European Commission of Human Rights; and

[2] “The Watchtower”, 15 June 2000, page 29; http://www.stormloader.com/shaun/blood-WT6-15-00.htm

[3] http://ajwrb.org/basics/wtletter6-16-00.jpg

[4] http://www.orthodoxstudies.org/cults/jwpressrelease6-14-00.jpg and  http://www.watchman.org/jwpressrelease6-14-00.jpg

[5] http://www.jw-media.org/releases/default.htm?content=000615.htm

[6] http://www.jw-media.org

[7] http://www.jw-media.org/beliefs/beliefsfaq.htm

[8] http://www.dhcommhr.coe.fr/eng/28626CP.E.html

[9] http://ajwrb.org/basics/wtletter6-16-00.jpg


Kent Steinhaug

Watchtower Observer

Tlf: (+47)35 59 49 00 – Fax: (+47)35 59 00 80

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