PURPOSE and GOALS
VISITORS SHOULD BE AWARE THAT WE RECENTLY MADE THE MOST ADDITIONS TO THIS WEBSITE SINCE IT WAS FIRST BUILT SEVERAL YEARS AGO. SOME OF THE LATEST COURT CASES ARE SOME OF THE MOST SURPRISING. VISITORS ARE ESPECIALLY ENCOURAGED TO VIEW THE TWO HISTORY PAGES AND THE SECRET CASES SECTION FOR NEWLY DISCOVERED ISSUES & INFO POSTED NOWHERE ELSE ON THE WEB.
The purpose of this website is to bring together in one website much of the information scattered across the world wide web that relates to the unique issues which American employers encounter when employing Jehovah's Witnesses. Recently, while working on a somewhat related research project, it occurred to me that I had not stumbled across a single webpage, much less website, which was dedicated to the "Non-JW Employer - Jehovah's Witness Employee" relationship.
Specifically, I would like to concentrate on gathering and posting "real world" scenarios, which are memorialized in official federal and state court documents, as well as news media reports. When an employer wants to educate themself as to the pitfalls lurking in the "real world", there is no substitute for actual lawsuits which describe actual scenarios which led employers to being sued by one of their Jehovah's Witness employees. Currently, this website summarizes or discusses in varying degrees over 900 Jehovah's Witnesses related cases and incidents -- including civil court cases, criminal court cases, threatened lawsuits, complaints filed with various governmental agencies, media reports, other miscellaneous memorializations, and historical background cases.
The goals and beneficiaries should be obvious. A better educated and more informed employer is less likely to violate the civil rights of a Jehovah's Witness employee, thus, is less likely to end up embroiled in a nasty lawsuit which will drain the employer's time and money. The end result should be happy employees and happy employers, who each work together to make happy customers.
FEDERAL & STATE LAWS PROHIBIT RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION
Religious discrimination occurs when an individual is treated differently at any point in the employment process because of their religion, religious beliefs, or religious practices; or lack thereof. An individual rejected for employment, or an employee who is fired, denied a promotion, denied a pay raise, denied a training opportunity, harassed or otherwise harmed in their employment because of their religion, religious beliefs, or religious practices may have suffered unlawful religious discrimination. Unlawful religious discrimination may also include an employer's denial of an employee's request for a change in a workplace rule or policy as an "accommodation" of the employee's religious beliefs and practices.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on religion. The federal government's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces Title VII, and provides oversight and coordination of all federal equal employment opportunity regulations, practices, and policies. Covered are all private employers, state and local governments, and education institutions that employ 15 or more individuals. Also covered are private and public employment agencies and labor organizations.
Although federal law covers only employers with at least 15 employees, many states and even some cities and counties also have anti-discrimination laws that cover workplaces with fewer than 15 employees. Some of the state and local anti-discrimination laws may even be broader than federal law, or may even provide additional protections.
Employers not covered by federal, state, or local anti-discrimination laws may also be subject to private civil lawsuits brought directly by an aggrieved individual on grounds such as "wrongful termination/discharge", etc.
WHY JEHOVAH'S WITNESS EMPLOYEES REQUIRE SPECIAL ATTENTION
Probably more than any other religious group in the United States, Jehovah's Witnesses have a number of religious beliefs and practices which can lead to confrontations with their employers, with their co-workers, with customers, and with others with whom they interact on the job. That fact does not mean that the civil rights of a Jehovah's Witness Employee are any less inviolate than the civil rights of other employees. It simply means that employers will probably have to pay a little more attention to those employees who are Jehovah's Witnesses.
Despite their low numbers (one to four million in the United States - depending whether counting "active", "inactive", "unofficial", "former", etc.), Jehovah's Witnesses are one of the most geographically diverse religious groups in the United States. Consider that there are approximately 3000 counties in the United States, and approximately 13,600 Congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses in the United States. While members of larger denominations are often concentrated in certain regions of the country and absent from others, Jehovah's Witnesses are everywhere - just in smaller quantities. Thus, nearly every American employer will likely interact with a Jehovah's Witness Employee sometime in their business career.
LITIGATION IS IN THE JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES BLOODSTREAM.
The founder of the Jehovah's Witnesses, Charles Taze Russell, was secretly involved in many different businesses other than just his religion business. Charles Taze Russell was involved in oil wells, gas wells, coal mines, gold (and possibly silver) mines, kaolin mining and brick manufacturing, money loans, asphalt sales, piano-organ retailing, chemical products manufacturing and sales, automobile manufacturing, silent film companies, phonograph manufacturing and sales, cemeteries, commercial properties speculation, residential rental properties, and occasionally printing, publishing, and clothing retailing. Click here to read the FINANCIAL BIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES TAZE RUSSELL.
WATCHTOWER FINANCIAL TRIVIA: Despite the fact that the WATCHTOWER BIBLE & TRACT SOCIETY teaches that the U.S. GOVERNMENT is one of GOD's main Enemies on this planet, and that one of the first things that Jesus Christ will do when He eventually "returns" will be to ATTACK and DESTROY the U.S. GOVERNMENT and its MILITARY, the WATCHTOWER SOCIETY annually applies for and receives FEDERAL FARM SUBSIDIES. Since 1995, the WATCHTOWER SOCIETY has collected approximately $450,000.00 from the U.S. GOVERNMENT in exchange for its promise NOT to grow corn, wheat, soybeans, and oats. (Pre-1995 figures not available.)
For decades, the WATCHTOWER SOCIETY has annually held approximately 300 "District Conventions" throughout the United States. Unknown to rank-and-file Jehovah's Witnesses is the FACT that the WATCHTOWER SOCIETY has long solicited FINANCIAL SPONSORSHIP of not only these 300 District Conventions, but also the smaller Circuit Assemblies, from the local City and County GOVERNMENTS, and their affiliated agencies, which host the conventions. The WATCHTOWER SOCIETY has collected what has probably amounted to TENS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS over the decades. For example, just from 2007 through 2013, the CITY OF RALEIGH, NORTH CAROLINA and two affiliated governmental agencies have given the WATCHTOWER SOCIETY a total of $1,925,000.00 in exchange for the WATCHTOWER SOCIETY choosing to hold two of the 300 District Conventions in Raleigh. Jehovah's Witnesses attending these conventions are never told of the GOVERNMENT SPONSORSHIP, much less the amount. Instead, convention attendees are told that the expenses of the convention must be met solely from their own voluntary contributions.
As early as the 1890s, "Pastor Russell" found himself involved in two separate court cases involving his oil and gas interests, which both went all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In 1895, Charles T. Russell filed a lawsuit against the City of Allegheny over street construction damage to his home. In the early 1900s, the Divorce action between C. T. Russell and his former wife lingered for years. Pastor Russell was often made fun of and mocked by newspapers and by clergymen around the world. Around 1907, at the urging of his new fulltime attorney, Joseph Franklin Rutherford, a recent convert and attorney from Missouri, Charles Taze Russell started filing civil lawsuits against a number of newspapers (and threatened many others). Pastor Russell even once filed criminal charges against one Canadian clergyman. Court cases involving followers of Charles Taze Russell, who were arrested on disorderly conduct, disturbing the peace, and other similar charges, while distributing WatchTower literature, date all the way back to the mid 1880s.
Charles Taze Russell died on Halloween 1916, and Joseph F. Rutherford succeeded Pastor Russell as President of the Watch Tower Society. By 1918, J. F. Rutherford and the Directors & Officers of the Watch Tower Society were convicted of obstructing the war effort in violation of the Espionage Act of 1917, and served 9 months in Atlanta Federal Penitentiary. The first SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES case involving the WatchTower Society, and the only SCOTUS case involving a Director and Officer of the WatchTower Society, resulted from United States v. Rutherford, but was not that case itself. That historical case is found in our SECRET JW HISTORY CASES section.
Starting in the latter 1920s, "Judge Rutherford" began training his Jehovah's Witnesses membership to fight in their local courts anyone and everyone who dared oppose the work of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Religious services at Kingdom Halls included "mock trials", with Elders playing the roles of Prosecutors and defense attorneys. JWs were trained what to say and how to behave when being arrested, while in jail, and at trial (which they assumed they would lose), so as to make their case the best possible for the appeals process which was to follow. Appellate cases were what the WatchTower Society was hoping for, and it was at the appellate level that the WatchTower Society would jump in and take over the case.
By 1935, the number of court cases across the United States were so many that Judge Rutherford decided to form a separate Legal Department within the WatchTower Society. Olin R. Moyle, a Jehovah's Witness Attorney from Wisconsin, was selected by Rutherford to head up the new Legal Department. Olin Moyle did an excellent job. In 1938, Olin R. Moyle won the LOVELL case before the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). However, in 1939, Olin Moyle, who had been a teetotalling Prohibitionist before he was a Jehovah's Witness, got into a personal spat with Judge Rutherford. Olin Moyle denounced Judge Rutherford for his heavy drinking, cursing, and other character flaws. Although not publicly raised as an issue, Olin Moyle's tenure at WatchTower headquarters was in all likelihood long enough for Moyle to also learn that Judge Rutherford was a decades-long serial adulterer -- which was the reason for J. F. Rutherford's estrangement from both his wife, Mary Rutherford, and his son, Malcolm Cameron Rutherford, who had started working at WatchTower headquarters when he was about 14 years old, and who in his latter teens and early 20s served as a traveling assistant to both his father and Charles Taze Russell. That Judge Rutherford had a series of "Bethelite Mistresses", starting at least as early as 1917, was a Brooklyn Bethel secret kept safe from public disclosure by both Rutherford loyalists and his Russellite enemies alike, because Judge Rutherford was not the first - nor only - married WatchTower official to have had a Bethelite Mistress.
When Olin R. Moyle submitted his letter of denunciation and resignation, Judge Rutherford became furious and had the WatchTower Society's Board of Directors formally fire the already resigned Olin Moyle. Judge Rutherford thereafter slandered Olin Moyle in the pages of the WATCHTOWER magazine. Olin R. Moyle successfully sued the WatchTower Society and its officials, and was eventually awarded $15,000.00 -- a hefty sum during World War II. Interestingly, Olin Moyle had been handling the famous GOBITIS case, and Moyle had won at the trial court level, and Moyle had won at the Court of Appeals level. However, after Judge Rutherford fired and slandered Moyle, the MINERSVILLE SCHOOL DISTRICT appealed the GOBITIS case to the Supreme Court of the United States. Judge Rutherford himself argued the case before SCOTUS in 1940, and Rutherford lost the case by a vote of 8-1. It was this very event that triggered the nationwide wave of violence against JWs that lasted for the next several months. [CLICK HERE TO GO TO DOZENS OF SECRET WATCHTOWER-RELATED CASES FROM THIS ERA.]
In late 1939, Judge Rutherford recruited Hayden C. Covington to replace Olin Moyle as Head of the WatchTower Society's Legal Department. Hayden Covington was a 28 year-old fireball attorney from San Antonio, Texas, who had only recently converted to the Jehovah's Witnesses. Hayden Covington's personal habits more closely mirrored those of Judge Rutherford than did Olin Moyle's. Hayden Covington's father was known as the "Meanest Texas Ranger" of the 1920s-30s, who reportedly was disappointed that he had killed only 45 men. Hayden Covington's father is known to have assisted in at least one WatchTower court case -- against the City of San Antonio in 1940. Hayden Covington was married to a prominent San Antonio socialite, who moved with him to WatchTower headquarters. However, she did not stay long. She returned to San Antonio in late 1940, divorced Covington in 1941, and remarried in 1942.
When Judge Rutherford died in January 1942, his aggressive litigation policy was carried on by Hayden Covington. Honoring Rutherford's deathbed wishes, Judge Rutherford's newest best friend, Hayden Cooper Covington, was even elected Vice-President of the WatchTower Society in 1942, despite having been a Jehovah's Witness for only a few short years.
In the 1950s, Hayden Covington publicly claimed that he first became familiar with the teachings of the WatchTower Society in latter 1933, after the 22 year-old began boarding in the home of two schoolmates, whose father Covington later described as a fan of Judge Rutherford, but whom Covington did not identify as a "Jehovah's Witness". Covington claimed that he became a "witness of Jehovah" in 1934, but did not get baptized until sometime in the following year. We suspect that Covington later fudged his date of baptism to conform with the WatchTower Society's evolving teachings during the latter 1930s regarding the closing of the call of the "anointed remnant" occurring in 1935. Covington's life style from 1934 through 1938 simply was not consistent with that of the ordinary newly converted JW during that time period -- much less that of someone who was a fireball attorney whom threw himself into whatever was his latest project in life. Covington's lifestyle from 1934 to 1938 was more consistent with that of an "interested person" whom studies and occasionally attends meetings, but delays baptism for any number of personal reasons. We suspect that Covington may not have actually been baptized until around 1938, when he first began to legally represent Texan JWs who started to challenge various state laws restraining their public preaching. It may very well have been this eventual disclosure that forced Covington's resignation as Vice President of the WatchTower Society only three years after his election.
In the following years, Hayden Covington came to be hailed as one of the greatest civil liberties attorneys in American history. However, Covington did not get along with Rutherford's successor, Nathan Homer Knorr. Hayden Covington was first forced to resign as Vice-President of the WatchTower Society in 1945, and later, Covington even resigned as Head of the WatchTower Society's Legal Department. In 1963, Covington was even "disfellowshiped" from the Jehovah's Witness religion. Covington was not "reinstated" until a year or so before he died in 1978.
GO TO THE "FINANCIAL HONESTY" and "SECRET HISTORY" PAGES TO DISCOVER WHAT PROBABLY MOTIVATED HAYDEN COOPER COVINGTON'S EXCOMMUNICATION! While it has long been believed that Hayden Covington, who was the WORLD'S BEST KNOWN JEHOVAH'S WITNESS DURING THE 1950s, was "disfellowshiped" because of his heavy drinking, a closer investigation discloses that for several years prior to 1963, Covington had lost his moral compass and would go to any lengths to force Americans to kowtow to the whims of the WatchTower Society. The tidbits scattered and hidden in multiple court opinions that we are able to discover 50 years after the fact are probably nothing in comparison to the schemes that the WatchTower Society Hierarchy were privy to in the 1940s, 1950s, and early 1960s.
No other religion in America has spent more time in the state and federal court systems. Jehovah's Witnesses have won 48 cases before the Supreme Court of the United States. That is probably more wins at the SCOTUS level than every other religious group in America put together. Considering that today's Watch Tower Society has an extremely active legal department, and considering that Jehovah's Witnesses are "favorite sons" of the ACLU, any employer who violates the civil rights of a Jehovah's Witness Employee will pay dearly for doing so.
SOME UNIQUE JEHOVAH'S WITNESS BELIEFS & PRACTICES
PROSELYTIZING!!! Despite the fact that Jehovah's Witness Employees will sue their Employers if an Employer or co-worker attempts to proselytize them, the WatchTower Society has long encouraged Jehovah's Witness Employees to proselytize their own co-workers and employers, including publishing tips how to covertly do so at the workplace. In March 2012, the members-only copy of the WatchTower Society's OUR KINGDOM SERVICE recommends that JW Proselytizers focus on visitations to local businesses -- during business hours. The WatchTower Society not only recommends preaching and offering literature to the business owner, but also to in-charge Managers and Clerks. Unbelievably, the WatchTower Society even recommends that JW Proselytizers request that they be allowed to preach and offer literature to the business's other employees. If denied, it is recommended that the JW Proselytizers request to leave WatchTower literature in employee breakrooms and customer waiting areas.
BIRTHDAYS & HOLIDAYS. The Jehovah's Witness Employee's belief that celebrating birthdays is a sin can result in extremely embarrassing situations, with lingering results, in the foreseeable situation where a Jehovah's Witness Employee is approached by a group of well meaning co-workers singing "Happy Birthday". Since Jehovah's Witnesses also believe that it is a sin to celebrate New Years, President's Day, Father's Day, Mother's Day, Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and even Christmas, there are regular opportunities every few weeks for confrontations to occur where co-workers, customers, or others unwittingly do or say something which might offend your Jehovah's Witness Employee, or vice versa.
AMERICAN FLAG & LOYALTY OATHS The Jehovah's Witness Employee's beliefs that the American Flag is a "false idol", and that saluting the Flag or reciting the Pledge are acts of "worship", can result in extremely embarrassing situations, with lingering results, in the foreseeable situation where a Jehovah's Witness Employee is approached by co-workers distributing American Flag stickers, lapel pins, or other similar patriotic items around the Independence Day holiday, or especially during emotional times of patriotic fervor like post-9/11. The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society also teaches Jehovah's Witnesses that all human governments, including the United States of America, are active partners with Satan in his rebellion against GOD. Thus, Jehovah's Witnesses refuse to engage in any patriotic acts or activities, including signing or reciting "Loyalty Oaths". Jehovah's Witnesses refuse to vote. Jehovah's Witnesses refuse to engage in politics. Jehovah's Witnesses refuse to serve in the military, or work for employer's who service or supply the military. Any of these topics discussed during breaktime or casually brought up while working can give opportunity for your Jehovah's Witness Employee to be offended, or for the Jehovah's Witness Employees' response to offend co-workers or customers.
CONFIDENTIALITY RULES IGNORED!!! The Jehovah's Witness Employee's religious requirement to report any fellow Jehovah's Witness who is violating or has violated WatchTower rules can result in extremely serious legal consequences for an employer in the foreseeable situation where a Jehovah's Witness Employee who has job-related access to confidential medical, legal, business, or personal records discovers that a fellow Jehovah's Witness has done something prohibited by the Watch Tower Society, and the JW Employee then discloses that confidential information to WatchTower leaders. Because this Jehovah's Witness practice may lead to employers being sued by the aggrieved Jehovah's Witness, this WatchTower practice has been addressed in newspaper articles, and articles published in magazines such as the American Bar Association's ABA Journal, Business Insurance, and Medical Economics.
NO BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS!!! The Jehovah's Witness Employee's practice of refusing to permit medically necessary blood transfusions for not only themselves, but also their spouse and children, can result in the employer paying higher Workers Compensation or Life & Health insurance premiums, and maybe even having their policies nonrenewed, in the foreseeable situation where a Jehovah's Witness Employee suffers blood loss in a work-related injury, or where the Employee's spouse or children suffer blood loss, and then what would normally be a survivable scenario turns into a fatality.
SHUNNING!!! The Jehovah's Witness Employee's practice of "shunning" (treating as if dead) persons who have resigned from or who were disfellowshiped (excommunicated) from the WatchTower religion can result in extremely embarrassing situations, with lingering results, in the foreseeable situation where a Jehovah's Witness Employee must service a customer or cooperate with a co-worker who is a former Jehovah's Witness. There are a handful of anecdotal stories posted on discussion boards, etc. in which former JWs relate their being shunned by a JW Employee while shopping at supermarkets, "Mart" stores, etc. JW Employees have no legal right to shun customers or co-workers while performing their duties as an employee, and when reported doing so, practically every Employer will respond positively to complaints from customers or co-workers.
These and many other Jehovah's Witness beliefs and practices are discussed more thoroughly in this website. Click on upper left-hand Menu.
ANOTHER INFORMATIVE WEBSITE
SUMMARIZING ANOTHER 1150 JW COURT CASES: