JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES
 
REFUSE TO PERFORM WORK WHICH CONFLICTS
 
WITH WATCHTOWER BELIEFS & PRACTICES
 
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KELSEY M. NOBACH v. WOODLAND VILLAGE NURSING HOME CENTER was a 2012-14 Mississippi federal court case which is an EXCELLENT LESSON for BOTH Employers and Jehovah's Witness Employees. Kelsey Nobach had been reared as one of Jehovah's Witnesses, but she had been "disfellowshipped" (excommunicated) when she was 16 years old. Despite the fact that Nobach -- by then in her late 40s -- had not officially been a Jehovah's Witness for over 30 years, such fact did not stop her from suing her former employer for "religious discrimination" which allegedly violated her WatchTower beliefs and practices.
 
Kelsey Nobach began working as an "Activities Aide" at Woodland Village Nursing Home in August 2008. Nobach's job duties included reading "non-denominational" devotionals to the residents, reading newspapers to the residents, playing games with residents, and generally keeping the residents entertained. In September 2009, a non-supervisory co-worker -- a CNA -- relayed to Nobach a Catholic resident's request that the Rosary be read to her. Nobach told the CNA that she would NOT do so because it was "against her religion". The CNA did not make comment to Nobach, nor anyone else, because she had done her job by passing the resident's "activities" request along to the "Activities Aide". When noone read the Rosary to the Catholic resident that day, the resident later complained to Woodland's Activities Director, who reported the incident to Woodland's Director of Operations, who directed that both Nobach and her supervisor, who was also on duty at the time of the incident, be "written up". However, after mulling over that incident (and undoubtedly Nobach's employment record), Woodland's Activities Director decided to terminate Nobach. After all, that was Nobach's fifth disciplinary write-up during her 13 months of employment. Nobach's four prior written reprimands were for:  tardiness (February 2009 and July 2009), allegedly taking nail polish from a resident (June 2009), and allegedly making a false accusation against another employee (June 2009).
 
Kelsey Nobach thereafter filed a claim of religious discrimination with the EEOC, which eventually issued a "Right To Sue" letter in June 2011. This lawsuit was not filed until April 2012. USDC Federal Judge HALIL SULEYMAN OZERDEN denied the Employer's request for Summary Judgment in September 2012. At the following USDC trial, Nobach claimed that, although she is not an active Jehovah's Witness, that she was reared as a Jehovah's Witness, and that she still believes that the praying of the rosary is "wrong and improper, and to do so would be against her own personal, sincerely held religious beliefs." The Employer countered that Nobach never communicated such religious objections to Employer, nor requested a religious accomodation, until after her termination. Employer further claimed that IF such an accomodation had been requested, that such would have resulted in "undue hardship" due to the fact that only one Activities Aide is on duty in each building during each shift, plus it would have been an additional hardship to isolate Nobach away from Catholic residents scattered throughout their facilities. A "typical" Mississippi JURY awarded Nobach $69,584.00, which included $55,200.00 for Nobach's emotional distress and mental anguish.

On appeal to the USCA, in August 2014, the USDC decision was REVERSED and remanded for entry of judgment in Woodland's favor. The USCA ruled that nowhere in the court record was there even an iota of evidence that Woodland knew of Nobach's religious beliefs before it discharged her. The USCA held that USDC Federal Judge HALIL SULEYMAN OZERDEN should have granted Woodland's motion for judgment as a matter of law made after return of the jury verdict. In part, the USCA stated:

... we simply cannot find evidence that Nobach ever advised anyone involved in her discharge that praying the Rosary was against her religion. According to the record, neither did Nobach tell the CNA that she was a Jehovah's Witness. Nobach acknowledges that the only time she made any mention of her religious beliefs was when she told the CNA:  "I can't do the Rosary with [the resident]. I'm not Catholic, and it's against my religion." Nobach has never even claimed that the CNA told anyone of her reason for refusing to aid the resident. In sum, she has offered no evidence that Woodland came to know of her bona-fide religious beliefs until after she was actually discharged.

Woodland must admit, as it does, that Nobach's failure to perform the Rosary with the resident was the factor that precipitated her discharge. If Nobach had presented any evidence that Woodland knew or reasonably should have known the cause for her refusing this task was her conflicting religious beliefs, the jury would certainly have been entitled to reject Woodland's explanation for Nobach's termination, but no such evidence was ever provided to the jury. We hold, therefore, that a reasonable jury would not have had a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find that Woodland intentionally discriminated against Nobach because of her religion.

This court case is also an EXCELLENT LESSON for Jehovah's Witness Employees who fail to properly inform their employers of their WatchTower beliefs and practices. JW Employees should notify their employer as soon as possible after they are hired -- a more thoughtful JW wishing to avoid later controversy might do so during the hiring process -- that they are a "Jehovah's Witness", plus the Employer should be informed of all the workplace activities in which the JW Employee refuses to engage. The JW Employee should update that list whenever possible forbidden activities come to the JW Employee's attention. Jehovah's Witnesses should keep in mind that the WatchTower Society teaches them not only to be completely "honest" with everyone, but that Employers even specifically seek out to hire "Jehovah's Witnesses" -- because Jehovah's Witnesses are more honest than other employees, and because Jehovah's Witnesses work harder and are better employees than non-JW employees.

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KELSEY NOBACH v. WOODLAND VILLAGE NURSING HOME CENTER was a 2009-2013 Mississippi state court case which dealt with Kelsey Nobach's eligibility for unemployment compensation benefits -- which the employer contested. In September 2009, Nobach filed for unemployment benefits with MDES. After an investigation, in October 2009, MDES denied Nobach's claim due to her receiving 5 write-ups in one year. Nobach appealed (late) the MDES's decision, and an ALJ not only waived the late appeal, but also overturned the MDES's decsion, in March 2010. Thereafter, the Employer appealed adverse decisions made by the Board of Review and the local Circuit Court.

In October 2013, the Court of Appeals of Mississippi ruled in Nobach's favor, stating in part: "Nobach's refusal to recite the Rosary was a single isolated event that does not amount to insubordination under Mississippi law." This state court did not address any constitutional issues relating to freedom of religion. This Court noted that although Kelsey Nobach had received five write-ups in one year, the fifth and last write-up was unrelated to the previous four write-ups, thus did "not amount to insubordination under Mississippi law."

 
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JEHOVAH'S WITNESS EMPLOYEES AND TOBACCO PRODUCTS

Effective back in the 1970s, Jehovah's Witnesses are strictly forbidden to smoke, chew, dip, or otherwise use tobacco products. JW Farmers are forbidden to grow tobacco. Jehovah's Witnesses are also forbidden to work at wholesale businesses or retail stores whose main product line are tobacco related products. Since Jehovah's Witnesses are also forbidden to gamble in any way, shape, or form, Jehovah's Witnesses are also forbidden to work at casinos, bingo halls, etc.

COMMERCIAL BREAK: Even working at a separate independent business located inside a casino or bingo hall "evidently" is forbidden. My own brother was hounded out of the JWs because of operating the food and drink concession at a local bingo hall. Despite being "inactive" for a substantial period of time, the local JW Elders hounded him until he "disassociated" himself just to get them to stop coming to his house. The Elders weren't trying to get him to stop his business, mend his ways, or even return to the Hall. Knowing that disfellowshipping him was "borderline", and might get them in trouble with the Circuit Overseer (District Manager), they repeatedly asked him to DA, until he finally did so, simply to get them to leave him alone. (And, YES, my wuss brother is my exact opposite.) Just to show how hypocritical those same JW Elders were/are, one of our JW relatives is a  Farmowner, who was also a "JW Pioneer". Those same local JW Elders allowed this "JW Pioneer" to retain their farm's federal tobacco allotment throughout the years of the federal regulation. This JW Pioneer annually signed all the pertinent federal documents required to grow and sell their farm's tobacco, including the "check", and at the end of federal regulation apparently collected the substantial "buyout" all allotment owners received. The "excuse" was that a non-JW step-son performed all the tobacco labor and supposedly received all the tobacco income. Of course, handing the step-son this "financial windfall" never resulted in any indirect benefits from tobacco production to the JW Farmowner. I wonder how many JW Farmowners throughout the "tobacco belt", who surrendered their cash-cow tobacco allotments back in the 1970s, would burst a blood vessel if they knew that all they needed to do to retain their allotment was to "pioneer".

Then, a few years ago, the Watch Tower Society published that some previously forbidden employment activities could be performed by Jehovah's Witnesses, so long as the forbidden act only constituted an incidental part of the JW Employee's total job duties, and the performing of such act does not offend the JW Employee's conscience, nor offend the conscience of any other Jehovah's Witness who might observe the act.

Although the Watch Tower Society never admitted to such, some observers speculate that the Watch Tower Society's strict rules on such matters was hurting its' recruiting efforts with certain peoples who worked in certain job categories. For instance, the Watchtower rules against tobacco and gambling caused many Jehovah's Witnesses across the U.S. to forego working at convenience stores, which sell large quantities of cigarettes and lottery tickets.

So, the Watch Tower Society published that if the handling and selling of cigarettes and/or lottery tickets was only an incidental portion of the Jehovah's Witness Employee's total job duties, then JWs would be permitted to work in that job position, so long as such did not offend that JW Employee's conscience, or the conscience of any other Jehovah's Witness who might observe them handling and selling cigarettes and/or lottery tickets.

As an example of how difficult it may be for some employers to figure out what employment duties a JW Employee may find acceptable or unacceptable given that probably over the decades hundreds of JWs have refused or given up convenience store jobs simply because they would be required to occasionally sell tobacco products and lottery tickets (gambling), there are other JWs on the other end of the spectrum whose consciences do allow them to be employed in jobs which are closely related to gambling and similarly prohibited activities.

The career of Phil Georgeff, a Jehovah's Witness since 1946, may serve as such an example. "The Voice of Chicago Racing" may be one of the most famous people in the history of Chicago horse racing. The now retired legendary racetrack announcer was entered into the Guiness Book of World Records, in 1988, after he called his 85,000th horse race. Georgeff retired in December 1992 after calling his 96,131st race. "The Phil Georgeff Festival of Racing" is an annual event at the Hawthorne Race Course. Since retiring, Georgeff has authored two books about horse racing, and currently resides in Fairhope, Alabama, where he and his wife, Bobbi Georgeff, are "active" Jehovah's Witnesses.

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LINCOLN v. TRUE was a 1975 Kentucky unemployment compensation case which ended up in federal court. Ethel Lincoln was a Jehovah's Witness who worked for 21 years as a production worker at Philip Morris in Louisville. In August 1974, Lincoln resigned "because the elders of Jehovah's Witnesses, a recognized religious sect of which she had been a member for 15 years, informed her that anyone using tobacco or working with tobacco products was violating the Will of God, and unless she resigned, she would be expelled from the fellowship of Jehovah's Witnesses." Lincoln filed a claim for unemployment compensation, which was denied by the state because Lincoln resigned 15 days before the Watchtower Society deadline kicked in.

The USDC ruled in Lincoln's favor stating that "it is obvious that she was acting under the compulsion which the church doctrine exerted on her conscience and on her beliefs as a member of the church. There was no other reason why she chose to terminate her employment with Philip Morris. Defendant's argument that the denial of unemployment compensation was not based on First Amendment grounds and on the exercise of her religion is lacking in substance. There appears in the record a statement made by K. E. Shad, Examiner for the defendants, who conferred with a representative of the Jehovah's Witnesses ... [from Lincoln's congregation]. During that conversation the representative verified that the ruling from the General Body of the Church was issued March, 1974, to the effect that members whose jobs involved them in having contact with either alcohol or tobacco were asked to get other jobs, because of the philosophy that in good conscience the members should not be helping to manufacture products which the church preached against and which were harmful to one's health. Shad also advised that the members of the church had three months to find other positions based on the church's philosophy that there were always other positions available and obtainable with divine intervention. Shad further stated that individuals of the church would not be barred from general meetings ... because the meetings were public, but that they would be barred from various other activities of the church because of their affiliation with alcohol or tobacco."

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CHAN v. SPRINT CORPORATION was/is a 2005 Kansas federal lawsuit that also involves "smoking", and a Jehovah's Witness named Laural Chan. Chan worked at Sprint's Overland Park, Kansas location, which is approximately 200 acres and has 34 structures to service 14,000 employees. Chan filed an employment discrimination action against her employer alleging that she suffers from a hypersensitivity to cigarette smoke and other chemicals, and alleging that Sprint violated federal disability law and committed state torts by failing to discipline employees who violated the company's smoking policy, which restricts smoking to designated areas outside.

Chan claimed that when exposed to cigarette smoke, she develops an intense, extreme burning and itching in her eyes, which typically lasts for the remainder of the day on which she was exposed. She also develops headaches, burning in her breathing passages, and hacking coughs that can last for several days, as well as blurred vision lasting from a few hours up to a day. Since the summer of 2002, Chan claimed that she had suffered some or all of these symptoms from exposure to environmental tobacco smoke on 30-34 occasions. Chan claimed that in addition to the physical injuries she suffered due to smoke exposure, she also suffered secondary stress related issues, such as sores in her mouth, abdominal pain, and a rash. Stress-related chronic pain in her hands is also exacerbated when she is exposed to smoke. She also feels blown off because of her employment situation, often feels like crying, and frequently cries at home. Chan's sensitivity to environmental tobacco smoke has reduced the amount of proselytizing that she can do as a Jehovah's Witness. Chan had only gone out in "field service" about ten times over a two-year period, while other Jehovah's Witnesses go out as much as two to four hours per week.

In July/August 2002, Chan sent multiple e-mails to employee relations and human resources representatives complaining about smokers on campus violating the smoking policy. A human resources representative, responded to the e-mails, and sent a memo to all campus employees in Chan's business unit reminding them of the smoking policy, the designated areas, and the need to avoid walking to the areas with lighted cigarettes. She indicated that violators could be subject to "corrective action." Sprint also ran a series of announcements on television monitors reminding employees of the smoking policy. Sprint even asked Chan for her imput on how to prevent violations of the policy. Chan responded with a proposed revision of the smoking policy that involved using security guards to ticket violators, building shelters over the designated areas, conducting surveys or employee focus groups regarding the policy, and publicizing smoking cessation events.

Sprint responded by offering several accommodations, including suggesting that Chan use sidewalks and routes on the campus that do not pass by designated smoking areas, schedule all meetings in her building or arrange to attend by teleconference, and do a percentage of work from her home by telecommuting. Sprint later granted Chan's husband permission to stop his car on Sprint Parkway in order to pick her up and drop her off at the second-floor entrance to her building without being asked by campus security to move. Chan's supervisor has also allowed her to work from home and begin and leave work early when she has asked to do so based on smoke exposure issues. Sprint even offered Chan the option of having a campus security vehicle transport her between buildings. Chan sued anyway. The USDC summarily dismissed Chan's lawsuit. The court ruled that Chan did not have a disability under ADA, and even if she did, Sprint provided her with reasonable accommodation. Not known if Chan appealed.

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IN RE LUCKY STORES was a 1987 arbitration which involved a female Jehovah's Witness Employee who was terminated after refusing to sell lottery tickets as part of her duties as a store clerk. At the arbitration proceeding, an "elder" from the JW Employee's congregation admitted that selling lottery tickets was not blanketly prohibited by the WatchTower Society. Rather, each individual JW was expected to consider how a variety of biblical proscriptions impacted their own employment circumstances, and make their own determination. The arbitrator ruled in favor of the JW Employee since she sincerely believed that selling lottery tickets violated biblical principles as she interpreted such. Additionally, the Employer admitted that it had failed to even attempt to "accommodate" the JW Employee by failing to consider her for other store positions.

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YES, JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES DRINK AND SELL ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES

It is a common public misconception that the WatchTower Society prohibits its Jehovah's Witness members from consuming alcoholic beverages, and that Jehovah's Witnesses refuse to work at liquor, beer, or wine retailers, wholesalers, or manufacturers. In fact, there are numerous erroneous internet postings claiming such. In reality, because DRINKING is one of the few indulgences permitted by the WatchTower Society, there are a number of alcoholic Jehovah's Witnesses despite its warnings against such, and despite the fact that an alcoholic JW will likely be disfellowshiped if they allow their alcoholism to become known to the general public in a negative fashion. These include WatchTower Society President Joseph F. Rutherford and his drinking buddy, Hayden C. Covington, one-time Vice-President of the WatchTower Society -- not to mention numerous online anecdotal stories of excessive Bethelite drinking at various WatchTower Society facilities.

This is a good place to give both non-JWs and naive Jehovah's Witnesses another look behind the scenes into the REAL WORLD of the WatchTower Cult. This Editor was reared as one of Jehovah's Witnesses -- primarily by a JW GrandMother who had professed to be "one of the 144,000", or, "one of the anointed remnant" for two decades before this Editor -- now a senior citizen -- was born. At a minimum, Anointed JW GrandMother was a "compulsive drinker" of any type alcohol that she could get her hands on -- wine (preferably, because Jesus and other notable Bible characters drank wine), whiskey, or beer. I stop short of labeling Anointed JW GrandMother as an "alcoholic" only because we lived in a "dry county", and she was unable to obtain alcohol on a regular basis by the time that I was born in the 1950s. I understand that prior to my birth that Anointed JW GrandMother had frequented local bootleggers for years, but she eventually was forced to give up her local sources after she belatedly learned that those same bootleggers had been publicizing the local JW Hypocrite's patronage during most of those years.

Back during my college years, I could barely contain myself when I heard other students boasting about purchasing alcohol at retail liquor stores before they were old enough to do so legally. Usually, most braggarts would boast of making such illegal purchases when they were 20 years-old, 19 years-old, or even 18 years-old. In every instance, I was able to "out-brag" my fellow college students since I had purchased beer, wine, and liquor at a retail liquor store located in Columbia, Missouri, while on an overnight school trip during my sophomore year of high school, when I was only 15 years-old.

What I -- up until now -- kept a secret from others was the fact that, ACTUALLY, I started purchasing beer, wine, and liquor at retail liquor stores when I was merely 4-5 years old. I am unsure of my exact age, but I know that I was doing so before I entered the first grade of elementary school. When Anointed JW GrandMother was somehow able to talk my non-JW GrandFather into allowing her to "borrow" the family automobile during the daytime, which he routinely drove to work, on occasion, she and I would drive the 30 miles to the closest "wet city", where Anointed JW GrandMother would park down the street from one of the "wet city's" retail liquor stores, and she would then send me to that store with an envelope containing her "booze order" and money, while she hid down in the front seat hoping that noone from our hometown would drive past and recognize her. After doing that a few times, the liquor store clerks stopped "wondering outloud" what a "child" was doing making a booze purchase, and simply filled my order (that was a different day and time).

I recall one trip that we made on a hot summer day (no air conditioning in car) when I had not had anything to drink since we had left home. On our way back home from the liquor store, I watched as Anointed JW GrandMother sipped on one of the cold beers that was part of her order. I asked her if she would stop at one of the many country grocery stores along the way so that I could buy a cold soda pop. Although we were still in the neighboring county, Anointed JW GrandMother refused to stop because she was afraid that she would be spotted by someone that knew her. To shut up my repeated requests, Anointed JW GrandMother finally started sharing her cold beer with me. I believe that was when I was around 5-6 years old.

I also recall another "exciting" trip to the liquor store when I was around 7-8 years old. One day when Anointed JW GrandMother had talked non-JW GrandFather into allowing her to have the family automobile for some other legitimate purpose other than slipping off to the liquor store, Anointed JW GrandMother "struck gold" when she found Grandpa's own private stash which he had hidden from her in the trunk of the car. Grandma started sipping on Grandpa's "fifth", but as usual, once she started, she could not stop. After three or four hours of taking "just one more sip", she had consumed half or more of the whiskey that had been left in the "fifth". That meant that Anointed JW Grandmother had to make a liquor run to purchase another "fifth", so that she could "replace" the amount of whiskey that she had drank out of Grandpa's "fifth". As readers should suspect, Anointed JW GrandMother was already intoxicated by that point in time. I specifically remember Anointed JW GrandMother almost hitting or being hit by at least two other drivers before we even made it out of the city limits. How we made it all the way to the liquor store and back has been lost from my memory. I do recall Anointed JW GrandMother having sobered up enough on the way back to pull off the side of the highway and refill and re-hide Grandpa's "fifth" in the trunk. That still left her with about 2/3s of a fifth to drink later that night after Grandpa went to bed.

Readers should know that Anointed JW GrandMother took seriously the WatchTower Society's admonition to avoid "intoxication". She developed a "routine" whereby she would "sip" on a bottle of wine or a fifth of liquor literally for hours. Her problem was that she could not stop until the bottle was empty. On many occasions, I saw her literally take 24 to 48 hours to consume a bottle before then resuming her normal routine.

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In December 1982, Kimberley Miller, age 24, daughter of David Miller and Charlotte Miller, of Yadkinville, NC, was shot and killed during an armed robbery at a Steak & Ale in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Kim Miller worked as a bartender during the evenings to support her daytime avocation as a Jehovah's Witness Pioneer -- a "fulltime" door-knocker.

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In June 1980, African-American Jehovah's Witness celebrity/singer George Benson appeared at St. Louis's inaugeral Kool Jazz Festival. Benson gave a pre-concert interview to an African-American reporter from St. Louis's African-American newspaper. Benson declared that he was a Jehovah's Witness and a devout Bible student. The article included a mini-sermon in which Benson further declared that the Bible contained all the answers to all of mankind's woes. The article further related that while in St. Louis, George Benson was presented the CLIO award , which is the advertising industry's top award (named for the Greek goddess Clio). Benson received the award in recognition of his work promoting the Michelob Beer brand, a product of St. Louis based Anheuser-Busch.

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VERONICA BROWN v. NEBRASKA LIQUOR CONTROL COMMISSION was a 2012 Nebraska administrative action. Veronica Brown, a Jehovah's Witness living in Kimball, Nebraska, sought a state Liquor License in order to sell alcoholic beverages at her newly opened restaurant, but was initially denied such because Nebraska state law required Liquor Licensees to be registered voters -- and, of course, as one of Jehovah's Witnesses, Veronica Brown refused to register to vote. On appeal, the Nebraska Liquor Control Commission  -- not Nebraska's Supreme Court, nor even Nebraska's Court of Appeals -- declared the decades old state law to be "unconstitutional", and issued a Liquor License to Veronica Brown. Media articles also reported that Veronica Brown was assisted in the preparation of her case and the submission of applicable evidence by the Body of Elders at the Kimball Nebraska Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses.

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The following EXCERPT was authored in October 2011 by a Calgary, Alberta female Jehovah's Witness, named CHELSEA, who was FIRED by her Liquor Store Employer. This former JW Employee then posted an online public criticism of her employer and her termination. This excerpt is highly informative regarding certain attitudes of many Jehovah's Witness Employees:

A few days later we finally got our permanent Manager. At first she seemed like a really good Manager, but then she decided to surprise me and another girl with a final written letter (there was no first or second, just a final) stating that we had been doing the inventory counts wrong, and we would be fired if we didn't start doing them right. We did them the way the previous Manager taught us how to do them, we didn't deserve disciplinary action, but she said it was because her Manager said if she didn't she would be fired. She then taught us how we were supposed to do them which wasn't much different from what we were doing, just a little more detailed.

She also gave me another final letter at the same time stating: "Chelsea has been pushing her religion on other employees and there was a customer complaint about this." The disciplinary action: "She is no longer allowed to bring the AWAKE magazines onto the store premises."

I talked to all my co-workers about this and they all told me that they never felt like I was pushing my religion on them. I would never do that. But sometimes I would share my belief's with them, which the last time I checked, Canadians have the right to talk about their belief's, and practice their own religion. My religion requires that we obey Jesus commission to preach the good news to people of all nations (Matt. 24:14; Mark 13:9-13). So by talking to people about the Bible I am practicing my religion, which I have the right to do. Of course, I would not irritate anyone who didn't want to hear it. I do believe in Canada, it is also a persons right to read any material they so desire. By telling me that I am not allowed to bring my reading material on store premises am I not also being prevented from practicing my personal rights and freedoms?

If I was a crazy person who was truly trying to stuff religion down people's throats, and therefore making many employees and customers uncomfortable, than I completely understand suspending a person like that for two weeks, as they did to me. Or even firing them. But there was only one customer complaint about me talking about my religion with another employee, and that customer most likely had a prejudice against Jehovah's Witnesses.

A few weeks after I came back from my suspension, on a Sunday, I was working with a new girl. When she came in she had a bad attitude even though I tried to be nice and cheerful. She treated the customers as if they were bothering her, and while I was doing the work our Manager asked us both to do, she was sitting around texting. I told my Manager about it, but after she talked to the new girl about it, the new girl apparently told her that I was the one with the bad attitude. Then on the day of my next shift which was the very next Sunday, my Manager calls me and tells me that last Sunday I got two customer complaints about my service, and the new girl got seven. She then said she was letting me go, as well as the new girl. I truly feel that it was all some sort of set up or lie to find a way to fire me. I don't know why they really wanted me out of there since I was "one of the best employees on staff," and I was the most cooperative, reliable, easy going, and caring employee I'm sure they've ever had. I worked on every holiday, and took over a lot of people's shifts when they needed help.

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JEHOVAH'S WITNESS EMPLOYEES

AND EMPLOYMENT WITH OTHER RELIGIOUS GROUPS

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SHARON L. SHEPHERD v. GANNONDALE is an ongoing January 2014 Pennsylvania court case. Gannondale is a Catholic ministry of the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity, which provides holistic and therapeutic residential care for young women placed by the court. Sharon Shepherd was hired as a bookkeeper in October 2011. At the time of her firing in June 2013, Shepherd held the post of Bookkeeping Supervisor.

Sharon Shepherd, age 57, of Erie, Pennsylvania, alleges that several months after she began working at Gannondale that the organization started requiring her to attend community meetings four days a week. At those meetings, Shepherd and other staffers were required to state a "daily goal that was related to a 'commitment' to the 'sanctuary model,'" including a commitment to "growth and change". As a Jehovah's Witness, Shepherd claims that she believes in "predetermination", not "growth and change", and that requiring her to attend those meetings and participate in such violated her religious beliefs.

Shepherd alleges that she first told a Human Resources manager in November 2012 that the community meetings interfered with her religious beliefs. Shepherd alleges that the HR manager initially told her that she did not have to attend the meetings, but in May 2013, her supervisor then told Shepherd she would be fired if she did not attend the meetings. Shepherd claims the HR manager and her supervisor later asked for proof of how the sanctuary model violated her religious beliefs. Shepherd claims she gave them a one-page document explaining the contradiction between "growth and change" and her religious beliefs, but she was fired on June 13, 2013.

We are assuming that Shepherd filed a complaint with the EEOC, which thereafter decided not to prosecute her claim, but did issue a right-to-sue letter. Shepherd filed her own federal lawsuit against Gannondale in January 2014. Shepherd is asking the court to declare that Gannondale illegally discriminated against her on the basis of her religion. She wants reinstatement to her job, reimbursement for lost wages and benefits, plus damages -- including punitive damages sufficient to punish Gannondale's "illegal conduct", and to deter others from engaging in similar conduct.

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UNITED STATES  v. CROUCH was a 1969 Louisiana federal appellate court decision. A Jehovah's Witness, named William Crosby Crouch, Jr., had registered for the military draft as a "conscientious objector". COs, if and when drafted, who further objected to "noncombatant" military assignment, were assigned to perform civilian work "contributing to the national health, safety or interest", as ordered by their local draft board. Crouch was assigned to perform civilian work at Southern Baptist Hospital, in New Orleans, Louisiana. However, Crouch refused to work at Southern Baptist Hospital, so he was convicted of draft evasion. On appeal, the USCA affirmed, stating in part:
"Crouch contends on appeal that the Southern Baptist Hospital of New Orleans, Louisiana, to which institution he was ordered to work by the Local Board, was an unsuitable place of employment, inasmuch as it is owned and controlled by a competing religious sect, and that the order of the Board to report to that institution was illegal because it attempted to force him to aid another religious group and deprived him of his right to free exercise of his chosen religion in violation of the First Amendment.

"The only evidence relied upon by appellant in support of his contention is the charter of Southern Baptist Hospital. The charter shows that the hospital is a wholly owned and controlled subsidiary of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as stipulated by counsel, the Convention is composed of member Baptist churches and is a religious organization. Appellant argues that ownership, supervision and control by the Convention is tantamount to a conclusion that the hospital is a religious organization, and that employment therein of persons of his status aids a competing religion, prohibited by the Constitution ... ... ...

"The District Court found, and we agree, that a showing of mere ownership and control of the hospital by the Baptist Convention was insufficient to establish that the work performed by the hospital was of a religious nature. The Government proved that the work of the hospital, a non-profit corporation, is to care for the sick and afflicted. The record is devoid of any evidence that the institution is [religious] in its operation. There is nothing in the record from which it may be inferred that the hospital staff members, employees or patients must be of the Baptist faith, nor is there any showing that the Baptist religion is practiced in the hospital or that religious worship is imposed on its patients or employees."

 
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UNITED STATES  v. BERRIER was a 1970 North Carolina federal appellate court decision. Similar to CROUCH, a Jehovah's Witness named David Eugene Berrier was convicted on draft evasion charges after he refused to perform civilian work at the Methodist Home in Charlotte, North Carolina. On appeal, the USCA affirmed, stating in part:
 
"[Berrier's] First Amendment claim is based upon his allegation that working at the Methodist Home would be aiding another religious denomination, which would contravene the belief of his faith (Jehovah's Witness) that aiding any other religious denomination is to worship a false God. ...
 
"The evidence established that the Methodist Home was a nonprofit organization having as its primary purpose and objective the care of the aged. Though preference for admission was accorded Western North Carolina members of the Methodist faith, the Home accepted aged persons of various denominations, and non-Methodist employees outnumbered Methodists. ... ...
 
"Since care for the aged obviously contributes to the maintenance of the national public health, interest and welfare and since the Methodist Home provides care for the aged of various denominations, we reject Berrier's claim that the Home is not an appropriate institution in which he should be required to perform civilian work in lieu of induction. ...
 
" Berrier's constitutional attack upon his work assignment closely parallels that considered by the court in UNITED STATES  v. CROUCH wherein a Jehovah's Witness assigned to work at the Southern Baptist Hospital of New Orleans claimed that such assignment was in violation of the First Amendment guarantee of his religious freedom because it attempted to force him to aid another religious group which was directly contrary to the religious teachings and beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses. The evidence in [CROUCH] established that the hospital was owned and controlled by Baptist churches and that the hospital was a nonprofit institution engaged in the charitable activity of caring for the sick and afflicted. There was no evidence that patients or employees must be Baptists, that the Baptist religion was practiced in the hospital or that the Baptist faith was imposed upon either the patients or employees. ... the court held that the showing of ownership and control of the hospital by the Baptist Convention was insufficient to establish that the work performed by the hospital was of a religious nature and, therefore, the fact that the hospital was operated by a denomination of a faith different from that of the registrant did not constitute an invalid restraint on his free exercise of religion.
 
"As in Crouch, ... the evidence in the instant case showed that the Methodist Home accepts members of other denominations as patients and that employees are not restricted to the Methodist faith. As in Crouch, there is no evidence whatsoever that the Methodist faith is practiced at the hospital or in any manner imposed upon patients or employees of the Home. Thus, Berrier's claim that his First Amendment religious freedom rights would be violated by his assignment to work at the Methodist Home must fail."
 
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HALL v. UNITED STATES was a 1971 Wisconsin federal appellate court decision. A Jehovah's Witness, named George Winston Hall, was convicted on draft evasion charges after he failed to perform alternative civilian service required by his status as a "conscientious objector". Not until the appeal did George Hall raise the claim that his assignment violated his constitutional rights, because the hospital was owned and operated by the Methodist Church. The USCA affirmed, stating in part:
"... defendant has attached to his brief a certified copy of the articles of incorporation of Bellin Memorial Hospital, which discloses that it is owned and operated by the Methodist Church. The articles disclose the manner in which the directors are to be elected, a majority of whom shall be members of that church. The purpose of the corporation is stated in the articles, 'To establish, conduct and maintain a hospital, School of Nursing, and other hospital schools and issue diplomas to such as shall have completed the course of study and training prescribed by each school, which said business is to be carried on within the State of Wisconsin and especially within the County of Brown in said state.'
 
"... defendant argues that work in Bellin Memorial Hospital would be principally for the benefit of the members of the church or for increasing its membership. There was no proof that such would be the case and we think the asserted basis for such argument is little more than a figment of the imagination. It is a matter of common knowledge that the purpose of hospitals generally is the 'maintenance of the national health,' and they are engaged 'in carrying out a program for the improvement of the public health or welfare' of those whom they serve, and this irrespective of all other considerations. The burden of proof would be heavy upon one who asserts any exception to this general purpose. Moreover, it must not be overlooked that defendant's refusal to report for work was not because of the religious affiliation of Bellin Memorial Hospital. He refused to report to other hospitals which had no religious connections, and finally took the position that he would not report for civilian work under any circumstances.

"We are in accord with the decision of [CROUCH] based on a factual situation so similar to that here that the opinion reads as though it might have been written for this case. There, Crouch, a Jehovah's Witness, was convicted of refusing to comply with an order of the Board to report for work in the Southern Baptist Hospital of New Orleans. As in the instant case, he not only refused to comply with the order but unconditionally refused to perform any kind of civilian work under the Act. The main contention on appeal was that the hospital to which he was ordered to work was owned and controlled by a competing religious sect, and that the order of the Board to report to that institution was illegal because it attempted to force him to aid another religious group and deprived him of his right to the free exercise of his chosen religion. ... ... ...

"No case is cited which supports defendant's argument that the Board's order constitutes involuntary servitude contrary to the Thirteenth Amendment. His contention on this point is based upon the Board's order which requires him 'as a Jehovah's Witness, to work in a religiously controlled institution whose religion was not accepted by the appellant's religion.' As this court has done before, we reject this contention.  ..."

 
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JACKSON v. LIGHT OF LIFE MINISTRIES was a 2006 Pennsylvania federal court decision. A Jehovah's Witness, named Raymond G. Jackson, was employed by a "false religious" organization, named "Light of Life Ministries, Inc.", for approximately two years as a part-time program aide. Jackson’s job duties did not require him to provide religious counseling, conduct religious services, or participate in religious activities. Light of Life Ministries informed Jackson that he would not be hired for a fulltime position, presumably which would require Jackson to participate in religious activities, because of his WatchTower religion. In August 2004, Raymond Jackson filed charges with the EEOC, alleging religious discrimination. In November 2004, Jackson was removed from the part-time work schedule, and in January 2005, Jackson was terminated.
 
Thereafter, Raymond Jackson filed this federal lawusit, which alleges that his termination was in retaliation for filing charges with EEOC. Jackson's lawsuit had two counts: (1) failure to hire; and (2) retaliation/termination. In October 2006, the USDC dismissed count one with prejudice, but allowed the case to go ahead on count two. Outcome unknown. The USDC explained in part:
"... Congress created an exemption for religious organizations, stating that Title VII shall not apply 'to a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, educational institution, or society of its activities.' In other words, a 'religious' organization is permitted to discriminate on the basis of religion. ... The 'religious exemption' is clearly at issue because the Complaint alleges that Light of Life refused to hire Jackson because of his religion."
In support of his lawsuit, Jackson had submitted an EEOC Determination Letter (the quality of which was criticized by the USDC) that concluded that Light of Life did not qualify for the religious exemption. Jackson also submitted a newspaper article stating, in relevant part, that $0.46 of every $1.00 donated to Light of Life went to a California fund-raising company, that Light of Life owned six properties, including one that was rented to a business selling comic books, and that Light of Life received federal grants. Jackson contended that the job of program aide did not require him to provide religious counseling, conduct religious services or participate in religious activities. Jackson further contended that he complied with Defendant’s Christian policies, for example by answering the telephone: "Christ is the answer, Light of Life Mission".  Jackson also argued for further discovery to investigate Light of Life’s funding sources, real estate holdings and other traditional business ventures. The USDC ruled in part:
"... the Court concludes that Light of Life qualifies for the religious exemption as a matter of law: (1) Light of Life is a non-profit corporation; (2) Light of Life’s Articles of Incorporation contain a clear statement of religious purpose. Light of Life has also published Mission Statements, a Doctrinal Statement, a Statement of Faith and Core Values that are heavily laced with religious references; (3) Light of Life holds itself out to the public as a religious entity, apparently even including its telephone greeting; (4) there is no evidence of record to determine whether or not a specific church is intimately involved in day-to-day operations; (5) Light of Life receives an unspecified amount of financial support from churches. Light of Life’s Statement of Faith 'affirms and identifies' an affiliation with the ECFA, although the record does not explain whether the ECFA is a church. The Doctrinal Statement identifies with Protestant and Evangelical churches; and (6) Light of Life conducts two religious services each day.
 
"The evidence that Light of Life is structured and holds itself out as a religious organization is simply overwhelming. The corporate acts of creating and adopting a Statement of Faith and a Doctrinal Statement should be dispositive evidence that an entity is 'religious'. Moreover, the numerous explicit religious references in the Articles of Incorporation, Mission Statement and Core Values are independently dispositive. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine what more an organization could reasonably do to proclaim its religious purpose.
 
"Plaintiff does not contest any of these facts, but instead contends that his specific job did not require participation in these religious activities. For the reasons set forth above, this is not the proper legal test. Even assuming, arguendo, that the facts contained in the newspaper article and EEOC Determination Letter submitted by Plaintiff were true, and giving Plaintiff every reasonable inference therefrom, Light of Life would still be entitled to summary judgment. Similarly, even if the discovery sought by Plaintiff were permitted2 and revealed that Light of Life had extensive real estate holdings, engaged in numerous business-related activities and received little or no church funding, the legal analysis would not change. As the Supreme Court and Third Circuit have instructed, secular activities will not destroy an organization’s religious character and the religious exemption applies to all of its employees. ... Accordingly, the Court concludes that there are no genuine issues of material fact regarding whether Defendant is a religious organization and Light of Life is entitled to the 'religious exemption' ... as a matter of law.
 
"There is an independent, alternative basis for the Court’s conclusion. Defendant contends that the newspaper article and EEOC Determination Letter submitted by Plaintiff do not create genuine issues of material fact, and thus cannot be used to defeat a motion for summary judgment. The Court agrees. A newspaper article is inadmissible hearsay and thus, cannot be considered in ruling on summary judgment. ... EEOC determination letters are admissible, but cannot defeat summary judgment. ... As explained above, the EEOC Determination Letter in this case applied the wrong legal standard. [FOOTNOTE: 'A review of the EEOC’s determination reveals that the investigator applied the wrong legal test. The Determination Letter considered whether participation in religious activities was a qualification for the specific job Jackson held, rather than applying the principle enunciated in Little and Curay-Cramer, i.e., that the religious exemption applies to all employees of religious organizations. The EEOC Determination Letter did not even reach the question of whether Light of Life is a 'religious' organization.] Plaintiff has not submitted any other evidence in opposition to the motion. Thus, in addition to the substantive reasons set forth above, the Court will grant the motion for summary judgment based on Plaintiff’s failure to introduce evidence sufficient to create any genuine issue of material fact."
 

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The following "Position" posting was found on the website of a Baptist Church in El Dorado, Texas:

Marcus White -- Custodian

Marcus is an El Dorado native and 1994 graduate of EHS. Marcus is married to Adenia, and has two children - ages 18 and 19. He attends Kingdom Hall Church. His hobbies are fishing, hunting and spending time with family, and he is proud of his 1990 GT Mustang and 2000 Chevy Impala. Marcus joined the staff in 2007.

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SOME JW EMPLOYEES MAY EVEN REFUSE TO ENTER

BUILDINGS OWNED OR OPERATED BY OTHER RELIGIOUS GROUPS

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For decades, it was typical that Jehovah's Witnesses, who hold their "meetings" in "Kingdom Halls", would not enter a church, synagogue, cathedral, temple, or any other related building which was used for "false religious" purposes, or support thereof. Jehovah's Witnesses believe that they are the "only true religion" on planet earth, and that all other religions, including professing Christian religions, are unwitting dupes and worshippers of the DEVIL.

This also means that Jehovah's Witnesses would never attend any type of religious service performed by one of Satan's minions, even if such were held in a secular structure, such as a funeral home, banquet hall, or sports stadium. Given how JWs view "buildings", do I need to explain how Jehovah's Witnesses privately think and feel about their employers and co-workers who are active members of such "false religious organizations"? Suffice it to say that JWs believe that everyone but Jehovah's Witnesses will be exterminated when Jesus Christ returns the second time to fight the battle of Armageddon.

Over the years, the prohibition against entering "false religious" building has eroded, and some JWs will now attend funerals, weddings, etc. of relatives, whether such are held in religious or secular buildings. However, JWs who choose to attend such functions are warned to refrain from doing anything which would be considered "participating" in the religious portion of the event.

Thus, employers of Jehovah's Witness Employees should anticipate the possibility of problems if that employer's business products or services ever requires employees to enter "false religious" buildings. For example, potential problems at catering businesses are obvious. Not so obvious are contracting businesses, such as delivery services, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, heating and air, roofers, painters, etc., who only occasionally perform services on religious structures. At one time, JWs were strictly prohibited from performing work in "false religious" buildings, including support buildings, such as parsonages. However, the Watch Tower Society recently loosened this restriction, and made it a "conscience matter", pointing out that responding to an occasional emergency might be the more christian thing to do. Of course, the fact that over the past couple of decades more and more Jehovah's Witnesses have turned to independent contracting to avoid the problems with employers addressed in this website had nothing to do with this new Watchtower interpretation.

2014 ADDENDUM: In August 2014, in PAYNE CARE CENTER v. CALIFORNIA, the 9th Circuit (USCA) ruled against a small 6-bed residential community care facility which cared for a developmentally disabled JEHOVAH'S WITNESS who had filed a complaint with the State because PAYNE refused to force its two Catholic employees and one atheist employee to accompany the JW Resident to religious services at a local Kingdom Hall. Despite the fact that PAYNE had offer to transport the JW Resident to and from the Kingdom Hall, plus work with the Elders at the Kingdom Hall to arrange for a JW member to attend to the JW Resident during services, the State of California cited PAYNE for violating its obligations to a client. The owners and employees filed this lawsuit alleging that the State forcing them to accompany the disabled JW Resident to a Kingdom Hall violated their own constitutional rights by requiring them to attend religious services of a faith not their own. However, the Los Angeles USDC dismissed their lawsuit, and the USCA affirmed. Does anyone really believe that if the plaintiff employees were Jehovah's Witnesses not wanting to attend a Catholic Church service that these two LEFT COAST "Injustices" would have ruled against them? What do you think would happen if PAYNE's employees were all JWs, and PAYNE fired all them for refusing to accompany a Catholic resident to Catholic Church services? The EEOC would nail PAYNE, and the USDC and USCA would rule in favor of the JWs.

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The State of Ohio provides a type of welfare/work-fare program which requires welfare recipients to participate in employment related training. Welfare/work-fare recipients who fail to comply with the program's requirements are subject to having benefits suspended or even terminated. Decisions are subject to an appellate process. The following appeal is posted on an Ohio government webpage. In 2002, a Jehovah's Witness family living in Butler County was deleted from the program after the female failed to show up for the start of her assigned job training program. The appellate body ruled that the excuse the JW family originally gave for failing to show was NOT acceptable.  However, after the fact, the Jehovah's Witness couple complained that the assigned job training program was being operated by Catholic Social Services, and as Jehovah's Witnesses, they were not allowed to attend and participate in any program operated at or by an affiliate of the Catholic Church. The appellate body then ruled in the JW family's favor and reinstated them back into the state program, even though the specifics of their later excuse was unknown to the JW family at the time the female failed to attend.

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FAIRBANKS v. BOARD OF REVIEW was an Ohio 1997 unemployment compensation case which involved a Jehovah's Witness Employee who was awarded UC benefits after he quit his job because his job duties required him to attend religious services at churches and/or synagogues, which he found offensive as a Jehovah's Witness. No further details. I suspect this case probably has something to do with some other brief internet snippets that I have stumbled across. It seems that back in the 1980s-90s, that several Jehovah's Witnesses were working for either an Ohio state agency or a state contractor, or both, which provided various personal services to people who were homebound or institutionalized, and who were elderly, retarded, disabled, or otherwise unable to do certain things for themselves. These JW Employees' duties included taking people to their doctor's appointments, shopping, etc, but pertinently, even to religious services at churches and synagogues. Apparently, this only involved transporting some "patients" to their religious services, but some patients required the JW Employees to assist them into and out of the services, and some patients' incapacities even required the JW Employees to stay alongside them during the services. This last scenario may have been the problem in FAIRBANKS, because various JW Employees were apparently filing complaints even in the instances where they were only required to assist patients into and out of services.

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Since posting the above, I found a similar case filed in Canada with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission in 2002. There, a Jehovah's Witness sought part-time employment in a group home for adults with developmental disabilities. In the interview, the JW supposedly explained that they were a JW, and that their Watchtower religious beliefs would prevent them from performing certain duties. When Christmas time roled around, the JW Employee was asked to transport and supervise residents during a Christmas concert trip held at a local church. The JW initially refused, but gave in. Shortly thereafter, the JW Employee was asked to bake a birthday cake for one of the residents. This time the JW Employee stood their ground. An argument insued, and the JW resigned. After filing a formal complaint with the MHRC, the MHRC ruled in the JW's favor granting $4000 in backpay, and requiring agency management to attend training sessions on how to accomodate the religious beliefs of employees.

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In 1988-89, a yet-to-be-identified female Jehovah's Witness in Osceola County, Florida, filed formal complaints and probably a lawsuit against the Osceola Children's Home and its adminsitration for alleged violation of her constitutional right to religious freedom. The former JW employee alleged that administrators had attempted to force her to accompany children to church while she was working as a "house parent" at the Children's Home. The former JW employee was disciplined and possibly terminated after she refused.

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One of the many hypocrisies of the Jehovah's Witnesses is with regard to "looking for omens". While officially condemned as "satanic", the Jehovah's Witnesses may be the world's worst for constantly looking for events and outcomes which they then interpret as pointing to something being "good" or "bad", "positive" or "negative", etc. The following on-the-job accident likely received much publicity within the then much smaller JW community given that the JW involved was a "Congregation Servant", or "leader" of his JW Congregation, and likely factored into the JWs earlier strict prohibition against performing work at/on buildings belonging to "false religions".
 
In January 1965, the "Congregation Servant" of the Columbia, Missouri, Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, named Daniel L. Bauer, who was an iron worker by trade, was a new-hire for a General Contractor engaged in the construction of the new First Presbyterian Church in Columbia. Dan Bauer had not been on the jobsite even an hour when he was struck by a falling boom, and received a broken arm and several broken ribs.

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JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES AND THE FIRE DEPARTMENT

My research has turned up multiple media articles reporting on many Jehovah's Witnesses who work for Fire Departments across the United States. In fact, over the past 3-4 or so years, there have been 3 JWs who died while fighting fires, or while training to do so. Given the small percentage of JWs in the overall population, deaths of 3 JWs would seem to indicate that a disproportionately large number of Jehovah's Witnesses are seeking employment as firemen.This is almost logical. Since the potential quality and quantity of conflicts for Jehovah's Witnesses are simply too great in the military and law enforcement occupations, seeking a career as a fireman would seem to be the next best alternative for individuals "cut from that kind of cloth".

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ANDERSON v. CITY OF TAYLOR was a 2005-7 Michigan federal court case which included a Jehovah's Witness firefighter, named Shannon Threlkeld, amongst the Plaintiff city firefighters who sued their employer city government, because a newly instituted wellness program included a mandatory "pin prick" blood draw for the purposes of a blood lipids test. The firefighters claimed that the mandatory "pin prick" blood draw violated their constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure, and the Michigan union-friendly federal court agreed. For purposes of this website, we are only interested in the Jehovah's Witness firefighter's claim that the mandatory "pin prick" blood draw violated his religious beliefs as a Jehovah's Witness. From the limited info provided by one USDC opinion, it appears that the City hired expert witness Joel Elliot to refute the testimony of Shannon Threlkeld.

Non-JW readers should be aware that the Watchtower Society's prohibition against donating blood and accepting blood transfusions has NEVER included a prohibition against blood draws intended for medical testing. However, that has not stopped certain individuals from attempting to use the non-JW public's ignorance about WatchTower Doctrine to avoid being the subject of a mandatory blood draw. There are multiple instances on record of individuals arrested for DUI or DWI who have claimed to be Jehovah's Witnesses, and then refused blood testing due to their alleged religious beliefs. Other recurring scenarios include state and federal prisoners attempting to avoid DNA, drug, and other type testings. Interested persons should know that local Jehovah's Witness Elders have been willing to testify in court as experts to dispute any such claim. One or more federal courts have rejected deviating personal religious belief based off the actual Watchtower teaching as a reason to avoid certain mandatory testing.

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LEWIS BRESSLER v. CITY OF LOS ANGELES was a 2005-7 California employment discrimination lawsuit in which a Jehovah's Witness named Lewis Bressler, aka Steve Bressler, was awarded $1,735,000.00Bressler received $1,300,000.00 for lost wages and $405,000.00 for emotional duress. Curiously, Bressler was age 65 at the time that he retired in 2005, so it is unknown how the jury arrived at $1,300,000.00 for Bressler's "lost wages". Bressler had originally joined with Gary Mellinger and Brenda Lee, two fellow Los Angeles County firefighters, in their lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles, the L.A. County Fire Department, and Captains Wesley Elder, Chris Hare, Michael McMaster and Roger Ruddick, and Battalion Chiefs Robert Rose and Roderick Garcia.  The court has yet to decide whether Bressler's legal fees - possibly nearing the $700,000.00 range - will also be paid by the City. Bressler originally alleged age discrimination and religious discrimination due to his beliefs and activities as one of Jehovah's Witnesses. However, the court did not allow Bressler's religious discrimination claims to go to trial, and the jury ruled against Bressler on his age discrimination claims. Lewis S. Bressler had to settle for merely $1,735,000.00 on his "retaliation" claim based on his "helping" fellow firefighter Brenda Lee, who herself is currently suing the City over allegations of discrimination alleged due to her status as an African-American and a lesbian. Bressler, who is now 68, said he was given poor reviews by his superiors and placed in a hostile work environment at Fire Station 96 in Chatsworth in retaliation for reporting mistreatment of fellow firefighter Brenda Lee.  Bressler also alleged that he was treated "like a rookie" and berated and yelled at by his superiors.
 

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ARDRA YOUNG v. DETROIT FIRE DEPT ET AL and MICHIGAN v. ARDRA YOUNG were two 1996-2000 Michigan court cases. An African-American Jehovah's Witness, named Ardra Young, was a City of Detroit firefighter, who alleged that the Detroit Fire Department and one or more of his white supervisors had discriminated against him because of his race. The outcome of Ardra Young's employment discrimination lawsuit is unknown, because, before it could be settled or litigated, Ardra Young murdered his wife and teenage son.

In February 1997, Ardra Young arranged a late night meeting with his estranged JW Wife and JW Son at a Detroit municipal park. Young shot both his wife and his son  in the back of their heads, and then fled to the home of his girlfriend in Illinois. Young returned to Detroit the next day, and without even asking to see his son, who was still alive on life-support, Young ordered doctors at Grace Hospital to turn off the life-support systems -- supposedly due to his WatchTower beliefs. After Young's alibi did not stand up to scrutiny, Young eventually confessed to police. Despite such, Young pled "not guilty" at trial. Young's defense team put on a vigorous defense. However, Young was found guilty, and sentenced to concurrent life terms. Young's defense team vigorously pursued appeals, possibly due to Young's pending employment discrimination lawsuit and the large settlement or judgment that Young's attorneys were anticipating from such. Amusingly, Young's attorneys unsuccessfully requested a new trial based on "newly discovered evidence", which included a letter which had been mailed to the Detroit Fire Department, which had been signed, "White Fire Fighters Association", which claimed that they actually had killed Young's wife and son -- not Ardra Young. Between 2000 and 2005, Ardra Young started filing his own habeas corpus actions in federal court. All have been denied thus far.

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On January 2, 2004, a Jehovah's Witness, named Judy Strege, 54, who was employed at the Gilbert Arizona Fire Department as a receptionist, sent an email to Chandler Arizona Mayor Boyd Dunn from her town office and containing her town phone number. It read, in part, "I appreciate your taking time to listen to me and take the Awake and Watchtower magazines from me. ... Please feel free to contact me if you would like questions answered about Jehovah's Witnesses, their ministry in the community or their beliefs." Mayor Dunn said he took no offense, but the religious e-mail he got from Judy Strege violated the City of Gilbert's email policy, which says the town’s system should be used only “to facilitate official business ... and is not a private communication medium.” Apparently, Strege, who was a Chandler resident, had been out "witnessing" on New Years Day, and had approached Mayor Dunn with a solicitation for him to accept from her copies of the WatchTower and Awake magazines while the Mayor was doing a television interview in a parking lot (presumably outside City Hall). Gilbert Personnel Director Ann Moeding-Evans declined to publicly discuss the email, but stating, "It is a sensitive issue".

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During the year 2000, the Florida news media repeatedly reported on the saga of a Jehovah's Witness Firefighter, named Barac Wimberly, who was eventually fired from the Pinellas Park Fire Department due to alleged poor job performance. Wimberly filed a religious discrimination claim with EEOC prior to his dismissal, but I don't know whether such was ever followed by a lawsuit in either state or federal court after Wimberly's termination. The charges and counter-charges are numerous, so I would recommend reading all the linked newspaper articles.

Some of the Department's allegations included: In 1999, Wimberly received a written reprimand for sleeping through a fire alarm, because Wimberly was wearing earplugs to drown out fellow firefighters' snoring. Soon after, he was reprimanded in writing and suspended for half of a 24-hour shift for leaving medical waste, such as needles and bandages, a blood pressure cuff, and other equipment, in someone's home after a medical call. Not long after, he slept through another alarm. Fire officials gave him a three-day suspension without pay that Wimberly appealed and had two days' pay restored. There are many more negatives in the linked newspaper articles.

Wimberly's charges of religious discrimination included: (1.) Co-workers often asked why Wimberly didn't celebrate holidays, such as Christmas. One acting supervisor allegedly asked Wimberly why he accepted a Christmas bonus if he didn't celebrate the holiday. (2.) Co-workers had joked about Jehovah's Witnesses knocking on doors -- calling them Saturday morning streetwalkers. (3.)After arguing with one firefighter/paramedic about his religion, the man asked Wimberly why Jehovah's Witnesses were coming to his door. He also told Wimberly that he disagreed with Jehovah's Witness' interpretation of the Bible. Shortly after, that co-worker allegedly began filing complaints against him that could not be substantiated. (4.) When Wimberly refused to take the Union Oath, as written, he was accused of elevating myself above everyone else, and attempting to get the oath changed. (5.) He declined to help decorate the fire truck during the winter holidays because of his religious beliefs. An acting supervisor "accused me of using my religion to get out of job duties. He told me to leave my religion at home." (6.) "I was written up for not being a team player, in part because I did not participate in the holiday activities. (7.) Wimberly concluded, "I believe if I were not a Jehovah's Witness, I would not be subjected to derogatory comments about my religion. I also believe that I am being harassed and subjected to disciplinary action because of my religious beliefs."

In response to Wimberly's charges against the Department, the Fire Chief pointed out that the Department currently already had two Jehovah's Witnesses employed, and both of those JWs held supervisory positions. In fact, the Chief pointed out that at the time that Wimberly was hired, Wimberly was the #1 applicant. All indicators had pointed to Wimberly being a rising star in the Department. However, the exact opposite occurred.

Even Wimberly acknowledged that his problems began soon after he was hired. Wimberly claimed that he was pressured into joining the Union, but Wimberly refused to join the Union because union activities would mean he would have to give up other "off-duty pursuits" -- i.e., door-to-door JW recruiting, etc. Thus, right off the bat, Wimberly fowled up the Department's 100%union participation, which made Wimberly an unpopular character.

After alleged repeated harassment and ridicule, Wimberly decided to join the Union in hopes that that would end his problems. Instead, joining the Union exacerbated Wimberly's problems. Why? Because Wimberely refused to take the Union Oath as it was written because of his WatchTower beliefs. Wimberly refused to swear his "allegiance" to the Union. So, Wimberly asked for and received permission to swear to an "altered version" of the Union's Oath. That simply Po'ed Wimberly's co-workers that much more, and they essentially had had all of the new recruit that they wanted. The following two years appeared to evidence that fact.

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HATCHER v. CITY OF PHILADELPHIA was a 1996?-2001? Pennsylvania worker's compensation case. In September 1998, a 46 year-old Philadelphia paramedic, named Marty Hatcher, died from liver disease. Hatcher claimed that his liver disease had been contracted on-the-job, and he pursued worker's comp benefits to which he believed that he was entitled. After his death, Geneva Hatcher continued to pursue worker's comp benefits. She claimed that her husband had died of liver failure attributed to Hepatitis C. The City claimed that drinking, not Hepatitis C, caused Hatcher's cirrhosis. A judge ruled partially in Hatcher's favor, finding that the disease was job-related, but agreeing with the City that there was some question about what led to the cirrhosis. Geneva Hatcher further claimed that Marty Hatcher was a devout Jehovah's Witness, who was not a drinker. [Hatcher may not have been a drinker, but I've known numerous "devout JWs" who drank like a fish.] As of 2000, Geneva Hatcher was continuing to pursue additional benefits. Outcome unknown.

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ROBERT E. SHELTON v. VILLAGE OF EVENDALE OHIO was a 1992-3 Ohio court case in which an African-American Jehovah's Witness Firefighter named Robert Shelton was fired from the Evendale Fire Department in June 1992, and thereafter filed this lawsuit against the Village and its Fire Chief. Bob Shelton alleged religious discrimination, racial discrimination, and disability discrimination. Shelton also accused the Fire Chief of giving him a poor job performance evaluation to justify his firing. Outcome unknown.

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In 1983, Fire Captain John Hall, of Watertown, New York, was selected to receive the American Legion's "Firefighter of the Year" award for having saved the life of a female during a fire. The award was pulled when Hall refused to participate in a parade that was part of the ceremony. Specifics are unknown, but I suspect that the award ceremony was held on one of the holidays. Fire Captain John Hall gave as an excuse that his Jehovah's Witness beliefs would not permit him to ride on a fire truck in a parade. The American Legion said: Fine. No parade. No award!

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