Readers should be aware that all legal matters involving local Congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses are and always have been immediately referred to the "Legal Department" at WatchTower Society HQ, in New York, which then oversees and handles that matter. If local legal counsel is hired to represent a local Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, that representation will be overseen/managed by the WatchTower Society's Legal Department.
ZONING VARIANCES & EXCEPTIONS
Local government zoning officials should be aware that over the past 40 years that the WatchTower Bible & Tract Society has quietly turned the construction of new Kingdom Halls and the renovation of old Kingdom Halls into a major "money-making" activity. Since the 1990s, the WatchTower Real Estate Tract Society has made out like a "bandit" as it has started "flipping" Kingdom Halls only recently built in residentially and commercially zoned areas, which had been granted "zone-busting" variances/exceptions by local government zoning bodies which had anticipated that such Kingdom Halls would serve the local Jehovah's Witness community for 30-40 years to come.
In years past, residential neighbors of those zone-busting Kingdom Halls often have suffered the consequences. First, they had a "church" that looked more like a small office building crow-barred into their residential community. Then, 15-20 years later, when the WatchTower Society decides to take its profit, local government officials must grant a second variance/exception because the WatchTower Society wants to sell its Kingdom Hall to a higher-paying commercial purchaser, rather than selling their "church" to a lower-paying not-for-profit religious group.
More recently, the WatchTower Society has decided that it can make more money from "flipping" Kingdom Halls if such are located in commercial and industrial zones. Now, re-designed flat-roof Kingdom Halls which look like franchised Tire Stores are being constructed in the midst of retail shopping areas. Larger Assembly Halls resembling the bigbox "Mart" stores are being constructed in retail, industrial, and farming zoned areas. Already, there have been zoning fights over Kingdom Halls located in commercially-zoned areas, where the WatchTower Society wanted to "flip" those Kingdom Halls to a commercial purchaser whose business did not "fit" into that particular commercial neighborhood.
During either of these construction or resale scenarios, a local government zoning body might wish to ask the WatchTower Society (a religious NFP) to provide it with certain statistics pertaining to such scenarios -- SIMPLY AS A MATTER OF COURTESY. (It should be noted that the anally-retentive WatchTower Society has a decades-old reputation for keeping records of "everything". Don't let them bluff their way out of providing these statistics.)
1. Over the past 40 years, within the 50 United States, how many KHs were built on properties already zoned for construction of "churches"?
2. Over the past 40 years, within the 50 United States, how many KHs were built on properties which required a zoning variance/exception?
3. Over the past 20 years, within the 50 United States, how many sales of existing KHs included a request for a zoning change -- either by seller or by buyer? How many requests were granted?
4. Over the past 20 years, within the 50 United States, how many existing KHs put-up-for-sale had been constructed less than 20 years prior to marketing? ... within 20-30 years prior to marketing?
ONGOING KINGDOM HALL "USAGE" SCAM
After years of having read countless United States and international records from civil and adminstrative proceedings relating to the "zoning" of local Kingdom Halls, it has finally dawned on us that such local government zoning bodies have been repeatedly and consistently DEFRAUDED for decades as to the meeting times and the number of meetings conducted at local Kingdom Halls. Again, after years of reading countless minutes and decisions from "zoning hearings", it has finally dawned on us that we have little or no recollection of local government zoning officials being informed about the MULTIPLE DAILY FORMAL "Meetings for Field Service" conducted by each individual Congregation that uses a single Kingdom Hall, whether that be one Congregation or MULTIPLE Congregations.
Zoning officials seeking to accurately assess the quantity of usage, traffic, etc. of a Kingdom Hall, and the impact of such on neighbors and the surrounding neighborhood, should have been informed that not only does each individual Congregation conduct its own "Meeting for Field Service" at around 9:00 A.M. every morning, Mondays through Sundays, for "morning field service", but many, especially larger Congregations may also have a second formal "Meeting for Field Service" at 1:00 P.M. for "afternoon field service". Occasionally, especially during summer months, some Congregations will even conduct a formal "Meeting for Field Service" around 5:00-6:00 P.M. for "evening field service".
On Sundays, at Kingdom Halls used by MULTIPLE Congregations, the Congregations which have their Talk/Study Meetings in the afternoon will also conduct a morning "Meeting for Field Service" prior to the first Congregation holding its morning Talk/Study Meetings. That first Congregation which held its Talk/Study Meeting on Sunday morning will then hold an afternoon "Meeting for Field Service" prior to the second/third/fourth Congregations holding their afternoon Talk/Study Meetings.
Most Jehovah's Witnesses perform obligatory "field service" on Saturdays. While "Meeting for Field Service" attendance on weekdays may range from 5% - 10% of membership, on Saturdays, "Meeting for Field Service" attendance jumps to 20% - 40%. On Sundays, "Meeting for Field Service" attendance may range from 10% - 20%.
Non-JWs should understand that the main purpose of "Meetings for Field Service" are to assign members to "car groups" and assign "car groups" to specified, mapped "territory". While "Meetings for Field Service" are supposed to only last about 20 minutes, in actuality, members will start arriving as much as 30 minutes early, and often remain after the meeting for as much as another 10-20 minutes. Thus, the typical 9:00 A.M. "Meeting for Field Service" start time means that some JWs will start arriving at the Kingdom Hall at around 8:30 A.M (eating McD's breakfast in their cars), and the sharper JWs will kill as much time as possible after the "Meeting for Field Service", and will not exit the Kingdom Hall parking lot until 9:30-9:45 A.M.
Jehovah's Witnesses have also been taught to take a 15-30 minute break halfway through a "field service" session, and some JWs will meetup back at the Kingdom Hall at around 11:00 A.M. for that break. A ""morning field service" session ends around Noon, which means that JWs will begin returning to the Kingdom Hall at around 11:40 A.M. While some will quickly leave for home, others will be forced to wait around on others who rode with them to the meeting, but were assigned to other "car groups". Thus, JWs will be coming and going from the Kingdom Hall parking lot from around 11:40 A.M. until 12:30 P.M (for those JWs who were not assigned to the same car group and want to socialize for whatever reason).
Non-JWs should understand that the majority of Jehovah's Witnesses do NOT like knocking doors any more than non-JWs like having their doors knocked. (Don't expect them to admit such.) If you are doing the math on how much time that JWs actually spend knocking doors, your math is NOT wrong. While most JWs will report to the WatchTower Cult that they spent 3 hours in "field service" on a particular morning or afternoon, they probably spent less than an hour actually knocking doors. The other two hours is spent criss-crossing and driving around the neighborhoods and to-from the Kingdom Hall -- killing as much time as possible so that they don't have to get out of their cars to actually knock doors. In actuality, on any given morning or afternoon, a single JW car may be generating as much local traffic as 5-10 normal cars going about normal activities.
Recently, the WatchTower Cult has begun building more and more larger Kingdom Halls (those over 1500 square feet), so that those larger Kingdom Halls can be used by MULTIPLE area Congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses. Once again, zoning officials are not always being told that these larger Kingdom Halls are planned -- either in the shortterm or in the longterm -- for use by MULTIPLE area Congregations -- some of which frequently are not even located in the same city or even the same county where the Kingdom Hall in question is located.
Here is a 2012 example of a DOUBLE KINGDOM HALL that was approved for construction adjacent to an elementary school. Note that Zoning officials were NOT informed about the daily Meetings for Field Service held during the elementary school's peak morning traffic time. We further suspect that this DOUBLE Kingdom Hall was NOT constructed just for use by only two Congregations, but was actually longterm planned for eventual use by FOUR congregations. Further note that NOT even the name of the second Congregation was mentioned in this document.
Do Jehovah's Witnesses ever truthfully inform local Zoning officials about their daily Meetings For Field Service and the use of a Kingdom Hall by MULTIPLE Congregations? YES they do -- when doing so benefits them. Here is a 2012 example where both usages were quickly acknowledged to the local Zoning Board by the Jehovah's Witnesses. What was the context? The Jehovah's Witnesses wanted to SELL their "Agricultural-Residential" zoned Kingdom Hall, which also was located near a local elementary school, to a Daycare Center operator who needed a zoning variance. In this after-the-fact situation, the Jehovah's Witnesses were more than happy to testify truthfully about the amount of daily traffic generated by their daily "Meetings for Field Service" at that Kingdom Hall, as well as the use of that Kingdom Hall by a second local Congregation -- as evidence that that Daycare Center would not generate any additional traffic during weekday morning hours than had been generated by normal Kingdom Hall activities.
ONGOING KINGDOM HALL "PARSONAGE" SCAM
Local government zoning officials should be aware that local "Congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses" do NOT have "employed" or otherwise financially compensated "pastors" or "ministers" as those positions are commonly known. Each individual "Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses" has what is termed a "Body of Elders" (BOE), which is a group of local adult males who VOLUNTEER their time to perform the duties that ministers, pastors, and priests perform in other denominations. The number of "Elders" generally depends on the size of the Congregation -- anywhere from two to a dozen. Because ALL local "Jehovah's Witness Elders" are and always have been responsible for earning their own living and supporting their own families, JW Elders are not and never have been provided with a "parsonage".
Thus, over the decades, the overwhelming majority of "Kingdom Halls" have been constructed without attached or detached residential living quarters. The occasional rare exception has been in larger cities where there are multiple Kingdom Halls within a small geographic area. In those urban areas, some of those urban Kingdom Halls has sometimes been selected to include an "attached" apartment or a basement apartment. HOWEVER, that apartment is not for the use of one of the Congregation's "Elders". Instead, the WatchTower Cult has used such an "apartment" to house its "District Sales Manager" ("Circuit Overseer") working in that urban area. Often, when a newer Kingdom Hall with such an apartment is constructed in that urban area, the "Circuit Overseer" has relocated to the newer apartment, leaving the old KH apartment vacant. This editor personally knows of such older apartments then being RENTED OUT for income to local JW members who are not Elders nor "Ministerial Servants" ("Deacons").
Increasingly, over the past decade as the WatchTower Society's international headquarters and field staff have gotten extremely "aged", the WatchTower Society has quietly began directing local Congregations across the United States to construct "apartments" -- both at the sites of newly constructed Kingdom Halls, but also on the sites of older, existing Kingdom Halls (often requiring zoning variances due to not meeting square footage requirements). The WatchTower Society -- technically with no legal ownership of these local Kingdom Halls -- is then RETIRING its own elderly staff to these apartments. The WatchTower Society RETIREE is then technically named as one of that Congregation's "Elders". The local Congregation foots the bill for the RETIREE's housing, and the Government of the United States provides the RETIREE's income via basic Social Security. What these alleged, so-called "parsonages" actually are is "unassisted senior citizens living facilities". They do NOT serve the needs of local citizens and taxpayers. They serve the financial needs of a NFP which has an established decades-long history of avoiding paying any taxes whatsoever.
As EVIDENCE of both the ONGOING KINGDOM HALL "USAGE" SCAM and the ONGOING KINGDOM HALL "PARSONAGE" SCAM, read this "Conditional Use Evaluation Report" issued by the Henry County Georgia Zoning Advisory Board, in October 2008. First, note that the WatchTower Cult was then planning on constructing TWO 5000 square foot KINGDOM HALLS and one 900 square foot RESIDENTIAL DWELLING on this property. Second, note that the Zoning Advisory Board reported to the Henry County Georgia Zoning and Planning Commission that the 900 square foot RESIDENTIAL DWELLING was for the use of "the acting Pastor" -- assumedly as a PARSONAGE. Third, note that with regard to the amount of traffic generated in this then light-traffic "Residential-Agricultural" zoned area, the Zoning Advisory Board's report makes no mention of the fact that these two new Kingdom Halls will be used by MULTIPLE local Congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses, and no mention is made of the fact that each local Congregation using these TWO new Kingdom Halls will also meet one or more times DAILY for a "Meeting for Field Service".
One would have thought that the Henry County Georgia Zoning Advisory Board would have been sufficiently intelligent to question why the single South Jonesboro Georgia Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses was planning on constructing TWO IDENTICAL KINGDOM HALLS on this 5.15 acre property, and why was there only one "PARSONAGE" for one "ACTING PASTOR"? After discovering the truth that MULTIPLE congregations (with MULTIPLE Bodies of Elders serving as their "pastors") were going to use these TWO KINGDOM HALLS, the Henry County Georgia Zoning Advisory Board possibly may have asked enough additional questions to learn the truth that the residential dwelling was NOT a "parsonage", but rather was a WatchTower Cult retirement home, PLUS that there was going to be much more traffic than estimated -- on nearly every day of the week -- rather than just additional traffic merely "during weekends and a few weeknights".
As noted on Page 2 of 2 of this sub-section, the WatchTower Cult RELIES and COUNTS on the stupidity and ignorance of non-JWs to win court cases and zoning decisions. Jehovah's Witnesses testifying during trials and hearings are taught to answer potentially negative questions "vaguely", and then hope that their questioner makes a favorable assumption, which the JW is further taught not to correct. It is for these very same reasons that the WatchTower Cult frequently employs local attorneys ignorant of Cult specifics to represent it in local court cases and zoning hearings. Local non-JW attorneys can't divulge what they don't know.
"PARSONAGE" PROPERTY TAX SCAM
If it not bad enough that local Congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses frequently request from local governments the exemption from real estate taxes on such aforementioned attached and detached "rental dwellings" -- claiming "religious use as a parsonage" -- a Tipster reports to us a recent even more outrageous instance of FRAUD committed by two conspiring local Jehovah's Witness Families.
Tipster reports that an income-producing rental house owned by a JW Elder (local contractor and real estate developer), which he rented out to another JW Family, was recently reported in the local newspaper as being on that County's list of real estate properties which had applied for and been granted an exemption from county and city real estate taxes due to that rental home's "use" as a "Jehovah's Witness Parsonage". Tipster immediately knew that there was something "fraudulent" being affected on local tax officials since the rental house was a couple of miles or more distance from the local Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, and Tipster knew, or thought that he knew, that the rental house was NOT occupied by any "Minister".
Tipster telephoned the local tax office and reported what he knew and suspected about the rental home and the tenant. A report was taken by a secretary, who briefly reviewed the file and informed Tipster that in making their decision that the tax board had been aware that the "parsonage" was not located on the same piece of real property as was the local Kingdom Hall. The tax board also had been aware that the rental house was not titled in the name of the local "Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses", but rather was titled in the name of a "Trustee" of the local "Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses". However, the tax board also had been informed that the "tenant" was "The Minister" of the local "Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses", and that "The Minister" and his family occupied the house as a "parsonage" -- assumedly at nominal or zero rent.
Tipster reiterated to secretary that Tipster believed that most if not all of that information was "inaccurate". Secretary told Tipster that she would submit Tipster's "tip" to the tax board. Tipster relates that he forgot about the matter -- until Tipster received an unexpected telephone call from that same secretary several months later. The secretary "thanked" Tipster for their prior "tip", and related that the local tax board had reviewed the "exemption" and discovered that the "exemption" had been granted based on "incomplete information", and had been rescinded effective the following tax period.
While that secretary did not want to release many more specifics about that case, she did hint to Tipster that when the local tax board originally had granted the tax exemption that the board had not simply taken the word of the JW Elder-Landlord that his rental property was being used as a "Jehovah's Witness Parsonage", but that the alleged JW Minister-Tenant had also supplied supporting documentation to the tax board. However, when the two Jehovah's Witness Co-Conspirators were re-questioned about the matter several months after the exemption had already been granted, they both then realized that their SCAM had been discovered, and they both quickly FESSED UP to the actual situation -- that this was just simply a routine rental agreement between a Jehovah's Witness Landlord and a Tenant who also was a Jehovah's Witness, both of whom now claimed that this "mistake" and "confusion" had resulted from the fact that all Jehovah's Witnesses are considered to be "ministers".
IN RE JAH-JIREH HOMES was a 2012 Hearing before the Quebec Municipal Commission, in which this WatchTower Cult affiliated Retirement Home attempted to falsely portray itself as being a facility whose "main purpose" was to fight discrimination, which would make it eligible for property tax exemption under Quebec law. Notably, none of the main Directors/Officers showed up for this attempted scam. No, they sent the facility director, Phuong Phan Minh. For info purposes, readers should know that this Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec location is only one of multiple such WatchTower Cult affiliated JAH-JIREH retirement homes scattered across Europe and North America. We suspect that this is not the first time that this same/similar scam has been attempted, and in all likelihood, may have been successful in some locale where little effort was made by local tax officials to discover the truth. In any event, the QMC did NOT fall for it in this instance.
"SAVE JIM'S VIEW"
"JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES -- THE BEST NEIGHBORS IN THE WORLD"
Jehovah's Witnesses almost always BOAST about being "The Best Neighbors In The World" when applying for zoning exceptions and variances. Any Zoning Board ready to swallow that balony needs to talk with the Jim Mura family in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. In early May 2014, KRQE-TV in Albuquerque ran the STORY of a DISABLED, WHEELCHAIR BOUND former schoolteacher who made the mistake of having his new WHEELCHAIR-ACCESSIBLE HOME constructed on a residential lot which was adjacent to a vacant lot owned by local Jehovah's Witnesses.
One of the few pleasures left to the disabled wheelchair-bound homeowner was to gaze out his dining room window at the desert stretching across the valley to the nearby Sandias Mountains. When Jim and Janet Mura learned that a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses was going to be built on the adjacent lot located on the pertinent side of their home, they immediately were concerned that Jim's view of the nearby desert valley and mountains might be partially obstructed by the construction. So, the Muras met on multiple occasions with the Elders of the planned Kingdom Hall to explain their situation. The Muras THOUGHT that the Jehovah's Witnesses were SYMPATHETIC to Jim's situation, and the Muras THOUGHT that they had a "handshake agreement" that the Kingdom Hall would be so situated on the Jehovah's Witnesses large lot such that Jim's view would NOT be obstructed. Unfortunately, the Muras were NOT aware of the WatchTower Cult's decades-old policy of telling neighbors and government officials "whatever it takes" to get construction started and too late to stop. Instead of situating the Kingdom Hall where the disabled wheelchair-bound homeowner's view would not be obstructed, the Jehovah's Witnesses backed the Kingdom Hall as close as was permitted right up against the Mura's property line. Click this next link to see Jim's view of the MORNING SUNRISE after it was partially obstructed by construction of the WALL around the Kingdom Hall Compound, and click this third link to see Jim's nearly totally obstructed view after construction of the Kingdom Hall building. So much for "trusting" the word of Jehovah's Witnesses.
DRY FORK FARMS LLC v. CITY OF HARRISON OHIO ET AL is a July 2014 Ohio civil lawsuit which is related to the WATCHTOWER SOCIETY's ongoing attempt since 2012 to purchase property within a commercial/industrial park in the Harrison Township / Harrison Joint Economic Development District, known as Harrison Commerce Center, for the construction of a regional religious convention facility to be used solely by Jehovah's Witnesses, which is known as an "Assembly Hall". Henkel Schuler Realtors was initially identified by a local newspaper as the actual landowner.
In this particular lawsuit, Dry Fork Farms LLC (or, Henkel Schuler Realtors) is suing the City of Harrison Ohio, its Mayor, and the Director of Public Works for their alleged delay in approving the extension of sanitary sewer service to the property. As is typical of lawsuits filed against anyone who fails to immediately kowtow to every whim of the WatchTower Society, the multiple defendants have all been accused of RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION -- a ploy which the local Harrison, Ohio newspaper has labeled as "playing dirty". (SEE BELOW.)
In Spring 2012, the WATCHTOWER SOCIETY requested multiple (five or six) zoning variances and approval of the project by the involved city and township governmental entities. Because the specified legal purpose for the formation of the Joint Economic Development District was to create jobs via industrial and commerce development within the JEDD, the WATCHTOWER SOCIETY's request was UNANIMOUSLY OPPOSED by the City of Harrison, Ohio, Harrison's Economic Development Director, the Harrison Township Trustees, the JEDD Board, and even the present occupants of the industrial park. In Summer 2012, the Hamilton County Rural Zoning Board declined to approve the project. All parties felt that approving the WatchTower project would VIOLATE the State of Ohio's laws pertaining to the sale of JEDD designated land in that no new jobs would be created by the religious, non-industrial, non-commerce facility, plus, not only would no new payroll tax base be created, a large section of real property would be removed from the property tax base. In exchange for "nothing", local governments would be required to upgrade water, sewer, and other services, including reconstructing the two lane unimproved road which currently accesses JEDD property.
In fact, the Mayor of Harrison, Ohio, even went so far as to label the WATCHTOWER SOCIETY's attempt to ram its will down the throats of local Harrison city and township residents as "PREDATORY CRAP", stating further, "Part of controlling the destiny of a community is having the guts to stand your ground with your zoning and economic development plan and goals. On that one, I consider it a very predatory situation, ... ."
However, in November 2012, the WATCHTOWER SOCIETY appealed those denials to the Hamilton County Commission. There, Hamilton County Commission President, Greg Hartman, along with fellow Commissioners Christopher Monzel and Todd Portune, overruled the arguments and decisions of their fellow Hamilton County officials and the wishes of the involved JEDD and other local voters and residents, and UNANIMOUSLY APPROVED the WATCHTOWER SOCIETY's proposals.
In July 2015, the local trial court ruled that the City of Harrison must provide water and sewer service to the industrial park tract owned by DRY FORK FARMS LLC (pending sale to the WATCHTOWER CULT conditioned on the City providing such services) due to the City's prior agreement to provide those services to all tracts within the industrial park -- despite the fact that it was never anticipated that anyone other than a for-profit, tax-generating, job-producing business would purchase a tract inside the industrial park. The Mayor of Harrison vowed to appeal the ruling all the way to the Supreme Court of Ohio, while further noting that additional potential businesses for the industrial park now run for the hills after learning that the WATCHTOWER CULT might soon locate in the industrial park. After all, who wants to purchase property adjacent to a religious cult known for suing anybody and everybody who fails to kowtow to their every whim???
ADA TOWNSHIP v. CASCADE CONGREGATION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES was a 2006 Michigan civil lawsuit which arose out of the 2002-03 construction of a single Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses sitting on two adjacent lots -- one in Cascade Township and one in Ada Township, just outside Grand Rapids, Michigan. During the construction of the Cascade Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses, in March 2003, one of the JW contractors broke a portion of the sanitary sewer line belonging to Ada Township. Because the JWs were in such a rush to get the Kingdom Hall completed, the Ada Township utility department agreed to help out the JWs by going ahead and themselves securing a contractor who was licensed and qualified to repair the sanitary sewer line. Ada Township did so only after first obtaining a letter from Cascade Congregation Secretary, Chris Vroma, promising to reimburse Ada Township for all costs to repair the damaged sewer line.
However, when presented with the $64,993.68 bill, the Cascade Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses reneged on their written promise. Ada Township was forced to file this lawsuit in January 2006. Eventually, the Cascade Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses offered to reimburse Ada Township for a mere $25,000.00. At the November 2006 Ada Township Board Meeting, the local attorney hired by the Ada Township Trustees to file this lawsuit recommended that the Trustees accept the lowball settlement offer made by the Cascade Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. The Township Supervisor even publicly proclaimed that the Township was "stuck" under the circumstances. The Ada Township Trustees then curiously voted to accept the $25,000.00 settlement offer. Even more curious is the fact that the online "minutes" from that November 2006 Ada Township Board Meeting do not include any mention of the actual amount of the bill -- $64,993.68. Instead, the online "minutes" misleadingly leads readers to believe that the sewer line repair bill was $40,000.00 -- rather than that the JWs' offer of $25,000.00 was $40,000.00 less than the actual $64,993.68 bill.
Am I the only person who wonders why the Ada Township Trustees would prematurely terminate this ongoing lawsuit, which must have been close to trial, given the apparent "contract" created by the JWs' written letter promising to make full reimbursement? For those familiar with the Jehovah's Witnesses propensity to avoid any negative publicity whatsoever -- especially that of having had reneged on a written promise -- one can only wonder why these local JWs even would have taken the chance of compounding the negative publicity by making a lowball settlement offer, unless the local JWs KNEW their offer would be accepted, and unless they KNEW little if any additional negative publicity or permanent record would result from the offer and its' acceptance.
Interestingly, this new Kingdom Hall was constructed to provide a new joint facility to be used by two local Jehovah's Witness congregations -- the Cascade Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses and the Wyoming Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. Local multi-millionaire, Leroy Dale Baker, was the founding incorporator of the Wyoming Congregation, and at one of the zoning hearings, Dale Baker's son, Barak Kerns Baker, aka "Barry" Baker, stated that he was a member of the Cascade Congregation.
Leroy Dale Baker made his millions as the founder of Grand Rapids' "Dale Baker Automotive Group". A subsidiary, Circuit Leasing, Inc., once leased automobiles to the WatchTower Society for its 500 or more traveling "Overseers" assigned throughout the United States -- until Baker eventually sold out his auto business operations.
Barak K. Baker was the Manager of Circuit Leasing, Inc. (Thereafter, the WatchTower Society cut out the middleman and formed its own "Circuit Vehicles" auto leasing subsidiary, which allows this subsidiary company to purchase vehicles directly from auto manufacturers and lease such back to the main corporation.) "Barry" Baker is currently President of the BLOOD CONSERVATION SUPPORT FOUNDATION, whose large expenditures over the years seems to indicate a significant asset for the WatchTower Society's anti-blood transfusion agenda.
L. Dale Baker is also a founding Trustee of JAH-JIREH HOMES OF AMERICA, which is a Jehovah's Witness owned, operated, and occupied retirement community located near Allentown, Pennsylvania. Dale Baker is also the father-in-law of Judah B. Schroeder, who is a former WatchTower Society Attorney and the son of deceased WatchTower Governing Body member, Albert D. Schroeder.
Interestingly, there were even more "curiosities" during the zoning of this new Kingdom Hall, which again was built on two adjacent lots located in two different townships -- thus, involving two townships. First, the combined two lots still did not meet the minimum two acres needed to meet zoning requirements. Interestingly, this lot size problem was circumvented when the local electric company (Consumer Power) "leased" to the JWs one acre of adjacent land (under its powerlines??). Second, during one zoning hearing, an adjacent neighbor alleged that the LLC seller of the lots, whose legal representative was asking for other concessions relating to the parking lot and roadway access, had one or more JWs as some of the owners. While the truth of such is unknown, it is KNOWN that it is decades-long S.O.P. for one or more individual JWs (often unknown out-of-area residents) to initially purchase the real estate for the construction of a Kingdom Hall (or large Assembly Halls) to prevent neighbors and other locals from discovering the planned construction. Third, the JWs also were granted a variance to build a "parsonage" on the property, which contained only 800 of the required 1300 square feet. The two township's Trustees were certainly generous in more than one instance.
Readers who follow media coverage of the WatchTower Cult will recall the oddity that sometimes during the media's coverage of the construction or remodeling of Kingdom Halls, Assembly Halls, and other WatchTower Cult facilities, the WatchTower Cult spokesperson will repeatedly refer to that particular Kingdom Hall as that community's newest "Educational Center" -- with that particular verbiage then being repeated by the media as the name of the local facility.
A tipster alleges that such verbiage possibly may sometimes play a "financial" role that noone has ever suspected. "Churches" are not eligible for state government or federal government "grants", nor are they typically eligible for donations from other non-affiliated NFPs. However, "Educational Centers" can be construed to be eligible for state government or federal government "grants", and eligible for donations from non-affiliated NFPs, by grant writers and others sufficiently dishonest to make the mischaracterization.
Tipster alleges that back around 2000 that at a Circuit Assembly held in Massachusetts, that it was announced from the platform the completion of a remodeling project of an existing Kingdom Hall's basement into a separate Kingdom Hall for the local Deaf Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. Tipster alleges that the speaker was sufficiently STUPID enough to further announce that the Kingdom Hall construction project had been greatly aided by GOVERNMENT GRANT FUNDING which was used to purchase $50,000.00 of Audio/Visual Equipment. Makes one wonder how many other Deaf Congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses around the United States have received large government grants or NFP donations to purchase A/V or other equipment for installation in a local Kingdom Hall???
PARKING has long been a major issue with the zoning and construction of Kingdom Halls. As noted on our homepage (link at top of this page), the WatchTower Society even appealed two losing "parking-related" court cases all the way to SCOTUS -- in 1957 and 1960. We have not posted the several old parking-zoning related court cases because the zoning issues in those cases probably will never reoccur. However, that does not mean that "parking" cannot be an issue with today's Kingdom Halls -- as JWs continue the practice of attempting to purchase the cheapest and smallest building lots that they can find, and as cowardly government zoning officials continue to grant local JWs zoning approval for undersized building lots. Here are a couple of exceptions:
A 2002 City of Honolulu webpage provides info regarding parking problems at a local city park due to an adjacent Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses using the park's parking area for its own meetings. Kingdom Halls in Honolulu typically have 3-4 different Congregations of Jehovah's Witnesses using a single Kingdom Hall, so given five regular weekly meetings per week per congregation, plus two daily meetings for field service, it can be assumed that the park's parking area had essentially been taken over by the JWs. This "situation" is included here because the City of Honolulu webpage indicates that the Kingdom Hall's lack of adequate parking was anticipated during zoning hearings to approve construction, but when seeking zoning approval, the Honolulu JWs had assured local zoning officials that they would NOT use the city park's parking area at all.
FRANCESTOWN v. JOSEPH M. GIZA and SANDRA L. GIZA is an ongoing 2009-14 municipal code enforcement action between the Town of Francestown, New Hampshire and a prominent local Jehovah's Witness Elder and Elderette, who own and operate a trucking-shipping company called Northeast Express LLC at 300 Campbell Hill Road, in Francestown, NH. The case is pertinent to this webpage because Joe Giza is also a prominent member of the WatchTower Society's "Regional Building Committee", which is responsible for renovations to Kingdom Halls and new construction of Kingdom Halls and Assembly Halls in the states of New Hampshire and Vermont.
This five year long running battle apparently started sometime in Summer 2009 when city code enforcement officials first alleged that Joe Giza was operating an unlicensed "auto repair shop" and later an alleged "junkyard" on part of his property, which raised questions concerning possible ground water contamination. Per the linked minutes of the Town Board, Giza may have initially refused to appear before the Board concerning the matter, and at some point may have denied city officials further access to his property. At least one adjoining neighbor appeared before the Board complaining of property line encroachment, as well as alleged multiple unregistered vehicles supposedly parked on the Giza property. One Board meeting discussion even included a discussion about "police officers" accompanying city officials to the Giza property. At some point, a lawsuit was filed by the City. In April 2013, mediation resulted in an agreement whereby Giza was given until December 2014 to bring his property into compliance with local zoning ordinances.
Evidencing the WatchTower Cult's original intent to locate its "Kingdom Halls" in the midst of residential neighborhoods by whatever means necessary, in Summer 1948, Eddie F. Clements, the "Company Servant" of the San Mateo California "Company" of Jehovah's Witnesses applied for a building permit to construct a 23x40 addition on the rear of his home located at 1006 East Fifth Avenue, which was to be used as the new local "Kingdom Hall" for Jehovah's Witnesses in San Mateo and surrounding area. Before the San Mateo Planning Commission, Clements claimed that a "Kingdom Hall" was NOT a church, but rather was a "study hall" used for meetings of "bible students" affiliated with the WatchTower Society. Rather than argue the point with Clements, the Planning Commission denied a permit for what it deemed to be a "private school" by Clements' definition.
Clements appealed the denial, but the City Council unanimously upheld the denial. Ridiculously, as the group of 30 or so defeated Jehovah's Witnesses exited the City Council Chambers, Clements announced that he had just received a telephone call from an unidentified LOCAL MILLIONAIRE -- who was NOT a Jehovah's Witness -- who had promised Clements to provide the funds for the local JWs to build an even BIGGER and BETTER Kingdom Hall in San Mateo. The "spontaneous" demonstration elicited by this "surprise" was so loud that the Mayor had to order the doors shut to the Council Chambers so that the Council could continue transacting business. INTERESTINGLY, it apparently took that unidentified Millionaire several years to come up with the money, since it took the San Mateo JWs 6+ years to construct that new Kingdom Hall.
MILWAUKIE COMPANY OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES v. CITY OF MILWAUKEE, OREGON was a 1953-58 Supreme Court of Oregon court case which involved yet another attempt by the WATCHTOWER BULLIES to force a local municipality to grant a zoning exception to permit a Kingdom Hall to be constructed on a lot already zoned as "Residential - single family dwellings". Despite the fact that the WatchTower Society sent in the "almighty" HAYDEN C. COVINGTON (see HOMEPAGE of this website -- link at top) to overwhelm the Oregon Justices, those Justices sent Hayden Covington packing -- along with a nice "spanking". This decision is included here for the remarks it includes about the Jehovah's Witnesses' false claims of RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION:
We observe that at the threshold of our consideration of the charge of discrimination, we are confronted with an anomalous situation produced by the [JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES]. We recall that during the course of the oral argument, [HAYDEN COVINGTON] complained because the trial court denied [JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES] an opportunity to produce evidence of discrimination. Our examination of the record reveals no basis for such representation. To the contrary, [JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES] was given that opportunity but failed to embrace it. Notwithstanding the representation made orally, its brief on the subject rests upon the assumption that evidence of discrimination is before the court.
The statement made by [HAYDEN COVINGTON] in this court may have been an inadvertence, due in part to the fact that he was not the trial counsel in the lower court. We would be inclined to ignore and excuse it were it not for certain misstatements of fact which appear in [HAYDEN COVINGTON'S] brief and to which we will presently make reference. ... ...
... [HAYDEN COVINGTON'S] brief is replete with statements which, contrary to the record, assume a state of nonexistent facts. It is upon these erroneous representations of the evidence that the [JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES] predicates its entire argument as being a victim of discrimination. ...
.. [HAYDEN COVINGTON] then makes the following extravagant statement: "The only objection that the defendants have urged or can urge is that the defendants do not like the religious practices of Jehovah's Witnesses and their attending the plaintiff's church ... ." We cannot pass such an unwarranted and unjust conclusion without comment. It is unfair to the [City] Council. It is unfair to those representing the [City] Council in this matter. Not only does the brief of [CITY] fail to disclose one iota of hostility toward [JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES], but there is not one word in the record from whence an inference of such intolerance or prejudice on the part of the [City] Council can be derived. We find nothing resulting from the action of the [City]Council which would warrant us in concluding that discrimination was a resulting incident of the [City] Council's denial.
If there was evidence of discrimination, we would give it careful consideration and likewise to the various authorities offered by [HAYDEN COVINGTON] in support. But finding no evidence of discriminatory action, we conclude that [JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES'] claim in this respect is wanting in merit.
... At the trial the [JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES] had the burden of proof but not only failed utterly to prove discrimination but also failed to establish that the [City] Council in its consideration of the application acted arbitrarily and capriciously as previously defined. There was no evidence to overcome the presumption of reasonableness and validity which the law accords to such administrative decisions in zone matters.
MILWAUKIE COMPANY OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES v. CITY OF MILWAUKEE, OREGON was Hayden C. Covington's appeal of that LOSING decision from the Supreme Court of Oregon to the SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES. In May 1959, SCOTUS dismissed the appeal and denied certiorari.
JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES v. CITY OF AZUSA, CALIFORNIA was a 1954-58 California Court of Appeals decision which involved yet another attempt by the WATCHTOWER BULLIES to force a local municipality to grant a zoning exception to permit a Kingdom Hall to be constructed on a lot already zoned as "Residential". And, yet again, the WatchTower Society sent in the "almighty" HAYDEN C. COVINGTON (see HOMEPAGE of this website -- link at top) to overwhelm the California Justices. Here is what this California appellate court said about the JWs' false claims of RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION:
[JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES] insistently claims that there was prejudice against Jehovah's Witnesses which controlled the decision of the zoning authorities. ... The inference from the hearing record seems plain that [JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES] sought to ride through the [first] hearing upon the emotional issue of prejudice against Jehovah's Witnesses, buttressed by the claim of absolute right of a church to have a variance when and where it desires. ...
In January, 1955, [JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES] filed [an appeal] claiming prejudice against Jehovah's Witnesses and breathing defiance to the zoning authorities. ... [while further claiming] "no city or political subdivision or state authorities thereof have the right to require a variance before a piece of property can be used for a church. ... I anticipate that the Planning Commission of the City of Azusa and the City Council will deny this application, as the Planning Commission and the City Council previously denied my application. ... Said sections of the code have been enforced by the Planning Commission and the City Council so as to authorize many of the orthodox and popular religions to build church buildings or repair or add additions thereto in the City of Azusa since the passage of said measures, while discriminating against the Jehovah's Witnesses."
The California Justices ignored the incessant self-flagellation of the Jehovah's Witnesses, refuted Hayden Covington's FALSE CLAIMS directly from the records of the local zoning proceedings, and like the Oregon court -- sent Hayden Covington packing back to his coven in Brooklyn.
In December 1958, the SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA refused to hear Hayden Covington's appeal.
JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES v. CITY OF AZUSA, CALIFORNIA was Hayden C. Covington's appeal of this California lawsuit to the SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES. In May 1959, SCOTUS dismissed the appeal for lack of a properly presented federal question.
SCHNELLER v. HURON SOUTH DAKOTA CONGREGATION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES was a 1959 South Dakota civil court case which also PROVES that the WatchTower Society regularly practiced FRAUD and DECEPTION during the 1950s and 1960s with regard to the purchase of real property for the construction of Kingdom Halls throughout the United States. In this instance, WatchTower Cult HQ, in Brooklyn, sent "secret agent" District Servant Arden B. Stutler and his wife to the small town of Huron, South Dakota, with the specific intention of affecting this fraud.
The "unknown" Arden Stutler approached the three heirs of a small vacant lot located in a residential neighborhood inside Huron, and told them that he was seeking to purchase a lot so that he could build a home for he and his wife. Once purchased, the lot was transferred to the Huron Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, who applied for a building permit for a Kingdom Hall to be constructed on the lot. The Schneller family then filed this civil fraud case, which a local court eventually dismissed in favor of the JWs. Over objections filed by 27 neighbors, the City of Huron approved the building permit after Stutler filed a lawsuit against the City.
KEYERLEBER v. EUCLID OHIO CONGREGATION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES was a 1956-7 Ohio Court of Appeals decision. Paul and Anna Keyerleber were the joint owners of a house and lot in the Village of Richmond Heights, Ohio. The Euclid, Ohio Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses wanted to purchase a vacant lot on which they could construct a new Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses. Observing that the Keyerleber's home was constructed at one far end of their 200 foot lot, these Jehovah's Witnesses schemed with a local real estate firm to deceive the Keyerlebers into selling off the vacant portion of their lot adjacent to their home.
The Euclid Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses employed Powers Realty Company to approach the Keyerlebers to propose the purchase of 140 feet of the 200 foot lot. The Euclid Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses also authorized the realty broker to approach the Keyerlebers in the name of "Robert J. Wendt", who actually was the "Congregation Servant", or head Elder of the Euclid Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses. The Euclid Congregation also authorized the realty broker to not inform the Keyerlebers who was the real purchaser, nor the purpose of the purchase.
A "Mr. Adams" (possibly also a JW) from The Powers Realty Company made the solicitation. When the Keyerlebers asked who was the broker's client, and what would be done with the lot, Adams described Robert Wendt variously as "a splendid young man", "a single man", and "A young man who wanted to buy property for his personal use." Adams also led the Keyerlebers to believe that Wendt was going to construct a home adjacent to their home, and even told them, "The residence will not be built immediately". The Keyerlebers asked to meet Wendt, but Adams refused their request. Based on the fraudulent info, the Keyerlebers decided that they would sell off the majority of their lot to Robert Wendt, and they signed a sales contract which listed "Robert J. Wendt" as the purchaser. The Keyerlebers had paid no attention to the fact that the words "except restrictions of record" had been crossed out on the contract.
Interestingly after the closing, the escrow agent mistakingly sent Wendt's check back to Wendt, who then took it to the Keyerlebers. It was only then that the Keyerlebers were told that Wendt was going to transfer the land to his JW Congregation for the construction of a new Kingdom Hall. The Keyerlebers restrained their displeasure with having been scammed, but thereafter telephoned members of the Village Council and its zoning board, who reassured the Keyerlebers that the lot was zoned strictly for residential residences, and that no variance would be granted to the Jehovah's Witness scammers.
However, when the rezoning was denied, the JWs typically filed a lawsuit, and the Village quickly gave in rather than fight it -- just as the JWs had anticipated. A building permit was issued, and construction began. It was only then that the Keyerlebers employed an attorney to go after the JW scammers and have the deal undone. A local court did stop construction with a restraining order, but on the JWs appeal, the Ohio Court of Appeals held that although the Keyerlebers had beed deceived and defrauded by the Euclid Jehovah's Witnesses, the Keyerlebers had waited too long under the equitable doctrine of "laches" to have the deal ordered rescinded by a court of equity. However, that did not stop this Ohio Court of Appeals from publishing a record of the fraud perpetrated by this JW Congregation:
... [The Euclid Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses] found a real estate firm to agree to go along with the scheme, and as a result a compact was entered into to that effect between the defendant, its agent, Robert J. Wendt, and The Power Realty Company. Mr. Adams, the salesman for The Power Realty Company, became the instrumentality for carrying out this cabal, and he performed capably in the furtherance of the scheme. These basic facts show beyond question that a fraud had been perpetrated upon the Keyerlebers, and that The Euclid Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses was the instigator of it. The motive that prompted the defendant to engage in the scheme in no way minimizes the deceit practiced and the legal consequences flowing therefrom, and the defendant is accountable under the law for it. The plaintiffs, as owners of the land, were deprived of a valuable right by the fraud perpetrated upon them, namely, the right to dispose of their property to whomever they wish. ... ... ...
... [The Keyerlebers] did nothing for three and one-half months to indicate to the defendant that they were not accepting the situation that had been foisted upon them through fraud and that they would demand the return of the property by reason of the deceit. It seems to us, therefore, that under the circumstances here set forth they acquiesced in the sale of the land and in legal effect affirmed the contract made and waived the right to ask for its rescission in a court of equity.
NORTH FORT WORTH CONGREGATION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES v. HALTOM CITY TEXAS was another "Kingdom Hall Construction" court case which occurred around the same time as the KEYERLEBER case. WatchTower Society Lead Attorney Hayden Cooper Covington represented the Texas JWs during the successful appeal. Sometime in latter 1953, the North Fort Worth Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, who were seeking to build a new Kingdom Hall, purchased a residential zoned building lot located on a quiet residential street in a Fort Worth suburb, which the Fort Worth Jehovah's Witnesses KNEW would have to be granted a zoning exception by the City before a Kingdom Hall could be built on the lot. However, instead of first applying for the zoning exception before purchasing the lot, or making grant of a zoning exception part of the purchase deal, the Fort Worth Jehovah's Witnesses did something which anyone familiar with Jehovah's Witnesses knows was totally foreign to normal procedures for the construction of new Kingdom Halls. The Fort Worth JWs contracted with the lot's seller, a man named Clayton, to build a new Kingdom Hall for them, per their specifications, on that residential zoned lot prior to the conveyance of the deed to them. In January 1954, supposedly without the JWs knowledge -- at least that is what all the "honest Jehovah's Witnesses" swore to in court -- Clayton DEFRAUDED and DECEIVED the City by applying for a building permit to construct a "single family residential dwelling" on the lot.
The North Fort Worth Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses was practically completed before the City discovered the true intended occupancy and stopped further work. Yet, in June 1954, despite the facts that the JWs knew that Clayton had DEFRAUDED and DECEIVED the City as to true occupancy of the building in order to obtain a building permit, and knew that the building was sitting empty under a stop-work order, the Fort Worth JWs did not hesitate to fulfill their contract with Clayton and accept transfer of the deed. The Fort Worth JWs immediately applied for a zoning exception as a "church", and a certificate of occupancy as a "church". The JWs thereafter unsuccessfully appealed to the Zoning Board and the City Council before filing this lawsuit in Texas district court. Recognizing the obvious fraudulent conspiracy, the Texas district court also ruled against the JWs. However, on appeal, the Texas appellate court FORESEEABLY ruled in the JWs favor. Via the reasoning in their ruling, these appellate Judges made it apparent that they would find whatever reasoning necessary to allow the JWs to use the already constructed Kingdom Hall owned by them. Their opinion even included the ridiculous statement that they believed that the Fort Worth JWs had not known of Clayton's fraud and deception until the City issued the stop-work order.
FALKENBURG v. EARL M. SAUNDERS and JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES was a 1956 Kentucky court case. In October 1956, William R. Falkenburg and Irene 0. Falkenburg, whom owned a home in Hollywood Terrace Subdivision, filed this lawsuit in an attempt to stop construction of a Kingdom Hall on the residential building lot adjacent to their home. By the time the Falkenburgs discovered whom were their new neighbors, the foundation already had been completed. Earl M. Saunders and M. Marie Saunders had sold the property to the Jehovah's Witnesses. The Falkenburgs alleged that construction of a "church" violated restrictions of the 35-year-old Hollywood Terrace Subdivision. Outcome unknown.
WILLIS ET AL v. THE NEW ORLEANS JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES, INC. was a 1962-63 Court of Appeal of Louisiana case in which the ongoing construction of a Kingdom Hall in a New Orleans, Louisiana subdivision was halted; construction of that Kingdom Hall was permanently enjoined; and the completed portion of that Kingdom Hall was ordered removed from the lot. The Louisiana appellate court upheld the local court's action, and the Supreme Court of Louisiana refused to hear any further appeal.
The Pines Village Subdivision had been formed in 1950, and consisted of unspecified HUNDREDS of residential lots restricted to use for construction of single family dwellings. The subdivision initially also had two sections dedicated to construction of commercial businesses and construction of a park and other recreational facilities to service this large residential development. In 1955, the City Planning and Zoning Commission approved a revision which dedicated certain subdivision sections for a proposed public school and playground and a proposed Catholic church and school -- both of which were constructed soon thereafter. All subdivision property owners had approved all such revisions.
In September 1962, with full knowledge of the subdivision's building restrictions, a local Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses purchased one residential lot in the Pines Village Subdivision, and began construction of a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses. Multiple subdivision property owners successfully brought this lawsuit in December 1962 after they learned that the building under construction was not a single-family dwelling. Amusingly, the Jehovah's Witnesses had even "arrogantly" violated the subdivision's set-back provisions, thus the partially completed Kingdom Hall could not be simply converted into a single-family dwelling and sold, but had to be demolished.
WOODLAWN HILLS KINGDOM HALL OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES v. ALTA TSCHIRHART was a 1968-9 Texas court case. In March 1968, a San Antonio, Texas area Jehovah's Witness Elder, conveniently listed as "J. M. Norris", purchased two adjacent "restricted" single-family residential dwelling building lots in the Woodlawn Hills Subdivision from Alta Tschirhart. J. M. Norris immediately transferred the two lots to the Woodlawn Hills Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, who in turn immediately began construction of a "Kingdom Hall" on the two lots. Since "Kingdom Halls" are rectangular boxes resembling ranch-style homes, the adjacent property owners were clueless as to the intended occupancy until it was too late. After the hurriedly constructed Kingdom Hall was nearly completed, and after two WatchTower meetings were held in the Kingdom hall for sake of anticipated legal action, Tschirhart and other subdivision property owners sought and obtained an injunction from the local district court stopping any further construction. However, just as the WatchTower Society directed Texas JWs had anticipated, the Texas appellate court found a technical glitch in the restrictive covenant so as to allow the JWs to use the already constructed Kingdom Hall. Jehovah must have been so proud of His "only true worshipers".
NORTH POUGHKEEPSIE CONGREGATION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES v. WILLIETTA BOOTH was a 1971 New York "Kingdom Hall Construction" court case (is anyone staring to notice a trend). In 1968, Jehovah's Witnesses in Poughkeepsie, New York, decided to build a new Kingdom Hall on the northside of the city. Instead of purchasing any number of available lots for sale which had already been zoned for a "church" by the City, in January 1969, the Poughkeepsie JWs instead purchased a tract of land which the JWs KNEW was subject to a restrictive covenant which stated, "The premises shall be used for residential and farm purposes only." Although the court decision does not state such, it is suspected that the JWs may have again used a "straw buyer" during the purchase negotiations. In May 1969, the JWs began constructing their "Kingdom Hall". The seller of the lot became aware that it was a "Kingdom Hall" that was being constructed on the lot only after an unforeseen circumstance arose, which will be revealed later in this summary. The lot seller and other adjacent property owners quickly sought and obtained a court order halting construction.
Since the Kingdom Hall was only approximately 15-20% complete, this New York appellate court ruled against the JWs. In fact, this appellate Court found the actions of the Jehovah's Witnesses to be deceptive, although the court never used the term. In addition to pointing out that there were lots available already properly zoned for construction of a Kingdom Hall, the court noted that the JWs had been completely aware of the covenant restrictions that they now were attempting to have the courts override. The JWs even testified during the original trial that they had been told by the seller at the closing that they could ignore the covenant restrictions. This appellate court wondered why, if such were true, then why hadn't the JWs simply obtained a written waiver. This New York Court apparently had also read the KEYERLEBER, FORT WORTH, WOODLAWN, and maybe other previous court cases, given this resounding parting shot at the Poughkeepsie JWs:
The real [com]plaint of plaintiffs appears that were it not for a title company requiring a written release upon plaintiff seeking a building loan, it would not be in its present unfortunate position for, as it states, if "plaintiff had had the necessary funds, its Kingdom Hall would be erected and operating now." This, indeed, is a rather extraordinary argument to be advanced to persuade a court to exercise its equitable conscience in its favor.
OLSEN v. JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES OF SPRINGFIELD ILLINOIS was a 1977 Appellate Court of Illinois case which was won by the Jehovah's Witnesses due to a panel of appellate judges apparently seeking to rule in the favor of the Jehovah's Witnesses -- probably so that a partially completed Kingdom Hall did not have to be ordered to be demolished. Washington Park Gardens Subdivision had been platted outside the city limits of Springfield in 1916. The 1916 lot deeds contained a restrictive covenant which OBVIOUSLY restricted construction in the subdivision to one residential dwelling per lot costing at least $10,000.00 to construct. That conclusion is "obvious" despite the archaic verbiage used in those 1916 deeds, because noone had attempted to construct any type structure but a residential dwelling in that subdivision from 1916 until the Springfield Jehovah's Witnesses did so in 1977. The local Springfield court was easily able to deduce the original and decades-long continuing intent of the language of the 1916 restrictive covenant, and permanently enjoined the construction of the Kingdom Hall. However, the more liberal appellate court justices picked apart the archaic verbiage, plus ignored its obvious intent, in order to find a "peg on which to hang their hats", and overturned the local court's "obvious" correct decision.
WATCHTOWER CULT BACKSTABS AND BULLDOZES NATIVE AMERICANS
In the 1960s, when there were fewer and less stringent federal and state laws protecting ancient Indian burial sites, a dispute arose in Fremont, California over the construction of the Fremont Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses located on Washington Boulevard, adjacent to the six acre Ohlone Indian Historical Cemetery. The American Indian Historical Society had been attempting for two years to obtain the vacant one acre lot from the out-of-state "heirs" of the recently deceased previous longtime owner (probably for low cost or donation), when, in June 1966, the Fremont Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses requested a "use permit" for the construction of a Kingdom Hall on the property. Apparently, the Fremont Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses had approached the out-of-state owners and had obtained a purchase contract for $14,000.00 contingent on zoning and construction approval by the City of Fremont.
The American Indian Historical Society claimed that the one-acre lot was in fact an extension of the adjacent site of the Ohlone Indian Historical Cemetery, which was consecrated ground that also contained ancient Indian burials. The American Indian Historical Society also claimed that the lot had been used by the Catholic Church and others for unmarked burials as recent as 1917, and contained the unmarked graves of at least two Catholic Priests.
At a June 1966 meeting of the Fremont Planning Commission, the JWs request for a "use permit" was rejected -- not so much due to the complaint from the American Indian Historical Society, but because the City required a church lot to be at least two acres to ensure adequate parking. Interestingly, the Fremont City Council, and particularly Mayor Donald Dillon, were strangely in favor of the Jehovah's Witnesses, and voted in July to overturn the recommendation of the Fremont Planning Commission -- this despite opposition from a local Protestant Ministerial Association, a local Catholic group of interested citizens, and others.
Thereafter, in September 1966, while the Fremont Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses was waiting on the building permit, the American Indian Historical Society offered to purchase the property from the Fremont Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses for the contracted price of $14,000.00. However, the Fremont Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses counteroffered to sell the lot to the American Indian Historical Society for the $14,000.00, ONLY IF the American Indian Historical Society could find the Fremont Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses another suitable lot located in the same part of Fremont which they must guarantee to be granted all necessary permits and zoning approvals, plus that the American Indian Historical Society would pay all additional attorney fees, permit fees, and even specified interest, etc., etc. The American Indian Historical Society rejected the WatchTower Society's counteroffer -- labeling the counteroffer as nothing but a "publicity stunt" to keep the Jehovah's Witnesses from looking bad, and claiming that the proposed deal would ultimately cost them close to $25,000.00.
In October, required borings on the lot supposedly did not uncover any bones. In December, bulldozers performed site prep on the lot, and Congregation Servant, Allan R. Kemline, claimed that no bones were uncovered. The Fremont Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses on Washington Boulevard was constructed in early 1967.
MODESTO WEST CONGREGATION OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES v. STANISLAUS COUNTY was a 1962 California Court of Appeals decision. In the late 1950s, Modesto Jehovah's Witnesses purchased a residential lot for the construction of an additional Kingdom Hall in the Olympic Tract, which was a self-contained residential subdivision zoned R-1, located outside the Modesto city limits, in Stanislaus County. There were no through streets. Only a single, already overcrowded residential street provided ingress/egress to the lot owned by the JWs. When denied a use permit by the Planning Commission, the JWs appealed to the Board of Supervisors, which affirmed the denial after holding a new hearing. The JWs typically filed a lawsuit alleging the usual litany of violations of their constitutional rights. After losing at the Superior Court level, this appeal was filed.
The California Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court decision holding that the lower governmental bodies/court had all found substantial reasons to deny the use permit -- despite the fact that reasonable minds could disagree on each reason for denial. Amusingly, the Court took the time to note that the Jehovah's Witnesses had alleged "religious discrimination" while complaining that there already were two other churches constructed inside the Olympic Tract. The Court was appreciative that the County Attorney pointed out to the Court that those two older churches already were there long before the county had enacted its zoning ordinance.
KOREAN ENTERPRISES LTD v. JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES CONGREGATION, COMMISSIONER OF LANDS, and HONIARA TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING BOARD was a 2003-04 High Court of Solomon Islands civil court case which aptly demonstrates that violating land covenants in reliance on the later capitulation of the local Zoning Body is a decades-old civilly criminal practice exported internationally by the WatchTower Society.
In this case, a Soloman Islands Real Estate Developer sold a lot that had a covenant running with the land which restricted use of the land to residential purposes. In all likelihood, the purchaser was an individual Jehovah's Witness acting as a secret proxy for the Soloman Islands branch of the WatchTower Society. A "residential-looking" Kingdom Hall was then constructed. By the time that the Real Estate Developer realized that a "church" had been constructed in the midst of its residential development, it was too late.
In its lawsuit, the Real Estate Developer named both the Commissioner of Lands and the local Zoning Commission as defendants, along with the JW corporate entity which constructed the Kingdom Hall. The Real Estate Developer alleged not only violation of the restrictive land covenant by the local JW Congregation, but failure by the Commissioner of Lands to ensure the existence of required permits and consents to such change of use, before agreeing to the usage variance. The Real Estate Developer further alleged failure by both the Commissioner of Lands and the local Zoning Board to publicly notify adversely affected parties of the variance request and proceedings.
Outcome unknown. The SI Court did rule against the WatchTower Society's motion for summary dismissal, but my guess is that the SI Courts did exactly what the WatchTower Society has counted on for decades -- that the local Court would somehow find some "peg" on which to "hang its hat", such that the already constructed Kingdom Hall was found either not to violate the land covenant and/or not to violate local zoning laws.
NEW YORK CITY v. WATCHTOWER SOCIETY was a 1921 building code violation prosecution which involved the WatchTower Society's main Columbia Heights headquarters building. In 1910-11, a 9-story building fronting on Furman Street (much lower elevation than Columbia Heights) was constructed behind the 3-story main office building fronting on Columbia Heights, with the conjoined buildings sharing floors 1 and 7. Around 1920, the Fire Commissioner finally discovered that the rear structure did not have standpipes installed as were required for a building of that height by the NYC building code, and ordered that such be installed after his request for such was "stubbornly resisted". At trial, Judge Rutherford claimed that the 9-story Furman building did not require standpipes, since once it was conjoined with the 3-story Columbia Heights structure, it should be considered a 3-story building, not a 9-story building. Apparently, Judge Rutherford thought that he should be permitted to interpret the NYC building code the exact same way that he interpreted the Bible. The WatchTower Society was found GUILTY, and ordered to pay a $250.00 fine (hefty fine in 1921 -- nearly $3500.00 in 2016 dollars), and ordered to install the standpipes.
In the mid 1990s, a Jehovah's Witness Minister, who owned a growing business which employed a number of other Jehovah's Witnesses, including Elders and Ministerial Servants, wanted to build a new commercial building to house his business's offices and warehouse. This JW Minister located a desirable tract of land in an affluent suburb, which had a light commercial zoning despite being surrounded by high-value residential properties. The JW Minister needed to obtain a zoning variance simply to qualify a warehouse for the tract. However, this JW's business operations generated too much traffic (including semi and other large trucks), which would have to travel through or adjacent to the surrounding residential areas. That, plus other now long forgotten issues, would have certainly disqualified this JW from obtaining the variance he needed from the local Zoning board. What to do? JW Minister conspired to lie to the zoning board. After consulting with one real estate attorney in order to educate himself on everything needed to be done and said to obtain the variance, the JW business owner then employed a second attorney to represent him in his case to the Zoning board. JW Minister was then able to provide all the "right answers" to second attorney. When the zoning hearing was scheduled, the second employed attorney was informed that he had to attend the hearing by himself, because JW business owner had a much more important out-of-town appointment which could not be re-scheduled!!!