reprinted from the Mar/Apr 1994 Free Minds Journal

 Theocratic War Strategy:

Why Witnesses Lie In Court

by Dr. Jerry Bergman

 The Watchtower (henceforth designated as WT) teaches that it is appropriate to withhold the truth from "people who are not entitled to it" if it will further their ends (Reed, 1992, also Franz, 1971, p. 1060-1061) Witnesses (henceforth designated as JWs) do not always lie outright, but they often lie as per the court's definition, not telling "the whole truth and nothing but the truth" which means they must relate the whole story. The following exchange occurred between WT attorney Carolyn Wah and Duane Magnani, who was being disposed in the case of Marvin Reyes. Case 6936-C (Abilene, Texas) stated:

Magnani: ... [JWs teach that they are] in theocratic warfare and he must exercise added caution when dealing with God's foes. Thus the Scriptures show that for the purpose of protecting the interests of God's cause, it is proper to hide the truth from God's enemies.

Wah: Thanks. Would that suggestion be any different than a soldier supporting a government who is captured by an opposing Army?

Magnani: Yes.

Wah: How So?

Magnani: Well, in this situation, when we are talking about hiding the truth... in terms of theocratic warfare or spiritual warfare JWs believe that all non-JWs are in the camp of Satan and all JWs are in God's camp....

Wah: So then you are saying in a war, that during World War II, for example, that German soldiers captured by American soldiers would not have a problem with lying between the two?

Magnani: It depends on the circumstance. With JWs, their main motivation in life is to present whatever the WT organization desires them to present. If the organization has said something which an opposer, i.e., a non-JW, wants to discuss, then it is the duty of the JW, in our experience and from the documentation that we have, to, in essence, cover up, lie, distort or what not to make the Society look good in the eyes of this gentleman. Some details on the origin of this now infamous doctrine is related by Frakes:

There is always the possibility that new interpretations of Jehovah's word will be presented at the assemblies by ... the WT Society, new revelations based on temporal developments which prove the validity of the Society's tenets. In his Sunday-morning discourse on "Cautious as Serpents among Wolves," Vice President F.W. Franz interpreted certain Old Testament passages as proving that when it meant preservation of his own, Jehovah approved lying to one's enemies; hence, such lying is not to be condemned so long as it is addressed to outsiders. Thereupon the chairman thanked him as the agent of the WT Society for the "new light" he had brought (1955, p. 819).

The specific teaching is that "the truth should be told" only to those who have "a right to know" and WT opposers have no right to know the truth:

As a soldier of Christ he is in theocratic warfare and he must exercise added caution when dealing with God's foes. Thus the Scriptures show that for the purpose of protecting the interests of God's cause, it is proper to hide the truth from God's enemies (WT June 1, 1960:352).


Deception in Court with the Preparing booklet

The WT legal department is now to be contacted in all custody cases involving religion (Watchtower, 1989, 1991). Not uncommonly, even if the Witness hires a secular attorney, the Society will provide the advantage of extensive free-of-charge legal services and assistance of the WT law staff to the Witnesses (see Our Kingdom Ministry, Aug. 1992, Vol. 35, No. 8, p. 7). Since many of the WT's full-time attorneys do nothing but defend Witness cases, they have an enormous amount of experience and expertise in this area, and know how to best deal with the courts. Deception, unfortunately, often does work, and in my experience many of the documents they file before the court contain untruths which can be proved such if one is given the opportunity. The WT Society is also not above unscrupulous ad hominem attacks, presenting wholly inaccurate evidence against the people who testify in these kinds of cases.

WT legal battles have "become so common [that] they offer its followers a pamphlet entitled Preparing For Child Custody Cases" (Montgomery, 1992, p. 14). The booklet openly advocates deception and advises Witnesses to refuse to honestly reveal the full situation to the court. Duron concludes that this WT publication is,

...designed for their internal use in helping their members prepare to discuss custody matters in divorce hearings [and] encourages Witness children, under oath, to present a distorted view of the opportunities that a Witness child has to assume a place in the larger world. An example of this is the comment in this publication that Witness children could become journalists (a vocation requiring a college degree), when attending college is at best strongly discouraged, and at worst condemned by the Witnesses as a vehicle by which Witness children can lose their faith and be subjected to immoral association (1991, p. 18).

In short, as Magnani states, "The Watchtower Society encourages its faithful to fudge their testimony" (quoted in Montgomery, 1992, p. 14). An example is when asked if people of other religions will survive Armageddon, the Society suggests the answer, "Jehovah makes those judgments, not we." In actuality, the Witnesses teach that only those who are baptized members of the WT and in good standing will survive Armageddon (Rogerson, 1969). The WT book You Can Live Forever in Paradise On Earth teaches that,

There was just the one ark that survived the Flood, not a number of boats. And there will be only one organization--God's visible organization--that will survive the fast- approaching "great tribulation." It is simply not true that all religions lead to the same goal.... You must be part of Jehovah's organization, doing God's will, in order to receive his blessing of everlasting life (1982, pp. 192, 193, 255-256).

They justify deception in court by teaching the concept of theocratic warfare in which lying (or in the WT words, withholding the truth) is proper if it is in the interests of the organization.

Their lying includes efforts to deny their past teachings, something which is bound to have some effect on changing their current teaching. As a result of these cases, JWs may modify some of their teaching in court--including downgrading and deemphasizing certain past views, such as only JWs can please God and earn the gift of life, and that all governments, religions and businesses except their own are run by Satan.

As Walker (1990) concludes, the WT advises JWs to paint a decidedly untrue picture in court and "to say in court the exact opposite of what they would normally say in a Kingdom Hall" (p. 7). The WT booklet School and Jehovah's Witnesses all but forbids JW children from being involved in organized sports or after school activities, hobbies and higher education, concluding that this time should be used principally to pursue WT interests. The booklet, though, instructs JWs to imply exactly the opposite in court (Walker, 1990, p. 23).

In my experience, Witness attorneys and the JWs themselves regularly and routinely follow this advice on the stand. They may swear under oath, for example, that they have no problem allowing their children to celebrate the holidays, play with "worldly children," participate in school sports, attend college, or have a blood transfusion if it meant the child's life (even at times claiming that this is not a disfellowshiping situation). Some state they would at the least permit their non-JW ex-spouse to make the decision (which would in essence allow the child to have a blood transfusion) even though this is blatantly contrary to required WT policy:

If a Christian is asked to submit to something that will be a violation of God's higher law, the divine law comes first; it takes precedence [and if the court] ... authorized the forcing of a blood transfusion on a Christian ... Christians must take the same stand that the apostle Peter did; 'we must obey God rather than men"-Acts 5:29 ... [and must be] "absolutely determined to obey God even if a government directed them otherwise." [The Society stresses that the degree that this is to be enforced] by an example of a twelve year old ... [who] left no doubt that she would fight authorized transfusion with all the strength she could muster. That she would scream and struggle, that she would pull the injecting device out of her arm and would attempt to destroy the blood in the bag over her bed. She was firmly resolved to obey the divine law. (Watchtower, June 15, 1991, p. 31)

Ironically, not one Scripture exists which the WT can use to condemn the medical use of a blood or any organ transplant, and many Scriptures condone such use to save lives (Bergman, 1990, 1991a). Even the Society has historically allowed blood transfusion--it was not a disfellowshiping offense until 1961 (Watchtower, Jan. 15, 1961, p. 63-64). The extent of avoiding transfusions includes the prohibition of putting oneself in the position where a transfusion could occur and, "if a court authorized transfusion seems likely ... [a JW must] put forth strenuous efforts to avoid a violation of God's law on blood [and if] authorities ... consider him a law-breaker or make him liable to prosecution ... the Christian could view it as suffering for the sake of righteousness" (Watchtower, June 15, 1991, p. 31). As Duron notes, they are to die rather than submit to a transfusion:

Witnesses seldom actually state succinctly that they would not hesitate to allow their minor children to die rather than to allow the child to receive a blood transfusion. (1991, p. 18)

In an excellent summary of the Preparing for Child Custody Cases booklet Franz notes:

The brochure of more than 60 pages supplies guidelines to Witness parents, their children and their attomeys, as well as local elders and others who may testify, by reviewing difficult questions that may be presented by the opposing side and then offering suggested sample responses ... WT...[teaching] on honesty ... [is to] respect the truth, [not] ... willing to twist the truth a little bit, to get out of an inconvenient circumstance, or to get something we want.... Compare that with some of the responses suggested in the Society's manual. Under "APPROACH BY WITNESS PARENT TO CROSS-EXAMINATION," we find this question ... Will all Catholics (or other) be destroyed? ... [and the suggested answer on page 12 is]: Jehovah makes those judgments, not we.

This sounds good, implies freedom from a dogmatic, judgmental attitude. Yet the Witness so responding knows that his organization's publications clearly teach that only those who are in association with "Jehovah's organization" will survive the "great tribulation," and that all those who fail to come to that organization face destruction. (1991, p. 283).

Franz then evaluates the section "DIRECT EXAMINATION AND RESPONSES FOR LOCAL ELDER," in which the booklet presents these questions and responses:

What view does [the Witness religion] take toward people of other religions?

(Jesus taught love neighbor as self, includes all; we respect others' right to worship as they choose. [Do Witnesses] teach that young people should learn only about religion of Jehovah's Witnesses? (No. Consider following objective consideration of other religions in our publications.) [This is followed by a list of articles in the WT magazines.] (pages 29-31).

In response to this Franz notes:

Again, the responses imply an attitude of considerable tolerance [about religion] .... Yet, once more, the Witness elder responding knows that his religion teaches that "people of other religions" are all within "Babylon the Great," the empire of false religion, depicted as a "great harlot" in Scripture, that the worship they have chosen is considered unchristian and, if continuing in it, they face destruction. He also knows that Witnesses are urged not to have social relations with such "people of other religions," since such would have a "corrupting" effect, the only approved association with such being in "witnessing" to them in the hope of changing their religion. He knows that all the articles set out in the brochure's list emphasize negative aspects of the "other religions" discussed and that the organization discourages reading literature directly proceeding from other religions; only what it itself publishes about such religions is viewed as safe reading (1991, p. 284).

In summary, Franz concludes:

... people counseled to respond in this way must know that they are being asked to present an outlook that is very different from the one urged upon them in Watchtower publications. If they are speaking the truth, without "twisting it a bit," they would not have to be told to speak differently from the way they would in a circuit assembly--or anywhere else for that matter (1991, p. 285).

The WT uses several scriptures to justify lying. Or, as Thomas comments, the WT attempts to justify lying by noting that in the Bible Rahab the harlot lied to the King of Jericho in order to protect the Israelites spies. The JWs argue that when Jericho was destroyed, Rahab was spared because she lied to protect the spies. The Bible reveals, however, that Rahab was spared because she acknowledged Israel's God to be the true God (Josh. 2:11). God spared Rahab's life not because she lied, but in spite of the fact that she lied.

The command of the New Testament is clear: "Wherefore putting away lying, SPEAK EVERY MAN TRUTH WITH HIS NEIGHBOR" (Eph. 4:25). JWs, by their own admission, do not speak the truth with their neighbor if it is in their interest not to do so. If they deem it advantageous the JWs will deliberately lie to their neighbor! (emphasis in original, Thomas, 1972:96).

The WT's stand on this is actually very inconsistent--all they had to do to be released from the Nazi concentration camps was sign a paper resigning their allegiance to the WT--yet they were told not to, for to deny the WT to protect themselves was a disfellowshiping offense, yet they could lie to protect the organization!

Probably the major psychological concern is JWs who deceive themselves. Leaving the WT is incredibly traumatic for many people--especially those who are highly committed. As Duron states:

I was a third generation JW before my departure from that religion in 1975. 1 am married to a second generation former Witness. My husband and I, with a combined total of nearly sixty years of exposure to JW beliefs and activities, have spent many hours, both separately and together, searching for rationality in our lives. The focus of that search, aside from trying to learn how to rebuild our lives after living through the intense spiritual upheaval of rethinking all of our moral, religious, social, and personal values and beliefs, was to deal rationally with "who gets the kid?" We had two children to think about (Duron, 1991, p. 16-17).

As may be expected, this lying extends to other areas:

I well remember the day I offered a Witness one of my anti-JW tracts. This JW did not know me personally, but he said that he knew the writer of the tract personally. (He was lying!) Thinking that I was someone else, he began defaming the writer stating that "yours truly" had been booted out of the WT Society in the East for stealing funds from them. (I have never been a JW.) He then sneeringly began denouncing me as an idiot, claiming that I must be really stupid to allow this tract writer to dupe me into handing out his pamphlets. As this JW was venting his spleen against the tract writer..., I showed him my driver's license which proved that I was the tract writer in question. I demanded an apology from this lying JW but got none. The WT gospel had so twisted this man's mind that he couldn't even blush for shame, let alone apologize. This is an example of JW theocratic war strategy--deliberately lying in the interest of their religion. This JW thought that by lying about the author of the anti-JW tracts that he could discourage Christians from giving them out. Certainly this JW knew that he was lying, but it did not bother him! For had not the Watchtower taught him that it was scriptural for JWs to deceive and lie in the interest of their religion? ... It is well known that the policy of evil and unscrupulous men is that the end justifies the means. Seemingly the JWs have adopted this policy (Thomas, 1972:96-97).


Also read: The Articulator Manipulator


Bergman, Jerry (Ed). Jehovah's Witnesses I: The Early Writings of J.F Rutherford. Sources for the Study of Nonconventional Religious Groups in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century America. New York: Garland Press, 1990.

(Ed). Jehovah's Witnesses II: Controversial and Polemical Pamphlets. Sources for the Study of Nonconventional Groups in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century America. New York: Garland Press, 1990.

. Jehovas Zeugen und Bluttransfusionen. Bethel-Kopierservice, 1991 a, 20 pp.

Duron, Rosalie. "We Don't Want to See You Anymore." Liberty, Sept-Oct 1991, p. 16-18.

Frakes, Margaret. "The Witnesses Come to Town." The Christian Century, July 13, 1955, pp 818-820.

Franz, Frederick (ed.). Aid to Bible Understanding. Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1971.

Franz, Raymond. In Search of Christian Freedom. Atlanta, GA: Commentary Press, 1991.

Montgomery, Rick. "A Matter of Faith, Hope and Custody." The Kansas City Star, Feb. 9, 1992, p. 1, 14.

Nixon, Sam (Ed.). "Blood Transfusions: New Findings, New Alternatives." University of Texas Lifetime Health Letter, 5(3) March, 1993.

Reed, David. "Court Rules; Watchtower Booklet Recommends 'Untrue' Testimony Under Oath." Comments from the Friends, Spring, 1992.

Rogerson, Alan Thomas. Millions Now Living Will Never Die. London: Constable, 1969.

Thomas, F.W. Masters of Deception. Grand Rapids, ? Baker Book House, 1972.

Walker, James K. "Deception in Court; Jehovah's Witnesses on the Witness Stand." Watchman Expositor, 7(10):7, 1990.

Mealy-mouth elder James R Johnson 
JW elder James R Johnson lying on the 'witness' stand
Mealy-mouth JW elder lying in court! (NEW 2/27/06) video clip from court
[I've listed some of the lies I was able to identify in the video:
He states family members expelled from JW congregations are not treated differently by the family.
He states JWs do not disdain disfellowshipped members or consider them all wicked and demonic.
He states JWs are allowed to speak to disfellowshipped members.
He states JWs do not use the word "shun" to describe DF/DA.
He states the WT did not publish a child custody brochure.
He states JWs say hello to disfellowshipped members they encounter.]

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