by David Reed
When Jehovah's Witnesses go to court in a child custody case, they and their lawyers now turn for help to a new booklet of more than 60 pages, provided by the Watchtower Society.
Titled Direct and Cross-Examination Questions in Child Custody Cases, the booklet prepares JW parents by listing dozens of "cross-examination questions that Witness parents could face" and even offers suggested responses under the heading, "Sample approach by Witness Parent to Cross-Examination."
For example, "Do you believe all Catholics (or other) will be destroyed?" Answer: "Jehovah makes those judgments, not we."
Several pages of questions for the lawyer to ask the non-Witness parent in court are also included. In addition, there are suggestions for elders called to testify, and for Witness young people brought in to show the court "that they are normal."
Here the booklet suggests that the youngsters be instructed to testify to the exact opposite of what they would say if speaking to a Witness audience:
The Society acknowledges that it is instructing them to say in court the opposite of what they would say "at a circuit assembly" to a Witness audience. The youngsters are always taught that filed service and Kingdom Hall activities should be "the most important thing in their lives," (The Watchtower, April 1, 1979, page 14).
Hobbies, crafts, social activities and sports are usually presented in a negative light. For example: "Witness parents encourage their children to use after-school hours principally to pursue spiritual interests, rather than to excel in some sport. Participation in organized sports, we believe, would expose Witness youths to unwholesome associations" (School and Jehovah's Witnesses, p. 23).
By instructing Witness kids called to testify in court to say the opposite of what they are really taught to believe, the Watchtower Society is requiring them to engage in a form of double-talk that most people would consider lying.
And, unless the youngsters are to consciously see themselves as liars, they must also engage in double-think, the mental gymnastics described in George Orwell's novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four, where people are forced by a totalitarian society "to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies," (1984, p.32).
If a lawyer on the non-Witness side of a case wants to produce proof that the Watchtower training harms children, all he need do is subpoena a copy of the Society's booklet on child custody and place it in evidence!
The Watchtower Society seems to assume that even the worst Witness would make a better parent than the best non-Witness. Recognizing this as a prejudiced approach, the Author does not wish to promote the equally unbalanced view that the non-Witness parent is always the one who deserves custody. Some child custody cases are as difficult to decide as the one King Solomon settled at 1 Kings 3:16-28. "...I hate divorce, says Yahweh the God of Israel..." (Malachi 2:16, JB), and anyone observing a child custody battle can understand why.
(Reprinted from Comments From The Friends, Box 840, Stoughton, MA. 02072)
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