OK guys, here it is. Again, sorry for the length. You will notice some portions taken from the letter to the elders. Again, this was accompanied by 8 pages of UN documents. Yes, I agree that the timing is important. That's why I wanted this to get out before the elders could digest their letter. Now there's a little time to stew before it's addressed from the platform, for those that read it, that is.
22 August, 2006
I’m writing this letter to many of our old friends with whom Karen and I have been particularly close. I’m sorry for not writing each of you a personal letter. But I have much to say and many to whom I want to say it. I know there have been rumors circulating and some of them have found their way back to me. Since I know that things have been said about me that are untrue, I thought you might want to hear from me directly. I’ve labored long and hard over this letter, first over whether or not to write it at all, and then on what to write. I know you may find some of what I am about to say troubling. But I ask you to read the whole of this letter before coming to any conclusions. (Prov. 18:13)
Most of those I'm writing to, like Karen and myself, became Jehovah's Witnesses as adults, not raised from childhood. As a consequence, we made a conscious choice to become such, and there were obviously things about this religion that held a powerful appeal for us. For me, having been active in the anti-war movement, I appreciated the stance of the Witnesses in refusing to participate in war regardless of what nation they lived in. And I had admiration for the many who had served time in prisons, and those who suffered execution for holding to that stand. I also admired how the Society, through its literature, boldly exposed the hypocrisy of the major religious systems in the world. It was a wonderful thing to find a global brotherhood of people who held to these standards.
I really wasn't looking for a religion at the time I first spoke with the Witnesses. But I was just so impressed by the lack of hypocrisy and the affection that I saw among them. In the beginning, we studied the "Truth" book and the "True Peace and Security" book. I questioned everything I was learning. Some things seemed a little fuzzy, but most of the important things seemed very clear. I was "making sure of all things". But as the years passed, I came to simply trust in the Society, and not question things as much anymore. After all, who of us hasn't sat through a study of The Watchtower and wondered, "What is this all about? How are they coming to this conclusion?" But the Society kept telling us, if there was something we didn't understand, we should "wait on Jehovah" and in time it would become clear to us. Then, years later, I began to notice an even sterner tone from the Society when it came to our not understanding something, as we would be told that it was really disloyalty and a lack of faith to not accept what the Society was providing us in the way of teachings, since they were God's appointed channel of communication to us. To question the Society, we were taught, was tantamount to questioning Jehovah. I accepted this, and remained loyal.
Because of the stage I'm at right now, some have questioned my loyalty and devotion. Like the apostle Paul (although certainly without the same level of qualifications) I will review my record of thirty years in two paragraphs, in response to any who may say I have not been loyal and devoted.
I’ve never been the sort of person to do things halfway. When I devote myself to something, it is with my whole heart or not at all. Baptized in 1974, we were caught up in the excited expectations of all of those around us regarding what we expected in 1975. As evidence of my depth of loyalty to the Society, unlike so many thousands of other Witnesses, who either faded away in 1976 and 1977, or at the very least, pursued their ministry with less enthusiasm and markedly fewer hours, I began auxiliary pioneering in the midst of that organizational crisis. Most days I went out in service by myself, because there was no one else going out.
Over the years, over the decades, I continued to show this same depth of devotion. I served for many years as a ministerial servant, doing whatever was asked of me, never refusing any assignment. After I was unjustifiably disgraced by my removal as a ministerial servant, by men who were not really men, I patiently waited on the sidelines for five years to be re-appointed, helping in every way I could, not knowing there was an unwritten rule of a five year waiting period to re-appoint anyone deleted. And they were five long years. Still, I remained loyal to the organization. I served for 14 years as an elder, twice as Presiding Overseer, and regular pioneering during five of those years. I served for many years with the Regional Building Committee as a staff member. As a matter of fact, I assisted on the construction of many Kingdom Halls before there was a Regional Building Committee, in the days of the "slow builds." I served for four years as the Chairman of a Local Building Committee. I single-handedly spearheaded group Bible study programs at two local prisons, battling the Chaplain’s Office on my own for two years, because the other brothers were "too busy" to assist. I filed under the Freedom of Information Act to secure those rights. I then supported those study groups for six to ten hours per week for years, taking time off from work because other brothers were unavailable. And of course, I have handled more parts than I can remember as a traveling speaker to many congregations all over the area, and Circuit Assemblies and District Conventions. I have given funeral talks, with true feeling, for people I didn’t even know, because no one else was available. My wife and I have sat through the night in the Emergency Room of a hospital, with a sister who was brutally beaten by her husband. I have sat through the day in the waiting room of a hospital with a sister’s mother while that sister underwent cancer surgery, after I had sat with her and her doctors explaining her position regarding blood transfusions. I have done all this and so much more, gladly, without pay and without any expectation of any recognition. I don’t believe anyone in possession of the facts can make the statement that during all the time I was active with the Society, I was anything less than loyal.
But above all things, I must be loyal to the truth. And in the last few years I have found truths that have challenged my many years of devotion to the Watchtower Society. Truths which have shaken me to the core. Truths which have been very disturbing to me personally. Truths which I feel without reservation, you have a right to know, and truths which have been kept carefully hidden from you, as they were from me for so many years. The purpose of this letter is not to now reveal all of these things to you. You would be overwhelmed, as I was. So in this letter, I will share only one issue, as an example, and you must judge for yourself if it is valid and if my reasons for concern are true.
As you may know, I resigned as an elder in May of 2000, and I stopped attending meetings at the Kingdom Hall in February of 2001. Without going into a long, drawn-out explanation of what had occurred to result in these actions, suffice it to say that I was the recipient of some pretty harsh mistreatment at the hands of a few in positions of authority. This was nothing new, as I had had several similar experiences throughout the years, but in 2000 my experiences really surpassed anything from before, and I could not go on serving as an elder and facing such attacks while trying to care for my congregational responsibilities. I continued attending the meetings for several months, and even with my resignation the attacks did not stop. I attended the Kingdom Hall for the last time in February of 2001, when I could no longer force myself to go to the meetings. Yes, at that point I was literally forcing myself to go, out of a sense of duty. It was a hard thing to understand. I still loved and had affection for the brothers and sisters at the Kingdom Hall, but I just didn't feel comfortable there anymore. Something didn't seem "right". So for the first time in 28 years, I stopped going, cold turkey.
As you can imagine, this left me in a very confused state, because I still firmly believed that it was God's organization, but I was no longer actively a part of it. I searched for two years trying to find the answer to how I had arrived at this stage in my life, and it was like I was in a thick fog. I spent hours talking with close friends who were serving as elders. Then I went to visit men I had known who had served as elders in the past, but, like me, were no longer active Witnesses. Just trying to understand where I was in life, and why, and what it meant. But that fog was just as thick as ever.
Then I began to research the Society, to learn more about its history and the development of its teachings and policies. This is something I had never done before. After our initial studies, it seemed there was never really time to do extra research. It was all we could do to just keep up with the meetings, reading the magazines and participating in field service. I read from some of the Society's older publications that we had in our library and did some outside research as well. I was truly amazed by some of what I was discovering. It forced me to see the Society in a totally different light. Here is the one example I will share with you.
On October 9, 2001 an article was published in a newspaper in England, the Guardian. The author of the article had been doing research on the United Nations and was reviewing their directory of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) when he ran across the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York. It seems the Watchtower had entered into a formal relationship, called an "association", with the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI). Being familiar with the Witnesses' stand of political neutrality and knowing that the Witnesses would never have anything to do with supporting any governmental institutions, he immediately recognized that he had made a newsworthy discovery. He wrote an article accusing the Watchtower of hypocrisy for secretly supporting the United Nations, an institution that he knew had been condemned since its inception in the pages of The Watchtower magazine.
One day later
, on October 10, 2001, after ten years of formal association
, the Watchtower quietly withdrew it's association with the UN DPI. A follow-up article was then published in the Guardian
, exposing this secret retreat from association with the UN. A representative from the Society's branch office in England then submitted a letter of explanation to the Guardian
, which was published in that newspaper. This letter from the Watchtower Society contained two explanations. The first explanation:
"In 1991 one of our legal corporations registered with the United Nations as a NGO (non-governmental organization) for the sole purpose of getting access to the extensive library of the United Nations."
And the second explanation:
"Years later, unbeknown to the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, the United Nations published ‘Criteria for Association’, stipulating that affiliated NGO’s are required to support the goals of the United Nations. After learning of the situation, our membership as NGO was withdrawn."
The UN then began receiving so many inquiries from Witnesses and former Witnesses regarding this matter, that they prepared a page (copy enclosed) on their official website at un.org to address this matter. That web page has been up now for several years. You can view it for yourself here: http://www.un.org/dpi/ngosection/pdfs/watchtower.pdf
Well, was there really anything improper about the Watchtower Society doing this? First, let's review only a select few of the scores of comments the Society has made about the UN for probably as long as any of us have been Witnesses.
"the scarlet colored wild beast" of Revelation
"a disgusting thing in the sight of God and his people"
"the disgusting thing causing desolation"
"the product of Satan, and an abomination in the sight of God."
"A worldly confederation against God’s kingdom"
In 1966 at District Assemblies around the world, a resolution was unanimously adopted vowing to remain completely separate from the Devil’s world, its religions and governments, including the United Nations.
That's why I had to look twice at the letter on the UN website regarding the Watchtower's association. The first paragraph of this letter states the following:
"Recently the NGO Section has been receiving numerous inquiries regarding the association of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York with the Department of Public Information (DPI). This organization applied for association with DPI in 1991 and was granted association in 1992. By accepting association with DPI, the organization agreed to meet criteria for association, including support and respect of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and commitment and means to conduct effective information programmes with its constituents and to a broader audience about UN activities." (italics added)
As you can see, the agreement of the Watchtower was to "support the principles and charter of the United Nations", which among many other things, includes use of military force. In addition,
Article 2, Principle 6, states one of the principles of the UN DPI is to promote the UN as the agency to bring "international peace and security".
This raised a number of important questions in my mind, such as Why would the Watchtower enter into such a relationship with the UN? Why would they then not tell us, millions of Jehovah's Witnesses, anything about it? Why, one day after a media exposure of this relationship, would they quickly and quietly withdraw from it and still say nothing of it to us? The Watchtower has condemned other religions as spiritual whores, just for making positive comments about the UN. But the Watchtower Society has gone far, far beyond making positive comments. It has entered into a formal agreement to not only support the UN’s principles and Charter, but to publicize its programmes, activities and achievements, thereby becoming a publicity agent or cheerleader for the UN. Is this not far more serious? Based upon its condemnation of other religions, how could this amount to anything less than gross spiritual adultery over the course of ten years? How could the Watchtower possibly serve in this capacity as a handmaiden to the "worldly confederation against God’s kingdom" and yet claim political neutrality and remaining no part of this world?
Well, we don’t have to wonder, because the Watchtower Society has provided two explanations in their letter. Their first explanation was, that they did this "for the sole purpose" of using the UN library. Let’s examine this.
There are three reasons this statement is suspect. First of all, any of us could join the YMCA just to use the swimming pool and be disfellowshipped for apostasy. (See The Watchtower, January 1, 1979; pp. 30-31) Is it reasonable to you that we could then turn around and affiliate ourselves with the United Nations, formally agreeing to support its principles and Charter (which includes use of military force) and to act as a publicity agent for it, just to use the library? Second, the UN has stated on their website, that the contents of the library (Dag Hammerskjold Library) are available through many public library systems, and depositories, including the New York City Public Library System, and lists several locations right there in New York City where these materials are available, without ever having to go to the UN library. And finally, authoritative employees at the UN Library have shown this explanation to be absolutely untrue and based on a lie. Documentation is included with this letter showing that the Head Librarian, Ms. Dickstein, the Senior Reference Librarian, Ms. Loytved, as well as Ms. Andersen, Chief, User Services Section of the Dag Hammarskjold Library (UN Library) have all gone on record, in writing, denying that NGO status has anything to do with access to the UN Library. They have stated that access to this library is:
"independent of NGO status or any other status. There has been no change in the library pass policy in general; however, please be advised that, as a consequence of the September 11 attacks, no library passes are being issued for the time being."
Are the Head Librarian, the Senior Reference Librarian and the Chief of the User Services Section of the UN Library all lying? What could be their motive? What would they have to gain?
Well, what about the second explanation given by the Watchtower Society? Remember, their letter said that "years later" (after their registration in 1991) "the United Nations published ‘Criteria for Association’, stipulating that affiliated NGO’s are required to support the goals of the United Nations," after which they withdrew association. What do the facts show? Remember the quote from the letter on the UN website cited above?
"This organization [Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York] applied for association with DPI in 1991 and was granted association in 1992. By accepting association with DPI, the organization agreed to meet criteria for association, including support and respect of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations and commitment and means to conduct effective information programmes" (italics added)
So the UN is flatly contradicting what the Watchtower offers as its second and only other explanation. The UN says the criteria requiring support for the principles of the United Nations was in effect in 1991 and 1992 when the Society was accepted for association. It also says that this information was included in the information provided to all NGOs accepted for association in 1992. Is the UN telling the truth? Further research shows that they are. In the archives on the UN website, it is clearly shown that these Criteria for Association for NGOs has been in place since 1968, not "years after" 1992.
The Watchtower Society had to reapply for this association on an annual basis. So, while wanting to give someone the benefit of the doubt, maybe they just didn’t notice this requirement the first year or two, even though the UN says they were notified. But is it reasonable that they never noticed it, year after year, for ten years? No, not when we consider one last piece of evidence that proves the Watchtower Society knew exactly what they were doing.
Remember the UN letter, where it said that the Watchtower Society agreed to a "commitment to conduct effective information programmes"? In another letter (copy enclosed) from a Shashi Tharoor, Interim Head, Department of Public Information, dated 24 January 2002, it states that the following paragraph was included in all letters sent to NGOs approved for association in 1992:
"The principal purpose of association of non-governmental organizations with the United Nations Department of Public Information is the redissemination of information in order to increase public understanding of the principles, activities and achievements of the United Nations and it’s Agencies. Consequently, it is important that you should keep us informed about your organization’s information programme as it relates to the United Nations, including sending us issues of your relevant publications."
Is there evidence that the Watchtower Society did in fact fulfill this requirement for association? Yes there is. On the UN website we can find publications submitted to the UN by the Watchtower as proof that they were in compliance with this requirement. For instance, the November 22, 1998 Awake! magazine appears there. So I decided to get out my bound volume for that year and have a look. Oh my God! This magazine reads practically cover to cover just like a PR piece for the UN! The UN is mentioned no less than 40 times in this one magazine, and never even once in a negative light! God's Kingdom is mentioned only three times in the entire magazine! I couldn't believe my eyes! This had really happened. I couldn't believe that the Governing Body had chosen to keep us totally in the dark on this. No article in the magazine, no letter to the congregations to let us know what was going on. Didn't we have a right to know about this? After all, we are the ones who support this organization, with our time, energy, hearts and dollars. Today, Jehovah’s Witnesses around the world are becoming aware of this gross hypocrisy and many are being stumbled. Many elders are resigning in disgust. Those who talk about it with others are being disfellowshipped for apostasy.
Perhaps you’ll be inclined to just brush aside this information as most likely tainted, exaggerated or unimportant. That’s up to you. But if you really want to "make sure of all things", we believe you owe it to yourself and your family to examine this matter. As for us, we can’t help but think of the thousands of our brothers and sisters in Malawi, who in the late 60’s and early 70’s, suffered beatings, torture, rape and murder, as well as having their homes and property destroyed — all as a consequence of holding to a principle established and enforced by the Society, that they not purchase a 25 cent political party card because it would violate their political neutrality. We think about the thousands of young men who have spent years in prison in many countries, because the Society refused to allow them to accept alternative service (such as working in a hospital) without their having to face being disfellowshipped for a violation of political neutrality. (The Society has now reversed that particular policy regarding alternative service, but we have yet to see any form of apology or reparations for those who suffered years in prison as a consequence of the Society’s insistence upon enforcing what they now tacitly admit was an error in judgment for so many years. Amazingly, the Society rather suggests that it was due to the sensitive consciences of the very ones who spent those years behind bars, whom, it would seem, should just blame themselves.)
Ironically, I am now the subject of a Judicial Committee that seems intent on disfellowshipping me. Why? Because I dared to speak about this matter confidentially with a person I have known for a long time, who approached me, made inquiry of me, and promised me, in writing, absolute, unconditional confidentiality, specifically with regard to the elders. She then turned over all of my emails on this topic to the elders in this area. I am learning the hard way that the Watchtower stands for truth, as long as the truth does not reflect badly on them. If it does, and you dare to say anything, they will come down on you like the Inquisition. But really, how can the Governing Body be above the standards they have set for us? And if they're not ashamed of this behavior, why do they continue to remain as silent as death on the matter?
I have no desire to be disfellowshipped. Even though we haven't had contact with you for some time, I have no desire to burn that bridge behind me. I would prefer to leave that door open. The wheels have turned slowly, but I was contacted by the elders in Leesburg on 9 August 2006, who informed me that a Judicial Committee had been formed and they wanted to meet with me. This was preceded by a four hour meeting with two elders and two phone conversations of approximately 30 minutes each with two elders each time.
The way that I was treated by these men in the aforementioned meeting and conversations, was definitely not what I would characterize as brotherly or friendly. Rather, there was a distinct spirit of enmity in both their methods and their tone. They have used the Pharisaical method of cleverly structuring questions in such a way as to elicit an unintentional confession. Methods only an enemy would use. They have used "tag team" tactics, always two against one. In the four hour meeting, one would ask a question, and before I got three words out of my mouth, the other would say, "Wait. Before you answer, let me read this, because it will make your answer null and void." When I responded that I should at least have the opportunity to answer their question, they didn’t seem to hear me. They never brought up the UN issue or answered any of my questions about it. They just said they didn’t know anything about it.
In the first phone conversation, again I had to play tag team with two elders firing questions at me. They basically had three questions and I answered them all the first time they asked. But I apparently didn’t give them the answers they wanted to hear, because they kept repeating the questions over and over and over again for thirty minutes. I really felt like I was being harassed and verbally abused. It was like being in the interrogation room at the Police Station. Then, in the last phone conversation, they couldn’t wait to call me in the evening at home, but called me in the middle of the day at work, after Karen had told them that I was on a very important job and was very busy. Why couldn’t they wait until I got home that evening? Because they had hit pay dirt in a witch hunt, searching across the internet, trying to find something, anything, that would be "actionable". I knew it was the UN thing that really stirred up the hornet’s nest, because from the beginning, they kept referring to these "emails", they had copies of "emails" that "caused them concern." They kept mentioning the emails. But every time I asked them who my accuser was, who gave them the emails, and every time I asked them to see the emails, they refused, just like in the Spanish Inquisition. The accuser can remain anonymous, while the accused is prosecuted, in flagrant violation of scriptural principle. (Acts 25:16) When I mentioned this to the "lead" elder, his comment to me was, "This is an inquisition." It must have been very frustrating for them because, they knew they couldn’t really use the UN thing against me, since all I did was speak the truth and the whole affair is so indefensible.
So after who knows how many hours of searching the internet on their witch hunt, they happened upon a positive comment I made with regard to the anti-war (Iraq) movement. So now, they have found a technicality that they can move forward on. How ironic. The Watchtower Society duplicitously and with impunity violates political neutrality for ten years by serving as a handmaiden to the United Nations without consequence. I make one simple statement in favor of peace and an announcement will be read that basically tells everyone I have ever called "friend" for thirty years of my life never to speak with me again. What gross hypocrisy! What utter injustice!
Because of the treatment I have received from the elders since this matter began, I do not expect that I would receive any different treatment in a judicial hearing, and so I do not expect to attend one. Their minds are obviously made up anyway. My position is that I have done nothing wrong or in violation of the scriptures. My sin consists only of having spoken out regarding what by all appearances is a very serious violation by the Governing Body of the standards that they have set for us. I cannot tolerate a double standard. I cannot stand hypocrisy. This whole matter sickens me at heart. The treatment I am receiving now, from the organization that I was so loyal and devoted to for practically my entire adult life, is incomprehensible and unconscionable.
So, if this is to be my final communication with you, I only wanted to let you know my side of this whole affair. If you are really my friend, if you ever were, you would want to know. As I said earlier, it is not just this one issue. There are several others that are just as serious and very well documented and easily validated. There’s even more on the UN matter. For instance, I’ve found that although they withdrew association of that NGO in 2001, there are records of at least six other NGOs set up by the Society that have Society-appointed representatives that meet in session with UN committees. But I know that active Witnesses would rather do almost anything than have to listen to something negative about the Watchtower Society. So, assuming that may well be your feeling, I will refrain from sharing any other information unless you request it of me. You may contact me by phone, mail, or email if you wish. Any contact will be held in strict confidence. I have loved you and love you still. If an imperfect man, reading a simple statement in a Kingdom Hall, causes you to cut yourself off from me for the rest of your life, and view me as "dead", that will be very sad for me, but I will understand. After all, that’s the way I would have reacted for so many years. But not any more. As for me, my heart and my home will always remain open to you. I will never shun you, no matter what any human being or organization says about you.
Karen would now like to add a few of her thoughts.
While I was an active witness I felt the safety and security of the family-like arrangement. I want to thank the few friends who have reached out to me and Lenny since we have moved to our new home. So many of what we felt were lasting friendships seem to be superficial and limited now. I don’t know what the future holds since I no longer have "all the answers" as I once did. I am disappointed with the Society in that it didn’t live up to its own standards. I’m happy to stop being afraid of the end of the world and am now finally learning how to live in it. I take my stand with my loving, honest husband who has always only wanted what is best for us both. We have reclaimed our minds and our lives.
Lenny & Karen Bianchi