Sebastian Ramos and his campaing in Brazil; how can they claim a right to shun you?

by dgp 25 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • dgp

    I suppose everyone on this board knows now about Sebastian Ramos and his campaign in Brazil. He has filed a claim agains religious discrimination, to the effect that shunning (not disfellowshipping or disassociation) is forbidden, on the grounds that it amounts to religious discrimination.

    This is a very easy point to see for someone who is out. It sort of extends the meaning of "religious discrimination", however, as it is usually understood. It is usually understood to mean that you, the member of religion A, can't discriminate against any member of religion B. What Mr. Ramos is doing is extending that to mean that you, member of religion W, cannot discriminate against X, former member of religion W. That is, you can't discriminate against those you define as apostates.

    Mr. Ramos is doing a very good thing there in Brazil. I believe everyone should support it. I think this is a matter of basic freedom. It goes beyond free speech or free thought. I hope it snowballs into something very big. I suspect I know who will be at the forefront of opposition to it: other religious groups. Divided as they are in who will actually be in the Heavens (or Paradise Earth), and willing as they are to do away with infidels (that is, each other), they will stand close together in terms of shunning apostates, because that is who they fear most.

    But I would like to hear people's opinions about a different matter. I think there are more grounds to Mr. Ramos campaign. Say that the Watchtower is right and you'll die at Armageddon if you don't do as the Governing Body says. If Jehovah himself gives you the right to choose, why should they not let you?

    If you question that Jehovah gives people the right to choose, then tell me how come a Jehovah's witness will be quick to claim he or she is not bloodguilty if a worldly refuses to hear them. They are very quick to say that they warned you and you're on your own. Do I have a right to disagree, then, or not?

    Can they claim a right to make you believe? Can they claim it is their obligation to make you believe if Jehovah himself doesn't demand that? What's more, where is that sentence about "Not everyone who calls me O Lord, O Lord... will make it?

    What kind of a God is this God who FORCES you to believe in him, and sent his son to redeem you but will kill you if you disagree with the idea of worshipping him?

  • Vidiot

    dgp - "It goes beyond free speech or free thought. I hope it snowballs into something very big. "

    Hmm. Maybe if it's played right...

  • james_woods

    I too think he is making an important statement about how wrong "shunning" is.

    However, I am not too convinced that it can succeed - because of "free speech" and "freedom of religion" issues.

    If you don't want to talk to somebody or associate with somebody (even if that is crazy or wrong) - can the government FORCE you to associate with them?

    Can the government (so to speak) - UN-shun persons formerly shunned by religion?

    IMHO, the best aspect of Ramos effort is the battle for public opinion - not as a legal battle.

  • steve2

    My opinion: You cannot force a religious group to change its policies on the practice of shunning. Just as it is claimed that shunning "forces" people to be "locked out" of a group, so too does forcing that group to quit shunning force them to do something that goes against their beliefs. Besides, the organization always holds out the "hope" that the shunned person will see the error of their ways and return. No law is broken.

    Even if you could legally force a group not to shun you, if you know that they really wanted to shun you and are only not shunning you because of the legal repurcussions, how could you put yourself through that? What self-respecting person seeks the company of those who have rejected him or her?

  • Mad Sweeney
    Mad Sweeney

    If individuals choose to avoid others, that is their choice; we are all free to choose our friends. When individuals are FORCED to shun others by an organizational policy, THAT POLICY violates both the human rights of the shunners and the shunned.

    You can't stop shunning legally but perhaps they can influence the shunning policy through legal means.

    However the case goes, the more public information gets out there the better.

  • dgp

    I am in agreement with Mad Sweeney. The whole point of such a campaign is to prevent an organization from forcing you to shun others, or else they will shun you, too.

    It's a good thing that James_woods is bringing freedom of religion to the discussion. Where I live now, people used to be overwhelmingly Catholic. Every other person was. And yet, the influence of secularists made it so that Catholics could not officially ban protestants - and Jehovah's witnesses, by the way- on the basis of their religion alone. I believe that was a good thing.

    I also agree that perhaps there is no way to enforce this, and, if you respect yourself, you won't be where they don't want you to be. But, what if they DO want you to be there, and the only reason they won't do it is they fear they will be shunned as well?

    I feel it could be a public relations victory. Jehovah's witnesses - and other similar groups - are very secretive about their ways and their internal functioning. If, for example, it were widely known that Jehovah's witnesses will disfellowship you if you accept a transfusion, no serious person outside would hold it that they "refuse" transfusions on their own. It would be such a huge problem for the society. I wonder if the same could happen with shunning.

    Just to make a comparison, I don't think anyone can actually "force" the Iranian government not to kill homosexuals or adulterous women. Yet, apparently one woman was saved from stoning because Amnesty International pressed hard in her favor.

    Maybe the way to think about this is not exactly Mr. Ramos campaign, but, don't you think it's about time someone said "Hey, this is just wrong" and you guys could associate with your family freely, whatever your views about your religion?

    In times past, the Inquisition had the power to put you on trial on religious grounds. Wouldn't it be nice if the Watchtower couldn't shun you?

    My point is, we may disagree with how to achieve this, but a desirable thing it surely is.

  • james_woods
    I feel it could be a public relations victory. Jehovah's witnesses - and other similar groups - are very secretive about their ways and their internal functioning. If, for example, it were widely known that Jehovah's witnesses will disfellowship you if you accept a transfusion, no serious person outside would hold it that they "refuse" transfusions on their own. It would be such a huge problem for the society. I wonder if the same could happen with shunning.

    This is what I hope can be achieved - an awakening of public opinion.

    The witnesses should not be allowed to hide behind their paranoid secrecy.

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    We used freedom of speech and religion loosely in this country. The First Amendment protections only apply to government (and state govt. wasn't included until after the Civil War when the Fourteenth Amendment incorporated earlier amendments to the states. Justice Thomas does not believe some amendments and clauses were incorporated. While the Establishment Clause (commonly referred to as separation of church and state is muddy, the Free Exercise Clause is crystal clear. Government cannot regular worship. An exception is carved out for laws of general applicability, such as polygamy, not smoking halucegenics.A classic example is that no one has the right to scream "fire" in a crowded theatre absent a true fire. The Witnesses have a right to do whatever they wish unless they break a law that applies to nonWitnesses too.

    I was raised in the WTBTS. Adults are under no illusion as to the rules. Perhaps the laws in South America, not a common law jurisdiction) are very different. The Salvation Army was held to be able to discriminate in employment. There are certain values that are cherished in developed countries, mostly protection from arbitrary government action. I wish we could bring shareholder/stakeholder actions to force them to come to terms with the many false statements over the years. Due process is valued highly. The legal avenues are not there, IMO. Public relations is a more useful tool.

    Someone else raised this point in a discussion of the ACLU filing amicus briefs that favor the Society's positions. The ACLU spends it valuable money and lawyers freely donate their time for a principle. The Society does not mind accepting such help. The First Amendment and other rights are very fine when they help the Witnesses. Accepting AngloAmerican freedoms, the WTBTs does not extend those principles to its members. The Nazis in Skokie came close to totally destroying the ACLU. When they won their case, they did not even bother to march.

    When I discuss the Witnesses, I try to generate respect for the doctrines and focus on mind control. Sometimes I sit back and realize how markedly different my life is now and rejoice. I spent so many years trying to justify their teachings with science. The world never seemed as wicked to me as the Witnesses proclaimed.

  • dgp

    Band on the Run, you are bringing nice ideas and I like that. I think it's beneficial for everyone. I would like to say the following, and please do not take this as an adversarial debate, but as one aimed at generating ideas.

    You could argue that it is also impossible to legislate that a white man does not seggregate against a black man. That it's a private thing and you can't force whites to like blacks. Indeed, you cant, but I'm sure some progress has been made since "I have a dream". America has a black president, right? Could that have happened when Martin Luther King began his struggle?

    United States laws are one thing, but, fortunately, those laws do not apply everywhere. I'm saying "fortunately" because, unless I understood wrong, American laws are the reason why some cults can develop only in the United States. I have trouble believing that is a good thing. If "worship" included hating a religious minority, would the American rule of law still apply?

    Sorry, but I feel no respect for a doctrine that states that if you disagree with them your relatives have to shun you. I disagree with this on the same basis that, as a Catholic, I could never agree with a doctrine that stated you had to be submitted to the Inquisition if you didn't agree with the Church. Just for the safe of reference, I understand that some guy in Peru, in years past, was sent to the Inquisition on the grounds that he must be Jewish - he worked too hard! I don't feel any respect for a doctrine that states that adulterous women are to be stoned. I would have strongly disagreed with the doctrines that led the Aztecs to feel it was right to kill people to appease the gods. Is it right to force women to wear a burka?

    American laws and practices could be beneficial in another sense. If someone started something like "The March of the Disfellowshipped" and said someting like "We're being shunned because we left the WT", I am sure that would get a lot of press attention, and the very same framework of civil liberties that protects the WT would protect the marchers. No legal action, to be sure. Do you think the society would send anyone to deny the charges?

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    Personally, I will take my freedoms over important matters even though there is a down side. Legislation is not tbe best way to deal with cults, IMO. Education is. I'd rather have the Witnesses and have no one interested than have the Witnesses suppressed. It is a value judgment. A value judgment the Founders felt was worth establishing not only as a law, but as a constitutional matter. Religion was suppressed in Europe. The Puritans established Massachussets Bay and promptly enforced everyone to be a Puritan.

    My family members were personally penalized for their Witness beliefs. I'd rather have the messiness involved with liberty. The press reports disputes within the Witnesses, usually when there is a visual involved.

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