I am not a lawyer. However, considering the length of time and their failure to act before now, there may be a case made for them meddling and aggravating a family situation. Presumably , you would be disfellowshipped for adultry. You might have to show that no action was taken under other circumstances (publishing ) that merited disfelowshipping action, why now, when the action will have such an emotional toll on you and other family members because of the shunning aspect. Is disfellowshipping an arbitrary tool to be used at any time during an exmembers life? If disassociation is an alternative then why does it carry the same penalty as disfellowshipping ie shunning? As I said, I'm no lawyer but you might want to explore suing the individual Elders personaly. There's nothing quite like fixing responsibility directly on the perpetrators especially if you have some evidence that they are acting outside of "official " WT policy. I'm sure other's here have some insight that may help.
Seeker4 Facing DFing - Seeks advice!! Lawyer??
your resume reads much like mine and i understand the emotions you are going through to...and the memorial--gotcha...i first thought that you should just ignore it..i know i would certainly never have df someone without meeting them..but not all elders are like that..and they could use your admitting publicly in writing that you are an atheist as a reason to announce you as disassociated..they dont need a letter anymore...so just ignoring it is not going to be a solution...so i would threaten legal action..but not against wts cos thay have covered themselves and dont care anyway cos thay think they are unsueable..but against the individual elders on a jc and on the elder that makes the announcement..if you were an elder still would you take the risk that someone who threatened that was not bluffing if it was likely to affect your own finances-family-time..i know i wouldnt..so let them know definately and forthrightly (but not like you are possessed) that you have the means to accomplish this...even if you dont change their thinking you will buy some time cos they will have to get in touch with bethel for advice and bethel will take its time getting back and will tell them that they wont support them in a legal battle..best of luck
One more point. You have already taken action that would be considered "disassociating" yourself (public announcement) why are they coming to you at all? You'r right it may be harrasment" also if they take unusual action now (anouncement in the congregation after so long a period of your disassociation) , that may be construed legaly wrong because of the time element.
My experience was that having resigned as an elder and ceased attending meetings for two years, the elders began to pursue me when it became apparent that I was in a homosexual relationship. I ignored their calls but let them know (via the thriving JW grapevine) that I would take legal action if they continued calling. They called the dogs off. They were however, a rather young and naive bunch of elders and I didn't have your stellar profile so a legal a threat may be futile.
About 18 years ago there was a similar situation to yours within my extended family. The catalyst was different in that the JW spouse took her life a year after her husband (ex elder and C.O.) left her for another woman. He hadn't been to meetings in a decade and was quite open about his complete disbelief but was disfellowshipped because of his previously high profile and the tragic circumstances.
I'm sorry that I can't relate a more positive experience to you but it seems that you may have to bite the bullet, and see how you family reacts. Good luck and I hope your partner is a good support.
S4: We had a similar case here a couple of years back. A guy in almost exactly your circumstances was df'd by one of the local congos. It appeared to just come out of left field. When the announcement was made at the KH, I'm sure many of the people there did not know the person whose name was read from the platform.
The machinations behind all this became clear a few months later when his ex-wife got married to a brother in the KH. It turns out the wife, when her beau popped the question, went to the elders and said she didn't want anybody thinking she wasn't "free to marry," and since her ex hubby was living with his long-time girl friend, she wanted him df'd so there's be no question that she was "scripturally free." The elders, using the excuse that "some" in the congregation were stumbled by his actions and knew him to be a (former) dub even though he'd been AWOL for about 10 years, called him up and scheduled a meeting. Of course, he declined to attend. A week later, two elders called him up, read him a terse announcement and asked if he planned to appeal. He read them the riot act and hung up.
This caused him some concern since he owns a large business at which a couple of his grown kids and related in-laws work; a number of his employees are also dubs.
Ironically, the mother has a rep as a flake whereas he's a popular, charismatic guy whose kids adore him. In fact, he sent the ex a big check for child support and expenses every month after he left his wife, even though this was not court-ordered. None of the relatives or other dubs quit their job. I understand the atmosphere at work is unchanged. So, in effect, he's been sheltered from the effect the elders and his ex thought would occur. The net effect is that its given JWs in the community a bad name. The guy belongs to several service clubs and organizations and has become something of a civic leader in the past several years. You can imagine the impression his associates have of JWs.
I know this doesn't answer your questions nor offer you any advice. But I thought you'd appreciate hearing about someone in your predicament. He landed on his feet, as will you. These people have no power over you unless you give it to them.
GET A LAWYER.
Have this lawyer attend the JC with you. If the elders refuse to allow your lawyer to enter, your lawyer should remind them that he DOES have the right to be there.
Have your lawyer tell the elders that if ANY sanctions are taken against you or if you start to notice people shunning you, you will sue the elders for slander. Make sure to emphasize that you will not sue the WTS, just he individual elders in civil court.
Using this you are almost guaranteed to be left alone. The reason is that the WTS will NOT defend elders who are being sued unless the WTS in named in the case or it is to the benefit of the WTS (such as a case regarding the elder?s right to preach door-to-door). Slander cases are something that the WTS is very reluctant to touch.
I would say to get a lawyer ABSOLUTELY!!!
The idea isn't whether you would win in a court of law but to up the stakes to the Congo. They won't want to air their laundry in public, and since your end goal isn't really to go back but to be left alone, and be a non-beliver so your relatives can talk to you, instead of being DF'd. Also, the local Congo would have to call in a lawyer from the community or more likely from the WTS in New York. Living in a town of 3,500 and them bringing in heavies from NYC won't play well in the local paper...if you need to use that avenue.
So your goal should be to make it as painful, and public as possible to get them to back down so they just go back to leaving you alone! Even if you filed a lawsuit today it would be 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 years before you ever got to court. But a stalling technique might also be in your best interest.
Legal stategy isn't about winning, but getting an acceptable solution.
Your case sounds very much like mine, in the respect that they came after me rather out-of-the-blue. In my case, they came after me for apostacy, and I'm surprised that they are only acting against you for adultry. But really, there is no logic... I don't need to tell you that.
I wrote a letter and threatened legal action, but it was more about timing, for me. I couldn't back it up financially, but I needed to stall them till my sister's wedding was over. The letter put them off for a couple of months (I'm sure they needed to consult legal).
If you have the money, I'd love to see you fight them, but just remember, their lawyers work for free. It would be nice to see individual elders have to pay for the trouble and harrassment they inflict on people, but I just don't know if you can seperate them from the religion, and unfortunately, the religion enjoys legal carte blanche to screw anyone and everyone.
I an sympathize with your situation; I had a simialr one 22 years ago.
In my case, I brought a harrassment suit against each individual elder ( not the WTBTS). As my lawyer said " when they realize that they can legally have the house sued out from over their heads they will leave you alone.".... and they backed off. Watchtower let them know that they were on their own and offered no support to them except to say "leave him alone". I have never heard from them since.
Good luck in your situation. I suggest you work out the "kinks" with a therapist. It was a good move for me to pursue two years of therapy. It left me level headed and free ( alomost) from all of their brainwashing.
Your involvement in the media as a professional journalist is a powerful tool which you should use to your advantage in exposiing their viciousness toward those who do not choose to remain "braindead" to the world around them and life in general. An expose about your experiences as they happen would be of interest, I am sure, to the general public.
good luck, you have all of us on this forum giving support,
I not up on the JW law these days, however, could it be so your ex getting you df through adulary so she can spritually devorce / remarry 'in gods eyes'.
Added: I agree with getting a lawyer to sit in with you, and have the juditial inquisition.