Seeker4 Facing DFing - Seeks advice!! Lawyer??

by Seeker4 44 Replies latest jw friends

  • Lee Elder
    Lee Elder

    You're agreeing to meet with them in the first place may come back to haunt you on this since it can be interpreted to mean that you acknowledge they have some authority over you in the first place. I realize that its more complex than that when you are dealing with "friends", but most JWs are WT idolizers first and friends second.

    Consider retaining a civil rights lawyer to advise you how best to proceed. If this were me, I would stress the following points with the lawyer:

    1. You don't consider yourself a Jehovah's Witness.

    2. You don't associate with Jehovah's Witnesses.

    3. This is a singular attempt to deprive you of "normal family relationships" i.e. alienation of affection.

    4. The elders are acting outside of established WT polilcy and custom. Directives are that publisher cards are removed

    from the congregation files and destroyed after either 5 or 7 years of inactivity. (Starting to forget some of this stuff).

    Here are some resources:

    If you can manage to convince these elders that you are not a JW and don't pose any threat to the local brothers

    and sisters it is difficult to imagine why they would want to pursue this matter. If you cannot accomplish this,

    your best bet is to come after them with a very strong, well written response from your attorney which makes

    it perfectly clear that you will litigate to protect your family/relationships.

    I would be inclined to copy the WT legal department and have your attorney write a second letter to them as well.

    Seems like they have more important things to do than chase down someone who has been inactive for so long,

    especially if it means potential legal problems.

    They can win the lawsuit if precendence holds but again, why would they want to spend resources on this matter?

    So again, try your best to convince them why you are no threat and that its in their best interest to simply

    let this go. If they continue to insist on a judicial committee meeting, I would not be inclined to attend since that

    sends the message that you recognize the authority of the committee over you.

    Perhaps you lawyer could have them served with your letter. I know that sounds kind of drastic, but it will shock

    them a bit. You want them to know beyond any shadow of a doubt how serious you are about coming after them

    personally if they attempt to interfere with your family. That they had better plan on plenty of time off from work (unpaid)

    to complete interrogatories, depositions, etc. And that you will not just be filing an action against the WTS and local cong-

    gregation, but them personally.

    Take good notes, especially about any deviations from WT policy. These improve your chances of winning if it comes

    down to that.

    Good luck ( I can say that now)

    Lee Elder

  • love11

    I'm not sure a lawyer would be able to stop what is already taking place. However, I would think coming to your home and property threatening you with shunning might be grounds for harassment. A lawyer could guide you better on what are the best actions to take.

    But something you said caught my attention. How did your wife know that this man (elder) cried? Are they close? Also, do these elders have any personal vendetta's against you that they may be acting out by disfellowshipping you? None of them are seeing or would like to see your ex?

    I'm shocked it's taken them this long to disfellowship you. As a woman, if you even so much as turn the wrong way you get disfellowshipped. Wow! They must have really liked you. About the elder crying, it's just because he thinks that you are out of "god's organization" and is sad because you'll have no afterlife. (in his eyes) hahaha That's too bad that he is that brain washed, but what can you do. If all of your relatives are still a jw that means that they have control over your life whether you like it or not.

    Getting out of that organization is the best thing for you and hopefully one day they will see the wisdom in your decision. I know the next coming years are going to be hard for you, but rest assured you are not the only one going through this. Good Luck in all of your endeavors starting your new life! Love

  • Oroborus21


    I will try to keep this brief and I won't go into all of the details:

    First, about whether to attend the JC meetings/appeal or not. (I have no doubt that you do not plan on attending given what you stated.) Some, including Lee Elder suggest not to attend, however, you should note that at least one court (canadian) has held that the plaintifff's not "exhausting all of their remedies" in the ecclesiatical process meant that the suit was not properly before the court of law. In other words, the guy lost in part because he did not attend the JC or appeal the decision that resulted in the DF'ng. (This is just a basic point of law, you almost always have to first exhaust all of your administrative procedure or in the case the ecceliastical procedure.) This doesn't mean that you have to physically attend though. IF YOU WANT TO HEDGE YOUR BETS, send the JC an official position statement in lieu of attending and likewise file a written appeal of the DF'ng and send or have your attorney attend the meetings on your behalf. All of that will be good enough. If they don't want to meet with your legal representative a court of law will not hold that against you. (of course we talking about retaining an attorney and spending some dough for his time. you may or may not want to do that.)

    In the end though you are pretty much out of luck and are not going to win anything in a court of law or prevent any action of the Congregation/Society, even if you retain a lawyer.

    In a Nutshell here are potential classic causes of action:

    1. Defamation - generally a loser these days. I won't even get into all the reasons why this isn't a possiblity. (The only person who every succesfully sued the Society for defamation and won was Olin Moyle and that is because the Society was reallly really stupid in its conduct and actions.)

    2. Alienation of Affection (Tort) - this is extremely extremely rare and mostly abridged by State laws that have removed it as a cause of action.

    3. Breach of Contract - fuhgetabout it, it's a fairy tale

    3. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress - Not a bad cause of action, this is probably what you mean by "harassment". The classic elements of IIED are that the Defendant's conduct was so "extreme and outrageous" (as considered by the average reasonable person) that it resulted in distress to a person of normal sensibilities. Sounds good but the first problem is that plaintiff must suffer severely and usually show bodily manifestations of the emotional distress.

    4. Privacy torts (False Light, Intrusion into Seclusion, Public Disclosure of Private Fact, Commercial Appropriation): Most of these are economic related and have to do with controlling one's image/likeness for business reasons. But the Public Disclosure of Private Fact is promising. The main problem is that the announcement that "Seeker4 is no longer one of Jehovah's Witnesses" is not enough to qualify. False Light is another possiblity because it basically is the situation where it creates a "false" or inaccurate image or understanding of the Plaintiff. In this case, the DF'ng makes you unsociable but I think there is way too much is unstated and implied for any court to make the connection.

    Moving on...

    The bottom line here is this. No court is going to intervene with the inner workings of a church except under very extreme circumstances. In reality a DF'ing is a church action and an "internal matter" that only tangentially has any affect on you.

    In other words the Congregation is not harrassing you (in a court of law's eyes) it is controlling/dealing with its own voluntary members. Informing them that you are no longer one of them is not something you can sue about even it it were not true. In this case, particularly you admit that it is very true, in fact you publicly admit you are not one of JW's.

    So as far as the Congregation/Society's action of announcing what you have already admitted that is that. It would be like them announcing that the sky is blue today (on a clear blue day) as far as any legal point is concerned.

    Of course we all know that the problem is not what their action is it is with the underlying policies and with the action of the members in compliance with those policies and that is the real rub with trying to challenge a disfellowshipping.

    It is the VOLUNTARY ACTIONS OF THE MEMBERSHIP in compliance with their beliefs and JW policies that make them comply or be DF'd themselves that produces the effects of the Disfellowshipping action.

    In other words, even if you could get to that point of the matter in any court, ultimately a court will tell you that the Society is not responsible for the actions of its members, even when the members HAVE to comply, because they could always CHOOSE NOT TO BELONG instead of compliance.

    Ultimately the conclusion is that when it comes to Disfellowshipping/Shunning there is no legal basis and no winnable cause of action.

    But having said that, it may not hurt to scare them if you can and if you can find an attorney who's ethics permit him or her to get involved, even though the likelihood for success is nihl. But I recommend that If you did want to do something, your best bet is to fight this not on the organizational level but on the personal level. Bring suit against the INDIVIDUALS involved and see if they will get the legal backing from the Society or not. If it turns out that the Society doesn't want to come to bat for them, they may let the matter go. But if you are going to do this you will have to scare them asap. Once it gets past the JC it will be over.


    PS: I forgot to add the most important thing: You should really fight this on your own turf. Go to the newspaper with this juicy story if you aren't able to kabosh it legally. The resulting bad press will be a big black eye and at least it will be a pyrrhic victory for you.

  • Grace

    You MUST send the letter that has been responded to you by Jedi Master. It LOOKS like it has been written by a lawyer (Jedi Master must be one in the UK). I have never seen such a good letter to get pesty control-freak Elders off a person's back. Right on

    Keep separate your emotions. A lawyer once said to me that I was trying to find a legal solution to an emotional problem. The tactics used (the poor elder "cried") should have no hold on you whatsoever at this point. Don't fall for this infantile crap! What I have learned through being shunned (yes, even by family members), is that ultimately I CANNOT help what others do or say. I can only control myself.

    You can't help if they announce that you have been DF'd any more than you can control them saying anything else in their halls of indoctrination. I'll write again.

  • AlanF

    Howdy Seeker4! Long time no talk.

    I think that much of the outcome of this stupid situation hinges on how you handle the matter personally with these elders. The key point is that the Flock book explicitly gives conditions that might let elder "hold the matter in abeyance", and you fit those conditions. They have no directive from the Society to DF you, so what they decide is entirely up to them personally.

    You might try what I did when faced with a similar situation ten years ago: call up one elder late at night to catch him off guard. Tell him that you're no threat to the congregation since you have no contact with them. Tell him that he should leave you alone from here on in, and that if he or other elders do anything to besmirch your good name in the community, you'll take him or the other elders personally to court. The Society would not be involved in your lawsuit, and probably wouldn't even want to get involved, which leaves the elders to their own resources. If that doesn't make him agree to leave you alone, then retain a good lawyer and have him write a "cease and desist" letter like the one posted earlier, or one that I can send you, which has a proven track record. With your circumstances, it makes no sense for the Society to do anything besides tell these bozos to back off.

    Sounds to me like your soon-to-be ex is pestering them to do this, just as mine did. It's very much a get-even thing, and that might even be used in court, if it comes to that.


  • love11

    p.s. Isn't it illegal to slander someone's reputation? Just a thought.

  • cyberguy

    Hey Seeker4! Should you really care if you get DF?d? Unless some family will no longer talk to you (i.e., kids, parents), then why should you care? Of course the Bible is against leaving your marriage mate (except under certain circumstances), but if you no longer believe in the Bible, then why are you so disturbed? Anyway, I may not completely understand your situation exactly to give proper advice, but I can understand your problem in a limted way! Please take care and know that others are sympathetic! If you want to chat with another long-timer, then PM-me. Best wishes!

  • Honesty
    I'd consider getting an attorney if the Witness people decided to quit shunning and snubbing me.

    I'm with Gary on this one. Everytime I meet up with one of the few hardcore, hardhearted shunning self-righteous JW's it is a public witness that they are so far removed from Christianity that no one in their right mind will let them on their property.

  • Fleur

    Hiya Seeker4, (You may remember me as Esmeralda from your old posting days) I just wanted to say that it stinks that this is all happening to you when you apparently have been doing well for yourself, getting out of your marriage, finding new love, and new life. That is when they love to strike, to try to break your will, to try to bring you back.

    Think about this before you worry too much what these people think of you.

    Yesterday my mother, who had threatened shunning me (she's one of three or so relatives who still speak to me) when the new organized book came out a couple weeks ago (that didn't last, she needs me too much) handed me a package of pictures of me from years ago, a gathering with lots of JW family, including a cousin who died in a car crash a few years after that. Then know what she said to me? "I'm pulling out all the stops, trying to hit everything I can to reach something in you and bring you back." She ADMITTED this emotional manipulation and blackmail! That disgusted me.

    There's a line in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean when Jack Sparrow says to the Commodore, "What have you got to lose?" and the Commodore glares at him and says, "Nothing I'd lament being rid of." That's kind of how I feel most of the time now about the whole JW thing. Yes, I did lose and yes it hurts a lot. But like Gary, hearing how judgemental they are of everyone except themselves...I wouldn't want to go back to that now.

    I know you likely have kids and grandkids involved that you don't want to lose. I hope that you can dodge this. I say if you can afford it try to get a lawyer. Just don't take any elder's word for what they're going to do, though. If there is pressure from higher up they'll DF you regardless. I was to be made an example of: I was the PO's relative. Even though one of the elders on my JC said that my letter saying I didn't consider myself to be a JW anymore should be enough to call them off, it wasn't. Sometimes, it comes down to a choice, what price we're willing to pay for our freedom. The price is high, but who wants to go back. We're here to support you whatever happens.

    Please keep us posted...



  • silentWatcher

    Hi Seeker,

    Sounds like a tough situation to be in.

    Threatening legal action would likely prevent a "de jure" ("in law") disfellowshiping. However, it cannot prevent a de facto ("in fact") one. I know disfellowshiped people whose families still interact with them, and I've known faders (no DF/DA) who get completely shunned.

    The point is if someone pushes your family to shun you, then your "official" status doesn't matter unfortunately. There is some "marking" principle that lets them shun non-DF/DA'd ones too. You'd likely be "marked" either way. I've known a few indivuals who threatened legal action against the elders if DF'd. They were never formally DF'd, but the family was quietly instructed to treat them as such or else they would be DF'd for "bad associations."

    I'm a fader, and my family is all still in. My family doesn't shun me, since no one has pushed them to shun me. If I were threatened with DA/DFing, I'd retain a lawyer to fire off a "cease-and-disist" order, and make it clear I'd take the Elders individually to court if any announcements were made. However, I would still brace myself to be shunned.


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