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Posted: June 10, 2009 12:30 a.m.

Column contradictions

Dear Editor: I am writing in response to the article today in your newspaper titled "The America They Fought For" by Nat Harwell.

Since when have Jehovah's Witnesses not supported the United States? They don't pay taxes? Obey laws? Help citizens in need? Set an excellent example of community involvement and support? I can somewhat appreciate Mr. Harwell's outrage at Jehovah's Witnesses, but he is literally extracting a needle out of a haystack in saying they are "un-American" because they choose to exercise their American liberties in covering up what they consider to be anti-theological rhetoric on their license tags. The Supreme Court decisively ruled that Mr. Maynard, or any citizen for that matter, could not be forced to "use their private property as a ‘mobile billboard' for the state's ideological message." The Court held that the state's interests in requiring the motto did not outweigh free speech principles under the First Amendment.

Did all Jehovah's Witnesses suddenly cover up their license tags because of Mr. Maynard's stand? No. Is it fair to categorize all Jehovah's Witnesses to be somehow unpatriotic because of the actions of one man, a man whom the highest court in the land agreed with by an overwhelming margin?

Mr. Harwell dogmatically stated that "It constitutes the very height of hypocrisy to live in this nation and refuse to support it. If you don't like the way things are done by majority, move on. Find a place you do like such as Iran, Sudan, China or North Korea." I had to do a double-take at the sheer ignorance of those statements. If everyone thought like that, we would still have slavery in this country, imbalanced civil rights and, for the foreseeable future, no legal recognition of the right of every American, gay or not, Jehovah's Witness or not, Holy Roller Coaster Screamer or not, to marry under the law and be entitled to the rights afforded within that institution.

By the way, as a fair disclaimer, I was one of the Jehovah's Witnesses for 20 years. I left that church over seven years ago of my own volition, and for my own reasons. If you're interested, I can share those reasons with you. However, the fact that I could not support my beloved adopted country (yes, I was not born here, but still consider this my home country) as one of Jehovah's Witnesses was never a sticking point or the reason I left. They take a stance of neutrality, but they are certainly not alone in that realm of conscientious objectors to being participants in warfare. To stomp on their civil and religious rights is tantamount to stomping on everyone else's civil and religious rights whether we happen to agree with them or not.
They may not salute the flag because of religious/conscientious reasons, and that is their right.

I don't necessarily agree with it, even now, but that is their right and it was fought for in all of the wars, supposedly, that American soldiers have undertaken since the British were summarily dispatched from our fine soil more than two centuries ago. It's a matter of record within most legal circles that Jehovah's Witnesses have done more to advance civil liberties and religious freedom than most other groups have, religious or not.

All red-blooded America-loving citizens of our nation should be, ironically enough, indebted to the legal and civil pursuit of justice and advancement by and for the Jehovah's Witnesses in the past hundred years.


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