In recent years Jehovah’s Witnesses have added the new dimension of literature stands to their preaching tactics. In the past, their work focused primarily on going from house to house or door to door to sell or place the Watchtower Society publications.
Some people may prefer Jehovah’s Witnesses using literature stands in public places rather than being disturbed by knocks on the doors of their own homes on Saturday and Sunday mornings. As more literature stands proliferate, there will no doubt be a rise in requests by Jehovah’s Witnesses for permission for such stands to town councils and market organizers.
One example of such a request was reported in REP-AM.COM on March 27th, 2014. The short article reveals that input from local groups is needed in Sharon, NY to aid the decision whether to allow Jehovah’s Witnesses to install a literature stand on the town Green.
This was in response to a letter sent to the local Board of Selectmen in Sharon from John Mortillo. He was asking for permission to install a literature display that would promote Jehovah’s Witness’ religious beliefs on the town Green.
Comments associated with the website article are mixed. Some argue that freedom of religion is enshrined in the American Constitution and should be upheld, and one way of doing so would be to permit literature stands. Others quote scripture to try to support the arguments for permission for the stands. One person has pointed out that the Bible and the Constitution “are not the same thing” and should not be treated as the same. A few express their concerns about the nature of the doctrines being sold on the town Green.
These literature stands are often placed in prominent positions such as at markets, and can be accompanied by a table and a banner. Usually there are a few Witnesses and their children standing around, waiting to share their message by selling and giving away their literature, whether it is books, magazines and leaflets.
In the late 19th and early 20th Century the “Bible Students,” an early name for Jehovah’s Witnesses, would use stalls, vehicles and early day motion pictures to promote their message. It was mostly single people and couples without children who were encouraged to spread their beliefs.
Today the Watchtower Society not only wants adults promoting their message, they are also focusing more of their attention on the use of children as a way of getting their message across. They have even created children’s animated characters with the aim that children will “Help Caleb and Sophia get ready for field service.”
For the current Memorial campaign, Jehovah’s Witnesses are using their children to not only invite people to this event, but have also posted to the Internet numerous images showing children as young as three holding memorial invitations to be given out to adults.
Using very young children in this way has more than one function. Children obviously want to please, and they do so from the moment they are born as they take in the beliefs of their parents. One parent has even posted an image of a new baby snuggling the “Silver Sword” Bible. The baby is not much larger than the Bible.
Secondly, using children creates a “mask” that makes their message look more benign and inviting, somewhat like little Girl Scouts selling chocolate chip cookies on a village green.
It is doubtful whether the children are given a choice in this matter because strict obedience to believing parents is part of the doctrinal mix. The Watchtower Society does not encourage children to read widely or to develop critical thinking skill. That makes it unlikely that they will exert their right to refuse to accompany their parents in promoting WTBTS literature.
A fifth grade teacher recently shared her experience with a Jehovah’s Witness child. She pointed out how even when completing class assignments they do not look beyond the Watchtower Society’s publications and are not encouraged to become critical thinkers.
This teacher’s approach of encouraging critical thinking in children is in line with the “Convention on the Rights of the Child” ratified by 193 countries. Unesco notes that:
“…this Convention is the most widely accepted human rights treaty. Whether as a resource for human rights activists or as a framework for policy-makers, it considers the child both as an individual and a member of a family and community, with age-appropriate rights and responsibilities.”
One supporter of Unesco’s work gives weight to the concept that children need critical thinking in order to thrive:
“Children should be thinking critically about who they are and how they relate to their world around them, in a social and political perspective with a focus on peace, equity and sustainable development.They must be learning how to be literate and numerate, be problem solvers and be resilient.” – Urvashi Sahni, Study Hall Education Foundation, India
Only being allowed to read Watchtower publications and to stand with parents next to literature stands in town centers and on village greens promoting their parents beliefs, is probably not the best start a child can be given.
One of a child’s many rights is the “right to education.” Another is respect for themselves as a child. Education makes the exercise of all the other human rights possible.
Watchtower publications often use manipulative language when talking about education for children. For example, one Watchtower Society video asks, “Are wealth and higher education the most worthwhile goals?” Another article presses children and youth with the words, “Youth is a time for making important choices. But one choice is more important than all others
“Through education, starting from the early years, children not only learn about their rights but also acquire the skills and attitudes to assert them,” says Qian Tang, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education. “Ideally this takes place in a safe and stimulating environment and in a spirit of mutual respect and understanding.”
Is it not time that Jehovah’s Witnesses (and especially those who are parents) recognize how limiting a mono-education is for a child’s development?
Should they not be providing a foundation for their children that enables them to think for themselves and to make choices that will enhance their lives?
It is certainly time for children to have their rights as children respected.
More details can be found here:
Request for literature stand – Sharon NY state
A human-rights based approach to education for all
Children should be encouraged to develop critical thinking. Children have rights.