Some quick updates

Please note that Mad Sweeney’s Cult Free Radio program #7 is now online. It’s been added to the Cult Free archive page. #7 was another great program with an interesting interview with two former Witnesses. Don’t miss it! Link to archive page.

On another subject entirely, check out Kurt Prochnow’s excellent comment on our most recent Menlo Park Kingdom Hall article. He provides two excellent links to sources that discuss how to identify real Navy SEALs versus wannabees or fakes. Thanks, Kurt!

The editor is taking a short vacation, but when he gets back there should be some late breaking news about developments at Menlo Park. This story is entering a new phase, and many questions should soon be answered about who is actually telling the truth and who is using “theocratic strategy” (i.e., lying). It’s been a year since this story broke and it continues to develop in ways never imagined by the editor or even by some of the participants.

Anyone with inside news or comments about what is happening at Menlo Park or any other ongoing scandals involving the Watchtower society is encouraged to contact the editor at scandals@ex-jw.com. Your personal information, if any, will be guarded and not revealed under any circumstance. Feel free to use a pseudonym and a throw-away email address. The editor is interested in what you know, not who you are. Ex-JW.com is after the truth – not exposing anyone.


Menlo Park: What are they trying to hide?

By the Editor

  • Why must the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall bank records be marked “Confidential” and hidden from public review?
  • Did Don Adams come to the SF Bay area to visit kin? Or was it to lay out a new MPKH “war strategy”?
  • What do some of the original members of the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall think – one year after the merger with Redwood City?
  • A SEAL, or not a SEAL? Questions raised about Circuit Overseer Paul G. Koehler’s credibility.

You want to look at my bank statements? Sure! Go ahead. You’ll see a lot more money going out than coming in. You’ll see a few checks written, lots of ATM activity, and the names of my creditors and clients. You’ll see where I shop, how many times I buy gas, and a few online purchases from Amazon.com for books and software. So go ahead! Look! I have nothing to hide.

Most Americans, after thinking about it, would probably agree that their bank statements hold few secrets. Of course, they reserve the right to protect their privacy, and if it’s none of your business then you have no good reason to look at their finances. Yeah, they might be embarrassed about how little money they actually have in their accounts, but would have to admit that no real secrets about their private lives would be apparent from just a look at their checking and savings accounts.

Let me ask you: What would you expect to see on the bank statements of a Kingdom Hall? A couple of utility bills, some cleaning supplies, and bathroom paper products? Payments to the Watchtower Society for literature and other materials? Donations forwarded to the Watchtower Society for insurance, circuit and district assemblies, building funds, and “the worldwide missionary work”? All those things should be expected and are unlikely to raise any eyebrows. The Hall’s bank accounts should balance fairly close to what the COBOE reported in the congregation’s monthly financial reports.

So what possible reason would there be to keep a Kingdom Hall’s bank statements “confidential”? What could be on those statements that the elders wouldn’t want anyone to see? Why wouldn’t any group of congregation elders simply say, “There they are! Take a look. Nothing to see here folks. Just some donations coming in, and a few bills paid out. Simple. Straightforward. Just numbers. Nothing to hide.”

But that’s not the case in Menlo Park. The attorney for the defense is trying to make sure that no one outside of court will ever see any of the Menlo Park bank statements. In fact, he wants to make sure that if any bank statements are entered into evidence as part of court documents (most become public domain after they are assigned a case number), that those will be forever hidden from public review, marked “Confidential,” and then removed from the public case files.

One more time: What’s on those bank statements that the defense is afraid to show us? My guess is that if we saw them, certain irregularities would pop right off the pages and give us reason to ask for plausible explanations. Read the court documents below and decide for yourself if there is a legitimate reason the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall’s bank statements should not be publicly available as part of normal court filings?

What is known is that the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall not only has business checking and savings accounts that have existed for several years, but also other bank accounts that were set up since the merger in July, 2010. There are seven checking and two savings accounts in at least two different banks, Wells Fargo and Chase.

The Menlo Park Police Department also wants to see those bank statements and account documents because both sides have filed reports that accuse certain people with embezzlement, fraud, and forgery. The defense seems to want to exclude the police. But why? If the statements will clear these alleged criminal charges, let the police look at them. Will the authorities ever see those bank records?

Again, I ask, why not? What is hidden within those documents that would embarrass anyone connected to those accounts? Why so many bank accounts?

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Another View of a Kingdom Hall Takeover

By “MadSweeney”

[Edited transcript of a podcast first aired on June 11, 2011.]

Some time from late 2008 and throughout 2009, the circuit overseer that manages the Menlo Park and Redwood South congregations in California, named Koehler, began pushing the Menlo Park body of elders in several ways. One thing he wanted was for them to accept a renovation plan for their Kingdom Hall. But they, because they owned their Kingdom Hall outright, wanted to simply maintain their Hall “as is.”

Another thing he wanted was to merge the Redwood South congregation with Menlo Park. It isn’t clear when this came up, but it seems logical that with his cousin as an elder in Redwood South, bringing him and his friends over into the Menlo Park congregation could sway the vote enough to get the remodeling project he wanted passed.

Another move he made is less clear, but their reaction to it shows the kindness and pure motives of the Menlo Park body of elders. Circuit Overseer Koehler attempted to pressure a sister from Menlo Park to change congregations and attend a Kingdom Hall in Santa Rosa, California – apparently just because her job was nearer to that Hall. When she tried to refuse and exercise her constitutional right to worship where she pleased, the Menlo Park body of elders supported her.

I have been told that around this same time, the Menlo Park body of elders wrote a letter to the Watchtower Branch office outlining the oppressive and abusive manner Circuit Overseer Koehler had been conducting himself. As anyone who has ever been a Jehovah’s Witness knows, the chain of command is sacrosanct in the organization. I once criticized my local elders and was told that by doing that I was challenging the authority of Jesus Christ himself. And we don’t have to imagine the response of the Watchtower Society to this local body of elders criticizing one of their middle managers. The court documents lay it out for us loud and clear.

In February of 2010, the District Overseer was sent along with the Circuit Overseer to Menlo Park. They met with the body of elders there and after that meeting, they recommended the removal of the entire body.

A few months later, the elders in Menlo Park received a letter dated May 24, 2010 from the “Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses” telling them about the “report” they received on March 9 from the CO and DO meeting recommending their removal as elders. The letter states in part:

“As you are aware, the circuit overseer and the district overseer have recommended your deletion as elders. After careful and prayerful consideration of this matter, we agree with those who have taken the difficult position that you are not qualified to serve as elders. Your deletion as elders will be effective July 1, 2010.

“Obviously, your deletion as elders will be a disappointment to you. However, there is still much you can do to be an encouragement to the congregation. Your whole-souled service to Jehovah is not dependent on an appointment in the congregation. The greatest privilege any human can have is sharing in the sanctification of Jehovah’s name and declaring the good news of God’s Kingdom. Therefore, do not let this turn of events overly discourage you or stumble you. We can learn a lesson from the steward of King Hezekiah named Shebnah. Though dismissed from serving as a steward, Shebnah was allowed to continue in the king’s service as a secretary to his replacement. Thus, even though we are removed from a position of responsibility in Jehovah’s organization for some reason, should we not continue to serve God in whatever capacity he permits?”

This stuff is truly offensive and it is amazing to me that these four brothers took it like men and have remained a part of the cult after experiencing such treatment. “Should we not continue to serve God in whatever capacity HE permits?” the letter asks. As if the decision to remove these men was made by God himself. Talk about hubris and putting on airs for themselves. What is worse, nobody ever signs these letters and this one is no exception. It is signed with a stamp that just says “Christian Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses.” There is a code that indicates to those internal to the organization who in the Branch office wrote, stamped, and sent it out, but those receiving it are only told it comes from GOD through his organization.

Those guys had to know this was total baloney.

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Takeover: What really happened at Menlo Park?

On May 23, 2011 former elders of a California congregation filed two documents in Federal Court in San Francisco as part of their lawsuit against certain representatives of the Watchtower Society. The plaintiffs were elders of the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall prior to July 2010.

Because their court documents have been released and are in the public domain, we can present them here for your inspection and enlightenment.

Understand, of course, that the editor of Ex-JW.com can not guarantee that everything alleged in these two documents is factual and verifiable. Some statements seem to be sprinkled with a fair amount of conjecture and hearsay. Several items will likely be subject to court review and may face challenges to their veracity. Other statements might be deemed inadmissible by the court, stricken from the records, or not allowed as part of any testimony.

On the other hand, the plaintiffs surely understand that it’s considered extremely bad form to submit anything to any court, and especially to a federal level court, that is blatantly untrue and unsupportable. To do so might result in censure or possibly treated as committing perjury by the court. While you can present your side of a case and give evidence to support your position, you must never lie to the judge or a jury. Providing false evidence rarely wins a court case, but it will always piss off a judge.

Based on that understanding, we provide these documents exactly as they were filed with the court. We hope those who are following this case will gain a broader understanding of the issues that must be identified and resolved – as well as a closer look at who the real players are in this drama.

While the documents attached to this article were prepared by the plaintiffs and presents their side of the case, you can also refer to our earlier article “Fear and Loathing in Menlo Park” and read documents that were filed with the court by the defendants and their attorney.

We recommend that you read all the documents and closely review the exhibits. There are certain pages that you should not overlook. You’ll discover that there are factors in this case that go far beyond the communities of Menlo Park, East Palo Alto, and Redwood City, California. Issues brought up in these documents affect nearly every Kingdom Hall in the United States and Canada – and perhaps even worldwide.

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Menlo Park scandal on Cult Free Radio

The ongoing scandal surrounding the July 2010 merger of the Menlo Park and Redwood City (California, USA) Kingdom Halls will be discussed in an upcoming UStream podcast hosted by “MadSweeney” on Cult Free Radio, Saturday evening, May 28, 2011 at 10:00 PM, EDT / 7:00 PDT.

Our editor, John Hoyle, who has followed and reported this story since it broke last August, will be a guest on the show. In addition to discussing the background story, he will also report on late breaking developments.

“Cult Free Radio,” is the brainchild of a former Jehovah’s Witness known as “MadSweeney.” It’s intended to be a new online tool for educating the public about the dangers of cultish religions. While its true that the subject of Jehovah’s Witnesses will come up often, Sweeney, the host and moderator, has made it clear that his program is not just about the JWs and the Watchtower Society. He is out to identify and expose the dangers of any cult or religion that seeks to control the minds of its members, often destroying lives and families.

The premier of the podcast took place Saturday, April 30, 2011 at 10:00 PM EDT. There were some technical glitches during that first show, but host “MadSweeney” says that he has worked out most of the details and feels that his program is “ready for primetime.”


Read our special interview with MadSweeney!

CULT FREE RADIO (Interview)


Listeners may simply monitor the show by accessing it through their browsers, or they can register and then enter social commentary with the host and other listeners as the program progresses. Anyone wishing to call in may do so by using Skype, a free communications service. Skype is available free for computers and most iPad, iPhone, and Android cell telephones. There are user guides available on the UStream website.

To listen to the show, access the site at:

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/cult-free-radio

Skype callers can call in to “cultfreeradio” after the show begins and MadSweeney opens up the lines for discussion.

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Menlo Park Kingdom Hall – Updates

Since the previous article about the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall court case was published two weeks ago, I’ve received some updates and a few corrections.

Corrections

The city limits of East Palo Alto, CA: One writer pointed out that the city limits of East Palo Alto do extend a few blocks west of the Bayshore Freeway (US 101). In the article I wrote, “Its [Menlo Park’s] eastern edge, the Bayshore Freeway (US 101), separates it from the community of East Palo Alto.”

While I was making the point that the freeway separates the “cultures” and the “economic status” of the two cities, I should have made it clearer where the real city limits are. Those sections of East Palo Alto that do fall on the west side of the freeway are more akin to the cities of Menlo Park and Palo Alto. That does not change the fact that the freeway clearly acts as a wall between the two communities in more ways than simple geography. That’s why I added the line, “The Bayshore Freeway and Santa Clara County Airport act as effective barriers, separating a wealthier Palo Alto from its much poorer neighboring city.”

The Kingdom Halls of Redwood City: Redwood City lies directly north and west of Menlo Park. It now has two Kingdom Halls. One is in the northwest section of the city (631 Iris Street) that is the home to two congregations, “North Redwood City” and “South San Mateo.” Both have predominately white, English-speaking members.

Redwood City's Iris Street Kingdom Hall

The Circuit Overseer involved in this court case, Paul Koehler, lives in a home next to this Kingdom Hall. Donations from the congregations he serves probably cover most of his expenses while he lives in that home.

The second Kingdom Hall is known as “South Redwood City.” I wrote: “[South] is now the home for two or three Spanish-speaking congregations.” I’ve been told that it actually services four Spanish-speaking congregations. It’s at 681 2nd Avenue.

Threats to a former Menlo Park elder: I wrote: “Jon Cobb Sr., one of the plaintiffs, allegedly received threats against himself and his family. It’s been reported that he has moved his family several hundred miles away…” Actually, the elder receiving those reported threats was Jason Cobb, the son of Jon Cobb Sr. and the CEO of the existing Menlo Park corporation.

It was also reported to me that Jason Cobb has refused to give up original copies of the corporation papers. He has allegedly received threats via email and possibly other means that have implied that he and his family are at risk.

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