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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InsidetheWatchtower.com

InsidetheWatchtower.com is new website dedicated to uncovering the truth about Jehovah's Witness lifestyle and culture.For those readers who have not found it yet, we’d like to announce our new website, Inside the Watchtower. It’s been online since late July, but was only announced officially on August 2, 2011.

Although it could be considered a “companion site” to Ex-JW.com, it really stands on its own and has a unique personality. Intended to provide a “behind the scenes” look at what life is like being a Jehovah’s Witness, it will avoid heated debates about theology and doctrine. It’s about the process and culture of being a Witness. How do they get through a normal week of meetings and field service? What’s it like growing up as a Witness, going to meetings, reading Watchtower publications, knocking on doors, dealing with elders, and trying to figure out what the latest Watchtower teachings and rules are all about?

After the official announcement about the site, the Editor received a congratulatory email from an anonymous former JW. “Your new site approaches its subjects in a gentle, probing way, almost caressing them with a touch of sadness and loss, but also mixed with large servings of humor. You’re making the point that it’s not easy being a Jehovah’s Witness. For me, it’s very much like having a job you hate – but can’t quit without bringing financial disaster that will destroy your family.” Another wrote, “The JWs spend so much wasted time trying to recruit new converts. But as soon as they get them converted and baptized, the Watchtower seems dedicated to tossing them out and breaking up their families. What is the logic in that?”

Another wrote, “Your writers are excellent. Everyone has their own style, but present their subjects in clear and interesting ways. Keep it up.”

We certainly appreciate the nice complements sent our way. And for some reason completely unknown to us, Inside the Watchtower seems to have gained a group of fans from all over Brazil – and this started before we put up our automated translator. We are so pleased to know that like Ex-JW.com, we have regular visitors logging in daily from all over the world.

Among the contributors to Inside the Watchtower, are some that have also published here on Ex-JW.com. Terry Walstrom, “Mad Sweeney,” and Len Miller have all agreed to contribute, all great writers – just to name a few. Plus – we have our feelers out for more knowledgeable writers and forum posters. We know that there is a huge amount of thoughtful, well-researched, and helpful material languishing in the archives of various Jehovah’s Witness discussion forums that may never again see the light of day. What a shame to lose those valuable resources. That’s one of the goals of Inside the Watchtower: mine some of that “old gold” – and then publish and index it for our readers to enjoy for years to come.

The site offers a contact page with automated email, translation services for twenty languages, easy-to-use comment forms for each article, an archive of Blondie’s Best “Comments You Won’t Hear at the Watchtower Study,” and many other unique features. Like Ex-JW.com, there will be an extensive index and links to other excellent JW discussion websites. We’ll add to a growing number of book reviews and make links available to PDF copies for some old out-of-print Watchtower publications. Coming soon will be our version of “Cliffnotes” for the most recent Watchtower and Awake! magazines. That could be fun!

So check out Inside the Watchtower. Please note that we’re still making adjustments and site upgrades. You’ll see changes as the site progresses and grows. You should find the site gentle on the eyes, easy to read, and even fun to visit from time to time. The site is also compatible with all browsers and works fine on iPhone™ and Droid® models. We look forward to reading your comments.

If you would like to submit your own articles, please email the Editor for a copy of our guidelines.

“Seeds of dissent” against the Governing Body?


Editor’s Note: I just received the following news release announcing an attempt to organize an underground movement of Jehovah’s Witnesses who want a voice in how they are treated by their own religion. Ever since “Brother Siam” wrote and submitted his “Open Letter to the Governing Body” back in January, the level of dissent has grown, led by a small group of Witnesses who are hoping to find a way to get the leaders of the Watchtower Society to take note of their honest concerns and act on them in a positive way. Although it is clear that many ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses and non Witness critics will back this new movement, what has surprised observers is the amount of support apparently coming from many who identify themselves as “active” rank and file JWs. It’s clear from the recent chatter on message boards and forums frequented by both active and former JWs that there is a growing level of honest and intelligent concern about the direction the Governing Body is taking. This applies not only to the Governing Body’s questionable religious teachings, but also a growing rebellion against the way local elders and publishers are being affected by the hard-line policies recently laid down by Watchtower headquarters. Follow the links listed in the news release and you will soon find dozens of threads and comments on this new movement.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 27, 2011

Seeds of Dissent Appear
Within the Jehovah’s Witness Religion

Jehovah’s Witnesses are widely known as Bible carrying door-to-door evangelists with an unusual religious doctrine. They are the kids in your class who refuse to salute the flag or the co-worker who refuses to sing “Happy Birthday” at an office birthday party. This group is also known for their frequently shifting doctrinal stances on a number of important issues, including blood transfusions and Armageddon.

This religious group of over 7 million followers is led by a self-appointed committee of seven older men headquartered in Brooklyn, NY (USA). It is from there that the committee, known simply as the “Governing Body,” issues organizational and doctrinal direction for the entire Watchtower organization. Jehovah’s Witnesses are expected to follow direction coming from Brooklyn without question. Recently though, there has been increasing concern within the rank and file of the organization about the tone and content of the directives and teachings coming from this group of seven men.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are expected to have unity and harmony of thought and understanding of their unique teachings. To accomplish this, a strict regimen of education is used worldwide with 100,000 plus congregations studying the same catechistic material every week.  Individuals who no longer hold fast to every unique doctrine are quickly expelled from the congregations and shunned by their family and friends.  Some Witnesses are expelled because they speak out against practices and policies of the Governing Body.

This practice of enforcing unity through ad hominem attacks and threats of expulsion has resulted in a subculture of dissenters within the ranks. These individuals generally remain anonymous out of fear of excommunication, but include former and active Elders of the Congregation, as well as Circuit and District representatives.  They’ve resorted to making their concerns known though surreptitious methods on Internet message boards, through email, and in conversations with trusted friends.

Recently an Elder resigned as an Overseer and then wrote an “Open Letter to the Governing Body” of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In his letter he lays out the reasons he resigned as an Elder. They include “promotion of false prophecy,” and policies of hiding child molesters within the organization.  This letter was posted online at Ex-JW.com and Jehovahs-Witness.net. The response to his letter has been overwhelming from active Witnesses who agree with the sentiments expressed by this ex-Elder.

Several individuals have taken this letter of dissent and used it to start a campaign to reach as many active Witnesses as possible.  This caught the attention of the Governing Body who, instead of trying to respond publicly to the very real issues posed in the elder’s letter, have instead sent “cease and desist” letters to the email host of the campaigners.  The letter has also struck a chord with some Witnesses who also feel that the Governing Body is acting in an hypocritical and corrupt manner, promoting the interpretations and policies of men as “the sayings of God.”

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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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Registration Turned Off – and On

Due to a potential “denial of service” attack, I turned off subscriber registration services back on March 14, 2011.

Since then I’ve installed some new protective software that will allow normal registration to resume. We’ll see how it works over the next few weeks. There continue to be constant attacks by spammers and other nefarious hackers with nothing better to do than to try to disrupt the work of others. Sites like Ex-JW.com are especially vulnerable because there are those, including the Watchtower Society, who would love to shut us down any way they can – in ways legal or illegal – as they see fit.

——– from earlier version of this article ——-

Let’s face it: A lot of groups and individuals don’t like websites that expose the problems with the Watchtower Society and its followers, Jehovah’s Witnesses. Every so often, sites like this come under attack and must take defensive and protective measures to make sure that our servers are not damaged and that our readers are not endangered with computer viruses or spam.

Ex-JW.com has several built-in defenses and so far they have worked well. As editor and webmaster, I constantly monitor the site to look for any abnormality or attacks against the site. Unfortunately, all the best defenses in the industry can not protect this site or other against the constant barrage of attacks by spammers, hackers, and criminal organizations who dedicate themselves to damaging the work of others.

You can still comment and send messages through our comment form. I will reopen registration after I feel confident that the danger has passed. For most of you who have been subscribers for some time, your subscription status is still active.

I hope this does not discourage anyone from coming to this site, but I’ve taken this action to protect all of my readers, new and old.

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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