Menlo Park: Elder Tells All – 3

This is the last segment of this series of articles about the Kingdom Hall takeover scandal in Menlo Park, California.

Two different court documents form the basis of Jason Cobb’s testimony covered in this article. Both are long and detailed, but always engaging. Many active and former Jehovah’s Witnesses will be shocked as they read about the events that have taken place in the once peaceful little Kingdom Hall located halfway between San Jose and San Francisco.

Amazingly, after two years this case is still in the courts and the players on both sides are still in the game. This battle could go on for many years.

I leave it to our readers to judge for themselves as to who wears the “black hats” in this case. Was the Watchtower Society behind a scheme to grab ownership of a valuable piece of real estate worth an estimated $2.5 million? What was behind the assignments of Paul Koehler and Steve Misterfield to that circuit? Who was it that generated the publisher transfer request for a sister who did not want to move from Menlo Park (where she lived) to Santa Rosa (where she worked) – in direct violation of the Watchtower’s own guidance?

Ex-JW.com will continue to report on this amazing story for as long as it lasts. No matter who wins or loses, the facts and details of this story will continue to reveal new information about what the Watchtower Society is willing to do to extend its control over its followers.

As editor, all I can say is “follow the money.” Who stands to make millions of dollars when the dust settles? Who has the most to lose?

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Menlo Park: Elder Tells All – 2

Jason Cobb was one of the four elders serving in the Menlo Park (California) Kingdom Hall dismissed from their “theocratic assignments” effective July 1, 2010. For reasons of his own, Jason chose not to take part as a plaintiff in a federal lawsuit filed the following August by his father, Jonathan Cobb Sr., and fellow elder Walter Arlen St. Clair. (See San Francisco Federal District Court, case 3:10-cv-03907-MEJ).

Wanting to stay an active Jehovah’s Witness in good standing, Jason tried to keep a low profile as he continued to attend meetings and field service. But he also worked on the sidelines in support of his father and Arlen St. Clair as they fought to restore their reputations within the congregation.

In spite of his efforts, he soon found himself drawn into the battle. It was obvious that there was far more going on behind the scenes during the takeover of his Kingdom Hall. This was turning out to be more complicated than just a simple merger with the Redwood City congregation. Even though he was still confused about the real reasons for his dismissal as Coordinator of the Board of Elders (CoBOE), he knew that something was just not right about how the takeover was being handled.

As an elder, he’d served the congregation as an officer of the non-profit corporation holding the title to Kingdom Hall and the land it sat on. As a corporate officer, he and other elders were responsible for the maintenance of the building and protecting the monetary assets of the congregation. At regular intervals, he and the other officers would report to the members of the congregation on the status of bank accounts, the overall condition of the Kingdom Hall, and other corporate business.

Within weeks after his father and St. Clair filed the federal lawsuit, Jason Cobb had to begin a fight to save his own reputation. This forced him to file police reports and a parallel lawsuit in the California state courts.

That’s a little background to get you started. But I’m going to let Jason Cobb tell his side of the story in his own way. You get to read the transcripts of both of his depositions as a witness in the federal court case. I urge you to get comfortable, enlarge the documents on your computer screen (for most web browsers use “Ctrl +”), and settle in for a fascinating read. I’ll try to make it easier for you by putting the documents and exhibits in sequence when possible as the story progresses.

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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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