Menlo Park Kingdom Hall Lawsuit Dismissed

By the Editor

A federal judge dismissed the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall lawsuit last week due to filing and jurisdictional issues.

On January 6, 2012 the Chief Magistrate Judge for The United States District Court for Northern California, Maria-Elena James, dismissed a lawsuit filed in August 2010 by Jonathan Cobb Sr. and Walter Arlen St. Clair.

Readers of Ex-JW.com not familiar with this case should take time to read earlier articles outlining the events leading to the filing of this lawsuit along with the backgrounds of the plaintiffs and the defendants. You can find links to those articles by typing “Menlo Park” in the search box in the far right sidebar.

The judge’s decision to dismiss was not related to the issues in dispute or any of the civil or criminal acts alleged in the case. She dismissed the lawsuit due to the lack of federal jurisdiction over the issues involved. In her written opinion, she pointed out that her court did not have the authority to rule on most of the charges outlined in the plaintiffs lawsuit.

Judge James did not make any comments on the validity of the plaintiffs’ charges, nor was her ruling a vindication for the actions of any of the parties involved (including alleged criminal acts by the defendants). Instead, she ruled that the plaintiffs’ claims fell outside of the federal court’s jurisdiction, although some criminal and civil (torts) complaints might be successfully pursued in state courts. She also pointed out that because the plaintiffs had not asked for specific monetary damages (the court has a minimum threshold of $75,000 in these kinds of cases), their case did not meet those federal court guidelines.

You can read the judge’s written decision in full by clicking on this link or the one at the end of this article.

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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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Takeover in Menlo Park – Part One

A small group of Jehovah’s Witnesses, former elders at the Menlo Park (CA) Kingdom Hall, have filed a lawsuit in federal district court charging several ranking representatives of the Watchtower Society with “Conspiracy, Conspiracy to Commit Fraud, Collusion, Fraud, Extortion, Defamation, Mail and Wire Fraud, and Religious Fraud.” [United States District Court For the Northern District of California: CV10-3907 – click here to read the actual complaint as filed in court.]

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe, as all Christians do, that theft of another’s property, and then lying about it, is a sin. In fact, three of the Ten Commandments speak to this issue:

The 8th Commandment: “You shall not steal.”

The 9th Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

The 10th Commandment: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house…nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

For the most part, faithful Jehovah’s Witnesses try to live by these standards, even though they teach that Jesus replaced those Ten, and in fact all the Law of Moses, with just two commandments as recorded in Mark 12:30, 31:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

It’s clear that true Christians would not consider using theft, misrepresentation, outright lies, or illegal manipulation to take away the property of another brother – or anyone else. It would be considered a “sin” – a clear violation of the commandments of both the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. Baptized Jehovah’s Witnesses are often punished by being reproved or disfellowshipped for violation of those commandments, and that’s in addition to any secular legal penalties.

We might argue about some of the predictions, teachings, and practices of the Watchtower Society. But most of us, Jehovah’s Witnesses and non-Witnesses alike, would assume that every Christian should strive to follow those clear commandments. Most would agree that a “Christian” stealing from another brother is not really a “Christian” at all, but would be considered “an evil one, demon possessed, or serving Satan.”

Apparently the Watchtower Society’s leaders feel that they are not bound by the same rules that apply to rank and file Jehovah’s Witnesses. There have been many past examples, but the latest and most blatant violation by the Society of the Lord’s Commandments is taking place in Menlo Park, California (USA).

How Kingdom Halls were built and financed in the past

Like most Kingdom Halls built between 1945 and 1970, the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall was financed and managed by local Jehovah’s Witnesses. In order to hold the deed, order utilities, and meet local land use and building codes, a non-profit corporation was formed to hold title to the property. In most cases, little or no financing help was forthcoming from Bethel Headquarters in Brooklyn, NY. Any loans or mortgages were arranged locally, usually through a bank or a private party – often arranged with the original owner of the land or by a wealthy JW who was willing to guarantee the Note.

Trustees of the Kingdom Hall corporations were selected from among the local Kingdom Hall servants, and usually included the Congregation Servant, the Assistant Congregation Servant, and one or two others. If one of the Trustees left the Kingdom Hall for any reason, including death or disciplinary reasons, the Trustees would nominate a replacement. The nominee would be announced to the assembled congregation and a vote was taken to affirm the appointment.

Local contributions and donations paid for the mortgage, utility bills, insurance, and maintenance. The Watchtower Society rarely assisted local congregations financially, except in very extreme situations not fully covered by the Hall’s insurance policies.

Menlo Park’s Kingdom Hall

This was basically the method used to build the Menlo Park Kingdom Hall. The local brothers and sisters OWNED the Hall at 811 Bay Road, just a stone’s throw from the Bayshore Freeway (US 101). There was easy access to the Hall from surrounding communities. It was the “parent” of several other local Kingdom Halls built over the next 50 years. As the local community grew, so did Jehovah’s Witnesses within the region.

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