By Stephan E. Wolf.
From Ex ZJ Infolink, Infoservice of the Network of Former Jehova's Witnesses in Germany, November, 1998.
CESNUR, an organisation based in Turin, Italy, is known in professional circles as the "cult cartel". It is the meeting point for anyone with a name and a position in the international cult scene. One of them is the Watchtower Society, which appeared in the official program of the CESNUR conference in September 1998, next to Scientology, the Mormons and the Moonies.
The conference agenda included a report on the subject «Jehova's Witnesses: sociological and legal perspectives'». Paris lawyer Alain Garay was supposed to talk about «The Bulgarian Jehovah's Witnesses and the European Court of Human Rights»'. Lawyer Carolyn R. Wah from Patterson, New York, was scheduled to appear too; her lecture was titled «Jehovah's Witnesses: Patterns and Trends in Relationships with Public Authorities».
None of this took place though. The WTS called back its speakers at the last minute, so that Jehova's Witnesses did not take part to the 1998 CESNUR conference.
A former Jehova's Witness asked CESNUR about the reasons for cancelling WTS. The organisation declared in a written note that the world headquarters of the Watchtower Society in Brooklyn, New York, had decided to pull out of the conference after its participation was made public.
The reason for such a decision was an article in the American periodical Comments from the Friends, published by ex-Jehova's Witness David Reed, which has a wide diffusion the US.
The title of the article, which can also be found in the magazine's Website, is «Jehovah's Witnesses join interfaith efforts in U.S. and Europe». It refers to the WTS declaration according to which Jehova's Witnesses «do not belong to this world» and would therefore not stoop to the same level as «false religions», and wondered how the participation of Watchtower representatives in the CESNUR conference together with Scientology, the Moonies, the New Age movement and occult groupings could be in harmony with their religious doctrine.
Even InfoLink had already pointed out in an article the participation of Watchtower representatives in the eve of the conference.
Those who follow the activities of the WTS with open eyes know that Brooklyn never took its own faith principles very seriously when it came to defending its own interests. So they apparently had no problem in siding up to controversial TV-preacher Jim Swaggart to avoid taxation of their literature. Stage discussions were organized In Germany about the role of Jehova's Witnesses in the Third Reich, where religion scholar Dr. Gabriele Yonan presented a patronizing report - although people were aware that she was a Scientologist (or at any rate very close to Scientologists), who even falsely designed herself as a collaborator of the Free University of Berlin.
The fact that the responsibles in Brooklyn felt the pangs of conscience at the last minute, or got "increased knowledge", can be comfortably excluded because of this past examples. It is much more probable that participation to the CESNUR conference had become too hot an issue after the question was given such an unexpected publicity.
As it seems, CESNUR will not drop the question. On November 3 1998, in fact, David Reed received a notification from a law firm in Salt Lake City, Utah, communicating with reference to his article in Comments from the Friends:
«It is apparent that you attempted to intimidate, through this misrepresentation, various persons from participating in the conference. As a result of this misrepresentation, CESNUR, its directors and officers have suffered damages.» The notification does not state which declarations in the article are considered «misrepresentations», nor the kind of damage referred to.
The letter ended with a disclaimer request: «Otherwise, CESNUR will take whatever action it deems appropriate in the United States and in Europe.»
The case brings to mind CAN, the American former
Cult Awareness Network, which was flooded with complains from Scientology
for a long time, until it went financially bankrupt and had to discontinue
its activities. Today, phone calls at the CAN hotline are answered by an
office of Scientology...