Fundamental Freedoms and Jehovah's Witnesses

Fundamental Freedoms and Jehovah's Witnesses

Fundamental Freedoms and Jehovah's Witnesses

Fundamental Freedoms and Jehovah's Witnesses

Excerpt

When my family immigrated to Canada from England in 1954, Jehovah's Witnesses in Canada were in the midst of a series of important court battles that were to change the legal landscape of Canada forever. At that time my world was small and as an active Jehovah's Witness my world view even smaller. There were not many Witnesses in Canada in the 1950s, and I came to meet most of the principals involved in the Supreme Court of Canada cases which now are touted as being of central importance to the establishment and preservation of civil liberties in Canada. I met and heard first hand the experiences of Frank Roncarelli, Laurier Saumur, Leo Greenlees, Louise Lamb, and Aime Boucher. Saumur and Greenlees stayed with us frequently during their visits as "district overseers" for Jehovah's Witnesses. W. Glen How, still the official legal counsel of Jehovah's Witnesses in Canada, and his wife Margaret became close family friends.

Although most officially condoned persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses was a thing of the past by the 1950s, it persisted unofficially in the streets. Rarely did a day pass when I was not tormented by classmates for being a devout Jehovah's Witness. Teachers and students alike were unsympathetic with my bid to avoid cadet training and my steadfast refusal to sing or even stand for God Save the Queen. The recital of the Lord's Prayer with persons of other faiths was frowned upon by my religion, for although rival faiths called themselves Christian, we were taught that they were really members of "Christendom"—part of Babylon the Great, the symbolic scarlet harlot governed by Satan the Devil. Whenever a new blood transfusion case surfaced I could be sure to suffer a beating at the hands of my schoolmates, who did not respect the right to be different in matters as serious as religious belief. Intolerance was the order of the day.

Yet never far beneath the surface of my awareness of the world was the knowledge that Jehovah's Witnesses had had a hand in shaping the . . .

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