Freedom of Worship
1. (a) What did Jesus say regarding his disciples in relation to this world? (b) What does being no part of this world mean for Christians?
JESUS CHRIST said that, not only his kingdom was no part of this world, but also his disciples were no part of it either. In a final prayer with his apostles, Jesus said to God: “I have given your word to them, but the world has hated them, because they are no part of the world, just as I am no part of the world.” (John 17:14, 16) Jesus had previously told his disciples: “If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.” (John 15:19) The fact that true disciples of Jesus are no part of this world means more than that they keep absolutely neutral toward the squabbles, controversies and conflicts of the nations of this world. It means their being free and independent of this world, hence in no slavery to it. The pure worship of God into which they have been brought through the truth has given them liberty from this oppressive, corrupt world.
2. Does such Christian liberty mean freedom from subjection to the superior authorities, and how far does this matter go?
2 Bear in mind, however, one point: Their having this liberty because of the truth and the true worship of God does not mean that they are free from rendering any subjection to the political “superior authorities” of this world. No! Jesus said: “Pay back, therefore, Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (Matt. 22:21) And the apostle Paul said, in Romans 13:1-5: “Let every soul be in subjection to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except by God; the existing authorities stand placed in their relative positions by God. . . . There is therefore compelling reason for you people to be in subjection, not only on account of that wrath but also on account of your conscience.” Christian subjection to the superior authorities can thus be only a relative subjection. Subjection to the superior authorities cannot go so far as to violate Christian conscience and violate God’s truth as found in the Holy Bible.
3. (a) Does freedom from this world mean also for Christians freedom from persecution? (b) When were Christians denied freedom of worship in the Roman Empire?
3 Likewise, the fact that true Christians are no part of this world and have been set free from it does not mean that they will enjoy freedom of worship in this world. Because of Jewish religious opposition, Jesus Christ was put to death by the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate, but on the false charge of sedition. The apostle Paul was also accused of sedition and was imprisoned. These charges being political in the cases of Jesus and Paul, the Roman government did not proceed against them because of their religion. There was thus no depriving of them of the freedom of religion and of worship. At the time that Christianity was established in the years 29-33 C.E., there was freedom of worship in the Roman Empire. It was first after Rome was burned by the great fire of the year 64 C.E. that freedom of worship was denied to Christians. Faithful Christians refused to compromise and worship the Roman State or the Roman Emperor.
4, 5. (a) In lands where there was a state religion, how was refusal to render the religious rites viewed by the authorities? (b) Also, how was the right to teach other doctrines viewed, and why did rulers and clergy fear religious dissent?
4 Says The Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 17 of the 1929 edition, page 346, under the heading “LIBERTY, Religious”:
5 “It is hardly more than a century ago that it was finally conceded by the governing power that religion is not a state but a purely personal affair. Even at the present time this is not conceded in all countries. From time immemorial the state has had its religion as by law established, the idea being that the safety and welfare of the state depended upon the proper performance of the state religion. To protest and refuse to perform these religious rites was to become a disorderly and possibly a revolutionary element within the state. Thus the issue was joined, those in control of the government insisting that the public order and safety required all to worship according to the established religion and in no other way and in opposition to these an increasing number demanding as a divine right the freedom to worship according to the dictates of their own conscience. Something more than that is involved—and this is the most serious part of the trouble; the right of a person not only to worship but to teach, propagate the doctrines he believes true, so that others may be led to worship in his way. This, under the old system of state religion, plainly amounted to nothing less than a right to form a party within the state at variance with the state religion and the state government. . . . Thus the political rulers dreaded the revolutionary possibilities of religious dissent; and the ecclesiastical authorities feared that the freedom to teach heretical doctrines would lead the souls of men to perdition.”
6. Against whom has Portugal adopted such an attitude, and in one recent case what have her police done to these?
6 In those words The Encyclopedia Americana described the very attitude that the unitary corporative Republic of Portugal has adopted toward the Christian witnesses of Jehovah, even till this year 1966. What Portugal has been doing to Jehovah’s witnesses in her land and in Angola is common knowledge throughout the world. And so we are here free to comment publicly about Portugal’s conduct in this regard, even as others have already done. The Portuguese police, in one of recent cases, have arrested and brought into court forty-nine native witnesses of Jehovah. They have faced an accusation by the Magistrate of the Public Ministry. The bail allowed to them pending their trial and sentence was set at thousands of Portuguese escudos apiece. As you now listen to the accusation leveled against them, call to mind the Americana article just read on religious liberty. Here is what the accusation says:
7-12. What charges did the Portuguese Magistrate of the Public Ministry level against the arrested witnesses of Jehovah?
7 “All the accused are material authors of the crime against the internal security of the state, of instigation to collective disobedience, foreseen and punishable under Article 174 of the Penal Code, with the additional punishment outlined in Article 175 of the same Code, since the judicial proceedings accordingly show the following:
8 “The accused are ‘members’ of the sect named ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses,’ directed by the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, with head offices in New York, which they obey even to the smallest detail.
9 “They internationally develop various activities that expressly preach collective disobedience to the national laws of public order and to the legitimate orders of the authorities; the Fatherland, all the constituted powers and principally the Army, are, besides, false religions, the greatest creations of the kingdom of Satan that it is necessary to destroy; they consider themselves ambassadors of the Theocratic Kingdom and, as such, affirm that they should not obey the regulations of the authorities, participate in elections or collaborate in the public administration.
10 “The saluting of the National Flag is an act of idolatry and the soldier that fights for the Fatherland is an enemy of God, because he fights for Satan.
11 “They constitute a political movement, coming from various countries, with aims of disobedience, agitation and subversion of the popular masses and especially the youth of popular age.
12 “The Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society prohibits all the followers of the religious sect Jehovah’s Witnesses to fulfill military service. . . . ”
CASES REFUTING THE ACCUSATION
13. (a) Why would such Portuguese accusers, if back in the early centuries, have persecuted Christianity? (b) What in the Portuguese accusation would it be illegal for the Watch Tower Society to do?
13 In the face of such an accusation, it is not an exaggeration to say that if the Portuguese accusers of Jehovah’s witnesses were back in the early centuries of the true Christian church, they would have been among the persecutors of apostolic Christianity. Why so? Because the worldly histories of those times plainly report that the martyred Christians of the first and second centuries were banned, driven underground into catacombs, and imprisoned and executed with cruel tortures under the same accusations that the Portuguese authorities level against Jehovah’s witnesses of today. The Portuguese charges against them are nothing new, just as valid authentic history shows. And as for the accused Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, which was founded by Pastor Charles Taze Russell under the laws of the State of Pennsylvania in 1884, it would be doing something illegal in the land of America, where it was founded, if it interfered with and obstructed the military and defense operations of the domestic national government, not to speak of its encouraging such tactics by Jehovah’s witnesses in foreign lands like Portugal.
14, 15. (a) How was the then president and other representatives of the Watch Tower Society treated by the government in 1918? (b) What did the Americana say about this case and the religious issue?
14 Pastor Russell, the first president of the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, died October 31, 1916. The next year the United States of America got involved in World War I. Then the succeeding president and other prominent officials and representatives of the Watch Tower Society were accused in 1918 of interfering with war activities and being a threat to national security. They were imprisoned in the Federal penitentiary without benefit of appeal or admission to bail. The above-mentioned article of The Encyclopedia Americana (page 349) says as to this famous case:
15 “The practice of persecuting persons for dissent and heresy gradually went out of fashion. More and more frequently the courts ruled that it was not the business of law to prohibit a person from exercising his religious faith so long as it did not, as Blackstone put it, ‘threaten ruin or disturbance of the state.’ In the noted trial (1918) of the followers of Pastor Russell the court made it plain that religious freedom never could be stretched to confer the right to commit crime.”
16. (a) What did the Americana article fail to report about these eight accused representatives of the Watch Tower Society? (b) If the president, Judge Rutherford, had been a felon, what would the U.S. Supreme Court never have permitted?
16 This Americana article fails to report that these imprisoned associates of Pastor Russell were kept in prison for nine months and then released on bail in March of 1919 after an appeal of their case was granted. In the following year (1920) all eight were exonerated of all the false charges under which they had been railroaded into prison. They were legally proved to be no felons, no criminals threatening the peace, security and good order of the State.a And in the year 1940 the once imprisoned president of the Watch Tower Society, known as Judge Rutherford, who was a member of the legal Bar of the State of New York, was admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States in Washington, D.C., on April 25, 1940. Such a thing the Supreme Court would never have permitted if Judge Rutherford had been a felon.
17, 18. (a) On that occasion, what did the Supreme Court allow to Judge Rutherford and his associate? (b) In the close of his address, what did he say to the Court regarding conscience and being witnesses of Jehovah?
17 The Court even allowed to him and Professor Gardner of Harvard University an extension of time, to argue for an hour and a half in behalf of the famous Flag Salute case that involved the youthful son and daughter of a Pennsylvania family who refused to salute the American flag in the public school. In the close of his address to the Supreme Court, Judge Rutherford said:
18 “This is a matter that is sacred to every American who loves God and his Word. The members of this Court respect Jehovah God and I assume that they are desirous of serving Him, because in no other way can anyone gain life. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania can grant life to no one. The United States of America can grant life to no one, because Jehovah God is the fountain of life. ‘Salvation belongeth to Jehovah.’ The respondents in this case conscientiously relied upon the Bible. Their conscience is not to be controlled or interfered with by any human power, as stated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in its own Constitution. Therefore the decision of the trial court and of the Court of Appeals should be affirmed and thus make the members of this Court witnesses to the name, majesty, and supremacy of ‘the Most High, whose name alone is Jehovah.’”b
19. How did the Supreme Court handle this flag-salute case in 1940 and then in 1943?
19 In the midwar year of 1940 the Supreme Court rendered an adverse judgment by a vote of eight to one. But several years later the Court reconsidered its decision and on the national Flag Day, June 14, 1943, the Court reversed itself. It handed down a decision recognizing Christian conscience even when it considers the saluting of the flag of any country to be an act of idolatry and so a violation of God’s Supreme Law.—1 John 5:21; Ex. 20:1-5.c
GOD’S LAW CALLS FOR FIRST OBEDIENCE
20, 21. (a) What counsel does Psalm 2:10, 11 offer for kings and judges to follow today? (b) Why do the Witnesses not need the Watch Tower Society to tell them what to do in this regard, and the example of what apostle do they follow?
20 In the Second Psalm 2, verses ten and eleven, we read: “Now therefore be wise, O ye kings: Be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve Jehovah with fear, and rejoice with trembling.”—AS.
21 That Second Psalm 2 is being fulfilled in our day, since 1914. So it is high time for kings, presidents, dictators, rulers and judges of the earth to recognize that the Law of the Most High God is supreme, and that followers of his Son Jesus Christ must recognize God’s Law as supreme and obey it when there is a clash between the Law of God and the laws of men. The Christian witnesses of Jehovah in Portugal and everywhere else do not need the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society to tell them this; they have read it for themselves in the Portuguese Bible and in copies of the Bible in all the other languages in which it is published. And they need no priest of Christendom to interpret it for them. The apostle Peter, whom the Roman Catholic Church claims as its first pope, was the one who said to the Supreme Court in Jerusalem: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) And in this regard Jehovah’s witnesses everywhere follow the example of Peter.
22, 23. (a) What does the Britannica say regarding the aforementioned English jurist Blackstone? (b) What did Blackstone say as to the “law of nature . . . dictated by God himself” and human laws?
22 In the foregoing quotation from the Americana it mentions the eminent English jurist Sir William Blackstone of the years 1729-1780. In an article on this Blackstone, The Encyclopædia Britannica (eleventh edition), Volume 4, page 26, says: “He regarded the law of gravitation, the law of nature, and the law of England, as different examples of the same principle—as rules of action or conduct imposed by a superior power on its subjects.” Then the Britannica refers to this statement in Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England, in paragraph nine of its Introduction:
23 “This law of nature, being coeval with mankind, and dictated by God himself, is of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries, and at all times: no human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this; such of them as are valid derive all their force, and all their authority, mediately or immediately, from this original.”d
24. (a) In view of that, what shall we say regarding God’s written law? (b) What command for today do Jehovah’s witnesses carry out, and why cannot doing this be called seditious?
24 If what Blackstone says is true with regard to God’s law in “nature” or physical creation, where God’s law is not written readably, how much more is it true of God’s supreme law set out in writing in his inspired Book of freedom, The Holy Bible? The baptized witnesses of Jehovah are unreservedly dedicated to him, to walk in the footsteps of his Son Jesus Christ by imitating him and carrying out his commandments. This includes the prophetic command that Jesus gave in his prophecy on the “conclusion of the system of things,” saying: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24:14) When he foretold this Kingdom preaching world wide, Jesus was not telling his disciples to do anything that any nation can rightly call seditious.
WHO IS SERVING SATAN THE DEVIL?
25. Who is the “god of this world,” and whom is any nation serving when it persecutes Jehovah’s Christian witnesses?
25 Jesus Christ called Satan the Devil “the ruler of this world.” (John 12:31; 14:30) The apostle Paul called Satan the Devil “the god of this system of things.” (2 Cor. 4:4) And in the last book of the Bible, Jesus Christ pointed out to the apostle John that it is Satan the Devil that causes the persecution of those who observe God’s commandments and bear witness concerning Jesus. (Rev. 12:13-17) Accordingly, when any nation inside or outside Christendom engages in persecuting the Christian witnesses of Jehovah, whom is that nation really serving, Jehovah God or Satan the Devil? Just before his own death, Jesus told his disciples: “Men will expel you from the synagogue. In fact, the hour is coming when everyone that kills you will imagine he has rendered a sacred service to God.” (John 16:2) But this wrong imagination will not excuse the killer of true Christians.
26. (a) Who crowd the prisons of Christendom, but what do Jehovah’s witnesses do? (b) Even when persecuted, Jehovah’s witnesses act how toward the government responsible?
26 The religionists of Christendom are the ones who are crowding the prisons for breaking the laws of God as well as of men. But Jehovah’s witnesses are peacefully striving to help all peoples to gain everlasting life in God’s new order by preaching the good news of His long-prayed-for kingdom. Even when Jehovah’s witnesses are persecuted by the superior authorities of a nation, they do not rise up in armed rebellion or secretly conspire to subvert or overthrow the existing political government. For conscience’ sake they continue paying first God’s things to God and then Caesar’s things to Caesar. They accept the persecution as a test of their faithfulness and obedience to the Most High God. They leave it to God to take care of their persecutors when, shortly, he destroys Babylon the Great, and then her political paramours in the “war of the great day of God the Almighty” at Armageddon.—Rev. 16:13-16; 17:5.
27. (a) Though not enjoying religious freedom everywhere, Jehovah’s witnesses are still a liberated people in what way? (b) How do they keep this liberated state?
27 Although they may not everywhere enjoy freedom of worship, still Jehovah’s Christian witnesses are a liberated people. They strive to keep the liberty that their practice of the pure worship gives to them. (Jas. 1:27) They are determined to keep the freedom for which Christ has set them free. They well know that they are in the world, but, as Jesus has told them, they are no part of this world. They keep free from involvement in its active affairs that are meant to perpetuate this system of things whose certain end Jesus Christ foretold. (Matt. 24:3-22) They do not trust in this world or its princes. (Ps. 146:3-5) They do not let themselves become dependent upon this world so as to come under obligation to it to please it and become the slaves of men. As Jesus Christ told them in his Sermon on the Mount, they seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and trust in Jehovah God to provide all the other things necessary for them.—Matt. 6:33.
28. (a) For thousands of years, what has Jehovah God granted to nations that practice false worship? (b) When will this grant end, and what will be the case of religion afterward?
28 For thousands of years now the Most High God Jehovah has granted to the nations freedom of religion and worship, from the days of ancient Babylon till today. Soon now their freedom of practicing false worship will end with the destruction of these nations by God’s Messianic kingdom, for which true Christians pray in the Lord’s Prayer. (Matt. 6:9, 10) Then in the new order under God’s kingdom there will be full, unhindered freedom for the worship of the true God through Jesus Christ. This true worship will give obedient men the liberty of the earthly sons of God, forever!
a See the June 1, 1919, issue of The Watch Tower, page 162, under the heading “Convictions Reversed.” Also, the issue of June 1, 1920, page 162, under the heading “The Prosecution Ended.”
b See the magazine Consolation, No. 540, of May 29, 1940, pages 3-24, presenting the article entitled “Freedom.” Also, in No. 541, the article entitled “The Supreme Court on Trial.”
c The American Civil Liberties Union interested itself in this flag-salute case at the time, doubtless with some effect. Now the Sunday New York Times Magazine, in its issue of June 19, 1966, publishes an article entitled “The Fight for Civil Liberties Never Stays Won,” written by Gertrude Samuels; and on page 60 of the magazine the article features a large boxed-in section with the heading “Civil Liberties Landmarks.” Discussing these landmarks in chronological order, the article says, in its sixth paragraph: “1943 — Jehovah’s Witnesses: A.C.L.U.’s fight for the rights of this religious fellowship was finally won in the Supreme Court, which reversed its previous ruling that school children, such as Witnesses, could be expelled for refusing to salute the flag.”
d Pages 5, 6 of The American Students Blackstone - Commentaries on the Laws of England by Sir William Blackstone, Knight, with notes, and so forth, by George Chase, 4th edition, published by Baker, Voorhis and Company in New York, in 1938.
Pertinent to the above, on pages 966-969 Volume 2 of A Treatise on the Constitutional Limitations, by Thomas M. Cooley, L.L.D., 4th edition, as published in Boston in 1927, we read:
“Those things which are not lawful under any of the American constitutions may be stated thus:-
“1. Any law respecting an establishment of religion. . . .
“2. Compulsory support, by taxation or otherwise, of religious instruction. . . .
“3. Compulsory attendance upon religious worship. Whoever is not led by choice or a sense of duty to attend upon the ordinances of religion is not to be compelled to do so by the State. It is the province of the State to enforce, so far as it may be found practicable, the obligations and duties which the citizen may be under or may owe to his fellow-citizens or to society; but those which spring from the relations between himself and his Maker are to be enforced by the admonitions of the conscience, and not by the penalties of human laws. Indeed, as all real worship must essentially and necessarily consist in the free-will offering of adoration and gratitude by the creature to the Creator, human laws are obviously inadequate to incite or compel those external and voluntary emotions which shall induce it, and human penalties at most could only enforce the observance of idle ceremonies, which, when unwillingly performed, are alike valueless to the participants and devoid of all the elements of true worship.
“4. Restraints upon the free exercise of religion according to the dictates of the conscience. No external authority is to place itself between the finite being and the Infinite when the former is seeking to render the homage that is due, and in a mode which commends itself to his conscience and judgment as being suitable for him to render, and acceptable to its object. . . .
“5. Restraints upon the expression of religious belief. An earnest believer usually regards it as his duty to propagate his opinions, and to bring others to his views. To deprive him of this right is to take from him the power to perform what he considers a most sacred obligation.”