Jehovah’s Witnesses consider themselves Christians and hold conservative positions on social issues like abortion and gay marriage, but they are not like most members of the Religious Right. Although they spread their message door-to-door, Witnesses do not believe in using the coercive power of government to impose their beliefs on the rest of society.
“It is an interesting way how a group can exercise the First Amendment, and free speech and say a message on your doorstep. But if you don’t agree with that, it ends there,” says Engardio. “They don’t go behind your back and amend the Constitution or legislate their beliefs and force you to live a certain way, which some other religions try to do. To me it is an interesting way in how personal freedom and religious liberty can peacefully coexist.”
Although they are apolitical, Jehovah’s Witnesses often initiate litigation to protect free speech and the separation of church and state. They base this activism on the precedent set by
For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses brought a case before the Supreme Court protesting a
Engardio tells Rev. Gaddy that people do not need to feel afraid of Jehovah’s Witnesses. “If you are a gay man or a woman seeking the right to choose your reproductive freedom, the Witnesses may not agree with you, but they are not a threat,” he says. “They’re only speaking a message on your doorstep. But they have fought for the right for all of us to speak a message on any doorstep.”
Also on the show: Professor Susan Friend Harding, author of The Book of Jerry Falwell: Fundamentalist Language and Politics; Journalist Jeff Sharlett.
Interfaith Alliance celebrates religious freedom by championing individual rights, promoting policies that protect both religion and democracy, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism. Founded in 1994, Interfaith Alliance brings together members from 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition to protect faith and freedom. For more information visit interfaithalliance.org.