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 is a network of people of diverse faiths and beliefs from across the country working together to build a resilient democracy and fulfill America’s promise of religious freedom and civil rights not just for some, but for all. We mobilize powerful coalitions to challenge Christian nationalism and religious extremism, while fostering a better understanding of the healthy boundaries between religion and government. We advocate at all levels of government for an equitable and just America where the freedoms of belief and religious practice are protected, and where all persons are treated with dignity and have the opportunity to thrive. For more information visit interfaithalliance.org.