Cover image for Judging Jehovah's Witnesses : religious persecution and the dawn of the rights revolution
Judging Jehovah's Witnesses : religious persecution and the dawn of the rights revolution
Peters, Shawn Francis, 1966-
Publication Information:
Lawrence : University Press of Kansas, [2000]

Physical Description:
x, 342 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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BX8525.7 .P48 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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While millions of Americans fought the Nazis, liberty was under attack at home with the persecution of Jehovah's Witnesses who were intimidated and even imprisoned for refusing to salute the flag or serve in the armed forces. This study explores their defence of their First Amendment rights.

Author Notes

Shawn Francis Peters has taught writing and rhetoric at the universities of New Hampshire and Iowa and is currently with the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

With a journalistic eye, Peters (student service coordinator, Sch. of Journalism and Mass Communications, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison) presents the convergence of nationalistic paranoia, the distrust that erupted into violence, and palpable religious bigotry against the Jehovah's Witnesses during the 1930s and 1940s. Their desire to avoid idolatry in any form--including refusing to salute the flag or serve in the armed forces--was perceived by many as treason. During the war years of the 1940s this belief marked them as cowards at best, Nazi subversives at worst, and led to persecution. Ironically, while they fought a very public battle for their Constitutional rights, in their interior organization, theirs is one of the most theologically rigid and ideologically inflexible traditions. This legal history, in the vein of Harold Berman's Law and Revolution, tells us as much about the intricacies of jurisprudence as it does our own shameful past. This engrossing study depends primarily on firsthand testimony, ACLU documents, and legal briefs. Light on analysis but chock-full of primary resources, this is recommended reading for American and religious historians as well as for those interested in the history of persecution.--Sandra Collins, Univ. of Pittsburgh (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Peters (journalism and mass communications, Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison) has written a compelling and informative study of the personal and legal history of the struggle of Jehovah's Witnesses for religious freedom in the United States. He vividly weaves two narratives, one of the courageous and painful experiences of many individual Witnesses who stood up for their beliefs in the schoolroom, in prisons, and in numerous communities across the country, the other of the legal history of their fight for the constitutional right to express their religious beliefs. Witnesses hold religious beliefs that are often hostile to the narrowest forms of patriotism and publicize those beliefs in ways that some people find annoying. Nevertheless, their steadfast conviction that the Constitution gives them the right to practice their religion without undue constraint by the government has slowly gained support in US courts, including the Supreme Court. Peters's account of the Supreme Court's evolution in this area is fascinating but deeply disturbing, for it shows how long it took Witnesses to gain true religious freedom. Must reading for anyone interested in the relation of jurisprudence regarding church and state in the US. F. G. Kirkpatrick; Trinity College (CT)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introduction: A Turning Point for Religious Libertyp. 1
1. Jehovah is My God and the Bible Is My Creedp. 19
2. Felix's Fall-of-France Opinionp. 46
3. They're Traitors--the Supreme Court Says Sop. 72
4. A Shocking Episode of Intolerance in American Lifep. 96
5. Religious Persecutions Under the Guise of Lawp. 124
6. Starvation into Patriotismp. 153
7. Boundless Courage and Unending Perseverancep. 178
8. Fighting Wordsp. 203
9. Blot Removedp. 230
10. A Question of Personal Libertyp. 260
11. We Will Obey God First, Last, and All the Timep. 285
Notesp. 301
Bibliographyp. 327
Indexp. 333