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Watchtower Society and Donations

B J Kotwall

(Investigator 73, 2000 July)


The Watchtower Society (WTS) has often criticized other churches for passing collection plates during meetings. Churches that organize bingo, party games and other fund-raising efforts have also been repeatedly condemned.

At the same time the WTS has emphasized that Jehovah's Witnesses do not solicit donations!

Comments like the following were common in WTS publications like The Watchtower (WT) and Awake! before 1990.
 

w1987 12/1 30-31
'Where do such funds come from?' is an often-asked question. Unlike the churches of Christendom, Jehovah's Witnesses do not take up collections or send out envelopes to solicit donations. Rather, contribution boxes – like the treasury chests of Biblical times – are set up at their Kingdom Halls.

g1975 9/8 26
…is it not a comfort for them to know that in the local congregation of Jehovah's witnesses they will never be tithed to pay out a percentage of their income? Nor will unscriptural money-raising schemes be imposed on them. It is at the Kingdom Hall that an unobtrusive contribution box is located for use by those who wish voluntarily to give money to support the work of the congregation. Donations mailed to the headquarters of the Watch Tower Society are also unsolicited and entirely voluntary.

w1974 9/15 559
The Kingdom Halls of this happy group are open to you and you may attend free of charge, without having to suffer embarrassment by a request for contributions or the passing of a collection plate.

w1971 8/15 506
The emphasis in all giving among the Witnesses is that it must be voluntary and spontaneous, from the heart. In fact, ever since the earliest days of the modern witnesses of Jehovah it has been their policy that never should there be any passing of collection plates or similar solicitations for money.

w1962 5/1 278 How May I Contribute?
Jehovah's witnesses have never gone begging for finances.

Boasts like the above stopped after 1990. Why? Because the WTS began to openly solicit donations not only from its own people but also door to door from the public – and not only on Sundays but every day! How did this happen?

The California Board of Equalization wanted to assess sales tax on the sale of books, tapes and other items by the Jimmy Swaggart ministry.

The WTS filed amicus curiae (a friend of the court legal brief) in support of Swaggart's stance that a religious organization should be exempt from such taxation. (The WTS considers all other religions to be under the influence of the devil, but in this case it joined hands with the devil!). On January 17, 1990 the Supreme Court in California Board of Equalization vs. Jimmy Swaggart Ministries ruled against Swaggart.

One month after the Supreme Court ruling the WTS announced a new policy – that in the USA its literature which was heretofore sold at a fixed price should be offered free to the public and a donation solicited.

The WTS introduced this new donations policy evidently to avoid tax on the sale of its publications. Asking for donations – something condemned for a century – had become acceptable.

Moreover, detailed appeals for donations appeared in WTS publications. Notice how no avenue is left uncovered:
 

How Some Make Donations to the Kingdom-Preaching Work

• CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE WORLDWIDE WORK: Many set aside or budget an amount that they place in the contribution boxes labeled: "Contributions for the Society's Worldwide Work – Matthew 24:14." Each month congregations forward these amounts either to the world headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, or to the nearest branch office.

• GIFTS: Voluntary donations of money may be sent directly to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 25 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, New York 11201-2483, or to the Society's office that serves your country. Jewelry or other valuables may also be donated. A brief letter stating that such is an outright gift should accompany these contributions.

• CONDITIONAL-DONATION ARRANGEMENT: Money may be given to the Watch Tower Society to be held in trust until the donor's death, with the provision that in the case of personal need, it will be returned to the donor.

• INSURANCE: The Watch Tower Society may be named as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy or in a retirement/pension plan. The Society should be informed of any such arrangement.

• BANK ACCOUNTS: Bank accounts, certificates of deposit, or individual retirement accounts may be placed in trust for or made payable on death to the Watch Tower Society, in accord with local bank requirements. The Society should be informed of any such arrangements.

• STOCKS AND BONDS: Stocks and bonds may be donated to the Watch Tower Society either as an outright gift or under an arrangement whereby the income continues to be paid to the donor.

• REAL ESTATE: Salable real estate may be donated to the Watch Tower Society either by making an outright gift or by reserving a life estate to the donor, who can continue to live therein during his or her lifetime. One should contact the Society before deeding any real estate to the Society.

• WILLS AND TRUSTS: Property or money may be bequeathed to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania by means of a legally executed will, or the Society may be named as a beneficiary of a trust agreement. A trust benefiting a religious organization may provide certain tax advantages. A copy of the will or trust agreement should be sent to the Society.

• PLANNED GIVING: The Society has assembled information on "Planned Giving." Those who are planning to make a special gift to the Society now or to leave a bequest at death may find this information helpful. That is especially true if they wish to accomplish some family goal or estate-planning objective while using tax benefits to minimize the cost of the gift or bequest. This information can be obtained by writing to the Society at the address shown below.
(The Watchtower 1994 12/1 page 19)

With shameless appeals like this, one wonders how the WTS could ever have chided other churches! And one wonders how many JWs have willed their few possessions to the multi-billion dollar WTS while leaving their own dependents stranded.

A further point is that 6 million JWs donate their time to distribute WTS publications door to door in what is called "field service" or "witnessing" or "ministry". This activity is said to be "voluntary" but the teaching is that JWs who don't do it will be executed by God at Armageddon. JWs who regularly miss field service for entire months also face ostracism in their congregation and – if they try to justify their slackness – excommunication.

Despite WTS writers often implying that the main source of funding is "contribution boxes" in Kingdom Halls, most comes from the efforts of six million JWs who trudge the streets and knock on doors to offer WTS literature.

Furthermore, these same JWs are obliged to buy personal copies of all magazines and books the WTS puts out. The WTS has millions of captive buyers expected to purchase the publications without even looking at the contents!

The WTS produces its literature at minimal cost. Materials are bought in bulk and every step in production is by "volunteers".

Whereas free-literature-for-donations came into force in the USA in 1990, it came into effect in Australia from January 1, 2000. Apparently, the Goods and Services Tax, effective in Australia from July 1, 2000, was the catalyst.


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