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Jehovah’s Witnesses at natural disasters seeking only their own: A first-person report

A couple of times recently in our discussions with Lloyd Evans, the issue of Jehovah’s Witnesses and natural disasters has come up. Jehovah’s Witnesses are obsessed with the idea that a bloody, global apocalypse is imminent, and so we’ve wondered how the organization is dealing with the actual localized catastrophes that come up from time to time.

We did notice that at the website, there’s a section for us reporters called the “newsroom,” and it struck us how many of the press releases being put out by the organization had to do with counting the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses had been affected by an earthquake somewhere, or some other calamity. And then, we happened to receive this very interesting story from a reader named Michael Paddock, who agreed to let us share it with you.

Michael Paddock: I was raised as a JW, and I lived totally convinced it was the truth until a couple of years ago. I served as a pioneer/elder and was invited to be a substitute C.O. So, I’ve seen some interesting things. One of the more puzzling periods of my serving as an elder involved the relief work done in connection with Hurricane Katrina. I lived in Dallas at the time and many survivors were coming into our area. The relief committee was focused on trying to find as many as possible. One of the areas we were tasked with searching was Red Cross shelters. To do this, my wife and I were sent to volunteer at the Red Cross, which involved several hours of training as to their way of handling things. The Red Cross are very concerned with protecting those under their charge and limit any outside contact, for their safety. So, it was necessary for us to become full-fledged members of the Red Cross.

We went through the training and were given special badges that would allow us access. Instead of actually volunteering and helping people, the relief committee tasked us with going to all of the shelters in the area and sneaking in, looking for any JWs staying there. We posted flyers and asked around surreptitiously trying to find people. We made the mistake of talking to the head of the Red Cross in Dallas to explain what we were doing. She immediately became suspicious of us and we were not able to gain access as freely as before. We never actually found any JWs.


The thing that is strange and hypocritical is that Watchtower will condemn an organization like the Red Cross because of its imagined ties to false religion. They speak about how getting involved in volunteer organizations is a waste of time and shows that we are trying to fix Satan’s world instead of working for God’s Kingdom. Yet, they specifically assigned us to volunteer and go through training that would normally get someone in trouble.

To me, it shows how two-faced the org can be. They preach one thing until it’s inconvenient or hinders their “higher purpose.” In effect, we were given an endorsement to lie to the Red Cross about who we were, why we were there and what we were trying to do. There was no humanitarian purpose to our volunteering. We were there to exclusively help one group of people that qualified for the org’s beneficence.

I just wanted to send this tidbit in case you ever start looking that the deceptive way members are directed to violate standards that are set for all JWs, if it serves their purpose.

The Bunker: You story interested us in part because we had noticed how the website has reports on various natural disasters around the world, and they tend to focus on the number of Witnesses involved. Like, “Witness family survives earthquake that kills thousands,” etc. Your account suggests that they are looking to single out people like that. Strange.

Michael: Exactly. When there is a natural disaster or anything like it, they want reports about JWs affected. Even the recent airline crash prompted a story about a JW that was killed, not the others on the plane. JWs lives are more important to them that anyone else. The other angle on this story is the blood issue. The Red Cross is one of the biggest collectors of blood for blood banks. When we were there for training, they were having a blood drive. It really bothered my conscience at the time, that I was being asked to join an organization that was involved in blood drives. But, since it was for the higher purpose of finding JWs, I was told it was fine. Personally, I felt guilty and had to wrestle with my conscience but, I stayed loyal to the org and did as I was told.

The Bunker: Michael, thank you very much for sharing your story, and for putting your name on it.


Posted by Tony Ortega on April 7, 2019 at 12:00

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Tony Ortega is a journalist who was formerly the editor of The Village Voice. He’s written about Scientology since 1995, and in May 2015 released a book about Scientology’s harassment of Paulette Cooper titled ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely,’ and more recently a compilation of his stories, ‘Battlefield Scientology.’ He continues to monitor breaking developments in the Scientology world, as well as other subjects such as Jehovah’s Witnesses. You can reach him by sending him a message at tonyo94 AT (Drop him a line if you’d like to get an e-mail whenever a new story is posted.)


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