Joined: 3 Jun 2007
article about JWs not voting...
Why Don't Jehovah's Witnesses Vote?
Because they're representatives of God's heavenly kingdom.
By Jacob Leibenluft
Posted Thursday, June 26, 2008, at 6:39 PM ET
Serena Williams told reporters at Wimbledon on Wednesday that she's excited about Barack
Obama's candidacy but won't vote for him because Jehovah's Witnesses "don't get involved
in politics." Her sister Venus—who is also a Jehovah's Witness—wouldn't even comment on
the presidential election. Why don't Jehovah's Witnesses vote?
Because of John 17:14 and other passages in the Bible. In that verse, Jesus says of his
followers: "They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world." Jehovah's Witnesses
have interpreted that statement as a call to remain neutral in all political matters. (In
some of the sect's literature, members are described as "representatives of God's heavenly
kingdom"; they are thus obligated to stay out of local political affairs in keeping with
the behavior of ambassadors.) Witnesses also refrain from serving in the military, running
for public office, and pledging allegiance to the flag.
Voting is not expressly prohibited, but it is discouraged. The Watchtower, the official
publication of the Jehovah's Witnesses, ran an article in 1999 suggesting that the
decision whether to vote was one of personal conscience, although it carefully laid out
reasons for staying out of the voting booth. In reference to countries that require all
citizens to show up at the ballot box, the Watchtower has explained that "[w]here Caesar
makes it compulsory for citizens to vote … [Jehovah's Witnesses] can go to the polls and
enter the voting booths," but the Watchtower did not specify what Witnesses should do with
the ballot itself. According to some, the requirement for political neutrality led to the
violent persecution of Witnesses in Malawi during the late 1960s and early 1970s, when
adherents refused to register with the ruling Congress Party.
Most Jehovah's Witnesses in America do, in fact, abstain from voting. According to a
survey released this week by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, the religious
group is far more likely than any other to believe that there is only one true way to
interpret religious teachings. In keeping with that adherence, just 13 percent reported
they were registered to vote.
While Witnesses have shied away from electoral politics, they have left a strong mark on
the judicial branch: The group has brought several dozen civil-liberties cases before the
Supreme Court, including a famous 1943 case over whether Jehovah's Witnesses could be
forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in schools.
Jehovah's Witnesses are by far the largest religious group that refuses to vote, but they
are not the only ones: Old Order Amish, Christadelphians, and Rastafarians have all
traditionally shunned politics. (In the case of both the Amish and the Rastafarians,
though, attitudes have changed a bit in the last few years.) Nationally, about 2 percent
of people who don't register to vote cite religious reasons. If Jehovah's Witnesses did
vote, they probably wouldn't form a large bloc anyway: the group makes up less than 1
percent of the U.S. population and is widely distributed across the country.