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Knocking


Read about it in Newsweek, USA Today and Christianity Today
Hear about it on NPR, Beliefnet and National Constitution Center podcast



KNOCKING opens the door on Jehovah's Witnesses. They are moral conservatives who stay out of politics and the Culture War, but they won a record number of court cases expanding freedom for everyone. They refuse blood transfusions on religious grounds, but they embrace the science behind bloodless surgery. In Nazi Germany, they could fight for Hitler or go to the concentration camps. They chose the camps. Following two families who stand firm for their controversial and misunderstood Christian faith, KNOCKING reveals how one unlikely religion helped to shape history beyond the doorstep.
I am Joel P. Engardio, Producer/Director of KNOCKING. You can contact me at joel@knocking.org or knockingdirector@msn.com.
Sincerely,
Joel P. Engardio






ABOUT JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES

JEHOVAH'S WITNESS HISTORY

Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916), the founder of what would become modern-day Jehovah's Witnesses, was born near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to a Presbyterian family. In July 1879 Russell launched Zion's Watch Tower and Herald of Christ's Presence -- known today as the Watchtower magazine. From a first edition of 6,000 copies, circulation quickly grew. In 1910 Russell established the International Bible Students Association (IBSA), creating the faint outlines of a distinct religious community. (The IBSA would later become known as Jehovah's Witnesses.)

JEHOVAH'S WITNESS HISTORY JEHOVAH'S WITNESS HISTORY

JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES AND CIVIL RIGHTS

At the time Jehovah's Witnesses brought several dozen cases to the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1930s and 1940s, the Court had handled few cases contesting laws that restricted free speech and religion. The First Amendment until then had been applied only to Congress and the federal government. The Witnesses brought a range of issues before the high Court, including mandatory flag salute, sedition, free speech, literature distribution and draft law. These cases proved to be pivotal moments in the formation of constitutional law. The decisions were all the more remarkable because the Court handed down many of them during periods of national crisis and war.

JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES AND CIVIL RIGHTS JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES AND CIVIL RIGHTS

JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES AND BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS

Headlines often reported about Witnesses and doctors locked in battle over the right to determine treatment. Witnesses sought good medical care, but they flatly refused blood transfusions for themselves and their children on religious grounds, even if critically sick or injured. Doctors, not wishing to be deprived of an important treatment option, sometimes refused to treat or operate on Witnesses. In cases of life-threatening illness or injuries, judges often issued emergency court orders, allowing doctors to override patient objections and transfuse if necessary. Witnesses too went to court, arguing for patient autonomy and the patient's right of informed consent. This tension between medical science and religious conviction created ethical dilemmas for medical professionals and Witness patients alike.

JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES AND BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES AND BLOOD TRANSFUSIONS

JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES AND THE HOLOCAUST

Jehovah's Witnesses numbered about 35,000 in Germany and Nazi-occupied lands. As they had before Hitler assumed power, they attempted to keep a "neutral" position toward politics, refusing to take part in Nazi rituals, elections or programs. Witnesses, young and old, would not join Nazi organizations, such as the Hitler Youth and the Nazi Party. When military service became mandatory, Witness males refused to be inducted because they would not kill. The Nazis arrested thousands of Witnesses, men and women. Many faced interrogations and torture. About 13,400 were sent to Nazi prisons and camps. Jehovah's Witness inmates were identified by purple triangles on their uniforms. Almost 2,000 Witnesses died during the Hitler years. Of that number were 270 Witness males, executed for refusing to join the German army.

JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES AND THE HOLOCAUST JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES AND THE HOLOCAUST

JEHOVAH'S WITNESS BELIEFS

They won't go to war or practice abortion, following the conviction that life is sacred. But they will risk their own lives in surgeries without blood because they say refusing blood transfusions pleases God. They fight for their rights in courts, but they keep out of politics. They go knocking to talk about Jesus, but they won't celebrate his birthday. They try to get people to join their faith, but they expect to share their ultimate reward of Earthly paradise with non-Witnesses. As visible as Jehovah's Witnesses are on doorsteps and street corners, with their Watchtower and Awake! magazines, people know surprisingly little about what they believe and why. In some ways Witnesses follow mainstream Christian thought. But much of their doctrine is unique among Christian faiths. Like most religions, the Witness belief system has evolved over time, molded by their developing interpretation of the Bible and by world events.

JEHOVAH'S WITNESS BELIEFS JEHOVAH'S WITNESS BELIEFS

JEHOVAH'S WITNESS COMMUNITY STRUCTURE

Jehovah's Witnesses are part of congregations, which meet in Kingdom Halls. This house of worship is not called a church. The Kingdom Hall is a simple building with chairs, classroom-style lighting and speaker's platform. There are no images, special furnishings or religious rituals. The congregation is the center of spiritual and social activity in the lives of most Witnesses.

JEHOVAH'S WITNESS COMMUNITY STRUCTURE JEHOVAH'S WITNESS COMMUNITY STRUCTURE

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