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A Former Member Sues His Church For Disfellowship

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Mr. Wall was a member of the Highwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, in Alberta, Canada.  He was dis-fellowshipped by a Judicial Committee of elders because he was not sufficiently repentant for two incidents of drunkenness, one of which included verbal abuse of his wife.  He was shunned by the congregation. As a real estate agent, he lost congregation members and other Jehovah’s Witnesses as clients. He appealed to internal church authorities for reconsideration but failed.  Then he decided to go to the regular law courts for compensation for his alleged mistreatment by the church. Justice Wilson of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta ruled that the Court had jurisdiction to hear Mr. Wall’s application for judicial review. The Church lost its appeal at the Alberta Court of Appeal and has now appealed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Alberta Court of Appeal (ABCA) decision raises a number of questions that have to be resolved.  Generally speaking, courts have been loathed to get involved in church disputes. Courts have no expertise in dealing with theological matters that are often the underlying cause of why members of a church are asked (or told) to leave. Imagine a court discussing topics like the proper understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity; or the process of salvation. Such matters are not part of the law school curriculum. The point is, a court is incompetent in dealing with religious disputes.

The majority of the ABCA decided that the courts have jurisdiction over procedural matters – basically ensuring that the parties were treated fairly.  In law, we call it issues of “natural justice.”  That is to say, the law protects people in organisations to the extent that the organisations own internal rules of procedure were properly followed.  There is a reasonable argument to be made for that position.  However, a church is not a public body that should be subject to judicial review.

The ABCA was also of the view that a church could be sued for the economic loss a member incurred as a result of expulsion. This is new ground for Canadian law – new ground for any law of a western democracy.  Membership in a religious community is voluntary. No one is forced to stay. If a person is no longer willing to abide by the teachings then they are free to go and make their way elsewhere.  If that person limited his business to only those within the church community and subsequently finds that none of his former co-religionists will do business with him that is not the congregation’s responsibility. He took that risk himself when he so limited his business.

Religious communities have been immune from litigation of former members who were asked to leave. Membership in a religious community is privilege not a right. Allowing courts the jurisdiction to hear judicial review applications of such matters will entangle the court unnecessarily in the internal affairs of religion. If a court is granted the right to hear such a review it is then able to grant orders of relief against the religious community for making religious decisions about membership. The law has no business there.

The SCC is scheduled to hold its hearing on November 2, 2017. 

Case name:  Re:  Wall v. Judicial Committee of the Highwood Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 2016 ABCA 255 (37273)  (Wall Case)

http://leidenlawblog.nl/articles/a-former-member-sues-his-church-for-disfellowship

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    • By Jack Ryan
      This comes from the final talk at the Birmingham, AL Convention. Herd talks kind of low and there is some background noise, so here is a transcript starting at about 1:25.
      I thought this was interesting because it doesn't appear to be in the talk outline. Admittedly, I just skimmed through the outline quickly, so it might be in there. Either way, there is something twisted about comparing the shunning of children to casting out demons from heaven.
      Edit: For those wondering, this talk is from August 5. The part before when the transcript starts is Herd talking about King Asa removing his grandmother from her position.
    • Guest Nicole
    • Guest Nicole
      By Guest Nicole
      The Supreme Court of Canada Thursday heard arguments in a fight over a church’s “shunning” practice, and said it would release a ruling later, but the congregation involved and several other groups argued that the justices had no right to even take part in the fight.
      The fight is between Randy Wall, a real estate agent, and the Highwood congregation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization in Calgary.
      Wall was expelled from the congregation for getting drunk and not be properly repentant, court records said. He pursued a church appeals process, unsuccessfully, then went to court because he said the church’s “shunning,” that is, practice of not associating with him in any way, hurt his business.
      He explained his two occasions of drunkenness related to “the previous expulsion by the congregation of his 15-year-old daughter.”
      A lower court opinion explained, “Even though the daughter was a dependent child living at home, it was a mandatory church edict that the entire family shun aspects of their relationship with her. The respondent said the edicts of the church pressured the family to evict their daughter from the family home. This led to … much distress in the family.”
      The “much distress” eventually resulted in his drunkenness, Wall said.
      See the WND Superstore’s collection of Bibles, including the stunning 1599 Geneva Bible.
      Wall submitted to the court arguments that about half his client base, members of various Jehovah’s Witnesses congregations, then refused to conduct business with him. He alleged the “disfellowship had an economic impact on the respondent.”
      During high court arguments Thursday, the congregation asked the justices to say that congregations are immune to such claims in the judicial system.
      The lower courts had ruled that the courts could play a role in determining if, and when, such circumstances rise to the level of violating civil rights or injuring a “disfellowshipped” party.
      The rulings from the Court of Queen’s Bench and the Alberta Court of Appeals said Wall’s case was subject to secular court jurisdiction.
      A multitude of religious and political organizations joined with the congregation in arguing that the Canada’s courts should not be involved.
      The Justice Center for Constitutional Freedoms said in a filing, “The wish or desire of one person to associate with an unwilling person (or an unwilling group) is not a legal right of any kind. For a court, or the government, to support such a ‘right’ violates the right of self-determination of the unwilling parties.”
      Previous case law has confirmed the ability of religious or private voluntary groups to govern themselves and dictate who can be a member.
      But previously rulings also reveal there is room for the court system to intervene when the question is one of property or civil rights.
      The Association for Reformed Political Action, described the case as having “profound implications for the separation of church and state.”
      Its position is that the court should keep hands off the argument.
      “Secular judges have no authority and no expertise to review a church membership decision,” said a statement from Andre Schutten, a spokesman for the group. “Church discipline is a spiritual matter falling within spiritual jurisdiction, not a legal matter falling within the courts’ civil jurisdiction. The courts should not interfere.”
      John Sikkema, staff lawyer for ARPA, said, “The issue in this appeal is jurisdiction. A state actor, including a court, must never go beyond its jurisdiction. The Supreme Court must consider what kind of authority the courts can or cannot legitimately claim. We argue that the civil government and churches each have limited and distinct spheres of authority. This basic distinction between civil and spiritual jurisdiction is a source of freedom and religious pluralism and a guard against civic totalism.”
      He continued, “Should the judiciary have the authority to decide who gets to become or remain a church member? Does the judiciary have the authority to decide who does or does not get to participate in the sacraments? Church discipline is a spiritual matter falling within spiritual jurisdiction, not a legal matter falling within the courts’ civil jurisdiction. The courts should not interfere. Here we need separation of church and state.”
      The Alberta Court of Appeal, however, suggested the fight was about more than ecclesiastical rules.
      “Because Jehovah’s Witnesses shun disfellowshipped members, his wife, other children and other Jehovah’s Witnesses were compelled to shun him,” that lower court decision said. “The respondent asked the appeal committee to consider the mental and emotional distress he and his family were under as a result of his duaghter’s disfellowship.”
      The church committee concluded he was “not sufficiently repentant.”
      The ruling said “the only basis for establishing jurisdiction over a decision of the church is when the complaint involves property and civil rights,” and that is what Wall alleged.
      “Accordingly, a court has jurisdiction to review the decision of a religious organization when a breach of the rules of natural justice is alleged.”
       
       
    • By The Librarian
      OTTAWA -- The Supreme Court of Canada says a Jehovah's Witness who was expelled from his Calgary congregation cannot take his case to a judge.
      In a decision today, the high court says the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench has no jurisdiction to review the congregation's decision to shun Randy Wall over alleged drunkenness and verbal abuse.
      Several religious organizations took an active interest in the case, given questions about the degree to which the courts can review such decisions by faith-based bodies.
      Wall, an independent realtor, was summoned in 2014 to appear before the judicial committee of the Highwood Congregation of Jehovah's Witnesses, a four-person panel of elders.
      He admitted to two episodes of drunkenness and, on one of those occasions, verbally abusing his wife -- wrongdoing he attributed to family stress over the earlier expulsion of his 15-year old daughter from the congregation.
      The judicial committee told Wall that he, too, would be expelled because he was not sufficiently repentant.
      https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/jehovah-s-witness-cannot-appeal-expulsion-to-a-judge-supreme-court-1.3953336
    • By Jack Ryan
      Mike MartindaleUpdated 6:11 p.m. ET Feb. 16, 2018 Keego Harbor Â— A quiet residential street became a horrific crime scene Friday with news that four people — a couple and their adult children — died in what police are describing as a triple murder-suicide.

      By late afternoon, some yellow police crime scene tape remained around the two-story wood frame bungalow in the 2300 block of Cass Lake Road where police were sent about 8:10 a.m. on a welfare check after a relative became worried about the family, Keego Harbor Police Chief John Fitzgerald said.
      One of four bodies is removed from the home of the 2300 block of Cass Lake Road. (Photo: Clarence Tabb Jr., The Detroit News)
      “A relative had concerns and asked us to look into it,” said Fitzgerald. “It’s tragic and our thoughts and prayers are with the family.”
      Inside the house officers found four bodies who neighbors identified as Daniel Stuart, 47, his wife, Lauren, 45, and their children, Bethany, 24, and Steven, 27.
      Fitzgerald said the “perpetrator” was among the dead but would not provide details other than to stress “we think we know what happened here and there is no danger to neighbors.”
      Fitzgerald said police have recovered what is believed to be the murder weapon but would not elaborate. He said all the deaths remain under investigation.
      Keego Harbor Police Chief John Fitzgerald briefs the media on the murder-suicide. (Photo: Clarence Tabb Jr., The Detroit News)
      Neighbors John and Jackie Tristani said they awoke Friday to learn police were outside the victimsÂ’ home.
      “My son said police were repeatedly calling out ‘Lauren, come outside,’ " said John Tristani. “When she didn’t respond they (police) went inside. A few minutes later, they came back outside, shaking their heads.”
      Tristani said he had been watching television late Thursday night and never heard anything from the Stuarts' home.
      Sources close to the investigation said the family pet, a dog, was also slain by the killer. Investigators also found a note which may help explain what led up to the deaths. They would not discuss its contents.
      The deaths puzzle the Tristanis, who knew Lauren Stuart as a “hard-working” neighbor who could often be seen working in her yard and remodeled the house largely on her own.
      “She would often come over and borrow tools – a saw, a pickaxe – whatever,” said Tristani. “She was always doing something.”
      The Tristanis said in one of their first meetings with Lauren Stuart a few years ago she attempted to “recruit” them into the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
      “I said we were Catholics and weren’t interested,” he said. “She accepted the answer and it was the end of that.”
      Lauren Stuart worked at an area gym, he said, and her husband was involved in some form of medical business in the Ann Arbor area.
      Darlene and Dennis Buck, who live a block away on Cass Lake Road, said they were enroute home from a trip to northern Michigan when they learned of the murder-suicide.
      “We have lived here since ’74 and nothing like this has ever happened in our neighborhood — not even close,” said Darlene Buck.
      Jackie Tristani said she found it all “scary” – not just the deaths but that something might have been going on in a neighbor’s home without her knowledge. She had tried to get Bethany a job at her workplace and her son knew both Bethany and Steven. There was never any mention or indication of trouble inside the home, she said.
      “I would hope that if there was a problem inside there someone would have reached out, we would have tried to help,” she said, her voice quaking. “Maybe we could have done something.
      “But you never really know everything there is about your neighbors, do you?”
      http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/oakland-county/2018/02/16/4-dead-keego-harbor-murder-suicide/345756002/
    • By James Thomas Rook Jr.
      If a Brother or Sister in good standing in the Congregation goes into the hospital, and agrees to a whole blood transfusion, and dies anyway, can they be disfellowshipped post mortem, and what about the funeral arrangements?  ( I have heard of this being done, but never explained....)
      Can they have a funeral at the Kingdom Hall?
      Let's say a Brother or Sister in good standing in the Congregation  goes berserk, and commits some crime, and either dies by misadventure, or gets shot by police ....
      Can they have a funeral at the Kingdom Hall?
      Considering such questions is like a submarine on the surface, at night, in the fog .... firing torpedoes randomly into the darkness, to see what lights up.
      .... sometimes survival depends on having the right answer about "What is out there?".
    • By Bible Speaks
      RARE VIDEO OF STEVE: Last night in parts of Canada, dogs started barking at the midnight sky. The canines were responding to a bright purple ribbon of light--also known as "STEVE." The apparition, which occurred during a G1-class geomagnetic storm, was so long-lasting that at least one onlooker had time to capture rare video of the phenomenon. This is a still frame from a video of STEVE captured on April 10th by Matthew Wheeler of Robson Valley BC Canada. .
      .http://spaceweather.com/
      Romans 1:20. #OurCreatorJehovahGod?

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    • @Srecko Sostar I don't know, but it made me laugh anyway.  If some of the 'brothers' are deeply involved in the property business, and other brothers are deeply involved in the legal / lawyer business (court cases), then it seems the JW Org becomes more worldly every day.  I cannot believe this is what God or Jesus Christ wants from 'chosen ones'.   
    • Are JW people, who are involved in making money with buy and sale business  inside WT Society, those "sons of this world" :)) because of their wisdom how to handle and make arrangements with "wicked generation of darkness" ?
    • I see you as a funny spiritually blind person, so your comments do not bother me at all.   Adam blamed Eve did he? Well you seem to blame the Victims of Abuse and wrongful D/fed.  When Almighty God, working through Christ, decides to take action against the Watchtower / JW Org, then you and many others will get the biggest shock of your lives.  I think though that God may be helping the Victims of Child Sexual Abuse within the JW Org, so God may have started His cleansing process. Only time will tell if God wishes to use the Org or to replace it.  Meanwhile you can keep worshipping the GB and your Elders. 
    • They are not selling ONE house, they are running a Property business  https://ibsaproperty.com/ IBSA London Properties is part of IBSA (International Bible Students Association) a registered charity acting on behalf of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Britain and Ireland. For more information about Jehovah’s Witnesses please follow this link.
    • Individuality and unity is what should be expected, and not clones as you said well. According to vision and description with word "bride" in the Bible, it would be more accurate to see artistic pictures of female persons (in heaven or earth) as 144000. I can say how don't see any special need for 144000 to be in Heaven for purpose to reign. That can be done also very good from Earth too. But maybe we can say, for fun, that problem is hidden in transferring power of spirit from Heaven to Earth. We been explained by WT Society how "miracles" stopped. In that context it seems how one of "miracle" is to be inspired by God also finished in 1 century. :))) Perhaps that could be reason why is important for 14400 to be lifted in Heaven. Because distance must be too far, too long to be handled by spirit. :))))    This too verses show how distance is not obstacle for spirit's activity in 1 century. I really don't see why GB and Helpers making issue and such problem about "inspiration" and "be inspired" ?!! :)) 
    • This has been discussed a few times before on this forum. I typically just rewrite new comments every time a subject comes up, but this time I'll be anti-typical and just re-quote myself from one of those earlier posts. Comments went on for 9 pages on that topic, too. For context, Israeli Bar Avaddhon wanted to make another modern day application of these periods and said: By the way, to match these dates day were "greatly rounded" (Rutherford and his associates were released March 26, 1919, not January 1919; see Watchtower, 5/16/2016 all ' article entitled "to whom was entrusted the work"), but even more importantly the writing of Daniel, after mentioning the 1290 days, he says, "Happy is he who waits and who gets to 1335 days!" - Daniel 12: 12 "Getting to ..." means to add to what was there before. The rest of this post is a copy of my brief response to that: I think you are right that the basic idea here is more likely a set of time periods from the same starting point. If I were to tell someone that they are going to have to wait 1260 days for something, but that they might really have to get to 1290 before seeing it, and that they will be truly happy if they wait for 1,335 days, then I don't think it's likely that anyone would guess that I meant 3,885 days in total. And yet this is something like the Watchtower's view. I also think that if such a specific number of days were intended for us today that they would match to a specific number of days in a calendar. I agree, too, that the 1,260 of Revelation 11 & 12 is key. (And of Daniel 7:25; 12:7) The Watchtower also generally agrees on this point, even though they move the 1,290 as a completely new time period away from the 1,260. The explanation given in the Watch Tower publications, as you say, are "greatly rounded." None of them can even reach back as far as October 1914, the most important date/event in modern history according to the new "God's Kingdom Rules" book. The best they can do is start it near the end of December 1914, just a few days from January 1915. In fact, since they end it around June 21, 1918 it must start around December 21, 1914. To even catch this little piece of the tail-end of the all-important year 1914, they must end this period with the sentencing, rather than the actual imprisonment. In the scheme of things, the sentencing was just another part of a process that had begun in the "scheming" that began back in March 1918 when the FBI was building a case based on the Finished Mystery book. *** dp chap. 9 p. 142 par. 28 Who Will Rule the World? *** God’s witnesses would preach dressed in sackcloth for 42 months, or 1,260 days, and then be killed. When did this time period begin and end? . . . Hence, beginning in December 1914, that small band of witnesses preached “in sackcloth.” . . . Harassment of God’s anointed ones climaxed on June 21, 1918, when the president, J. F. Rutherford, and prominent members of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society were sentenced on false charges to long prison terms. Intending “to change times and law,” the “small” horn had effectively killed the organized preaching work. (Revelation 11:7) So the foretold period of “a time, and times and half a time” ended in June 1918. The start of the next period 1,290 days does not even attach to the first period without a several month gap. And again, even to get it as close as possible they used the "proposal" of the League of Nations rather than the actual start of the League of the Nations: *** dp chap. 17 p. 300 pars. 22-23 Identifying True Worshipers in the Time of the End *** The League was officially proposed in January 1919. At that time, then, both conditions of Daniel 12:11 were met. So the 1,290 days began in early 1919 and ran until the autumn (Northern Hemisphere) of 1922. During that time, did the holy ones make progress toward becoming whitened and cleansed in God’s eyes? They certainly did! In March 1919 the president of the Watch Tower Society and his close associates were released from prison. They were later exonerated of the false charges against them. Aware that their work was far from over, they got busy immediately, organizing a convention for September 1919. In the same year, a companion magazine to The Watch Tower was first published. Originally called The Golden Age (now Awake!), it has always supported The Watchtower in fearlessly exposing the corruption of this world and in helping God’s people to remain clean. By the end of the foretold 1,290 days, the holy ones were well on the way to a cleansed and restored standing. In September 1922, right about the time when this period ended, they held a landmark convention at Cedar Point, Ohio, U.S.A. Notice again that the periods do not work out. 1290 days is about 17 months, so that a starting date in January would have to end in August, and the convention wasn't until September 1919, which is why it ends at a time when they were only "preparing" for this assembly. And the next period of 1,335 days is even looser in terms of anchoring to any specific occasions. Note: *** dp chap. 17 pp. 303-304 pars. 24-26 Identifying True Worshipers in the Time of the End *** “Happy is the one who is keeping in expectation and who arrives at the one thousand three hundred and thirty-five days!” (Daniel 12:12) The angel gives no clues as to when this period begins or ends. History suggests that it simply follows on the heels of the preceding period. In that case it would run from the autumn of 1922 to the late spring of 1926 (Northern Hemisphere). Did the holy ones come to a state of happiness by the end of that period? Yes, in important spiritual ways. 25 Even after the convention in 1922 (shown on page 302), some of God’s holy ones were still looking longingly to the past. The basic study material for their meetings was still the Bible and the volumes of Studies in the Scriptures, by C. T. Russell. At that time, there was a widely held view that pointed to 1925 as the year for the resurrection to begin and for Paradise to be restored to the earth. Thus, many were serving with a fixed date in mind. Some proudly refused to share in the work of preaching to the public. This was not a happy state of affairs. . . . The issue of March 1, 1925, carried the historic article “Birth of the Nation,” giving God’s people a full understanding of what had happened in the 1914-19 period. After 1925 passed, the holy ones no longer served God with an immediate, explicit deadline in view. . . .  At the convention in May 1926, the book Deliverance was released. (See page 302.) This was one of a series of new books designed to replace Studies in the Scriptures. No longer were the holy ones looking to the past. They were looking confidently to the future and the work ahead. As prophesied, the 1,335 days therefore ended with the holy ones in a happy state. If Daniel had spoken of the 1,335 days as culimating in the most unhappy time period ever for God's people, then this could have made more sense. It would have been very easy to show why this was the most UNHAPPY time period in our organization's history. 1925 had been hyped since 1918 as one of the most important prophecies that the "prophet" -- the Watchtower -- had ever proclaimed, and it turned out to be a miserable failure: a false prophecy. People were now leaving in larger numbers, even those who had hung on past the 1917 organizational debacle. In 1926 Rutherford began to systematically throw away all the old foundations for the time prophecies of Russell. More people were upset. Although Rutherford claims that he had been fighting against Russellite creature worship all along, this was actually the time when Rutherford himself stopped making great claims for Russell and began pushing against Russell's teachings almost "en masse."   Rutherford was beginning to fight with colporteurs and pioneers because they no longer wanted to sell Russell's books if they were pushing doctrines that were now considered "from Satan" (pyramids, etc). But Rutherford still had large stockpiles of these books and insisted that the Lord wanted them sold to the public. The "Bulletin" (Later Informant, later Our Kingdom Ministry) claimed that anyone who balked at this particular edict by Rutherford was going against the Lord himself. More people left the organization over this, and from 1926 to 1932 the campaigns to sell Russell's books continued. We could go on and on comparing this particular period of sadness and gloom with the periods before and since, but there is definitely enough to make us wonder why these particular time periods were chosen for the 1260, 1290, and 1,335 days. I think there are enough weaknesses in it, that the Society will revisit it -- especially if they realize that more and more Witnesses are looking at the prophecy more closely. If I get a chance, I'll explain more of the problems I have with the primary solution that is being promoted from the original post in this topic. I think there is a much simpler solution -- it's one we already have used in the publications on a closely related set of time periods related to the half-week (3.5-year period) in the final 70th week in the week-of-years prophecy. I don't doubt there are other possibilities that might seem more exciting, but some of those ones here imply that we can currently predict the times and seasons, and this particular period is one in which Jesus said the end events would come like a thief in the night. I admit that this is more boring than tying current events to Daniel and Revelation, but there are some excellent reasons to look at it this way (I think) starting with the "two witnesses" and the "olive trees" in Revelation 11. Paul explains the two olive trees very well in Romans 11, and we had already used this tie-in to a 3.5 year period in the discussion of the "keys of the kingdom." Note: *** w79 10/1 p. 23 pars. 1-2 “The Keys of the Kingdom” and the “Great Crowd” *** IN THE year 36 C.E. a marked event in Christian history took place in Caesarea on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Whether Philip the evangelizer had settled there by that year we do not know for certain. If he had done so, then why was he not used in connection with a certain army officer of the Italian band of soldiers then stationed there? Philip had preceded the apostle Peter in Christian activity in Samaria, so why not now in Caesarea in 36 C.E.? The inspired Scriptures give us the answer. The Law covenant that Moses had mediated between Jehovah God and Israel at Mount Sinai in Arabia was abolished on the basis of the impalement of Jesus Christ, the descendant of Abraham and King David. That was three years and a half from the water baptism and spirit-anointing of Jesus back in 29 C.E. Nevertheless, Jehovah continued to give preferential treatment to the natural Jews and Samaritans also during this period for three years and a half more, to fulfill the prophecy of Daniel 9:24-27a. This “week” or period of seven years terminated in the seventh lunar month (Tishri) of 36 C.E. From then on the Israelite descendants of Abraham would be put on the same spiritual level as the people of the non-Jewish nations, the uncircumcised Gentiles. After that no more preferential treatment to the Jews by the God of Abraham! How was this demonstrated in 36 C.E.? From here, we already have a Biblically consistent tie-in between the two witnesses (the witness to the Jews, and the witness to the Gentiles) and the two olive trees (natural Jewish olive tree and the grafted Gentile olive tree) the 42 months or 1260 days. If we look at a few other events with respect to the week of Pentecost of 33, Christ's ascension, etc., we can attempt to work out the differences between a simple 1260 and 1290 and 1335, but I don't even think this is necessarily the answer here.
    • This is relatively true. Relativism is based on perception. It depends in what part of world you live, and how much income you have. Generally, i believe how most JW's do not belong to people who have more (surplus money) than they need for some "normal" life. Of course, we all can do some changes to live more modest life than we do now. But it is not good to be "clever" in advising how some other people should live in their circumstances, and not for yourself. And this is also good advice for WT Society. To not give lessons about modesty when they using expensive building projects and other advanced technology for few so simple request Jesus put on people: Love God, Love people and give testimony about your Faith and Hope. 
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