A Simplified Arrangement


Why did the Watchtower Society change its literature distribution program in 1990, eliminating set prices for literature items?

Jehovah's Witnesses believe the Governing Body instituted a "simplified" arrangement. Few know the change really took place because Jimmy Swaggart lost his case in court. In a February 21, 1990 letter to congregations, the Society explained the new policy this way:

"By adopting a method of literature distribution based completely on donation, Jehovah's people are able to greatly simplify our Bible education work and separate ourselves from those who commercialize religion." [bold added]

However, this is what really happened:

Early 1980: State of California informs Jimmy Swaggart Ministries that tax is due for religious books and tapes sold in the state since 1974. Swaggart eventually pays the tax -- $183,000.00 -- but sues for a refund. The case begins moving toward the U.S. Supreme Court.

February, 1989: U.S. Supreme Court rules it is illegal for Texas (and 14 other states) to exempt religious books from sales tax. Some states had been taxing religious books all along.

Summer, 1989: WT Society gives away "free" books released at U.S. conventions. Witnesses are instructed to place donations in contribution boxes to cover the cost.

June 22, 1989: Watchtower Society, files amicus curiae ("friend of the court") brief with U.S. Supreme Court in Jimmy Swaggart case. Others filing similar briefs include National Council of Churches and Society for Krishna Consciousness.

January 17, 1990: U.S. Supreme Court rules against Jimmy Swaggart Ministries, declaring that the sales tax must be paid.

February 9, 1990: WT Society writes letter to congregations announcing that literature will no longer be sold at Kingdom Hall and no price will be set in door-to-door distribution.

February 25, 1990: February 9th letter from Society is read at Sunday meetings of Jehovah's Witnesses across the United States.

March 1, 1990: New policy of distributing literature without naming a price goes into effect. The March 15, 1990, Watchtower magazine and March 22nd Awake! -- printed earlier -- still say "25 cents (U.S.) a copy" and "$5.00 (U.S.) per year." The April 1, 1990, Watchtower no longer carries a price.

March 11, 1990: Announcement is made at Kingdom Halls in the U.S. that food will be available at no cost, on a freewill donation basis, at JW conventions.

Posted by Seeker at Hourglass2 Outpost

That timeline is accurate. What really gives away the fact that this change had little to do with "simplification" for "Jehovah's people" is that this new arrangement is only in some countries. In many other countries, the old fixed-price arrangement [was] still in place [until the end of 1999].

Are the Witnesses in those countries not "Jehovah's people" too? Does simplification not count for them?

Isn't it amazing how the distinction between which country went to the new "simplified" arrangement and which country stayed behind exactly matches which country had unfavorable tax laws and which country didn't?

This new arrangement went into effect to avoid paying taxes that the WTS felt was unfair. Any simplification was wholly a side-effect.

Index ยท Portuguese