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 Jehovah's Witnesses

PAST OPPOSITION TO VACCINATIONS

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Banning vaccinations:

An early leader of the Jehovah's Witnesses, C. J. Woodworth, maintained a continuing opposition to vaccinations. He seems to have believed that vaccination caused animal blood cells to be injected into humans. This he regarded as equivalent to eating blood, an activity that is forbidden in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). The group banned their members from having vaccinations from 1931 to 1952. An unknown number of Witnesses were disfellowshipped because they disobeyed their leaders on this matter.

The following condemnations of vaccination were published in the Jehovah's Witnesses' periodical, The Golden Age, from 1921 to 1935. This magazine was first published in 1919:

bullet"Vaccination never prevented anything and never will, and is the most barbarous practice...We are in the last days; and the devil is slowly losing his hold, making a strenuous effort meanwhile to do all the damage he can, and to his credit can such evils be placed...Use your rights as American citizens to forever abolish the devilish practice of vaccinations." 1
bullet"The public is not generally aware of how large an industry is the manufacture of serums, anti-toxins and vaccines, or that big business controls the whole industry. . . . the boards of health endeavor to start an epidemic of smallpox, diphtheria, or typhoid that they may reap a golden harvest by inoculating an unthinking community for the very purpose of disposing of this manufactured filth." 2
bullet"Thinking people would rather have smallpox than vaccination, because the latter sows seeds of syphilis, cancers, eczema, erysipelas, scrofula, consumption, even leprosy and many other loathsome affections. Hence the practice of vaccinations is a crime, an outrage, and a delusion." 3
bullet"Vaccination is a direct violation of the everlasting covenant that God made with Noah after the flood." 4
bullet"As vaccination is a direct injection of animal matter in the blood stream, vaccination is a direct violation of the law of Jehovah God." 5
bullet"Vaccination is a direct violation of the holy law of Jehovah God… I have no alternative. I must obey Jehovah’s law." 6 This article quoted court testimony of Maria Braught.

The name of the publication The Golden Age was changed to Consolation in 1937. Finally, it became Awake! in 1946 -- the name that continues to the present day. In 1939, the following passage appeared:

bullet"Oh, yes, serums vaccines, toxins, inoculations, are all 'harmless,' because the man who is selling them says so. You, my friends, believe this LIE, and continue to submit your body to these violations; then all I can say is, 'God have mercy on your soul'…. All vaccination is unphysiological a crime against nature." 7

C.J. Woodworth's prime objection to vaccination is that the serum was derived from "animal filth" that would pollute humanity. He implied that it caused various diseases like the Spanish Flu. It also led to a lessening of recipients' mental capacity and triggered sexual immorality. He wrote:

bullet"...much looseness of our day along sexual lines may be traceable to the easy and continual violation of the divine commands to keep human and animal blood apart from each other. With cells of foreign blood racing through his veins a man is not normal, not himself, but lacks the poise and balance which makes for self control." 8

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Ruling reversal:

bulletEarly 1940s: The policy of the Jehovah's Witnesses towards vaccination seems to have changed during the 1940s. "...Of the approximately 4,300 American Witnesses who were in prison as conscientious objectors" during World War II, "only a small minority concentrated in one prison refused to submit to the vaccinations [which were] compulsory for all inmates." According to A.H, Macmillan, a WTS leader at the time, "...our boys...considered [vaccinations] the same as blood transfusions..." He intervened with the prisoners and convinced them that there were no scriptural objections to vaccination.  9
bullet1952: The official teaching of the denomination changed. They published a question from "G.C." of North Carolina, in the Question from Readers section of The Watchtower. G.C. asked:

"Is vaccination a violation of God's law forbidding the taking of blood into the system?"

Their response was:

"The matter of vaccination is one for the individual that has to face it to decide for himself....And our Society cannot afford to be drawn into the affair legally or take the responsibility for the way the case turns out."

The WTS seems to have feared legal repercussions in the event that they continued to recommend that members avoid vaccinations.

The Watchtower response also stated: "After consideration of the matter, it does not appear to us to be in violation of the everlasting covenant made with Noah, as set down in Genesis 9:4, nor contrary to God's related commandment at Leviticus 17:10-14. Most certainly it cannot reasonably or Scripturally be argued and proved that, by being vaccinated, the inoculated person is either eating or drinking blood and consuming it as food or receiving a blood transfusion. Vaccination does not bear any relationship to or any likeness to the intermarriage of angelic "sons of God" with the daughters of men, as described in Genesis 6:1-4. Neither can it be put in the same class as described at Leviticus 18:23-24, which forbids the mingling of humans with animals. It has nothing to do with sex relations." 10

This easing of the prohibition on vaccination came just in time. Mass vaccination campaigns against polio almost wiped out the disease between 1955 and 1967.

The biblical quotations cited above:

bulletGenesis 9:4:
bulletLeviticus 17:10-14:
bulletGenesis 6:1-4:
bulletLeviticus 18:23-24:
bullet1961: The Jehovah's Witnesses took a neutral stand on vaccination; they neither endorsed nor prohibited the practice. They wrote:

"As to the use of vaccines and other substances that may in some way involve the use of blood in their preparation, it should not be concluded that the Watch Tower Society endorses these and says that the practice is right and proper. However, vaccination is a virtually unavoidable practice in many segments of modern society, and the Christian may find some comfort under the circumstances in the fact that this use is not in actuality a feeding or nourishing process, which was specifically forbidden when God said that man was not to eat blood, but it is a contamination of the human system." 11

bullet1993: The following message appeared in Awake! magazine:  "Previous articles in this journal and its companion, The Watchtower, have presented a consistent position: It would be up to the Bible-trained conscience of the individual Christian as to whether he would accept [vaccinations] for himself and his family." 12,13  In view of their statements against vaccination cited above from the Golden Age magazine, the 1993 statement appears to be in error. However, strictly speaking, it is correct, because the attacks on vaccination were published when the Awake! magazine was called by a different name: The Golden Age.

The decision of whether to vaccinate themselves or their family is currently a decision made by the individual Witness.

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Sponsored link:

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Promoting vaccination:

bullet1965: The Awake! magazine stated that: "There can be little doubt that vaccinations appear to have caused a marked decrease in contagious diseases." 14
bullet1996: Awake! reported, without any moral or religious criticism, on the success of vaccination programs, : "In the world's developed countries, new vaccines dramatically decreased the toll of measles, mumps, and German measles. A mass polio vaccination campaign, launched in 1955, was so successful that cases of the disease in Western Europe and North America plummeted from 76,000 in that year to fewer than 1,000 in 1967. Smallpox, a major killer disease, was eradicated worldwide." 15
bullet 1997: The Awake! magazine described the use of the BCG vaccine. The article was also free of any religious or ethical comments. They wrote: "It prevents severe TB in children but does little for adolescents and adults. At best, the vaccination gives protection for about 15 years. BCG only protects those who are uninfected; it does not benefit people who are already infected." 16

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Consequences:

Many anti-Jehovah's Witness web sites and publications ask the ethical question: how many Witnesses died needlessly in the early to mid 20th century because they were influenced by their faith group to refrain from vaccinating themselves and their families. Another concern is the number of times that infected Witnesses spread diseases to other people in the first half of the 20th century.

There appear to be no answers to these questions -- not even crude estimates.

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References:

  1. The Golden Age, 1921-OCT-12, Page 17.
  2. The Golden Age, 1923-JAN-3, Page 214.
  3. The Golden Age, 1929-JAN-5, Page 502.
  4. The Golden Age, 1931-JAN-4, Page 293.
  5. The Golden Age, 1935-APR-2, Page 465.
  6. The Golden Age, 1935-APR-24, Page 471. The court testimony of Maria Braught was quoted.
  7. Consolidation, 1939-MAY-31, Page 8.
  8. The Golden Age, 1931-FEB-4, Page 293.
  9. A.H. Macmillan, "Faith on the March," Prentice Hall, (1957), Page 188. Cited in D.C. Thomasma, et al., "The Blood Transfusion Taboo of Jehovah's Witnesses," Social Science & Medicine 31(4) 1990, Pages 515 to 523. Online at: http://www.watchtowerinformationservice
  10. The Watchtower, 1952-DEC-15, Page 764.
  11. The Watchtower, 1961-NOV-1, Page 670.
  12. Awake!, 1993-AUG-8, Page 25.
  13. "Vaccination - a crime against humanity,"  Watchtower Observer, an anti-Witness counter-cult group, at: http://watchtower.observer.org/
  14. Awake!, 1965-AUG-22, Page 20.
  15. Awake! 1997-FEB-22. Published by the Watch Tower Society (WTS) as "Revenge of the Microbes" at: http://www.watchtower.org/library/
  16. Awake! 1997-DEC-22. Published by the WTS as "TB Fact Sheet" at: http://www.watchtower.org/library/

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How you got here: Home page > Christianity > Denominations >  Witnesses > here

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Copyright © 2002 incl., and 2003 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written on: 2002-AUG-5

Last updated on: 2003-SEP-4
Author: B.A. Robinson

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