NEWS STORY: Books on Jehovah’s Witnesses mutilated at seminary libraries

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c. 1997 Religion News Service

INDIANAPOLIS _ At least three seminaries in Indiana have been hit by a wave of mutilations of books dealing with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, according to librarians at the schools.

Officials at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, at Anderson University in Anderson and at Concordia Seminary in Fort Wayne said they discovered Monday (April 28) that their collections had been hit.

In most cases, someone ripped pages by hand, slashed the books with a knife or razor blade, or ripped volumes in two, said Bob Smith, public service librarian at Concordia, a seminary affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

Some 30 books at the Fort Wayne school written about the denomination and its parent organization, the Watchtower Society, were mutilated, Smith said. All of the volumes will be repaired and returned to the collection.

At Christian Theological Seminary, 13 books were mutilated and another book appears to have been stolen, said seminary librarian David Bundy. The seminary is affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

“The books were all written about the tradition from an outside perspective,” Bundy said. “None of the books that were mutilated were critical of the tradition, which is one of the ironies.”

In fact, three of the damaged books were printed in Italian and were favorable to Jehovah’s Witnesses. They explain how members of the faith were martyred in Italy during World War II, Bundy said.

At Anderson University, librarians cannot find 24 of their books about the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Three books were mutilated, said Charles Kendall, theological librarian and archivist at Anderson. The school is affiliated with the Church of God _ Anderson.

Kendall hopes to find the missing books among the stacks as the library staff reshelves other books and conducts a survey of the 175,000-volume collection this summer.

The incidents have not been reported to police, the librarians each said, and they will not limit access to their collections because of the vandalism.

The librarians said they used the Internet to issue a statewide advisory to other schools and municipal libraries across Indiana urging increased vigilance.

They said they have no suspects in the mutilations and could only speculate about who might vandalize their books.

Bundy said the vandal or vandals may be overzealous defenders of the faith. But, he said, that kind of behavior is not in the mainstream of the Witness tradition, which was founded in the United States during the 1870s.

“They have always represented a minority point of view within American culture,” he said. “But of that, they have tended to hold their ideas very carefully and very closely. They have been persecuted for their ideas, in some cases.”

There are an estimated 5.6 million Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide, with about 1 million members in the United States. The Bible is their holy scripture. They believe in one God, Jehovah, not in the trinity. They believe Jesus is God’s son, the first of God’s creations. Witnesses believe their ultimate destiny is a paradise on Earth.

Reports of the vandalism was news to officials at Jehovah’s Witness headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y. They do not condone the vandalism, said spokesman Robert Johnson. He wants to help the Indiana libraries solve the mystery and prevent any further harm.

“We regret that this has been done and we do not encourage this sort of thing at all,” Johnson said. “We have responsible people there (in Indiana) who might have some idea about why this has occurred, so that we can prevent it from happening again.”


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