BLOOD AND BULGARIA
(Thanks to www.ajwrb.org for much of this information)

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INTRODUCTION

Jehovah's Witnesses reject any medical treatment that involves whole blood transfusions or major blood components. They consider such treatments as unbiblical and view the acceptance of such treatments as a major sin (The Watchtower, October 1 (2008) p.31 ). A Jehovah's Witness member who knowingly and willingly accepts such medical treatment risks disassociation from the membership of the Jehovah's Witnesses (the following blurb is an excerpt from the elders' manual):

Shepherd the Flock of God (2010), p.111-112
If someone willingly takes blood, perhaps because of being under extreme pressure, the committee should obtain the facts and determine the individual's attitude....if the elders on the committee determine that he is unrepentant, they should announce his disassociation.

(disassociation: When it is determined that the member is voluntarily leaving the Jehovah's Witnesses. A disassociated person is shunned )

Clearly, the acceptance of blood transfusions is a serious matter to Jehovah's Witnesses. Therefore, many question the action taken in the European country of Bulgaria, where in 1998 the Christian Association of Jehovah's Witnesses agreed to allow blood transfusions without sanctions in exchange for legal recognition of the religion in the country of Bulgaria. This blood agreement is not currently active in any other country that we are aware of.

Granted, at that time the elders were actually working with an earlier version of the elders' manual, titled "Pay Attention To Yourselves and to All The Flock, (1991). As a result, some may believe this means they may have been working under different blood rules at that time. But this was not the case: According to this earlier manual, the rules regarding blood transfusions were quite simple; on page 95 of the manual under the list of disfellowshipping offenses it simply lists "Failure to abstain from blood" as such an offense.

Becoming disfellowshipped means being completely shunned by the worldwide membership of the Jehovah's Witnesses; therefore, the Bulgarian agreement to to allow blood transfusions without sanctions is a huge deal.

 

THE DOCUMENTATION

This first item is a scan from a Press Release issued by the Secretary to European Commission on Human Rights for the March 2 - 13, 1998 session. Note how the first full paragraph on this page states that the Watchtower Society provided its members with free choice on blood transfusions without any controls or sanctions.

This next one is the Press Release issued by the Watchtower Society's Public Affairs Office on April 27, 1998. Note how the third paragraph denies any change in Watchtower doctrine :

Later that same year, when a concerned person wrote to inquire this situation, the Watchtower Society responded with the following letter. Note that the Watchtower Society uses a technicality (noted by the red arrow) in order to preserve their doctrine while seeming to live by the Bulgarian agreement:

This next is two scans from the European Commission of Human Rights, Application number 28626/95 Report of the Commission Adopted on March 9 1998. These are pages 4 and 5, the key pages in this document (portions of the following documents are in French; therefore we followed it with a valid English translation):

 

Translation courtesy of AJWRB, beginning where the French begins
(French, with English translation following each part in bold):
We have
highlighted parts we found to be of particular interest.

"I. Concernant la substitution du service militaire par un service alternatif, le Gouvernement Bulgare s'engage à déposer au Parlement un projet de loi, dans les meilleurs délais, instituant un service civil alternatif au service militaire.

I. Concerning the substitution of mandatory military service with alternative service, the Government of Bulgaria is undertaking to submit to Parliament a draft of the legislation, as soon as possible, instituting a civil service as an alternative to military service.

1.1. Le projet, selon l'avis de la requérante, répond aux exigences des objecteurs de conscience, fidèles des Témoins de Jéhovah, qui souhaitent effectuer un service civil alternatif en remplacement du service militaire.

1.1 The draft, according to the judgement of the petitioner, responds to the demands of conscientious objectors, members of Jehovah's Witnesses, who wish to partake of alternative civilian service in lieu of military service.

1.2. Le projet de loi définitif, déposé par le Conseil des Ministres au Parlement, sera soumis immédiatement à la Commission européenne des Droits de l'Homme.

1.2 The final draft of this legislation, introduced by the Council of Parliamentary Ministers, will be submitted immediately to the European Commission on Human Rights.

II. Concernant la position des Témoins de Jéhovah sur le sang, la requérante s'engage à rédiger une déclaration, qui sera annexée de façon intégrante aux statuts des Témoins de Jéhovah de Bulgarie en vue de son immatriculation, stipulant que :

II. Concerning the position of Jehovah's Witnesses on blood, the petitioner undertakes to draft a statement which will become part of the bylaws of Jehovah's Witnesses of Bulgaria, in view of their registration, stipulating that:

2.1. - les patients Témoins de Jéhovah recourent systématiquement aux soins médicaux pour eux-mêmes et leurs enfants ; il appartient à chacun d'entre eux d'utiliser son libre arbitre, sans aucun contrôle et sanction de la part de la requérante ;

2.1 - Jehovah's Witness patients resort to the use of the medical system for themselves and their children; each member having the right to make use of this [medical system] freely at their own discretion, without any controls or sanctions on the part of the petitioner; (EMPHASIS OURS)

2.2. - s'agissant du respect de la législation sanitaire bulgare, l'association chrétienne les Témoins de Jéhovah de Bulgarie s'engage à respecter son application, y compris :

2.2 - acting according to the Bulgarian health legislation, the Christian Association of Jehovah's Witnesses in Bulgaria undertakes to respect the application of said legislation, which comprises:

2.2.1. - en ne fournissant pas de déclaration préalable de refus de transfusion de sang aux personnes mineures;

2.2.1 - to not furnish an advance medical directive refusing blood transfusions to minor persons; [this means that baptized and unbaptized minors will be prohibited from carrying a no-blood card]

2.2.2. - en ce qui concerne les personnes majeures, en observant les dispositions de ladite législation et en reconnaissant à chaque individu la liberté de choix.

2.2.2 - concerning persons who have achieved the age of majority, in observing the dispositions of said legislation recognizes that each individual retains the freedom of choice.

III. Concernant la reconnaissance du culte des Témoins de Jéhovah, par l'Etat Bulgare, comme religion officielle :

III. Concerning the recognition of the sect of Jehovah's Witnesses, by the State of Bulgaria, as an official religion:

3.1. L'association chrétienne les Témoins de Jéhovah s'engage à retirer sa requête contre la Bulgarie déposée devant la Commission européenne des Droits de l'Homme ;

3.1 The Christian Association of Jehovah's Witnesses will undertake to withdraw its petition against Bulgaria submitted to the European Commission of Human Rights;

3.2. En conséquence, compte tenu du retrait de la requête, le Gouvernement Bulgare, s'engage à immatriculer les Témoins de Jéhovah en Bulgarie, en tant que culte, conformément à la loi sur les confessions religieuses.

3.2 Consequently, having withdrawn said petition, the Government of Bulgaria will undertake to register Jehovah's Witnesses and their way of worship in Bulgaria, conforming to the legislation regarding religious expression.

3.3. En conséquence, compte tenu du retrait de la requête, le Gouvernement Bulgare s'engage également à révoquer le point 16 de l'annexe 2 au point 4 de l'arrêté du Conseil des Ministres n° 255 de 1994.

3.3 Consequently, having withdrawn said petition, the Government of Bulgaria will undertake equally to revoke subsection 16 of annex 2 to section 4 of the arresting of the Council of Ministers #255 of 1994.

IV. Seront appliquées les modalités techniques suivantes, concernant la radiation de la requête, étant donné la décision d'immatriculer les statuts de l'association à Sofia :

IV. Having applied the following technical modalities, concerning the removal of the petition, having passed the decision to register the statutes of the association to Sofia:on à Sofia :

4.1. L'association requérante dépose à la Direction des Affaires religieuses les statuts, conformes aux termes du présent règlement amiable, et les autres documents exigés pour l'immatriculation.

4.1 The petitioning association submits to the Administration of Religious Affairs the statutes conforming to the terms of this present amicable ruling, and all other documentation necessary for its registration.

4.2. Après examen, la Direction des Affaires religieuses constate la conformité des statuts aux termes du présent règlement amiable et se prononce pour l'immatriculation de l'association requérante.

4.2 After examination, the Administration of Religious Affairs will report conformity of the statutes to the terms of this present amicable ruling and will give authorization for the registration of the petititioning association.

4.3. L'association requérante retire sa requête N° 28626/95.

4.3 The petitioning association will withdraw its petition #28626/95.

4.4. La Direction des Affaires religieuses immatricule l'association requérante conformément aux termes du présent règlement amiable."

4.4 The Administration of Religious Affairs will register the petitioning association conforming to the terms of this present amicable ruling.

18. At its session on 9 March 1998, the Commission noted that the parties had reached an agreement regarding the terms of a settlement. It further considered, having regard to Article 28 para. 1 (b) of the Convention, that the friendly settlement of the case had been secured on the basis of respect for Human Rights as defined in the Convention.

For these reasons, the Commission adopted the present Report.
M. de SALVIA S. TRECHSEL
Secretary President to the Commission of the Commission

We know it's a lot to read, but it was necessary to show everything in order to prove we aren't distorting the facts.

So here we have a clear case two major things here:

1. On legal documentation, The Watchtower Society allows Bulgarian members to accept freely choose to accept blood transfusions "without any controls or sanctions".

2. The Watchtower Society, in their press release, denies they've changed their stance on the blood transfusion doctrine, which therefore denies that they've given the Bulgarian members the special priviledge.

Of course, we come across some arguments on this topic from Jehovah's Witnesses. Arguments such as:

Argument: There has really been no change in the Bulgaria case. The membership is has always been free to choose a blood transfusion if they wish. However, if they do then it indicates they no longer want to be a member, and are therefore disassociated.
Rebuttal: Is it really a freedom of choice if you have to choose between a lifesaving medical treatment and your religion?

Argument: There has never been "controls or sanctions" for a member choosing a transfusion. Jehovah's Witnesses simply do not accept blood transfusions due to their Bible trained conscience; therefore a member who accepts one obviously no longer wants to be a Jehovah's Witness.
Rebuttal: To condition a person's membership on the acceptance or refusal of an emergency medical procedure is a control. To automatically consider the person an ex-member for accepting the treatment is a sanction.

Argument: A member of a religion who no longer adheres to the beliefs of that religion would also no longer be considered a member of that religion. Likewise, a member who willingly and knowingly begins adhere to the acceptance of blood transfusions should also no longer be considered a Jehovah's Witness.
Rebuttal: Compromising a single belief due to an emergency simply does not constitute a total renouncing of one's religion. For example, an impoverished Christian parent might willingly and knowingly steal food for his or her child and not feel guilt for it -- but that doesn't mean the parent is renouncing his or her religion. Another Christian might kill a criminal who is threatening his or her family with a gun, defending the family without guilt -- but that also doesn't mean that he or she is renouncing religion. Likewise, a Jehovah's Witness who accepts blood in an emergency situation is not renouncing his or her religion.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

And so we've laid out the facts for you to peruse. Viewing the above evidence, did the Watchtower Society covertly compromise its own doctrine, or not? We leave it to you to come to your own conclusion on the matter.