Teachers: If there’s one thing you probably already know about the Jehovah’s Witnesses, it’s that they are a group of religious folk who go door to door giving out information about their beliefs. But as an educator, there are a few other things to know about the Jehovah’s Witness in your classroom. Here are answers to three common questions to help you respond appropriately and with sensitivity when situations arise.
1. My student won’t say the Pledge of Allegiance or sing the national anthem. Isn’t this unpatriotic?
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that actions such as saluting the flag, singing the national anthem, and saying the Pledge of Allegiance give reverence to one’s country, instead of God. To the Jehovah’s Witness, patriotism is a form of idolatry to be avoided.
How to respond: Your student may ask to sit during the pledge, stand quietly, or even be dismissed from the classroom. You may not agree with her beliefs, but you can respect them by allowing her to take part (or sit in the hallway) as her conscience permits.
2. Can my student participate in a holiday celebration?
How to respond: Do not automatically plan a birthday celebration for your Jehovah’s Witness student. If you are planning any sort of birthday or holiday celebration to be held during class, pull him aside ahead of time and ask whether he would be allowed to attend. If not, make arrangements for him to be elsewhere during the celebration. Be sure to give him a fun activity to do in the other room (not homework) since your other students will be doing something fun.
If you are holding a holiday celebration that’s intended to teach a student about a culture (such as Mexico’s Day of the Dead), give your Jehovah’s Witness student instruction and classroom materials that will help him understand what that holiday means to the culture…but don’t require him to participate in the celebration.
3. Will my student try to convert people in school?
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus sent followers out to share his message. Children often accompany adults on missionary activities. The steps that are believed to lead to conversion include passing out literature at homes but do not include passing out materials in schools. That said, students may be excited to share their beliefs just as any student from another religion might want to tell others what he believes.
How to respond: For the most part, if a student wishes to pass out evangelistic materials to her classmates, public school districts can’t prohibit them from doing so. However, they can place restrictions on when and where those materials are distributed. If you have concerns, talk to your administrators.
Created by Religion Transcends, 2011.