Since 1998, Peter Mosier has posted excerpts of published writings from the Watchtower Society, God's supposed channel of earthly communication for 6.5 million Jehovah's Witnesses worldwide. The quotes, carefully cited and contextualized, are categorized under topics from cancer cures to end-times prophecies. The Toronto man provides no personal commentary. "I'm not out there teaching my own views," he told WORLD. "I'm simply quoting Watchtower materials."
Nevertheless, the Watchtower Society's Canadian and U.S. branches served Mr. Mosier with a $100,000 lawsuit Sept. 8, complaining that his efforts to embarrass the religion have resulted in "a loss of reputation and goodwill."
Much of the material cited at quotes.watchtower.ca is indeed embarrassing-especially in light of church teaching that proclaims all Watchtower publications since its 1879 inception divine communiqués. God's supposed words include such missteps as a 1932 refutation of gravity and numerous predictions of apocalyptic events in 1914, 1918, and 1925 (with subsequent retractions).
Such false prophecies and bizarre teachings led to Mr. Mosier's renunciation of his church membership seven years ago. In creating the website, he intended to inform those interested in researching segments of the religion not covered in typical door-to-door evangelistic visits. He receives periodic letters from individuals thanking him for the life-changing resource. "If I'd known one-tenth of what I know now, I would never have gotten baptized into the religion at 17," said Mr. Mosier, who now occasionally attends Mass with his Catholic wife but does not consider himself an adherent of any particular faith.
The primary charge of the Watchtower Society's litigation centers on copyright infringement and the use of the domain name watchtower.ca.
The Watchtower Society, which did not return WORLD's request for an interview, claims the extensive use of its written works exceeds the "fair dealing" provision of Canada's Copyright Act. Mr. Mosier's attorney contends the hundreds of citations amount to less than 0.1 percent usage of the source material from which they are taken-a number well within the bounds of "fair dealing" precedent.
James Walker, president of the anti-cult ministry Watchman Fellowship, told WORLD he is not surprised by the Watchtower Society's decision to suddenly buck its public support of free speech. "They have a long history of intolerance for independent thinking," said Mr. Walker, who has withstood similar lawsuits from Scientologists and Mormons. "The Watchtower Society is counting on the fact that most of their followers will never see these older documents. With the internet, however, it becomes much harder for organizations to keep secrets."