Wikipedia:Dispute resolution noticeboard/Archive 67

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Greater Middle East

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Lutici, Pomerania during the High Middle Ages

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Parker (2013 Film) Budget

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Second Amendment to the United States Constitution

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Talk:List of Steins;Gate episodes

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Joe McCarthy;McCarthy Army hearings

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Talk:The Purpose_Driven_Life

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Jehovah's Witnesses

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Filed by Grrahnbahr on 14:04, 11 March 2013 (UTC).

Have you discussed this on a talk page?

Yes, I have discussed this issue on a talk page already.

Location of dispute

Users involved

Dispute overview

It is two connected issues I hope could be resolved here: Does the phrase "They consider secular society to be morally corrupt and under the influence of Satan, and limit their social interaction with non-Witnesses" reflects the article's main text state: "Witnesses are taught that association with 'worldly' people presents a 'danger' to their faith, and are also advised to minimize social contact with non-members to better maintain their own standards of morality." I've suggested to change the main text into "While the Witnesses internally are advised to minimize social contact with non-members, independent scholars describes an individual practice on this area, where Jehovah's Witnesses as individuals in varying degrees do have social networks outside the denomination" (check the article's revision history for the complete change). I've added sources and quotes confirming the statement, but the statement was reverted by Jeffro, followed by the comment from BlackCab including the reason "the selective quoting from the Norwegian authors does not provide the context of their comment, and nor am I convinced you have provided their complete viewpoint". BlackCab is using one of the same sources I use, but draws the opposite conclusion. My opinion is that the source does support the statement I inserted, as my edit does not exclude the fact that some, may even most, of Jehovah's Witnesses in fact do not minimize social contact with non-members, but I find both the Holden's and Ringnes source supportive to my edit. I do also find both sources being more independent and of higher quality than some of the current present sources. Jeffro's objections seems to be of quantitative character. The sources does not support the statement with numbers, but both sources spends several pages about the detail. I am not sure wheater Jeffro still object to the change. He did though do some minor changes into the main text.

Have you tried to resolve this previously?

The case have been discussed at the talk page.

How do you think we can help?

I got a feeling of being edited when editing this specific article. A third part look into the page could open up for a more accurate article, including presenting notable views from independent scholars.

Opening comments by BlackCab

Grrahnbahr’s objection to the wording seems to be confined to the second part of the sentence rather than the first; this is what I’ll address. The existing wording is correct as a general and succinct statement in the article’s lede of the religion’s official teaching, with which all members are required to comply. The religion’s official publications (cited in the article and quoted on the talk page) explicitly state that members must limit or avoid social interaction with non-JWs because of the “danger” of being weakened spiritually. Sociologist Andrew Holden (cited in the article) also states his own observation that members do just this. On the talk page I quote Holden’s observation based on extensive interviews that "when Witnesses engage in (leisure activities) it is nearly always in the company of other members of their congregation."

Grrahnbahr has introduced a self-translation of a selectively edited comment by two Norwegians whom he describes as independent scholars. That excerpt says there is a range of acceptance of this edict by (Norwegian?) JWs and their children, but that the “ideal” is that JWs socialise only with other JWs. The Norwegian couple, too, clearly find the very issue sufficiently notable and distinctive to discuss it.

The structure of Grrahnbahr’s suggested edit is neither editorially neutral nor true.
(a) Stating that “While the Witnesses internally are advised x, independent scholars say y” injects editorial comment that is designed to minimise the official, accepted teaching and present a contrary interpretation.
(b) JW publications rarely “advise”; the quotes from publications show they are explicit instructions to members on acceptable conduct. Those who disobey instructions are liable for disciplinary action.
(c) The Watchtower is not just “internal” instruction; 45 million copies of the magazine are distributed monthly, but there are fewer than 8 million JWs.
(d) The use of the term “independent scholars” is misleading. Holden’s study in fact showed general compliance. The two Norwegian scholars did find some variance, but to what degree and among whom, we do not know. BlackCab (talk) 01:47, 12 March 2013 (UTC)

Opening comments by Jeffro77

Please limit to 2000 characters - longer statements may be deleted in their entirety or asked to be shortened. This is so a volunteer can review the dispute in a timely manner. Thanks.

Refer to my response at the article's Talk page, including references to Watch Tower Society publications indicating the official view of the organisation regarding friendships with 'worldly' people.--Jeffro77 (talk) 00:04, 12 March 2013 (UTC)

Jehovah's Witnesses discussion

Hi, I'm Carrie; I volunteer here at the DRN. This doesn't give me any special powers or authority, but I will act as a mediator and try to give an outside view.

I've looked at the article and talk page, and read everyone's comments. As far as I can see there's no disagreement about the fact that JWs are instructed to limit interaction with people outside the religion, but the dispute is about whether they actually do. We have two separate questions:

  1. Does "Jehovas Witnesses do x" refer to the official position of the religion, or to the actions of its members?
  2. Is that instruction generally followed, or is it ignored by enough JWs that saying that they, as a whole, follow it is untrue?

Since the second question only becomes relevant if we agree on the second interpretation for the first, I suggest we concentrate on the first one for now. CarrieVS (talk) 10:26, 15 March 2013 (UTC)

(1) The wording "Jehovah's Witnesses believe x", "Jehovah's Witnesses refuse blood transfusions" etc refer to the official doctrine, but because it is an authoritarian religion with a very high degree of uniformity and unity with no internal forum for doctrinal dissent, such terms are generally synonymous with the actual beliefs and actions of individual members. (2) This is the issue. One reliable source used in the article, the UK sociologist Andrew Holden, says that most JWs conform to the instruction about limiting outside socialisation; Grahnbarr has reproduced fragments of a publication by Norwegian authors who say, as noted above, that compliance, particularly among children, may be less strict. Without the full document I don't know who their study covers or to what extent compliance is less strict. My long experience as a JW in several countries is that members do strongly comply, but that's a personal view. BlackCab (talk) 13:15, 15 March 2013 (UTC)
(1)I would consider the context for the specific paragraph in the article's lead part to refer to the members as individuals, as a religion can't limit "their social interaction with non-Witnesses". I agree to BlackCab when he states Jehovah's Witnesses (JW) do achieve a very high degree of uniformity and unity, thus the most of the terms are synonymous with the actual beliefs and actions of individual members. JW "limit[ing] their social interaction with non-Witnesses" is not an official doctrine, and, unlike "Jehovah's Witnesses refuse blood transfusions", (it is descriptive for both the religion and the individuals, though very rare exceptions for the individuals could occur), which is at least descriptive for an official doctrine. The differences is the latter could lead to disciplinary actions, like disfellowshipping, while the one discussed here, do not have any such actions. The importance of "limit[ing] their social interaction with non-Witnesses" is though emphasized by WTBTS, but as a principle wise to follow rather than a specific doctrine that is descriptive for JW (I would say, the emphasizing of social interaction with high standards, as JW regards it, would be even more accurate, as WTBTS also warns against extensive social interaction with Witnesses in a not so good standing). It may not is considered "ideal", and may even, if disregarded to a high extend, be disqualifying for becoming an elder or pioneer, but on the latter I am not sure, and since most JW not are elders or/and pioneers, it is not really of great importance to the article. (2) As the sources I suggested (Holden and Ringnes) in the edit in the main text, describe a not consistent practice among JW, I suggest to consider the statement false or doubtful, and consider Ringnes' description as at least a notable opinion. Holden do describe both JWs following the principle, and JWs not doing so. I can't see what the issue regarding the Ringnes source is about. It is a book published through a university publishing company, and is edited and partly written by an often quoted expert about Jehovah's Witnesses and their practices. It is the preferred source for an article about JW in at least one internet-lexicon (Store Norske Leksikon). The source is new, is representing some of the most updated studies about JW (and some of the older as well), and is quoting and referencing to sources and studies from several countries. The reference is also quoted and translated. I suggest to keep BlackCab's personal experience with Jehovah's Witnesses out of this discussion. Grrahnbahr (talk) 14:43, 15 March 2013 (UTC)
Of course it is the members rather than 'the religion' who 'limit their social interaction' (at the direction of the religion), but the article should present the official view of what members are 'supposed' to do. It would be nonsensical to provide a disclaimer for every single JW teaching that 'some members might not follow this'. Also, the degree of punishment for a particular 'deviation' does not determine how official a regulation is, but only how severe it is considered to be.
The claim that JWs simply emphasize "social interaction with high standards" is disproved by the statements I provided at the article's Talk page from JW literature, a couple of which I will reproduce here:
  • The Watchtower, 15 March 2006, p. 23: "What about having close association with those who may be morally clean but who lack faith in the true God? The Scriptures tell us: “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” (1 John 5:19) We come to discern that bad associations are not limited to permissive or morally debased people. Hence, we are wise to cultivate close friendships only with those who love Jehovah."
  • The Watchtower, 15 February 1994, p. 23, "Keep Your Distance When Danger Threatens": "Some Christians have gone astray by getting too involved in business activities, by cultivating close friendships with worldly associates, or by becoming emotionally attached to someone of the opposite sex when they are not free to marry. The wise course, in each case, is to keep our distance from danger."
  • The Watchtower, 1 March 1993, p. 9: "We also live in a world of twisted values, bankrupt morals, and false religious practices. Many among us once lived according to the system of things of this world. Others of us have to rub shoulders with worldlings day in and day out."
I don't think there has been a specific objection to the validity of Ringnes' study; however, it is not clear that his study has any reach beyond Scandinavia.--Jeffro77 (talk) 03:33, 16 March 2013 (UTC)
It is a straw man argument to suggest that a JW belief or practice must be reinforced by disciplinary measures to be accepted as such. Jeffro at the talk page has supplied quotations from several Watch Tower Society publications unambiguously warning JWs against socialising with non-members. It is a very clear direction to members. So here's an appropriate parallel: JWs are told they should spend as much time as they can in their proselytizing work and are given biblical reasons for doing so. There are no sanctions for failure to do so, but there are strong peer pressures to do so and the vast majority follow that direction. As a general statement then, JWs engage in regular proselytizing work. The fact that a few JWs choose not to go out doorknocking is no reason to refrain from saying that JWs engage in regular proselytizing work. Yet that is what Grrahnbahr seeks to do with the issue of socialization with outsiders. BlackCab (talk) 03:26, 16 March 2013 (UTC)
BlackCab: The article doesn't state "JWs engage in regular proselytizing work". The article lead section state "Jehovah's Witnesses are best known for their door-to-door preaching", which I find very accurate, without taking a stand whether JWs as individuals are actually doing so or not (one common used definition of JWs is actually active publishers (used by WTBTS in official statistics, which is used in the article), but it is not the same as they are regular). Other definitions of JWs may include those who not are regular in proselytizing work.
Jeffro: Ringnes' book is not based on one study only. Ringnes have studied topics closed related to Jehovah's Witnesses herself in Norway. It is referenced to her studies/works in the book, in the same way as it is referenced to a large number of other sources. Your doubts regarding Ringnes, is like not using Holden, because his book is written/based on studies from Birmingham. Scandinavia is not some kind of hidden valley far from civilization, and it is no reason to believe the very high degree of uniformity and unity when it comes to JW doctrines and JWs practices not should include Scandinavian countries, if it does include UK and Canada. Grrahnbahr (talk) 13:39, 16 March 2013 (UTC)

Given any rule or instruction in any organisation, there are bound to be some people who break it. That's just common sense, and we don't need to include mention of it, especially in the lead, per WP:UNDUE. If it's ignored by a substantial proportion, it would probably be worth mentioning that in the article, but as long as it's generally followed, I would say that it's still true that the group as a whole follow it. Almost any collective statement about the members of a large group is bound to be a generalisation. On the other hand, if a rule is generally ignored and/or considered acceptable to ignore (e.g. the 70mph speed limit on motorways in Britain), the statement would be untrue.

So, do these sources say that it's generally considered ok for JWs to ignore the requirement to limit social interaction with non-JWs or that most don't follow it, or just that a minority choose to break this rule? CarrieVS (talk) 21:30, 16 March 2013 (UTC)

The sources states it is a various practice, without stating numbers. I will support with a quotation from Ringnes, to give a slight better context (I've translated a slightly larger section from the book): "The Witnesses does not act all in the same way. As individuals they also interact to smaller groups within the congregation, and perceptions among close friends, for some Witnesses may be more important than those presented in the official guidelines. There are various ways to evaluate when it comes to education and disciplining children. The children are in varying degrees freely to decide who is appropriate to associate with and who they [choose as] friends. It varies for children and adults [wheather they] have a social network outside of Jehovah's Witnesses [or not], although the ideal is that they primarily [choose among] other witnesses as friends. Those who live by the rules of the religious community will often be rewarded with privileges of service and [maintain a good] reputation. But Witnesses that relate freer to rules and do have social networks and are of higher social status in the outside society, can be in as well as good standing." (Ringnes, Jehovas vitner - en flerfaglig studie, p.97-98)
According to the same book, a study from Belgium 1990, states that two out of three JW asked in a survey, reports that the majority of their friends are JW, and more than fifty percent of the asked said they had no friends outside the religious community. (Pål Repstad, edited by Ringnes and Sødal, p. 59-60) If weighting the numbers, it also could mean fifty percent do have one or some friends outside the community. I wouldn't use such conclusion without further notice in the article, but it is of interest to this issue. It could also be read as a third of JW do have the majority of the friends outside the community. I am not sure whether friend and object for social interaction (sorry for the expression!) could be read as same thing in this context, but I think it would be more reasonable to think of an object of social interaction to include friends, but other people as well, than the opposite.
To the question if it's generally considered ok to break this rule (I would say considering it as a principal rather than a rule would be more accurate): By official publications ("ideal") it is regarded as unwise or unfortunate if broken, but is not regarded as a sin, and is not sanctioned in any way. For a common member of JW breaking it, it have no immediate impact. It could may be disqualifying for privileges of service if extensively broken. For occasionally violation, I think it is accurate to say it is considered ok among the witnesses, or at least for a large fraction of the witnesses, and anyway as a personal matter and a personal choice by a huge majority of the witnesses. Grrahnbahr (talk) 00:33, 17 March 2013 (UTC)
The Ringes' study says that, whilst there is some variation, "the ideal is that they primarily [choose among] other witnesses as friends." The statements already provided from the JWs' own Watchtower indicate that association with 'worldly' people is considered to constitute a 'danger to their spirituality'. Both sources agree that it is not "generally considered ok for JWs to ignore". The study from Belgium indicates that the 'personal choice' (strongly influenced by frequent statements about 'bad associations' in JW literature) of the majority is to not have friends—not even 'close friends'—with 'worldly' people. It therefore seems that to say otherwise conveys an inappropriate apologetic tone.--Jeffro77 (talk) 01:38, 17 March 2013 (UTC)
My comparison with a statement about Witnesses engaging in proselytizing work was not intended to refer to something in the article, but a general statement one might make about the religion. My point is that although some JWs do not "witness", it doesn't disprove the general statement that members of the religion do. It's not helpful that Grrahnbahr nitpicks and splits hairs. I have no objection to a short qualifier being added to the appropriate sentence in the article's "Separateness" section to note that a Scandinavian study found compliance with the direction varies (unsurprising as that is). However the current statement in the lede is a fair and accurate summary of the religion as a whole. Grrahnbahr continues to raise the issue of sanctions and disciplinary consequences and finally suggests a line that would state that it is a matter of personal choice. His language actually emphasises the religion's authoritarian and punitive nature — how many religions dictate who one may socialize with? — and is further support for reasoning that members generally do what they're told by the leadership, hence the accuracy of the opening statement. BlackCab (talk) 01:33, 17 March 2013 (UTC)
BlackCab: I have to point out there are no disciplinary consequences. In your opening comment, you clearly stated my suggested edit was neither editorially neutral nor true, and one of the listed reasons given was "JW publications rarely “advise”; the quotes from publications show they are explicit instructions to members on acceptable conduct. Those who disobey instructions are liable for disciplinary action." Could I/Should it be expected that I (or anybody else) read this otherways than you suggest that social contact with non-members are explicit forbidden, and a subject of disciplinary action?
I think it is of importance to this discussion, that I suggest to supply the article with information based on secondary sources. WP:UNDUE states: "[I]n determining proper weight, we consider a viewpoint's prevalence in reliable sources, not its prevalence among Wikipedia editors or the general public." WP:PRIMARY states: "Unless restricted by another policy, primary sources that have been reliably published may be used in Wikipedia; but only with care, because it is easy to misuse them. (...) [A]ny interpretation needs a secondary source. Do not analyze, synthesize, interpret, or evaluate material found in a primary source yourself; instead, refer to reliable secondary sources that do so." The referencing of information from Watchtower, which at least BlackCab earlier have clearly defined as a primary source, should be used with caution according to the policy. I cannot see it is an undisputed fact which is served, and BlackCab's lack of ability to separate a prinicipal without disciplinary consequences, from teachings/doctrines with possible disciplinary sanctions if broken (I say possible, because a repenting Witness will often not be an object of sanction), is a good reason to handle the quotes carefully, as a misleading or extreme interpretation of the source could be introduced. Unlike what he says ("JW publications rarely “advise”"), it is quite common with advices rather than specific instructions in a lot of cases where Watchtower describes everydays situations and choices, like the choice of friends, choice of entertainment (pornography not included), choice of education, disciplining children, and other everydays fields. Some of these fields got advices worded like the quotes Jeffro supplied, but is still considered advices, without religious sanctions for the average JW. Further, it would be misleading to use quotes from Watchtower describing an "ideal" practice, for describing JW the individuals' actually practice. It is like stating British residents do not break the 70mph speed limit on motorways in Britain, because it is illegal/not recommended (I had the understanding of the opposite to be common).
I appreciate Jeffro actually commenting the sources. It is true like he said, that Repstad showed to a study suggesting that a majority follows this advice/rule, based on a survey. I still think, if given any weight in this discussion, the source also shows a significant fraction (closer to 50 than 5 percent) of JWs are, at least to some extend, not complying to the advice/rule.
Regarding the question whether it is considered OK, Repstad commented the survey this way: "That the witnesses themselves get to decide over their specific contact pattern, could be a source of uncertainties, discussions and creative compromise solutions." (Repstad/Ringnes, p. 60) He then references to Holden and uses an example from Holdens book (Holden p. 110). I read this statement as the Witnesses are well aware about the guidance they receive through internal publications, and may meetings and conventions as well, but it is in last instance considered as a personal matter. It is anyway not easy to get this to be an "instruction to obey". Grrahnbahr (talk) 13:31, 17 March 2013 (UTC)
When you say that "(closer to 50 than 5 percent) of JWs are, at least to some extend, not complying to the advice/rule", is this referencing "more than fifty percent of those asked said they had no friends outside the religious community"? If so, I have a couple of issues with your interpretation:
  • It doesn't say how many JWs have at least one friend outside the JW community, only that it's less than 50%. 0% is less than 50%. It does suggest that it's a significant proportion but doesn't explicitly say so, so we should be careful about interpreting it that way, and particularly about putting a quantitative value on it.
  • As I understand it, the instruction is to limit social interaction with non-JWs, not avoid it entirely. I'm not convinced that having a single friend - not necessarily a close one - outside the community necessarily equals not complying. CarrieVS (talk) 13:58, 17 March 2013 (UTC)
I will support it with a quote (it is still me translating): "According to the survey from Belgium two out of three says they got hobbies, but it is in a small degree hobbies practiced [together] with others. The same survey shows two-thirds report that the majority of their friends are Jehovah's Witnesses, and more than one half says they do not have any friends outside the movement."
A reasonable conclusion of the information given, is that if two third could be used to state that the majority of their friends are Jehovah's Witnesses, it would also have been used for "they do not have any friends outside the movement" if the fraction given for the latter would have been for two out of three or more. It is thus reasonable to think of a fraction between 50 and 67 percent for the statement. The source does not state whether a "I don't know/I don't want to answer"-option is removed before or after the calculation of the fractions given, if it even existed in the first place, so I do see your concerns about twisting it around, and particularly the part about putting a quantitative value on it. I wouldn't use it as a statement in the article, but the survey gives a clear indications of Ringnes statement about the issue, to include a quantity larger than a small minority, and I think of the statement as supportive in a talkpage discussion whether to include information or not. Your question does also show how difficult it would be to quantify regarding a statement like "limit their social interaction with non-Witnesses" either way, as limiting does include room for interpretation of the statement.
Regarding limiting social interaction with non-JWs, I think it not is proven to be an instruction. If I could ask you to reread the quotations Jeffro supplied above, I'll provide examples for explaining how not even the statements does support so: 1) "Hence, we are wise to cultivate close friendships only with those who love Jehovah". If a friend of you says it would be wise of you not to go near the cliff, it is not an instruction of not going near the cliff. It is just a friendly advice. If your dentist tells you your teeth are in a bad condition, hence, it would be wise of you to drop drinking soda, he doesn't instruct you not to drink soda. That would be your personal choice. Unless being said in intention of threatening ("it would be wise of you to hand over the money, because something could happen to your friend"), which would be a somewhat extreme interpretation, it could not been seen as an instruction, only as an advice. If a "wise" practice could be considered "ideal"? Yes, indeed. 2) "The wise course, in each case, is to keep our distance from danger": The same as the first one. 3) This quote have no aspects looking like instructions, but it does state JW the religion's view of the society outside the movement. (I have no intentions of being instructional against the moderator. This is a way to explain what Jeffro and BlackCab consider reliable use of a primary source, is highly disputed and an object for interpretation, and to read the source correct, some knowledge about the topic is preferable.)
The current version of the lead in the article about JW doesn't suggest they are instructed to limiting. It states they are limiting. I think such a claim have to be sourced, particularly now, when I've provided sources that confirm the practice within JW is not uniformity, but rather individual (I think specific of the Ringnes source). Ringnes would have no reason to describe the various practice, if it represented an insignificant fraction of JW. To your question: I do agree to your statement that a JW having a single friend outside the community, not necessarily equals not complying. Grrahnbahr (talk) 16:11, 17 March 2013 (UTC)
Grrahnbahr is now dragging this discussion into a labored interpretation of percentages and the finer distinctions of advice and instruction. As a general statement about JWs, suitable for inclusion in a brief summary of JW beliefs and practices, we can say members go witnessing, attend conventions, maintain high morals, abstain from voting, do not fight in wars, do not accept blood transfusions, do not celebrate birthdays, do not believe in the Trinity and they limit their social interaction with non-Witnesses. To avoid saying the last is to neglect a characteristic that Franz, Holden and the Norwegians have observed in practice and is also a stated ideal by the leadership. It must remain, but I have proposed a qualifying statement in the body of the article as a compromise. BlackCab (talk) 23:33, 17 March 2013 (UTC)
I have now added to the lede section a quote from James Penton's Apocalypse Delayed book (University of Toronto Press, 1997 edition) that over several pages specifically addresses the issue of the society's urgings and the level of compliance. Penton wrote: "Most Witnesses tend to think of society outside their own community as decadent and corrupt ... This in turn means to Jehovah's Witnesses that they must keep themselves apart from Satan's 'doomed system of things.' Thus most tend to socialize largely, although not totally, within the Witness community ... In fact the society has gone so far as to urge Witnesses to cut all social ties with outsiders except those involving business dealings and attempts to convert them." He quotes a 1960 Watchtower that castigated JWs who "think they can allow themselves to seek association with worldly friends or relatives for entertainment", then concludes: "Still, many Witnesses have tried to obey the society's dicta on this matter and have reduced social contacts with Witnesses to a minimum ... To a large degree, many members of the Witness community are, as Raymond Franz has noted, 'hermetically sealed' from the outside world. It should be recognized that this is certainly not true of the entire community. Many refuse to break ties with old friends and relatives in spite of the society's wishes." Penton here acknowledges a level of non-compliance, but says "most" comply. Please note a further quote from Bryan Wilson on the same subject in the body of the article. BlackCab (talk) 00:54, 18 March 2013 (UTC)

I rolled back BlackCabs' edit at Jehovah's Witnesses, as I suggest to get a consensus before making any changes. Grrahnbahr (talk) 02:28, 18 March 2013 (UTC)

Assuming the translation is accurate, the assumptions about the 'two thirds' of JWs who said they have hobbies has no direct bearing on JWs who have friends outside the movement. Further, the suggestion that on third (who are not necessarily the same people as those who 'have hobbies') 'have friends who are not JWs' does not indicate those to be close friendships, and may be more 'acquaintances'. So, there are too many assumptions about the statistics in the Belgian study, and the statistics do not alter the official position of the religion anyway. JW literature often gives advice to members which members of the group understand to mean directions, and this is especially the case when it is considered that the literature is purportedly from 'God's channel'. I will now review the edits recently made to the article.--Jeffro77 (talk) 02:57, 18 March 2013 (UTC)
I will not question whether Penton's book is a published source, but I have to ask, if sourcing Penton is of a selective character, or if BlackCab and Jeffro (I have to use and: you are of course allowed to have different opinions) think of Pentons book as a reliable source, and think of all his statements in the given chapter in the specific book is reliable? For the information, Penton is a former member of Jehovah's Witnesses, and a know critic of the movement. I have not yet checked out the other source.
Jeffro I quoted a couple of sentences. The hobby-part do not affect the friends part, but it used two out of three, so it showed the author could have used two out of three rather than "more than the half" if it was the authors opinion/surveys result. Regarding friends/acquaintances: The Norwegian language clearly separates friend (=venn) from acquaintance (=bekjent), and the use of the word are pretty similar as in English. "They (...) limit their social interaction with non-Witnesses" does not specific states whether it is talk about friends or acquaintances. I got friends, and I got a huge higher number of acquaintances. This does not mean I am commonly practicing social interaction with every single of my friends (for practical reasons only), and it doesn't mean I never or seldom do practicing social interaction with any of my acquaintances. I do even spend more time doing social interaction with some of my acquaintances than some of my friends. Further, I would not consider a friend not being my acquaintance, and opposite, all my acquaintances are not friends of me.
For the notice: Jeffro did roll back my revert. One of the things I hoped to achieve here, is to open up for more sources from independent scholars. This is what I mean by being edited. The source I've added (Ringnes), was swiftly removed, and replaced with a source from a critic of the movement. Grrahnbahr (talk) 12:20, 18 March 2013 (UTC)
Penton's book remains one of the most thorough examinations of the religion. It was published by a reputable publisher and is cited by many academics, who take into account his former affiliation with the religion yet accept it as accurate and well-researched. Those academics are not swayed by the WTS denigration of Penton as an apostate. Penton's comments about social interaction are not written as a criticism, but as an observation, and I have pointed out that he acknowledges some do not comply despite the WTS pressure. I deleted the Ringnes reference because of my objection to the skewed and inaccurate edit for which you used it as a source. I explained this clearly at the time on the talk page. [11] So let's return to the central issue. We now have a reliable source explicitly stating that most Witnesses limit their social interaction with non-members. I have twice suggested adding your Norwegian source in the body of the article to support a statement that some do not limit their association with non-members. You initiated this discussion as a dispute. I am offering a compromise. How long will this continue? BlackCab (talk) 12:53, 18 March 2013 (UTC)
This will go on until the volunteer (in this case Carrie) says a consensus could be reached. I am not necessarily convinced a simple majority is enough for a generalization. Ringnes did not say "for the most" or similar, and Repstad could only show to a simple majority, and only for friends, not acquaintances. I would though wait for a complementary statement from the volunteer. I do object to the use of Penton for a general description of Jehovah's Witnesses and their practice, because he's view of the witnesses is representing a fringe view. He is a history professor, and his view have to be considered in a light of him being that, and a former member of JW. He does also state at p. 283: "So, because Jehovah's Witnesses generally do not work well together in the secular world - at least in developed nations - they are forced and sometimes elect to lead much of their lives outside the close confines of 'theocratic society'". Penton do also in the same chapter present a radical view of Jehovah's Witnesses, and especially JW in positions, as racial intolerant, and goes far in introducing suggestions of JW as anti-Semitists, a view with no broad support among current and independent researchers of JW. He describes JW with "simpler" jobs as simple-minded. What kind of serious researcher do that? The context in the chapter does also show he lends to sources mainly from the sixties and earlier, and could not be read as a reliable source for describing the current practice of JW. Some of his claims and conclusions are actually more ridiculous than factual. I do though not object any use of Penton, but it have to be clearly stated that he is a former witness, and his opinions represent the view of a former witness, and I do though not see any reason not to limit quotation from this work, in the main article. Grrahnbahr (talk) 14:47, 18 March 2013 (UTC)
I'm not certain what you mean by "until [I say] consensus could be reached." This discussion will go on either until we find a solution you can all live with (not necessarily what you all think is ideal) or until you all got fed up and decline to participate, or until it becomes obvious that we aren't getting anywhere and I close the case as 'failed'.
I'm sure we'd all rather achieve the first option, so, about that compromise:
Keep the statement that "JWs limit social interaction...", but add a piece in the body of the article qualifying that statement.
That seems reasonable to me: the quoted parts of the Ringnes source seem to me to support the fact that this instruction is generally followed, quite apart from any other sources - not having a single friend outside the community sounds like limited social interaction to me. But it also suggests (though as I've already mentioned, doesn't say explicitly so that we would have to be very careful about exactly what we said using it as a source) that the proportion of JWs who don't follow it and/or who interpret it in a relatively relaxed way is more than a tiny minority and so it would be reasonable to include a mention of it.
Is there anyone who can't live with that? CarrieVS (talk) 16:44, 18 March 2013 (UTC)
Grrahnbahr claims above that I reverted his edit about Rignes. However, my edit simply restored citations Grrahnbahr deleted. There was no citation present for Rignes' study before or after I reverted his change.
The "two out of three" you (Grrahnbahr) quote is about JWs who have hobbies, and has no bearing at all on how many JWs have non-JW friends. That correlation is your assumption only.
I have never read Penton's book, but given the number of other works that cite it, I see little reason to doubt its suitability as a reliable source.--Jeffro77 (talk) 17:34, 18 March 2013 (UTC)
The body of the article already states: Witnesses are taught that association with "worldly" people presents a "danger" to their faith, and are also advised to minimize social contact with non-members to better maintain their own standards of morality. This would seem to be an accurate representation of Grrahnbahr's main concern that whilst JWs are told (in quite clear terms) that they 'shouldn't' have 'worldly' friends, it is still within the realm of 'advice'.--Jeffro77 (talk) 17:37, 18 March 2013 (UTC)
I do have a suggestion for change for the lead section. I find the statement "and a majority of them limit their social interaction with non-Witnesses" or similar to be more accurate, whatever sources are used. It is a compromise for me, as a full removal as untrue/unverified is given up, but it accepts the Ringnes statement as a verification about various practice.
Regarding Penton, not every one of his claims in his books are gossip, but statements which not are, are very often verifiable using other sources. A lot of his claims, like the examples I listed above, all from one single chapters, are pure fringes, and are not supported by a range of independent scholars. To cherrypick from Penton is an art I would refrain from. He is to some extend commonly sourced, but not undisputed, he is commonly referred to as a former member of Jehovah's Witnesses and a critic of the movement, and is representing an extreme and biased view of Jehovah's Witnesses. The Ringnes book have not sourced him at all (it is though referencing to other former members of Jehovah's Witnesses), and Penton represents a notable opinion in some cases, as a critic of Jehovah's Witnesses. Grrahnbahr (talk) 21:56, 19 March 2013 (UTC)
The suggestion that Penton is fringe, extreme and biased is laughable and unsustainable and typical of the long-established JW campaign of denigration of ex-members. I am prepared to alter the sentence in the lede to read: "They consider secular society to be morally corrupt and under the influence of Satan, and most limit their social interaction with non-Witnesses." BlackCab (talk) 22:21, 19 March 2013 (UTC)
The suggested wording for the lead leaves the impression that 'most' JWs simply choose to limit their association with non-Witnesses entirely of their own volition, and not as a direct response to the quite strong 'advice' that is frequently given about 'bad association', as already indicated from JW literature. The fact that a minority of JWs happen to (I would say, quite rightly) temper the more restrictive official stance is not of sufficient weight to include in the lead.--Jeffro77 (talk) 02:12, 20 March 2013 (UTC)
The section of the lede in which it appears contains several sentences listing what they do do: They reject; they do not observe; they consider themselves to be, etc, which are all accepted as generalised statements about members' beliefs and actions. That would be followed by a sentence that states that "they consider secular society to be morally corrupt and under the influence of Satan" (equally a generalised statement) and that "most limit their social interaction with non-Witnesses". The last statement is simple and absolutely true, sourced to Penton as a RS, and does not raise the issue of personal choice. The body of the article expands on this and it is there that the article states that Witnesses are told by their leaders of the "dangers" of socialising with non-members with to their faith. This is also where the article says they are told ("advised" is the rather delicate term) to minimize social contact with non-members. BlackCab (talk) 03:41, 20 March 2013 (UTC)
If the lead is to say that most limit their interaction with non-members, the statement in the body should more clearly indicate that members are told rather than just 'advised'. This would be a better balance regarding the implied degree of 'choice' in both statements. Apart from that, I'm okay with the suggested change.--Jeffro77 (talk) 03:59, 21 March 2013 (UTC)
I don't see what difference "most" do compared to "a majority", other than suggesting a larger majority than the sources combined may suggest. I do for sure think of "various practice" or similar not being a huge majority (reflected in the Ringnes source). I do agree to a statement in the lead, needs to be a reflection of what the main text states. Regarding advised and told; the primary sources Jeffro did quote earlier in this discussion, used wording as "wise to do" so and so (se my explanation above regarding Jeffro's quotes from Watchtower). It is nothing suggesting an order in these quotes. I have to look for exact quotes to support my next suggestion, but it reasonable that both Ringnes and Holden would have made a comment about it if it was violating an official teaching (Holden do also mention examples with "mixed" couples, where one was JW and the other not, where he made a point out of one of the parts commonly became a JW after they married). Regarding the reason/use of the wording like thus: the wording in the sources combined is not absolute regarding excluding the possibility for JW to choose friends within the movement of other reasons than of a result of influence from JW teachings or vice versa (as I quoted from Penton above: "So, because Jehovah's Witnesses generally do not work well together in the secular world - at least in developed nations - they are forced and sometimes elect to lead much of their lives outside the close confines of 'theocratic society'"). It is also mentioned the influence the meetings have regarding making plans for common activities, elements that is close related to social activities included.
Regarding Pentons reliability: I just pointed out several issues about it. To suggest he's not biased, when known for being a former member and a known critic of JW, is falling on its own unreasonableness. I won't scope on it here, as he's statement about this topic actually is pretty much the same as found among independent scholars, like Holden and Ringnes.
I would like a commentary from CarrieVS as well about the use of "most" vs. "majority of". I can't see why most indicate that members are told rather than just 'advised', but if is so, I would like to see the source telling JW are told to, as I would connect told as implicit indicating use of force or consequences if not followed. Ringnes clearly states that not following this advice, have no consequences (not significant, at least), as JW with social connections outside the movement are described as in a good standing. Thus I find "advice" more according to the source. Grrahnbahr (talk) 17:23, 21 March 2013 (UTC)
"A majority of" suggests some statistical precision, when there is none. "Most" is accurate, succinct and based on a RS (Penton). "Various practice" is a meaningless term in this context and adds no value to the lede. JWs are most certainly told by the WTS that they should avoid such friendships. Penton uses the word "dicta", the plural of dictum, a formal utterance or pronouncement. An example of such a dictum is the July 1 1972 WT cited at the talk page: "Other than such necessary association, true Christians will avoid keeping company or making friendships with those who do not share their love for Jehovah God." BlackCab (talk) 21:14, 21 March 2013 (UTC)

We should not quote the watchtower saying "true Christians" as it give undue weight to the perception that the watchtower publishers are true Christians. We need to point out that the borg only speak to other to proselyte and do not have any true friendships inside or outside of the organization. Syxxpackid420 (talk) 22:27, 27 March 2013 (UTC)

Jehova's Witnesses discussion break

That sounds ok to me. Can we live with BlackCab's suggestion above? CarrieVS (talk) 09:55, 20 March 2013 (UTC)

Jeffro's suggestion above re the wording in the body of the article is fine by me. The examples he gives go beyond "advice". BlackCab (talk) 05:40, 21 March 2013 (UTC)
Sorry I didn't see this one. Grrahnbahr (talk) 17:26, 21 March 2013 (UTC)
Grrahnbahr, who initiated this dispute, has not responded here, but has begun a new thread back at the talk page where he appears to be again suggesting the article adopt a defensive tone dismissing the statements of reliable sources. He has not agreed with anyone; I think this dispute discussion may have run its course. BlackCab (talk) 23:39, 23 March 2013 (UTC)
I didn't respond for two days because of an urgent situation outside Wikipedia. In the article's talkpage I asked for suggestions regarding solving this case, because I got the impression the consensus was to change the lead by a smaller change to make it more accurate, and to include Ringnes statement in the article text, as it offered a more adjusted view of the JW practice in this matter. According to the answer given on the talk page, it is obvious who doesn't care about consensus. Grrahnbahr (talk) 10:26, 24 March 2013 (UTC)
A very disingenuous answer. You raised the issue here. A proposal was suggested here. With the help of a moderator, two editors have agreed to the wording here. You have retreated to the talk page to suggest new wording entirely. What a waste of time this has been. BlackCab (talk) 11:17, 24 March 2013 (UTC)
I do disagree. There are no consensus for exact wording within the article's text, but since you've agreed to include a statement regarding Ringnes' quote/view, a suggestion for wording would be the next step for a solution. Saying here it is ok to include a reference to Ringnes's statement, and then, when it comes to actually including it in the article, says "NO!", is at least confusing. Grrahnbahr (talk) 12:01, 24 March 2013 (UTC)

The current proposal:

  • In the lead section, we say "[Jehova's Witnesses] consider secular society to be morally corrupt and under the influence of Satan" and that "most limit their social interaction with non-Witnesses." (In answer to Grrahnbahr's question, I agree with 'most' rather than 'a majority of'.)
  • In the body of the article, we state that members are told to limit their social interaction with non-Witnesses, along with a sentence or two about how consistently this instruction is followed. Wording not yet agreed upon.

I'm a little confused by some of the recent discussion. Reading it all, it looks to me like everyone is more-or-less happy with this, but you speak as if you were still at odds. I would like you all to state simply, with no more than one sentence of explanation, whether or not you agree in principle. The exact wording in the body of the article can be discussed afterwards. CarrieVS (talk) 17:14, 24 March 2013 (UTC)

Jeffro 77: agree. See previous comments regarding balance of wording in the lead and body; also, Grrahnbahr's 'disagreement' below does not address the lead.--Jeffro77 (talk) 02:37, 26 March 2013 (UTC)

BlackCab: agree - lead section per proposal, body section can cite Ringnes without substantially altering present statement. BlackCab (talk) 21:50, 24 March 2013 (UTC) Exactly, the advise comes from an allegedly theocratic (and certainly totalitarian) source and so can be considered something not to be disagreed with Syxxpackid420 (talk) 10:47, 29 March 2013 (UTC)

Grrahnbahr: disagree - I agree to the suggestion for lead section, but I disagree to the use of told to and instruction, as it could/should be regarded as advises rather than instructions. - Grrahnbahr (talk) 22:50, 25 March 2013 (UTC)

That's a good starting point at least.
Grrahnbahr, the ball is in your court: you're the only one holding that position, so it's up to you to provide a really good policy- and source-based argument to convince others to agree with you. Could you summarise your argument for why this 'instruction' is advice only, making sure to address the points that have already been made against that view. CarrieVS (talk) 11:23, 26 March 2013 (UTC)
I would like to use quotes from Andrew Holden and from dr Pål Repstad. Please note that all sources I am referencing to, are strong secondary sources, is not written by former or current members of the movement (unlike quoting Watchtower or Penton), and thus is less likely to be biased by the writers personal experience. Holden states (p. 111): "I have searched long and hard for evidence of uniformity in the Witnesses' perceptions of Watch Tower transgression where official teachings are vague and have come to the conclusion that this is a nettle they do not like to grasp. But one thing that is clear is that the tolerance levels of devotees vary, as does their frequency of contact with outsiders. Although some voluntary contact with the outside world is permissible, the Witnesses are advised to err on the side of caution when forming friendships with those who do not share their beliefs." (Note the teaching is described as vague, the practice is variable, voluntary contact with the outside world is at least to some extend permissible, and the word advised is used.) Repstad states (me translating, p. 59-60): "How much contact it may be with people and media outside the movement, is to some extent left to the individual member.(...) That the Witnesses get to decide over thei[r own] specific contact pattern, could give [a] rise to uncertainty, discussions and creative intermediate solutions." (Note that they are to decide their own contact pattern, and I find this not to be in accordance with words as told and instructed.) Grrahnbahr (talk) 21:27, 27 March 2013 (UTC)

It needs to be noted these people are cyborgs who will only pretend to be your friend to preach to you Syxxpackid420 (talk) 22:30, 27 March 2013 (UTC)

Grrahnbahr's arguments avoid the central issue. He again refers to the degree of acceptance by members, which is irrelevant in this immediate discussion. It's a simple question: Does the Watch Tower Society tell members they should limit their social interaction with outsiders, or is it casual advice? The talk page contains numerous, repeated examples of direct instructions to members on how they should behave in this area. Penton uses the word "dicta" (p.280); Holden uses the word "advise" (p.111) and "discourages" (p.103), but also points out that the WTS makes clear to members that any who transgress its prescriptive boundaries "gamble with eternal life" (p.174) and are "failing to surrender to the will of Jehovah" (p.70). Hence he says there are "tacit rules by which devotees must abide in every social context." (p.109). There is nothing inherently offensive in the statement that the WTS tells its members how they should act in this manner, but "tells" is far more accurate than is suggested by "advise". BlackCab (talk) 00:18, 28 March 2013 (UTC)
I tend to agree with BlackCab here.
  • First, if some people ignore an instruction, that doesn't stop it being an instruction. For analogy, if a parent tells their child to clean their bedroom and the child refuses, does that mean the parent was only advising the child?
  • Second, I don't think the fact that an instruction is vague or open to interpretation necessarily stops it being an instruction. For instance, some of Wikipedia's policies, such as [[WP:]], can be difficult to interpret and different editors may disagree about how they should be followed. Does that mean we are only advised to follow policy?
  • Third, as I read them, the quotes Grrahnbahr gave above actually support the 'told' argument. "Some voluntary contact with the outside world is permissible" implies that more contact is forbidden, not merely advised against. "Witnesses are advised to err on the side of caution" looks to me to refer to additional advice about how to follow the instruction - I read it as saying that Witnesses are told to limit social interaction with non-Witnesses, which doesn't require them to avoid it entirely, but they are advised to err on the side of caution with regard to how much such interaction is allowable within that rule.
I don't see anything that contradicts the statement that Witnesses are told/instructed to limit social interaction with non-Witnesses. CarrieVS (talk) 10:30, 28 March 2013 (UTC)
I do want to twist this around. For the first I cannot see it being an instruction, is proven by being supported by a majority of reliable references. And the statement from Repstad is contradicting the statement the Witnesses are instructed to limit social interaction with non-Witnesses ("That the Witnesses get to decide over thei[r own] specific contact pattern"). The question is rather if Penton's statement do have more referencing value than Holden and Repstad. The analogy you mentioned, does not suit in here, because, Jeffro was earlier quoting several passages from the WT, where the use of expressions like "it would be wise" were used. This does not at all suit in with an analogy about a parent instructing their child (is "it would be wise (or maybe nice) of you to clean up your room" being instructions?). The "it would be wise not to walk near the cliff"-analogy shows it is fully reasonable to use an analogy where giving an advise (with purpose to warn) is the core. It is described as danger rather than sinful or wrongdoing, because it is considered as behave who could lead to sinful or wrongdoing acts.
Holden actually uses "instructed" within the same chapter as I was quoting from: "The Governing Body's teaching regarding contact with those being disfellowshipped are unambiguous. Disfellowshipped members, through free to continue to attend meetings, are to be shunned by the rest of the congregation. Other members are instructed to avoid such individuals who are now considered to be in a state of unworthiness." (p.107, emphasized by me) Thus when Holden gives the statement about some voluntary contact, implicit some voluntary contact being not permissible, it looks fairly correct. Holden describes this particular teaching as unambiguous (as opposite to vague), and uses the word instructed, a word he is completely leaving out when it comes to general contact between JW and non-JW. Grrahnbahr (talk) 11:59, 28 March 2013 (UTC)
We seem to be going in circles now. The wording of the Watchtower, quoted on the talk page, goes beyond casual advice. Grrahnbahr initiated a dispute resolution process over wording he disagreed with. No one has agreed with his interpretation or supported his suggested wording. He still doesn't accept the contrary (majority) viewpoint. We may have reached an impasse and I don't know know what else he expects to happen now. BlackCab (talk) 12:11, 28 March 2013 (UTC)
The proposal of the lead have changed, so stating "no one has agreed with his interpretation or supported his suggested wording" is not fair. The Watchtower quotes are from the dispute resolution page, and the sources are still being discussed. Grrahnbahr (talk) 12:39, 28 March 2013 (UTC)
I don't think it's hopeless yet.
I think the problem is the distinction between advising someone to do something, and telling them to do it, but giving advice on how it should be done. Grrahnbahr, is that difference clear to you? (To return to the parent-child analogy: the parent might tell the child to clean their room, and then suggest that they start by picking up their toys, and then sweep the floor. The second part is advice, but that doesn't stop the first being an instruction.) CarrieVS (talk) 12:50, 28 March 2013 (UTC)
My objection against using instruction, is not only because of POV, which really is a minor problem here, but also because I think it is inaccurate. It is worded like they being ordered to, when several independent sources states the are able/can choose in this matter, unlike t.ex. spending time with a disfellowshipped, as quoted from Holden, which is not described as an advise, but an instruction. I've noticed CarrieVS leaving out instruction/instructed. I find some distinction between telling and advising. It is some distinction, between telling and instructing, and it is merely distinction between being told to do and instructed to. A more neutral expression may solve it, like "WTS official guidance warns against" (I know the wording is hopeless, but may gives an idea). Regarding your analogy: JW are told to stay separated from the World, they are advised to minimize social contact with non-members/warned against cultivating close friendships with non-members, not because it is explicit forbidden, but because it is considered as putting themselves within spiritual danger and makes it harder to stay separated from the world. It would be inaccurate to state it like an instruction, when it got the character of warning or advice. Grrahnbahr (talk) 13:39, 29 March 2013 (UTC)
You seem intent on using advising as a soft euphemism for the more accurate instruction. Several statements from Watch Tower Society publications have already been provided that indicate that avoiding association with "worldlings" (their word) is not merely 'casual advice' as you want the article to imply. Is the following advice or an instruction? (Note also the repeated technique of saying "we must" instead of "you must". This is a well known age-old technique of influencing people while assuming a less accusative tone.)
  • The Watchtower, 15 April 1993, page 16: Limit your association to spiritually minded Christians who really love Jehovah.
  • Our Kingdom Ministry, September 2009, page 7 [Instructions for a pre-rehersed 'demonstration']: Interview one or two young publishers who have returned to school and who realize the need to limit association with unbelieving classmates.
  • The Watchtower, 15 October 2012, page 30: Living “in the last days,” we are surrounded by people who are “disloyal,” people “having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power.” (2 Tim. 3:1-5) As much as possible, we must avoid such bad association.
  • The Watchtower, 15 February 1994, page 24: We must also be on guard against extended association with worldly people. Perhaps it is a neighbor, a school friend, a workmate, or a business associate. We may reason, ‘He respects the Witnesses, he leads a clean life, and we do talk about the truth occasionally.’ Yet, the experience of others proves that in time we may even find ourselves preferring such worldly company to that of a spiritual brother or sister. What are some of the dangers of such a friendship?
  • The Watchtower, 15 January 2004, page 28: The trouble that “brought ostracism” upon Jacob started because Dinah made friends with people who did not love Jehovah. We must choose our associates wisely.
  • The Watchtower, 15 July 1997, page 18: Of course, we must also guard against bad associations. We can be cordial with neighbors, workmates, and fellow students. But if we are really walking wisely, we will avoid getting too close to those not pursuing Christian virtue.
  • The Watchtower, 1 November 1997, page 25: Although Epicureanism disappeared in the fourth century C.E., there are those today who adopt a similar now-is-all-we-have viewpoint. These people place little or no faith in God’s promise of life eternal. Yet, some of them have relatively high standards of conduct. A Christian might be tempted to form a close relationship with such ones, perhaps reasoning that their decent qualities justify friendship. However, though not considering ourselves superior, we must bear in mind that all “bad associations”—including those whose influence is more subtle—“spoil useful habits.”
It's fairly obvious that the 'counsel' to 'avoid' 'bad associates' (i.e. non-Witnesses) is considered instruction rather than merely 'advice'.--Jeffro77 (talk) 14:41, 29 March 2013 (UTC)

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