Pharyngula

i-2c6e5a52bdb4426e0c09334e744c4f70-jean_grove.jpg

Isn’t that a sweet little old lady? I guess the sign offended a few people, though, and they turned her in to the police.

Insisting that the sign was simply a lark, Mrs Grove said yesterday that she had never received any complaints about it. But police ordered her to take it down and her details were taken. Once the officers left she hung the sign back up.

I like that last bit—what a simple no-nonsense response to bureaucratic BS.

She said: “it’s been there for more than 30 years and all the people who live nearby are used to it. I couldn’t believe it. I’ve never had any complaints with any religion. The sign is just a lark that’s been there for a long time.

I don’t know. I’m looking at that obviously vicious little puppy and wondering how many Jehovah’s Witnesses he had eaten that day.

At least the British seem relatively civil about the whole thing. Symbols seem to inflame a whole ‘nother level of insanity in this country.

(hat tip: Richard Dawkins. Yeah, that Richard Dawkins.)

Comments

  1. #1 j
    July 28, 2006

    Hehe. That dog is adorable.

    The Jehovah’s Witnesses that come witnessing at my house don’t get much of a welcome either.

  2. #2 Great White Wonder
    July 28, 2006

    Anyone want to guess why there are no prominent Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon ID promoters at, e.g., the Discovery Institute?

    Or am I forgetting someone?

  3. #3 Caledonian
    July 28, 2006

    I’m not familiar with free speech rights in the UK. Did the police actually have any authority to order the sign removed?

  4. #4 Steviepinhead
    July 28, 2006

    I’d say, Go Granny Go!, except being in a position to quote that memorable Jan ‘n’ Dean line with any feeling would put me in the gran-generation my own self.

    So I’ll just lay low, yeah, real low, right down in the weeds, and lick my chops until the next religious door-beller comes along.

  5. #5 Great White Wonder
    July 28, 2006

    A spokesman for the Jehovah’s Witness movement in Hampshire accepted that the sign was a joke.

    He said: “If we see signs like that we turn around and walk away.”

    “If they were naming individuals, then obviously that would be deeply offensive, but a sign like that is just stupid rather than deeply hurtful.”

    Interesting. If the sign used the phrase, “ID Peddlers” instead of “Jehovah’s Witnesses,” the ID peddlers would cite is as “evidence” that “evolutionary dogma is crumbling and the Darwinists are desperate!”

    I suddenly have a tad more respect for the JW’s.

    That makes one tad in total. 😉

  6. #6 Blake Stacey
    July 28, 2006

    Heh. Ignoring everything except the title of this post, I gotta say — MC Myers is bustin’ the rhymes. (-:

  7. #7 Greco
    July 28, 2006

    I don’t know. I’m looking at that obviously vicious little puppy and wondering how many Jehovah’s Witnesses he had eaten that day.

    And a cute puppy, too. Obviously Jehovah’s Witnesses are very nutritious. Maybe I should try it with my big scary dogs (a poodle and a yorkshire…).

  8. #8 Greco
    July 28, 2006

    Yeah, that Richard Dawkins.

    So, how long till the Dawkins hating crowd claims this is “evidence” that he eats Jehovah’s Witnesses?

  9. #9 Chris Adams
    July 28, 2006

    GWW – they both are relatively insular and cooperating with other groups would legitimize them to an uncomfortable extent. I’m not sure about the Mormons but the Witnesses consider other variations of Christianity to be in some ways worse than other religions or even atheists on the grounds that non-Christians have simply never been exposed to “The Truth” whereas other Christians have but either got it wrong or are deliberately distorting it.

  10. #10 Cyde Weys
    July 28, 2006

    You know you’ve made it when …

    Richard Dawkins sends in submissions to your blog.

  11. #11 Siamang
    July 28, 2006

    As Stephen Hawking always tells me, don’t be a namedropper.

  12. #12 Christian
    July 28, 2006

    Jehovah’s witnesses are very nutritious. Slightly more nutritious than the average mormon or evangelist. Don’t know why though. But, my St. Bernards are always more perky and have a healthier coat after a JW goes missing in the neighborhood. 🙂

  13. #13 Jim in Chicago
    July 28, 2006

    I had a good laugh at the sign. It reminded me of a prior infestation that wouldn’t go away.

    When my wife and I were first married we had bought a house not far from the local “Kingdom Hall”…

    Early Saturdays, round about 8:00 in the morning they’d come to our house like clockwork. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, usually one seasoned “witness” accompanied by a few novices, would do their shtick as I’m rubbing my sleepy eyes in disbelief.

    I asked them to note on their paperwork to leave us alone.

    Still they came.

    After I realized that the neighborly approach was not working. I started locking the screen door. When I heard the doorbell ring I’d casually walk over to the door and open the door just enough for my 95 pound Doberman to bounce off the screen door a couple of times. Although he was a big pussycat, he could play the part of “Nasty Dog” when I gave him the go ahead. After a couple of those encounters our local Jehovah People must have put a “do not go to this house” on their lists. They finally got the message.

  14. #14 Scott Hatfield
    July 28, 2006

    Hey, I brag about getting an email from PZ Myers. Yeah, THAT PZ Myers.

    Seriously, why shouldn’t Dr. Dawkins frequent this blog? It’s been written up in Nature, it’s got some really pungent writing and (let’s face it) the views of Dr. Dawkins are often the topic of the day.

    Besides, where else can you keep tabs on the top-secret squid conspiracy?

    Congrats, sir, on the growing popularity of your blog…Scott

  15. #15 Ian H Spedding
    July 28, 2006

    Caledonian wrote:

    I’m not familiar with free speech rights in the UK. Did the police actually have any authority to order the sign removed?

    Freedom of expresssion is guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights to which the UK is signatory. There are exceptions allowed on the grounds of things like public order, health and morals but I doubt that the police had the power to order removal of the sign just on the basis of one complaint.

  16. #16 Zeno
    July 29, 2006

    One of my friends ended up on the JW “do not visit” list when he answered the door stark naked. They beat a hasty retreat and didn’t come back.

  17. #17 Bibliotekisto
    July 29, 2006

    The Richard Dawkins who is married to Romanadvoratrelundar[#2]? That Richard Dawkins? Not Richard Dawkins of West Palm Beach, FL, or of Toccoa, GA, or of Homer, IL? What would that Richard Dawkins want with a science blog, its not like he is a famous scientist of anything… ;p

  18. #18 Me
    July 29, 2006

    To me, “Our dogs are fed on Jehovah’s Witnesses,” seems funny. But, “Our dogs are fed on Jews,” seems scary.

  19. #19 Ronald Brak
    July 29, 2006

    Yes, the one who married Romanadvoratrelundar. And what’s more they were introduced to each other by Douglass Adams.

  20. #20 Jake
    July 29, 2006

    To me, “Our dogs are fed on Jehovah’s Witnesses,” seems funny. But, “Our dogs are fed on Jews,” seems scary.

    This is a perfectly reasonable and rational reaction. When it comes to violent statements of this sort, context is everything. There are two relevant pieces of context here:

    1)Jews have been the targets of violence and discrimination for centuries, and still are today. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not.

    2)Jehovah’s Witnesses regularly come to people’s houses and harrass them. Jews do not.

    The rules are (and should be) inconsistent, because the playing field is not level.

  21. #21 Grumpy
    July 29, 2006

    1)Jews have been the targets of violence and discrimination for centuries, and still are today. Jehovah’s Witnesses are not.

    Present instance notwithstanding, of course.

    Would mailmen or salesmen be considered a protected class??

  22. #22 Marc Buhler
    July 29, 2006

    Maybe she could have said “fed with JW’s” or perhaps “we use JW’s to feed the dogs..” so it could be then read either way. A pair of JW’s came to my door last week and I shared some of my reasons for supporting evolution with them and even accepted their flyer about their “deliverance at hand” convention here in Sydney but it seems it is on this weekend and I went out and played baseball instead… oh, well. (But we won, moving us to first place. God must be on our side since half my team are baptists anyway.)

    My question is… would a dog *really* eat a JW?
    (signed) marc

  23. #23 bernarda
    July 29, 2006

    Here is some more dog food for the lady to vary her pets’ diet.

    http://www.sullivan-county.com/id3/christian_protestors.gif

  24. #24 Jeff
    July 29, 2006

    Ahh, far be it from me to defend the Jehovah’s Witlesses, but I think you should look up Purple Triangles before claiming they haven’t experienced oppresion.

  25. #25 scout
    July 29, 2006

    now there’s a woman who rocks! i’m sure most jw’s would laugh, especially if the sign’s been there for 30 years.

    it’s never bothered me when jw’s or mormons come to the door. i invite them in for tea, say, ‘i don’t want to talk beliefs, but i am interested in you as people, where you grew up, blah blah blah’. it ends up being nice converstation, i’ve learned about two people’s lives, and they don’t cross the boundaries i’ve laid out. then they don’t return and no harm’s been done to anyone.

  26. #26 Bob O'H
    July 29, 2006

    I could use a sign like that…if we can change “dog” to “cat”

    Butnobody’s ever seen a dog change into a cat…

    Bob

  27. #27 Bob Dowling
    July 29, 2006

    I am about to rant. Readers of this fine blog without any interest in the UK’s social problems should move swiftly on.

    The UK signature on the European Convention on Human Rights isn’t worth a damn, unfortunately.

    What will happen next is this: A jobsworth policeman will apply for an ASBO (Anti-Social Behaviour Order) on granny requiring that she not display signs of this type. Getting an ASBO requires an extremely low level of supposed evidence and even less legal authority. One simply needs to convince a magistrate that it would be a good idea. Breaking the terms of an ASBO is, however, a fully fledged criminal act.

    ASBOs have been obtained in the UK for really quite absurd reasons. Everyone has their favourite but the one that scared me the most was the ASBO granted against a young child requiring him not to stare into the neighbour’s garden, because the neighbour found it unsettling. Said child was autistic. Staring intently was simply one of his symptoms. But a magistrate granted the ASBO nonetheless.

    The UK is in serious danger of criminalising a vast swathe of its population under the ASBO regime. Granny will face massive fines and possible jail time.

    End of rant. I feel better for that.

  28. #28 bernarda
    July 29, 2006

    Bob, since you seem to know about the British situation, here is a news site that may interest you.

    http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/

    One article currently linked at the site, “To abolish only non-Christian faith schools would be taken as an affront. The answer is that they all have to go”

  29. #29 Staffan S
    July 29, 2006

    Bob: I suppose an ASBO can be appealed?

  30. #30 Carlie
    July 29, 2006

    More fun with Christians overstepping their boundaries in the NYTimes today:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/29/us/29delaware.html?_r=1&oref=slogin&ref=us&pagewanted=all

  31. #31 jbruno
    July 29, 2006

    Thanks for sharing, PZ, Carlie…

    What an awful story, Carlie. I wonder if this of situation is going to be repeated throughout the country as Christianity becomes less prevalent.

  32. #32 Caledonian
    July 29, 2006

    There are exceptions allowed on the grounds of things like public order

    “Public order” is usually the excuse governments use when censoring controversial speech. What you’re saying is that citizens in the UK only have free speech to the degree that the government decides to permit them to have free speech — basically, the same set-up we have in the States, where everyone is entitled to certain inalienable rights unless the government decides to alienate them.

    Bah.

  33. #33 Peter McGrath
    July 29, 2006

    It gets worse: at a recent festival a stallholder selling t-shirts with the slogan ‘bollocks to Blair’ was fined £80 ($140-ish), because the slogan was apt to cause distress. Since the 7 July London bombings legislation has been introduced which has allowed the police huge powers in the name of anti-teerrorism legislation. At last year’s Labour Party confeerence an 82 year old life-long Labour activist shouted ‘rubbish!’ at the then foreign secretary who was indeed talking trash. The octagenarian was wrestled out by two heavies and arrested under prevention of terrorism legislation. He was released without charge, the Labour government having realised that they had not merely show themselves off at the foot but blown both legs off at the knees. Lots of us on the progressive side of British politics (a place I don’t put our Bush-loving Prime Minister) are very concerned at the creeping limits of freedom of speech and the right to go about our business un monitored.

  34. #34 Peter McGrath
    July 29, 2006

    Errata: ‘shot themselves in the foot’. You can appeal an ASBO (ibid) but these days it’s the only qualification many British youth get. And judging by the size of the dog, Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t make for much of a diet. You’d have to buy supplements.

  35. #35 adamsj
    July 29, 2006

    For what it’s worth, Jehovah’s Witnesses did experience a significant level of discrimination (including, I believe, some violence) here in the United States circa World War II. One of the major first amendment cases from that period involved them–it’s too early in the morning for me to remember which one.

    I’ll also say this: I recently went to a funeral for a the son of a friend who is (at least nominally) a Jehovah’s Witness. I was impressed by the lack of ostentation in the church, and by the calm tone (if not the entire content) of the preacher’s remarks. I also had a nice discussion with a guy who cited an article he’d recently read in Nature.

    (Yes, they’re annoying when they come to your door uninvited, but I do prefer them to telemarketers.)

  36. #36 Caledonian
    July 29, 2006

    It gets worse: at a recent festival a stallholder selling t-shirts with the slogan ‘bollocks to Blair’ was fined £80 ($140-ish), because the slogan was apt to cause distress.

    I realize this is merely a fantasy on my part, but just imagine what would happen if such fines were refused to be paid, the police showed up to deal with the lawbreakers — and were quietly surrounded by people who weren’t willing to take such behavior sitting down.

    One of the secrets which our societies try very hard to keep people from understanding is that if it is confronted with enough peaceful protestors, law enforcement eventually must choose between violence and submission to the will of the populace. If violence is chosen, the cause of the protestors is strengthened.

    It’ll never happen, of course.

  37. #37 quork
    July 29, 2006

    Anyone want to guess why there are no prominent Jehovah’s Witness or Mormon ID promoters at, e.g., the Discovery Institute?
    .
    Or am I forgetting someone?

    I don’t know of any. Jonathan Wells is a Moonie. The Raelians support ID, but I don’t think the admiration is mutual.

  38. #38 Ian H Spedding
    July 29, 2006

    Caledonian wrote:

    There are exceptions allowed on the grounds of things like public order

    “Public order” is usually the excuse governments use when censoring controversial speech. What you’re saying is that citizens in the UK only have free speech to the degree that the government decides to permit them to have free speech — basically, the same set-up we have in the States, where everyone is entitled to certain inalienable rights unless the government decides to alienate them.
    Bah.

    I have to agree. In the UK, home of “the mother of parliaments”, until recently, politicians of all stripes have consistently denied Her Majesty’s subjects a written constitution and statement of rights equivalent to that enjoyed by citizens of the United States for over two hundred years.

  39. #39 Pete
    July 29, 2006

    The rules are (and should be) inconsistent, because the playing field is not level.

    -I’m not buying this; I think the sign is crap. I don’t favor casual jokes about violence in any context.

    I see a sign like this as akin to the “Terrorist Hunting License” stickers I’ve seen on truck windows once I get a few hundred miles from the Bay Area. I personally wouldn’t be too happy about seeing a sign that said “My dog is fed on atheists”. I wouldn’t call the police to report a thoughtcrime, but I wouldn’t find it funny.

    Additionally, tolerance towards signs like this, or putting a “fringe” religion (like JW or Scientology, etc) on a different playing field from a “mainstream” religion like Judaism or Christianity, has the effect of validating the latter.

  40. #40 oldhippie
    July 29, 2006

    To me, “Our dogs are fed on Jehovah’s Witnesses,” seems funny. But, “Our dogs are fed on Jews,” seems scary.

    Or gays or many other minorities. But here it is fine because Jehovah’s Witnesses come pestering you. It would also be Ok to say Jew and Gays too, if they behaved like Jehovah’s Witnesses. But they do not. This sign is Ok because it is targeting a well-known minor nuisance.

    Brits can also be funny about symbols. Many years ago a butcher selling rabbits had a sign up:
    “Watership Down” You have read the book, you have seen the movie, now eat the cast!” There was such an outcry he was forced to take it down.

  41. #41 cm
    July 29, 2006

    Dynamics of aggressive humor. Compare:

    a) “Our dogs are fed on Jehovah’s Witnesses”
    b) “Jehovah’s Witnesses will be shot on sight.”
    c) “Our dogs are fed on African Americans”
    d) “African American’s will be shot on sight.”

    They ramp up in offensiveness. In each case there is the structure: “action” taken on “party”. What allows the sign to be a harmless joke here is two things: The action is unlikely or absurd, and the party has some socially accepted comeuppance. (a) fits this pattern, while (b) & (c) break one of the two conditions and (d) breaks both.

    Further, in this case some of the humor “working” comes from the relatedness of the two conditions. Dogs generally are thought to respond to strangers at the door, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are, functionally, professional strangers at the door. This is why the joke works much better than if it said, “Jehovah’s Witnesses Will be Tarred and Feathered” because that formulation doesn’t access a “stranger at the front door” mental script.

  42. #42 lightning
    July 29, 2006

    There’s also the matter of a “credible threat”. In civilized countries, people do not kill other people for dog food. Therefore, the sign does not constitute a real threat. A sign that says “Jehovah’s Witnesses will be shot on sight”, on the other hand, is approaching credibility — there really are nutcases out there who will shoot [member of group] if they get a chance.

    Another exampls is the rather common sign at Ren Fairs “Unsupervised children will be sold as slaves”. Again, not a credible threat in a civilized country.

  43. #43 cm
    July 29, 2006

    That’s what I meant by “the action is unlikely or absurd”.

  44. #44 Roman Werpachowski
    July 29, 2006

    Unfortunately, modern social customs and legal culture seem bent on removing every display of such grim humor from public sight.

  45. #45 Cheeky Bob
    July 29, 2006

    Many years ago a butcher selling rabbits had a sign up:
    “Watership Down” You have read the book, you have seen the movie, now eat the cast!” There was such an outcry he was forced to take it down.

    And here’s another – a billboard ad for the (revolting) Irn-Bru drink featured a picture of a cow grazing happily in a field, with the caption “When I’m a burger, I want to be washed down with Irn-Bru”

    Fortunately, although it was easily the most complained-about ad of its year, the Advertising Standards Authority reached the following eminently sensible verdict:

    Complaint: Objections to a poster for Irn Bru, that featured a cow. The text on the poster read “When I’m a burger, I want to be washed down with Irn Bru”. The complainants believed that the advertisement was offensive, and challenged
    the implication that the cow would enjoy becoming a burger.

    Decision: After consideration, the ASA felt that the majority of people seeing the advertisement would not be seriously offended by it. The complaints were not justified and therefore no adjudication was published by the ASA.

  46. #46 Interrobang
    July 29, 2006

    The most weird thing about the Dobrich story to me is how much the name of the town (Rehoboth) seems like an archaic spelling of Rehovot, a town in Israel…

    FWIW, I think the “Watership Down…now eat the cast!” thing is hilarious, but I like eating rabbit.

  47. #47 Alexander Whiteside
    July 29, 2006

    Woah, woah, what’s wrong with Irn Bru? Seriously. I think this is an issue which deserves serious discussion, given how fantastic Irn Bru is.

  48. #48 Monado
    July 29, 2006

    I’ve seen signs for sale in stores that say, “We shoot every third salesman. The second one just left” and “We feed salesmen to the alligator in the basement” (or some such). Maybe they don’t sell them these days.

    My favourite sign is the one at the African Lion Safari in Ontario: it says, “Trespassers will be eaten” and they mean it.

  49. #49 cfeagans
    July 29, 2006

    I just have my daughter draw a chalk outline around my body lying on the sidewalk by the front door and then drop a couple of Watchtower magazines next to it. And with this year’s global warming, I don’t have to worry about the rain washing it away so often. A little piece of crime-scene tape stuck in the nearest bush for an added touch and the JW run for their lives.

    I’m just kidding, of course.

  50. #50 Rey
    July 30, 2006

    Complaint: Objections to a poster for Irn Bru, that featured a cow. The text on the poster read “When I’m a burger, I want to be washed down with Irn Bru”. The complainants believed that the advertisement was offensive, and challenged the implication that the cow would enjoy becoming a burger.

    Are you kidding? How many hundreds of ads over the years have depicted animals smilingly selling out their own kind, and presumably themselves?

  51. #51 Calladus
    July 30, 2006

    What allows the sign to be a harmless joke here is two things: The action is unlikely or absurd, and the party has some socially accepted comeuppance.

    This is something like the “Trespassers will be violated” joke sign that I’ve seen from time to time. The consequences would be considered absurd by the average person.

    And I found the “Watership Down / Eat the cast” sign funny enough to imperil my keyboard with soda.

  52. #52 Kansas Anarchist
    July 30, 2006

    One of the major first amendment cases from that period involved them–it’s too early in the morning for me to remember which one.

    West Virginia State Board of Education vs. Barnette, which reversed an earlier JW-related ruling in Minersville School District vs. Gobitis. Barnette laid the groundwork for allowing students the right to not salute the flag and say the Pledge of Allegiance.

  53. #53 Ron Sullivan
    July 31, 2006

    Utah Phillips’ good news/bad news joke:

    Bad news:
    The Martians have landed.

    Good news:
    They eat Mormons and piss gasoline.

    OK, class; discuss.

  54. #54 Danny Haszard
    August 3, 2006

    -A heads up on the Jehovah Witness-

    There is no Armageddon that will annihilate 6.5 billion people,and install Watchtower leaders as world rulers.

    The core dogma of the Watchtower organization is that Jesus had his second coming ‘invisibly’ in the year 1914.Their entire doctrinal superstructure is built on this falsehood.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses door to door recruitment is by their own admission an ineffective tactic. They have lost membership in all countries with major Internet access because their false doctrines and harmful practices are exposed on the modern information superhighway.

    There is good and valid reasons why there is such an outrage against the Watchtower for misleading millions of followers.Many have invested everything in the ‘imminent’ apocalyptic promises of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and have died broken and beaten.

    Every Jehovah’s Witness member will grow old and die just like everyone else.
    —-
    Danny Haszard Bangor Maine ‘expert witness on the Jehovah’s Witness’

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