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Disciplined Litigation, Vigilant Litigation, and Deformation: Dramatic Organization Change in Jehovah's Witnesses

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Jehovah's Witnesses' long-term development presents an interesting case of evolution in line with the “deformation thesis,” an attempt at explaining dramatic shifts in organizational forms, activities, and even beliefs in controversial religious minorities. Derived from resource mobilization tradition, this thesis assumes that radical transformations result from major defensive resource allocation mandated by negative reactions of societal institutions. This is especially the case with reference to the adoption by Jehovah's Witnesses, a millenarian group, of a “disciplined litigation”strategy in the 1940s, a pattern later to be incorporated in religious activities and beliefs of the organization. Today, disciplined litigation and its successor, “vigilant litigation,” seem legitimate ways to adapt to the prevailing religious climate and structure. As such, it can be conceived as a model for defensive moves taken by “younger” controversial religious minorities and reflects the enormous influence of the law and legal systems in shaping minority religions.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Political Science, Laval University, Quebec, 2: Sociology and Judicial Studies, University of Nevada, Reno

Publication date: 2001-03-01

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