CHARACTERS




 

Polish Jew, a Jehovah's Witness for almost 50 years. Lives in Reno, Nevada. As the survivor of six concentration camps between the ages of 14 and 17, Joseph lost his faith and cursed God for allowing the Holocaust. But he marveled at how the Jehovah's Witnesses had so much faith; that as the only voluntary prisoners of the camps, they were free to leave as long as they renounced their religion. Yet they refused the offer. After Joseph immigrated to the United States as a young man, a pair of Jehovah's Witnesses knocked on his door. Always curious about this group, he invited them in. He found a renewed purpose for God in their teachings and eventually converted. Some Jews consider him a traitor. Others are moved by his renewal of faith. Joseph still embraces his Jewish heritage, as part of his family remains religiously Jewish while the rest follow the tenets of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Both sides of Joseph's family accompany him to Austria and Poland in search of emotional healing — to visit the concentration camps where Joseph was imprisoned as a teenager.
 

Raised as a Jehovah's Witness. Lives in suburban Dallas. A genetic disorder has ravaged his liver and at 23, he requires a transplant to survive. He has found a live-donor match with his father, who can give half of his liver to Seth. But neither will accept a blood transfusion. Surgeons at Baylor Medical Center in Texas turned the Thomas family down for treatment. They say the operation would be too risky without blood because liver transplants are such blood-intensive procedures. But University of Southern California Hospital in Los Angeles is willing to operate. Doctors at USC say this is the future of medical treatment and should be explored and embraced. Some members of the Thomas family are not Jehovah's Witnesses and oppose the religion's stand on blood, agreeing with the doctors who say this procedure is too risky.


A lifelong Jehovah's Witness. Lives in suburban Atlanta. As a young girl, Lillian refused to salute the flag at her public school in rural Pennsylvania. She felt it was an act of worship to a man-made entity, when worship should only be reserved for God. Kids threw rocks at her and the school board expelled her. When thousands of Jehovah's Witnesses children across the United States followed Lillian's act, they were also expelled. Jehovah's Witness parents were fired from their jobs. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1940, which initially ruled against Jehovah's Witnesses. Angry mobs took this as license to assault Jehovah's Witnesses and burn their houses of worship. Three years later, the high court reversed itself, affirming that a free country cannot force its citizens to salute its flag. Now a younger generation of Jehovah's Witnesses continues to push the definition of civil liberties in 21st-century America. In 2002, Tammy Tuckosh picked up where Lillian left off. Tammy was knocking on doors in Stratton, Ohio when the town's mayor confronted her. He threatened to have the young mother arrested if she didn't leave. Tammy's First Amendment case went to the U.S. Supreme Court and became the first victory for free speech after September 11th.