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James Penton is a professor emeritus of history at the University of Lethbridge in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.

Born in April 1932, Penton was raised as a fourth-generation Jehovah's Witness. He gradually came to disagree with the teachings of the religion during the 1970s and was eventually excommunicated, or disfellowshipped. While still a member, he wrote a book entitled The History of Jehovah's Witnesses in Canada. Writing in the Toronto “Star” of October 4, 1976, Stuart Shaw mentions the book “Jehovah’s Witnesses in Canada: Champions of Freedom of Speech and Worship,” by James Penton, associate professor of history at the University of Lethbridge. Shaw explains that it discusses the intense persecution of the Witnesses in that country from 1939 to 1956, “first at the instance of the federal government and then at that of the government of Quebec.” When Jehovah’s Witnesses were banned in Canada on July 4, 1940, he says: “Prime Minister Mackenzie King’s official explanation was a typical piece of gobbledygook, from which emerged only a suggestion that the sect was somehow impeding the war effort.”

Referring to the recent book, however, and shedding some light on the underlying cause, Shaw comments: “Penton argues convincingly, citing official correspondence and documents of the period, that the real reason was entirely different. The King government was under heavy clerical pressure—from the Roman Catholic Church in particular, but also from some Protestant clergymen—to suppress these ‘heretics.’”

The nationwide ban on the Witnesses ended in a few years, though persecution of them continued. Nonetheless, their ultimate success in ‘defending and legally establishing the good news’ benefited many. (Phil. 1:7) Interestingly, Shaw commented: “The law of sedition has been clarified so that it can no longer be used to harry people for their religious beliefs alone. The power of provincial and municipal governments to harass religious groups has been largely nullified.

Freedom of religion and freedom of expression generally are a good deal safer than they were 25 years ago. And for that all Canadians—whatever they think about their theology—owe the Witnesses a debt of gratitude.” — A Debt of Gratitude//Watchtower, 1977. — Jan 1, p. 11.</ref> (and until his expulsion, within the organization as well) as an excellent account of the Canadian history of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Since leaving the organization, he has authored at least two more books, edited two journals, and written five articles about the Jehovah's Witnesses. The first book was titled Apocalypse Delayed: The Story of Jehovah's Witnesses. In 2004, his book Jehovah's Witnesses and the Third Reich: Sectarian Politics under Persecution was published. Historian Detlef Garbe, director at the Neuengamme (Hamburg) Memorial describes this book as being based on "aversion" and "assumptions" and thus perhaps 'lacking scientific objectivity.'[1]

References

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