ESTES v. ESTES was a 1991 Kansas trial court case which
received atypical media coverage On February 9, 1992, the
front page of the Kansas City Star carried an article entitled,
"A Matter of Faith, Hope and Custody", written by Rick
Montgomery. That two page article started:
"The temperature on Dec. 22, 1989, hit 23 degrees below
zero, the lowest ever recorded in Kansas City. Raymond
Estes answered the phone that morning in his Johnson
County apartment and heard his 6-year-old son sobbing.
"Daddy, please don't let Momma take me," the boy pleaded.
"Take you where?" Just before the line clicked dead, his
son replied: "Door to door."
When this custody case went to trial, the Jehovah's Witness
mother had temporary custody of Scott Estes, who had
been born in 1983. Although the domestic court services
investigation recommended that custody be awarded to the
mother, the judge awarded custody to the father, Raymond
Estes, stating in part: "... because of the absolute conflict
between the parents with reference to the Jehovah's
Witness religion, and for good cause shown, sole custody
of said minor child be granted to the respondent father".
With respect to the mother, this court stated, in part, that
"... enjoined and restrained from exposing said minor child
to any activities in which she participates as a member of
the Jehovah's Witness religion, and is to restrain form
indoctrinating or attempting to indoctrinate the minor child
in the restrictions and prohibitions of that religion; the
petitioner is specifically ordered restrained from teaching
said child or exposing said child to teachings that his father,
grandmother, or other paternal relatives are 'of the Devil' or
are 'of Satan' or that his relatives including his father and
grandmother are 'going to die' and will be just 'dust' … ."
The judge's reasoning included the potential threat of the
child's health because of the Watchtower prohibition on
blood transfusions, their disparagement of all higher
education, their teaching that all non-Witnesses including
the child's father are in bonds of Satan and will be
destroyed soon at Armageddon, and the fact that "the
behavior of the minor child, Scotty, reflects that he is
becoming more and more alienated from his father and
from his extended family, believing that 'Christmas
persons' (those who celebrate Christmas as opposed to …
the Jehovah's Witnesses who do not) … are going to die …
and should be shunned".
Raymond Estes also introduced as evidence at trial a
booklet prepared by the WatchTower Society entitled,
"Preparing for Child Custody Cases". This booklet was
written by staff at the WatchTower's world headquarters
(including being co-authored by Carolyn Wah, WatchTower
attorney and child custody specialist), in 1986, as a
response to the approximately 1000 requests per year that
the WatchTower's Legal Department was receiving for
assistance with JW related child custody cases. After
reviewing this WatchTower trial preparation booklet, the
judge concluded that the booklet “was designed, and
encourages, the Jehovah’s Witness to cover up some of
their true beliefs and mislead the court as to what their
beliefs and practices are with reference to children.” He
further stated that the Watchtower Society teaches that,
"There is nothing wrong under the religion, as I understand
it, in misleading or even lying to somebody that is not a
Jehovah’s Witness.” The later newspaper article also
addressed this booklet stating that the WatchTower Society
"encourages its faithful to fudge their testimony”.
Jehovah's Witnesses Lose in Court-Often....