Can I report a Jehovah's Witness for tresspassing on home property?
March 30, 2014 5:23 PM   Subscribe

Jehovah's witness have targeted our family home based on our ethnicity. They have sent several people to our home who can speak in our ethnic tongue. This morning, when it was raining and I was trying to pack the trunk of my car, a woman with her young son came by and started talking in our cultural language. I was extremely irritated as I had many things to do and was already late. On top that nuisance, and going back to retrieve things from our home to place in the car she stayed in the drive way. Previously, it was a young gentleman of the same looking cultural background who came by; and another occasion it was older women. I want to find out if there is some protection or action against this as the women seemed to follow me almost to the front door of my house as I was retrieving things as if she would just follow me in. They seem to target our home, and come every several weeks. Is there any advice on what to do? Can I report this?
posted by proficiency101 to Law & Government (35 answers total)
Where do you live? The answer will vary by jurisdiction. Also, were they within your property lines, or on a sidewalk? Did you ask her to leave?
posted by Capri at 5:27 PM on March 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's not clear if you have simply told them to leave you alone and get off your property?
posted by tristeza at 5:27 PM on March 30, 2014 [19 favorites]

You don't make it clear how you're reacting when they approach you, or really how the interaction goes at all.

If you prefer to not speak to the people at all, put up a 'No Solicitation' sign near your driveway.

Otherwise, use the opportunity to rise above the hectic pace of annoyances in life and ask the people to politely leave you alone. In my experience they will comply.
posted by carsonb at 5:29 PM on March 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Have you politely told them you are not interested? How about posting a "No Trespassing" sign on your property. Tell them you want to see their territory card and ask that you be put on their do not call list.
posted by Rob Rockets at 5:29 PM on March 30, 2014

I've asked them to stop coming by. They write down your address and turn it in as a kind of "do not disturb" with their church. Have you tried politely asking them to not come by anymore?
posted by Houstonian at 5:30 PM on March 30, 2014 [7 favorites]

Did you ask them to leave? Or tell them they were unwelcome? You didn't provide anything like enough information here; where you are, how you reacted, what they said in response, etc.
posted by Justinian at 5:36 PM on March 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, where ever you live you are not likely to get very far with the authorities if you have not taken the first step in actually telling them you are not interested and to leave you alone. You can even be polite about it, but be unambiguous and firm.

''Thank you for the interest, but I am not interested, and I do not want any litature, please do not come back. Have a pleasant day.'' Smile turn your back and make a note of day and time. Then and only then if they persist call your local authorities and ask THEM what recourse you have legally.
posted by edgeways at 5:39 PM on March 30, 2014

If you HAVE politely asked them to leave you alone & get off your property, then the next step is to flat-out TELL them to leave: tell them, don't ASK them, to get off your property, get out of your driveway, and leave you alone.

It's all well and good to be civil; but if they're not listening to you, drop the politenesses and ORDER them to back off. You are not required to be nice to people who intrude on your time or property.
posted by easily confused at 5:42 PM on March 30, 2014 [12 favorites]

My brother pointed out the mezuzah near the door at my parents' to proselytizers, made it clear that we were Jews who were content with our faith and they still refused to leave.

Nthing contacting the authorities.
posted by brujita at 6:04 PM on March 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you have already asked them not to return, try calling the Kingdom Hall. An elder there might get them to chill out.
posted by metasarah at 6:12 PM on March 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Don't be irritated. You don't owe them anything. Say, "I'm not interested, thanks." and get back to packing the trunk. Don't engage. Don't argue. Don't feel bad that you share some cultural heritage with these missionaries and you still don't want to talk to them. Do be unambiguous: "I am not interested in talking to you."

If they stick around, add "I would like you to leave now."

If they're on your property (vs you're packing your trunk at the curb) you can definitely point to the property line and say "from here over is my home and you're not welcome in it."

If you need to, you can follow that with "If you continue to harass me, I am going to call the police."

And then, yes, you can get on the phone and call the cops and say you've asked these people to leave you alone and they're harassing you and you don't know what to do. Because, ipso facto, a stranger who doesn't go away when you say "go away or I'm calling the police" is nuts. There's no non-nuts explanation for that. I've spent enough time talking to missionaries that I can smell the script. If you say "I don't believe in God, thanks." They hear "I'd like you to convince me to believe in god. I'm a little unsure and perhaps persuadable." and they get out a script for people like you. If you say "I'm Muslim," or "I'm Jewish" they hear "start convincing me by talking about the old testament." So you can save yourself a lot of headache by being clear and not inviting a dialog.
posted by amandabee at 6:37 PM on March 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding contacting the local Kingdom Hall if a direct request hasn't worked; you can find the address here. A brief letter to the congregation elders stating that you are not interested in visits at any point in the future and will consider any further contact on property to be trespassing (which will be pursuing with the local police) should take care of the problem, although it may take a week or two for the request to get to whoever is coordinating territories for witnessing.

Also, if you haven't clearly told the visitors at house that they are not to return, give that a try. JW's are taught to be persistent when messages are even a little mixed/ambiguous, but in general will respect a clear request to be removed from their rounds.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 6:45 PM on March 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

I doubt the police would do anything about this at all. But look up your local JW church and write a letter directly to the pastor saying specifically that you feel you are being targeted based on your ethnicity / language; that their parishioners overstepped by waiting for you and following you; that this makes you feel harassed; that you are not interested in their statements at all, ever; and that if you get so much as a pamphlet you will report them to the police for harassment and trespassing.

Keep a copy of the letter. THEN if they come back, the police will be more likely to respond by paying them a visit with a reminder about private property laws.
posted by mibo at 6:48 PM on March 30, 2014

I feel the need to disagree with mibo's advice of pursuing this with the local congregation in terms of targeted harassment. It opens dialog, which if exactly what you don't want to be spending your time on. To them, these specifics are an opening to discuss your feeling and expose you to "the truth", which you're pretty much trying to avoid. Keep it to a simple "absolutely not interested, do not contact again"; for all the craziness of JW's, they're rather good with direct requests to comply with local law. Also, they have the advantage of long term witnessing territories with direct local coordination, so you won't have to call with the headache of Mormon missionaries with their ever changing personnel and lack of local coordination.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 7:04 PM on March 30, 2014

I've asked them not to come to my house any more after they almost hit my dog once. My home is very secluded with a 1/2 mile long driveway. About six months later they started coming again.

I've heard that a "No Soliciting" sign works. So I'll try that next.
posted by nogero at 7:20 PM on March 30, 2014

Oh, one last thing: try not to take too much umbrage about the ethnic angle. They're not targeting you because of your background, they're targeting you because they target everyone (it's sort of their thing) and using any info at their disposal to do it better (from their point of view).
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 7:26 PM on March 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

I used to be a Witness. I've knocked on many a door with a "No Soliciting" sign. This may vary in your jurisdiction, but door-to-door religious proselytizing generally receives First Amendment protection.

The jargon you want is "do not call list". You say, "I would like to be placed on the do not call list". However, they'll still check periodically to find out if you still want to be on the list. Seriously.

My advice is just don't engage. Don't answer the door. If you do answer the door, just say "I'm not interested" and close the door. You don't have to be polite. They're not expecting it.
posted by chrchr at 7:33 PM on March 30, 2014 [8 favorites]

Say: "Get off my property."

DO NOT say "please." Do not worry about politeness, or lack thereof. Some people need the verbal equivalent of a cattle prod.
posted by BostonTerrier at 7:43 PM on March 30, 2014 [8 favorites]

For JWs, I've avoided being drawn into discussions by saying at the outset, "I don't accept the bible as the literal word of God."
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:47 PM on March 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Tell them "I've been disfellowshipped for apostasy. Go away."
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:55 PM on March 30, 2014 [10 favorites]

Yep, was just about to mention apostasy. If things are anything like they were in the nineties (JW doctrine does change, albeit slowly and occasionally covertly...), not believing in the truth of the bible was a great start for many rhetorical gambits, but apostasy was pretty much "run away! run away!" territory.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 8:01 PM on March 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Don't bother with polite.

Say: "Get off my property."

DO NOT say "please." Do not worry about politeness, or lack thereof. Some people need the verbal equivalent of a cattle prod.

Favoriting this so hard it squeals.

You can't reason with them, and it just wastes time to be polite. Make it short and obvious:


Say it in both languages, if need be.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:24 PM on March 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

This may vary in your jurisdiction, but door-to-door religious proselytizing generally receives First Amendment protection.

The First Amendment is basically irrelevant to this question. Folks generally have a right to knock on someone's door, but once they are told that they are unwelcome, they are trespassing. They must go and must not return.

Sure, the various governments can't outlaw it (that would violate the First Amendment). But a private individual can exclude people from his/her property at will (barring some instances that probably aren't applicable here). The key is to make it known. It's not clear whether our asker has done so.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 8:30 PM on March 30, 2014 [9 favorites]

> Oh, one last thing: try not to take too much umbrage about the ethnic angle. They're not targeting you because of your background, they're targeting you because they target everyone (it's sort of their thing) and using any info at their disposal to do it better (from their point of view).

A Korean family used to live in my house and every few months we get some nicely dressed Asian-looking people showing up with pamphlets and/or Bibles, who are always surprised to see my not-Asian self answering the door. We used to live a few blocks away and this never happened. Our address is on some list of Korean potential converts, somewhere. (The people knocking don't speak much English, so I've never found out just what list or lists.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:24 PM on March 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I/r/t the ethnic/linguistic/cultural targeting, yeah, I absolutely get why it can seem squicky and would be personally disconcerting. However, from the JW stand-point, it's all about [proverbial] sales, and business intelligence ("oh, brother Nguyen could really reach territory B!"). They're selling something, for sure, but putting "the truth" in hearts is the name of the game. It can get icky, but more like occasionally clumsy marketing strategies, rather than "ethnicity y must be converted".
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 10:08 PM on March 30, 2014

Seconding a box and a stick and so forth re: ethnicity. My experience of this is that if you encounter someone in the door-to-door ministry who doesn't speak your language, you refer them to someone who does. For example in the area I'm from, there was a Spanish-speaking congregation who shared our territory, and we gave them the addresses of Spanish speakers that we found. The territories for the Spanish congregation consisted of lists of these addresses.
posted by chrchr at 10:33 PM on March 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

As you know, they're pretty organised people. They have you on a certain list of people with your ethnicity. Ask them not to come again, and they will put you on the list of people not to bother again.
posted by devnull at 2:06 AM on March 31, 2014

If you get yourself known as a person who is loud and perhaps aggressive, they don't tend to come back. At least not in my area, anyway. Or you could stand and look at them, and just not say anything at all. It's somewhat unnerving to have someone make it clear that they're paying attention to what you're saying, and then just not respond, even to direct questions.
posted by Solomon at 3:35 AM on March 31, 2014

1. Put up a sign that says: "No Soliciting"
2. Firmly tell them to stop coming to your house.
3. Send a certified letter to the church, stating that if they continue to harass you, you will be forced to take legal action against them.

IF they continue to come after all this, then call the police (on the non-emergency phone line).
posted by Flood at 4:28 AM on March 31, 2014

I don't know if this would help, but when I am approached by them (or LDS) I just proselytize back.

So far it has worked.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:33 AM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just proselytize back

Yeah, that actually worked for me too. I mean, you should only do this if you find it amusing (or, in fact, religiously-mandated) -- if you just want them to go away use the various tips above.

...but if you find this type of discussion amusing, then it can be about a half-hour worth of fun followed by them leaving you alone -- being from a religious background that completely ignores the bible helps, since that way it's easy to avoid getting caught up in chapter/verse minutiae (that they will be, trust me, VERY prepared for).
posted by aramaic at 5:59 AM on March 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have gone St. Alia's route - obviously one has to have well-thought out religious beliefs (or I suppose if you're an agnostic or atheist who has really studied...), but if you're willing to spend 30 minutes talking to them about YOUR view of things, I can just about guarantee they won't be back. I actually saw one of them later at a gas station and THEY were trying to get away from ME. This was true even though I wasn't actively trying to pry them out of their faith. My wife and I may have politely invited them to attend our church, but mostly we talked about what we had in common and where we disagreed.

(responding to aramaic - I have a religious background that has me knowing a lot of book/chapter/verse, but I don't go that route when talking to people outside my church, because I think it's a turnoff, and yeah, it opens the door for it turning into this quasi-Talmudic nitpickery)

The thing is, they're looking for people they think might be interested. They are locked on to you because of a perceived cultural affinity. Take up enough of their time, and they'll write you off...

but if you're not comfortable with that, politely but firmly invite them to leave and tell them not to come back.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:44 AM on March 31, 2014

I didn't have much luck with a "No Soliciting" sign, but my homemade "No Soliciting or Proselytizing" one seemed to stop the extremely frequent JW's visits in my old neighborhood. You might want to add a translation in the relevant cultural language.
posted by belladonna at 9:23 AM on March 31, 2014

As a former Witness, I can tell you that JWs get VERY excited about "foreign language territory," so this needs to be shut down, harshly and permanently, if you do not want students of your cultural/ethnic tongue showing up to practice on you and your family. The "Do Not Call" list is a start, as are posted "No Trespassing" signs, which may lend weight to your case if your requests are documented and ignored and you need to follow through on legal action.
posted by Wyeldfire at 11:40 AM on March 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

When I moved from the city to the suburbs, I encountered JW (and Mormons) pretty much immediately, thanks to several living in the same apartment community.

Despite very clear community rules forbidding solicitation of ANY kind, these guys (and it was -always- young-ish guys) were -relentless- in their attempts to try and talk to me - even if I preemptively cut them off with a "Not interested guys" upon opening my door and seeing them. Nonetheless, they still tried to get me to answer questions or get their foot in the door (a pair even offered to help me move in - very creepy). How did I finally get them to leave?

"I'm bisexual and have a boyfriend. Your religion doesn't want anything to do with me and I don't want anything to do with it. Thanks! *Door close*"

Never saw them again. I suggest what everyone else is: Stop playing nice and disengage with a simple: "Not interested, please leave." Close the door in their face if you have to (I've done this).
posted by stubbehtail at 2:12 PM on March 31, 2014 [2 favorites]

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