The Jehovah's Witnesses do not salute the flag of their country because they believe that patriotic feelings towards their country is wrong. The Bible says, 'You are not to make an image or picture of anything in heaven or on the earth or in the waters under the earth: 20:5 You may not go down on your faces before them or give them worship: for I, the Lord your God, am a God who will not give his honour to another; and I will send punishment on the children for the wrongdoing of their fathers, to the third and fourth generation of my haters;' Exodus 20:4,5 BBE
Although there's nothing wrong with having a symbol for a country, the JW's believe that the flag takes on a greater meaning when ceremonies are involved. Saluting the flag, kneeling or bowing down before it, giving reverence to a flag, ... is thought to be a sacred religious ceremony where reverence is given to the State instead of God.
It is common for citizens of a country to hold their flag as sacred. Saluting the flag, saying the pledge of allegiance, singing the national anthem, folding a flag and disposing of it in a sacred way, is thought to be a form of idolatry. Symbols for salvation other than Jehovah are not allowed in the JW faith. Psalms 3:8 says, 'Salvation comes from the Lord'
The Jehovah's Witnesses believe that national anthems are in effect prayers on behalf of their country. Anthems are patriotic. Sometimes they request divine guidance, prosperity, and protection for citizens and their rulers. The Bible says 'And the world and its desires is coming to an end: but he who does God's pleasure is living for ever.5:19 We are certain that we are of God, but all the world is in the power of the Evil One.' 1 John 2:17; 5:19 BBE
Since they believe the entire world, all governments, and religions are dominated by the 'evil one' i.e. Satan, it would displease their God Jehovah, to pray for prosperity and longevity of such a system. The only organization on the planet that is thought to be free from the control of the Devil, is the theocratic organization of Jehovah's Witnesses. Because of their strict standards of obedience to Jehovah's laws, based on their interpretation of the Bible, they believe they have 'the truth'. Their organization is thought to be run by Jehovah through his representatives, i.e. the Governing Body and other anointed ones.
The Jehovah's Witnesses believe that all nations are equal under God because we all came from Adam and Eve. Therefore it is wrong to say that one country is superior to another.
Jehovah's Witnesses do not participate in flag ceremonies. However they can be respectful observers.
Some of what they can and can't do is a matter of conscience.
Obviously saluting the flag, singing the national anthem, saying the pledge of allegiance, etc is part of a ceremony.
However there are gray areas, depending on local customs. If a JW feels that certain actions are respectful and not part of a religious or sacred ceremony, their conscience might allow them to do things other JW's would not do in the same situation.
Here are some examples of things Jehovah's Witnesses can do and things they can't do when it comes to patriotic ceremonies and flags.
Jehovah's Witnesses can't be the center of attention during a ceremony. e.g. holding the flag or marching in a patriotic parade.
Standing for a ceremony when everyone else is standing might mean participation. However if a JW is already standing when a national anthem is being played there is no need to find a place to sit. Doing so could disrupt the ceremony and that would be disrespectful. Likewise if everyone is expected to stand and sing the national anthem or say the pledge, then a Jehovah's Witness could stand out of respect and be silent.
An employer might ask an employee to raise or lower a flag. If people are standing at attention watching the event and saluting the flag, then this is part of a ceremony. On the other hand if raising or lowering the flag is merely a way of preparing a building for use along with other routine matters, then this is a matter of conscience. One JW might see nothing wrong with this. Another one might ask their employer to find someone else to lower and raise the flag. The Bible says, 'Being conscious that you have done no wrong; so that those who say evil things about your good way of life as Christians may be put to shame.' 1 Peter 3:16 BBE
Jesus said he was no part of this world. John 17:16. Therefore it unlikely that JW's would wear a flag, display it on clothing, own a flag, display it on their property, etc. Even though it's merely a symbol for a country, it may stumble other Jehovah's Witnesses who might see such a thing as patriotism or giving undue reverence to an object other than God. Idolatry is forbidden by Jehovah.
The organization says that 'Salvation is not to be ascribed to human institutions or their symbols.'
Watchtower magazine Sept 15, 2002, article 'Salvation Belongs to Jehovah'.
However, isn't the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses a human institution and symbol for salvation just like the flag?
Jehovah's Witnesses go from door to door preaching the good news that people will be saved at armageddon if they dedicate their life to Jehovah AND his organization. This religion is run by humans who admit having no divine inspiration. Therefore it is unlikely they could be God's organization and Channel of Communication. The organization is a human institution like any other religion.
In spite of this, the Watchtower magazine says that, "Only Jehovah's Witnesses, those of the anointed remnant and the "great crowd," as a united organization under the protection of the Supreme Organizer, have any Scriptural hope of surviving the impending end of this doomed system dominated by Satan the Devil." Watchtower magazine Sept 1, 1989 page 19.
Jehovah's Witnesses are dedicated to God AND the organization. Obedience to God and the organization is required. The consequences of rebelling against the authority of the organization is disfellowshipping, disassociation, shunning, and loss of the only vehicle for salvation Jehovah's Witnesses have. See Rebellion Against Jehovah's Organization
Even though JW's refuse to salute the flag and pledge allegiance to their country, they see nothing wrong with pledging their allegiance to their religious institution every day. They also pledge allegiance to their human organization in their baptism vows.
The organization of Jehovah's Witnesses is a symbol for salvation.
Salvation is not to be ascribed to human institutions. Watchtower magazine Sept 15, 2002, article 'Salvation Belongs to Jehovah'.
Critics ask this question. Could dedication to a human organization be a modern day form of idolatry? Their organization can't possibly be endorsed by God as the only path to salvation if they have no divine inspiration. Interpreting the Bible differently than all other religions is no assurance they have 'the truth' and everyone else is wrong.
Even if one religion is more truthful than another, does correct doctrines and obedience to an organization guarantee salvation? Not according to the Bible. Psalms 3:8. Religions cannot save us. Only God has that authority. Jesus said 'ALL authority' has been given to him. Matthew 28:18
Is it possible to pledge allegiance to our religion and God at the same time? Can we serve two masters? See Salvation. The Best Religion. Can It Save You?
In a free country no one should be required to salute the flag, stand for the national anthem, or say the pledge of allegiance. We participate because we love our country and want to support the values our country stands for. We want to protect our homeland, our freedoms, and our neighbors that Jesus told us to love. Matthew 19:19.
If another country attacks our home and threatens to do us harm, we look for ways to protect ourselves. However, no matter how patriotic a person is, most people would agree that their country can't take God's place or save us after death.
Jehovah's Witnesses are respectful as well. We may not agree. We may believe they are showing disrespect for their country by being neutral in political affairs, but that's our perception. They are in fact being respectful. For those of us who live in a free country, we should be thankful anyone can take such a political or religious position as long as they do so in a peaceful way. Men and women have given their lives for this freedom.
Even though Jehovah's Witnesses do not participate in flag ceremonies, they follow the Bible's advice about being 'gentle to all' 2 Timothy 2:24. They are quiet, respectful, peaceable, and gentle towards everyone.