Should Serena Williams Swear if She’s a Jehovah’s Witness?

You’ve likely seen the clip of tennis star Serena Williams cursing out a line judge in her semi-final match at the U.S. Open this past weekend — the outburst cost her a point, which ultimately meant the end of the match for her.

Williams, however, is a Jehovah’s Witness. Is she allowed to do that?

Slate asks and answers that very question.

Cursing, then, is a sin among Jehovah’s Witnesses, but it’s a “nonjudicial” one — meaning it’s not sufficiently grave to merit formal censure from Witness elders and cannot lead to “disfellowshipping” (expulsion from the congregation). Infractions for which you might be disfellowshipped include abortion, sexual abuse, adultery, heresy, and murder. The Sept. 8, 1989, edition of Awake! recommends that “if a fellow Christian lapses in his or her speech,” the best corrective is “a kindly reminder — not a lecture.” Habitual cussing, however, may warrant a talking-to from a fellow Witness or some kind of disciplinary action from family members.

I don’t think swearing is some horrible sin. But the outburst just shows how a religious label does little to change one’s behavior if the person isn’t too serious about it.

If you don’t want to live up to the ideals of your faith, why bother labeling yourself in the first place?

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