Serena Williams told reporters at Wimbledon on Wednesday that she's excited about Barack Obama's candidacy but won't vote for him because Jehovah's Witnesses "don't get involved in politics." Her sister Venus—who is also a Jehovah's Witness—wouldn't even comment on the presidential election. Why don't Jehovah's Witnesses vote?
Because of John 17:14 and other passages in the Bible. In that verse, Jesus says of his followers: "They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world." Jehovah's Witnesses have interpreted that statement as a call to remain neutral in all political matters. (In some of the sect's literature, members are described as "representatives of God's heavenly kingdom"; they are thus obligated to stay out of local political affairs in keeping with the behavior of ambassadors.) Witnesses also refrain from serving in the military, running for public office, and pledging allegiance to the flag.
Voting is not expressly prohibited, but it is discouraged. The Watchtower, the official publication of the Jehovah's Witnesses, ran an article in 1999 suggesting that the decision whether to vote was one of personal conscience, although it carefully laid out reasons for staying out of the voting booth. In reference to countries that require all citizens to show up at the ballot box, the Watchtower has explained that "[w]here Caesar makes it compulsory for citizens to vote … [Jehovah's Witnesses] can go to the polls and enter the voting booths," but the Watchtower did not specify what Witnesses should do with the ballot itself. According to some, the requirement for political neutrality led to the violent persecution of Witnesses in Malawi during the late 1960s and early 1970s, when adherents refused to register with the ruling Congress Party.