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Jehovah's Witnesses In The Divine Purpose


Champions of Freedom of Speech and of Worship

LOIS: Ever since you and Maria were here last Sunday, John, I haven't been able to put out of my mind the description you gave us of the horrible treatment received by Jehovah's witnesses all over the earth. I have gone to church all my life—as you know my mother is quite religious—and we have often discussed the power of faith, but I am beginning to wonder if I have ever really had any idea what it means to have faith. If I were confronted with experiences like those you related I don't know whether I could hold on or not.

JOHN: We don't want to give credit to individuals even for manifesting an abiding faith. Of course, we rejoice with them, but I would like to remind you of something we discussed the first night we were here. That is that Jehovah has raised up a people in our day especially to be his witnesses for his own purpose. Jesus said to his disciples: "You will be hated by all people on account of my name." a Those servants of God we have talked about knew that prophecy would be fulfilled and so they did not rely on their own strength to survive. Therefore they repeatedly gave Jehovah the praise for his deliverance.

LOIS: Yes, I noticed that in all the reports you read. Still it is a stimulating experience to me to think of those faithful Christians as individuals, just ordinary people in every respect except their earnest, continuing faith.

TOM: That's because they were truly a dedicated people, Lois. But what about the United States, John? You suggested earlier that the Witnesses did not have an easy time of it in this country either.

JOHN: No, they did not although the work was not banned in the United States. Governmental opposition was almost altogether on the local or municipal level, even though many state courts also failed to protect our rights and many judges manifested considerable animosity to our work. As we have already discussed, from 1928 till 1933 a record of arrests was not kept. But in 1933 there were 269 arrests and these increased in number yearly. In 1936 alone there were 1,149 recorded and the peak had not yet been reached. These cases involved a number of laws and ordinances that local officials attempted to make applicable against Jehovah's witnesses. There were laws involving soliciting, peddling or selling literature without a permit or license or payment of a license tax, laws prohibiting distribution on the streets, laws


called "Green River" ordinances requiring prior invitation before visiting a home, laws called Sunday "Blue Laws" prohibiting certain types of activity on Sunday, trespass laws, laws involving breach of the peace and disorderly conduct and many other types of laws and ordinances.

Application of these laws was designed to impair the work of Jehovah's witnesses or to stop it altogether. They were concerned primarily with the work in which Jehovah's witnesses were engaged, that of distributing their literature and preaching from door to door. However, other laws were applied against Jehovah's witnesses in addition to those aimed at our activity. These involved compulsory flag salute regulations, child delinquency and dependency laws, sedition laws, group libel laws, and so on. Some of such laws involved criminal offenses; they are laws that branded Jehovah's witnesses as the worst type of criminals.

Jehovah's witnesses refused to take this unlawful action lying down. We took our cases to court, pleading not guilty and not giving up when magistrates ruled against us, not abandoning the fight when all the lower courts in the different parts of the country had ruled against us. We did not give up when many of the various state supreme courts had ruled against us. No, we went into the highest court of the land carrying our fight there. Our policy of appeal has been expressed this way:


The record made by Jehovah's witnesses in the United States proves the importance of appealing to the higher courts all decisions that are adverse. Had the thousands of convictions entered by the magistrates, police courts and other lower courts not been appealed, a mountain of precedent would have piled up as a giant obstacle in the field of worship. By appealing we have prevented the erection of such obstacle. Our way of worship has been written into the law of the land of the United States and other countries because of our persistence in appealing from adverse decisions. b

LOIS: Excuse me a moment, John. You'll have to explain something to me about that. It has been bothering me ever since you talked to us about the "battle of New Jersey" and your legal difficulties in that state. I studied a little about civics in school, but I'm like most Americans. I know practically nothing about legal matters. I have always taken our liberties for granted. To me, if you wanted to go out from house to house and sell Bibles or Bible books, it would be perfectly legal. Who could stop you? Isn't it a free country?

JOHN: Yes, it is; but many of our freedoms have been taken for granted. The Constitution of the United States has always been recognized as the framework of the vast body of laws enacted by our national, state and municipal lawmakers— much like the skeleton of the body. But the tests of those laws that have been made by legal controversies settled in the courts of the land have put the meat on the skeleton by defining and clarifying that basic body of laws and by determining which of these many laws will be held as valid and how they are to be applied.


To understand the principles involved in the cases fought and won by Jehovah's witnesses we should realize that the original Constitution of the United States had no guarantees for individual rights. These were incorporated later in ten amendments written by James Madison and adopted by all the states that had adopted the original Constitution. These are known as the Bill of Rights. The First Amendment is brief in its mention of freedom of religion. It merely reads that "Congress shall make no law


respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

Since that was a federal Constitution, this amendment was a restraint only against the national government of the United States. The individual states in their own constitutions adopted similar restraints, and at that time it was not thought even necessary to make such a restraint applicable against the states as far as the federal Constitution is concerned. But following the Civil War, when the American people realized that it was necessary to preserve the civil liberties of the free slaves, Congress proposed the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. That amendment does not mention anything whatever about freedom of religion. It says, among other things: "No State shall . . . deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." This was a restraint against the individual states, and under this amendment any individual so abridged in these liberties by the state could appeal to the Federal Constitution for relief. For many years only a very few cases went into the courts involving these precious liberties of freedom of speech, press and worship.

Jehovah's witnesses argued that the Fourteenth Amendment, through the use of the words liberty and due process of law, carried forward all the rights of liberty that are guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. They argued that the guarantees of freedom of worship, of speech and of the press that are supplied by the First Amendment as restraints against the Federal Government would in turn be applicable against all the states.

Before the year 1940 there had been only one issue before the Supreme Court involving the subject of freedom of religion. That was in the cases of Davis v. Beason (1890) and Reynolds v. United States (1878) c involving the Mormons' right to practice polygamy, and those decisions were under the First Amendment. The Mormons lost the case because the Constitution protects only the exercise of the right and not an abuse of the exercise of that right in what would be construed as a violation of the law of morals.


However, the position taken by Jehovah's witnesses was one that involved their commission to preach. We took the uncompromising stand that, regardless of what the personal views of any judge were, our door-to-door distribution of literature and our oral sermons were a way of worship, yes, preaching. We also took the uncompromising position that it was absolutely beyond the authority of any judge, be he a judge of the Supreme Court of the United States or any judge anywhere else in this country, to challenge, deny or dispute that they were our way of worship. We took the position that the ecclesiastical determination of any particular religious organization was final and binding in the whole world as to what was the qualification of its ministers and what was the proper way of preaching in that church. Therefore, the work in which we were engaged was not an abuse of this exercise of right as guaranteed by the First Amendment but, rather, an exercise of the right and therefore not subject to abridgment. That principle was strictly adhered to by Jehovah's witnesses as a basic principle in this fight in the courts.

We also took the position that these laws


applied against us were not regulatory but were abridgments and that, while some laws might be proper when applied to canvassing or selling, still, when applied against the preaching work being done by Jehovah's witnesses, they shortened the free exercise or unlimited right of religion, which amounted to a prohibition.

Another important position taken by Jehovah's witnesses was in regard to the premise or principle of law that all laws are presumed to be constitutional. Jehovah's witnesses took the position that in those circumstances where the First Amendment was involved any law used to abridge freedom of religion must be presumed to be invalid, unconstitutional.

In 1938 the case of Lovell v. City of Griffin reached the Supreme Court of the United States. In the Lovell case the defendant, one of Jehovah's witnesses, had been convicted under an ordinance of the city of Griffin, Georgia, that forbade "the practice of distributing ... literature of any kind . . . without first obtaining written permission from the City Manager of the city of Griffin." Holding their ground as ministers, Jehovah's witnesses refused to apply for a permit. Since the courts had held that municipal ordinances adopted under state authority constituted state action and are therefore within the prohibition of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Supreme Court accepted the case and held unanimously that the ordinance in question was invalid on its face. This case, however, was not argued by Jehovah's witnesses primarily on the grounds of freedom of religion. Freedom of the press was also involved in this case and argued. This favorable decision reads in part:

We think that the ordinance is invalid on its face. Whatever the motive which induced its adoption, its character is such that it strikes at the very foundation of the freedom of the press by subjecting it to license and censorship. . . .

The ordinance cannot be saved because it relates to distribution and not to publication. "Liberty of circulating is as essential to that freedom as liberty of publishing; indeed, without the circulation, the publication would be of little value." Ex parte Jackson, 96 U.S. 727, 733. d

The following year in the October term, 1939, the Supreme Court of the United States discharged another of Jehovah's witnesses convicted in the town of Irving-ton, New Jersey, for distributing literature from door to door without having obtained a permit. The ordinance involved in this case prescribed that "no person, except as in this ordinance provided, shall canvass, solicit, distribute circulars, or other matter, or call from house to house." The condition referred to was the issuing of a permit from the chief of police, with prior investigation, photographing and fingerprinting. The Witnesses, of course, refused to allow their God-commissioned work to be so censored and engaged in their preaching activities without seeking a permit. Here again the issue was primarily a matter of license or permit, and the Court ruled in this case:

This court has characterized the freedom of speech and that of the press as fundamental personal rights and liberties. The phrase is not an empty one and was not lightly used. It reflects the belief of the framers of the Constitution that exercise of the rights lies at the foundation of free government by free men. It stresses, as do many opinions of this court, the importance of preventing the restriction of enjoyment of these liberties. . . .

... To require a censorship through license which makes impossible the free and unhampered distribution of pamphlets strikes at the very heart of the constitutional guarantees. e

The third case of Jehovah's witnesses that came to the Supreme Court was the one we discussed some time ago involving the playing of a phonograph record, "Enemies," and distributing the book by the same name. This was the case of Cantwell


v. Connecticut. The Connecticut statute involved in this case prohibited the soliciting of contributions to charities or a religious cause without approval by the secretary of the public welfare council of the county. Also involved was a common-law conviction for breach of the peace by playing the phonograph record attacking the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. In upholding and vindicating the position of Jehovah's witnesses on both counts as to the principles in this case the Supreme Court said in part:


We hold that the statute, as construed and applied to the appellants, deprives them of their liberty without due process of law in contravention of the Fourteenth Amendment. The fundamental concept of liberty embodied in that Amendment embraces the liberties guaranteed by the First Amendment. The First Amendment declares that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. The Fourteenth Amendment has rendered the legislatures of the states as incompetent as Congress to enact such laws. . . .

. . . Without doubt a state may protect its citizens from fraudulent solicitation . . . The state is likewise free to regulate the time and manner of solicitation generally, in the interest of public safety, peace, comfort or convenience. But to condition the solicitation of aid for the perpetuation of religious views or systems upon a license, the grant of which rests in the exercise of a determination by state authority as to what is a religious cause, is to lay a forbidden burden upon the exercise of liberty protected by the Constitution. f

Now for the first time, and in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of the United States held that prosecution of Jehovah's witnesses was a violation of religious freedom guaranteed by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment against infringement by the state. It was a historic decision.

Judge Rutherford himself, being a lawyer authorized to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States, filed briefs in these cases assisted by the legal department of the Society.


Then in June, 1940, "there was a backwash in the stream of liberal decisions,— the much discussed Gobitis Case." g

TOM: Wasn't that the flag-salute case we discussed earlier that had been decided favorably for Jehovah's witnesses by the U. S. court of appeals?

JOHN: Yes, it was; but when this case came on to the Supreme Court of the United States in 1940, the Supreme Court, by a decision of eight to one, reversed the favorable judgment for Jehovah's witnesses. Justice Harlan F. Stone was the lone dissenter in that momentous decision. Certain aspects of the Gobitis case and the results of the Court's decision are revealed in a biography of Justice Stone (who later was appointed Chief Justice). Listen to this:

At intervals over a period of twenty years Stone had wrestled earnestly with the paradox of liberty and authority at this most sensitive level . . . Until 1940 he, somewhat like the Court itself, seemed to be keeping open two lines of approach. The showdown came in the spring of that year. Then, in flat contradiction to the "preferred position" he and other Justices had indicated for freedom of thought and belief, all his colleagues approved the compulsory flag salute required of Jehovah's Witnesses. It was a crucial decision. At long last Stone spoke out—alone.

In 1936 the Gobitis children, aged twelve and ten, had refused to join other pupils in the flag salute, as ordered by the Minersville, Pennsylvania, School Board, and they were expelled from the town's grammar school. Their refusal did not mean that they were un-


patriotic or that they did not love their country. It simply meant that, as they read the Scriptures, the flag salute violated the Biblical injunction against bowing down to a graven image. Their father's suit to obtain readmittance reached the Supreme Court just as World War II threatened. The nation was already in the throes of hectic preparation. Moved, one suspects, by considerations of time and circumstances, eight Justices, speaking through Justice [Felix] Frankfurter, found the School Board's prescribed ceremony rationally related to the purpose of fostering national unity— "the basis of national security," and "an interest inferior to none in the hierarchy of legal values."

The basic issue was not new for either Stone or Frankfurter. In his memorandum of September 18, 1918, to Secretary of War Newton Baker, Frankfurter had said that "conscientious objectors, whether sectarian or individualistic, . . . who stand in uncompromising opposition [whether to combatant or noncombatant service] should be convicted and confined." "I suggest," Frankfurter wrote, that "these absolutists be turned over to the Fort Leavenworth authorities for treatment." Stone, on the other hand, held that "all human experience teaches us that a moral issue cannot be suppressed or settled by making its supporters martyrs." Justice Stone adhered to this belief in the Jehovah's Witnesses cases. h

Stone's dissent was favorably received and was called "not only sensible, but courageous" and "one that would rank as one of the great dissenting opinions in American history." Press comment was also highly favorable. There were 171 leading newspapers that condemned the decision, while only a handful approved it. However,


In certain quarters Stone's temerity stimulated ugly reaction. A Boston veterans' organization called for his resignation. "In dissenting on that decision," its resolution read, "you simply gave a bad example and encouraged more pupils to refuse to salute the flag. One might gather also from your action that you are either a radicle [sic] or a disciple of that so-called religion."

In the wake of the Court's stamp of approval of the compulsory flag salute, religious bigotry and fanatical, unthinking patriotism became rampant. Jehovah's Witnesses, it was said, "don't believe in Religion; to them Religion is a Racket of making money by selling Judge Rutherford's volumes." Vigilante committees took it upon themselves to enforce respect for the flag by violent means. Between June 12 and June 20, 1940, hundreds of attacks on the Witnesses were reported to the Justice Department for possible action by the FBI. At Kennebunkport, Maine, Kingdom Hall was burned. At Rockville, Maryland, within twenty miles of the majestic Supreme Court building, police joined a mob attack on a Bible meeting. At Litchfleld, Illinois, a crowd of a thousand townsfolk milled around sixty canvassing Witnesses, burning their tracts, overturning their cars. At Connersville, Indiana, the Witnesses' attorney was beaten and driven out of town. At Jackson, Mississippi, a veterans' organization banished the Witnesses and their trailer houses from the city. Similar incidents occurred in Texas, California, Arkansas, and Wyoming. The Department of Justice traced this wave of violence directly to the Court's decision in the first Flag Salute case. i


This wave of unprecedented violence was accompanied by a sharp upswing in


number of arrests. For the years 1940, 1941 and 1942 the record shows there were more than 3,000 individual arrests each year. In many instances local officials and law-enforcement officers co-operated or participated in this unlawful activity. Here is another account of the adverse effects of the Gobitis decision on the public.

TOM: [interrupting]: I'm beginning to believe more and more that Judge Rutherford knew what he was talking about when he warned Americans in 1938 of the growing Fascist threat in the United States.

JOHN: well, listen to some of the lawless, un-American acts perpetrated against Jehovah's witnesses during this period:

Because the many hundreds of prosecutions did not deter the Lord's people in singing the praises of Jehovah from door to door and on the streets, the enemy, acting under demon influence, caused violent opposition, in the form of mobs, against Kingdom publishers. This type of persecution renewed itself after a lapse of many years, beginning in a few instances in Pennsylvania and Ohio in the fall of 1939. Mob violence took a tremendous impetus in May, 1940, beginning at Del Rio, Texas, and spreading immediately to other small towns in Texas and many other states.

On June 3, 1940, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that school boards may require children in public schools to salute the flag or be excluded. The public press of the nation, under influence of the Roman Catholic Hierarchy, greatly distorted this opinion, and falsely made it appear that every person must salute the flag. As a consequence of such distortion the un-American Legion under demon influence and the Roman Catholic Hierarchy thereafter fanned the already-kindled flame of mob violence which had broken out in Texas at its instance, and then mob violence spread rapidly to every state in the Union.

Since May, 1940, the Hierarchy and the American Legion, through such mobs that have taken the law into their own hands, violently worked havoc indescribable. Jehovah's witnesses have been assaulted, beaten, kidnaped, driven out of towns, counties and states, tarred and feathered, forced to drink castor oil, tied together and chased like dumb beasts through the streets, castrated and maimed, taunted and insulted by demonized crowds, jailed by the hundreds without charge and held incommunicado and denied the privilege of conferring with relatives, friends or lawyers. Many other hundreds have been jailed and held in so-called "protective custody"; some have been shot in the nighttime; some threatened with hanging and beaten into unconsciousness. Numerous varieties of mob violence have occurred. Many have had their clothes torn from them, their Bibles and other literature seized and publicly burned; their automobiles, trailers, homes and assembly places wrecked and fired, resulting in damages totaling very many thousands of dollars.

This demonized violence has completely possessed the people and officials in hundreds of communities of America, so that they have falsely charged Jehovah's witnesses with sedition and like crimes of being "against the government". This character of persecution flared highest in Kentucky, Missouri and Indiana. In Kentucky ten brethren await trial for sedition, which carries a maximum penalty of twenty-one years in the penitentiary. In Indiana two harmless women have been convicted of "riotous conspiracy" because of possessing literature which the American Legion terms as being "against the government", and have been sentenced to ten years in the penitentiary.

In numerous instances where trials have been held in mob-ruled communities, lawyers as well as witnesses have been mobbed and beaten while attending court.

In almost every case where there has been mob violence the public officials have stood idly by and refused to give protection, and in scores of instances the officers of the law have participated in the mobs and sometimes actually led the mobs. j

So intense did this persecution become that United States Solicitor General Francis Biddle and Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of the then president of the United States, felt called upon to make public appeals for a discontinuance of such practices. The Solicitor General in a broadcast over a coast-to-coast network of the National Broadcasting Company on June 16, 1940, said:

Jehovah's witnesses have been repeatedly set upon and beaten. They had committed no crime; but the mob adjudged they had, and meted out mob punishment. The Attorney General has ordered an immediate investigation of these outrages.

The people must be alert and watchful, and above all cool and sane. Since mob violence will make the government's task infinitely


more difficult, it will not be tolerated. We shall not defeat the Nazi evil by emulating its methods. k

Then a group interested in civil liberties published a booklet describing these outrages. Here is a brief quotation:

Not since the persecution of the Mormons years ago has any religious minority been so bitterly and generally attacked as the members of Jehovah's Witnesses—particularly in the spring and summer of 1940. While this was the peak of the attacks upon them, hostility and discrimination have been rife for several years.

Documents filed with the Department of Justice by attorneys for Jehovah's Witnesses and the American Civil Liberties Union showed over three hundred thirty-five instances of mob violence in forty-four states during 1940, involving one thousand four hundred eighty-eight men, women, and children.

The cause of this extraordinary outbreak was the "patriotic" fear aroused by the success of the Nazi armies in Europe and the panic which seized the country at the imagined invasion of the United States. From California to Maine this emotion expressed itself in searching out "Fifth Columnists" and "Trojan Horses"—phrases which sprang into almost immediate popularity to characterize those thought to be opposed to national defense.

Jehovah's Witnesses were the object of immediate and widespread attack, chiefly because of their position on flag saluting, well advertised by their widespread distribution of the May 29, 1940, issue of the magazine Consolation giving details of the hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court of the Gobitis flag salute case. Following the decision of June 3, 1940, in which school boards were upheld in their right to expel children of this sect who refused to salute the flag, this propaganda was taken by some as seditious. l


Then, in the midst of the legal battles and while persecution of the Witnesses was reaching a peak, it was decided that an assembly should be held. You might think this would be a bad time for a convention, but not so. Jehovah's witnesses were determined to continue on regardless of opposition, and conventions have always been a unifying source of great strength to God's people from the spiritual nourishment received and from the Christian fellowship provided.

So preparations were made at the Ohio State Fair Grounds in Columbus, Ohio. The dates were to be July 24-28, 1940. At the same time assemblies were arranged for in more than thirty other cities of the United States. They were to be tied in by private land wires uniting all as one convention. However, under pressure from the Roman Catholic Hierarchy, officials of the State of Ohio canceled the contract and denied the Witnesses the right to use the Fair Grounds.

Immediately a petition was circulated throughout the country and within a few days 2,042,136 signers demanded that Governor Bricker and the Ohio State Fair Grounds Association allow Jehovah's witnesses to use the Fair Grounds for their Christian assembly. Governor Bricker refused to honor the petitioners' request and so the Witnesses had to look elsewhere for their key city.

Under pressure also many of the other assembly facilities were canceled so that, when the convention convened, only eighteen cities in all provided convention accommodations to the Witnesses. When it was certain that the Fair Grounds would no longer be obtainable, the key city was moved to Detroit, Michigan, and in spite of the opposition a very successful assembly was held there in a series of large automobile garages connected together. Judge Rutherford was failing in health but was able nevertheless to appear three times before the assembly. One of the outstanding talks was the lecture on "Times and Seasons." There were 35,000 Witnesses in attendance at Detroit. At the conclusion


of this talk the book Religion was released, 30,000 of which were immediately placed with the conventioners in all parts of the country. High light of the assembly was the talk "Religion as a World Remedy," which particularly exposed false religion and the corruption of the wicked systems operating in the name of Christ Jesus. The talk was recorded on phonograph discs, as well as being printed, and was given wide distribution following the assembly.

This public talk Sunday, July 28, was delivered to 45,000 people in Detroit who packed out the convention meeting place and Eastern Star Temple, thousands being in the streets and exit points receiving the message over loud-speakers. Private lines took the talk also to the trailer camp, where 12,000 persons were assembled to hear this lecture. Those convened in the seventeen other cities brought the total to nearly 80,000 persons listening to this expose of religion. The two talks, "Times and Seasons," and "Religion as a World Remedy," were released in the booklet Conspiracy Against Democracy.

Other high lights of the assembly were the pioneer meeting, model service meeting, Watchtower study and the introduction of the new vertical-type phonograph, which could be played in an upright position simply by turning a button without opening the cover. This was designed and built by brothers at Brooklyn Bethel and greatly facilitated the door-to-door use of the phonograph. In addition Kingdom News, No. 6, was released at the convention and more than 2,000,000 copies were taken home for immediate distribution.

Even this assembly in Detroit had been held in the face of great opposition. Tremendous pressure was brought to bear by the local American Legion and the Roman Catholic Hierarchy in Detroit to break up the meeting and cancel the contract that had been paid for in advance. It was necessary to have a large guard of many brothers on duty twenty-four hours a day to protect the property before and during the assembly.

Newspaper reporters and photographers and representatives of practically every type of magazine were on hand because of the intense persecution Jehovah's witnesses had been receiving throughout the country, which resulted in the greatest publicity that Jehovah's witnesses had ever had up to that time in the public press. m

Many reports written during this period were not favorable to the Witnesses, though, of course, there were those that were, such as this editorial from the Michigan Christian Advocate of August 8, 1940:

Here is a group that, in this year of our Lord 1940, is not ashamed to witness for Christ in an unmistakable manner. It believes in Jesus and makes it known. In a day when religion has taken on a kind of compromising sophistication, when some church members think membership an end instead of a beginning of witnessing for Christ, when all too many of us hesitate to speak a testimony for fear of embarrassment, these witnesses come on the contemporary scene as a challenge to our pagan complacency. . . .

Perhaps more important for the present than any of the foregoing is the attention this sect has brought to the problem of religious freedom in a nation which is fast becoming fascist. The fact that this group is a small minority does not change the principles of religious freedom which have been violated in the persecution of it. n

Many persons of good will were enlightened by all this publicity and responded favorably to the work as a result of it.


A little over a month before this assembly, on Flag Day, June 14, 1940, the Society's Kingdom Farm at South Lansing, New York, was threatened with a mob attack. The farm management had been tipped off by an elderly man who, the night


before at a tavern in South Lansing, had overheard a conversation to the effect that the American Legion from all parts of western New York state were going to converge on the Society's property the following day, Flag Day, to burn down the buildings.

The farm servant immediately became concerned at this report and notified the Tompkins County sheriff, who also took the matter seriously. This sheriff believed in upholding the law and, although he had just a few men, he determined to prevent any violence. He too had had reports of this proposed move against the farm and called upon the state police for assistance.

Sure enough, at six o'clock on June 14 hundreds of cars began to appear from nowhere to travel by the Society's property on Highway 34. Each car held four or five men. But the police were prepared. State troopers and deputy sheriffs were protecting all the buildings of the Society and the state police had passed a special regulation that no car could slow down or park from one end of the Society's property down the road a half mile to the other end. Spaced at intervals for this entire distance were police to keep the cars moving. No car could stop to let out men to set fire to the buildings. The police remained on the scene until after midnight, forcing all cars to keep moving. In this manner this threatened attack on Kingdom Farm was averted. It is estimated there were nearly 1,000 cars and possibly 4,000 men who had come from all parts of western New York state to destroy the Society's property at the farm.

LOIS: Well, it's encouraging to hear that there were at least some public officials who were willing to do their duty.

JOHN: Yes, there were, and their success in putting down mob violence serves only to highlight even more sharply the gross neglect of duty on the part of those who refused police protection to Jehovah's witnesses.

Not all the police were as willing as the sheriff of Tompkins County to uphold the law. One outrageous case of police brutality occurred in West Virginia. On June 29, 1941, seven male Witnesses went to Rich-wood, West Virginia, to engage in the preaching work. Three of them stopped at the town hall in order to present a letter to the mayor requesting police protection while carrying on their work. The other four remained in the car. This move was considered necessary because, just a year previous, two of these Witnesses had been ordered to leave town for distributing literature and circulating the petition in regard to the national assembly at the Ohio State Fair Grounds, Columbus, Ohio.

The Witnesses did not find the mayor in, but they met Bert Stewart, chief of police of Richwood, and Martin L. Catlette, deputy sheriff of Nicholas County and a member of the American Legion. Catlette was one of the six members of the Richwood American Legion Post who had ordered the Witnesses out of town the year before. The letter requesting police protection was then delivered to Chief of Police Stewart, but instead of his acting upon it, the three Witnesses were ushered into the mayor's office, which Catlette shared in his duties as a deputy sheriff tax-collector, and they were there detained while Catlette was wearing his official badge and the chief of police was acting as doorkeeper.

Catlette called other members of the American Legion by phone and said, among other things: "We have three of the S—O—B's here and we are rounding up the others." While a mob estimated at about 1,500 persons gathered, the four other Witnesses were brought into the office. Then Catlette removed his badge as depu-


ty sheriff and stated: "What is done from here on will not be done in the name of the law." Three of the Witnesses were forced to drink eight ounces of castor oil and another, who protested and at first refused, was required to drink sixteen ounces of castor oil, after having been threatened by a doctor with a stomach pump.

All seven of the Witnesses were then tied together along a large rope about three or four feet apart and were marched to the front of the Richwood post office, on the top of which an American flag was flying. Catlette read the preamble to the American Legion Constitution and all persons present saluted the flag except the Witnesses. The Witnesses were then marched through the streets of the town of Richwood and out of its corporate limits still bound to the rope, and outside of town were released and restored to their automobile, which had been damaged and which had been covered with castor oil and a number of uncomplimentary inscriptions and were advised never to return.

From the time they had entered the office of the deputy sheriff about 9:30 in the morning until some time between three and four o'clock in the afternoon, when they were released, none of them had received food or drink, except the castor oil, nor were they permitted to go to a toilet.

Both Catlette and Stewart were convicted of violating the Civil Rights Act in conspiring to deprive Jehovah's witnesses of their rights to preach the gospel and explain their conscientious refusal to salute the American flag. Convicted in the United States District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, Catlette appealed his case, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the decision of the lower court and stated, in part:

Catlette's argument is, therefore, reduced to nothing more than the notion that an officer can divorce himself from his official capacity merely by removing his badge of office before embarking on a course of illegal conduct, and thereby blithely absolve himself from any liability for his ensuing nefarious acts. We must condemn this insidious suggestion that an officer may thus lightly shuffle off his official role. To accept such a legalistic dualism would gut the constitutional safeguards and render law enforcement a shameful mockery. o

Catlette was sentenced to a fine of $1,000 and to one year's imprisonment in the federal prison camp at Mill Point, West Virginia.

LOIS: In view of all that opposition and mob violence, it is a wonder to me how you were able to keep the work going at all.

JOHN: It's true it was an extremely trying time even in the United States, but in this country at least the work was not declared illegal, forcing us to go underground. So during these days of legal warfare and of fighting off demonized mobs, Jehovah's witnesses were relatively free to fulfill the divine will in an internal strengthening and maturing of the theocratic structure of the organization.

At this point we should consider some of the developments that were taking place in the methods of carrying on the work, because the next few years were to see some decided changes in the Society's educational program.

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