The more than 200 miscellaneous Jehovah's Witnesses historical court cases and historical scenarios posted in this six-page section are intended to provide additional enlightenment on the various issues which arise elsewhere within this website. Even highly educated readers will never have heard of most of these cases -- primarily because such have never been cited by liberal authors and reporters whose own writings have been constrained for decades by "political correctness", which dictates the glorification of the Jehovah's Witness Court Cases of the 1920s-1990s. We have also "un-spun" several highly publicized cases so that readers are able to see for the first time the "whole truth" which liberal authors and reporters have censored for decades. Each of the six webpages contains its own multiple shocking revelations.
Honest readers will admit that they currently are straining their brains to recall exactly which of the famous late 1930s SCOTUS cases was BOTH the VERY FIRST SCOTUS CASE and was a WIN for the WatchTower Society. Was it LOVELL, or SCHNEIDER, OR CANTWELL? Give yourself an A+ if you said NONE OF THE ABOVE. Well, what case was it, then? Here's another hint. The very first WatchTower Society case heard by SCOTUS was also the ONLY case that has EVER been heard by SCOTUS that involved an OFFICER and DIRECTOR of the WatchTower Society.
How many more reasons should exist for this winning court case to be the best publicized WatchTower Society court case in SCOTUS history? Well, how about the fact that in this case, the Supreme Court of the United States did something procedurally for the very first time in its history. Further, how about the fact that this SCOTUS decision has been cited and discussed for decades in American courts. Surely, you know this case!
In fact, the WatchTower Society and its liberal supporters have intentionally allowed this case to quietly slide through history in obscurity. Obviously, there must be a good reason -- or reasons -- that barely anyone has heard of EX PARTE HUDGINGS, which was a 1919 SCOTUS decision. The subject of this SCOTUS case was William Franklyn Hudgings, who over the years held various Director and Officer positions in the WatchTower Society, and the affiliated People's Pulpit Association and International Bible Students Association. At the time of this case, William Hudgings acknowledged being Corporate Secretary of the People's Pulpit Association, and acknowledged that his daily duties included administrative charge of printing of the WatchTower magazine, the Bible Student's Monthly, the Kingdom News, and other WatchTower publications. Hudgings was also re-elected to the WatchTower Society Board of Directors in January 1919. A 1933 media article even stated that Hudgings was an attorney, although it is not known when Hudgings became an attorney.
Earlier in the trial, William Hudgings' wife, Agnes Hudgings, and another WatchTower official's wife, Mabel (Russell) Campbell, who both worked as secretaries in various WatchTower administrative offices, had been called by the prosecution to testify, so as to prove the authenticity of certain WatchTower documents, and the signatures on such, relating to the publication, printing, and distribution of THE FINISHED MYSTERY book. The testimony of the two WatchTower secretaries was uncooperative and evasive, if not outright untruthful, which could also be said of much of the testimony of most WatchTower Society officials and employees during this trial (as had occurred in the WatchTower Society's and Russell's multiple earlier trials. The decades-long routine lying of Jehovah's Witnesses to government officials, both inside and outside the courtroom, eventually was designated as "Theocratic War Strategy"), and Judge Howe essentially allowed the Prosecutor to treat Agnes Hudgings and Mabel Campbell as "hostile witnesses", plus Howe made various remarks which the jury might interpret as indicating that Howe believed that the witnesses were lying.
Later in the trial, after his main testimony, William Hudging was recalled to prove the signatures of two of the WatchTower defendants. William Hudgings testified that he had worked with the two defendants for nine years, but had never seen either sign his name such that he could testify as to the authenticity of their signatures. Hudgings even testified that he could not "remember" ever seeing A. H. MacMillan writing anything during the nine years, although their desks were only ten feet apart during the most recent 18 months.
No doubt exasperated by the earlier testimonies of Hudgings' wife and Mabel Campbell, Judge Howe charged William Hudgings with "contempt" only after first giving Hudgings a warning lecture during which Judge Howe stated, "I am not going to allow you to obstruct the course of justice here." The Judge offered Hudgings an adjournment to counsel with an attorney regarding his testimony, but the Judge's efforts to give Hudgings a last opportunity to be more forthright with his answers were unsuccessful. The Judge's error was in doing all this in front of the Jury. [Thereafter, the Prosecutor called former WatchTower Society Vice President, Alfred Ritchie, to testify, and Ritchie truthfully identified the documents and the signatures. A. I. Ritchie, who had disassociated himself from the WatchTower Society, was still being criticized for his truthful testimony, by WatchTower Society hierarchy, in print, four decades later.]
When William F. Hudgings squandered his last chance at complete honesty, he was taken into custody for contempt, on June 11, 1918, and was thereafter charged and indicted for perjury that same day. USDC Judge Thomas Chatfield set bail for Hudgings on the perjury charge, and bail was offered and accepted, but Hudgings remained in jail for contempt. Judge Garvin set trial on the perjury charge for August 17, 1918, but Judge Chatfield refused to proceed with the perjury case until Hudgings was released from the contempt commitment. On July 8, 1918, Judge Howe ordered that Hudgings continue to be committed until Hudgings was willing to purge the contempt charge. Unwilling to acknowledge that his testimony had been less than truthful, Hudgings languished in jail for months.
On April 14, 1919, in a habeas corpus proceeding, SCOTUS
ruled in favor of William F. Hudgings, with one dissenter. HELD: A Federal Court may not punish a witness for contempt solely because of the opinion of the court that he is committing perjury, without reference to any circumstance or condition giving to such perjury an obstructive effect.
... it is indisputable that the punishment for contempt was imposed solely because of the opinion of the court that the witness was willfully refusing to testify truthfully, that is, was committing perjury. ... ... ...
An obstruction to the performance of judicial duty resulting from an act done in the presence of the court is, then, the characteristic upon which the power to punish for contempt must rest. ... in order to punish perjury in the presence of the court as a contempt there must be added to the essential elements of perjury under the general law the further element of obstruction to the court in the performance of its duty. ...
Testing the power to make the commitment which is under consideration in this case by the principles thus stated, we are of opinion that the commitment was void for excess of power --a conclusion irresistibly following from the fact that the [second] punishment was imposed for the supposed perjury alone without reference to any circumstance or condition giving to it an obstructive effect. Indeed, when the provision of the commitment directing that the punishment should continue to be enforced until the contempt, that is, the perjury, was purged, the impression necessarily arises that it was assumed that the power existed to hold the witness in confinement under the punishment until he consented to give a character of testimony which in the opinion of the court would not be perjured.
In 1925, Agnes Hudgings fled from WatchTower HQ, disassociated herself, and filed for DIVORCE
. Only a few years thereafter, William Hudgings also left WatchTower HQ and disassociated himself from the WatchTower Society.
Any researcher particularly interested in this historic HUDGINGS CASE should compare the WatchTower Society's version of this trial as found in the WatchTower Society's most comprehensive history book, JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES: Proclaimers of God's Kingdom, and the WatchTower Society's next most comprehensive history found in its 1975 Yearbook.
NEW YORK v. WILLIAM F. HUDGINGS
was a 1930 New York state criminal prosecution of William Franklyn Hudgings for practicing medicine without a license. William Hudgings owned and operated the "ABRAMS INSTITUTE"
, at 10 Clark Street, which was near WatchTower Society headquarters. Dr. Irving Withington was censured for his association with Hudgings. William F. Hudgings was fined and sentenced to 6 months in the workhouse.
UNITED STATES v. JOSEPH F. RUTHERFORD
Scholars researching the UNITED STATES v. JOSEPH F. RUTHERFORD ET AL court case may wish to take a look at the SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES case (cert denied), UNITED STATES v. JOSHUA SYKES ET AL, which INTERESTINGLY was a similar 1918-21 federal criminal prosecution of a California religious group for obstructing the military draft in violation of the Espionage Act of 1917. We GUARANTEE you that Judge Rutherford eventually became thoroughly familiar with Joshua Sykes and Sykes' religious group and Sykes' religious teachings.
J. W. Sykes was an early anti-trinitarian Pentecostal Preacher who taught that he had "the only true religion", because he had been specially chosen by "Jehovah" to gather together and prepare "a people" for the imminent Second Advent of Jesus Christ. Sykes had his Berkeley, California "Church of the Living God" burned down during World War I. Joshua Sykes and his staff were forced into hiding for their personal safety. Sykes and four associates eventually were also criminally prosecuted for obstructing the draft in violation of the Espionage Act of 1917. While Rutherford and his WatchTower gang served less than 9 months in prison, J. W. Sykes served 15 months in federal prison, and three of his associates served 10 months in prison.
Interestingly, during WW1, at a time when Judge Rutherford was publicly straddling the fence and publicly beating around the bush regarding the military draft and fighting in the war, all while privately sending out secret "anti-draft" messages to its members, the Pentecostal Preacher Joshua Sykes was plainly and publicly teaching his followers that they could NOT join the military nor fight for the United States in the ongoing WW1.
"The charges that I am in any way antagonistic to the United States government are false. I stand squarely with President Wilson in this great crisis and have no sympathy with anyone who does otherwise." -- J.F. Rutherford via April 1918 press release.
Interestingly, during WW1, at a time when Judge Rutherford had no issues with the displaying of the American Flag, nor had any issues with saluting the American Flag, nor had any issues with reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, nor had any issues with standing for the National Anthem (then National Hymn), the Pentecostal Preacher Joshua Sykes was teaching his followers that they could NOT perform any of those patriotic acts. However, it not until January 1926 that Joshua Sykes decided that these prohibitions should be forced onto the children within his cult. When local schools began expelling the children of Sykes cult as they gradually refused to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, the ACLU came running to Sykes rescue. The ACLU proclaimed that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance was against the religious tenets of Sykes' church. The ACLU proclaimed that although the members of Sykes' church respected the Flag of the United States, as well as respected the laws and Constitution of the United States, they believed that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance was a form of "idolatry" forbidden by the Bible. The ACLU successfully negotiated a settlement with that local school board by the start of the following school year -- within a matter of months. It was not until 9 years later, in 1935, that the ACLU and Judge Rutherford formed a partnership to repeat what the ACLU had done for Sykes' cult.
Interestingly, during WW1, at a time when Judge Rutherford was advising WatchTower Society headquarters staff and members to purchase Liberty Bonds, the Pentecostal Preacher Joshua Sykes was forbidding his members to do so.
Interestingly, during WW1, the Pentecostal Preacher Joshua Sykes was forbidding his members to support the American Red Cross -- financially or otherwise. The WatchTower Society did not get around to that until the latter 1940s.
Interestingly, even prior to WW1, the ANTI-TRINITARIAN Pentecostal Preacher J. W. Sykes was teaching his followers to distinguish between "Jehovah God"
and his Son, "Jesus Christ"
, and to openly and regularly refer to the "Father"
, and not just "God"
. By the 1920s, Joshua Sykes was making even more widespread use of the name "Jehovah"
, such that whenever some unidentified religious group or religious nut would make repeated use of the name "Jehovah"
, they were assumed to be part of Joshua Sykes' cult -- not the "Bible Students"
. Judge Rutherford did not make a major issue of the use of the name "Jehovah"
until after Joshua Sykes died in 1929, when in 1931, Rutherford stole the label "Jehovah's witnesses" for his followers from Christian Evangelist H. A. Ironside
Interestingly, during WW1, the Pentecostal Preacher Joshua Sykes was teaching his followers that they were NOT citizens of the United States, but were citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. It took the WatchTower Society until the 1950s to teach its members a watered-down version of such. Sykes actually meant it. The WatchTower Society just gave the teaching unpracticed lip service.
Interestingly, the Pentecostal Preacher Joshua Sykes practiced racial and gender "integration" as early as 1908 -- having both African-American and female assistant preachers, staffers, and members. The WatchTower Society was not fully integrated until the 1970s.
Interestingly, during WW1, the Pentecostal Preacher Joshua Sykes forbid his followers from being employed in any kind of employment having to do with the manufacturing of military equipment, supplies, and materials. It took the WatchTower Society until WW2 to do the same.
Interestingly, during their federal criminal prosecutions and incarcerations, BOTH the Pentecostal Preacher Joshua Sykes and WatchTower Society President Joe Rutherford went batcrap CRAZY, and started proclaiming that such PERSECUTION was conclusive proof that they were "Jehovah's chosen people" during "these end-times". BOTH Sykes and Rutherford became even more "apocalyptic" -- setting ever-changing "dates" for an impending Armageddon which would destroy their enemies and prove them righteous.
Interestingly, during their federal criminal prosecutions and incarcerations, BOTH the Pentecostal Preacher Joshua Sykes and WatchTower Society President Joe Rutherford went bat-crap CRAZY, and turned their religious followers into anti-government and anti-societal NUTJOBS who made careers of wildly attacking every human government, attacking every societal institution, and attacking every other Christian religion.
Interestingly, BOTH the Pentecostal Preacher Joshua Sykes and WatchTower Society President Joe Rutherford dumped their wives to live alone in California, while they BOTH made "mistresses" of headquarter's female staffers. The only difference between the Pentecostal Preacher Joshua Sykes and WatchTower Society President Joe Rutherford was that Sykes did not keep his adultery a secret from his members, but rather "spiritualized" the matter, just as Rutherford "spiritualized" many other less controversial matters in his own religious cult.
Didn't the WatchTower Society once teach something about Jesus Christ performing some kind of "inspection" from 1914 until 1918???
UNITED STATES v. JOSEPH F. RUTHERFORD ET AL
was the 1918-19 New York federal criminal court prosecution in which a jury convicted the President of the WatchTower Society and seven other WatchTower officials of violating the Espionage Act of 1917
through their publication and distribution of THE FINISHED MYSTERY
, and they spent almost nine months in federal prison. President J. F. Rutherford and his seven WatchTower co-conspirators were NEVER ACQUITTED of the criminal charges which they were previously convicted, despite the fact that the WatchTower Society has repeatedly claimed such, and despite the fact that that FALSE CLAIM has been picked up and repeated by reporters, authors, and scholars for decades -- including a British historian as late as 2014.
On appeal, in May 1919, the 3-member U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals voted 2-1 to reverse the conviction and remand the case back to the USDC for a new trial. Thereafter, in May 1920, the federal prosecutor finally simply dropped the charges for multiple valid prosecutorial and political reasons. First, the Great War was long over, and the United States and its citizens had "moved on". The first jury trial had taken two weeks to prosecute. Why expend the time, effort, and expense of a second trial given that the 8 defendants had already served nearly 9 months in federal prison? In 1920, there was nothing positive to be gained by sending this pack of religious "nuts" back to prison for additional prison time. The permanent record of the first trial clearly demonstrated that the defendants were guilty of the charges of which they were convicted. The point had been made.
Even the 2-member majority, Justices Ward and Rogers, who voted for reversal and remand, reasoned:
We think there was sufficient evidence upon which to submit the case to the jury, and that none of the errors assigned is ground for reversal, except in respect to the matters now to be considered. ... ... ...
We think that the attitude of the court in regard to the testimony of [ Mabel Campbell, Agnes Hudgings, and William F. Hudgings] and the action it took in the presence of the jury in the case of the witness William F. Hudgings was most prejudicial to the defendants. It was very likely to intimidate witnesses subsequently called, to prejudice the jurors against the defendants, and to make them think that the court was satisfied of the defendants’ guilt. What a judge may say to the contrary on such an occasion will not necessarily prevent such consequences. It is not enough to justify a conviction that the defendant be guilty. He has a right to be tried in accordance with the rules of law. The defendants in this case did not have the temperate and impartial trial to which they were entitled, and for that reason the judgment is reversed.
Justice Manton not only voted against the reversal/remand of the USDC conviction, but Justice Manton even took the time to author a lengthy "Dissent" (edited):
I dissent. As stated in the prevailing opinion, the [defendants] ... were officers or employees of the Watch Tower Bible Tract Society, the People's Pulpit Association, and the International Bible Students’ Association, ... . While our country was at war, and before the armistice was signed, the defendants were tried and convicted on an indictment containing the four following counts:
First Count. A conspiracy to cause insubordination, etc., in the military and naval forces of the United States.
Second Count. A conspiracy to obstruct the recruiting and enlistment service of the United States.
Third Count. An attempt to cause insubordination, etc., in the military and naval forces of the United States.
Fourth Count. Obstructing the recruiting and enlistment service of the United States, etc.
The offenses charged were committed between June 16, 1917, and May 6, 1918. The corporations, acting through their officers and employees, who were indicted, between June 30, 1917, and March, 1918, caused to be published 850,000 copies of a book called "The Finished Mystery." These copies were distributed in large numbers in the army camps of the United States, and many hundreds of thousands of copies were distributed throughout the United States and Canada. The book purported to be an interpretation of the Book of Revelations and the Book of Ezekiel. ... in about the center of the book, are found writings, placed there in a very insinuative manner, of which the following extracts are a type:
"... Satan has placed three great untruths, human immorality, the Antichrist and a certain delusion which is best described by the word Patriotism, but which is in reality murder, the spirit of the very Devil. ... Under the guise of Patriotism the civil governments of earth demand of peace-loving men the sacrifice of themselves and their loved ones and the butchery of their fellows, and hail it as a duty demanded by the laws of heaven." -- Page 247.
"If you say that this war is a last resort in a situation which every other method, patiently tried, has failed to meet, I must answer that this is not truth -- that other ways and means of action, tried by experience and justified by success, have been laid before the administration and willfully rejected. In its ultimate causes, this war is the natural product of our unchristian civilization. ... There is not a question raised, an issue involved, a cause at stake, which is worth the lite of one blue-jacket on the sea or one khaki-coat in the trenches." -- Page 251
At about this stage, the fertile mind of the reader would be very much interested, if sanctimonious at all. At this stage, he is supplied this food of poison for his patriotism and loyalty to his country. Under the mockery of religion or religious teaching, I can conceive of no worse thrust at America and at America's needs, at the time of the publication of this book, than that which was published in this book by the defendants. We in America all accord to men of all religious faiths the right to an honest and faithful belief in their creed and the practice of it accordingly, but that the defendants’ efforts were intentional and for the desired purpose is apparent from a mere recital of some of the happenings during this period.
The defendant Rutherford wrote on July 17, 1917, referring to The Finished Mystery:
"It seemed good to the Lord to have the seventh volume prepared. ... When the time came for publishing this work we were in the midst of much opposition, and knowing that to consult the opposers would hinder the publishing of the volume, I took counsel with Brothers Van Amburgh, MacMillan, Martin, and Hudgings of the office force."
The book was paid for out of the funds of the corporation with which the defendants were associated and which they managed. The effect of the book upon the drafted men is exemplified by some of these circumstances. As instances:
One Dutchess, formerly a National Guardsman, sold a copy of the book to one Sisson of Binghamton, N. Y. The latter claimed exemption later before the local board as a conscientious objector and was aided in this by the defendant Van Amburgh.
One Insberg was drafted and sent to Camp Devens in October, 1917. After purchasing the book, he refused to perform any military duty. He later bought a dozen volumes of the book and put them in the library of the Young Men's Christian Association at Camp Devens. Later he deserted.
One De Cecca was drafted, sent to Camp Devens, took a copy of the book with him, and then refused to work in camp.
One Niciti was drafted, sent to Camp Devens, got 30 copies of the book, distributed them in camp. After he put on his uniform, he took it off and refused to do any work in camp.
One Anderson was drafted and sent to Camp Upton. After reading the book, he deserted, came to the [Brooklyn] Tabernacle [WatchTower HQ], and while there an army officer was looking for him. He saw the officer; used the fire escape as a means of escaping from the building.
The record is replete with evidence indicating the defendants’ active advising men subject to the draft to claim their exemption and to refuse to perform any duty in camp if they were drafted.
A pamphlet was later published, called the Bible Students’ Monthly, and this by the Watch Tower Bible Tract Society. An article therein was as follows:
"Young man, the lowest aim of your life is to be a good soldier. A good soldier never tries to distinguish right from wrong. ... A good soldier is a blind, heartless, soulless, murderous machine. He is not a man; he is not even a brute, for brutes only kill in self-defense. ... No man can fall lower than a soldier. It is a depth beneath which we cannot go."
Ten thousand copies of this [Bible Students’] Monthly containing this quotation were reprinted in October, 1917, and paid for by defendants in the name of the Watch Tower Bible Tract Society.
The guilt of the defendants is plain, and I do not understand that the majority of the court are of the opinion that the facts did not warrant this conclusion of the jury.
But this judgment is to be reversed because of the alleged adverse attitude of [Judge Howe] in regard to the testimony of three witnesses, Mrs. Mabel Campbell, Mrs. Agnes Hudgings, and William F. Hudgings, and the action taken by [Judge Howe] in the presence of the jury in the case of the witness Hudgings in committing him for contempt of court, saying it was so prejudicial to the defendants that it could not be cured by the many words of caution expressed by [Judge Howe].
In order to establish its case, the government found it necessary to call as witnesses employees and others who were attached to and associated with the defendant corporations. Mrs. Mabel Campbell was a stenographer for the defendants. She had written letters, carbon copies of which were taken from the defendants by a search warrant. She identified initials on the letters, and was placed on the witness stand to identify the letters. She refused to identify the letters. [Judge Howe] was apparently of the opinion that [Mabel Campbell] was not telling the truth, and from the recital of what took place, as this record discloses, [Judge Howe] was undoubtedly correct in this conclusion.
Agnes Hudgings, also a stenographer, wrote certain letters to which she attached initials which she used in her course of business conduct in writing such letters; letters indicating the initials of the person who dictated the letter. She was the wife of one of the officers of the association. She refused to identify the letters, and [Judge Howe], having reached the conclusion that [Agnes Hudgings] was not telling the truth, did not hesitate to tell her that she was evading and fencing, and not frank and truthful. Whatever was said by [Judge Howe] in his questions was at once followed by directing the jury not to permit it to prejudice any one; that it should not reflect against the defendants or the government, for nothing appeared, he said, indicating that the defendants or the defendants’ counsel were responsible for the attitude taken by the witnesses, the two stenographers.
Hudgings was called as a witness to identify the handwriting of one of the defendants, MacMillan. He was in close association in the same office, sitting within 10 feet of the desk occupied by MacMillan for two years, and declared that he could not identify the handwriting of either MacMillan or Van Amburgh.
At this stage of the trial, the conduct of the witnesses who were called, and who were associated with the defendants, became so palpable that [Judge Howe] properly told [William Hudgings that] he was not telling the truth. [Judge Howe] ordered [William Hudgings] committed for contempt of court. At once [Judge Howe] instructed the jury:
"There is no evidence in the case to justify you in drawing the inference that any of the defendants are responsible for the attitude taken by the witness, so that you should not draw any inference against the defendants."
The right to commit for contempt of court, or to summarily cause the arrest of a witness for perjury, is well recognized and approved by our courts. Of course, there must be facts justifying the contempt proceedings. This rule was recently laid down in Re Hudgings, 249 U. S. 378, 39 Sup. Ct. 337, 63 L. Ed. 656, decided April 14, 1919, by the Supreme Court of the United States. In this recent decision of the Supreme Court, the power to commit for contempt, when the circumstances warranted it, was recognized; but it was held that in the particular instance of Hudgings the circumstances did not warrant his commitment.
Throughout the trial, [Judge Howe] constantly protected the defendants’ rights by frequent caution, and in many instances [Judge Howe] asked the jury not to be prejudiced because of occurrences which took place during the course of the trial, which [Judge Howe] felt might in some way prejudice the defendants. And again, in the charge to the jury, [Judge Howe] left with the jury the statement that he had no opinion as to the facts, and that the facts were for the jury solely, and that no unfavorable inferences should be drawn by reason of any statement made by [him], nor should they be influenced by anything that occurred during the course of the trial. The rule has long been established that the trial judge of the District Court has wide latitude in the conduct of a trial; he may even comment upon the weight of evidence; so, too, he may comment upon the conduct of the witnesses and of counsel. [Authorities cited.]
Indeed, it is my opinion that the learned [Judge Howe] was most patient and considerate of the defendants’ rights. His consideration at defendants’ counsel, who in their zeal to protect their clients‘ interest many times overstepped the bounds of due respect to the dignity of the court, was magnanimous and kindly.
I see no error warranting a reversal of this conviction in the conduct of [Judge Howe], and in my opinion the [conviction] should be affirmed.
THE UNTOLD STORY OF E. W. BRENISEN'S SECRET ROLE
IN THE FINISHED MYSTERY BOOK SCANDAL and OTHER WATCHTOWER OPERATIONS
Most WatchTower researchers know that the new WatchTower Society President Joseph F. Rutherford had THE FINISHED MYSTERY
book secretly printed in Hammond, Indiana, by the W. B. CONKEY COMPANY
, starting in June 1917. As far as we can determine, the federal prosecutor did not pursue any charges against anyone connected with the W. B. CONKEY COMPANY, and the President of the company, Walter Conkey, even testified on behalf of the prosecution, which raises lots of questions. What the federal prosecutor either missed or ignored, and what most WatchTower researchers have missed is the fact that, in 1917, the New York City sales office of the W. B. CONKEY COMPANY
was operated and managed by Edward W. Brenisen.
Who was Edward Brenisen? Ed Brenisen was the former Secretary/Treasurer
of the PEOPLE'S PULPIT ASSOCIATION (later renamed the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.)
, and the former Secretary
of the INTERNATIONAL BIBLE STUDENTS ASSOCIATION
, from 1909 until 1915. Brenisen may also have been either an Officer and/or Director of the main Pennsylvania WatchTower corporation at some point during those same years. E. W. Brenisen was also named in the WILL
of Charles Taze Russell to be one of five men to make up the "Editorial Committee"
which was charged with the publication of the WATCHTOWER
magazine after Russell's death. However, after Russell's death in October 1916, Brenisen had declined the position due to the fact that at that time he was no longer a "WatchTower Bethelite"
-- having been one of Russell's multiple henchmen who had left the declining WatchTower HQ in 1915 in order to find some way to make a living
. Yes, Ed Brenisen had left "Bethel"
to go work for the W. B. CONKEY COMPANY
at around the same time that Joseph F. Rutherford had left Bethel to go out to California to see after the growing West Coast operations of Charles Taze Russell.
Even more INTERESTING is the fact that Edward Brenisen was born in 1874 only about 12 miles from the Missouri farmhouse where lived 5 year-old Joseph F. Rutherford. That's right, the Brenisen family, who were GERMAN immigrants, had lived for several years in the same part of Missouri as did the Rutherford family. It appears that the Brenisens moved to St. Louis prior to the 1880 census, but they apparently maintained their ties with family back in Moniteau County given that Brenisen's mother was brought back to be buried just outside Tipton when she died in 1893, and Brenisen's father was buried beside her when he died in 1923, and later even Brenisen's sibling and their family. Around 1898, when he first married, 24 year-old Ed Brenisen relocated to Dallas, Texas, where he was employed as an accountant/auditor with a railroad company.
Via a letter from Brenisen which was published in the WATCHTOWER magazine in 1900, we know that Brenisen was already a strong Russellite in Texas by 1900. The obvious question is when and how did Edward Brenisen, and possibly other Brenisen family members, first become associated with the WatchTower Society? Given the small number of "Bible Students" in Missouri, and particularly in and around Versailles, Tipton, and Boonville, where Rutherford and his sisters lived and associated with the "Bible Students", there is a very good possibility that Joseph F. Rutherford knew Edward Brenisen or his relatives long before they met at WatchTower Society HQ in Pittsburgh, in 1907. INTERESTINGLY, Edward Brenisen became a fulltime traveling "Pilgrim" for the WatchTower Society in January 1907, which was around the exact same time that Joseph F. Rutherford also became a full-time traveling "Pilgrim" for the WatchTower Society. Given that Brenisen, his wife, and two children relocated to Brooklyn when Russell moved his operations there in 1909, the Brenisens likely had already relocated to Pittsburgh prior to 1909, just as had the Rutherfords.
Edward Brenisen apparently remained "loyal" to Joseph F. Rutherford throughout Rutherford's many battles with the Russellites. In the May 4, 1927 issue of THE GOLDEN AGE magazine, a letter from Brenisen was published which attempted to impeach the charge of George H. Fisher (one of the authors of THE FINISHED MYSTERY) that Judge Rutherford (accompanied by one other male Bethelite and two female Bethelites) had attended Al Jolson's burlesque show. Edward Brenisen also apparently remained a "loyal" WatchTower follower given that he named the WatchTower Society as a residual beneficiary in his WILL executed just four years prior to his death in 1956. Ed Brenisen's second wife, Edith Brenisen, also is quoted multiple times in the WatchTower Society history section published in its 1975 YEARBOOK.
INTERESTINGLY, despite having been very prosperous as the NYC Sales Manager for the W. B. CONKEY COMPANY, Edward Brenisen continued his employment with the W. B. CONKEY COMPANY up until around the time of Rutherford's death in 1942, when Brenisen already was in his late 60s. Despite Brenisen's position with the W. B. CONKEY COMPANY, Brenisen also found time to serve on the Board of Directors of the F. M. Ambrose Company, a Boston, Massachusetts educational textbook publisher. Edward Brenisen also is believed to have been the anonymous "revisor" and "publisher" referenced by THE GOLDEN AGE magazine in its July 30, 1924 recommendation of the controversial book, ANGELS AND WOMEN: "The book is revised and published by a personal friend of Pastor Russell, and one who was close to him in his work. It is published by the A. B. Abac Company, New York city.
UNITED STATES v. FRANK SHAFFER
was a 1918-19 state of Washington federal criminal prosecution of the "Treasurer"
of the Everett, Washington "class"
of the International Bible Students Association
, which is one of the multiple names then used by local affiliates of the WatchTower Society. In May 1918, Frank Shaffer was indicted on three separate counts of violating the Espionage Act of 1917
through his various distribution of the THE FINISHED MYSTERY
. In a poorly conducted federal prosecution, on June 28, 1918, Frank Shaffer was convicted by a federal jury of only one of the three counts -- that is, that Shaffer had used the United States Postal Service to distribute materials which violated the Espionage Act of 1917
. Shaffer appealed his conviction to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed the conviction in February 1919. Shaffer next appealed that decision to the Supreme Court of the United States, but SCOTUS denied cert in November 1919. Frank Shaffer was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison, but was "pardoned" in January 1920 after serving 18 months.
On March 29, 1918, an F.B.I. Agent accompanied by two Deputy Sheriffs and a Everett City Police Officer went to the rural Everett home of Frank and Millie Shaffer looking for one of the Shaffer's fellow "Bible Students" named George Martinich, who was an "Austrian alien enemy". Somehow, the Washington state authorities had learned that Martinich had just received another shipment of THE FINISHED MYSTERY book. Both Martinich and the Shaffers denied possessing any copies of THE FINISHED MYSTERY. However, on entering the Shaffers' home, the officers discovered five copies. While one copy was a personal copy of the Shaffers, the other four copies were packaged for shipment. Actually, those four copies had been returned by the Post Office after the Shaffers had mailed them C.O.D. to four strangers whom had ordered the copies from either the Shaffers or other local "Bible Students", but then had refused to pay for them when they had been delivered by USPS. Both Shaffers admitted to mailing the four copies. Only George Martinich was arrested at that time. However, the officers obtained a search warrant and returned the next day to the Shaffer's farm, where they found another 124 copies of THE FINISHED MYSTERY hidden in the barn.
The lengthy USCA opinion even seems to indicate that the three Circuit justices would have been satisfied legally if Frank Shaffer had been convicted by the trial jury on the other two counts. The USCA wound up its decision by stating in part:
The case of the United States v. Rutherford Et Al ... involved the distribution of "The Finished Mystery." United States District Judge Howe, Eastern District of New York, in submitting the case to the jury was evidently of the same opinion as District Judge Neterer in submitting to the jury the several questions of fact involved.
In this case the defendant admitted that he was not doing anything to assist the United States in the prosecution of the present war; this attitude permits us to judge of his intent in the mailing of this literature; the organization to which he belongs, and of which he is manager, admits that it is doing nothing to assist the Government in the prosecution of the war. Neither the defendant nor any of the other members of this Society are subscribers to the Red Cross; if it be true that they have conscientious scruples against war and honestly believe that it is morally wrong for them to protect their country against invasion, by what process of reasoning can they justify their refusal to contribute to the American Red Cross Society, an organization which is making such supreme individual sacrifices in the cause of common humanity?
This book is the worst sort of dangerous propaganda. It is labeled as a bible and professes to be founded upon the teachings of the Christ. Yet the Savior never countenanced disloyalty to country, craven cowardice, or opposition to the laws of the land, and this volume is dangerous propaganda because it is distributed to weak-minded persons who are easily influenced. Thus we find the defendant advising a young girl, Miss Dottie Florance, not to finish her crocheting because the end of the world will come before the work can be finished; we find him suggesting to her that it would be more to the credit of the soldier boys if they would stay home and refuse to go out ;we find him even attempting to instill into her mind the thought that the invasion of Belgium was justified, because it was ordained by the will of God.
At no place in this book has loyalty to the Government of the United States been in any way encouraged. While the Government does not claim that men should be prosecuted and convicted simply because they are disloyal in mind and thought, we do contend that men and women plainly violate the provisions of the Espionage Act by the publication and distribution of a book such as "The Finished Mystery," and that to a prosecution based upon such distribution, it is no defense to say that a portion of the book contains correct translations from the Scripture.
We respectfully submit that the judgment should be affirmed.
WASHINGTON v. FRANK SHAFFER was an interesting March 1932 Washington state criminal prosecution of Frank Shaffer. Fank Shaffer and a relative named Ross Feizette were convicted of assaulting and battering the owner of an Arlington, Washington auto repair shop. Frank Shaffer and Ross Feizette attempted to remove a repaired vehicle from the premises without first paying the repair bill, and apparently assaulted and battered the owner when he attempted to stop them. Both spent unknown time in county jail. Interestingly, at the time, Ross Feizette was reported to be out on parole from a term spent in state prison for arson.
SAIA v. PEOPLE OF STATE OF NEW YORK was a 1948 Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decision, which is a criminal case that receives much less publicity from the WatchTower Society, its' Jehovah's Witnesses members, and their liberal supporters. Although SCOTUS reversed the criminal conviction of the Jehovah's Witness defendant/appellant, who was represented by Hayden Covington, it did so only by a narrow 5-4 split decision. The SAIA case deals with the issue of the Jehovah's Witnesses' use of loud-speakers to blast unwilling listeners with WatchTower propaganda.
This court case is especially interesting to this Editor, because my own Jehovah's Witness Great-Grandfather also used a loud-speaker to assault unwilling listeners with the propaganda of the WatchTower Society back during the mid 1930s. My JW Great-Grandfather lived in a small rural town, whose population was probably only around 400-500 people at that time. Having worn out his welcome calling at his neighbor's doorsteps with WatchTower literature, my JW GGF proceeded to install a loud-speaker on the roof of his house. Whether GGF himself sometimes spoke, or whether he used pre-recorded Rutherford lectures, or whether he hooked the loudspeaker to a radio set which was broadcasting Rutherford's lectures, JW GGF used the roof-mounted loud-speaker to BLAST WatchTower propaganda to unwilling listeners throughout the small rural community.
Saia was a resident of Buffalo, New York, who was arrested in Lockport, New York, for violating a city ordinance which regulated the use of loud-speakers and other sound amplification devices. The ordinance required persons wishing to use sound amplification within the city limits to apply for a permit from the Chief of Police. The Chief of Police actually granted Saia a permit for a 30 day period. On four successive Sundays, Saia traveled to Lockport, where Saia set up his equipment in the City Park, and blasted unwilling park visitors with WatchTower propaganda. However, after having received multiple complaints, the Chief of Police refused to renew Saia's permit for an additional 30 day period.
Despite not having the required permit, Saia continued to blast the City Park for four additional Sundays. Such fact would seem to indicate that the Chief of Police was exercising discretion, and that the Chief hoped Saia would discontinue his unwelcomed activities in Lockport. However, Saia was eventually arrested and charged for not having the required permit. Interestingly, the arresting officer reported that when he confronted Saia, that Saia pulled out a bunch of WatchTower supplied legal materials, and started reading from such in an effort to intimidate the officer. Specifically, the officer stated that Saia read materials that stated that if the officer arrested Saia that the officer would be subject to 15 - 50 years in prison, and a $5000.00 fine. Saia was convicted, and thereafter lost two appeals in New York courts, before his case was heard by SCOTUS.
Justice Robert Jackson, who is the Jehovah's Witnesses' oft quoted hero in the WEST VIRGINIA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION v. BARNETTE (1943) decision, voted against the JW position in this instance. Jackson's dissent likely has played a significant role in making sure that the precedent established by the majority opinion has been interpreted acceptably. Jackson stated, in part:
"I dissent from this decision, which seems to me neither judicious nor sound and to endanger the great right of free speech by making it ridiculous and obnoxious, more than the ordinance in question menaces free speech by regulating use of loud-speakers. Let us state some facts which the Court omits:
"The City of Lockport, New York, owns and maintains a public park of some 28 acres dedicated by deed to 'Park purposes exclusively'. The scene of action in this case is an area therein set apart for the people's recreation. The City has provided it with tables, benches, and fireplaces for picnic parties, a playground and wading pool for children, and facilities for such games as horseshoe pitching, bowling and baseball.
"The appellant, one of Jehovah's Witnesses, contends, and the Court holds, that without the permission required by city ordinance he may set up a sound truck so as to flood this area with amplified lectures on religious subjects. It must be remembered that he demands even more than the right to speak and hold a meeting in this area which is reserved for other and quite inconsistent purposes. He located his car, on which loud-speakers were mounted, either in the park itself, not open to vehicles, or in the street close by. The microphone for the speaker was located some little distance from the car and in the park, and electric wires were strung, in one or more instances apparently across the sidewalk, from the one to the other. So that what the Court is holding, is that the Constitution of the United States forbids a city to require a permit for a private person to erect, in its streets, parks and public places, a temporary public address system, which certainly has potentialities of annoyance and even injury to park patrons if carelessly handled. It was for setting up this system of microphone, wires and sound truck without a permit, that this appellant was convicted - it was not for speaking.
"It is astonishing news to me if the Constitution prohibits a municipality from policing, controlling or forbidding erection of such equipment by a private party in a public park. Certainly precautions against annoyance or injury from operation of such devices are not only appropriate, but I should think a duty of the city in supervising such public premises. And a very appropriate means to supervision is a permit which will inform the city's police officers of the time and place when such apparatusi to be installed in the park. I think it is a startling perversion of the Constitution to say that it wrests away from the states and their subdivisions all control of the public property so that they cannot regulate or prohibit the irresponsible introduction of contrivances of this sort into public places.
"The Court, however, ignores the aspects of the matter that grow out of setting up the system of amplifying appliances, wires and microphones on public property, which distinguish it from the cases cited as authority. It treats the issue only as one of free speech. To my mind this is not a free speech issue. It has in no way denied or restricted the free use, even in its park, of all of the facilities for speech with which nature has endowed the appeliant. It has not even interfered with his inviting an assemblage in a park space not set aside for that purpose. Can it be that society has no control of apparatus which, when put to unregulated proselyting, propaganda and commercial uses, can render life unbearable? It is intimated that the City can control the decibels; if so, why may it not prescribe zero decibels as appropriate to some places? It seems to me that society has the right to control, as to place, time and volume, the use of loud-speaking devices for any purpose, provided its regulations are not unduly arbitrary, capricious or discriminatory.
"But the Court points out that propagation of his religion is the avowed and only purpose of appellant and holds that Lockport cannot stop the use of loud-speaker systems on its public property for that purpose. If it is to be treated as a case merely of religious teaching, I still could not agree with the decision. Only a few weeks ago we held that the Constitution prohibits a state or municipality from using taxsupported property 'to aid religious groups to spread their faith.' People of State of Illinois ex rel. McCollum v. Board of Education, ... Today we say it compels them to let it be used for that purpose. In the one case the public property was appropriated to school uses; today it is public property appropriated and equipped for recreational purposes. I think Lockport had the right to allocate its public property to those purposes and to keep out of it installations of devices which would flood the area with religious appeals obnoxious to many and thereby deprive the public of the enjoyment of the property for the purposes for which it was properly set aside. And I cannot see how we can read the Constitution one day to forbid and the next day to compel use of public tax-supported property to help a religious sect spread its faith.
"There is not the slightest evidence of discrimination or prejudice against the appellant because of his religion or his ideas. This same appellant, not a resident of Lockport but of Buffalo, by the way, was granted a permit by the Chief of Police and used this park for four successive Sundays during the same summer in question. What has been refused is his application for a second series of four more uses of the park. Lockport is in a climate which has only about three months of weather adaptable for park use. There are 256 recognized religious denominations in the United States and even if the Lockport populace supports only a few of these, it is apparent that Jehovah's Witnesses were granted more than their share of the Sunday time available on any fair allocation of it among denominations.
"There is no evidence that any other denomination has ever been permitted to hold meetings or, for that matter, has ever sought to hold them in the recreation area. It appears that on one of the Sundays in question the Lutherans were using the ball park. This also appears to be public property. It is equipped with installed loud-speakers, a grandstand and bleachers, and surrounded by a fence six feet high. There is no indication that these facilities would not be granted to Jehovah's Witnesses on the same terms as to the Lutherans. It is evident, however, that Jehovah's Witnesses did not want an enclosed spot to which those who wanted to hear their message could resort. Appellant wanted to thrust their message upon people who were in the park for recreation, a type of conduct which invades other persons' privacy and, if it has no other control, may lead to riots and disorder. The Court expresses great concern lest the loud-speakers of political candidates be controlled if Jehovah's Witnesses can be. That does not worry me. Even political candidates ought not to be allowed irresponsibly to set up sound equipment in all sorts of public places, and few of them would regard it as tactful campaigning to thrust themselves upon picnicking families who do not want to hear their message. I think the Court is over concerned about danger to political candidacies and I would deal with that problem when, and if, it arises.
"But it is said the state or municipality may not delegate such authority to a Chief of Police. I am unable to see why a state or city may not judge for itself whether a Police Chief is the appropriate authority to control permits for setting up sound-amplifying apparatus. Cox v. New Hampshire, ... . It also is suggested that the city fathers have not given sufficient guidance to his discretion. But I did not suppose our function was that of a council of revision. The issue before us is whether what has been done has deprived this appellant of a constitutional right. It is the law as applied that we review, not the abstract, academic questions which it might raise in some more doubtful case.
"I disagree entirely with the idea that 'Courts must balance the various community interests in passing on the constitutionality of local regulations of the character involved here.' It is for the local communities to balance their own interests-that is politics-and what courts should keep out of. Our only function is to apply constitutional limitations. ... "
In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Jehovah's Witnesses frequently blasted small towns and city neighborhoods with recordings of Judge Rutherford's speeches and other prepared recordings blaring from loudspeakers erected on trucks and autos parked or slowly driven through the towns and neighborhoods. There is no telling the number of times that some of these JWs were arrested for "disturbing the peace", or similar charges, because, again, WatchTower HQ told those local JWs that they had the constitutional right to do so, and to go out and pick a fight with some small community.
VIRGINIA v. TELEVIAK and multiple other. In May/June 1935, the WatchTower Society held its main summer convention in Washington D. C. In an obnoxious attempt to stir up local interest, soundtrucks were sent out into the suburbs to blast unwilling listeners with WatchTower propaganda. Specifically, on Sunday afternoon, June 3, those soundtrucks went out and parked in suburban residential neighbors to relay Judge Rutherford's "public address".
A Jehovah's Witness from Chicago parked his soundtruck in an Alexandria, Virginia, neighborhood, and he was arrested. In retaliation, that night several more soundtrucks, accompanied by an unknown number of door-knockers, were sent into Alexandria to "serenade" the citizens who had dared complain to the police. About 15 of those JWs were eventually arrested for pursuing their "constitutional rights" to bother and pester people who JWs evidently believe have no rights themselves.
CALIFORNIA v. DAVIS and CALIFORNIA v. LAURANT were related 1935 California court cases. In September 1935, a group of Jehovah's Witnesses used one or more soundtrucks to blast residential neighborhoods in San Mateo on a Sunday morning. The arrests were made based on a complaint filed by a local homeowner. In these cases, the local judge dismissed the "disturbing the peace" charge, and let the JWs off with a scolding, which probably greatly disappointed the 100+ JWs who had showed up for the court hearing.
CALIFORNIA v. MILLER was a 1935 California court decision. In September 1935, an "out-of-town" Jehovah's Witness named Miller was arrested for operating a soundtruck to blast a residential neighborhood in the city of Hillsborough on a Sunday morning. The judge suspended the "disturbing the peace" fine, and released the JWs after a sound scolding.
ILLINOIS v. GERMANICH , ILLINOIS v. RICE, ILLINOIS v. LOGSDEN, and ILLINOIS v. DOE were 1936 Illinois court cases. In retaliation for previous successful prosecutions of JWs for distributing literature without seeking licenses as required by local ordinance, the WatchTower Society sent into the City of Wheaton a soundtruck to blast unwilling listeners with WatchTower propaganda. Of the four "out-of-town" JWs in the soundtruck, two refused to pay the fine for their "disturbing the peace" convictions, and both filed appeals. Two JWs smirked at authorities when they entered jail with two suitcases packed in anticipation of spending time in jail.
After being denied permission to canvass the City of Peoria, Illinois, on Sunday morning, October 25, 1936, a caravan of 200 "out-of-town" Jehovah's rolled into town depositing across the city scattered groups of JWs, who proceeded to knock doors and awaken and/or pester citizens who had not gone to church that morning. Readers should bear in mind that this was in a day and age when "soliciting" on Sunday, especially Sunday morning, was considered sacrilegious even by non-churchgoers.
Additionally, the JW caravan included several soundtrucks which were blasting the town with WatchTower propaganda. Two or more of these soundtrucks even stopped outside churches and forced services to halt.
This is one of those occasions which the WatchTower Society and sympathizers frequently cite as: "50, 100, or 200 Jehovah's Witnesses" were "persecuted" for "exercising their constitutional rights", when they were "wrongly arrested" by Police, who were "following the orders of local preachers and priests".
In September 1938, the WatchTower Society held a regional Convention in Hartford, Connecticut. One Maine JW was jailed on an unspecified nuisance charge, which must have been over-the-top given that the local judge was releasing other JW convention-goers with a warning. Two JWs from Massachusetts were released after being arrested for disturbing the peace with a soundtruck, and at least 25 other JWs were released after being arrested for parading without obtaining the required permits.
INDIANA v. CULVER and INDIANA v. DAVIS were two related court cases which involved the two leaders of a "demonstration" conducted in Franklin, Indiana in August 1939. The WatchTower Society sent in approximately 70 "out-of-town" and "out-of-state" JWs to parade in Franklin with signs reading: RELIGION IS A SNARE AND A RACKET. Although annoying to local residents, the police allowed the JWs to parade, but ordered Kenneth Culver, of Indianapolis, and Erman Davis, of Brooklyn, New York, who were directing the marchers from a soundtruck, to stop blasting the town with their loud recordings. When the Dimwitted Duo refused to comply, they were arrested for "disturbing the peace". The Duo were released on $500.00 bond, but Erman Davis was re-arrested for unclear reasons -- either he violated a court order not to leave town, because he was from out-of-state, or he went back out and started using the loudspeakers.
FOUR - FIVE OTHER INDIANA PROSECUTIONS. At the time of the Franklin arrests, Erman Davis and his wife, Carrie Davis, and a different Indianapolis JW, were still dealing with being arrested in Shelbyville, Indiana, only a few weeks previous. What they did in Shelbyville to get arrested is not known, but the three were charged with resisting arrest, desecration of the American Flag, and vagrancy. Erman Davis was obviously a "Zone Servant" for the WatchTower Society, who had been ordered to "stir things up in Indiana". There are also some indications that Erman Davis also stirred up hornet's nests in other Indiana counties, and was probably arrested in Liberty, Indiana, and possibly even was later charged with "perjury" in connection with one of these criminal trials.
SOUTH CAROLINA v. LANGSTON and SOUTH CAROLINA v. GODWIN were two related 1939 court cases which involved a group of JWs which "invaded" Drayton, South Carolina, and developed facts practically identical to the above Indiana cases. The WatchTower Society attempted to to use these cases to get their unrestricted use of loudspeakers pronounced constitutionally protected, on the grounds that unrestricted use of loudspeakers was part of their right to "freedom of religion". However, the South Carolina Supreme Court upheld the two "disturbing the peace" convictions, and, SCOTUS denied certiori and refused to review such in 1940.
FIVE TENNESEE JW PROSECUTIONS. In September 1939, five Jehovah's Witnesses from the Knoxville and Tazewell Tennesse areas, including a female from New Tazewell, named Cole (Linda, or possibly Lilly, or even Lila), were arrested and charged with "disturbing public worship". These arrests stemmed from an incident when the JWs had parked a loud-speaker truck outside the Goins Chapel Baptist Church, and had blasted the church with a WatchTower recording during church services.
Apparently, several understandably irate church-members came out of the church and proceeded to disable the speakers. The JWs then had the nerve to have the church-goers criminally charged for destruction of property. Those charges against the church-members were dismissed, but then the Baptists filed charges against the JWs for "disturbing public worship". The JWs were charged and released on bond. Outcome unknown.
STATE v. HOPKINS, STATE v. JONES, STATE v. DODDS, STATE v. JAMES, and STATE v. STIGERS. A January 23, 1936, incident in McFarland, California resulted in the arrest of five Jehovah's Witnesses -- all from "out-of-town". Christian James and James Stigers, were from Los Angeles, which means that the only two men were from the WatchTower Society's California branch office. The three women, Miriam Hopkins, Mrs. Jimmie Jones (Johns), and Ula Dodds were all from Bakersfield.
On a Thursday, apparently during the noontime recess, the five JWs arrived at McFarland Grammar School in two vehicles. They parked across the street from the school's playground. One vehicle was equipped with loud-speakers, which began to play "military band" music. Once the attention of all the children on the playground had been gained, the loudspeakers began to blare a recording of Judge Rutherford's "Saluting The Flag" speech, which proclaimed that the American Flag was an "idol", and that saluting or pledging the flag was an act of false religious worship worthy of God's vengeance.
It is unclear just how long the five JWs were outside the school, or whether the Principal tried to get them to cease and desist, or whether the JWs refused to stop and/or leave, but the Principal had time to go to a Judge, swear out the complaints, locate a Deputy Sheriff, and then have the five JWs arrested for "disturbing the peace" and "loitering in the vicinity of a public school".
After being arrested, one of the two JW males from Los Angeles asked for his telephone call. It was placed to WatchTower HQ in Los Angeles. During his call, he apparently purposefully talked so that the Police could hear, and it was discussed that three more loud-speaker trucks be sent to "serenade" the city of McFarland. The Police let them know that if more trucks showed up, then all JWs in them would be arrested.
Interestingly, the reason for this illegal demonstration was due to the fact that 3-5 JW children at this school had recently started refusing to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Even more interesting is the fact that instead of suspending the 3-5 JW children, as most all schools were doing at that time, the local school system decided that rather than taking punitive action that school officials would temporarily ignore the JW students' non-participation, and attempt to persuade participation. In fact, that is why the JW leaders attempted to stir up this hornet's nest. Non-participating students at two other local schools had already began to recite the Pledge.
The jail and courts which served the town of McFarland were located in Bakersfield, which likely explains why the two JW HQ Instigators brought along the three JW females from Bakersfield. Sure enough, three weeks later, at trial, the cases were plea bargained down to all charges being dropped against the one male and two females in the second car, who claimed only to have passed out flyers, and the male and female in the loud-speaker truck pled guilty to merely "disturbing the peace".
FOOTNOTE: Christian James died in Utah in 1949, while traveling as a representative of the WTBTS. Local authorities sent telegram notifications to the WTBTS and relatives, but noone responded. They did sufficient research to find out that he was a WWI veteran, so the local Mormon Church gave James a funeral, and the American Legion gave a military burial.
In November 1935, an unidentified JW adult male was ejected from an elementary school and a junior high school in Adams, Massachusetts, after school officials discovered him passing out to students flyers which discouraged the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance.
PEOPLE v. CIOCARLAN and PEOPLE v. FOX and PEOPLE v. PEEL are three consolidated 1947 Michigan Supreme Court cases which have been all but forgotten, because the Jehovah's Witnesses LOST.
On Saturday morning, August 21, 1943, Jehovah's Witnesses fanned out throughout the streets of Detroit, Michigan to advertise the fact that the President of the WatchTower Society was going to give a speech at a local high school on Sunday. John George Ciocarlan, Stella Fox, and Hazel Peel were all cited and later convicted of violating Detroit's ordinance prohibiting any male under 12 years of age and any female under 18 from engaging in "street trades". The JWs appealed and lost. The JWs then appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court, and lost again.
Taking a station at a busy Detroit intersection, John George Ciocarlan, age 52, together with his wife and three daughters, Elizabeth Ciocarlan, age 6, Ruth Ciocarlan, age 8, and Adeline Ciocarlan, age 12, had leaflets for distribution, and sandwich signs telling of the lecture they were advertising. They also had a supply of WatchTower literature. John G. Ciocarlan took his position on the south side of the intersection, while his wife and the three children crossed over to the northwest corner. Elizabeth, the youngest of the children, was holding up in her hand a copy of "Watchtower" and "Consolation" magazines. Elizabeth had a cloth magazine bag suspended by a strap from her shoulder on one side of which was printed the words "The Watchtower explains the Theocratic Government, 5c a copy," and on the other side of which was printed, "Watchtower and Consolidation, 5c per copy." The citing police officer testified that eight year old Ruth also was holding up in her hand copies of the same magazines, and had a similar bag, but Ruth denied this in her testimony. The three children were standing together, and the mother was from about 10-25 feet away from them. The citing police officer testified that there were many people on the sidewalk at that intersection, including "bums". The children testified that they were engaged in this activity for the purpose of preaching the gospel of God's kingdom, and that such was their way of worshiping God.
At another intersection, Stella Fox and her 12-year-old daughter, Dorothy Fox, both were wearing sandwich signs, and both were passing out handbills advertising the lecture, plus had a variety of WatchTower literature for sale. The citing police officer informed Stella Fox that she was breaking the law, but Fox replied that it was her sacred duty to have her child serve Jehovah; that she had placed her daughter Dorothy there; and that she permitted her daughter to do what she was doing.
At another intersection, Hazel Peel and her two sons, Duane Peel, age 8, and Allen Peel, age 10, were all wearing sandwich signs, and were all passing out handbills, plus had a variety of WatchTower literature for sale.
The JW Attorney cited the multiple 1940s court cases overruling various local ordinances which restricted JWs from selling their literature and preaching on city streets. However, the Michigan SC cited Prince v. Massachusetts, and pointed out that SCOTUS had ruled that local governments had broader authority over the activities of children as opposed to the activities of adults: "However Jehovah's Witnesses may conceive them, the public highways have not become their religious property merely by their assertion. And there is no denial of equal protection in excluding their children from doing there what no other children may do."
PENNSYLVANIA v. GEUSS and PENNSYLVANIA v. FLEISCHMANN were related 1949-50 Pennsylvania Supreme Court cases, which, given the cases they lost back in the 1930s and 1940s, are evidence of how the WatchTower Society persisted in their efforts to run roughshod over city governments and commonsense laws designed to protect the rights of all citizens. Two Jehovah's Witnesses, named Paul S. Geuss (WatchTower Society "Zone Servant") and Erich Fleischmann, were arrested for illegally operating a soundtruck on the streets of Allentown, Pennsylvania, which was used to violate the rights of non-JWs by blasting unwillingly listeners with the "anti-everything" message of the WatchTower Society. A Pennsylvania appellate court denied the appeals of these JWs, who claimed that "anti-noise" laws violated their own constitutional right to freedom of speech and religion. The JWs appealed to Pennsylvania's Supreme Court, and lost. Then, the JWs appealed to SCOTUS, and lost.
PENNSYLVANIA v. RICHARD B. PALMS is an interesting example of what the WatchTower Society expects of its Jehovah's Witness members. Richard Palms was so exemplary at being an "agitator" that the WatchTower Society continuously promoted him over the decades from local Leader, to District Manager, to Zone Manager in Florida, and finally to a position at WatchTower international Headquarters in Brooklyn.
In May 1939, Richard Palms, of Reading, Pennsylvania, led a band of approximately 100 out-of-town Jehovah's Witnesses into Kutztown, Pennsylvania, on a Sunday morning. The caravan included one or more soundtrucks which started blasting the sleepy village with WatchTower sermons. The pack of 100 JWs first staged a parade on the sidewalk along the main street, and then they started ringing doorbells. Reportedly, when homeowners refused to answer their front doors, the pesky JWs went around back and started banging the backdoors. In some instances the JWs forced their way into homes, and would not leave when requested to do so. Richard Palms was charged with directing the persons who comported themselves in the manner described. Palms was initially arrested by the Chief of Police after the Chief observed Palms repeatedly ringing the doorbell and knocking at the door of a homeowner who refused to come to the door. Not to be deterred, Palms then even started peeping into the window. Arrests were made only after numerous complaints from local citizens.
In April 1940, Richard Palms led another WatchTower Assault on the village of Bonneauville, Pennsylvania. This time, the local Fire Chief brought a firetruck and hosed down the JWs' soundtruck. Palms had the Fire Chief arrested for assault and battery -- charges that were eventually dismissed at trial. Interestingly, Palms and the other JWs displayed "heavy canes" to the angry townspeople, and Palms' cane was even taken from him by the village Priest. Palms testified that he had not been attempting to strike the Priest, even though he admitted that he had been holding the cane above his head when the Priest tore it from his grip.
PEOPLE v. VAUGHAN was a 1944 California criminal appellate court case which demonstrates the attitude of many Jehovah's Witnesses, as fostered by the WatchTower Society, of not only that period, but even of today. In this 1940s instance, two Jehovah's Witnesses, named Grace Vaughan and Leon Scheerer, were arrested and convicted of disturbing the peace in Los Angeles. The conviction was upheld on appeal.
On a Sunday morning, Vaughan and Scheerer decided to go to the Daily Hotel to perform recruiting activities. Vaughan was a female Jehovah's Witness, and she requested that Scheerer, a male, accompany her to the Daily Hotel, because Vaughan was expecting trouble. Vaughan had performed recruiting activities at the Daily Hotel on at least two previous occasions. Only six weeks earlier, Vaughan had been confronted by hotel employees, and she was told to leave the premises. On that earlier occasion, the Hotel Manager had told Vaughan that the hotel had a rule that required "visitors" to come to the office and ask for the specific "guest" that the visitor wished to see. The Manager explained to Vaughan that her repeated knocking and talking was disturbing the hotel's guests, many of whom worked nights and were day sleepers. However, according to the Manager, Vaughan insisted that the Lord sent her to the hotel; that she had a right to knock at the hotel's doors without the Manager's consent; and that she would continue to do so.
On the Sunday morning in question, Vaughan and Scheerer arrived at the hotel around 9:30 A.M., and began their soliciting by knocking on the doors of the rooms on the second floor of the three-story hotel. By the time the Hotel Manager confronted Vaughan on the second floor, there was also a commotion on the third floor, which was probably caused by Scheerer. The Hotel Manager again told Vaughan that her activities were disturbing the guests who were sleeping, and that the two Jehovah's Witnesses must leave the premises. Per the trial court record:
"The defendants, who appear to have fortified themselves with information on various legal decisions in which their organization has been involved, said to this, 'We have a right to knock on these doors and talk to people.'"
The Hotel Manager then called the police. However, according to the trial court record, the two Jehovah's Witnesses apparently were able to intimidate the two Los Angeles police officers by citing various SCOTUS cases won by the WatchTower Society and other Jehovah's Witnesses. The two police officers told the Hotel Manager that they had no grounds for arresting Vaughan and Scheerer, because no offense had been committed in their presence. Before leaving, the two police officers did tell the Hotel Manager that the staff could use whatever force was necessary to keep the peace. After the police left, Vaughan and Scheerer resumed their solicitations. Thereafter, the hotel's Desk Clerk forcibly pulled Scheerer out of one of the guest rooms, and an argument ensued. Believe it or not, Vaughan then called the police. When the police officers returned, the two Jehovah's Witnesses asked that the Desk Clerk be arrested for "assault and battery". Instead, the Desk Clerk and the two JWs were taken to the police station. There, the two JWs were eventually arrested on the Desk Clerk's sworn complaint of "disturbing the peace".
At trial, the Hotel Manager, the Desk Clerk, and seven or so hotel guests testified as to how Vaughan and Scheerer had disturbed the peace at the hotel on the Sunday in question. One female guest testified that she worked at nights and was asleep when she was awakened by pounding on her door. She turned over and went back to sleep. A few moments later, she was again awakened by pounding on her door. She got up to see who was there and found Vaughan at her door. Vaughan offered the female guest some literature, which was refused. The guest said she was sleepy and tired and did not want to be disturbed. However, Vaughan "kept talking and I closed the door in her face." The guest went back to bed, but again heard pounding on the doors of adjacent rooms, and loud talking outside of her room. She heard a man who rented a room across from her room tell Vaughan, "Get out of here and stay out."
One male hotel guest testified that he worked nights, and that he was in bed when there was a knock at his door. He got up and went to the door, and there found Vaughan. She spoke about her religious views, came into his room, and put some literature on his dresser. He told her he had been working all night, and had been sleeping, and was tired, and that he had no time to talk to her. "She made a statement about I was in the bed and the bed was afire and I was the kind of man who didn't know it was on fire and she wanted to wake me up." Vaughan kept on standing in the doorway talking, and she would not leave until the male guest made several requests. The local appellate court upheld the trial court's criminal conviction of the two Jehovah's Witnesses (who later unsuccessfully attempted to get the California Supreme Court to review and overturn this decision), stating in part:
"Defendants contend that they have a constitutional right to go into the halls of such a hotel as is here involved and knock on the doors of the rooms for the purpose of preaching the gospel and distributing religious literature to the tenants and that the operator of such hotel cannot lawfully exclude them. We doubt whether this claimed right is determinative ... of the case, for even if defendants' presence in the hotel was a proper exercise of such right, we are aware of no decision that freedom of speech, press and religion carries with it a freedom to disturb the peace of others in the manner shown here. We find no such holding in Cantwell v. Connecticut (1940), ... , or in Martin v. Struthers (1943), ... , on which defendants rely.
"But if the right of defendants to enter within the hotel is material, we think they did not have such right, in face of the hotel management's order excluding them. ... The Fourteenth Amendment, on which the defendants base their claims, applies only to action by or under color of the authority of the state; it does not run against the action of private individuals, whether hotel proprietors or others, not purporting to be an exercise of the power of the state. ... From the evidence the place in question appears to be an ordinary hotel, or at least a lodging house. Its character in this respect is not necessarily altered by the fact that many or the majority of its guests are not transients and that some of them occupy their rooms on a monthly basis. ... The guests of such a place are not tenants and have no interest in the realty; they are mere licensees and the control of the rooms, halls and lobbies remains in the proprietor. ... Since the proprietor, rather than the guests, has the control of the place and its lobbies and halls, he may exclude persons such as defendants therefrom, or make rules regarding their admission. In Goldstein v. Healy (1921), ... it is held that the guests of a hotel may invite others to visit them, as of right, and that such invitees are lawfully in the hotel and entitled to the exercise of due care for their safety by the innkeeper; but there the court also held this right of ... the guest to be subject to reasonable regulation by the management. Here there was such a regulation, which the defendants violated; moreover, they had not been invited by any guest to enter and hence this rule is not applicable to the case. In support of their argument on this matter defendants rely mainly on Commonwealth v. Richardson (1943), ... and Martin v. Struthers ... . In the Massachusetts case a statute referring to the person having 'lawful control' of premises was involved and the court held that by reason of the construction and arrangement of the lobbies and halls of the apartment house there in question the tenants had control thereof and the landlord did not. The place in question here had no housekeeping facilities for its guests; as far as appears they occupied single rooms, not suites or apartments; there were no means by which they could control entrance to the lobby or halls and it was clearly not an apartment house. The Massachusetts case is not applicable to it. Martin v. Struthers dealt with governmental action and is not applicable to the conduct of hotel keepers, but it recognizes the right of those in control of private property to exclude therefrom persons on errands like that of defendants. ... ...
"Defendants' further attack on the statute is not against its terms in general but on the ground that it enforcement against them infringes on the rights guaranteed them by the Fourteenth Amendment. We have already sufficiently discussed this matter We are satisfied that the guarantee of freedom of speech, press and religion does not entitle any person to go into a hotel or lodging house, over the objection of the proprietors, and there disturb the peace of the guests, in the manner shown by this record."
HALL v. COMMONWEALTH was a 1948 Virgina Supreme Court decision which ruled that Jehovah's Witnesses do not have the constitutional right(s) to trespass onto privately owned apartment buildings, complexes, or other multi-family residential properties. SCOTUS dismissed the appeal.
In this 1946 instance, Dan Leroy Hall and four other Jehovah's Witnesses persisted on illegally entering and knocking at all the doors of a privately owned and operated apartment building. The apartment manager had them arrested for trespass. At trial, it was explained that the apartment building had a rule that no "visitors" were allowed into the apartment building without being announced to, and approved by, the individual tenant from the front desk. That rule had been explained to Hall on one or more occasions, but Hall and the other JWs refused to comply, and continued trespassing on private property.
The JWs were convicted, but fined only $5.00. They thereafter appealed their case all the way to the Virgina Supreme Court, where they lost a case which any first year law student could have predicted. This was simply one more instance of Jehovah's Witnesses making anyone and everyone "pay" for having the audacity of standing up for their own constitutional rights, and not kowtowing to the will of the WatchTower Society.
WATCHTOWER BIBLE & TRACT SOCIETY v. METROPOLITAN LIFE INSURANCE COMPANY was a 1948 New York "Supreme" Court decision. Hayden C. Covington handled the case for the WatchTower Society, and LOST! SCOTUS refused to hear the WatchTower Society's appeal.
As part of its investment portfolio, in the 1930s, METLIFE constructed in the Bronx what at that time was the largest apartment complex in the world. Parkchester opened in 1940. On 129 acres were 171 apartment buildings, ranging from seven to twelve stories tall, which housed 12,000 apartments. The population was approximately 35,000 people. The property also had a number of commercial rental units, which were rented to businesses, which provided services to the residential tenants.
From the start, there was an oral rule, which was put into writing in 1944, and modified in 1946, that "NO SOLICITING" was permitted in any of the buildings, with the exception that any individual tenant could invite specified solicitors into their own apartment.
Starting in 1941, and continuing until 1944, "teams" of Jehovah's Witnesses would sporadically violate Parckchester's "NO SOLICITING" regulation. However, starting in 1944, the Jehovah's Witnesses started blatantly thumbing their noses at METLIFE and started soliciting throughout Parkchester on a regular basis. Evidently, Parkchester Security would throw out the JWs only when a tenant complained and the JWs could be located. Having been a JW, I know that the JWs simply made a "game" of this. However, by March 1946, the trespassing by the JWs had finally become a big enough issue that METLIFE decided it needed to be dealt with. A questionaire was mailed to all tenants asking whether the JWs should be stopped from door-knocking. Only 30 responses favored allowing the JWs to continue (probably all JWs themselves). METLIFE notified the JWs that from that time forward, they could only visit those 30 tenants that welcomed their visits.
The WatchTower Society then filed this lawsuit "to have it adjudged that defendant's regulation, ... infringes the constitutional rights of plaintiffs, and that they have an absolute right, despite the regulation, to go at will through any or all the apartment buildings of Parkchester, to propagate their religious beliefs." In fact, the WatchTower Society even sent 700 JWs to again trespass throughout Parkchester seeking additional signatures of tenants who would welcome their visits. They actually obtained 1500 "valid" signatures, along with 200 signatures of people who were not even tenants, but at trial METLIFE showed that most signers did not know what they were signing, or simply signed to get rid of the pests. Interestingly, the Courts ignored this 1500 figure, and worked with the "30" figure originally obtained by METLIFE.
The Trial Court held that METLIFE's regulation was reasonable and valid and was not in violation of any rights of the JWs; pointing out that no case had held "that Jehovah's Witnesses, or others having similar pursuits, have a constitutional right to enter within an apartment house or multiple-dwelling house, against the wishes of its owner or occupants." Judgment was entered, dismissing the complaint and affirmatively declaring that METLIFE's regulation was reasonable and valid, that the regulation had been lawfully and properly applied against the JWs, that the regulation left to each tenant the right to determine for himself whether he wishes to be called upon by Jehovah's Witnesses, and that the JWs who enter the Parkchester apartment houses in contravention of the regulation were trespassers whom METLIFE had the right to remove.
The WatchTower Society appealed, and the Appellate Court unanimously affirmed the trial court's decision. The WatchTower Society then appealed to the supreme court level, which also affirmed the trial court's decision. The Court of Appeals of the State of New York actually had an easy time with this simple case. The court distinguished the facts in this case from those in Martin, Marsh, and others. The Constitution does not afford JWs the right to enter onto private property in order to disseminate their beliefs. In this case, METLIFE only wanted to stop the JWs from entering private property where the JWs were not wanted. Neither was METLIFE attempting to keep JWs from soliciting in any public or quasi-public areas outside of the apartment buildings. The JWs were still allowed to visit the 30 apartments, and any other apartment where the tenant had notified METLIFE that the JWs were welcome.
NEW YORK v. WILLIAM R. THORPE and NEW YORK v. LEWIS VAN DYK were related 1950 NYC criminal court cases. These two NYC Jehovah's Witness Ministers were charged with disorderly conduct, and were represented in local magistrate's court by Hayden Cooper Covington.
On a Saturday morning in February 1950, the two JWs went to the Endicott Hotel, in Manhattan, to pester its guests. Thorpe started knocking doors on the second floor, while Van Dykhead went to the top floor. WatchTower literature was offered, and "contributions" were both encouraged and accepted. The hotel manager was eventually notified, and he located the two JWs and told them to leave the premises. Both JWs refused, and continued their door-knocking. The police were summoned, and the responding NYC police officer first located Thorpe, and told Thorpe to leave. Thorpe insisted that he had the Constitutional Right to preach inside the hotel, and that he would not leave without first being placed under arrest. Thorpe was taken to the lobby by the officer, and in the meantime, the hotel manager located and brought Van Dykhead to the lobby. Both the hotel manager and the officer "trespassed" the two JWs. After making a call box call to his sergeant, the officer released the two JWs with a warning.
The two JWs headed straight back to the Endicott to resume their door-knocking. At some uncertain point, Van Dykhead even telephoned WatchTower HQ to get further instructions. Apparently, they were told to resume door-knocking at the Endicott, because the police were again called, and the two JWs were arrested and charged with "disorderly conduct" after they literally had to be physically restrained from re-entering the Endicott.
The sympathetic liberal NYC judge, named Bushnell, ruled that the JWs had no rights whatsoever to door-knock inside a hotel, and then proceeded to find the two JWs "guilty" of disorderly conduct, before then suspending their sentence, and letting them go.
GOOD v. DOW CHEMICAL COMPANY was a 1951-2 Texas court case prosecuted by Hayden Cooper Covington and Tom S. Williams (see Financial Honesty cases). Readers somewhat versed in the JW constitutional law cases are familiar with the MARSH case, in which JWs were given the right to preach and distribute literature on the streets of company towns, and the multiple state court cases in which JWs were given the right to hold religious services in city parks. What many students don't realize is that there were many similar cases, after those cases, in which JWs attempted to strain even more public access from the courts, but failed.
In this GOOD case, Dow Chemical Company owned a tract of land adjacent to and adjoining others of its properties around Lake Jackson, in Brazoria County, Texas, which Dow had developed into a park and picnic grounds for the social and recreational use of itself, its various departments, employees, and their friends and family. In the wake of the Marsh victory and ruling, Jehovah's Witnesses in Texas began using Dow's private park for their own public WatchTower meetings. When confronted by Dow, the Texas JWs claimed their right to meet on Dow's private property based on Marsh. Dow was forced to obtain an injunction from a local court prohibiting the JWs from using Dow's park. On appeal, the Texas appellate court upheld the injunction on the grounds that Dow's park was not a "public park" in any fashion -- thus making the Texas Jehovah's Witnesses "trespassers".
The GOOD case noted LOUISIANA v. MARTIN, which was a 1941 state court case that preceded MARSH. In the Martin case, a group of Jehovah's Witnesses were convicted of trespass for using the private roadways of a private farm, without permission, to get to houses occupied by farm laborers. In that case, the Louisiana appellate court had upheld the convictions, stating: "These guaranties of freedom of religious worship, and freedom of speech and of the press, do not sanction trespass in the name of freedom. We must remember that personal liberty ends where the rights of others begin."
NEBRASKA v. CURLEE was a 1950 Nebraska criminal court case. In January 1950, a Jehovah's Witness, named Edward Curlee was convicted of "disturbing the peace", after he refused to leave the premises of an Omaha, Nebraska, apartment building -- not only after being ordered to do so by the owner, but also after he was ordered to do so by Omaha Police. Curlee immediately filed an appeal. Outcome unknown.
As evidence that some WatchTower Society "Zone Servants" apparently were in such dire straits for companions to travel with them to help them distribute WatchTower literature, and probably to make their "numbers" appear larger at "public meetings", when one group of JWs were arrested for "unlawful assembly" in Nebraska in June 1940, one of the JW group was also charged with "intoxication". When he appeared in court the next day along with the unidentified WatchTower Society Couple, who had given "Brooklyn, New York" as their place of residence, he not only pled guilty to the "intoxication" charge, but he even agreed to salute the American Flag in the courtroom in order to have the other charges dropped.
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