WATCHTOWER - JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES
HISTORY COURT CASES
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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.
FIRST ARREST - PROSECUTION OF A JEHOVAH'S WITNESS
(BIBLE STUDENT) FOR LITERATURE DISTRIBUTION
PENNSYLVANIA v. ELMER BRYAN was what we believe to be the VERY FIRST arrest and criminal prosecution of a "Jehovah's Witness" (Bible Student) while they were publicly distributing WATCHTOWER literature. On Sunday, March 31, 1889, Elmer Bryan was charged with "disorderly conduct" by an "Elder" of the First Presbyterian Church of Allegheny, Pennsylvania, named John Slagle, age 61. On Slagle's complaint, a summoned police officer placed Bryan under arrest, and took Bryan to jail. Later that same Sunday afternoon, as soon as Charles Taze Russell learned of Bryan's arrest, Russell rushed to the jail and posted Bryan's bond.
Undoubtedly at the insistence of Charles Taze Russell, as soon as Bryan was released from jail, Bryan went straight to each of the local Pittsburgh newspapers to give his side of the story that same Sunday evening. Elmer Bryan claimed that he had been publicly distributing WATCHTOWER literature in Allegheny for years on Sundays. Per chance (right), Bryan just so happened to be outside the First Presbyterian Church on Arch Street when it let out at noon. Bryan then entered onto the church's sidewalk and into its' vestibule (trespassing) and began to hand out WATCHTOWER literature. Bryan was immediately approached by Elder Slagle and ordered to stop, and to get off church property. When Bryan refused, Slagle and his son took Bryan by his arms and led Bryan out into Arch Street. The Slagles then continued to prevent Bryan from further accosting any of the church members as those members proceeded to walk home.
After Sunday night services, the church's Board of Trustees met and reviewed the "situation" that had occurred earlier that Sunday. The Trustees approved the actions of Elder Slagle outside the church earlier that Sunday, and encouraged Slagle to continue with his prosecution of Elmer Bryan. On Monday, Elmer Bryan appeared in Mayors Court before the Mayor of Allegheny. Bryan was fined $5.00 plus court costs. Elmer Bryan immediately filed a criminal complaint against John Slagle -- charging Elder Slagle with "Assault". Slagle, who was one of Pittsburgh's most prominent businessmen, was arrested at his place of employment on Tuesday morning. Outcome unknown. The case was passed over at the first court hearing, and probably others before being dismissed. Elmer Bryan appealed the Mayor's Court decision to the local Court of Common Pleas. There, both Bryan and Slagle were represented by attorneys. Bryan's appeal was heard, but dismissed, on April 12, 1889.
NOTABLY, Elmer Bryan would not have dared to have distributed Russell's literature as Bryan had been accustomed to doing regularly on Sundays, for years in and around Pittsburgh, unless Bryan had had Russell's expressed approval and encouragement. However, as soon as newspapers across the United States picked up Bryan's story, PROMINENT Russell supporters began to criticize Elmer Bryan under the assumption that Russell had no idea what Bryan had been doing, before or after Bryan's arrest, and that Russell disavowed all of Bryan's actions. Once the satanic Charles Taze Russell understood "which way the wind was blowing", Russell even published one of those criticisms of Elmer Bryan in the WATCHTOWER magazine. Despite such, it still took Elmer Bryan 2-3 more years before he finally figured out what kind of POS was Charles Taze Russell.
Given the amount of international litigation that has resulted from similar actions by "Jehovah's Witnesses", over many decades, one would think that "Elmer Bryan" would be an honored name within the WatchTower Cult community, and that Elmer Bryan's story would have been repeated by WatchTower officials thousands of times over the decades. HOWEVER, we are the first to publicize Elmer Bryan's story. WHY? In 1894, Elmer Bryan and other prominent followers of Charles Taze Russell publicly charged Russell with numerous business irregularities before Russell's Allegheny congregation. Elmer Bryan and the others were promptly "disfellowshipped", and as had happened to others before him, and to others after him, any favorable mention of Elmer Bryan's years of service to the WatchTower Society were deleted from its history.
FIRST PROSECUTION - IMPRISONMENT OF A FEMALE
JEHOVAH'S WITNESS (BIBLE STUDENT) FOR LITERATURE DISTRIBUTION
UNITED STATES v. EMMA MARTIN (1917-20) is the first criminal prosecution -- local, state, or federal -- that we have found that resulted in a FEMALE "Jehovah's Witness" spending any significant amount of time in jail or prison.
Emma Martin, of Colton, San Bernardino County, California, became an official "Colporteur" for the WatchTower Society in June 1916. Martin had been a "Bible Student" since 1905. However, when her husband died in 1916, she began supporting herself by selling children's books door-to-door, and thereafter, by selling WatchTower literature door-to-door. Martin claimed that the "commission" from such literature sales was her sole means of support. Martin also was the "pianist" for the local Congregation, which met in rented halls.
Emma Martin was jailed in March 1918 during the nationwide federal sweep of Bible Students whom were selling copies of the seditious THE FINISHED MYSTERY book, as were three others (MALES) of her fellow San Bernardino County Bible Students. As were most arrested Bible Students across the United States, Martin was indicted in April 1918 on two federal charges -- causing insubordination and disloyalty amongst members of the military during a time of war; and obstructing the recruitment and enlistment of members of the military services. Emma Martin's fellow Bible Students blessed and encouraged Martin for her "martyrdom" both in the courtroom and later at the jail. Martin reportedly spent all of her time in jail preaching to the jail "matron" who constantly looked after Martin's welfare. That matron reported that Martin preached to her that "the end of the world" would occur before the start of 1919, and that she (matron) should get right with God.
At Emma Martin's trial in July 1918, a jury found Martin "guilty" only on the first count of the indictment. That federal jury also recommended "leniency" to the sentencing judge -- presumably because Martin was a "female". Emma Martin ultimately was sentenced to three years in federal prison, but was released on $5000.00 bond during her lengthy -- probably intentionally drawn out -- appeals. However, after Martin's conviction was ultimately affirmed by the USCA in early April 1920, Martin was shipped to San Quentin. Only a few weeks later, on June 23, 1920, Emma Martin's sentence was commuted by President Woodrow Wilson, and she was immediately released and returned to San Bernardino. (It is not known how much time that Emma Martine spent in county jails between the time of her arrest and conviction.)
Like all good Jehovah's Witnesses, Emma Martin repeatedly "shaded", "spun", and outright LIED during her trial testimony. For example, Martin could quote and explain from memory many sections throughout THE FINSIHED MYSTERY book, but the parts of the book which were "seditious" -- for which people wanted to buy the book, and for which JWs were being arrested and jailed -- Martin supposedly had never even read those parts.
It is also clear from Martin's testimony that, as it has done for decades, the WatchTower Society published material specifically designed for "public consumption", while it made sure that its members received a verbal, off-the-record interpretation of such. For decades, multiple publications of the WatchTower Society have made much of its LETTER, dated March 7, 1918, in which it ordered its members to remove offending pages 247-253 from their large stockpiles of the FM book prior to selling such. It is clear from Martin's testimony -- to those who exercise "discernment" -- that many Bible Students removed the offending pages from only one copy of FM at a time. Those removed pages were then kept in their pocket; and if/when a sales prospect inquired about such, the pages were then given to the prospect for their perusal. If the prospect wanted to buy that copy of FM, the purchaser naturally asked for, and were given, the removed pages. "Qualified" purchasers were straight out asked if they wanted a copy from which the offending pages had not been cut-out. Despite testimony to the contrary, Martin testified that after receiving the Society's letter, she had not sold a single copy of FM with the offending pages intact.
Notably, Emma Martin and several California "Bible Students" had been arrested "weeks" before "Judge" Rutherford and his WatchTower Directors were arrested. Click here to read the untold "rest of the story" as to what happened when the "really important people" were arrested.
Once again, it is anyone's guess as to why "EMMA MARTIN" is not an honored name within today's WatchTower Cult community. The odds are, as do a significant percentage of "Jehovah's Witnesses", Emma Martin may have "awakened" at some point in her later life -- with the result that Martin's service and exploits were purged from the Cult's history.
FIRST STATE SUPREME COURT DECISION
INVOLVING A JEHOVAH'S WITNESS (BIBLE STUDENT)
PERFORMING WATCHTOWER RECRUITING ACTIVITIES
As covered in our CHARLES TAZE RUSSELL FINANCIAL BIOGRAPHY, two of "Pastor" Charles T. Russell's business-related court cases were heard by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania in 1895 and 1898. After relocating to New York, several other of Russell's court cases went all the way to New York's highest appellate court, as did other cases in other states. NONE of those court cases related to "field service", or literature distribution. The following 1916 Decision by the Supreme Court of Idaho is the earliest State Supreme Court case which we have located which involved a "Bible Student" who was in court because of his recruiting work for the WatchTower Society.
IDAHO v. H. D. MORRIS was a 1916 Supreme Court of Idaho criminal court case. In August 1914, Morris and two other Boise, Idaho "International Bible Students" rented the Majestic Theater, a "moving picture" theater located in Boise, Idaho, for their sole use on Sunday, August 9, 1914. On that Sunday, those three "Bible Students", along with several other members of the Boise class of "International Bible Students" first held their regular Sunday services in the Majestic Theater, and later that same day conducted a two-hour showing of Part I of the WatchTower Society's Photo-Drama of Creation.
On August 11, 1914, H. D. Morris and two other local "Bible Students" leaders were arrested on a warrant issued out of the Justice's Court of Boise on the criminal charge of keeping open and operating a moving picture show on a Sunday, which was a violation of Idaho state law. Charges were apparently dropped against Morris' two associates, but Morris was adjudged "guilty" on November 30, 1914. Morris appealed that decision to the local District Court, which reversed the decision of the Justice's Court. The local Prosecutor then appealed the case to the Supreme Court of Idaho, which in February 1916, affirmed the aquittal.
The Idaho Supreme Court reasoned that the state legislature had criminalized the conducting of "moving picture shows" on Sundays as being detrimental to the public morals or the public peace. However, the court ruled that the Photo-Drama showing was a "religious" service and not a "business" operation, and the court further reasoned that prohibiting the showing of the Photo-Drama on Sunday would be an unconstitutional restraint on religious liberty. The court stated:
To hold that the use of a moving picture machine on Sunday for the purpose of illustrating a sermon, or religious lecture, is keeping open or operating a moving picture show in violation of the statute, would be to improperly invoke the police power of the state, for, thus construed and in that particular, it would bear no real or substantial relation to the public health, the public morals, the public peace, or the public safety. Such a construction would bring the statute into conflict with the [Idaho] Constitution, guaranteeing religious liberty to the inhabitants of Idaho.
JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES v. GOVERNOR OF ILLINOIS ET AL
The following 1941 Illinois federal United States District Court decision is yet another LOSING Jehovah's Witnesses court case which has been swept under the proverbial rug by the ACLU, the ACLU's "favorite son" -- the WatchTower Society, and other liberal authors and organizations. This case was of the type which required a three-judge panel -- thus this insightful and enlightening FEDERAL DECISION was issued by two federal district court judges and one federal circuit court judge. We include this decision here (edited), not because it represents current law, but because it represents from the 1940s both historical accuracy and "common sense judgment" applied to that time period. These three federal judges in Illinois certainly developed the facts and displayed much more common sense than did SCOTUS judges in 1940-41 or 1942-60. Notably, Hayden C. Covington headed up the legal team for the WatchTower Cult.
This is a suit by members of a group known as Jehovah's Witnesses on behalf of themselves and others of the same group seeking to enjoin ... officials of the State of Illinois and of St. Clair and Saline Counties in said state, from enforcing in said counties Section 471, Chapter 38 of the Revised Statutes of Illinois, in a manner that will interfere with the distribution in said counties by Jehovah's Witnesses of books and pamphlets published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society ... . ... ...
The essential facts are these: The plaintiffs and others who belong to a group known as Jehovah's Witnesses have for many years distributed in all the counties of Illinois, including St. Clair and Saline, books, pamphlets and other literature published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society ... . Sometimes they work in large groups coming into a community from surrounding counties and states. Each of them regards himself as a duly ordained minister of the gospel and carries credentials as such from said Watchtower Bible and Tract Society ... . Each believes it to be his divinely required duty to worship God and to witness for Him by distributing said Watchtower literature on the streets and from house to house.
In the months of June, September, and December, 1940, plaintiffs and others of Jehovah's Witnesses were ... distributing Watchtower books, pamphlets and periodicals on the streets and from house to house in the cities of Belleville ... and of Harrisburg ... . At times phonograph records were used. Some of them sold Bibles. They did not sell the Watchtower literature but received contributions which was the means of a livelihood for those who were full time ministers. [Editor: Is money received as "the means of a livelihood" "CONTRIBUTIONS" or PROFITS?] Said books, pamphlets, periodicals, records and other literature set forth the beliefs and doctrines of Jehovah's Witnesses. Some of them also contained drastic denunciations of all religion and religious organizations, as "a snare and a racket of the very worst kind," with particularly bitter and virulent attacks upon the Roman Catholic Church; also accusations which in substance and effect were charges of treasonable disloyalty, and deceptive and dishonest teaching and practices on the part of the leaders of both the Catholic and Protestant Churches and particularly those of the Catholic Church. Plaintiffs and others of Jehovah's Witnesses are taught and believe that it partakes of idolatry to salute the flag and not only refuse so to do but teach the doctrine.
Resentment was aroused among [THE CITIZENS OF BELLVILLE AND HARRISBURG] by the attacks contained in said literature upon religion, churches and church leaders. Some, particularly in Harrisburg, were incensed by their attitude toward the practice of saluting the flag. Complaints were made to ... law enforcing officers in both counties by those who were offended by the attacks upon religion and the Catholic and Protestant churches and upon their leaders contained in the literature so distributed, warning of violence against the persons distributing said literature unless such distribution ceased and requesting the officers to take steps to stop it.
Investigations by the officers were followed by arrests and preferment of charges against plaintiffs of violating the Illinois criminal statute, Section 471, Chapter 38, Illinois Revised Statutes, which reads:
It shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to manufacture, sell, or offer for sale, advertise or publish, present or exhibit in any public place in this state any lithograph, moving picture, play, drama or sketch, which publication or exhibition portrays depravity, criminality, unchastity, or lack of virtue of a class of citizens, of any race, color, creed or religion which said publication or exhibition exposes the citizens of any race, color, creed or religion to contempt, derision, or obloquy or which is productive of breach of the peace or riots. Any person, firm or corporation violating any of the provisions of this section, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by a fine of not less than fifty dollars ($50.00), nor more than two hundred dollars ($200.00).
Typical of the charging part of the complaints under which plaintiffs were prosecuted is the following: "That Emma Wilson, Charles R. Leiwe, Charles A. Davis, Ernest Summers on, to-wit, the 31st day of August 1940, at the County aforesaid then and there unlawfully advertise, sell or offer for sale a certain sketch which publication portrays depravity, criminality, unchastity or lack of virtue of a class of citizens belonging to the Roman Catholic religion, which said publication exposes the citizens of said religion to contempt, derision or obloquy and which is productive of breach of the peace or riot contrary to the form of the statute in such case made and provided and against the peace and dignity of the same People of the State of Illinois."
In the city of Belleville twenty-three of Jehovah's Witnesses were arrested, charged with violation of said statute and released on bond. These cases have not been brought to trial and plaintiffs have made no showing of any effort to procure trials though the cases have been pending since June, 1940, or shortly thereafter. In Harrisburg, Saline County, three of Jehovah's Witnesses were arrested, brought to trial, found guilty and sentenced to pay fines. These cases had been pending on appeal for several months at the time of the hearing herein and no showing of effort on the part of plaintiffs to obtain trial of these cases appears from the evidence. Certain of the defendants in each of said counties have told plaintiffs they will continue to arrest and prosecute any of Jehovah's Witnesses found distributing Watchtower literature in his county. Ever since and by reason of the said arrests, prosecutions and threats of future prosecutions plaintiffs have refrained from distributing said literature in said counties and say that by reason of the wrongful acts and threats of defendants they have been deprived by defendants of their rights of free speech, press, assembly, worship and their right, in connection with the distribution of said literature, to receive money contributions upon which some of them rely for a livelihood; also that unless further arrests and prosecutions are restrained by interlocutory injunction they will suffer irreparable damage and loss pending final hearing.
We have found under the evidence that defendants do not threaten or intend to arrest plaintiffs or any of them for distributing Watchtower literature in either of said counties unless the literature contains matter which, in the opinion of the state's attorney of the county, constitutes a publication in violation of said section 471 of chapter 38 of the Revised Statutes of Illinois and not then until a supposed offense has actually been committed. We have further found that the acts of the defendants in connection with the investigation, warning, arrest, detention and prosecution of the plaintiffs were official acts performed in good faith in an honest endeavor to carry out their official duties as law enforcing officers; also that defendants honestly believed that the publication of the virulent attacks upon churches and religious leaders contained in the Watchtower literature being distributed by plaintiffs constituted a violation of said section 471; also that they feared and had a reasonable basis for fear that if the distribution of the literature containing such attacks continued, riots, assaults and breaches of the peace would ensue.
While the evidence does show that the defendants who are local law enforcing officers will continue to enforce the statute in their respective counties when advised by the state's attorney that the statute is actually being violated, the evidence fails to show that any extensive injury will be suffered by any of the plaintiffs or others on behalf of whom they bring this suit by such enforcement pending final hearing herein or a determination of the constitutionality of the statute and its applicability to the plaintiffs by the courts of Illinois. Plaintiffs are at liberty, so far as the evidence shows, to propagate their beliefs, distribute their literature and receive contributions anywhere outside of St. Clair and Saline Counties. The evidence indicates a practice among them of working away from home. Some of the plaintiffs are from other states. In view of this practice and the fact that the effect of the allegedly wrongful acts of defendants is confined to the counties of St. Clair and Saline, it would seem that the probable loss and injury to plaintiffs that will flow from the threatened acts of the defendants pending final hearing need not be great. Furthermore, it does not appear from the evidence that it is essential for the plaintiffs to distribute literature which belabors existing churches and their leaders with defamatory charges and epithets in order to perform their ministry; nor that there may not be a great deal of Watchtower literature for them to distribute that would be considered legally inoffensive. None of the defendants has indicated any design to interfere with any witnessing by plaintiffs in accordance with their beliefs unless such witnessing is accompanied by violations or supposed violations of existing law. ... ... ...
The precise question presented to us now takes form as follows: Should an application for an interlocutory injunction restraining state officers from enforcing a state criminal statute be allowed where the statute is not clearly unconstitutional and where the evidence shows that though some injuries and loss may be suffered by plaintiffs, through the enforcement of the statute, which may, because of their nature, be irreparable, it fails to appear that such injuries and loss need be more than slight or inconsequential? We think the question must be answered in the negative and the application for interlocutory injunction denied.
KICKING DOWN LEGAL IMPEDIMENTS
FOR THE CRIMINALS
Over the decades, Jehovah's Witnesses have won legal battle after legal battle filed against local governments doing what those cities and counties believed were necessary to protect their local citizenry from the 24-7-365 efforts of criminals to harm or destroy the property or person of those citizens. During this 21st century, the WatchTower Cult has waged ongoing war against efforts by local governments and citizens in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico to keep an ever increasing number of criminals out of neighborhoods by transforming some of Puerto Rico's neighborhoods into gated communities. Currently, the LIBERAL FEDERAL JUDGES -- AKA LIBERAL FEDERAL FOOLS -- are entirely on the side of the WatchTower Cult, and if the demonic Democrat Clinton Mafia is elected President of the United States, the current course of SCOTUS and the lower federal courts will be irreversible.
Readers should understand that federal and state judges have not always been as BIG OF FOOLS as they are now. We are posting the following two FORGOTTEN 1941 New York appellate and "supreme" court decisions so that the ACLU and their LIBERAL co-conspirators are not able to sweep these LOSING WatchTower Cult courts cases under the proverbial rug as has been done with most other such cases.
NEW YORK v. GEORGE BOHNKE and ELOISE BROWN
On Sunday morning, June 30, 1940, at around 5:00 A.M., Jehovah's Witnesses George Bohnke, of Manorville, New York, and Eloise Brown, of Patchogue, New York (where were their spouses), were arrested in the Village of Southampton, New York, while stealthily placing WatchTower Cult literature onto the front porches of (probably gated) "mansions" which they had no consent to be trespassing. In 1940, the Village of Southampton was a well known seasonal summer resort, which was often targeted by low-life criminals seeking to take advantage of the wealthy seasonal residents.
In July 1940, George Bohnke and Eloise Brown were tried and convicted by a local Justice of the Peace, and each paid the $10.00 fine under protest. Expectedly, their convictions were appealed to the local county court, which affirmed the JP's "guilty" decision in March 1941:
The defendants were convicted of violating village ordinance No. 28 of the village of Southampton, Suffolk county, N.Y., which ordinance reads as follows:
"Solicitors, etc., on Private Property. No person shall enter upon any private residential property in the Village of Southampton, Suffolk County, New York, for the purpose of vending, peddling, or soliciting orders for any merchandise, device, book, periodicals or printed matter whatsoever; nor for the purpose of soliciting alms, or a subscription or a contribution to any church, charitable or public institution whatsoever; nor for the purpose of distributing any handbill, pamphlet, tract, notice or advertising matter, nor for the purpose of selling or distributing any ticket or chance whatsoever, without the consent of the occupant of said premises previously given.
"Nothing herein contained shall be construed to apply to any person who has been a bona fide resident of the Village of Southampton, New York, for a period of at least six (6) consecutive months last past, nor to any person who has maintained a place of business in the Village of Southampton for a period of at least six (6) consecutive months, prior thereto, or his duly authorized representative. Any person violating this ordinance shall be subject to a penalty of not more than One Hundred ($100.00) Dollars for each violation thereof.
"Any violation of this ordinance shall constitute disorderly conduct, and the person violating the same shall be a disorderly person."
Southampton village and the surrounding community is well known throughout the world as a summer colony for the wealthy. It is common knowledge that the rotogravure sections of our leading newspapers carry many pictures depicting the elite and socially prominent persons of the country at play in Southampton during the summer season. Consequently Southampton is a village of beautiful homes with spacious lawns and gardens. In the past, jewel robbers have preyed on the summer residents of Southampton, creating a serious problem for the local police and others in authority. To help correct this evil Southampton ordinance No. 28 was passed and became law. This law attempted to prohibit strangers from distributing pamphlets or advertising matter without first obtaining the consent of the occupant of the premises. This statute did not affect residents who had been residents for a period of at least six months last past or any person who had maintained a place of business for a like period.
The defendants were distributing religious literature by leaving the same on the front porch, door mat, or other convenient place at the houses in the village at five o'clock in the morning, and when informed by the police of the ordinance refused to discontinue the undertaking, saying that they were protected by the Federal Constitution; that to prevent them from carrying on their avocation or occupation of serving the Master was in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution.
The defendants raised three points in their argument on appeal, as follows:
1. The ordinance as construed and applied is void because it deprives the defendants of their right of freedom of speech and of press and freedom to worship Almighty God as commanded by Him in the Bible and according to the dictates of conscience, all in violation of section 1, Fourteenth Amendment, United States Constitution.
2. The ordinance is void on its face because it deprives the defendants of equal protection of the laws and of due process of law in violation of section 1, Fourteenth Amendment, United States Constitution, in that the ordinance is unreasonable, discriminatory, and arbitrarily deprives persons of liberties, privileges, and immunities constitutionally guaranteed and secured, and amounts to legislation by individuals rather than by the constituted authority because the ordinance can or cannot have effect according to the pleasure of individual occupants of premises.
3. The ordinance is unconstitutional and repugnant to section 1, Fourteenth Amendment, United States Constitution, because it imposes an improper classification predicated upon residence and in operation is unreasonable and because of lack of rational connection between the interdiction of the ordinance and the end ostensibly sought to be accomplished, so that it cannot be justified as an exercise of the police power.
The police power is very broad, and necessarily so, and certainly the police power is broad enough to give a local legislative body of any community the right to protect its citizens, and the only question is whether or not this local ordinance is discriminatory in that it exempts local residents. It makes it very difficult for the police where a person, under the guise of distributing literature or otherwise, can go from house to house, leave the road or sidewalk and go to a person's front door with pamphlets. Of course, most people are not criminals and would do this with honest motives and good intentions, but I believe the courts should take judicial notice of the fact also that there are some persons living in these United States who are criminals, and very dangerous ones. Residents should be protected against the kidnapper and the highwayman, and where would the kidnapper and the jewel thieves operate? Certainly not in the slums, but in a place like Southampton. The exercise of any police power limits individual freedom. Some do not like the Legislature of our State to fix a speed limit on the highways, yet the speed limit and regulation is not fixed and enforced for those who drive in a careful and prudent manner but for the reckless few, and I believe the defendants in this case should recognize that they owe to society the giving up of a little freedom for the benefit of all the persons in the community. And certainly no one will argue that if the police have the power to arrest any one who violates ordinance No. 28, and question him as to his residence and business and from where he came, it is a very powerful weapon in discouraging criminals. ... The local legislature of the village of Southampton in its wisdom has found that six months' residence is sufficient for the purpose at hand, and the court should not find fault with the legislature's wisdom if it is reasonable. ...
The Legislature is justified in guarding against any evil which may be fairly anticipated, and it has wide discretion in deciding what means to be used, and unless the means used to correct the evil are unduly oppressive and confiscatory, the courts will not interfere. ...
The other point raised on appeal, namely, that the defendants were denied their right of freedom of speech and of the press and freedom to worship Almighty God as dictated to them by their conscience and guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, is a much more serious matter. In this twentieth century, when so few people are effusive about their religion, those who are should be encouraged, and I believe every fair-minded individual, whether a communicant at any temple of religion or not, respects and admires those who practice their religion faithfully. There is not any doubt that the defendants are enthused with their religious beliefs and are ready to sacrifice themselves in spreading it. There is not any question in any one's mind about the honesty of purpose of the defendants or their freedom from any nefarious scheme. What they were doing was undoubtedly harmless. Maybe it did a lot of people good, but the police too do a lot of good in another way, and in performing their duty as such the defendants cannot complain providing the police acted within the law of the land.
Whether the enactment of the ordinance is wise or unwise, whether it is the best approach to the evident danger, is a matter for the judgment of the legislature, and if they drew the ordinance within the Constitution, then the court will not interfere. ...
The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees the equal protection of the law. Laws are not abstract propositions in themselves, but are expressions of policy based upon the will and needs of the people. The classification in favor of residents is not a new proposition, and the legislative body of the village of Southampton has the power to make residence a qualification. It was held in the case of Tigner v. Texas ... that the Legislature has the power to exclude farmers and stockmen from the criminal statute against combination and monopoly, and certainly it is no more discriminatory to prohibit strangers from going to a person's house for the purpose of soliciting or leaving pamphlets without previous permission than it is to discriminate against a class.
The rights of the individual are not absolute. They are subject to the exercise of the regulatory powers of government. The State may enact laws regulating, restraining and prohibiting, although such regulation, restraint or prohibition interferes with, curtails or diminishes personal rights. Judgment affirmed.
The WatchTower Society appealed that losing Suffolk County Court decision to the "Supreme Court" of New York. There, George Bohnke and Eloise Brown were legally represented by none other than "Judge" Rutherford himself. Hayden Covington served as co-counsel. The ACLU submitted an amicus brief. The "Supreme Court" of New York unanimously affirmed the lower court's decision:
Appellants were convicted of a violation of an ordinance of the village of Southampton, which ordinance makes any person guilty of disorderly conduct who, "without the consent of the occupant of said premises previously given", enters upon private residential property in the village for certain purposes, including "the purpose of distributing any handbill, pamphlet, tract, notice or advertising matter." The ordinance states that it is not to be construed to apply "to any person who has been a bona fide resident of the Village of Southampton, New York, for a period of at least six (6) consecutive months last past, nor to any person who has maintained a place of business in the Village of Southampton for a period of at least six (6) consecutive months, prior thereto, or his duly authorized representative." The ordinance contains a "preamble" to the effect that it was enacted pursuant to the village's police power and in order to protect its citizens against crime and preserve the private property, peace and comfort of the occupants of private residences in the village.
On the trial it was established, without dispute, that appellants, who are ordained ministers of their religion and authorized representatives of a publishing house or publishing department of that religion, and who are not within the exceptions of the ordinance as to residence or business place in the village, did, without the previous consent of any householders, circulate religious pamphlets from door to door in the village very early in the morning of July 30, 1940. The sole defense of the appellants was and is the alleged unconstitutionality of the ordinance in that, according to appellants, it is repugnant to the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution as depriving them of their rights to freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and the equal protection of the laws, and in that it makes an invalid distinction or classification based on residence in or out of the village.
We hold the ordinance valid. It does not prohibit pamphleteering. It regulates pamphlet distribution in private, not public, places, and gives no public officer any power of censoring the pamphlets or licensing, or refusing to license, their distribution. ... It does not infringe any of appellants' rights to the free exercise of their religion since it merely regulates their entry onto private property for the purpose of promoting their religious beliefs. It does leave to the pleasure of the individual householder the determination of whether or not pamphlets may be circulated on that householder's premises, but this infringes no right of appellants, since the Constitution does not guarantee them any right to go freely onto private property for such purposes. As to the alleged invalid discrimination in favor of residents, we hold, taking into consideration the statement of purposes contained in the ordinance's preamble, that the distinction is valid in a small village where, presumably, the dangers and annoyances of trespasses or unsolicited visits are less when the trespassers or uninvited visitors are not strangers but known, or easily identifiable and traceable, residents of the community. ... The judgments should be affirmed.
CHAPLINSKY v. NEW HAMPSHIRE
CHAPLINSKY v. NEW HAMPSHIRE (II)
was a 1942 Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decision which involved a Jehovah's Witness named Walter Chaplinsky. Walter Chaplinsky holds the honor of being the only Jehovah's Witness Plaintiff (that I know) to have lost two SCOTUS decisions.
See COX v. NEW HAMPSHIRE
Walter Chaplinsky was convicted of cursing a police officer in public. Chaplinsky appealed the case all the way to SCOTUS contending that the New Hampshire law violated the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States, in that it placed an unreasonable restraint on Chaplinsky's freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and freedom of worship. The law stated:
"No person shall address any offensive, derisive or annoying word to any other person who is lawfully in any street or other public place, nor call him by any offensive or derisive name, nor make any noise or exclamation in his presence and hearing with intent to deride, offend or annoy him, or to prevent him from pursuing his lawful business or occupation."
In April 1940, Walter Chaplinsky and several other JWs were parading (see case below) and distributing WatchTower propaganda on the sidewalks of Rochester, New Hampshire, on a busy Saturday afternoon. Local citizens complained to a city police officer that Chaplinsky was denouncing all religion as a "racket." The police officer inform them that Chaplinsky was lawfully engaged, but also warned Chaplinsky that the crowd was getting restless. Some time later, a fight broke out between Chaplinski and several irritated citizens. A second traffic officer on duty at the nearby busy intersection rescued Chaplinski from the crowd, took him into protective custody, and started with Chaplinsky to the police station. The officer did not inform Chaplinsky that he was under arrest, nor that he was going to be arrested.
On the way, they encountered the first police officer, who by then had been advised that a riot was under way, and was therefore hurrying to the scene. The first police officer repeated his earlier warning to Chaplinsky, who then cursed the officer, stating something to the effect:
"You are a God damned racketeer," and "a damned Fascist and the whole government of Rochester are Fascists or agents of Fascists."
SCOTUS affirmed the conviction, stating in part:
"Appellant assails the statute as a violation of all three freedoms, speech, press and worship, but only an attack on the basis of free speech is warranted. The spoken, not the written, word is involved. And we cannot conceive that cursing a public officer is the exercise of religion in any sense of the term. But even if the activities of the appellant which preceded the incident could be viewed as religious in character, and therefore entitled to the protection of the Fourteenth Amendment, they would not cloak him with immunity from the legal consequences for concomitant acts committed in violation of a valid criminal statute. We turn, therefore, to an examination of the statute itself.
"Allowing the broadest scope to the language and purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment, it is well understood that the right of free speech is not absolute at all times and under all circumstances. There are certain well-defined and narrowly limited classes of speech, the prevention and punishment of which have never been thought to raise any Constitutional problem. These include the lewd and obscene, the profane, the libelous, and the insulting or 'fighting' words--those which by their very utterance inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace. It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality. 'Resort to epithets or personal abuse is not in any proper sense communication of information or opinion safeguarded by the Constitution, and its punishment as a criminal act would raise no question under that instrument.' Cantwell v. Connecticut, ... .
"The state statute here challenged comes to us authoritatively construed by the highest court of New Hampshire. It has two provisions -- the first relates to words or names addressed to another in a public place; the second refers to noises and exclamations. The court said: 'The two provisions are distinct. One may stand separately from the other. Assuming, without holding, that the second were unconstitutional, the first could stand if constitutional.' We accept that construction of severability and limit our consideration to the first provision of the statute.
"On the authority of its earlier decisions, the state court declared that the statute's purpose was to preserve the public peace, no words being 'forbidden except such as have a direct tendency to cause acts of violence by the persons to whom, individually, the remark is addressed.' It was further said: 'The word "'offensive'" is not to be defined in terms of what a particular addressee thinks. . . . The test is what men of common intelligence would understand would be words likely to cause an average addressee to fight. . . . The English language has a number of words and expressions which by general consent are 'fighting words' when said without a disarming smile. . . . Such words, as ordinary men know, are likely to cause a fight. So are threatening, profane or obscene revilings. Derisive and annoying words can be taken as coming within the purview of the statute as heretofore interpreted only when they have this characteristic of plainly tending to excite the addressee to a breach of the peace. . . . The statute, as construed, does no more than prohibit the face-to-face words plainly likely to cause a breach of the peace by the addressee, words whose speaking constitutes a breach of the peace by the speaker--including "'classical fighting words'", words in current use less "'classical'" but equally likely to cause violence, and other disorderly words, including profanity, obscenity and threats.'
"We are unable to say that the limited scope of the statute as thus construed contravenes the Constitutional right of free expression. It is a statute narrowly drawn and limited to define and punish specific conduct lying within the domain of state power, the use in a public place of words likely to cause a breach of the peace. Cf. Cantwell v. Connecticut, ... ; Thornhill v. Alabama, ... . This conclusion necessarily disposes of appellant's contention that the statute is so vague and indefinite as to render a conviction thereunder a violation of due process. A statute punishing verbal acts, carefully drawn so as not unduly to impair liberty of expression, is not too vague for a criminal law. Cf. Fox v. Washington,... .
"Nor can we say that the application of the statute to the facts disclosed by the record substantially or unreasonably impinges upon the privilege of free speech. Argument is unnecessary to demonstrate that the appellations 'damned racketeer' and 'damned Fascist' are epithets likely to provoke the average person to retaliation, and thereby cause a breach of the peace.
"The refusal of the state court to admit evidence of provocation and evidence bearing on the truth or falsity of the utterances, is open to no Constitutional objection. Whether the facts sought to be proved by such evidence constitute a defense to the charge, or may be shown in mitigation, are questions for the state court to determine. Our function is fulfilled by a determination that the challenged statute, on its face and as applied, does not contravene the Fourteenth Amendment."
One interesting tidbit is that one of the police officers also alleged that Walter Chaplinsky had been "drinking". Chaplinski was not charged with such, which means that such was either not true, or possibly that Chaplinski was simply not intoxicated. That certainly would not have been the first time that a JW took a nip before going recruiting in order to stiffen their nerve.
Also, Chaplinsky was initially sentenced to only 12 days in jail, but during the appeal at the Superior Court level, Chaplinski was sentenced to 6 months in jail, which he served after SCOTUS ruled against him.
COX v. NEW HAMPSHIRE
COX v. NEW HAMPSHIRE was a 1941 Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decision which also involved the Jehovah's Witness named Walter Chaplinsky. This SCOTUS decision, in which the JWs again LOST, held that it was "constitutional" for local governments to require a fee-based permit for a parade or procession upon a public street.
Civil liberties, as guaranteed by the Constitution, imply the existence of an organized society maintaining public order without which liberty itself would be lost in the excesses of unrestrained abuses. The authority of a municipality to impose regulations in order to assure the safety and convenience of the people in the use of public highways has never been regarded as inconsistent with civil liberties but rather as one of the means of safeguarding the good order upon which they ultimately depend. The control of travel on the streets of cities is the most familiar illustration of this recognition of social need. Where a restriction of the use of highways in that relation is designed to promote the public convenience in the ihterest of all, it cannot be disregarded by the attempted exercise of some civil right which in other circumstances would be entitled to protection. One would not. be justified in ignoring the familiar red traffic light because he thought it his religious duty to disobey the municipal command or sought by that means to direct public attention to an announcement of his opinions. As regulation of the use of the streets for parades and processions is a traditional exercise of control by local government, the question in a particular case is whether that control is exerted so as not to deny or unwarrantedly abridge the right of assembly and the opportunities for the communication of thought and the discussion of public questions immemorially associated with resort to public places. ... ...
The argument as to freedom of worship is also beside the point. No interference with religious worship or the practice of religion in any proper sense is shown, but only the exer cise of local control over the use of streets for parades and processions.
On Saturday, July 8, 1939, Walter Chaplinsky, Willis Cox, and 66 other JWs were arrested for conducting a parade in Manchester, New Hampshire, without the benefit of first obtaining the required city permit. Again, when presenting this case of "persecution" to modern readers, the WatchTower Society and its sympathizers rely on readers' inability to place the scenario in historical context. In 1939, Saturday evenings in July were a time when a large segment of most towns' citizenry would take the family out for a leisurely stroll that often would include a walk through a city's downtown business area. For a group such of Jehovah's Witnesses, who could not care less about anyone's "rights" but their own, this was seen as an excellent opportunity for the JWs to force their WatchTower propaganda on people who had no desire to have their leisure interrupted by obnoxious solicitors.
In this particular instance, 90 or so JWs (only 68, or 4 groups, were actually arrested) divided themselves up into 5 groups, and went to different sections of the downtown Manchester business area. There, they paraded in single-file up and down the sidewalks carrying signs declaring, "RELIGION IS A SNARE AND A RACKET", and "FASCISM OR FREEDOM". These slogans were intentionally chosen to negative incite non-JWs. Most people who viewed such signs never bothered to turn around after they passed such marchers and notice that the signs had much less obnoxious slogans printed on the reverse. The JWs also handed out printed leaflets announcing a "meeting" the next day, during which a speech about "government" would be given.
After the JWs were convicted for refusing to obtain a parade permit, Walter Chaplinsky, Willis Cox, and three other JWs appealed their criminal cases to New Hampshire's Superior Court and Supreme Courts, and SCOTUS, where the JWs lost at every level.
CANTWELL v. CONNECTICUT
The following excerpts from DEMYTHOLOGIZING THE LEGAL HISTORY OF THE JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES AND THE FIRST AMENDMENT were authored in 2004 by Professor Allen Rostrum. Professor Rostrum's article was a critical book review of Shawn Francis Peters', JUDGING JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES: RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION AND THE DAWN OF THE RIGHTS REVOLUTION, which was published in 2000.
Shawn Francis Peters' Judging Jehovah's Witnesses is the most recent, and broadest, historical account of the [Jehovah's] Witnesses' legal activities. [Shawn Francis] Peters focuses on the period of the late 1930s through the mid-1940s, a time when persecution of the [Jehovah's] Witnesses was at its peak and the Supreme Court decided a flurry of major First Amendment cases involving the [Jehovah's] Witnesses.
[Shawn Francis] Peters' book shares a fundamental flaw with previous accounts of the legal history of the Jehovah's Witnesses. [Shawn Francis Peters] has chosen to passionately and unequivocally support the [Jehovah's] Witnesses' side of each and every one of the legal battles he describes. In [Shawn Francis] Peters' hands, every episode in the [Jehovah's] Witnesses' legal struggles becomes a story about how an extraordinarily brave and dedicated [Jehovah's] Witness challenged an indefensible rule of law, and how every case ultimately resulted in either a watershed victory for liberty, or a disheartening judicial failure to protect our freedom. This Review considers the problems that arise in trying to force the history of the Jehovah's Witnesses into a uniform narrative of courageous opposition to unjust legal restrictions and prejudice. This form of legal history idealizes and oversimplifies the events underlying the cases and the issues they raise. ... ...
[Shawn Francis] Peters' approach to the [Jehovah's] Witnesses' history also sacrifices factual and legal complexity in order to turn cases into uniformly inspiring stories. The cases involving the constitutional rights of the [Jehovah's] Witnesses arose in many different circumstances. Each case involved unique people and events, different times, and a variety of places. To impose the same basic story formula on every episode involving the [Jehovah's] Witnesses requires shaping, stretching, and trimming the facts to fit the standard narrative, themes, and characterizations. As an example, this section examines, in close detail, the events underlying the case of Cantwell v. Connecticut, in which the Supreme Court unanimously overturned the conviction of Jehovah's Witnesses arrested while going from door to door preaching and distributing literature in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1938.
Readers should know that Professor Rostrum is no "conservative" foot soldier simply looking to counterpoint a heavily-publicized book authored by a "liberal" author. No, Professor Rostrum, himself, sits on the Board of Trustees of the ACLU of Missouri. In researching and authoring the following history, it is evident that Professor Rostrum's only agenda was truth, accuracy, and thoroughness. In our opinion, Professor Rostrum wound up authoring the most thoroughly researched and best documented history of CANTWELL v. CONNECTICUT available. Unfortunately, and probably because this history is so revealing of the low-quality work of previous liberal authors who have written histories of CANTWELL v. CONNECTICUT, Professor Rostrum's article has not received the acclaim nor distribution that it rightfully deserves. We thank Professor Rostrum for making this article freely available online. Note that we have occasionally edited the content of these excerpts to improve readability and comprehension -- specifically removing the large quantity of documented footnotes, which otherwise interested readers can find in the complete version. Professor Rostrum continues:
In [Shawn Francis] Peters' hands, the CANTWELL case is another story of "boundless courage and unending perseverance," in which [Jehovah's] Witnesses imbued with extraordinary determination and resolve fought against religious prejudice and opposition to their preaching activities. According to [Shawn Francis] Peters' account, the [Cantwell Family] were devout, courageous [Jehovah's] Witnesses, who happened to face a climate of severe hostility in New Haven [Connecticut]. The city's police were "particularly antagonistic." According to Peters, police arrested the Cantwells after several individuals became so incensed by the [Jehovah's] Witnesses' message that they nearly assaulted them.
A closer look at the original historical record reveals a number of respects in which that story is misleading or incomplete. [Shawn Francis] Peters frames the facts to fit the standard story he tells throughout his book, and does not consult sources, such as contemporary local news accounts, that could shed a different light on the events. The only sources [Shawn Francis Peters] cites for the facts underlying the case are the opinions of the Connecticut Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court, and two articles written more than thirty years later by the [Jehovah's] Witnesses involved in the case for the [WatchTower] Society's ... Watchtower magazine. The history of the CANTWELL case can be told in a different way, as suggested in what follows here, that is less inspiring as a story of righteous triumph over injustice, but reflects more fairly the complexity of the people, events, and issues.
Newton and Esther Cantwell worked as full-time proselytizers for the Watchtower Society, which assigned them to move to Connecticut in 1937. They established a home in Woodbridge, just outside New Haven. The arrests that would ultimately lead them to the U.S. Supreme Court occurred in New Haven on April 26, 1938. Neither [Shawn Francis] Peters' book, nor any other previous historical account of the case, mentions that those arrests came at the end of a period of controversy for the [Jehovah's] Witnesses further north in the state of Connecticut.
In March of 1938, police in Bristol, Connecticut, arrested [67 Jehovah's] Witnesses on charges of breaching the peace. According to the press, none of [the Jehovah's Witnesses] arrested were actually from Bristol. In the weeks before the arrests, as many as [500 Jehovah's] Witnesses had flooded the town for a massive distribution of aggressively anti-Catholic literature. At that time, the police warned the [Jehovah's] Witnesses, but did not make arrests. The next Sunday, a local Catholic priest made the [Jehovah's] Witnesses the subject of his sermon. Soon after, hundreds of the [Jehovah's] Witnesses arrived, and the police went ahead with  arrests. A pamphlet entitled Shall the Priests Rule Connecticut was among the literature distributed by the [Jehovah's] Witnesses in Bristol. It claimed that Catholic priests in Connecticut had zealously attacked the [Jehovah's] Witnesses and caused them to be arrested for practicing their religion. The pamphlet singled out one priest for particular criticism:
[T]he Reverend (self-designated) T.F. Lawlor of St. Mary's Catholic Church, New Britain, praised the police greatly for their brave activities in the suppression of religious freedom. Mr. Lawlor says he believes in religious freedom, except when the Catholic Church is attacked and he would like to have removed from office all officials who do not conform to his special interpretation of freedom of worship and conscience.
Among those arrested were "N.D. Cantwell" and "Mrs. N.D. Cantwell" of New Haven. As soon as those arrested were freed on bond, they threatened the Bristol authorities that they would be returning the next day to continue their preaching work. The next day, however, the [Jehovah's] Witnesses went to nearby New Britain instead, and  were arrested there. Again, the charge was breach of the peace. At the center of the activities, and resulting arrests, was the pamphlet attacking Reverend Lawlor. There was no violence against the [Jehovah's] Witnesses during this period of arrests, with the exception of one who was punched in the nose and another who was hit over the head with a mop.
Olin R. Moyle, the Watchtower Society's head counsel at that time, represented the [Jehovah's] Witnesses in court in Bristol and in New Britain. The court in Bristol sentenced each of the accused to a [$10.00] fine. The next day in New Britain, the court sentenced the head of the [WatchTower] Society's Southwestern New England division to a thirty-day jail sentence. The court sentenced those [Jehovah's] Witnesses who had been previously warned to a fine of $100., and the rest to a fine of $25. each. The judges declined to consider Moyle's constitutional arguments, as the local courts were under instructions from the state supreme court to leave constitutional issues for appellate resolution. In the midst of the controversy, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling in favor of a Jehovah's Witness in Lovell v. City of Griffin, a First Amendment challenge to a Georgia city's ordinance requiring a permit for distribution of literature. The Bristol city attorney explained to reporters why he believed the charges being prosecuted in Bristol were distinguishable from those considered by the [U.S. Supreme] Court. Sporadic arrests of small numbers of [Jehovah's] Witnesses continued throughout the month.
The prosecutors in New Britain chose to nullify the convictions of the [47 Jehovah's] Witnesses convicted there prior to their appeal to the Superior Court. The [Jehovah's] Witnesses filed suit seeking an injunction against further arrests by the city of Bristol. The case was heard by a special three-member federal constitutional court, which denied the injunction because there were no actual prosecutions pending, and, even if there were, the [Jehovah's] Witnesses would have the opportunity to present their constitutional arguments in their criminal trials in the state courts.
Despite the recent controversy in northern Connecticut, the Jehovah's Witnesses were not a subject of significant interest or attention down in New Haven. The arrests in Bristol and New Britain received only brief, occasional mentions on the back pages of the New Haven newspapers. In early April of 1938, the New Haven Register devoted an editorial to the [U.S.] Supreme Court's recent decision in Lovell. The Register editorial did not mention the fact that the case involved Jehovah's Witnesses, but it expressed concern nonetheless that:
As in most cases when the high court rules upon legality, it did not rule on wisdom ... . Distributors may, for instance, be within their constitutional rights in throwing a handful of circulars into the householder's vestibule. But that there is any profit in it, or in scattering them on porches so as to be blown off and to strew a lawn and to collect in shrubbery, is more than doubtful. There was no sign of hostility to the Jehovah's Witnesses, only an aversion to litter. The New Haven Journal-Courier also ran an editorial supporting the [U.S.]Supreme Court's decision in favor of the [Jehovah's] Witnesses.
On Tuesday morning, April 26, 1938, the Cantwells packed a lunch and loaded up their car. They had with them their two sons, Jesse [Cantwell], who was sixteen years old at the time, and Russell [Cantwell], who was eighteen. They brought with them an assortment of books and pamphlets, in a variety of languages including Italian, Polish, German, Russian, Swedish, Greek, Armenian, and Ukrainian. This literature contained a great deal of invective against the Roman Catholic Church. For example, one [CURE] pamphlet read in part:
The record of that religious organization is written in human blood and tears of bitterness ... . The cruel Inquisition of that religious organization has left its slimy trail in almost every land on earth. It has ever been known as an unclean thing, for the reason that many of its leaders and priests have been and are morally putrid.
Some contained illustrations, including one of a serpent crowned with a papal tiara. In addition, Newton Cantwell and his sons each carried a portable phonograph player and three records. The records contained brief messages spoken by Judge Rutherford, the leader of the [WatchTower Society], which explained the content and importance of the books offered by the [Jehovah's] Witnesses. At each house, the Cantwells would ask permission to play one of the records and then offer a book for sale. If the resident was unable to purchase the book, the Cantwells would accept whatever contribution the resident could make, and if still unsuccessful, they would offer a pamphlet for free on the condition that it be read.
About four o'clock that afternoon, the Cantwells reached the neighborhood around Cassius Street, located about a mile southwest of the New Haven green, past the railroad station. The neighborhood was at least ninety-percent Catholic. Most of the residents of the neighborhood attended church nearby at St. Peter's on Kimberly Avenue. Mrs. Cantwell waited in the car while her husband and sons split up to canvass the neighborhood.
Russell Cantwell rang the bell at the home of Anna Rigby. Rigby had been visited by the Jehovah's Witnesses in the past, and had purchased one of their books, so she knew right away what Russell was doing at her door. Rigby accepted a small pamphlet from Russell, which she tore up as soon as he left. Rigby then called the police to complain, as she felt that this was "a pretty strong book against my religion," and that the [Jehovah's] Witnesses "should be taken off the street." Meanwhile, Russell continued his way down the street. The first police officer to respond to Anna Rigby's complaint, Officer Leslie Leigh, arrived and found Russell. Questioned by Officer Leigh, Russell explained that he was preaching and offering the books at the houses. Officers Edward Wendland and Henry Carignan soon arrived with a squad car and took Russell down to the station house for more questioning.
From her porch on the other side of Cassius Street, Gladys Barry watched the police take away Russell. Soon after, when Jesse Cantwell reached her home and offered his books for sale, [Barry] told him: "One of your buddies just got arrested across the street; you had better scram. I don't want any publicity in front of my house.'' Jesse [Cantwell] continued along.
Down the street, a small group of men had gathered. One of them, John Ganley, had just finished his shift at work in the nearby railroad yard, and had walked over to visit his mother who lived on Cassius Street. He approached the two men who were standing along the street in order to find out why the police were about on Cassius Street that day. One was Ganley's friend, John Cafferty, a shop hand at the Eastern Screw Machine Company in New Haven and a resident of Cassius Street. The other was Mentor Canelli, a local insurance salesman who visited Ganley's mother. Cafferty explained what was going on, for he had watched the police arrest Russell [Cantwell] earlier, and knew that Russell had been picked up for making attacks on the Catholic religion. Ganley was not familiar with the Jehovah's Witnesses. As the three men were talking, Jesse Cantwell approached them and began the customary pitch.
The men agreed to listen to one of the recordings, although they were already aware that the records attacked the Catholic church and that the police were investigating complaints about the Cantwells. Cafferty later explained that even though he knew fairly well what the record contained, "I wanted to find out for myself." The record Jesse [Cantwell] played was the sales presentation for the [WatchTower Society's] book Enemies. It pronounced that:
The most seductive and subtle instrument employed to deceive man is religion, because religion has the appearance of doing good, whereas it brings upon the people great evil. There are many different religions, all of which are deceptive, are the instruments of the enemy Satan, and all work to the injury of men. This book submits the conclusive proof that for more than fifteen hundred years a great religious system, operating out of Rome, has by means of fraud and deception brought untold sorrow and suffering upon the people. It operates the greatest racket ever employed amongst men and robs the people of their money and destroys their peace of mind and freedom of action. That religious system is vigorously pushing its political schemes amongst all the nations of earth, with the avowed purpose of seizing control of the nations and ruling the people by cruel dictators.
The [ENEMIES book record's] message was certainly unflattering to Catholics, but it contained none of the truly distasteful language of the Cantwell's books, such as the allusions to the Roman Catholic Church as an old drunken harlot fornicating with Hitler and the other servants of Satan.
Cafferty and Ganley were mildly surprised by what they heard on the record. They "never thought that they would have such a record" containing a "pretty rotten attack on [our] religion." Ganley later testified that they were "stung about it to think that our religion, which all our lives we believed in, would be run down like that." The men told Jesse [Cantwell] that he had better keep moving, and Jesse did so.
As Jesse [Cantwell] headed for the next house, Officer Leigh called him over. In response to Officer Leigh's questioning, Jesse explained that he was busy preaching the word of God. Officer Leigh radioed for another squad car. As that car left with Jesse for the police station, and Officer Leigh prepared to leave as well, a woman approached him and pointed out that there was a woman, Mrs. Cantwell, involved with the men the police were after. Officer Leigh found Mrs. Cantwell sitting in the family car parked on Cedar Street, and he again called for officers to escort her to the police station. Returning to Cassius Street, Officer Leigh spotted his last suspect, Newton Cantwell. Like his sons, Newton explained that he was preaching the gospel at the houses, and Officer Leigh sent him off to join the others at the Howard Avenue station. At the station, a police officer and a sergeant began to look over the books and pamphlets carried by the Cantwells, and to mark particular paragraphs of note. The police took the Cantwells over to the City Attorney's office. After consulting his code books, the attorney there asked the Cantwells if they had secured a permit to solicit for a religious cause from the Public Welfare Council. They had not. The police charged the Cantwells with breaching the peace, violating the statute requiring a permit for solicitation, and several other minor offenses.
The arrest of the Cantwells barely made the local newspapers. The New Haven Register and the New Haven Journal-Courier each devoted two small paragraphs to the story. The relative inattention to the Cantwells' story is all the more striking in comparison to the things these newspapers were reporting. There was hardly a crime too trivial to make the newspapers. About the same time the Cantwells were arrested, New Haven's attention was riveted to a different but similar story in town, the "great pushcart controversy." Local businesses complained to city officials that pushcart vendors of candy and ice cream were intercepting all of the business of the local school children by parking their carts just outside the school at recess and after the final bell of the school day. The episode captured the city's attention for weeks, as the mayor, prosecutors, and judges squabbled, and citizens weighed in on both sides of the dispute.
The prosecutor brought five charges against Newton Cantwell and each of his sons. The charges were publicly exhibiting offensive and indecent matter, possessing and intending to sell indecent materials, ridiculing persons on account of their religion, soliciting money for a religious cause without securing a certificate of approval from Connecticut's Public Welfare Council, and breaching the public peace.
In their demurrer to the information, the Cantwells pointed out that the prosecutor's information made it difficult to tell exactly what statutes the prosecutor relied upon as creating the offenses listed. Further, the Cantwells contended that the statutes they presumed to be involved were each unconstitutional as applied in the case, because each infringed on the freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of religion, and right of assembly.
The Cantwell's demurrer was well-received by the Court. Judge Joseph Pickett sustained the demurrer as to the first three of the five charges, leaving only the charges for unauthorized solicitation and breach of the peace. Though Judge Pickett did not find any of the statutes to be unconstitutional, he took a highly libertarian view of the matter:
Much that appears in these publications would give offense to devout persons of [Catholic, Protestant, or Jewish] religious persuasions, if forced upon their attention. Most persons would ignore such emanations as unworthy of serious attention . ... I can comprehend no useful purpose for this writing or publication of such matter, but I am as little willing to declare them unlawful per se as I would be to declare that a Christian may not argue the Divinity of Christ, a Jew deny it and a Confucianist ignore it as a legend ... . I can see little danger to either government or any substantial religion resulting from stupid, bigoted or fanatical attack.
The judge concluded that the prosecutor could prove that the Cantwells committed a common-law offense only if they forced their materials "upon the unwilling attention" of persons who would then be stirred to breach the peace.
[FIVE MONTHS LATER w]hen the case went to trial on September 23, 1938, the prosecutor had a tricky time establishing[for the court the required legal] elements of his [criminal] case, precisely because [the prosecution's] witnesses were too indifferent about the [Jehovah's] Witnesses -- [or simply did not understand the intricacies of the criminal prosecution]. In particular, the Cantwells were charged with breaching the peace by conduct tending to incite others to breach the peace. The prosecutor [was required] to show that the Cantwells had provoked someone to the brink of violence or some other disruption. No one seemed to care that much about the Cantwells -- [or simply did not understand the intricacies of the criminal prosecution]. For example, Anna Rigby, the [1930s HOUSEWIFE] who first complained to the police about her visit from Russell Cantwell, testified that the visit made her angry, but she did not [understand] what more the prosecutor wanted her to say. The prosecutor's questions [necessarily] became more and more leading until the defense finally objected, at which point the prosecutor seized the opportunity to clue Rigby in through his argument to the judge:
I claim that I haven't elicited everything as to the woman's feeling that she wanted to take, perhaps, an active step in doing something to this fellow or something in the form of physical violence to him. I claim that I have a right to go into the workings of her mind under common law breach of the peace- that having met with this situation and having her religion attacked as it is in these pamphlets, she felt like, as we put it vulgarly, perhaps, doing something to inflict violence on him, although she is a woman. She was so worked up that she wanted, perhaps, to resort to violence and hit or strike him, in addition to what she has already said.
Defense counsel pointed out the obvious fact that the prosecutor was putting the words he wanted to hear into the witness's mouth. Rigby finally took the hint and testified that she "really was mad enough, I suppose, to hit him if he wouldn't get away."
The prosecutor had to use a similar technique with John Ganley, one of the men who listened to the Enemies record played by Jesse Cantwell on Cassius Street:
Q: I will put it again. After hearing this record ...
A: Yes, sir.
Q: What was your reaction? Did you want to do something or nothing about it? Did you want to do something?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: What did you want to do?
A: I just wanted him to take that victrola and get out of there.
Q: Did you want to beat him up or do anything like that?
It was only through that kind of repetitious and highly suggestive leading questions that the prosecutor could get any witness to [testify] that he or she [had] felt any violent impulse toward the [Jehovah's] Witnesses [back 5 months ago].
The Cantwells did not put on a defense. At the close of the case, the judge sentenced Newton Cantwell and his two sons to pay a fine of [$5.00] per count, plus the costs of the prosecution. The judgment against the Cantwell family came to a total of $145.94. The judge also enjoined the Cantwells from further preaching within the county until their appeal was heard.
The Cantwells appealed to the Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut. The court held that the certificate statute was not unconstitutional since it regulated solicitation, not religion. The [Jehovah's] Witnesses could preach and distribute free literature without a license.
The state's interest in protecting its citizens from fraud justified the restriction on solicitation. However, the court did find that there was not enough evidence to convict Russell or Newton Cantwell for breach of the peace. The only act committed by the Cantwells that could even conceivably have been an incitement to violence was the playing of the Enemies record, and only Jesse Cantwell had done that.
Close examination of the facts underlying the CANTWELL case thus reveals more than a simple story of heroic individual resistance to widespread public hostility, violent treatment, antagonistic police, and repressive local courts. In the months before their arrest in New Haven, the Cantwells participated in an orchestrated campaign of provocation in northern Connecticut. Despite that, there was little controversy or interest surrounding the [Jehovah's] Witnesses' activities in New Haven. Far from having their minds made up against the [Jehovah's] Witnesses, the local judges took a libertarian view of the Cantwell's activities and threw out most of the charges. Despite the aggressively anti-Catholic content of Witnesses' message, the individuals that the Cantwells approached in New Haven were no more than mildly annoyed, and it took considerable effort on the prosecutor's part to elicit any testimony suggesting the Cantwell's conduct could have provoked a violent response.
[Author Shawn Francis Peters' t]rying to fit each of the [Jehovah's] Witnesses' cases to a standard story pattern also risks oversimplification of the legal meaning and significance of the courts' decisions. Subtleties are lost when historians frame each case as a contest between freedom and repression, and reflexively treat each ruling in the [Jehovah's] Witnesses' favor as an unmitigated victory for civil liberties. [SCOTUS] Justice Owen Roberts' unanimous opinion in CANTWELL overturned all of the convictions, and consequently it has been treated as a crucial victory for individual religious freedom by the legal histories of the [Jehovah's] Witnesses. The reality of the decision is more complicated.
CANTWELL was the first case in which [SCOTUS] held that the First Amendment right to free exercise of religion provides protection against the actions of state and local governments, not just the federal government. However, the Court offered an extremely weak form of protection to free exercise of religion, indicating that the Cantwells were not entitled to any special exemptions from the application of general laws that conflicted with their religious beliefs or practices. The Cantwells prevailed only because the Court concluded that the laws under which they were convicted were unconstitutional as a general matter. The Cantwells' special religious needs did not compel any special treatment or scrutiny of the law.
The principal constitutional vice of the Connecticut statute requiring a license to engage in religious solicitation was the excessive discretion it gave to government officials to determine what constituted a religious cause. [Justice Owen ] Roberts described an alternative law that he would find to be constitutional: "Without doubt a State may protect its citizens from fraudulent solicitation by requiring a stranger in the community, before permitting him publicly to solicit funds for any purpose, to establish his identity and his authority to act for the cause which he purports to represent."
Footnote 123. The CANTWELL decision received only moderate and quiet attention at the time it was announced. There was little reaction to the decision in the New Haven newspapers. The editors of the Journal-Courier opined that the Court's decision in favor of the Witnesses was the right one, but that the issue of how to prevent nuisances and frauds without infringing religious freedom remained unanswered. ... Similarly, the paper mildly criticized the Court's decision two weeks later in the case concerning the Witnesses' refusal to salute the flag.
The Cantwells would not have been able to comply with that law. The Jehovah's Witnesses believed it would insult God to seek approval of any sort from secular officials to engage in their most important religious work, preaching to the public. The Cantwells, after all, were not in trouble because the state refused to issue them a certificate. They, like other [Jehovah's] Witnesses, had never applied for one.
Likewise, [Justice Owen] Roberts overturned the Cantwells' conviction for breach of the peace because it was unconstitutional as a general matter, not because it was subject to heightened scrutiny in a case where it interfered with particular religious beliefs or practices. Roberts noted that the breach of peace offense was "based on a common law concept of the most general and undefined nature." Though such a flexible offense may have many constitutional uses, the state still "may not unduly suppress free communication of views, religious or other, under the guise of conserving desirable conditions." The fact that the Cantwells were Jehovah's Witnesses, or even that they were religiously motivated at all, was not essential to Roberts' decision. As with the licensing statute, the problem was excessive discretion: "Here we have a situation analogous to a conviction under a statute sweeping in a great variety of conduct under a general and indefinite characterization, and leaving to the executive and judicial branches too wide a discretion in its application."
Rather than giving special leeway to the Cantwells because of their religious motives, [Justice] Roberts found that they simply did not commit the offense in question, once that offense was narrowed to its constitutional limits. Their conduct "did not amount to a breach of the peace." Again, Roberts went out of his way to emphasize that he was not asking the state to tread especially lightly around the religious needs of the Witnesses:
Conviction ... was not pursuant to a statute evincing a legislative judgment that street discussion of religious affairs, because of its tendency to provoke disorder, should be regulated, or a judgment that the playing of a phonograph on the streets should in the interest of comfort or privacy be limited or prevented. Violation of an Act exhibiting such a legislative judgment and narrowly drawn to prevent the supposed evil, would pose a question differing from that we must here answer. Such a declaration of the State's policy would weigh heavily in any challenge of the law as infringing constitutional limitations.
In essence, [Justice] Roberts provided the Connecticut legislature with a convenient recipe for enacting a statute that would be constitutional and could still accomplish the same thing as the offense with which the Cantwells were charged. The problem Roberts saw was a general one, an excessively broad interpretation of the offense. The CANTWELL decision did not hinge on any determination that the burden on the practices of the Cantwells or the [Jehovah's] Witnesses justified any special treatment for them.
Indeed, one significant hint that should have alerted historians like [Shawn Francis] Peters to the fact that CANTWELL is not an unqualified affirmation of libertarian free exercise doctrine is the opinion's author. Justice Roberts voted against the [Jehovah's] Witnesses in both of the cases concerning their refusal to participate in flag salutes. The first of those decisions, Minersville School District v. Gobitis, came down just two weeks after CANTWELL. Even when the majority of the Supreme Court had a change of heart and ruled in the [Jehovah's] Witnesses' favor a few years later in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, Justice Roberts signed on to Justice Frankfurter's dissent.
CANTWELL is not the unequivocal triumph for religious liberty suggested by [Shawn Francis] Peters and other historians recounting the Witnesses' legal efforts. In recent years, it has been cited as support by both sides in the Supreme Court's heated controversy over the Free Exercise Clause.
In the latest case involving Jehovah's Witnesses to make its way to the Supreme Court, CANTWELL emerged as a crucial precedent against the [Jehovah's] Witnesses' position, because Justice Roberts' opinion endorses the constitutionality of the very sort of solicitation registration requirement that the [Jehovah's] Witnesses now seek to invalidate. The significance of the decision as legal precedent is far more complicated and less favorable to the [Jehovah's] Witnesses than historical accounts like [Shawn Francis] Peters' book suggest, as they seek to force each case to fit the standard story which only has two endings - a heartbreaking defeat or a ringing triumph for liberty. The legal reality is not that simple.
THE "UNCELEBRATED" SECRET 2005 JEHOVAH'S WITNESS SCOTUS VICTORY
BENITEZ v. WALLIS
(consolidated with CLARK v. MARTINEZ
) was a 2005 SCOTUS Victory
which involved a Cuban Jehovah's Witness named Daniel Benitez. In January 2005, in a 7-2 decision, the SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
ruled that "inadmissible aliens"
, who have been court-ordered "removed" from the United States due to their criminal conduct, cannot he held by the U.S. Government for more than six months after the removal order becomes final. Thereafter, if the "inadmissible alien"
can show "no significant likelihood of removal in the reasonably foreseeable future"
, then that alien must be conditionally released. This SCOTUS
ruling allowed the release of about 1000 illegal "Mariel Cuban" immigrants, who were being held "indefinitely" for "removal", practically all due to previous criminal convictions, because Cuba would not accept them back.
The CLARK case was an appeal by the Government from the Ninth Circuit, in which an "inadmissible alien", named Martinez, had been ordered released by the USDC, which was affirmed by the USCA. The BENITEZ case was an appeal by Cuban citizen, Daniel Benitez, who had lost his case for release at both the USDC and Eleventh Circuit levels. The USDC concluded that the I.N.S.'s determinations that Benitez posed a danger to the community, and was likely to engage in further violent behavior, were facially legitimate and bona fide reasons to detain Benitez until removal to Cuba was possible. The USCA agreed.
After his SCOTUS Victory, Daniel Benitez proclaimed:
"I think this is a victory for Jehovah God, who gave us freedom and the right to be free."
Born in Havana, *Cuba, in 1958, Daniel Benitez was reared by his Jehovah's Witness Mother after his father died of a heart attack in 1968. In 1980, Benitez, 22, who was serving prison time for armed robbery, was "shipped" to the United States during the infamous six months long "Mariel Boatlift", which occurred during the Jimmy Carter administration. That was when Fidel Castro forced and/or allowed 125,000 Cubans -- many of whom were convicts, Jehovah's Witnesses, other "undesirables", and especially combinations thereof -- to leave Cuba and enter the United States illegally. Benitez was picked up by the I.N.S. in Key West, in June 1980, briefly detained, placed on "immigration parole" (despite his criminal record), and then allowed to live and work with an Uncle in Miami, Florida. [*Non-JWs should be aware that communist Cuba has a significant JW population. There are roughly 90,000 "active" JWs (those JWs who submit monthly recruiting reports), who attend the 1270 congregations on the island. Approximately 215,000 Cubans attend some JW services. Compare that total with a mere 1,090,000 "active" JWs here in the United States.]
FLORIDA v. BENITEZ. In 1983, Benitez was convicted in Dade County, Florida, of second degree grand theft, but he was only sentenced to three years' probation (probably a plea bargain). Benitez also married a Venezuelan woman in 1983, but they eventually divorced. In 1985, Benitez's application for permanent resident status was denied because of that criminal conviction.
FLORIDA v. BENITEZ. In 1993, Benitez was convicted in Dade County, Florida, of two counts of armed robbery, armed burglary of a conveyance, armed burglary of a structure, aggravated battery, carrying a concealed firearm, unlawful possession of a firearm while engaged in a criminal offense, and unlawful possession, sale, or delivery of a firearm with an altered serial number. This was another "plea deal", so it is not known just how many separate incidents that all of such charges represent. Benitez was finally sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Shortly thereafter, Benitezís "immigration parole" was revoked, and the I.N.S. immediately initiated removal proceedings. In December 1994, the USDC determined Benitez to be "excludable", and ordered Benitez to be "removed". The specifics are not clear, but Benitez apparently was paroled from state prison in 2001, but then held in federal custody under the 1994 removal order. Since Cuba refused to allow his return, Benitez's incarceration was effectively "indefinite".
In September 2003, Benitez was notified that he was eligible for parole contingent on his completion of a drug-abuse treatment program. Benitez completed the program, and on October 15, 2004, Benitez was released from federal custody to a Florida half-way house. Thereafter, Benitez went to live with his older brother, Roberto Benitez, who reportedly is a Jehovah's Witness who lives in Hialeah, Florida. In late March 2005, Daniel Benitez died of an apparent heart attack. There are "hints" that Benitez may have visited WatchTower Society world headquarters, in Brooklyn, just before he died, and if so, probably also the WBTS's Legal Department, in Patterson, New York.
In a statement regarding Benitez's death, the attorney who had represented Benitez in his SCOTUS Victory skirted the fact that Benitez had been reared in a Jehovah's Witness home in Cuba, and had lived amongst Jehovah's Witness family members here in the United States, when he told reporters: "While [Benitez] was in prison, he became a Jehovah's Witness. He was a very spiritual, religious man. I thought he was an extremely good person, and I thought the world of him."
CARBALLO v. LUTTRELL was a similar case to BENITEZ that also bounced around the federal courts in the early 2000s. Reynero Arteaga Carballo arrived in Florida in May 1980, and like Benitez was placed on "immigration parole", after a brief detention. Carballo only admitted a few minor convictions to the I.N.S. Amongst these was a 1973 conviction and six months jail term for unspecified "Jehovah's Witness" activities, and a 1975 conviction and three months jail term for "desertion" from Cuba's military, which likely related to his being a Jehovah's Witness.
FLORIDA v. CARBALLO. After his release, Carballo quickly developed an extensive criminal record. Carballo's first arrest came on August 28, 1980, in Dade County, Florida, for grand larceny, carrying a concealed weapon, and carrying an unlicensed firearm. Those charges were dismissed for unknown reasons.
FLORIDA v. CARBALLO. By early 1983, Carballo's criminal record included at least 16 arrests. The minor stuff included aggravated assault, burglary, battery, trespassing, and possession of marijuana.
In April 1983, Carballo was convicted of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and robbery. In what was probably a plea deal, Carballo received a 21 year prison sentence.
Thereafter, CARBALLO followed much of what happened in BENITEZ. Carballo's "immigration parole" was revoked after the 1983 conviction, and after he was paroled from state prison, in 1994, he was detained by the I.N.S. Shortly thereafter, Carballo was ruled an "inadmissible alien", and ordered "removed". However, given Cuba's refusal to allow such, Carballo was also detained "indefinitely", and he too began the legal journey to freedom. Carballo possibly lost at the USDC level, and won at the USCA level, but may never have been released due to "conditions". Outcome after BENITEZ unknown.
DAVID SEBASTIAN-SOLER v. U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL involved another Cuban Jehovah's Witness benefited by the 2005 SCOTUS decision discussed above. David Sebastian-Soler "immigrated" from Cuba to the United States in 1969; obtained permanent resident status in 1974; and applied to file for naturalization in 1987. At a March 1988 INS proceeding, David S. Soler signed a petition for naturalization that included Soler's intent to take an oath of allegiance should his application be granted. On the back of the form was the Oath of Allegiance for citizenship. Due to his WatchTower beliefs, David Soler signed a modified Oath of Allegiance that omitted the commitments to bear arms on behalf of the Country and to perform non-combatant service in the military.
The INS reviewed Soler's application three times during the next two years and ultimately recommended it be denied because Soler had failed to submit documentation requested back in 1988. In October 1990, Soler sent the requested documentation proving his affiliation with the Jehovah's Witnesses, as well as his official driving record due to his poor driving record. INS recommended approval in March 1991.
In June 1991, the INS mailed notice to Soler informing him of the final hearing on his petition before a USDC in which he was to participate and to take the oath of citizenship. It was returned to the INS. The INS twice more sent notices to Soler's previous address that were returned without his receiving them. In January 1993, the INS notified another final hearing on his petition. In September 1993, INS notified a hearing before the USDC to consider the INS's recommendation that Soler's petition be denied for lack of prosecution. In December 1993, the USDC denied Soler's application.
In May 1992, David Sebastian-Soler began a criminal career that lasted until November 1995, and culminated in his seven-count felony conviction in May 1997. Petitioner was convicted for "Conspiracy to transport, receive and sell Stolen Goods in Interstate and Foreign Commerce" and "Transportation of Stolen Goods in Interstate Commerce".
After October 1990, David Sebastian-Soler did not inquire about the status of his naturalization petition until over nine years later --- in June 2000, while he was serving a 77-month sentence in federal prison for his felony convictions. On Soler's release in September 2002, the INS initiated removal proceedings due to Soler's commission of an aggravated felony. The IJ sustained the charge of removability; found Soler ineligible for relief or asylum; and ordered his removal to Cuba. On appeal the BIA summarily affirmed the IJ's decision, making it the final agency determination on the matter. In May 2005, the USCA dismissed Soler's appeal. However, thanks to the 2005 SCOTUS decision, Soler presumably was released after being held for removal for only six months.
FLORIDA v. BLANCO (1982) was a 1982-2008 Florida murder court decision. (Yes, that's 26 years, and millions of dollars, in wasted time and expense of one state and federal lawsuit after another.) Omar Blanco is another Cuban Jehovah's Witness dumped onto Florida's shores during the 1980 Mariel boatlift, when he was approximately 30 years old. Omar Blanco was reared in Cuba as a Jehovah's Witness by Jehovah's Witness Parents, who reportedly over the years suffered much "persecution" for their WatchTower beliefs. Omar Blanco reportedly also personally suffered "persecution" due to his being a Jehovah's Witness, including one or more jail/prison terms, as reported by a fellow Cuban JW. Little is known about Blanco's adulthood in Cuba, except that he had a wife, or possibly ex-wife, and one or more children. (Blanco remarried after arriving in the United States.) Given that no family accompanied him in 1980, it is a good possibility that he was serving jail/prison time (for what is anyone's guess) when he was shipped to the United States.
FLORIDA v. BLANCO (1981). Limited details. In 1981, Omar Blanco was convicted of armed robbery. Given the following, Blanco evidently did little or no jail/prison time for that conviction. Great call by that judge.
On January 14, 1982, at around 11:00 PM, Omar Blanco illegally entered the Fort Lauderdale home of John Ryan. Ryanís 14 year-old niece was in bed reading when she saw Blanco standing in the hallway, holding a gun, and carrying a brown purse under his arm. Blanco entered her bedroom, told her to stay quiet, and then cut the telephone wires in her room. As Blanco left the room into the hallway, he immediately encountered John Ryan. A struggle ensued during which Blanco shot Ryan. Ryan fell onto the bed, where Blanco shot Ryan six more times before fleeing the home. Blanco left behind his purse, which contained his personal ID. Blanco was apprehended shortly after the murder about a mile and a half from the crime scene. Blanco also was positively identified by the niece. In a June 1982 jury trial, Omar Blanco was convicted of armed burglary, and first degree murder, and was sentenced to the death penalty for the murder of John Ryan.
From 1982 until present, American taxpayers have footed the bill for appeal after appeal, in both state and federal courts. Blanco lost every appeal in state court, until in 1988 and 1991, when two Florida federal judges overturned (and affirmed) his death sentence on the grounds of ineffective counsel. In 1997, in a second state sentencing hearing, Blanco was again sentenced to death, and that sentence was affirmed after multiple appeals. The game is ongoing, and even the latest 2007 Florida Supreme Court decision against Blanco is likely not the last that they have heard from him.
Given that approximately 20% of "Muriel Cubans" admitted to the I.N.S. to having criminal records in Cuba, and given that the percentage of "Muriel Cubans" has been estimated by some as having included a "significant percentage" of Jehovah's Witnesses, it is anyone's guess as to how many similar cases exist.
WATCHTOWER SOCIETY ET AL v. CITY OF GAINSVILLE was a 1950-3 Texas federal court case, in which the City of Gainsville, Texas, Gainsville's Chief of Police, the County Sheriff, the School Superintendent, and several other city, county, and school officials were sued for $100,000.00 (close to $1,000,000.00 in today's dollars), after the JWs were evicted from a local junior high school while holding a weekend WatchTower convention. Hayden Covington LOST at the USDC level, LOST unanimously at the USCA level, and apparently was denied cert at the SCOTUS level.
In 1949, the school board in Gainsville, Texas, had rented the school auditorium to the JWs for a weekend convention. The JWs used such without any problems on Friday evening, and part of Saturday. However, sometime Saturday afternoon or evening, the 800 attending JWs took an intermission and went out on the streets of Gainsville and door-to-door to advertise a "public talk" on Sunday afternoon. It is not known what the JWs did, but they apparently "did something" that stirred up a hornet's nest in a town that up until then "obviously" had been fully cooperative with the JWs. Notably, there was even a Kingdom Hall and local JW congregation in Gainsville, which means that the people of this community had locals living amongst them who were JWs, and the community was already use to having JWs regularly call at their doors.
However, by the time the Saturday night program ended, a group of 30-40 angry townspeople showed up with the school superintendent, who presented the JW leaders with a refund check for the weekend rental, and told the JWs that the rental was revoked. When the JWs refused to leave, a confrontation was prevented by local police who made everyone leave.
On Sunday morning, the 800 JWs showed up for the convention, but the school building was closed. A group of 100 or so townspeople arrived and moved the JWs' sound and projection equipment, literature, etc. out of the school to "help" the JWs leave. There is no indication that any damage occurred. At some point, the only reported blow was struck, and it was a JW who struck one of the townspeople on the chest. The JWs apparently re-congregated at the local Kingdom Hall.
In any event, the townspeople apparently were so "non-violent" toward the JWs that there were no arrests of locals nor JWs. Apparently, this example of "non-violence", which got the best of the JWs, so angered the JWs that they filed this FEDERAL lawsuit, which alleged a conspiracy to deny them their constitutional rights. The USDC ruled against the JWs, who then filed an appeal, but Hayden Covington then lost in the USCA also. There was likely an appeal to SCOTUS, where the JWs evidently lost, or we would know more about this case.
Again, readers should keep in mind what is disclosed in the first paragraph above. Local JWs evidently had a good relationship with the local citizens of Gainsville, Texas, but during the influx of "out-of-town" JWs for this convention, something happened to change the locals' opinion. Despite the fact that no arrests were made that weekend, even though there was police presence on both Saturday and Sunday, and the only reported blow was one from a JW, and despite the fact that the JWs did not file any official reports or complaints, during the course of the LOST trial and appeals, and for years afterwards, the losers (JWs) attempted to paint a completely opposite picture of what happened in Gainsville that weekend, and there apparently were rewards for doing so.
First, a WatchTower "Zone Servant" later testified that, instead of stacking the convention materials on the sidewalk outside the school building in an orderly fashion, that their materials had been removed in such a fashion that much was damaged. Then, why was no official complaint filed then and there, while police were present to witness such damage?
Second, one single JW male was admittedly "kidnapped" from the scene on that Sunday. The JWs did report this "verbally" to the police, but they apparently were not even worried enough about that JW's safety to even bother to file an official complaint. One reason might have something to do with the fact that when asked to comment on such by a local reporter, one of the "JW leaders" stated that the "kidnapped JW" was given the ride out of town because "he talked too much".
Interestingly, for years thereafter, that JW painted a picture of being beaten, driven to Oklahoma, dumped, and told that he would be "hanged" if he ever returned to Gainsville. Sometime not long afterwards, that JW was rewarded by the WatchTower Society by "inviting" he and his wife to attend the WatchTower Bible School of Gilead (The original name was "Watchtower Bible College of Gilead" in the WatchTower Cult's routine modus operandi of exaggeration. In 1947/48, the WatchTower Cult was forced to change "College" to "School" because "Gilead" did not meet the New York Department of Education's standards for use of the label, "College"), and then spending only two years in Central America, before being brought back to do more recruiting in Texas.
Some of the missing facts are that this "Massachusetts JW", of Italian descent, had just arrived in Texas not long before the Gainsville convention, and that he and his wife evidently were "special pioneers" (paid WatchTower recruiters) after converting to the JWs in 1946. (It is not typical that a JW reach that level in less than three years after converting. This guy must have had some "special talent" to have been relocated from Massachusetts to Texas in such a short space of time.) Additionally, Gainsville, Texas is located on the Oklahoma border, and this JW was driven to the first major town in Oklahoma. If he had been "beaten", then why did he not file charges with either Texas or Oklahoma state authorities? This was 1949, not 1939. And, why were federal charges not filed with the FBI with regard to the "kidnapping"?
All of this tells me that, at the time, the JWs did not want state or federal law enforcement to investigate everything that occurred that weekend in Gainsville, Texas, but preferred to wait and make up their own tales, which could be told later on as they saw fit. Does anyone really believe that fellow Texan Hayden Covington was not directing everything the JWs did that weekend, and afterwards?
As just one more example of how the WatchTower Society and its Legal Department continued to pick "fight" after "fight" with anyone and everyone they could after the end of World War II, Jehovah's Witnesses "bullied" city governments over the use of public buildings and property, and also Boards of Education over the use of school buildings. There were literally dozens, if not hundreds of lawsuits and threatened lawsuits against local school systems. In contrast, some city councils were so scared of being sued by the JWs, that other local groups were asked to give up previous commitments so that the local facility could be used by the JWs on the dates desired, city councils approved the hanging of Convention banners across city streets, etc.
WATCHTOWER ET AL v. AMBRIDGE BOARD OF EDUCATION was a 1950 Pennsylvania court case, which was settled out-of-court essentially after the school system caved-in to the JWs demand that they be allowed to use the High School auditorium for a three-day convention in March 1950.
WATCHTOWER ET AL v. WOOD CO. BOARD OF EDUCATION was a 1950 Ohio appellate court decision in which an Ohio court ruled against the JWs, who claimed that a school board's refusal to rent a school auditorium for use for a weekend WatchTower convention violated the JWs' constitutional rights. The Ohio Supreme Court refused to hear the JWs' appeal, which, as usual, resulted in the JWs running all over the state of Ohio trying to rent school buildings, and then filing lawsuits against any school board that did not kowtowed to their demands. Lawsuits or threatened lawsuits followed in communities such as Bowling Green and East Liverpool.
WATCHTOWER ET AL v. KANAWHA CO. BOARD OF EDUCATION was a 1955 West Virginia appellate court decision. When the Kanawha County (Charleston, West Virginia), school board denied the JWs' rental request in 1954, the JWs sent them a threatening letter, which read in part:
It is definitely unlawful for the board of education to discriminate against religious organizations, and grant the use of such facilities to the light opera guild, unions, forums, dance recitals, political meetings, teacher associations, and numerous other uses which have been customary practice. ... I feel certain that legal action in this matter would prove embarrassing to the board. I recommend that you confer with counsel, as I know he will have to advise that your refusal would violate, not only our state, but also our national constitutions.
A few weeks later, the JWs honored their promise to sue when a lawsuit was filed in state court requesting that the Kanawha County Board of Education be compelled to rent school buildings to the JWs. The lawsuit was dismissed at trial level, and the West Virginia Supreme Court affirmed. WatchTower Legal Department then attempted to take this case to SCOTUS, but SCOTUS denied certiori.