Rutherford's smear campaign (a must read)

by Leolaia 198 Replies latest watchtower scandals

  • Leolaia

    There has been some interest recently about the Moyle case, and how it may have set a precident in what became the Society's disfellowshipping policy. In July 1939, the chief legal counsel of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, Olin R. Moyle, resigned from his position in a protest over conditions at Bethel and Rutherford's mistreatment of workers. He did not want to continue living under those conditions and he felt he could effect positive change for his brothers by taking such a stand. He sent Rutherford privately a resignation letter listing the reasons why he needed to step down before leaving on vacation. He did it that way because he was afraid of Rutherford's reaction had he told him in person. After he returned from his trip all hell broke loose. This thread will present that fascinating story.

    All the information on the incident is contained in the official trial transcript of Moyle's defamation lawsuit against Rutherford. However, the trial transcript is a long read and the material is not presented in chronological order. I will attempt to present excerpts of letters and other materials in chronological order to show how the story unfolded. Feel free to leave comments about the material. I will start with the letter and post with it some testimony from the trial going into further detail about the matters discussed therein.

  • Chariklo

    Bookmarking, in interested anticipation.

  • Leolaia

    The story begins with Mr. Moyle's resignation letter.

    Olin R. Moyle to J. F. Rutherford, 21 July 1939
    : "This letter is to give you notice of our intention to leave Bethel on September 1st next. These reasons for leaving are stated herein and we ask that you give them careful and thoughtful consideration.

    Conditions at Bethel are a matter of concern to all of the Lord's people. Nowhere among imperfect men can there be perfect freedom from oppression, discrimination and unfair treatment, but at the Lord's headquarters on earth conditions should be such that injustice would be reduced to the minimum. That is not the case here at Bethel and a protest should be made against it. I am in a good position to make such protest because your treatment of me has been generally kind, considerate and fair. I can make this protest in the interests of the Bethel family and of the Kingdom work without any personal interest entering into the matter.

    Treatment of Bethel Family

    Shortly after coming to Bethel we were shocked to witness the spectacle of our brethren receiving what is designated as a "trimming" from you. The first, if memory serves me correct, was a tongue lashing given to C. J. Woodworth. Woodworth in a personal letter to you stated something to the effect that it would be serving the devil to continue using our present day calendar. For that he was humiliated, called a jackass, and given a public lambasting. Others have been similarly treated. McCaughey, McCormick, Knorr, Prosser, Price, Van Sipma, Ness and others have been similarly scolded. They have been publicly called to account, condemned, and reprimanded without any previous notice. This summer some of the most unfair public reproaches have been given. J. Y. McCauley asked a question which carried with it a criticism of the present method of Watch Tower study. For that he was severely reprimanded. Your action constituted a violation of the principle for which we are fighting, towit, freedom of speech. It was the action of a boss and not that of a fellow servant. Securing an efficient mode of study with imperfect study leaders is no easy task, and no method yet produced has proved to be one hundred per cent perfect. You stated that no complaints had come to you concerning this method of study. If that be the case you have not had all the facts presented to you. There is complaint in various places that the Watch Tower studies have degenerated into mere reading lessons. It may be that the present method is the best that can be used, but in view of known limitations honest criticism should not be censored nor honest critics punished.

    Brother Worsley received a public denunciation from you because he prepared and handed to brethren a list of helpful Scripture citations on fundamental topics. How can we consistently condemn religionists for being intolerant when you exercise intolerance against those who work with you? Doesn't this prove that the only freedom permitted at Bethel is freedom to do and say that which you wish to be said and done? The Lord certainly never authorized you to exercise such high handed authority over your fellow servants.

    Since the Madison Square Garden meeting there has been a distressing condition of restraint and suspicion at Bethel. The ushers were placed in a tough spot but did an excellent piece of work. They exercised care and diligence in watching arrivals at the Garden, and prevented a number of suspicious characters from entering. They were on the job immediately when the disturbance started and quelled a disturbance which would have otherwise reached serious proportions. But for two weeks following the convention there has been constant criticism and condemnation of them from you. They have been charged with dereliction of duty and labeled as "sissies". To see some of these boys break down and cry because of your unkind remarks is, to say the least, saddening.

    The brethren at Bethel have thoroughly demonstrated their loyalty and devotion to the Lord, and do not need to be berated for wrong doing. A suggestion or a kindly admonition from you would be more than sufficient to check any wrongful action, and would eliminate resentment and induce greater happiness and comfort for the whole family. You have stated many times that there are no bosses in the Lord's organization but the undeniable fact cannot be evaded that your actions in scolding and upbraiding these boys are the actions of a boss. It makes one sick at heart and disgusted to listen to them. If you will cease smiting your fellow servants Bethel will be a happier place and the Kingdom work will prosper accordingly.


    We publish to the world that all in the Lord's organization are treated alike, and receive the same as far as this world's goods are concerned. You know that is not the case. The facts cannot be denied. Take for instance the difference between the accommodations furnished to you, and your personal attendants, compared with those furnished to some of your brethren. You have many many homes, to wit, Bethel, Staten Island, California, etc. I am informed that even at the Kingdom Farm one house is kept for your sole use during the short periods you spend there. And what do the brethren at the farm receive? Small rooms, unheated thru the bitter cold winter weather. They live in their trunks like campers. That may be all right if necessary, but there are many houses on the farm standing idle or used for other purposes, which could be used to give some comfort to those who work so long and so hard.

    You work in a nice air conditioned room. You and your attendants spend a portion of the week in the quiet of country surroundings. The boys at the factory diligently work thru the hot summer months without such helps, or any effort made to give them. That is discrimination which should receive your thoughtful consideration.


    Here again is shown unequal and discriminatory treatment. One brother left Bethel some time ago for the purpose of getting married, and, so I am informed, was refused the privilege of pioneering in New York, apparently as an official disapproval of his action in leaving Bethel. On the other hand when Bonnie Boyd got married she didn't have to leave Bethel. She was permitted to bring her husband into Bethel in spite of the printed rule providing that both marrying parties should have lived there for five years.

    Harsh treatment of one and favored treatment of another is discrimination, and should not have a place in the Lord's organization.

    Filthy and Vulgar Language

    The Biblical injunctions against unclean, filthy speaking and jesting have never been abrogated. It is shocking and nauseating to hear vulgar speaking and smut at Bethel. It was stated by a sister that was one of the things you had to get used to at Bethel. The loudest laughter at the table comes when a filth or near filthy joke goes through, and your skirts are not clear.


    Under your tutelage there has grown up a glorification of alcohol and condemnation of total abstinence which is unseemly. Whether a servant of Jehovah drinks alcoholic liquor is none of my business, except in giving a helping hand to a brother who is stumbled thereby. Whether I am a total abstainer is nobody's business but my own. But not so at Bethel. There appears to be a definite policy of breaking in newcomers into the use of liquor, and resentment is shown against those who do not join them. The claim is made, "One can't be a real Bethelite without drinking beer." Shortly after we arrived it was arrogantly stated, "we can't do much with Moyle, but we'll make a man out of Peter." A New York brother intimated that I was out of harmony with the truth and with the Society because I didn't drink liquor. A New York sister stated that she had never used liquor or served it until some of the Bethel boys insisted upon it. A brother who used to drink liquor to excess became a total abstainer after getting the truth. He knew that a single drink of liquor would start him off to his former drinking habits, but in spite of that brethren from Bethel insisted upon his imbibing liquor and inferred that he was out of harmony with the organization through refusing. Total abstainers are looked upon with scorn as weaklings. You have publicly labeled total abstainers as prudes and therefore must assume your share of the responsibility for the Bacchus like attitude exhibited by members of the family.

    These are a few of the things which should have no place in the Lord's organization. There are other more grievous injustices but I have had no personal contact with them and therefore do not discuss them.

    It hasn't been an easy or pleasant task to write these things to you, and it's still harder to make this protest effective by leaving Bethel.

    We sold our home and business when we came to Bethel and fully intended to spend the rest of our lives at this place in the Lord's service. We leave in order to register most emphatically our disagreement with the unjust conditions related in this letter. We are not leaving the Lord's service but will continue to serve Him and His organization as fully as strength and means will allow.

    Neither am I running away from battling the Devil's crowd in the courts. I expect to return to the private practice of law, probably in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and hope to be in the fight in every way possible. With this letter I am enclosing a statement of the major cases now pending in which I am actively participating. It would be unreasonable and unfair to drop these matters into your lap without further assistance or consideration. I am ready and willing to press these issues in the courts just as vigorously and carefully as though I remained at Bethel, and will do so if that is your desire.

    We have considered this action for some time, but this letter is delivered to you just as we are leaving on a vacation trip for very specific reasons. First: It is desirable that you take time for thought and consideration of the matters herein set forth before taking any action. Hasty and ill considered action might be regrettable. Second: Frankly I have no desire for a verbal argument with you over these matters. I have had plenty of occasion to observe that a controversial matter does not receive a calm and reasoned discussion of the facts. Too often it turns into a denunciation of some person by you.

    I am not interested in that kind of a wordy battle. These statements are the reasons presented by Sister Moyle and myself for leaving Bethel. If we speak erroneously or wrongfully we are responsible before the Lord for so speaking. If we speak truthfully, and we stoutly content that everything here related is the truth, then there is an immediate responsibility on your part to remedy the conditions necessitating this protest. May the Lord direct and guide you into fair and kindly treatment of your fellow servants is my wish and prayer.

    Your Brother in the King's service,

    Olin R. Moyle.

    P.S. Should you desire to write to me concerning these matters during vacation a letter will reach me at Ticonderoga, New York, General Delivery after July 29th.

  • undercover


  • Leolaia

    The matters in the letter were elucidated further in the 1943 civil lawsuit:

    #2 OLIN R. MOYLE
    A. You mention in here, I believe, Mr. Woodworth and Mr. Van Sipma and Mr. Ness and others as having been what you termed trimmed publically, that Mr. Woodworth was called a jackass, and that MacAulay and McCormick and Knorr and Price and Van Sipma and others had been scolded and upbraided severely and publicly reprimanded, is that true? A. That is true....Q. Did they ever object to you concerning the correction that they received from Judge Rutherford as the head of the Family? A. One of them told me that he certainly did not like receiving that kind of treatment. Q. And who was it. A. Nathan Knorr....Q. You say here that they were labeled as 'sissies'. Is that what they were called? A. That is what Mr. Rutherford labeled them at the table.... Q. Do you recall some incident in July involving a chair with Mr. Rutherford? A. During the conferences over the Madison Square meetings we were called into the room, I think they call it the radio lobby or audition room, by Mr. Rutherford. There a number of us, Grant Suiter was one, myself and two or three others, were there and Mr. Rutherford, right after breakfast table. As we entered the room and were waiting for the others he sat down in a stenographer's chair, a small swivel chair. The chair tipped back and almost threw him onto the floor and he rose up from the chair and grabbed it with his hands and threw it the whole length of the room towards the center of the room....

    Q. You state in here regarding discrimination on the part of the Judge to his own self against the other members of the Family. Just what are the facts upon which you base that?... A. His accommodations on the seventh floor, his air-cooled room, compared with the quarters under which the boys worked in the factor, compared to the quarters which the farm lads had out on the farm. I thought that was discrimination....The boys in the Bethel, especially those at the farm, had very small rooms and they were unheated....It was small enough so that with the bed and two trunks and I believe this small dresser, there was precious little room, not much room to spare to go around....The point of the objection was that the claim was made that all at Bethel were on a par, were equal, we were all alike, we were all Brethren, there was no boss, no one had rights any better than the others. The point I was making was of discrimination, that he had many places, not just a room; a whole house, and from what we heard, a very commodious one in California, whereas some of the boys, especially those on the farm, had dinky little rooms and without heat. That is the point of the discrimination....Q. What was there about holding an elevator open for Mr. Rutherford at times? Do you know anything about that? A. Very frequently, especially on Sunday evenings, the elevator would be held open for him. I might state that the elevator there is a self-operating one and used by the members there to go up to the different floors and when Mr. Rutherford and his group were returning from Staten Island or elsewhere this elevator would be held open for them and those who went up to the upper floors would have to walk up during that time. Q. Is that the only one in the place? A. That is the only one in the place. Q. Was that held open for long periods of time? A. Quite lengthy periods, sometimes....Q. You say that the Judge violated one of the rules in the case of Bonnie Boyd, is that correct? A. The point I made was that there was discrimination. Q. He discriminated? A. Yes. Q. What facts do you base the discrimination upon? A. On the information given, that the one person [Bonnie Boyd] married and was allowed to bring her partner into the organization, and the other person [Eddie Broad] married had to leave, and was not even permitted to do pioneer work in that locality....

    Q. Now, tell us what facts you base these charges on in the first paragraph under the heading 'Liquor'? Q. First I mentioned the fact that I was a total abstainer was nobody's business but my own, but at Bethel it appeared not to be case. That was so. After I went there I made no claims or anything as to my own drinking. I told nobody that I was a drinker or not a drinker at all. But after we had been there a while there would be allusions to it as we would go up and down the elevator. The boys would remark there, make allusions, wish they had a barrel of beer around, how nice a barrel of beer would be, which I took to be aimed specifically at me as being a total abstainer. Other cases, another member, not of Bethel but on the outside, a man by the name of Nelson, one of the Jehovah's Witnesses in one of the units around there, told me one time I wasn't in harmony with the Society if I did not drink liquor. I had been offered liquor at his place and declined it. Q. What else? A. This policy of breaking in newcomers there, we heard that from several different persons...Beer was served some nights at the factory when they were working overtime and I heard of some of the boys bringing in stronger stuff....It was the attitude towards it. I have no objection to anyone drinking beer or wine, that is their own affair, as I state in the letter, and remarks were made at the table casually by the president, Rutherford, concerning that, and at one time he did label total abstainers as prudes, a term which I did not think was applicable....Q. What did he say? What is it particularly that gave rise to that statement? Q. I may have these mixed up a little bit, but if I remember right, that was in connection with the case which happened when the boys were working overtime at the factory were served some beer, and that night in the very late hours the alarm bell in the Bethel rang, and there was quite a search and disturbance over it and an investigation was made. The president of the organization inquired at the table several times as to who pushed that button and rang that bell during those late evening hours, and in the course of that discussion it came up that possibly someone of the boys did drink too much, and feeling the effects of it had pushed that button and rang the bell as a joke in those late hours. There was further discussion of it and in the course of that discussion the Judge did make the statement that those who didn't drink at all were prudes. Q. Did he approve of pushing the bell by the boy that had too much? Q. Most decidedly not....

    Q. And you withdrew without seeing first that he had somebody else to take your place or trying to settle these matters with him? Did you ever go to the Judge and talk with him and try to settle these matters? ... A. Because in the time that I was there, when I had seen the cases where people having an idea in opposition to him were scolded severely. They were not given any chance to speak, and as I stated in the letter, were trimmed. Q. Trimmed? A. Yes, sir, scolding, in other words. Q. Who were they? A. George Hannan was one. Q. Who else? A. McCormick was another. Q. What were the facts in each one of those cases? A. George Hannan's case was in connection with this Madison Square Garden riot. George was one of the ushers and at one of the sessions concerning those ushers the claim was made against George that he had not performed his duties properly. George tried to explain. The Judge shut him off as quick as that. He said, 'You needn't say any more,' in a strong, brutal, rough tone of voice. Q. What else? A. And these other cases that I have mentioned in the letter. Q. What are the circumstances? A. They were similar. Q. What are the similarities? A. Take the case of C. J. Woodworth, which is mentioned. Woodworth sent a letter to the Judge as we were sitting at the table in which he made reference to a calendar. Woodworth had written an article on the calendar in which he had developed a new form of calendar, and in this private note to the Judge he stated that he felt as though he was using the devil's tools or using something of the devil in using the old calendar, and that day at noon the Judge jumped upon Woodworth without warning, calling him a jackass, and Woodworth said, 'Yes, Brother Rutherford, I presume I am a jackass.' 'Yes, you are a jackass,' he said, and Woodworth said, 'I am sorry.' 'Yes, you always say you are sorry. I am sick and tired of it,' and he put it much more forcibly than I could ever do....Q. What is there about the word jackass that you object to? A. I don't have any objection to the word jackass. I did have the objection to a man, the head of a Christian organization as it is claimed, using his brethren in that manner. That is one of the reasons why I sent that letter.....There were two scoldings given to MacAulay. One was shortly after we came there. The cause of it was prior to our coming there, but from the conversation at the time it appeared that MacAulay had asked some letter to be returned concerning some actions of C. J. Woodworth and Judge Rutherford scolded MacAulay very, very severely....He told MacAulay that he was butting in on things which were no concern of his, that if he continued to do such things, he had better pack up and get out. His voice was loud and strong....Q. You mentioned also in the letter an incident about Worsley? Yes. Tell us about that. A. Worsley was a young man who sat at my table. He had some position in the Brooklyn unit of the company, and the Judge spoke to him one day at the dinner table very roughly and in a loud voice, and accused him of going forward on his own hook preparing a paper or list of Scripture citations and giving it to the members of the Brooklyn unit without his authority. He scolded him. He made reference to the fact that he was English, and that the English always considered themselves altogether too smart and running ahead, and removed him from the official position which he had with the Brooklyn unit. And the thing which he did was giving this paper with Scripture citations on to help the members of the unit in their work on calling on the people. Q. Did you state when and where this took place? A. This took place at the dinner table while the family were eating dinner. Q. About when? A. That was about the third year I was there. Q. What was his tone of voice then? A. Angry and loud.


    Q. At these times that you mentioned at the meetings, and particularly the meeting at Bethel, was Mr. Rutherford's attitude at that time such as a father towards a son? A. I don't recollect of ever seeing an occasion like that in my lifetime. Q. What was his attitude? A. Well, the attitude was one of being autocratic, austere and officious....Q. Did you hear any smutty stories or talk at the table? A. I did. Q. Can you give us any details about that? A. Yes. One instance, I think it was after the Madison Square Garden meeting, a lad at the end of one of the tables told of his experience in meeting a woman.... and he was out selling the books that day, and she said that she believed that what he had was the truth and that she would tell her priest what kind of a son-of-a-bitch, I guess it was ... bastard was the word that was used. She spoke of telling her priest what a bastard he was and the Judge at the end of the table said, well, he didn't know about him being a bastard but he knew that he had a lot of little bastards running around. Q. Was that said in the open? A. Yes, sir, that was said at the table. Q. And they did indicate that they heard it by any commotion? A. They laughed. Q. And were there any other occasions when you heard any bad language? A. Well, going up and down the elevator at the office we used to hear plenty of it and I remember one time going back into the ladies' rest room, and I suppose my face was pretty well flushed, and one of the women [Helen Howlett] said — she laughed to think that I was blushing, and she said, 'You will get used to that. I used to blush when I first came here but we get used to that after a while' .... Q. Was there anything whereby Mr. Rutherford was referring to a Scandinavian accent? A. I don't recall a Scandinavian accent, but we had a man sat at the table, Dececca, his name was, and the Judge would seem to delight in calling on him, and when he had answered he would imitate him and mimic him and used to tell him to talk English so he could understand him. Q. Did the Judge say anything about his attitude towards women on any occasion? A. So often he did. Q. What did he say? A. I can't remember. We would go back to the office just heartsick with the stuff he said....Q. Were you present at any of the these occasions if they occurred of scoldings by Mr. Rutherford of Mr. Woodworth? And MacAulay, McCormick, Knorr, Prosser, Van Sipma, and Ness? A. I think I heard them all. Q. And also Worsley? A. I think so. Q. What was the attitude of Mr. Rutherford on those occasions? A. Well, he would yell at them. Worsley, he didn't give Worsley a chance to answer and just took away his job at the Brooklyn unit, and later he was put back in. Q. Was it an attitude such as a father towards his son? A. Hardly. Q. Do you remember anything about a matter affecting Elizabeth Galyas? A. I do...She worked in the Mailing Department. There were three other boys working there and she and I were friends, very good friends....Well, they had been telling smutty stories to her and this day, when I was filing, she stood right up to them and said, 'I don't know what you think I am, but I am not taking any more of that,' and she said, 'I am going to report you,' and they just laughed. Q. Did you see any liquor around there at any time? A. I was the empty bottles, many. Q. Where did you see them? A. The first year I worked on the third floor and I saw them in the rooms of the men and then I saw the empty bottles, the whiskey bottles; I had to take care of them and put them into the place where the houseman took them away....Q. Did you resent the action of any of your sisters or brethren towards you while at Bethel? A. Well, I did not like the inference that I was — well, that I couldn't take liquor. Q. What individual — was that a man or a woman? A. Usually the men going up in the elevator.

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run


    Do you know if Moyle broke with the Witnesses on doctrinal matters, too?

  • Leolaia

    He had some doubts he held privately. In 1938, Rutherford changed the teaching on Armageddon and the paradise earth, with new light that the paradise would be repopulated mostly by the Jonadabs who would reproduce and "fill the earth" with their offspring. Moyle did not feel that was scriptural, but he was willing to wait on Jehovah. It was after experiencing a smear campaign by the Society that caused him to doubt that the Society was really Jehovah's organization.

    BTW, I would ask people commenting on this thread not to post any other material from the trial until I've concluded posting the excerpts .....I would like to present the story in chronological order. But feel free to discuss what's being posted. :)

  • EndofMysteries

    any pdf's of the original?

  • Leolaia

    While he was on vacation, he mentioned his resignation to friends he corresponded with, expressing his hopes for reform at Bethel.

    Olin R. Moyle to Brother H. L. Philbrick, 25 July 1939
    : "Here is another matter which will undoubtedly be more or less of a surprise to you. Just before leaving on vacation I presented my resignation to the Society's president to take effect September 1st. I did so as a protest against the unjust conditions at Bethel. I expect to go back to Wisconsin and open up an office for the practice of law again. You are familiar with some of the conditions existing at Bethel and therefore know the need of a protest. My resignation is a long story and I haven't the disposition or the energy to write the details this morning".

    Olin R. Moyle to H. L. Philbrick, 28 July 1939
    : "It is difficult for one on the outside to appreciate the conditions existing at Bethel. An honest facing of the facts and facts are difficult to face leads to the inescapable conclusion that a dictatorship exists there. There is no freedom of speech, or even freedom of conscience at Bethel. That is sad but true. I have not waved one inch in my allegiance to the Lord and His organization. He permits these things to continue for some good reason and will undoubtedly clean them out when in His good pleasure he deems it necessary. Nevertheless we have a responsibility to protest over wrongful conditions and that is why we are leaving this place. I have no personal controversy with Brother Rutherford, and am glad that I have not. At present it is practically impossible to discuss a controversial matter with him face to face. In my letter of resignation to him I told him that a discussion on such topics was not a calm and reasoned discussion but turned into a denunciation with him dominating the scene. That is the reason why I gave him my resignation in writing with reasons, so that he would have time to calmly consider the matter. It is depressing and hard on the nerves to even write concerning this matter. To go through it is ten times worse. Therefore we are hoping that we can still serve the Lord back in Wisconsin free from oppression and injustice".

    Olin R. Moyle to Mr. John G. Miller, 29 July 1939
    : "We are camped on the bank of Eagle Lake, which is one of the beauty spots of the Adirondacks. It is a lovely place, nice and cool, and we are getting a much needed rest. There are five of us here. Three from Philadelphia and the wife and myself.... Here is some more information which will be somewhat of a surprise to you. You have been at Bethel and know something of the conditions there. Whether they were as bad or worse at the time you were there, I do not know. They are bad enough now. JFR has been on the war path this summer and frankly speaking, there is a great deal of injustice. Table trimmings have been plentiful and a lot of other things occur which should not have a place in the Lord's organization. The Lord permits it, I presume for a good purpose, but I have felt for a long time that a good protest should be made. So we made it just before leaving for vacation. I sent the judge a letter of about five pages giving my resignation as general counsel to take effect September 1st. In that letter I protested against the unjust happenings at Bethel and urged him to remedy the conditions at Bethel. I expect to go back to Wisconsin and hang out my shingles again for the private practice of law. Whether the judge will use me any further in the cases now pending, I do not know. The extent of participation in the court battles of course depends upon what he says. This doesn't mean that I have left the truth or am leaving the truth, although I am aware that many will consider that to be the case. At Bethel it is generally considered that anyone leaving there has become a heretic. Nevertheless I still believe the Society is the Lord's organization and that he is using the judge greatly at this time. I haven't any personal set-to with the judge and am only protesting and leaving with the hope that the protest will thus be forceful enough to cause him to think and remedy the conditions, so that the brethren at Bethel can have some degree of freedom from restraint and comfort during their busy days there".

  • Ding

    Very interesting, Leo!

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