WAR arouses the greatest excitement in the public mind and under the stress of that excitement men will do things they would not even consider under normal conditions. Many acts of gross injustice are done under such pressure. In the month of June, 1918, excitement in the United States was at its highest because Americans were in the midst of the bloodiest battles of the ages. At that time, to charge one with obstructing the American army was equivalent to conviction. The war is now ended and. the time is here for sober consideration. Thousands of American citizens are asking why seven Christian gentlemen of the highest integrity should now be behind prison bars, compelled to mingle and associate with vilest criminals. To answer these questions this article is written. Every American citizen will find the keenest interest in this case; hence we give a brief resume thereof, as follows:
The United States vs. Joseph F. Rutherford, W. E. Van Amburgh, A. H. Macmillan, R. J. Martin, F. H. Robison, C. J. Woodworth and George H. Fisher, et al., is the style of the case. Indictment was returned to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, May, 1918, charging defendants with having entered into a conspiracy in violation of the Espionage Act (strictly a war measure), the overt acts charged being the publication of a book, THE FINISHED MYSTERY, and the writing of letters with the intent to cause and causing insubordination and mutiny in the army and navy.
Mr. Rutherford is the President of the International Bible Students Association, Mr. Van Amburgh the Secretary-Treasurer, and the other defendants prominent among the leaders of that great religious organization.
Charles Taze Russell, the greatest preacher of modern times, and known the world over as Pastor Russell, founded the organization in 1879. Besides the main office at American Headquarters, branch offices are maintained in nearly all European countries, in Australia and in South Africa. Pastor Russell was the President of this Association of Christians from its organization until his death, in October, 1916. Mr. Rutherford succeeded him as President and still occupies that position. The Association numbers amongst its members thousands of the noblest characters of the world. The sole purpose of the Association is to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, teach the Bible, and mentally and morally improve men and women. Therefore the prosecution of its leaders under the charge in this case is an indictment against the entire organization, and the facts herein stated show that its members have suffered as did Christians in the persecutions of the dark ages.
FROM LAW TO GOSPEL
Mr. Rutherford, a prominent lawyer, practically abandoned his large and lucrative practice in 1907, engaged in religious work under the auspices of the International Bible Students Association, and for more than eleven years, without financial remuneration, has devoted himself to this work. As a Bible lecturer he was heard by packed houses in every city in America, made three tours of Great Britain and Continental Europe, lecturing to capacity houses, and became probably the best known layman Bible lecturer in the world. Thousands today testify that Mr. Rutherford's Bible lectures and sermons have made them better citizens, better men and women, and brought joy and peace to their hearts.
Mr. Van Amburgh has been Secretary-Treasurer of this Association of Bible Students for more than fifteen years, and during that period has given his time and talent to preaching the Gospel and teaching Bible classes.
Messrs. Woodworth and Fisher, prominent citizens of Scranton, Pa., both officially connected for many years with one of the largest educational institutions of the world, both writers of ability, authors of Bible commentaries and other works, have also been widely known for twenty years or more as able lecturers and Bible teachers.
Messrs. Robison, Macmillan and Martin, men of learning and unusual ability, have given the best years of their lives to service in connection with this great religious association, having been closely and intimately associated with Pastor Russell in the dissemination of Bible truths.
All of these men labored in this religious work without pecuniary compensation, except their actual expenses. They were prompted to do so because of love for their fellow man and because of their love for and devotion to the Lord and his cause of righteousness. Why should the great democracy of the United States imprison such men? Of what crime are they guilty that would warrant the imposition of such a sentence? The overt acts charged were the publication of THE FINISHED MYSTERY and the writing of letters concerning the draft, and that the same was done with the intent to cause mutiny or insubordination in the army and navy. Without the wrongful intent there could be no violation of' this war measure, even though it be held constitutional; hence the circumstances relating to the publication of the book are important here.
Pastor Russell was the author of a series of Bible commentaries known as STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES in seven volumes, six of which were published in his lifetime, the seventh being published after his death. Volume One of this series was published in 1886, and in the preface of that volume the statement was made that there would be seven volumes. Thereafter he repeatedly stated that Volume Seven would be published in due time and would be a commentary on Revelation and the Prophecy of Ezekiel.
After the death of Pastor Russell, Messrs. Woodworth and Fisher were engaged by the Executives of the International Bible Students Association to compile and prepare the manuscript for Volume Seven of the series, much of which had been written by Pastor Russell years before. They began their work of compilation, etc., in November, 1916, and completed the manuscript early in the spring of 1917. The United States entered the world war in April, 1917. At the trial the evidence disclosed that nearly all the manuscript was completed before the United States entered the war. The Espionage Act was passed by Congress June 15, 1917, and some time before that date the manuscript was completed and in the hands of the printer. The first issue of Volume VII of the series, under the title THE FINISHED MYSTERY, appeared in July, 1917. It is a commentary on Revelation and Ezekiel, as promised by Pastor Russell The book had been expected for so long by members of the International Bible Students Association that orders for it had been accumulating in the office of the Association for several years prior to its publication. Within one week after the first issue more than thirty thousand volumes had been delivered. The demand from Bible Students became so great that nine months after the first issue 850,000 volumes had been issued. The previous volumes of Pastor Russell have had a wider circulation than any other book published, aside from the Bible.
Pastor Russell, and of course his associates and followers, taught the "oldtime religion" of Jesus and the Apostles, which holds the only hope for human kind and which briefly epitomized is as follows: That God made the first man perfect, endowing him with power to reproduce his species and fill the earth; that before that power was exercised man sinned and was sentenced to death, the sentence being gradually executed; that during the period of execution and while man was imperfect he begat and brought forth all his children; and that for this reason all were born imperfect, "as by the disobedience of one man sin entered into the world and death by sin so death has passed upon all men because all are sinners" (Romans 5:12); that God promised to redeem man from death, and that he sent Jesus into the world for this purpose, that Jesus "by the grace of God, might taste death for every man"; that Jesus was put to death as a substitute for sinful man, thereby giving his life a ransom for all, to be testified in due time"; that during the Gospel age God is not offering salvation to the world in general, but is selecting the church alone; that the church (which is the body of Christ, and not some earthly organization) when complete will be glorified with the Lord, and then will follow the kingdom of God for which Jesus taught his followers to pray; that during his reign all mankind, rich and poor, without regard to race, color or previous condition of servitude, will have one fair and impartial trial for life; that said trial will cover a period of 1,000 years, hence it is called the millennial reign of Christ; that those of mankind who refuse to obey the righteous laws of the Christ while undergoing that trial —the wilfully wicked —will be punished with everlasting destruction; that all who willingly obey shall be granted life everlasting, being restored to the condition of perfect manhood enjoyed by Adam before he sinned; that the final punishment of the wicked is not torment, eternal in duration, but complete destruction; and that life everlasting is a reward to the obedient ones.
CLERGY AND LAITY
Pastor Russell and his associates further taught and proved from the Scriptures that the Gentile Times would end in 1914, at which date the present order would begin to disintegrate, beginning with a great world war, followed by famine, pestilence, revolution and a time of trouble such as never was since the world began. (Matt 24:21) With kindness, yet with emphasis, it was pointed out from the Bible that God foretold that a clergy class would arise, distinguishing itself from the laity or common people; that such class would establish a church or churches in name only, many members being devoid of the true spirit of Christ; that in this church nominal there would be both "wheat", and "tares," that is to say, true and false Christians, and that when the end of the age would come there would be a great separation of the two classes; that among the "wheat" or true Christians would be some clergymen, but that the majority of them would depart from the Bible teaching and mingle in worldly politics, constituting an abomination in the sight of the Lord. It was further shown that the mass of the clergymen have departed from the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles; that they do not sound forth the "glad tidings of great joy which shall [ultimately] be to all people," but instead have taught and teach eternal torment, higher criticism, evolution and like false doctrines; that the clergy have become selfish and have neglected their God-given privilege of teaching the people the truth and helping them to a better hope and a better way of living. Under such conditions it is easy to be seen that Pastor Russell and his associates would not be popular with the apostate clergy class. This class of clergymen have said many harsh and unchristian things about Pastor Russell and the International Bible Students Association, and it is very evident that such things were said by them because they "could not withstand the truths" taught by these Bible Students.
THE FINISHED MYSTERY
Pastor Russell taught that the books of Revelation and Ezekiel in symbolic language distinguish the true church from the apostate or false church, the false church being symbolized by an unchaste woman, "a whore." (Rev. 17:1) THE FINISHED MYSTERY deals with these two prophetic books of the Bible, explaining the same, verse by verse. It contains a very strong arraignment of unfaithful clergymen who deceived and are deceiving the people. These facts are here stated, in order that the real motive that prompted the persecution of the International Bible Students may be understood. As the facts are examined it will be seen that the incensed clergy are the ones who worked up the public sentiment, taking advantage of the great world war to cry, "These Bible Students are disloyal and are the agents of the Huns."
The war furnished the occasion for action by the clergy and they took advantage of it. Early in January, 1918, a leading clergyman of Winnipeg, Canada, from the pulpit denounced the International Bible Students and their literature, stating that the matter was being called to the attention of the Attorney General. Within a few days an "Order in Council" was made, forbidding the circulation in Canada of THE FINISHED MYSTERY and other literature of the Bible Students, and to make this order effective several Bible Students were arrested and thrown into jail. The persecution was launched.
NO GERMAN MONEY
The charge was made that the International Bible Students were using German money for propaganda. It is a well-known fact that the Bible Students never take a collection, but that their work is supported wholly by those who, being interested in true religious work, gladly contribute their money. Under the excitement of war any charge would bring forth an investigation. Agitation started in Canada was carried throughout the United States and within a short time (about the latter part of February, 1918) Secret Service men of the Army Intelligence Bureau seized the Treasurer's books of the Bible Students Association, on the charge that money was being furnished it by the German Government. For five weeks experts examined every item of the books and of course discovered not ONE CENT came from a questionable source, and the books were voluntarily returned.
Certain selfish interests can always get what they want sent throughout the country through the public press. The press announced that THE FINISHED MYSTERY contained seditious words, violative of the Espionage Law. That announcement was first made about the latter part of February, 1918, and was the first intimation to the officers of the Bible Association that THE FINISHED MYSTERY contained any objectionable phrases. Desiring to be strictly within the law, and to do nothing that would in any way offend the Government, the Executive of the Bible Students Association sent a special messenger to Washington to examine into the allegations. This messenger called upon the censor department of the Army Intelligence Bureau and was informed that pages 247 to 252, inclusive, contained words that might be construed as objectionable.
Acting upon this information, the Association's officers directed that no more of the books be put into the hands of anyone until first the pages above indicated be removed, and it was thought that this would end the agitation. But as soon as colporteurs began to dispose of the books, even with these pages deleted, arrests were made. Immediately all sales and distribution of the books were suspended, and thereafter none were sold or disposed of during the war. Three of the officers of the Bible Students Association called at the Department of Justice in Washington, when this agitation began, to ascertain wherein the book, with the pages removed, could be objectionable, stating to the officials that if they would indicate what part is objectionable a new edition would be issued, as there was no disposition to in any manner interfere with the Government. The reply received was, "You had better have your own attorneys advise you; it is not the province of this Department to advise anyone except Government officials." The Bible Students Association engaged able attorneys to examine the book. These attorneys made two visits to the Department of Justice at Washington; and as a result of their visits it was thought the matter was adjusted.
Then the Bible Students Association issued a small paper known as KINGDOM NEWS, showing up the clergy as the ones who had caused all this agitation and trouble. Shortly thereafter an indictment was returned to the United States Court for the Eastern District of New York, charging the above-named gentlemen with conspiracy to cause and causing mutiny and insubordination in the army and navy, and charging as overt acts the publication at THE FINISHED MYSTERY and the writing of letters relative to the Selective Service Law. Defendants were arrested and, without being given adequate time to prepare their defense, were hurried to trial on the 5th day of June, 1917, with result as above stated.
PRINCIPLES CONCERNING WAR
The principles and beliefs of the International Bible Students concerning war, briefly stated, are: That there is a wide distinction between a real consecrated Christian and one who is a Christian in name only, and that the obligations of the two are different in respect to war; that it is conceded that this nation had the right to engage in war and to conscript its citizens for that purpose; that since God is dealing with the church only, at the present time, and not with the world of mankind in general, there is no prohibition in the Bible against one who is NOT a Christian engaging in war; hut when a person accepts the Lord Jesus Christ as his Saviour and fully consecrates himself to do the will of the Lord, then his obligation is to be obedient to the commands of the Lord, and that the Lord taught his followers, "Thou shalt not kill"; and that hence the fully consecrated Christian following Jesus cannot willingly and conscientiously engage in war that would result in the death of others, for to do so would work a forfeiture of his own life, and, for him, there would be no resurrection; but that such, however, would not be the case with one who is NOT a consecrated follower of Jesus. A religious conscientious objector, therefore, is one who holds and strictly adheres to the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles concerning mortal combat. Such persons could not engage in combatant military service without violating their consciences and their obligation to the Lord.
Congress recognized that there is a class of real conscientious objectors in the United States who should not be compelled to engage in combatant warfare. Hence in enacting the Selective Service Law, the following section was added:
"And nothing in this act contained shall be construed to require or compel any person to serve in any of the forces herein provided for who is found to be a member of any well recognized religious sect, or organization, at present organized and existing and whose existing creed or principles forbid its members to participate in war in any form, and whose religious convictions are against War or participation therein, in accordance with the creed or principles of said religious organization; but no person so exempted shall be exempted from service in any capacity that the President shall declare to be noncombatant."
"A HIDEOUS BIT OF MACHINERY"
In this connection we quote from THE NEW REPUBLIC (N. Y.) of January 11, 1919, as follows:
"No free state can possibly make a crime out of a refusal to serve in war when such refusal is actuated by sincere conscientious motives. We may consider such an attitude illogical, absurd. . . . But we have passed beyond the point of barbarism. To attempt by threats and penalties to force such a man into military service would be tyranny as hideous as that of the Roman proconsul who slew the seven brothers and their mother because they refused to eat swine's flesh. . . .
"The conscientious objectors in disciplinary barracks or in jails represent nothing but a part of our machinery of conscription. That was a hideous bit of machinery to use, but we were at war and did not stick at means. But now the war is over, and we have scrapped the rest of our machinery of conscription, is there the slightest reason why we should keep this least defensible part of our machinery in motion? Is there the least ground for subjecting to further privations and tortures the men who have committed no crime against the State?
"No crime? But how does it come that they are serving penitentiary terms of ten, twenty and twenty-five years? That is a result of the infinite stupidity of our war policy, which we ought not to seek to justify, but for which we ought to make amends. . . .
"Men have been manacled, confined for outrageous periods in solitary confinement, thrust into a dangerous condition of physical debility, driven insane. To what end, in God's name? In order to strike terror into the hearts of draft evaders outside: that was the only plausible reason. But then, why were not these tortures conducted in the open, where they might have exerted their supposed salutary effect? Why did not Mr. Baker's War Department bulletins run something like this: 'The Department reports with satisfaction that C. 0. John Smith has been so successfully harried that he is now a raving maniac, and the chances are excellent that he will never recover'?
"Let us forget it, grant amnesty to ourselves for it; we were only stupid, not depraved. . . . . Let us not leave it to the radicals, the sentimentalists, the sympathizers with doctrinary pacifism, to make the first move in the matter. This is not a radical issue, but an issue as old and as respectable as political liberty."
From the same publication, under date of Jan. 4. 1919, we quote the following:
"The fighting is over. America is asking the nations to consent to a peace resting upon justice. With what possible grace can we appear before the conference table as a champion of liberty when some 300 conscientious objectors and more than 1,000 prisoners under the Espionage Act are confined in abominable prisons under sentences of five, ten, twenty or thirty years for no other crime than loyalty to conviction? Surely when Americans know the truth they will demand an amnesty as the only possible proof of our sincerity in waging a war for the right of men everywhere 'to choose their way of life and obedience'."
The International Bible Students Association is a religions organization or association coming clearly within the meaning of the above section of the Selective Draft Law; and if the members of that Association are governed by religious principles or teachings that preclude them from engaging in war, then they are clearly entitled to the benefit of the law. The creed, principles and teachings of the members of this Association are set forth in the writings of Pastor Russell interpreting the Bible, and are substantially as stated above, and do preclude any consecrated member from engaging in war.
The President of the United States called upon all persons who are competent to aid young men in preparing their papers and applications for classification. Members of the International Bible Students Association throughout the United States applied to the officers of the Association to aid them in getting their proper classification. These gentlemen, the above defendants, did nothing more than to AID MEMBERS OF THE ASSOCIATION TO COMPLY WITH THE TERMS OF THE LAW. They aided in making out applications and affidavits and writing letters of advice to those who requested such aid. Yet these facts were relied upon by the prosecution, together with the publication of THE FINISHED MYSTERY to show that defendants had entered into conspiracy to cause mutiny and insubordination in the army and navy. The thought of such a conspiracy was foreign to the minds of the defendants. They never had a wish or a desire in any manner to interrupt the Government in the prosecution of the war.
The law provides that no such conscientious objector can be compelled to engage in any service except that which the President declares to be non-combatant service. It follows that there would be no service for such until the President did declare what constitutes non-combatant service, and as soon as the President made such declaration THE WATCH TOWER, the official publication of the Association, published the President's declaration in full and advised all its readers to comply with the law. We quote from the issue of May 15, 1917:
"The fundamental law of the land recognizes that every man may exercise liberty of conscience. In substance, it provides that every man may choose his own religious belief and may worship God according to the dictates of his own conscience. To worship God means to render full obedience to His holy will. To obey His will means to be governed by His law. Good men differ as to the meaning of God's law, and herein is where the law of the land justly recognizes that each man shall be at liberty to exercise his conscientious religious convictions.
"Then we say, Let every man who can with a clear conscience go to war, do so. With equal force we say that every man whose religious convictions and beliefs are against war, or participation therein, should be at liberty to exercise his conscience and therefore to request that he be relieved from the obligation to bear arms. The Congress of the United States is governed by the fundamental law of the land, and acting as the agent and servant of the people, has recognized the right of man to exercise his conscientious religious convictions against engaging in war. So what we are here saying is not speaking against the Government; but, on the contrary, we are calling attention to the right and liberty the Government recognizes and guarantees.
"Thank God for the privilege of living in the United States! While we all recognize that it is not a perfect government, yet it is the best of all earthly governments. Everyone who lives under the flag of the United States should be loyal to that Government as against all earthly governments. No citizen of this country could be a Christian and do violence to the Government of the United States. To be loyal to the Law of God he must render unto the United States Government everything that is not in contravention of the Divine law. —Romans 13:l-9."
Mr, Rutherford, the President of the Association at the request of Colonel Clohman of Camp Zachary Taylor, addressed the conscientious objectors there, advising them of their duty to be obedient to the law and take non-combatant service, and the Colonel publicly thanked him for the address. How could he have been engaged in a conspiracy to oppose the Government in the war? Mr. Rutherford and the other defendants delivered public addresses each Sunday, and not one word of disloyalty was ever uttered. Invariably Mr. Rutherford spoke in the highest terms of commendation of President Wilson. And with all this it is insisted he was in a conspiracy to oppose the Government!
There was no attempt made by any officer or anyone else to induce anyone to become a member of the International Bible Students Association, nor to induce any of its members to refuse service to the Government.
At the trial there was a total absence of any evidence tending to show that any conspiracy ever existed between the defendants to cause mutiny or insubordination in the army or navy; in fact, each one not only testified that he never had any such agreement, but that the matter was never thought of by them.
Furthermore, these gentlemen, having given the best years of their lives to religious work, and to that exclusively, were so busily engaged in it that they had not even taken notice that an Espionage law had been passed by Congress. For the first time it was called to their attention when objection was raised to THE FINISHED MYSTERY. and then the publication of that book was immediately stopped.
The law provides that before anyone could be guilty of its violation there must be a wilful act done with the INTENT to cause mutiny, insubordination, etc. At the trial there was a total ABSENCE of evidence showing any such intent on the part of the defendants. On the contrary, the evidence conclusively showed that their sole purpose and intent was the teaching of the Bible truths in which they had been engaged for years.
G. DeCecca, an Italian clerk in the office of the Association who served Italian classes, was joined as a defendant in the indictment charging conspiracy. He wrote a letter to his own brother as to his view of the proper attitude of a Christian relative to combatant service in war. He had nothing whatsoever to do with the publication of THE FINISHED MYSTERY, yet he was convicted and sentenced to ten years' imprisonment for conspiracy.
VERDICT RESULT OF PASSION
There was no evidence showing a conspiracy ever existed between the defendants to cause insubordination, mutiny, etc., in the army and navy. There never existed any occasion for them to enter into such a conspiracy. For thirty years before the war THE FINISHED MYSTERY had been promised and expected. For more than thirty years before the war the members of the International Bible Students held conscientious scruples against engaging in war because of their belief in the teachings of the Bible. How then could it be held that these men published the book as the result of a conspiracy? Such is impossible. The trial and verdict was the climax of a hatred of the Bible Students of long standing, instigated by the clergy. By misrepresentation they had worked up a public sentiment against these Bible Students. Their repeated accusations caused an investigation, and public pressure manufactured by the clergy induced the prosecution, At the time of the trial excitement due to the war was running so high that it is clearly seen that the verdict was the result of passion. During the days of the trial great crowds surged through the streets or Brooklyn and around the Borough Hall, with bands playing and banners flying, shouting for the war. Public sentiment was worked up to a white heat against anyone charged with a violation of the Espionage Act, and it was an easy matter to procure a verdict against such. As an evidence of the widespread persecution of these Christian people by the clergy we cite a few instances as follows:
International Bible Students in all parts of the country have suffered persecution for their fidelity to the Lord and their zeal in declaring the blessings that are coming to mankind through his Kingdom. In a town in the State of Oregon the Mayor and two clergymen organized a mob, chased one of the lecturers of the Association out of the city and followed him to a neighboring town. The lecturer escaped but the mob caught the friend who accompanied him and covered him with a coat of grease and tar.
In the State of Washington one Bible Student was sentenced to three years' imprisonment for sending a copy of THE FINISHED MYSTERY through the mail. In Globe, Arizona, two men were chased out of the town, finally caught and thrown into jail because they had copies of THE FINISHED MYSTERY. At San Bernardino, California, three men and one lady (colporteurs of these religious books) were arrested and sentenced, to three years in prison, because they were offering for sale THE FINISHED MYSTERY, a strictly Bible commentary, and that after the pages in question had been removed. At Oklahoma City some colporteurs were tarred, feathered and beaten with clubs. In. Arkansas one lady was arrested, thrown into a filthy jail and kept there for some days without bond. One man and his wife in the same place were jailed for days without even any charge ever being made against them. In other places some were taken to creeks in the night time and ducked in the cold water, and everything in their homes destroyed. In Colorado a man wearing a uniform of an army office broke up quiet meetings for Bible Study. In Wheeling West Virginia, officers threatened the Bible Students with imprisonment unless they surrendered to the officers all their books, the STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES.
At Los Angeles clergymen made their boasts that the Bible Students would be arrested and held without bond. Some of these clergymen went about to owners of apartment houses and tried to induce the owners to dispossess tenants who are members of the International Bible Students Association. A raid was made upon the headquarters of the Bible Students in that city, and all their literature, including Bibles and hymn books, was seized and carried away. Twenty-six of the Students were arrested for having in their possession THE FINISHED MYSTERY and KINGDOM NEWS, and were put to great expense of money and time defending themselves in Court, The trial resulted in a disagreement of the jury; and these men are still under bail, awaiting a second trial. At Portland, Oregon, a Bible Student was arrested and held in jail twenty-four hours. The case was dismissed by the United States Commissioner because it was so manifestly an outrage.
One noted evangelist stated: "We have been for thirty years trying to get these Russellites and now we have them."
The Bible Institute of Los Angeles, headed by Dr. Torrey, has persisted in the persecution of the International Bible Students from pulpit and by printed pamphlets.
Immediately following the death of Pastor Russell THE CHRISTIAN INDEX, Baptist, among other things about him, said: Pastor Russell is dead but the Christian World does not mourn." Commenting upon this the JEFFERSONIAN editorially said:
"Are there no Christians among the Russellites? We would not feel justified in saying that. There was a time when Baptists were not considered Christians; and they were slaughtered by other professors of Christ, for not professing in the same manner that the slaughterers did.
"When Arnold of Brescia was burnt for being a Baptist in principle, the papal court of Rome could have published a statement to the effect that 'the Christian world does not mourn.'
"When the original Calvinists died in Paris, on St. Bartholomew's Day, the papal court not only did not mourn, but went in splendid procession to Roman Churches to sing Te Deums, in praise and thanks for the bloody massacre of the Russellites of that day."
ASSOCIATED PRESS REPORTS
In further evidence of a diabolical attempt to create public sentiment against these Christian men, we call attention to a certain wireless instrument. At the time of the Treasurer's books of the Association were seized, the officers made inquiry about a wireless instrument and were told that Pastor Russell had a part of an instrument which was stored away. It was brought out and proved to be only receiving apparatus, which was out of order and had been for more than a year. No instrument was installed and messages could not be sent or received, and there never had been a sending apparatus. These facts were proven to the Government officials by the manufacturer of the instrument. Notwithstanding, the Associated Press was used to send information all over the world to the effect that a powerful wireless, capable of sending a message across the Atlantic, had been found on the roof of the building occupied by these Bible Students, and that it was being used to send messages to the Germans. Such was a deliberate falsehood, and nothing could be more calculated to create an adverse sentiment against these people. The most influential daily paper in Brooklyn, religiously speaking, a paper dominated by the clergy, a paper which had been persecuting Pastor Russell to the time of his death, is responsible for this false report of the wireless being given to the Associated Press. After this the persecution increased.
When the verdict was returned, the trial judge immediately ordered the defendants to jail. Their case was appealed to the higher courts and application for bail was made. Yet bail was denied, and they were taken away to Atlanta Penitentiary, where they are now confined. This case has not yet been finally determined by the courts, notwithstanding seven months have passed since the verdict, and these men are not permitted to give bail. The case is unprecedented; and the denial of bail is clearly contrary to a decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, from which we quote, as follows:
"The Statutes of the United States have been framed upon the theory that a person accused of crime shall not, until he has been finally adjudged guilty, in the court of last resort, be absolutely compelled to undergo imprisonment or punishment, but may be admitted to bail, not only after arrest and before tria1, but after conviction and pending a Writ of Error." —Hudson vs. Parker, 156 U.S. 277.
SENT TO JAIL BECAUSE SINCERE
The trial judge in sentencing the defendants, said: "A person preaching religion usually has much influence and if he is sincere he is all the more effective."
Commenting on this, the NEW YORK POST on June 21, 1918, editorially said:
"After uttering these words, Judge H. B. Howe, of the United States District Court in Brooklyn, sentenced the religious persons before him to twenty years each in prison. It was necessary, he said, to make an example of those who sincerely taught this religion, which, like that of the Mennonites and the Quakers and many other sects, forbids the taking up of arms. They were guilty, plainly, of having urged men to follow what they considered the teachings of the Lord, and to apply literally the commandment, 'Thou shalt not kill.' So the jury could do nothing less than find them guilty of having violated the statutes of the country, whatever may be the correctness or incorrectness of their attitude toward the moral and religious law. We trust that teachers of religion everywhere will take notice of this judge's opinion that teaching any religion save that which is absolutely in accord with statute laws is a grave crime which is intensified if, being a minister of the Gospel, you should still happen to be sincere. There is no doubt that Judge Howe made his sentences severe enough; they are about double those imposed by the Kaiser upon the Socialists who have been trying to upset his wicked regime, and three times longer than many sentences imposed upon would-be regicides."
THE NEW YORK TRIBUNE said: "Joseph F. Rutherford, and six of the other 'Russellites,' convicted of violation of the Espionage Act, were sentenced to twenty years in the Atlanta Penitentiary yesterday by Judge Howe. 'This is the happiest day of my life,' said Mr. Rutherford on his way from the court to the jail, 'to serve earthly punishment for the sake of one's religious belief is one of the greatest privileges a man could have.' One of the strangest demonstrations that the Marshall's office in the Brooklyn Federal Court has ever seen, was held by the families and intimate friends of the convicted men soon after the prisoners had been taken to the Grand Jury room. The whole company made the old building ring with the strains of 'Blest be the Tie That Binds.' 'It is all God's will,' they told each other, with faces almost radiant. 'Some day the world will know what all this means. Meanwhile let us be thankful for the grace of God that has sustained us through our trials, and look forward to the Great Day that is to come."
The records of the trial of President Rutherford and his associates show over 125 assignments of error, yet they have been denied bail. A marked incident in the trial was the commitment of the witness William F. Hudgings for contempt. Hudgings is a member of the International Bible Students' Association. He testified on the stand that he was unable to recall a specific occasion when he had ever seen two of the defendants in the act of writing, whereupon the court characterized his testimony as untruthful, and committed him to jail, where he was kept for six months. A writ of habeas corpus was finally obtained through the U. S. Supreme Court, and his release upon bail granted. In granting the petition for a writ of habeas corpus, Chief Justice White, according to the NEW YORK EVENING SUN, declared Hudgings' imprisonment "outrageous." We quote:
"Word was received in Brooklyn today that by order of Chief Justice White, of the U. S. Supreme Court William F. Hudgings, Secretary of the Watch Tower Bible Students' Society who has been in jail for contempt of court since June 11, will be released on bail. Chief Justice White called Hudgings' incarceration for contempt of court 'outrageous, unfair and unwarranted."
Our contention is that the civil authorities should not lend aid to one religious class in their persecution of another. The ancestors of these gentlemen now in prison in Atlanta fled from Europe and braved the stormy Atlantic that they might here in free and wild America establish a place of religious liberty. Would they not be amazed to behold their descendants in prison in America for publishing a religious book! The fundamental law of the land guarantees to every citizen religious liberty and freedom of speech. America boasts of her long stand for liberty and righteousness. The United States entered the world war not for gain but in behalf of justice and righteousness and with the avowed purpose of making "the world safe for Democracy," Can these high and lofty principles be maintained while this nation holds behind prison bars highly respectable men for no other reason than their sincere faith in the Word of God and an expression of what they understand it to teach?
EVEN GERMANY HAS RELEASED POLITICAL PRISONERS
Three months have passed since the war ended; and while Germany and other European nations have released their political prisoners, the United States keeps behind prison bars, without even permitting them to give bail, Christian men who have never intentionally written or uttered a disloyal word against the Government, but who published what they honestly and sincerely believe is the true and proper interpretation of certain portions of the Bible, and who aided their brethren to KEEP the law. Does not their imprisonment seem to be wholly inconsistent with the principles of righteousness and justice?
The very most that the prosecution could say against these men is that "their teaching tended to interrupt the progress of the war." We hold that it did not interrupt the progress of the war but for the sake of the argument grant that it did. Then we say, The war is ended. Why should these men be held in prison without bail even, away from their friends, away from the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God and from doing the great religious work to which they devoted their lives for years without money and without price?
We call upon the people of the United States who love Righteousness and Justice, who believe in the principles of Democracy and who are for religious freedom, to solemnly protest against the imprisonment of the leaders of the International Bible Students Association, and to demand their immediate release, which may be accomplished in one of three ways, viz:
FIRST: By a full and complete pardon by the President.
SECOND: By the President causing the Department of Justice to dismiss the case now pending in Court against these men and to release them.
THIRD: By admitting them to bail while their case is being heard by the Appellate courts.
Let every citizen of the United States who is of this opinion join with his neighbors in a petition to that end. We also suggest that you write personal letters to your Congressmen and other influential men, calling upon them to aid in the release of these men. Any and every one who desires to aid in this work of procuring their release may write me at this address.
310 Martin Building,
N. S. Pittsburgh, Pa.