Who Really Distorts The Facts of History?

[Original publication date: September 5, 2003]

by Kent Steinhaug

The April 1, 1995 issue of The Watchtower contains an article entitled “How Christians Cope With Public Reproach.” This article claims that news media reports on the Witnesses are often biased and contain false or distorted information.

What is "The Truth" and who owns it?
What is “The Truth” and who owns it?

A typical comment about the press is found on page 27 of The Watchtower: “Many press reports that heap reproach on Jehovah’s Witnesses are an expression of this hatred.” In many cases the Jehovah’s Witness leaders advise Witnesses not to respond to such articles in case “The original untruth might thus receive even more publicity, or opposers may be handed further opportunity to get lies or slurs into print.”

The article counsels Jehovah’s Witnesses to, “Invite them [misinformed persons] to get firsthand information about Jehovah’s Witnesses, which enables them to see through false accusations. You could also use explanations published by the Watchtower Society that give details about the organization, its history, and its teachings.” A footnote is provided recommending three items of Watchtower literature. Two of these are pamphlets which offer just bare outlines of Jehovah’s Witness history and activity.

The third, however, is the 750-page book Jehovah’s Witnesses: Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom. This volume published in 1993 is the Watchtower Society’s own official history of the movement. How reliable and objective is the information presented in this book?

Well, for example, the book contains an entire chapter “Defending and Legally Establishing the Good News” in which dozens upon dozens of court cases are referenced. The overall picture conveyed is of “honest, sincere and courageous” Jehovah’s Witnesses successfully battling in the courts to keep their “God-given” right to preach the “good news of the kingdom.” Yet, strangely, [in this book] NO mention at all is made of three of the most important cases involving the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses: (1) Charles Russell v. Brooklyn Daily Eagle; (2) Olin R. Moyle v. Watchtower Headquarters Staff; (3) the Douglas Walsh case. I wonder why?

Charles Russell v. Brooklyn Daily Eagle

In 1911 Charles Russell very foolishly and naïvely allowed two of his followers to persuade him that they had found a farmer who grew “miracle wheat” (wheat that reportedly produced a greater yield than any other variety). The Watchtower Society received 30 bushels of this wheat to be sold at one dollar per pound as seed grain. The sale gained the Society about $1800 dollars (a very substantial sum in those days). Subsequently a New York newspaper, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, lampooned Russell and his “miracle wheat” in a cartoon. Whereupon Russell sued the newspaper—and LOST the case.

Olin R. Moyle v. Watchtower Headquarters Staff

In 1943 Olin Moyle sued the leading members of the Society’s headquarters staff for “libel.” Moyle had been a loyal Jehovah’s Witness for many years and had even defended the Witnesses in several court cases. But on July 21, 1939 Moyle sent Rutherford an open letter of resignation.

In his letter he accused Rutherford and some of his associates of “excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages” and “improper conduct and low morals.” In addition, he specifically accused Rutherford of “outbursts of anger, discrimination and vulgar language.” In The Watchtower of October 15, 1939 Rutherford attacked Moyle publicly, in print. Rutherford wrote about Moyle’s letter:

“The letter, being filled with false, slanderous and libelous statements… the writer of that letter… identifies himself as one who speaks evil against the Lord’s organization… every paragraph of that letter is false, filled with lies, and is a wicked slander and a libel.”

Interestingly, when Moyle sued the Watchtower leaders in court over Rutherford’s scurrilous Watchtower article—he won, and the court awarded him damages of $15,000 (equal to about $200,000 in today’s currency).

The Douglas Walsh Case

In 1954, the principal officers of the Watchtower Society traveled to the British Isles to take part in an appeal to obtain recognition for their Jehovah’s Witness movement to be accepted [by the government] as a genuine religious denomination and presiding elders of Witness congregations as genuine so-called “ministers.” The Society gained acceptance as a religion but lost the second part of the appeal.

However, during the trial Hayden Covington (at that time the chief legal representative of the Society) admitted that (a) the Watchtower was guilty of publishing false prophecy, and (b) the Jehovah’s Witness leaders maintained their “famous” world-wide state of unity by forcing all loyal Witnesses to accept false prophecy.

I don’t think it’s too hard to see a reason why these three cases are not mentioned in the Watchtower Society’s own official history. Do you?

Also – if Jehovah’s Witnesses should read this article – would they use the same language about it that Rutherford used to describe Olin Moyle’s letter?

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