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Child custody court case decisions typically are lengthy and complex, and deal with a multitude of legal issues. The following case summaries will generally include only those issues in which religion was a factor. Some summaries may omit issues relevant to the court's decision, but not relevant to the theme of this website.                       

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NEW YORK v. JAMES SULLIVAN was a 1909 New York criminal court case which aptly demonstrates how the WatchTower Cult of the pre-1914 time period viewed children and child-rearing. Also see opening section of this website's HOME PAGE linked above.

James Sullivan was the 15 YEAR-OLD son of BETHELITE and WATCHTOWER PILGRIM, Owen L. Sullivan, whom also had two older daughters and a son-in-law who all were BETHELITES at WatchTower HQ in Brooklyn. Those two older daughters were the children of O. L. Sullivan and his deceased first wife (Alabama), while James Sullivan had been born to O. L. Sullivan and his second wife in 1894 -- soon after their marriage (Tennessee).

It appears that Owen L. Sullivan had become a WATCHTOWER BETHELITE sometime around 1907, so we are guessing that James Sullivan's mother had died sometime shortly prior to 1907, and that after her death, O. L. Sullivan had abandoned the rearing of his then 13 year-old son to either relatives or a boarding school. At some unknown point in time, WATCHTOWER BETHELITE and PILGRIM, O. L. Sullivan, had forced James Sullivan to live at Fox River Academy, which was a SEVENTH DAY ADVENTIST "school" located in Illinois. Notably, the name of that "school" had been changed in 1908 from Sheridan Industrial School to Fox River Academy -- admittedly to improve the "institution's" image. In reality, this "school" was a working farm where the students were required to perform all of the manual labor when they were otherwise not being indoctrinated with SDA beliefs and practices, and given a free basic education in exchange.

James Sullivan foreseeably did not like living as a "slave" at Fox River Academy, and ran away to live with relatives sometime during the Spring of 1909. Around July 1909, 15 year-old James Sullivan traveled to WatchTower HQ, in Brooklyn, where he thought that he would find his "loving" father, Owen L. Sullivan. However, at the time, O. L. Sullivan was traveling with Charles Taze Russell in the western Pacific states. Apparently, BETHELITE brother-in-law A. G. Wakefield arranged for James Sullivan to also become a BETHELITE and work at WatchTower HQ. After a month or so of performing slave labor for room and board at WatchTower HQ, James Sullivan ran away to relatives living in Philadelphia.

James Sullivan apparently was "tricked" into returning to WatchTower HQ, where brother-in-law, Averett G. Wakefield, and James Sullivan's two half-sisters had him arrested and jailed with the intent of having him legally declared a "juvenile delinquent", and shipped off to a REFORM SCHOOL. Outcome unknown.


JOSEPH E. DAVIS v. MARY E. DAVIS was a 1908-11 Pennsylvania divorce case involving a then Millvale, Pennsylvania couple with 4 children -- two boys and two girls. Typically, the marriage began to have problems just as soon as the wife -- not including the husband -- converted to the WatchTower religion. Amongst many complaints, Joseph Davis alleged that Mary Davis began neglecting her children and household duties in favor of attending religious meetings and activities. Outcome unknown, but couple may have eventually reconciled.


EMMA HUFFMAN v. JAY O. HUFFMAN was a 1920-21 Kansas divorce proceeding between Jay  Huffman, age 42, and his wife, Emma Huffman -- both Methodists, who lived in Hutchinson, Kansas, along with their six children. Jay Huffman evidently provided well for his family given that he was the local District Manager for the Kansas Life Insurance Company. However, after the Huffmans lost four of their children all within one year, Emma Huffman almost went insane until she found solace in the teachings of the WatchTower Cult. (In March 1919, the Huffmans 3 year-old son and 1 year-old son both died within days of each other -- possibly from the Spanish influenza. In November 1919, the Huffman's 7 year-old daughter and 9 year-old son were killed in an automobile accident which also SERIOUSLY INJURED Jay Huffman, who despite his injuries saved the life of his wife.)

Jay Huffman later claimed that he tried to understand and go along with his wife's "new religion", but as other husbands in this same predicament have claimed, the wife became obsessed with promoting the WatchTower Cult religion to the point of neglecting her duties to both her husband and her remaining two children -- excepting that she was also attempting to teach Russellism to the couple's children. The straw that broke the camel's back for Jay Huffman was when Emma Huffman started going door-to-door in their hometown with a WatchTower Petition which sought the pardon and release from prison of some draft-evading Russellites. Thereafter, Jay Huffman did what he could to stop his wife's nonsense and humiliation of their family.

Emma Huffman left home with her two children in mid 1920 and went to live with a sister in Wichita, Kansas, where Emma Huffman filed for divorce, including seeking custody of the couple's remaining two children, Marion Huffman, age 6, and Dorthea Huffman, age 12, PLUS division of the marital property. Emma Huffman alleged the grounds of "cruelty", claiming that Jay Huffman had burned her WatchTower literature, threatened to burn her "meeting" clothes, and once even forced her into a chair to make her listen to his reasons for opposing Russellism. Jay Huffman also cross-claimed for a divorce.

In August 1921, the trial judge refused to grant either party a divorce. Instead, a legal separation was granted, and Jay Huffman was ordered to pay $50.00 per month in child support. Although the judge did not order Jay Huffman to pay separate maintenance for Emma Huffman, the ordered child support payment was high enough to support all three individuals in 1921.


HOWARD E. KING v. JULIE E. KING was a 1923 Ohio divorce. Howard King, of Midvale, Ohio, was a local lecturer for the WatchTower Society. His wife, Julie King had not converted, and still attended a local church. Whatever problems this couple had -- their main issue obviously was "religion". In December 1923, Howard King filed for a divorce asserting that Julie King was an adulteress. Julie King crossclaimed also for a divorce, and sought full custody of the couple's children. Julie King denied being an adulteress, PLUS alleged that Howard King was a pistol-packing, illegal whiskey-making bootlegger, who forced her to sell and deliver his products. Julie King further claimed that Howard King referred to her local church as a "hell hole", and claimed that her husband abused her because she refused to convert to the WatchTower Cult.


AGNES H. HUDGINGS v. WILLIAM F. HUDGINGS was a 1925-26 Nevada divorce proceeding which involved a WatchTower Society HQ Elite couple. William F. Hudgings has the distinction of being the ONLY WatchTower Society Officer or Director to have a court case decided by the Supreme Court of the United States.

In August 1925, Agnes Hudgings left her husband and fled from WatchTower HQ to Nevada, where she filed for divorce. Agnes' complaint alleged that her work as Joseph F. Rutherford's secretary led to her suffering a nervous breakdown only a few months after they were married in February 1917. Agnes also claimed that living in the communal setting of Brooklyn Bethel adversely affected her health. Agnes further claimed that when he was angry with her that William F. Hudgings would not speak to her for days and even months at a time -- writing notes when communication was absolutely necessary. Agnes further claimed that her husband would sometimes leave Bethel without informing her, and thereafter, not inform her where he had been. Agnes also claimed that her husband frequently called her vile names. Finally, she claimed that he told her that he did not love her, and that he wished that he had married another Bethelite female.


UNNAMED WIFE v. JOHN WILLIAM STANTON was a highly publicized, embarrassing 1928-29 New Zealand court case filed by the Wife of an "Elder" of the "International Bible Students Association" named John W. Stanton, age 62, whom had left her after 20 years of marriage without adequate financial support. There were also allegations of "other women" in "John Willie's" life. In January 1929, the maintenance Court at Gisborne granted Wife a legal separation along with 2 pounds per week support.


JOSEPH C. TAPPERO v. MAXINE A. TAPPERO was the October 1942 Arizona absolute divorce granted to a complaining non-JW husband who was fed up with living with a JW Wife and her JW Mother during the first 6 months of World War 2. Joseph C. Tappero, age 22, and Maxine A. Fisher, age 20, were married on Saturday, November 6, 1941 -- the day before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Maxine Tappero was either pregnant at the time, or soon became pregnant. Joe Tappero filed for an absolute divorce only six months later.
Joseph Tappero knew of his wife's and his mother-in-law's WatchTower Cult beliefs prior to the marriage, but the reality of such did not set in until after the marriage, and after the United States was forced into WW2 by the attack on Pearl Harbor. Joe Tappero had a good job as a nightclerk for the Southern Pacific Company, but against Joe's wishes, Maxine Tappero refused to live anywhere but at the home of her parents. Joe Tappero alleged that Maxine was constantly under the mind control of Elsie Wilson and other members of the WatchTower Cult. Joseph Tappero testified that he had wanted to enlist in the armed services right after the outbreak of war, and had passed all the Navy examinations, and had nothing further to do except swearing in.
However, Maxine Tappero objected to Joe's enlistment in a very strenuous fashion. Maxine and her mother first attempted to convert Joe Tappero, but when he rejected their WatchTower Cult teachings and practices, his wife and mother-in-law turned their WatchTower Cult teachings against Joe. It was a sin for Joe to salute the American Flag. Serving in the U.S. military would be performing the work of the Devil. When Joe purchased $250 of War Bonds, they told Joe that he was aiding the Devil. Between her pregnancy and the couple's ongoing confrontations over religion, Maxine became bedridden. Elsie Wilson and the JWs catered to Maxine's "illness", while Joe saw the situation for what it was. Eventually, Maxine gave-in to Joe's desire to leave and join the Navy. However, when she discovered the meager size of the Navy allotment, Maxine renewed her objections to Joe's enlistment.
At the October 1942 trial, Maxine contested the absolute divorce, and chose a trial by jury -- who did not react well to hearing how Joe was being treated by seeming traitors. Midway through the trial, the parties settled on an absolute divorce -- with Joe paying $30.00 per month child support. 


KARAMA BAROCCO v. ROMOLO ANTHONY BAROCCO was a 1946 Ohio divorce case initiated by the Jehovah's Witness Wife of an active duty Army Air Force Officer at the end of World War II. Despite having NO BIBLICAL GROUNDS for this divorce, "Kay" Barocco was represented by INFAMOUS P.O.S. Jehovah's Witness Attorney Victor Schmidt.

Romolo A. Barocco was a Pennsylvania native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 1937, and lived and worked in Cincinnati until the outbreak of WW2. Thereafter, Barocco served as a Finance Officer in the European theater, and rose to the rank of Captain. At some point during the War, his wife, Kay Barocco, converted to the Jehovah's Witnesses, and undoubtedly attempted to convert her active duty husband to the WatchTower Cult. Fed up with supporting Kay Barocco's anti-war efforts back in Cincinnati, "Tony" Barocco stopped her Army allotment and dropped her as his "beneficiary" on his Army insurance, bonds, and pay. Typical of Jehovah's Witness Wives, once the money pipeline was terminated, the JW Wife had no further use for her non-JW husband. That was where the P.O.S. Victor Schmidt stepped in.

A devout Catholic, Tony Barocco never re-married. However, he served a highly useful life involved in numerous community activities and affairs -- finally retiring as a High School teacher in his Pennsylvania hometown in 1975. Tony died in 2005, at the age of 94. If anyone knows Karama "Kay" Barocco's maiden name, and what happened to her life, please let us know, so that we can make her famous.


McCOY v. McCOY was a 1949 Washington trial court case. Percy McCoy and Gertrude McCoy, 28, of Spokane, Washington, were the parents of two children, ages 7 and 8. In 1949, Percy decided to divorce Gertrude, and seek custody of the two children, because of Gertrude's fanatical behavior after converting to the Jehovah's Witnesses in 1947. Testimony indicated that Gertrude was devoting all of her time to the activities of the WatchTower Society to the detriment of her husband and children. Gertrude attended the three regular "meetings" per week, plus attended either a study session or did door-to-door recruiting nearly every single day. Percy was also upset that she would no longer celebrate any of the holidays, plus she was also turning his children into Jehovah's Witnesses.
Gertrude asked the court to deny the divorce, but to order Percy to pay separate maintenance for her and the children, so that she could continue her work for the WatchTower Society. She told the court that if she got custody of the children that she would continue to take them to WatchTower meetings, but that if she were forced to choose between her religion and her children, then she chose her religion. Outcome unknown.
SHERRY v. SHERRY was a 1948 Pennsylvania divorce case. Walter Sherry, alias Vasil Shira, married Verna Sherry in Wellsburg, WV, in July 1941, when he was 18 years-old, and she was 17 years-old. A child was born in 1942.
In 1943, Walter Sherry, then living in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, was prosecuted on draft evasion charges despite the fact that he worked in the "bomb department" at National Tube Co.
Verna Sherry separated from her husband in February 1945, and divorced him in October 1948. She complained that her husband was a fanatical JW who forced her to sell WatchTower literature on the streets, and was always accusing her of being unfaithful.
SMITH v. SMITH was a 1948 Florida Supreme Court decision. Robert Daniel Smith and Myrtle Harmon Smith were married in South Carolina in 1938. In May 1939, a daughter, Agnes Carolyn Smith, was born. The family lived together until May, 1945, except for a few months early in 1944, during which Robert Daniel Smith served in the United States Navy.
At some point prior to May 1945, Myrtle Smith had joined the Jehovah's Witnesses. Robert Smith objected to the teachings of the WatchTower Society, and he was very unhappy about his wife's membership.  Around May 1945, over Robert Smith's objections, Myrtle and Agnes attended a WatchTower Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. Robert Smith moved out of the home at that time.
Thereafter, Robert Smith and an employee of Smith's jewelry business each secured a divorce in the state of Georgia. They subsequently married, and Smith, his new wife, and her ten year old daughter moved to Havana, Florida.  Myrtle Smith and Agnes Smith moved to Greenville, South Carolina, where Myrtle secured employment in a textile mill at $40.00 per week.  Robert Smith contributed fairly regularly and fairly substantially to the support of the child.
In October 1947, Robert Smith went to Greenville, and without the mother's knowledge or consent took the child back to Havana, Florida. A few weeks, Myrtle Smith, without the knowledge or consent of the father, took Agnes from Havana, Florida, and brought her back to South Carolina.  Agnes was left at the home of Myrtle's married sister, who had two children the approximate age of Agnes.  Myrtle testified that she left the child with her sister in order to prevent the father retaking her, and that she visited Agnes frequently on week-ends. However, in February, 1948, Robert Smith located Agnes, and again went to South Carolina, took the child from the school she was attending and brought Agnes back to Havana, Florida.
Myrtle Smith then instituted habeas corpus proceedings in Florida to secure legal custody of the child. The trial court proceedings are only summarized, but the trial court evidently placed great weight on the idea that young female children should be in the custody of their natural mother, unless there is some substantial reason to grant custody to the father. Although Robert Smith earned substantially more in his jewelry business than did Myrtle Smith working at a textile mill, thus making a substantial difference in the standard of living at each home, and despite the fact that Robert Smith's new wife would be able to care for Agnes full-time, versus a hired babysitter doing so while Myrtle Smith worked at the textile mill, the Florida trial court decided that it was in Agnes' best interest to live with her mother in South Carolina.  Robert Smith was granted temporary custody one month each summer.
Although not detailed, Robert Smith did make an issue at trial of Myrtle Smith's Jehovah's Witnesses religion, and the fact that Agnes was being reared to believe the doctrines of the WatchTower Society. The Florida Supreme Court did not published much on the issue, but rather affirmed the trial court's ruling.


TUFTS v. TUFTS was a 1948 Kentucky appellate decision which involved a Jehovah's Witness husband and a non-JW wife, and their 6-7 year old son, Kenneth Tufts, who suffered some type of infirmity. Although living in a very economically depressed area, the husband had a very high paying job as a railroad signalman. The couple was married when the wife was only 14-15 years-old. She sued for divorce nine years later, when she claimed "cruel and inhuman treatment" -- possibly resulting from the husband's conversion to the JWs. Although she sought custody and support for Kenneth, she did not seek alimony, nor any of the real or personal property belonging to her husband. At trial, the husband agreed that custody be granted to the wife. However, after later seeing the poor living conditions of his child and ex-wife after the divorce, the husband sought custody, so that he could place the child with his parents. A trial judge granted the husband's petition, but an appellate court reversed and returned custody to the mother. Sad, either way.
KELLEY v. KELLEY was a 1945 Missouri court decision. Floyd Kelley, farmer, and Imogene Kelley, of Cyclone, Missouri, had married in the latter 1920s. The couple had a 16 year-old daughter, an 11 year-old son, and a 6 year-old daughter. At some point, Imogene Kelley had converted to the Jehovah's Witnesses, and the family's life was soon unbearable. By 1945, Floyd Kelley had had enough and filed for divorce solely on the grounds of his wife's religious beliefs. Imogene Kelley cross-claimed on the grounds of abuse and neglect.
The court dismissed Floyd Kelley's petition stating that a divorce could not be granted solely on the grounds of opposing religious beliefs. However, the judge granted the divorce on Imogene Kelley's cross complaint. Imogene Kelley received custody of the couple's 6 year-old daughter, with support. Floyd Kelley received custody of the couple's 11 year-old son, without support. The couple's 16 year-old daughter was allowed to select her own custodian.
CORY v. CORY was a 1945 California appellate court decision.  Cory relied on and built on Washington State's earlier Stone v. Stone decision. In April 1943, Kathleen B. Cory sued Melvin H. Cory for divorce.  The appellate opinion does not provide specifics as to when Kathleen B. Cory joined the Jehovah's Witnesses, or whether such played a role in Melvin H. Cory's leaving her for another female, but the interlocutory decree of divorce (Melvin H. Cory failed to appear) was granted to Kathleen B. Cory on the grounds of "extreme cruelty", which possibly indicates that the issue of Jehovah's Witnesses was the instigator of the marital discord. Custody of the couple's two minor children was awarded to Kathleen B. Cory.
In April 1944, Melvin H. Cory filed a motion to modify the interlocutory decree, and in support thereof filed an affidavit in which he averred that the place where the children were living was an unfit and improper place, that plaintiff was a member of the Jehovah Witnesses, and was teaching the children to disrespect the United States of America and the flag of the United States; that he once found Kathleen Cory's home crowded with a Jehovah's Witnesses meeting, and there was not sufficient room for the children. That, Melvin H. Cory, had a good place to keep said children where they would be taught to respect the United States and its flag, and that it would be to the best interest of said children that their custody be awarded to him. A hearing was had in May 1944, at the conclusion of which the court filed findings of fact and conclusions of law in which it was found as follows:
"3. That the plaintiff has been teaching the said minor children to refuse to give allegiance to the flag of the United States and to the United States, and to refuse to defend the flag and to refuse to defend the United States against its enemies when at war; said plaintiff believes, and has also taught and will continue to teach the said children of the parties hereto to defend in times of peril only persons who believe as she does, and to this end to sacrifice their lives, if need be, but not to raise a hand in defense of their country, or the flag it represents, even in times of war when the existence of our nation is threatened. On the other hand the father objects to such teaching being imbued in their immature minds, and desires that said children be reared as loyal Americans to respect and salute the flag of their country and to defend it when called upon to do so by the Government thereof;
"That while the mother of said children is a moral person, the teachings which she is trying to impress upon the said minors will not be for their best interest or for their welfare. That the teachings of the father will be for their best interests and for the welfare of said children;
"That the teachings of the said plaintiff so far as the minor son is concerned has already so imbued him with disrespect for the flag and unpatriotic thoughts that when the flag is displayed he becomes ill at ease and greatly agitated;

"That the said teaching of plaintiff will not only prevent the said minors from becoming loyal American citizens, but will prevent them, should they later in life desire to join, from joining any of our leading character building groups and organizations, as well as all the leading fraternal organizations and fraternities. That such character building organizations tend greatly to prevent delinquency in children who otherwise might be drawn into such class, and they also teach other matters which are invaluable throughout life to their members. That plaintiff, if given the exclusive custody of said children, will deprive said children of the benefits of the teachings of such groups as above mentioned, and will tend to prevent said minors from associating with loyal Americans;

"That the said minor girl is too young as yet to be impressed with the teachings of plaintiff, and she will suffer no harm or detriment until she has reached the school age of six years; ...

"That for the reasons stated the mother is not a fit and proper person to have the sole custody of the said children, but on the other hand the father is a fit and proper person to have their care and custody after they reach school age of six years. Under the facts found it is fit and proper that the father have the custody of said minor boy for the school term; and that as soon as the minor girl reaches the age of six years that he also have her custody and control during the school term, all for the purposes aforesaid; and it is further ordered that the mother have the custody of said minors during the vacation period."
Kathleen B. Cory appealed on the ground that the trial court abused its discretion; that the evidence does not support the findings and the findings do not support the order and judgment. The California Court of Appeal agreed, and reversed. Here is the reasoning, in part:
"A review of the [trial court] testimony in the case reveals that no evidence was produced by petitioner to support the allegations of his affidavit that the place where the children were living was an unfit or improper place, and as for the allegation that Mrs. Cory was teaching the children to disrespect the United States and its flag, she testified as follows:
"'I respect the Flag, and as far as flags go my pledge goes and my salute goes to Jehovah. Whether it was the American Flag or any other flag my salute would be to Jehovah and not the flag.'
"Under questioning by the court she testified as follows:
'Q. Mrs. Cory, I presume you do know, and it is a matter of judicial notice, apparently, that the religion of the Jehovah Witnesses is not to salute the Flag. You know that, don't you?
A. Yes. We would not salute the Flag.

'Q. You would not salute the Flag under any circumstances. You would stand up?
A. I would stand at attention and respect the Flag.
'Q. But you would not salute it?
A. No. I salute no flag.

'Q. You would not teach, you would not permit the children to salute the Flag?
A. I would teach them the way I believe.

'Q. In other words you would teach them not to salute the Flag, to stand up, and not salute the Flag?
A. I would teach them to respect it, but not salute it.

'Q. How about a war? Would you teach them that it was against your religion to go to war, that they should not support the war in case of emergency, war with another country?
A. That is right.

'Q. In other words, you would bring the children up so they would be I presume what we call conscientious objectors against war?
A. Yes. The Bible tells us, `Thou Shalt Not Kill.'

'Q. I am not concerned with the Bible. I am trying to find what you think about it and how you are going to raise these children. So if the children were old enough now to be called for the Service what would be your attitude on that?
A. If they were old enough it would be their decision, not mine.

'Q. You would not discourage them?
A. That would be their decision.

'Q. I am talking about you raising them.
A. I would raise them not to fight any wars.

'Q. Even to protect their own country?
A. That is right. . . .

'Q. Well, anyhow Mrs. Cory your teachings would be I presume as you say, that you would teach them to respect the Flag, but not to do anything in a military way or otherwise to protect the Flag, or to have anything to do with the Flag. That would be your teachings, wouldn't it?
A. Not to put the Flag first.

'Q. Well, put the Flag any place. According to your teachings the Flag is a piece of bunting, according to your teachings?
A. It represents the powers of this world to us.

'Q. Represents the powers of this world?
A. The American Flag would be representing the worldly element, and I believe that we should have nothing to do with the worldly element. ...

'Q. Well, if there was a parade going by, and the Flag was going by, how would you teach the children to act about that time?
A. I would have them stand at attention. ...

'Q. I am not trying to find out what the teachings of the Witnesses of Jehovah are. I am just trying to find out what you would teach these children. Would you ever fly the Flag, according to your teachings to your children, at your home?
A. We have the Flag in our home, yes.

'Q. You have it on display?
A. We have two small flags in our home. [Even the dumbest JW knows that this was a stunt perpetrated before trial in anticipation of testifying regarding such.]

'Q. And why do you put those out?
A. We respect it.

'Q. Well, in what way, Mrs. Cory, do you respect it?
A. Well, we believe, we `render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's', the way our study of the Bible has brought it out to us. ...

'Q. Well, let me ask you this - I don't want to take too long - as a matter of fact I presume from your statements and other things, that you would raise these children to respect the flag but under no circumstances to salute it, is that it?
A. That is it.

'Q. Because you think that, religiously, that it is wrong to salute anything, is that it?
A. That is it.

'Q. And so it wouldn't make any difference, no matter what circumstances existed, the children would be taught never to salute the Flag?
A. I am trying to live a Christian life the way it seems to me.'
"As for the finding of the trial court that the teachings of appellant have so imbued the minor son with disrespect for the flag and unpatriotic thoughts that when it is displayed he becomes ill at ease and greatly agitated, the only testimony upon which such a conclusion could be based is testimony of respondent and his woman friend who accompanied him when he took the children to a movie, that when the flag was shown on the screen the little boy at first clapped, but later said he wanted to go home, that 'Mama says that flag is no good.'  However, during the hearing the court interrogated the children as follows:
'Q. Jimmie, you see this flag? Do you know what it is? Don't you know what kind of flag it is?
A. American.

'Q. American Flag?
A. Yes.

'Q. What do you think about it? Does your Mama tell you anything about the Flag?
A. (Nods No.)

'Q. Do you think it is all right?
A. (Nods Yes.)

'Q. The American Flag?
A. Yes.

'Q. Well, who has been talking to you about that, your mama?
A. She don't remember.

'Q. Oh, yes, Jimmie; now you know about this Flag, don't you?
A. Yes, but I don't remember.

'Q. Don't remember what?
A. What mama said.

'Q. Don't remember what mama said. Well, do you believe in saluting the Flag?
A. I don't know.

'Q. You don't know. How old are you, Jimmie?
A. Six.

'Q. Six years old. Well, when all the children at school salute the Flag, do you salute it?

'MR. DWYER: He doesn't go to school, your Honor. He has not started to school yet.
'THE COURT: Q. Have you started to school?
A. No.

'Q. Does your mama tell you much about the Flag, Jimmie?
A. I don't know.

'Q. Don't tell me you don't remember, Jimmie.
A. I don't know.

'Q. Don't be scared. We are just talking it over. You know about this Flag, don't you? Don't you know anything about it?
A. (Nods No.)

'Q. How about your sister? How old is Sister?
A. Three.
'Q. Three?

'THE COURT: I suppose Sister is too young. Sister, do you know anything about the Flag?

"As to the finding of the trial court that the teachings of the children's mother will prevent them from becoming 'loyal American citizens,' and will prevent them from joining any of our leading character building groups and organizations as well as the leading fraternal organizations, and will tend to prevent them from associating with 'loyal Americans,' these are but generalizations and conclusions, without definition as to what constitute 'loyal American citizens,' 'loyal Americans," etc., it being assumed, apparently, that those who refuse to salute the flag and do not believe in war because of adherence to the commandment that 'Thou shalt not kill,' are for these reasons alone to be considered as 'disloyal Americans,' and not 'good American citizens.' But Jehovah's Witnesses are not the only religious group that, adhering with what we might believe to be too strict adherence to the teachings of Christ, refuse, to a greater or less extent, to participate in waging war. One need not go far back into the history of this country to find men conceded to be great Americans who were taught such principles as a part of the religious faith of their fathers and mothers and the religious organizations of which they were members. A striking example of this should occur to the mind of anyone familiar with the religious background of a living American whom history will doubtless record as one of the greatest military leaders of all time. As for the conclusion that appellant's teachings will prevent these children from joining 'our leading character building organizations' - whatever they may be - adherence to the teachings of any one religious group may have the effect of excluding its adherents from membership in organizations built upon the creeds of other dissenting religious groups, but such fact should have no bearing upon the rights of parents to bring their children up in their own faith, nor justify courts in arrogating to themselves the right to determine that the religious teachings of such parents will not be for the best interests of their children. Aside from the fact that she is a Jehovah's Witness there is no contention that appellant is not a fit and proper person to have the custody of her infant children. The court stated, as above set forth, that she is a moral person, and her teachings of the Scriptures to her children may, in themselves, be quite as 'character building' as would membership in the groups and organizations of whose benefits the trial court fears these children may be deprived if left in their mother's custody.
"The conclusion seems inescapable that appellant has been deprived of the custody of said children solely because she is a Jehovah's Witness, and, in the opinion of the trial court, the beliefs of the followers of that faith are inimical to the welfare of their children because they do not salute the flag and are unwilling to fight for their country. If it is right to take these children from their mother's custody for the reasons stated, then by the same course of reasoning we must conclude that it would be right and proper to deprive all Jehovah's Witnesses of custody of their offspring lest they become disloyal citizens. Also it would seem to follow that the teachings of this group should be prevented by the state as
inimical to the public welfare.
"We have been cited to no case, and believe none will be found, wherein it has been held that the courts may deprive parents of the custody of their offspring because of a disagreement with such parents as to their religious views, at least, as long as their teachings do not conflict with the laws of the land. While respondent argues in his brief that there is no religious issue in this case, and asserts that the question is whether a father should have the right to have his children taught the 'principles of good citizenship,' it is patent that both respondent and the trial court are of the opinion that the religious teachings of appellant are incompatible with what they consider the 'principles of good citizenship.'

"It is true that the trial court did say:

'Now, I don't have to decide a question of religion at all. It is a question of whether or not the mother or the father should have something to say about bringing up these children and their welfare, if it is right to teach them those things - well, that is one thing - if it is right to teach them, as I call it, non-patriotism, because after all if you are passive on these things you might as well be against them. ... I am not going to
interfere in any way with their religion, but I do say these children have a right to be brought up to choose what they want before they become a member of the faith that they have described here.

'And I am not going to ask the woman to change the religion, ... But these children are at least going to be given a chance to understand while they are young these other matters. ...
'I don't want her to change her religion. All I want her to do is to agree, to say whether she would agree to teach these children, like the other hundred million children are taught, to not only respect the Flag but to salute the Flag when the Flag goes by, or wherever they are so that, as I say, they could join a thousand institutions which they would not be able to join otherwise, so that they would be able to work actively for this Flag in case of danger. ...

'Let her think it over. I am not anxious to have the children taken. I want her to agree, if the children are kept with her part of the time, or all of the time, I want her to agree to teach them like other children are taught, to respect the Flag and salute the Flag, and defend the country when it has to be defended, and not be a shirker in war, not passive but active.'
"While the court in the foregoing disclaims any desire to interfere with plaintiff's religious views, and attempts to base his decision on 'patriotism,' it is apparent that he considers it unpatriotic to refuse to salute the flag, and believes that a mother who teaches her children that it is wrong to kill and right to refuse to participate in wars, is unfit to have the custody of her children; for only on these grounds has it found that she 'is not a fit and proper person to have the sole custody of the said children.' In so concluding we think the said court abused its discretion. Differ as we may, and, we might say, as most of us do, as to the wisdom and soundness of the reasoning of plaintiff and her fellow Witnesses, it is not for courts to say that her religious convictions and those of her associates are necessarily such as to jeopardize the interests of their children. ... ... ...
"In Stone v. Stone, ... the court had before it a situation similar to that presented in the case before us, the question being whether the trial court, in a divorce proceeding in which a decree had been entered in favor of the husband, was justified in awarding the custody of the children of the contesting parties to the father because the mother was a member of Jehovah's Witnesses, whose teachings, the court felt, were inimical to the rearing of children as American citizens. The [Washington] Supreme Court, in reversing the judgment of the trial court, stated, ... :
'Jehovah's Witnesses has existed since about 1878, and as we understand it, its members' refusal to salute the flag is not because they do not honor the flag, but because of an honest conviction, based upon their interpretation of the Bible, that saluting the flag is making it an image of the power to which one looks for salvation, and that to salute such an image ignores Almighty God, from whom alone salvation proceeds. Jehovah's Witnesses do not teach any violation of the laws of the state which are in harmony with God's laws, but if the law of the state is in direct violation of God's law, they will obey God's law first and all the time.' ... ...
"We think that in this case the trial court - probably because of his own intense patriotism and loyalty to his country in time of war, and a not unnatural irritation at the attitude of mind of persons who, though they blandly accept the protection of a government which guarantees them the right to religious freedom, are unwilling to fight for its preservation, and who in the light of the present world conflict still insist that by inaction their rights and their lives will be preserved by a divine Providence without the necessity of fighting for them - lost sight of the constitutional provisions which guarantee religious freedom to all, and, in depriving this mother of the custody of her children because of her religious convictions, has deprived her of a constitutional right which she may not be compelled to exercise only conditionally, and in so doing has exceeded the bounds of wise judicial discretion.
"The order appealed from is reversed."
SMITH v. SMITH was a 1944 Arizona Supreme Court decision. Samuel R. Smith, of Mayer, Arizona, sued for divorce from his wife, Beth Smith, and for custody of the couple's two minor children, Andrew Smith, age six, and Sammy Joyce Smith, age five. Sam R. Smith alleged:
... that the wife and mother Beth Smith in 1934 became affiliated with an organization known as Jehovah's Witnesses, a sect of religious fanatics whose methods of propagating their beliefs are so aggressive, obnoxious and obtrusive as to arouse resentment and physical violence on the part of the public. He further alleges defendant refused to live with him at their home in Mayer, Arizona, where he was engaged in mining, claiming her religious work demanded that she reside in the city of Prescott, where she was engaged in spending her time calling on the public and distributing Witnesses' literature, to the great annoyance of plaintiff's friends and acquaintances who requested plaintiff to keep her away from them, to his extreme embarrassment and grievous mental suffering; that in aid of her religious activities she used the two minor children to distribute literature and exposed them to probable physical violence; that she has not properly fed nor cared for the children, and will not permit them to salute the American flag. Plaintiff alleges he has arranged for a proper home for the children and for their education.
The local court granted the divorce, as well as gave Sam Smith custody of the couple's two minor children, Andrew Smith, age six, and Sammy Joyce Smith, age five. On wife's appeal, the Arizona Supreme Court affirmed the decision, but ruled that the wife receive visitation, stating in part:
... They both charge cruelty, and we have no doubt the conduct of the defendant, as found by the court, constituted cruel treatment of and outrages towards the plaintiff. These parties after their marriage and until the wife became a Witness had gotten along fairly well. They were apparently cooperative and reasonably satisfied with each other and their lot in life. He was a hard working laboring man, and she a true and sympathetic helpmate doing her part in their homemaking. The fatal rift between them came when she embraced line, hook and sinker the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses and began going from place to place, sometimes taking with her their children, looking for proselytes to her newly embraced form of worship. She not only preached and proclaimed her ideas to the local people, but made trips in a kind of Gypsy fashion, taking the children to St. Louis, Missouri, and to Los Angeles, California, and to other points to attend meetings of Jehovah's Witnesses, on such trips depending upon charity for food, shelter and clothing. ... ...

It is all right for each to have his or her own notions and religious beliefs, but if one carries such beliefs to the extent of disrupting and destroying the family life, it seems his conduct becomes cruel treatment and outrages towards his or her mate. Upon this point the findings of the trial court were against the wife, and it was its province to weigh the evidence. ... ...

It is apparent from the testimony that the trial court was justified in believing that the conduct of the plaintiff was such as to cause and that it did actually cause great and grievous mental suffering on the part of the defendant. The defendant has had the care and custody of the children for more than a period of one year and apparently the plaintiff has chosen the work of furthering the interest of Jehovah's Witnesses in preference to her family. The trial court had before it the parties involved and was able to judge of their appearance. It was in a much better position to judge of the welfare of the children than is the appellate court. ...

PETTY v. PETTY was a 1943 Tucson, Arizona divorce court case. In June 1943, a Jehovah's Witness, named Mildred E. Petty, sued her husband, Harold A. Petty, for divorce and custody of their four children. Harold Petty filed a cross-complaint in which he contested only the custody of the four children.
Harold Petty alleged that Mildred Petty and another unidentified Jehovah's Witness Female had on multiple and regular occasions entertained two Army Sergeants in each of their homes, and that the "entertaining" included the drinking of beer, and that such occurred in the presence of some of his children.
Both Mildred Petty and her unidentified Jehovah's Witness Companion denied that anything wrong had occurred, but rather stated that the two Army Sergeants were genuinely interested in becoming Jehovah's Witnesses, and that the visits to the two JW women's homes were for the purpose of "Bible study", so that the men could learn sufficient WatchTower doctrine to convert to the JWs. The two JW women admitted that they had occasionally drank beer with the two Army Sergeants, but stressed that they only drank beer after their  "Bible study" had concluded. [This reminds me of the JW Pioneer from California who used to take along a case of beer to one of his weekly "Bible studies" with a Kentucky couple, so that he and the husband could get drunk after they finished each "Bible study".] Outcome unknown.
STONE v. STONE was a 1943 Supreme Court of Washington decision. Mack Stone and Lettie Stone were married in 1921. They had five children. Circa 1940-1, Lettie Stone filed a divorce action against Mack Stone, alleging "cruelty", and asking that she be given the custody of the minor children, support money, and certain property. Mack Stone answered, denying the charges of cruelty, and by his cross-complaint alleged that Lettie Stone had been guilty of cruel conduct toward him, and that she was raising their children in accordance with the custom of a "certain religious cult", whereby the children were taught not to salute the American flag, and that the children were taught no respect for the American form of government, and that the children were discouraged from being loyal to our country.  Mack Stone asked that he be given a decree of divorce, the care and custody of the minor children, and that the court make distribution of the property.

The trial court found that Lettie Stone was a fit and proper person morally to have the care and custody of the children, but she was a member of a "fanatical organization with teachings entirely inimical to the rearing of children as American citizens; that for this reason only she is not a fit and proper person to have the custody and control of the minor children."  The court further found that Lettie Stone had been guilty of acts of cruelty toward Mack Stone, rendering his life burdensome. The court concluded that Mack Stone was entitled to a divorce on the ground of cruelty, and entitled to the custody and control of all the children, subject to the right of visitation on the part of Lettie Stone, "provided that [Lettie Stone] shall not endeavor at any time to teach said children the principles of the beliefs of her organization". All real property, and personal property not in Lettie Stone's possession, was granted to Mack Stone. [The harshness of the property division likely impacted the Supreme Court's decision on the custody issue.]
Lettie Stone appealed, asserting that the trial court erred in refusing her a decree and granting her former husband a divorce; in depriving her of her children and according them to her former husband ; in depriving her of all the property accumulated by them during twenty-one years of married life; and in not making any provision for her support and maintenance.
The Washington Supreme Court ripped the trial court decision, and reversed with instructions, stating in part:
"Appellant is a member of 'Jehovah's Witnesses,' and apparently has been a member for some time. As such member, Mrs. Stone gives about five and three-quarters hours a week to the organization, distributing its literature from house to house, in which work she is usually accompanied by James, the five year old son. [What a crock. Stone would have spent more time than that simply getting ready, attending, and going to/from the meetings.] It does not appear that, in doing this work, she neglects her home or her family; in fact, we think all the testimony is to the effect that she maintains a good home, and that all the children of school age have attended school regularly, and are above the average of children in that community. There is not one word of testimony tending to even hint that Mrs. Stone's morals are other than above reproach, or that she has not done all that any good mother would try to do to bring up her children to be good, law-abiding citizens, unless it be the influence exercised by her over them in getting them to accept the interpretation of the Bible made by Jehovah's Witnesses, particularly as such interpretation pertains to saluting our flag, and perhaps as to voting.

"Mrs. Stone testified that there was nothing un-American [BS] taught by Jehovah's Witnesses; that it is a christian organization [BS], founded on the Bible [BS]. Mrs. Stone, in answer to a direct question as to whether she had taught her children not to salute the flag, answered:  "They honor the flag, but they don't salute the flag. Some of the children do. The older one does. I pointed out to them what the Bible says about that."

"She further stated:  "We will never tell our children to salute or not salute. We point out what the Bible says, and they take their own stand. We point out the stand the Bible takes."
[Anyone who can't read between those lines is a fool - a fool wearing judges robes.]

"Jehovah's Witnesses has existed since about 1878, and, as we understand it, its members' refusal to salute the flag is not because they do not honor the flag, but because of an honest conviction, based upon their interpretation of the Bible, that saluting the flag is making it an image of the power to which one looks for salvation, and that to salute such an image ignores Almighty God, from whom alone salvation proceeds. [More BS.  This is the secondary reason they tell non-JWs.]  Jehovah's Witnesses do not teach any violation of the laws of the state which are in harmony with God's laws, but, if the law of the state is in direct violation of God's law, they will obey God's law first and all the time.
[Its unimaginable that a Supreme Court Justice could actually write this, and not understand what such actually means.]

"There is no testimony that there has been any trouble at school because of the failure of the Stone children to salute the flag. [This is 1943. Where have these fools been sleeping?] Two of the older children do not salute the flag, while one of them does. The two younger children are not old enough to have any views on the question.
"[Mack Stone] does not believe in the above doctrine, and there has been much quarreling and discord in the family as the result of this difference in opinion. These differences were brought to a climax when respondent told the oldest daughter, Maxine, who was about to go out and distribute some of the tracts or books of the organization, that she could stay at home and take care of the house, or take her clothes and go to town and make her own living. The daughter left, and Mrs. Stone went with her, apparently coming to Olympia, where she rents a small place and has the children with her.

"There is testimony that Mr. Stone has been indifferent toward his children, and that he was not very considerate of Mrs. Stone at the time the last baby was born. It may be that this seeming indifference was in part due to the fact that Mr. Stone has worked away from home a good deal of the time. However, he seems to have provided fairly well for his family, considering his circumstances.

"While there are other things which have occurred, which, combined with Mrs. Stone's religious belief, have brought about a condition because of which both parties admit they can no longer live together as man and wife, Mrs. Stone's religious convictions and practices and the quarrels resulting therefrom have undoubtedly been the main cause of their trouble. ...
"We are of the opinion that the facts in this case justify the granting of an interlocutory decree of divorce to each of the parties on the ground of cruelty. ... ...
"We do not doubt the right of the state to suppress religious practices dangerous to morals, and presumably those also which are inimical to public safety, health, and good order, but, sofar as appears from the testimony in this case, the teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses cannot, in our opinion, be classed in any one of these categories. [This BS has been quoted over and over by liberal judges over the years.]

"We cannot find in the record any testimony which would justify the court in finding that this mother is unfit to have the care and custody of her children, because of her religious beliefs, or that the children, if left with her, will be reared in an atmosphere of disloyalty to their country or its institutions.

"While we hesitate to reverse the trial court in divorce actions, especially as to the custody and control of minor children, believing that, having seen and heard the witnesses, the trial court is better able than are we to determine what is best for the welfare of the children, however in this case the ground upon which the court's conclusions and judgment are based is not, in our opinion, supported by the evidence and cannot be sustained.
"We are of the opinion that appellant, under the facts of this case, is entitled to the care and custody of the children. We may say in this connection that it probably makes little difference who has the custody of the three oldest children, as the oldest girl is now self-supporting, one of the boys is with his grandmother, and the other boy indicated that he did not care to live with either his father or mother. However, we feel that the mother should have the care and custody of the two youngest children, one of whom is five years old and the other about two years, and that it would be better to have all the children placed under the care and custody of one parent.[Mack Stone] may have the right of visitation at any and all reasonable times, and the three oldest children may have the right to visit and be with their father so long as it shall not interfere with their school work. [Mack Stone] shall not molest or interfere with appellant in the home, nor shall either parent attempt to alienate any of the children from the other parent.
... [Property divided more equitably.] ...
WILSON v. WILSON was a 1943 California appellate decision. Charles Wilson and Greta Wilson were married in 1918. Over the years, they had six children. The Wilson's had a good marriage until around 1932, when Greta Wilson joined and later became obsessed (1936-7) with the Jehovah's Witnesses.  Charles Wilson was opposed to the teachings of the WatchTower Society, and even moved his family to California, in ignorance, thinking that he could get his wife away from them.
In June 1941, Greta Wilson moved out of the family home, and thereafter filed a divorce action, in which she sought custody of the couple's five minor children. The action proceeded to a lengthy trial.  The court awarded a divorce to Charles Wilson on his cross-complaint, and gave custody of the five minor children to him, and awarded the small amount of community property to Charles Wilson for the benefit of the minor children.
On appeal, the appellate court noted that it was settled law in California that the finding of the trial court in divorce actions would not be disturbed on appeal unless the evidence in support thereof was so slight as to indicate a want of the ordinary good judgment and an abuse of discretion by the trial court.  In reviewing the trial record, the appellate court stated, in part:
"It is not feasible to set out in this opinion all of the evidence in the case. A great portion of it consists of many exhibits in reference to the literature of the organization of which plaintiff was a member. We will, however, attempt to set out sufficient evidence to indicate what the trial court had before it to consider in support of its findings.

"Plaintiff argues that the evidence of her activities in connection with the Jehovah's Witnesses was not such that she should be found to be an unfit or improper person to have custody of the children, nor was it such conduct as would constitute a ground for divorce based upon cruelty. Defendant takes a contrary view. Her argument was rejected and defendant's view was shared by the trial court.

"Defendant and his wife were married in 1918. He was an automobile mechanic. Their marital status seemed to go fairly smooth until about six years ago when plaintiff became connected with the organization known as Jehovah's Witnesses and became quite active therein. Defendant was opposed to their principles, as he understood them, and remonstrated with his wife in reference thereto. He claims that he came to California to 'try to get away from it', but that he was unsuccessful in this respect. He testified that her activities had caused him 'worry and anguish'; that his wife would remain away from home and their children until late at night and for days, and that he discovered that she had been gone as long as three days without telling him or making provision for the care of the children; that he, with the aid of the oldest girl, would be compelled to prepare their own meals and see that the children were clean enough to go to school. He testified further that his wife on some of these occasions would go on the streets of Brawley, where he was well known, and for hours endeavor to sell their literature, remaining away from home and the children; that on one occasion he said he did slap her because he had asked her to stay off from the streets selling the literature in the town where he knew so many people; that it interfered with his employment; that two days later he caught her 'peddling the magazine' and he took them away from her and slapped her; that on another occasion two weeks later he caught her with a sack full of books and magazines; that he took them away from her; that she called him a 'liar' and he told her what he thought of her books and then he slapped her; that it is impossible for them to live together as long as she follows that creed because she taught the teachings and doctrines of the organization to the children; that he believed that the doctrines so taught were detrimental to the government and to the minds of the children; that plaintiff endeavored to teach them that the organization, as such, does not believe in saluting the flag of the United States, and that the children were fully justified in disobeying and disregarding the laws of our land when they thought such laws conflicted with some construction which the organization might place upon certain passages of the Bible.
"Defendant further testified that on one occasion when he found plaintiff endeavoring to teach such doctrines to the children in their home late one evening that he said to her: 'Get out and let them go to sleep,' and that 'she started kicking and she kicked the hide off of my knee and I still have the scar (exhibiting same). I caught her by the foot as she tried to kick me in the face and dragged her into the other room. She went back and I reached out to take her by the shoulder and she started kicking again, and I caught her by the foot and dragged her back through again, and she threw her shoes at me. I pushed her into the bedroom. She was trying to kick at me ... I didn't hit her on that occasion.  ... She started to the police station to have me arrested. I got the two little girls in the car and I thought if she got to the police station they would have trouble in getting me because I wasn't going to the police station unless she went too. I caught up with her before she got there and put her in the car, and I tried to get her to go back home with me and she would bounce out faster than I could put her in ... the police came along ...  and they stopped and talked. She was determined to have me arrested.  ... She went home and the next morning she got up and went out and swore out a warrant for me and had me hauled into the police court. ...
"Many exhibits were placed in evidence in an endeavor to show the doctrines being taught by the organization and which she, in turn, it is claimed, imparted to the children. The effect of these teachings, as construed by the trial court, is set forth in the findings in detail. The court then found that the plaintiff, 'for approximately ten years last past has been a member of a certain sect or cult known as Jehovah's Witnesses [called such by the Court of Appeal of California]; that as such member the said plaintiff ... is engaged in the spreading and dissemination of the doctrines of said sect through public solicitation, public speaking, and the continued distribution of printed matter ... the author of some of which is one 'Judge Rutherford', ... that plaintiff ... implicitly believes in and advocates all of the matters and things set forth in said exhibits and said printed matter; that some of such printed matter expressly and by implication instructs the members and followers of said sect to disobey and violate the laws of the United States, the State of California, and other local laws whenever and wherever it may appear to the individual member of said sect that any such law does not meet with his or her approval according to his or her interpretation of some passage or passages of the Holy Scriptures ... '; that 'the members of said sect and the said plaintiff ... refused to salute or recognize the flag of the United States as a symbol of democracy'; that plaintiff, 'up to the time of the separation of the parties hereto, kept quantities of such printed matter in the home of said parties for the members of the family and the minor children of said parties to read and study, and said plaintiff ... taught and instructed the said children ... in the doctrines of said sect as set forth in said printed matter'; that 'for several years last past the said plaintiff ... in her endeavor to spread such doctrines as aforesaid, has continually absented herself from the home of the parties and has traveled to other places, and at certain of said times has taken the younger children of said parties with her, and caused them to distribute copies of said printed matter upon the streets and in public places and, during the month of August, 1941, said plaintiff so absenting herself from the home of said parties attended a convention of said sect in the East and paid her own expenses in so attending said convention out of the community funds of the said parties.
"The said plaintiff .. intends to continue the practice of preaching and spreading the doctrines of said sect and to continue absenting herself from the home of said parties, as she has in the past, in so doing ... that said defendant ... during all of the times herein mentioned has been, and now is opposed to the doctrines and teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses and said defendant is opposed to having the children ... taught the doctrines and teachings of said sect, disrespect for religion, or disobedience of the laws of the United States, the State of California, or local laws, or disrespect for or refusal to salute the flag of the United States; that said defendant ... on many occasions has so informed the said plaintiff ... and many times has requested and demanded that she desist from teaching said doctrines to the children of said parties; that she remain at home and refrain from preaching and spreading the doctrines of said sect upon the streets and in other public places; that the said plaintiff ... has persistently refused to comply with the wishes and requests of said defendant ... and has continued ... in all of said activities, against the will and continued protests of the defendant ... and on ... the 30th day of June, 1941, finally left and abandoned the home of the said parties in Brawley ... so that she might continue in said practices unhampered and without restraint so far as said defendant ... was concerned.' The court then further found 'that said defendant on some two or three occasions slapped and spoke harshly, and even cursed the said plaintiff ... in remonstrating with plaintiff ... about her conduct in absenting herself from the home and in teaching and preaching the doctrines of said sect which said defendant ... believed to be unpatriotic ... and detrimental to the welfare of the minor children ...; that such conduct by and on the part of said defendant ... has been and was encouraged and provoked by the actions and continued course of conduct of said plaintiff. ..."

"It is apparent from the testimony that the trial court was justified in believing that the conduct of the plaintiff was such as to cause and that it did actually cause great and grievous mental suffering on the part of the defendant. The defendant has had the care and custody of the children for more than a period of one year and apparently the plaintiff has chosen the work of furthering the interests of Jehovah's Witnesses in preference to her family. The trial court had before it the parties involved and was able to judge of their appearance. It was in a much better position to judge of the welfare of the children than is the appellate court. ... The evidence supports the findings and the findings support the judgment. ... Judgment affirmed."
LUFT v. LUFT was a 1944 Michigan court decision. Farmer, John C. Luft, sued his Jehovah's Witness Wife, Helen Luft, for divorce on several typical grounds. Luft claimed that since his wife converted to the WatchTower religion that she neglected her household duties in favor of attending WatchTower meetings and doing door-to-door recruiting. Luft complained that she also embarrassed him by her refusal to stand for the National Anthem (it was War time). Luft also complained that Helen Luft refused to have children because of the then WatchTower teaching that JWs should not have children because WW2 would lead in to Armageddon. Although that court ruled John Luft's complaints as insufficient grounds for divorce, I'd wager that one or the other likely again successfully filed for divorce within a matter of a few years.
DERR v. DERR was a 1942 Pennsylvania appellate court decision.  Floyd Derr and Ruth Derr were married in August 1935, and soon thereafter had two sons. The relationship between the Derrs was good until the spring of 1940.  At that time, Ruth Derr joined the Jehovah's Witnesses. That was the principal, if not the only, cause of the Derrs' problems.
Keep in mind, while reading about Ruth Derr's WatchTower activities and demands relating to such, that Floyd Derr was employed, at a time of high unemployment in the United States, at the town's "country club", which also furnished the Derr's housing and meals as part of the husband's compensation. The wife's Jehovah's Witnesses activities consisted of going from house to house throughout the town urging the townspeople to listen to a bible lecture played on a Victrola and distributing literature. She wanted her husband to agree to permit her to hold WatchTower meetings in their home at the "country club" (which he refused to do).  Ruth Derr even asked her husband to furnish her with a maid so that she could devote more time to her religious activities.
At the 1941 divorce trial trial, Ruth Derr testified that, "He tried to force me to go to church with him, and I refused to do it." She said, "He talked terribly to me, all because of the fact that I believed the way I did. He said if you give up that rotten, dirty belief, he says, I'll do anything for you, but that, I refused to do."
Evidence at trial indicated that in March 1940, Ruth Derr left the home and took the children with her to Scranton to live with her Jehovah's Witnesses mother and stepfather where she could continue her religious activities unmolested. She remained away until July 1940, when, at the request of the husband, who agreed to tolerate her beliefs provided she kept them to herself, she returned. The Derrs lived together until October 1940, when the wife again removed the children to Scranton. She said she intended this separation to be permanent and when asked, "Would you consider going back to your husband in Indiana [, Pennsylvania]?" said, "No, I could never think of that." There is no denial that the husband had been, and was at the hearing, willing to take her back with the children at any time.

Further evidence indicated that Ruth Derr's mother's home was but a small two-bedroom house in Scranton. Neither Ruth Derr nor her mother worked, and the sole source of income of the household consisted of the earnings of Derr's stepfather, who was a Works Progress Administration worker (W.P.A. -- We Piddle Around).  Although, if custody of the children were awarded to the wife, she would be entitled to receive from the husband some contribution for their support.  However, in the Derrs' situation, the difficulty was that a substantial part of the husband's salary consisted of living quarters, meals and other emoluments which it was impossible for him to pass on via support payments.
The trial court granted custody of the two sons to Floyd Derr. Thereafter, Ruth Derr and her Jehovah's Witnesses Mother appealed. The appellate court affirmed the lower court's ruling, and in doing so, quoted from the trial court as to the basis:
"... we cannot escape the conclusion that [Ruth Derr] regards the observance of her obligations to her denomination and the furthering of its interests as superior to her obligation to care for her children. From her own testimony it is quite apparent that she devotes as much of her time as is possible to the proselytizing work of her religion and leaves the care of her children for many portions of each day to her mother. We also think that the legal fitness of the respondent to care for her children may be seriously questioned when we consider that the children must of necessity be raised in an atmosphere which condones the deliberate break-up of a family because of one spouse's idea of a superior way of life."


RUSH v. RUSH was a 1940-1 Ohio divorce case. Limited details. In July 1940, Ida V. Rush, of Akron, Ohio, filed for divorce from her Jehovah's Witness husband, Ruel Braddock Rush. Ida Rush alleged that since her husband had converted to the WatchTower religion, and particularly since she had refused to convert, her husband had been mistreating her in a variety of ways, including refusing to speak to her, and refusing to acknowledge her presence.


EVERSON v. EVERSON was a 1939 New York "separation".  Apparently, sometime prior to 1939, Nina Everson, 46, had converted from the family's Methodist Church to the Jehovah's Witnesses. Nina was also successful in converting all five of her children, whom evidently were all young enough to still be living at home. However, Nina's husband, Francis Everson, 51, refused to join the WatchTower religion, and this apparently resulted in outright ill will between him and his wife and children. Given the following events, it is evident that it was Nina Everson and her children who were the trouble-makers in this tragedy.

On August 4, 1939, Nina and the children moved out of their Collamer, New York home, and established a separate household. Francis Everson was distraught and did his best to persuade his wife and children to move back home. When he was unsuccessful, the kennel-keeper committed suicide by ingesting poison.

This nasty scenario did not end with Francis Everson's death. Apparently, his wife and children then proceeded to give him a funeral presided over by Jehovah's Witnesses at the family home. Francis' other relatives were extremely upset over the situation. The JW wife and children apparently prevented Francis' relatives from participating in the funeral, and even refused to allow Francis' and his relative's Methodist pastor from attending. It took intervention from local police to keep order at the funeral and burial.


In July 1942, an itinerant Jehovah's Witness Preacher named J. L. Rutherford, along with his (new) wife Mayme Dixie Rutherford, were arrested in Bisbee, Arizona, and convicted of peddling WatchTower literature without a city license. At the that time, such licensure laws had been recently ruled to be constitutional by SCOTUS. Rather than paying the fine, the Rutherfords chose jail time pending an appeal. The "graying", "middle-aged" Mayme Rutherford declared to a local reporter that the couple's "persecution" was a certain "sign" that "The Battle of Armageddon" was "near at hand." Rutherford further declared that the Bible foretold that such "persecution" would reach a climax at the "end of the world". The climax would start in 1914, and continue to get more severe to the present time (1942), until just before Armageddon. Rutherford quoted from Matt 24:7-14, "Ye shall be hated of all nations. ... and then shall the end come."

Interestingly, Mayme Rutherford, who was then at least in her 40s, also revealed that she had been a Jehovah's Witness for only less than five years. Rutherford revealed that she was originally from Tennessee, where she previously had been married to a "doctor". Rutherford claimed that she had left her former husband after he began to "persecute" her after she converted to the Jehovah's Witnesses and began preaching "the end of the world" in their community.
Like thousands of other divorces that have followed over the decades, the conversion to the Jehovah's Witnesses of a wife left home alone while her husband was at work destroyed one marriage, but provided a "mentally unstable" wife to a waiting divorced/widowed Jehovah's Witness Minister. MAY THE CULPRITS BURN IN HELL!!!


ANNA HOWLETT v. ERIC SYDNEY HOWLETT was a 1940-41 Michigan divorce case which involved former Bethelite (1924-26) Eric S. Howlett, who had been a musician who had regularly appeared on the WatchTower Society's Staten Island radio station, WBBR. Thereafter, Eric Howlett had worked at and managed "Judge" Rutherford's SECRET radio stations in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, WHK and WAIU, from 1927 to 1934. Eric Howlett was working at WJR in Detroit when his wife Anna, age 34, was informed by Eric Howlett's mistress of their affair. The Howletts had two young daughters, Barbara Howlett and Beverly Howlett. Divorce was granted on the grounds of "adultery". Eric Howlett, age 39, was court-ordered to pay alimony and child support.


REYNOLDS v. RAYBORN was a 1938 Texas appellate court decision.  I do not have the full opinion, but I am including my best effort at a summary, because this decision is cited by several later decisions. I would welcome any corrections to my attempt at piecing together scattered bits and pieces of this decision.
Possibly, a Mr. R. A. Reynolds and Jewel [Reynolds?] Rayborn had divorced, and Mr. R. A. Reynolds had been awarded custody of their twelve year old daughter, Alathia Reynolds.  It appears that Jewel Rayborn contested custody of Alathia in 1937, and at trial, Rayborn raised the issue that her former husband, R. A. Reynolds, had joined the Jehovah's Witnesses, and that Reynolds was rearing Alathia Reynolds as a Jehovah's Witness - along with all associated negative consequences.
That trial court apparently decided that under Reynold's custody that Alathia Reynolds was a "neglected and dependent child", and that she should not continue in the custody of either her mother or father, but for her best interest she should be placed in the Lena Pope Home in Fort Worth for training and education. Each of her parents were amply able to support her, and the court decreed that the father pay to such institution $12 per month, and that the mother pay thereto $3 per month for the maintenance and support of said child. On Reynold's appeal, the appellate court reversed and remanded, stating in part:
"History is replete with the bigotry, intolerance, and dogmatism of religious sects, and the pages thereof are strewn with martyrs who died for their faith. The divergence in creeds, the evils growing from a union of church and state, and the conflicts for supremacy waged between the two were studied and considered by the colonial pioneers who established the independence of these United States. They profited by peoples whose experiences in government had failed, as well as by the achievements of those whose governments had been more successful, and to avoid the griefs and disasters arising from the bigotry and religious intolerance of the preceding ages, they provided in our fundamental laws, Amendment 1 of the Constitution, of the United States, that the 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' ... ... ...
"The flag is emblematic of the justice, greatness, and power of the United States - these, together, guarantee the political liberty of the citizen, but the flag is no less symbolic of the justice, greatness, and power of our country when they guarantee to the citizen freedom of conscience in religion - the right to worship his God according to the dictates of his conscience. Beyond my comprehension are the vagaries of people who claim and accept the protection of their government in order to worship God according to the dictates of their conscience, but refuse to salute their country's flag in recognition of such protection. Yet, however, reprehensible to us such conduct may be, their constitutional right must be held sacred; when this ceases, religious freedom ceases.
"However much we may disagree with or disapprove their religious beliefs, the failure of appellant, because financially unable, to supply greater comfort and pleasure for his daughter, together with their refusal to salute the flag, do not constitute a sufficient cause to adjudge the father disqualified and unfitted to have the care, custody, and control of his minor daughter."


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