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Moyle v. Rutherford

Olin R. Moyle was legal counsel for the Watchtower who later successfully sued Rutherford for slander. The experience of Moyle gives excellent insight into "Judge" Rutherford, the Watchtower Society's second leader. Moyle's letter to Rutherford is enlightening in its description of Rutherford as an angry, self serving drunkard. Equally revealing is Rutherford's extreme reaction in publically defaming Moyle and issuing a Watchtower resolution against him.

Moyle became a Bible Student around 1910 and moved with his family to Bethel in 1935 to act as legal counsel for the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. He represented Jehovah's Witnesses in key United States Supreme Court cases that set new precedents on First Amendment freedoms.[1] He also sent a letter to Roosevelt condemning the American government for siding with the “fascist” Roman Catholic organization.[2]

Moyle resigned from Bethel in 1939 and returned to his home congregation in Wisconsin. He sent a resignation letter privately to Rutherford explaining his reasons for leaving, including how he was offended by Rutherford's:

  • heavy drinking
  • unkind treatment of the staff
  • outbursts of anger
  • discrimination
  • vulgar language

Click here for Moyle'’s letter.

As an example of preferential treatment, Moyle mentions the many houses Rutherford afforded himself, including the mansion in California (Beth Sarim).

Rutherford was furious and had the Watch Tower Board of Directors formally fire Moyle. Rutherford then published in the October 15, 1939 Watchtower an article acknowledging receipt of the letter (but not its contents) and went on to vilify Moyle as a slanderous murmurer that God has shaken from the organization.

"Being reminded that this is the time when God is removing from his organization everything that can be shaken, 'that those things which cannot be shaken may remain' (Hebrews 12:26, 27), the members of the board of directors of the WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY, for the information and protection of those who are devoted to God's organization, request that the Watchtower publish what follows:
"On the 21st of July, 1939, a paper written in the form of a letter, signed by O. R. Moyle, was left in the desk of the lobby of the Bethel Home addressed to the president of the Society. Because that paper involved the entire family at Bethel, it was properly brought before the board and before the family. The letter, being filled with false, slanderous and libelous statements, was vigorously condemned by the board, and by all the members of the Bethel family. The board unanimously adopted the following Resolution, which was also approved by the family:
'At a joint meeting of the boards of directors of the Pennsylvania corporation and the New York corporation of the Bible and Tract Society held at the office of the Society at Brooklyn, N.Y., this 8th day of August, 1939, at which other members of the family were present, there was read to said boards and in the presence of O. R. Moyle a letter dated July 21st, 1939, written by said Moyle and addressed to the president of the Society.
'For four years past the writer of that letter has been entrusted with the confidential matters of the Society. It now appears that the writer of that letter, without excuse, libels the family of God at Bethel, and identifies himself as one who speaks evil against the Lord's organization, and who is a murmurer and complainer, even as the Scriptures have foretold (Jude 4-16; 1 Cor. 4:3; Rom. 14:4). - Watchtower 1939 Oct 15 pp.316-317

Moyle sued the Watch Tower Society in 1940 [3] for the defamation he received in the 1939 Watchtower.

Rutherford responded by issuing a public Resolution at the 1941 district convention specifically against Moyle, describing him as “yielding to the influence of the adversary”. The public Resolution against Moyle was further mentioned in the Watchtower 1941 September 15 on page 285. This was one of Rutherford's last actions and he died prior to the outcome of the case.

Click here for a scan of the Resolution and 1941 Watchtower

Moyle went on to win the case against the Watch Tower Society and was awarded $15,000 plus interest in 1944, as stated in the Consolation 1944 Dec 20 p.21.

For further insight into Rutherford's lavish lifestyle and preposterous teachings see the article on Beth Sarim.


[1] For additional information on the cases Moyle was involved in see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olin_R._Moyle (as at Aug 14th 2009)

[2] 1938 letter from Moyle to Roosevelt

[3] Moyle v. Rutherford et al., 261 App. Div. 968; 26 N.Y.S. 2d 860; Moyle v. Franz et al., 267 App. Div. 423; 46 N.Y.S. 2d 607; Moyle v. Franz et al., 47 N.Y.S. 484.