Olin Moyle's Letter to J. F. Rutherford

Olin Moyle was an attorney who was asked to come to Bethel in 1935 to help the Watchtower Society in its freedom-of-worship legal cases. He discovered that Bethel was anything but the "spiritual paradise" the Society claims it is. His letter of resignation is a very revealing one, particularly in light of the fact that when Jehovah allegedly pronounced that the Watchtower Society was in a "cleansed" condition and worthy of His selection as His sole mouthpiece, the one man in charge of everything done or said by of the Watchtower Society was none other than Joseph F. Rutherford himself. This letter reveals much about what kind of a man Rutherford was and what kind of an environment he fostered at the worldwide headquarters of Jehovah's Witnesses.

This letter is written as dignified and reasoned tone that could be expected, considering what subjects it is addressing.

Rutherford responded to this letter in the October 15, 1939 Watchtower. Rutherford's response in what was supposed to be a "Bible-based" religious journal further confirmed just what sort of man he was. Moyle responded with a lawsuit for libel. After Rutherford's death he collected $15,000 plus court costs from the Society.

The letter as reproduced below was "Exhibit 4" in the libel lawsuit against Rutherford and the board of directors of the Watchtower Society.

OLIN R. MOYLE Counselor
117 Adams Street. Brooklyn. New York
Telephone Triangle 5-1474
July 21, 1939
Judge J. F. Rutherford, Brooklyn, N. Y.

Dear Brother Rutherford:

This letter is to give you notice of our intention to leave Bethel on September 1st next. These reasons for leaving are stated herein and we ask that you give them careful and thoughtful consideration.

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

Treatment of Bethel Family

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

Filthy and Vulgar Language

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Brother in the King's service,

Olin R. Moyle.

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

Back to Judge Rutherford Page

Back to Main Page