Stories about litigation and Jehovah's Witnesses

The most recent submissions are posted at the top. When the file gets too large, the older stories will be added to "Litigation Story Archives."

see other similar files at: Legal Issues

Subj:    **SUBMIT STORY**
Date:    1/30/98 11:49:07 PM Pacific Standard Time

Below is the result of your feedback form. It was submitted by ( on Friday, January 30, 1998 at 23:49:01

Subject: legal issues

Comments: Did you know that the Vice-President of the Watchtower Society defended a JW for "obscenity" before the US Supreme Court (315 US 568 1941) and tried to get the JW off for "Freedom of Speech"? (the JW lost, of course, because the Supreme Court said Free Speech does not protect "obscenity and fighting words" - and this is as it should be. I am outraged at the Watchtower Society! I thought that the Watchtower Society's Lawyers would pursue legal issues that ONLY relate to issues for the benefit of "God's interests" - what a terrible witness to the Judge and everyone else invloved! And, most importantly, why is this information kept secret?!

Have you ever heard of a witness named "Chaplinsky"? I looked in the Watchtower CD rom and found nothing. But I did learn the Hayden Covington was Vice President of the Watchtower in the first years of Knorr's presidency (Jan 1942 to Sep 1945). Fred Franz replaced Covington when he stepped down, I found that on the CD rom when I looked up Covington.

But, here is why I asked: Guess what I found?! I was researching all the links on "Freedom of Speech" as ruled by the US Supreme Court - and was I shocked to find a case invloving Jehovah's Witnesses in 1942! The Lawyer for the suit was Hayden Covington!

Here is what the web page says:

The Facts of the Case
Chaplinsky, a Jehovah's Witness, called a city marshal a "God-damned racketeer" and "a damned fascist" in a public place. He was arrested and convicted under a state law for violating a breach of the peace.

The Constitutional Question
Does the application of the statute violate Chaplinsky's freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment?

The Conclusion
No. Some forms of expression--among them obscenity and fighting words--do not convey ideas and thus are not subject to First Amendment protection. In this case, Chaplinsky uttered fighting words, i.e., words that "inflict injury or tend to incite an immediate breach of the peace."


Chaplinsky v. State of New Hampshire
(to see Hayden Covington's name click on "Written Opinions of the Court" at the bottom of that web page)

from a concerned free thinker

back to Stories

back to Main Page