What it means to be an American
This is an excerpt from the book Religious Intolerance in America.
Despite having won a recent Supreme
Court case, Cantwell v. Connecticut (1940), that protected their evangelistic
endeavors, they were detained by police in West Jefferson, Ohio, for distributing
literature and for preaching their gospel on street corners. According
to the affidavit of Jehovah’s Witness J. E. Lowe, “When reminded that the
Supreme Court had ruled in our favor, [Officer] Wolfe replied ‘We don’t care
for the Supreme Court and the Constitution don’t apply here.’ ” Lowe’s affidavit
describes the ensuing events and the accuracy of Wolfe’s statement
rings eerily true.
The book quotes the affidavit from the victim, which I’ve also included here:
On March 21 three car-loads of Witnesses returned to West Jefferson.
Officer Wolfe was seen going in and out of different places where
men generally hang out in small towns. Then the town siren blew. A
crowd of men gathered in front of the barber shop immediately began
pushing the Witnesses and striking them. The five male members tried
vainly to protect themselves and their wives and children, but were so
greatly outnumbered that it was impossible. In their viciousness they
hit women members and knocked them down, one of them unconscious,
and blacked their eyes. They were reminded that they were
fighting against Christians and taking the law into their own hands.
They replied “That’s exactly what we’re doing — taking the law into
They started on us again. The Witnesses’ faces were already bloody.
Someone hit me with a blunt instrument. Everything went black.
While in this condition, they continued to strike my head and face
cutting another gash in the top of my head. At the same time they had
dragged three of the Witnesses out on the highway and were pounding,
beating and kicking them. Such shouts as “Kill them,” “Tar and
feather them,” “Make them salute the flag,” came from all directions.
And, all this time, Officer Wolfe sat in the barber shop and watched.
Finally this gory indescribably vicious assault ceased. The Witnesses
locked arms and started to walk toward their car at the far
end of town. One tall young, blond fellow procured a huge American
flag, held it high over our heads and marched with us. The same
noble flag-bearer had only a few minutes ago twisted the arms of a
young girl Witness behind her back until she thought they would
break. The mobsters were at our heels singing “My country tis of thee
sweet land of liberty,” and shouting, “make them salute the flag.”1
This happened in 1942, which is not that long ago. Think it can’t happen again?
These comments are from this year.