Indictment of the Special Court of Saxony in Freiberg against 39 Jehovah's Witnesses. Freiberg, August 7, 1935
August 7, 1935
Special Court of Saxony in Freiberg
Indictment against 39 Jehovah's Witnesses
By decree of the State County Saxony dated April 18, 1933, the International Association of Earnest Bible Students as well as all associated groups were dissolved and banned.
Despite the ban, former members of the Earnest Bible Students continued their activities by meeting with fellow believers in order to pray together, to read Bible scriptures and to proselytize. The adherents of the banned Earnest Bible Students are to be regarded as enemies of the State because they refuse to fulfill elementary duties of a citizen such as the obligation to vote and to perform military service. There is evidence that other subversive elements of Marxist origin joined the Bible Students in order to agitate and conspire against the State in the clothes of religion.
In addition to holding illegal meetings, the Bible Students also obtained literature from abroad, which was copied and distributed.
In general, the Bible Students admit the charges brought against them. However, they doubt the legality of the decree of April 18, 1933, which they also regard as a violation against article 137 of the Reich constitution granting religious freedom. The International Association of Earnest Bible Students regards itself as a religious association, which holds to a special Christian belief, however differing from other Christian religions.
Presentation of legal arguments:
The articles 135-141 of the Reich constitution are valid. Religious freedom is guaranteed.
Presentation of facts regarding the character of the International Earnest Bible Students Association.
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society was formed in 1884 and serves as the central corporation for the association of Bible Students, who are spread out almost on a worldwide scale. Before the ban was decreed the Bible Students in Germany were represented by the International Association of Earnest Bible Students. Both associations form a unity as regard their activities in Germany.
Both associations did not pursue the goal to form a new church or sect. Their goal was to study the Bible, to search for its true meaning and to publish their findings through literature, public talks and missionary activities. These services were to be performed without profit by voluntary workers. No church or sect was to be founded.
Baptized members of the International Association of Earnest Bible Students call each other "fellow brothers" and are no members of any other religion. The Association has no written code of its faith - it did not want to establish a dogma.
The Reich constitution does not define specifically the term "religious society". A footnote to Article 137 calls a religious society "the unifying organization of all members who adhere to a certain and specific creed."
The Earnest Bible Students do not adhere to a certain and specific creed. They refuse to accept a final, unchangeable creed. Their belief is based on the present understanding of the Scriptures, which is subject to change.
According to Article 137 all religious societies are equal to those associations which pursue the common goal of preserving a worldview. Article 137 defines a worldview as contrary to religion respective free of religious contents. However, the Earnest Bible Students believe in a personal God and therefore are to be regarded as a religious association. Consequently, Article 137 cannot be applied to the Earnest Bible Students.
The ban in Saxony of the Association of Earnest Bible Students does not encroach on the liberty of conscience and faith. Every member of the association is entitled to choose his own religious belief. Freedom of religious activity as well as religious freedom in general is limited though by State legislation. State law outweighs religious law. In this sense the decree of February 28, 1933 is State law as is also the decree by the land of Saxony dated April 18, 1933.
Freedom of assembly is granted to religious associations, which are no religious societies on the basis of Article 124 Reich constitution. However, this article is no longer in force under the decree of February 28, 1933, Article 48.
Therefore the ban of the Association of International Bible Students is valid. The question whether they are a religious association or a religious society is without meaning due to the following arguments.
On September 13, 1934 the Reich Interior Minister issued a decree following the bans of several State Counties against the International Association of Earnest Bible Students. Therein he decreed: "All printing and distributing activity of tracts and other propaganda literature published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is still prohibited. In addition the former Bible Students Association is denied the right to assemble and teach its faith."
Due to the above mentioned decree the Minister of State in Saxony issued the following order: "All printing and distributing activity of tracts and other propaganda literature published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is still prohibited. In addition the former Bible Students Association is denied the right to assemble and teach its faith."
The decree issued by the Reich Interior Minister represents new constitutional law. The Reich government is entitled to do so in accordance with Article 4, law of state restoration, dated January 30, 1934. The Reich government has the right to issue orders and perform measures in order to restructure constitutional rights. No further presentation of arguments is necessary to prove that a decree of the Reich Interior Minister given to the State Counties represents such a measure.