Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 16, 1956
NUMBER 40, PAGE 13b,15b

Gospel Preacher Cleared Of Libel Charge

Ronnie Pope, Dickinson, Texas

On October 19, 1952, there appeared in the church bulletin, Mission, Texas, an article under the caption 'INDEED A BLOODY OATH.' The article consisted of verbatim quotations from the alleged oath of the Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus. To say that the distribution of said bulletin provoked quite a furor is an understatement. About three days after the distribution of the bulletin, there were numerous threatening phone calls from Knights of Columbus, who said they wanted to 'break the neck' of Ronnie Pope, the author of the Bulletin, 'blow his d--- brains out,' etc. Needless to say, such threats failed to persuade me of the purported peaceful, lovely purposes and attitudes of the Knights of Columbus' In fact, it became necessary for me to seek police protection against the threats made by Knights of Columbus to the safety and well-being of my family!

All these matters were brought to the attention of the elders of the congregation in Mission. Yet the elders' response to my plight was heart-breaking. I was told by one of the elders, 'You got your neck stuck out, now get it back in!' I received no support from the elders of the church in Mission.

Almost two years later, I was called to appear before the Grand Jury of Hidalgo County, Texas. For over an hour I was questioned concerning matters which the law forbids my discussing! Nonetheless, as a result of that secret session, I was indicted, charged with the criminal offense of LIBEL; yea, libel against a man I never knew existed at the time of the printing and distribution of the article! It is significant to note that just prior to my appearance before the Grand Jury, one of the elders of the Mission congregation appeared in secret session before the Grand Jury also. And at the subsequently proposed trial, that same elder was subpoenaed to appear as State's witness, testifying against me!

After the indictment, I was placed under $1,000 bond, with the date for trial pending. Trial was set for one month later, November 15, 1954. It was delayed however, because of activities of the defense counsel in making sufficient preparation for the trial. In the meantime, a few preachers of the Valley (who did not live in the Valley at the time of the circulation of the bulletin or know all pertinent circumstances) and various members of the church who were likewise ignorant of the charges brought against me, etc., began to lament, 'Oh, how this will hurt the church,' 'This will give the church a black eye,' etc. In fact, I received a letter from G. C. Brewer, 'prophesying' of my certain conviction and advising me to 'settle out of court.' I disregarded his letter, not even answering it. Then suddenly in the latter part of 1954 there appeared in the VOICE OF FREEDOM, edited by G. C. Brewer, a two-and-one-quarter page article, apologizing for my action, prophesying of my certain conviction, and foretelling the certain damage to be done to the church! If I had ever intended to apologize for my actions regarding the Knights, the apology would have appeared over my name, and I would not have asked G. C. Brewer or anybody else to make it for me. The article inthe VOICE OF FREEDOM appeared without my knowledge, consent or approval.

Trial date finally came, October 26, 1955. The indictment charged that I 'did then and there, and without lawful authority, and with intent to injure the reputation of C. A. Townsend (whom I did not even know at the time I printed the article. R.P.) . . . . unlawfully and maliciously publish and circulate a writing . . In a pre-trial hearing, the defense argued that even if the circulation of the article were libelous, that even if it did libel the organization, such use would not constitute libel against a specific individual as the indictment charged. Therefore the defense attorney made the motion to overthrow (quash) the indictment and dismiss the trial. The judge granted the motion. I HAD NOT LIBELED ANY INDIVIDUAL AS THE INDICTMENT STATED. (Brother Brewer, et al, to the contrary.) If Brother Brewer did not know what the indictment was, what the charges were, he should not have passed sentence on me, and broadcast it to his reading public, without having such knowledge. Yes, as per Brother Brewer's suggestion in his article; 'Brethren ought to know what they are talking about before they begin writing and distributing ....' His purported editorial policy, as well as a Christ-like spirit, demands that he correct his error in the pages of the VOICE OF FREEDOM. Brother Brewer has been sent a personal letter and a newspaper clipping concerning my ordeal in court. Will he correct his presumptuous prophecy, which thing did not follow, nor come to pass? (Deut. 18:22.)

Much research was done by several individuals, from New York City to Los Angeles to Mexico City, relative to the Knights of Columbus organization and their alleged oath. The defense received much correspondence from key figures in the government, religious bodies, etc., and many ex-priests and ex-knights were contacted. This file of information can not of course be made public at this time. It is available, however.

The Knights of Columbus have been defeated before on their charges of libel in connection with the use of the alleged oath. This is not the first time they have lost, though they would have you believe that they never lose a case.

The court confirmed the fact that my USE of the alleged oath was not libelous. This is not to be interpreted to mean that ANY USE of the alleged oath is without reprehension. It is advised that any anticipated use of the alleged oath be deterred until counseling with brethren having access to these files, either Brother Bill Reeves, Wayne Partain, or myself.

My heartfelt appreciation to brethren Partain and Reeves, who worked so closely with me in the case, for . their untiring efforts and sacrifices. And sincere gratitude also to all those who were interested in our case financially, and supported us with their prayers and encouragement.