Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 4, 1954
NUMBER 42, PAGE 13-14a

Literary Theft - Eugene Smith And Plagiarism

Roy E. Cogdill

In the January 15 issue of "The Watchtower," published by the "Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Brooklyn, New York, which is the official voice of the sect commonly known as "Jehovah's Witnesses," is an article headed "Do you Respect Plagiarists?" This article is a blistering indictment of Eugene Smith and his paper, "The Gospel Broadcast" and Antonio Ochoa. It seems Ochoa has been copying articles from "The Watchtower" and "Awake" another publication by the same sect and sending them into Eugene Smith for publication in "The Gospel Broadcast" under his own name. That, of course, is plagiarism and plagiarism is literary theft. The editors of the "Watchtower" wrote Brother Smith, according to their article, calling his attention to this plagiarizing by Ochoa and received a reply from Smith to the effect that they had failed to submit proof and that he was not willing to accept their word for the matter. In the article they give an excerpt of a letter written to Brother Smith submitting the proof and requesting a reply from him. They claim they have not heard from Brother Smith in response to the proof submitted and that his paper has continued to carry articles from Ochoa that have been stolen from "The Watchtower" and "Awake."

They give an excerpt from a letter from Ochoa in which he admits that he has copied articles from their magazine and submitted them in his own name without giving any credit for them. He explains that the reason he did this was because of the prejudice against Jehovah's Witnesses by the people who read his articles in Smith's paper.

They submit a list of some twenty articles published in "The Gospel Broadcast" under Antonio Ochoa's name that had been taken from "The Watchtower" and its sister publication "Awake." The evidence of plagiarism is pretty convincing. If the charge is not so, then I have never seen a more brazenly presented false charge or read a bigger lie than the article contains. If it is not true, Eugene Smith should institute a suit in Federal Court, in which Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe, but in which they so often institute suits themselves to defend themselves and their right to peddle their false literature. If it is true, Smith needs to apologize to this publication and its editors and ask forgiveness for being a party to such literary theft even after he had notice of it. Ochoa should be repudiated by the brethren until he straightens up this reproach on the truth and the cause of righteousness which he has brought by his dishonesty. That is what plagiarism amounts to. To publish an article without giving credit for it is bad enough but for one professing to be a Christian to sign his name to an article written by another and without his consent take credit for it is outright theft, recognized as such under the law, and is as dishonest in principle as stealing any other kind of property.

It may be that Ochoa has sent articles to other papers, even including "The Gospel Guardian," about that I do not know, but anything with his name on it now should be rejected until he can establish that it is original with him. The first notice of such from "The Watchtower" should have been enough for Brother Smith.

The tragedy is that the church of the Lord and His people must bear the brunt of the article. The whole blamefor this literary theft is placed squarely on the church as a whole by this publication. Of course that is unjust and wrong. The article makes it appear, knowingly or unknowingly on their part, that "The Gospel Broadcast" is the official organ or voice of the "Church of Christ" just as "The Watchtower" is the official voice for "Jehovah's Witnesses." This of course is so far from the truth that it exposes either ignorance concerning the Church of Christ upon the part of the editors of this publication or brands them as captial deceivers themselves in which case the whole article is the "pot calling the kettle black." Will they apologize for this gross misrepresentation or are they dishonest as they charge Smith and Ochoa with being ? We shall see.

The fact is that "The Gospel Broadcast" is principally owned by Eugene Smith as an individual, run by him, printed in his own printing plant, edited by him, and is his onw voice and in no sense represents the Church of Christ. Smith's sins individually had as well be put upon the church as a whole as to charge the church with this matter. Eugene Smith is an individual. He does not represent even a small part of the Church of Christ in any official capacity and no one is responsible for what he says, writes, publishes, or prints but himself.

Are the editors of "Watchtower" willing that the sect they represent should bear the condemnation of every crime, sin, or wrong committed by one of their professed followers? They wouldn't want that. But they could as correctly be charged with every crime committed by their professed followers as they can lay upon the Churches of Christ all over the land the sins of Ochoa and Smith. I charge them with villification and misrepresentation, slander and libel against the Churches of Christ in their article. Maybe they did it ignorantly, but even so it is inexcusable. Here is the way they subtly imply that all of us are in the plagiarist class:

"Viewing it from the standpoint of the Churches of Christ: if they think we are wrong and they are right, why would they want to contaminate their message with what they consider our error?"

What they need to recognize is that the "Churches of Christ" do not want to contaminate their message with the error of "Jehovah's Witnesses." Neither have the Churches of Christ copied any articles out of their papers. The "Churches of Christ" are simply not guilty as charged. We would not want to guarantee anything about any article that appears in "The Gospel Broadcast" but we would like it to be understood that all the "Churches of Christ" are not responsible for what "The Gospel Broadcast," Eugene Smith, or Antonio Ochoa say or do.

The Churches of Christ have no denominational organization, no headquarters, no official voice or publication, and not even a "presiding Minister" over a section of the country such as "Jehovah's Witnesses" have. Every member is a simple Christian, standing upon his own responsibility and speaking only for himself. Some may get a little swell-headed sometimes and think they represent a good big group but in reality that is only inflated ego that needs to be punctured. These very editors of "The Watchtower" who esteem themselves so highly cannot be excused for not knowing that. If they do not know that much about the "Churches of Christ," how can they know that the teaching of these churches are erroneous. They should investigate.

God built His church so that it has no "King" or official voice and no controlling organization because he knew the danger of such leading all of the people of God into apostasy. God's design for the church is congregational government. Each congregation under its elders responsible only to the Lord himself, free and independent, and equal to every other congregation on earth. Any departure from that pattern is sinful.

In the same article the editors of "The Watchtower" quote quite copiously from the rambling ravings of Jimmie (love-all) Lovell in the "Gospel Broadcast" and seem to take some comfort from some of the compliments that Jimmie handed out to them for their zeal and some of the hypercritical abuse that he passes out concerning the brethren. They should know also that Jimmie loves everybody better than he does his brethren who do not agree with him. Jimmie sometimes low rates himself in an effort to be humble but he really prizes his own judgment. He was presumptuous enough recently in his paper "The Westcost Christian" to tell his readers how few of the prominent men in the church he could endorse. Brother Showalter of the "Firm Foundation" was about the only one upon whom his favor rested. The thing the editors of "The Watchtower" really need to know about Jimmie Lovell is that even Brother Showalter would probably not be willing to endorse Jimmie. If they knew how ridiculous Jimmie is in the eyes of most of the reliable brethren and how few of them would endorse him, they would never quote from him again. But even if he were reliable, why would thy condemn themselves by their own judgment in "contaminating their message with what they consider our error"?

They took special delight in an excerpt from one of Jimmie's articles of recent date in which he made some foolish and utterly unreliable statements concerning editors. It runs like this, "Every faction among us is headed up by an editor who either seeks personal power or sells books . . . . Our attitude as much as says forget what Christ taught or wants as long as we can build a business or father a faction." On this point the editors of "The Watchtower" comment as follows: "No soldier of Christ needlessly 'involves himself in the commercial business of life' .. . . And it is not Jehovah God's will for Christians to shun persecution, or print trash, or charge $50 for sermons, or build a business, or father a faction."

In the first place Lovell's statement within itself is a slander against his own brethren. It is simply not true in any sense of the word. Jimmie exalts himself to sit in judgment upon even the motives of his brethren quite frequently perhaps not knowing that Jesus condemns such an attitude as severely as any other. Such commercialism of the Gospel may exist in some instances but that does not indict the whole church with anything of the kind. I would hate to charge the church with what Jimmie says and does. It would be in a pitiful plight if responsible for them. Every Christian stands on his own responsibility and represents himself alone.

In the next place, "The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society" of Brooklyn, New York, are the last persons on earth that should take any comfort from what Jimmie said about "editors heading a faction" or "building a business." If any sect on earth has commercialized on what it teaches, they certainly have as every person knows whose door has been visited by these religious colporteurs. They have printed more trash, sold more of it under false pretenses and profited as much from its sale as any sect under heaven. A good many times I have been sitting in some home where engaged in a meeting and heard some one of their sect come to the door and present their literature for sale under the guise of "helps to Bible Study" or simply as "religious literature" without identifying its source. They stand around on the street corners selling it without any identification and seldom reveal their true connections. They want their "foot in the door" and are willing to practice almost any kind of deceit to get it there. The fact that the poor benighted followers of this sect which was begotten by "Pastor Russell" and born of "Judge Rutherford" will work to sell their printed "trash" for nothing is no compliment to those who are profiting from their efforts.

They further comment in their article, "Tasty wine that gives joy of heart should not be adulterated with `water"; nor should God's Word be adulterated by mixing in false creeds or modern philosophies. Yet this is done, to make the Bible acceptable to a wider class of persons, to spread its watered-down message further and bring in greater financial returns. Paul condemned this, saying, "We are not peddlers of the word of God." He used the word "peddlers" to indicate dishonest merchants, such as those alluded to in Isaiah 1:22. The passage they need in connection with this is "Wherefore thou art without excuse, 0 man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemn thyself; for thou that judgest dost practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against them that practice such things. And reckonest thou this, 0 man, who judgest them that practice such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?" (Romans 2:1-3)

This isn't the only sample of their inconsistency. They disallow "civil government" and teach that all of it belongs to the devil. They will not salute the flag and teach their children not to do so, but they run for the courts, hire their lawyers, bring pressure to bear to defeat legislation, accept the protection of the government and fight for their "rights under it." That is outright dishonesty and hypocrisy.

We are not the official publication for the "Churches of Christ" but we do go into many different parts of the country and are read by a respectable number of the members of the Churches of Christ through the land and we would be glad to enter into a discussion with any representative man in this sect of "Jehovah's Witnesses" to determine who is teaching "erroneous doctrine." We will hold the discussion publicly at some place agreed upon and have it printed later or we will engage in a written discussion and print it in "The Gospel Guardian" if they will print it in "The Watchtower." Will they affirm what they so confidently assert or are they afraid of their "erroneous doctrine"? We shall see.