A brief review of the Opinion of the Supreme Court of the State of Michigan, in its decision on the trial court findings of November, 1927, in appeal by the Israelite House of David.
June 3, 1929
This brief is more of a peculiar forecast as the legal summary of both trial court and appellant decision are now found to be noticeably prophetic.
Revelation 13:10, He that leadeth into captivity shall go into captivity; he that killeth with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and faith of the saints.
Star of Bethlehem, page 142, woe to that man who condemns him, for he that does it, shall have the evil for which he was condemned.
There are a number of exacting prophetic statements recorded in the Star of Bethlehem, 1902, and later membership meetings of 1905-1909 that tell such as,
Benjamin was to be condemned of all the things that the world is guilty of.
When they cannot corrupt him, they will chase him like a fox.
Let us look at the 4 major complaints, and 13 minor complaints found by the trial court in 1927, maintaining that Benjamin Purnell and the Israelite House of David was a public nuisance. All of which was systematically and summarily denied by the defendants, Benjamin and Mary Purnell, the officers of the church and leading / co-members of the organization, as all were alleged to be part of the fraud upon the membership in guise of religion, and were in collusion with alleged immoral practices of Benjamin.
1. In maintaining a religious system and faith which are ab initio fraudulent, in that Benjamin Purnell is a religious impostor and whole scheme is designed to defraud credulous persons and afford Benjamin an opportunity for immoral practices.
2. In gross immoralities committed by Benjamin upon the women and girls of the colony, induced by him through his position as spiritual leader and usually upon the representations that sexual intercourse with him is a religious rite.
3. In that the members are taught to commit perjury for the protection of Benjamin, the colony and the faith.
4. In that the members conspired to obstruct justice in aiding Benjamin to avoid the service of criminal process upon him.
Review: The four major issues revolve around accusations of immoral practices and the alleged subsequent cover up (by the officers, Mary Purnell and members) of these activities. As stated above, the answer of all defendants was emphatic denial of all such charges as without substance.
The trial court findings also issued a plan of relief calling for the exile of both Mary and Benjamin, a court appointed receiver for all assets of the House of David, a trust providence for the remaining members of the organization, and hopeful dissolution of the Israelite House of David.
The immediate appeal to the State Supreme Court left Benjamin Purnell's conviction still in the air.
11 Days after the lower court Decree and public issuance, December 5, 1927, Benjamin Purnell died, December 16.
This left the Supreme Court with an entirely different set of circumstances to review and decide upon.
The High court Opinion did not move on the lower court's findings on Benjamin Purnell, and the Justices found it unnecessary to review much of the court record of 15,000 pages. The emphasis, because of Benjamin's death, shifted decidedly away from whether there were immoral practices, a fraud and a public nuisance, to that of property rights in view of a decreed State supervised receivership, exile of Mary Purnell, and dissolution, that was still being asked for (decreed).
Though the emphasis of the trial court findings was highly focused on Benjamin, yet Mary Purnell, officers of the church and certain "leading" members were under the same listing as conspiratorial in concurrence with the supposed fraud, etc.
Benjamin's death forced the High Court to completely reconsider the whole venue of the case from its beginning, and three major concerns were dealt with in a sweeping victory for the House of David and Mary Purnell.
Even though the High Court decided that Benjamin's death precluded the whole problem of immoral behavior and practices (which finding of the trial court was not reviewed because of his death), they never addressed the issue of officers of the church and leading members that were co-defendants. The exile ruling of Mary Purnell (even though "the suit was tried practically as though Benjamin and Mary Purnell were the only defendants"), still urged by the State's counsel at bar, was rescinded without comment. "It is true that the other defendants may attempt to continue the religious system and faith" etc.
Benjamin Purnell's death created a new and different legal procedure, which did not pursue the trial court's finding of guilt (the trial court's Decree was appealed, and because of his death, that decision was left untouched [not reviewed]).
Judge Dewhirst, of the House of David, asked for and filed a "Motion for Rehearing" with the Court to review the 15,000 pages of the "trial-court" record, so appealed.
The Motion was denied.
Thus, a major portion of the House of David's appeal was simply set aside, not to be reviewed nor amended, and more importantly, precluding any chance for the desired overturn. However, in the State Supreme Court's "OPINION", it states that the trial-court findings would remain on record and serve as a basis for this final word in legal process.
The gross contradiction within the few pages of this document, being: a review and rehearing so asked in appeal was denied; the trial court record finding Benjamin and Mary Purnell, chief officers and members of the organization, guilty of fraud upon their own fellow members and that all of these found guilty of fraud and collusion with Benjamin Purnell in immoral practices "in the guise of religion", are now set free to continue (their expression of religious belief), simply because of the death of Benjamin Purnell. AMAZING ........
And, what kind of justice, to not review the record of the lower court decision, so appealed; to dismiss the askance of rehearing, being the main focus in appeal; and without review or rehearing, base their decision upon the contested findings of the trial court??
Benjamin Purnell's death allowed the High Court a convenient avenue for dismissal of an embarrassment concerning Mary Purnell, the officers and leading members, who were co-defendant, and upon whom there were obviously no grounds for further litigation; even though they were supposedly enjoined in the alleged fraud and immoral behaviors.
The High Court took the route of not looking at the voluminous trial court record to try and determine whether there was equity unprejudiced in the findings of guilt. They saw quickly that there were no evidences upon the co-defendants that were found by the lower court as participants in fraud and immoral conduct, that was construed as a public nuisance, to be dissolved under State supervisions (provisions of the Decree).
Simply it was not a possibility for the High court to find collusion in the person of Mary Purnell, nor the church officers, nor the leading members that were supposed to be in conspiracy to defraud their own members in support of immoral practices, purported, but remain to this day, unproven.
The death of Benjamin Purnell freed Mary Purnell and all of those indicted of the alleged fraud and cover-up of immoral practices. In the final decision, the High court said that they were allowed, without obstruction or supervision, to continue.
The Supreme Court Justices were instant to set this aside with any convenience.
There was no guilt to begin with, and they surely saw the travesty of the situation once the prime target was removed and only the impeccable character of Mary Purnell and her support was visible.
It would certainly be reasoned that if there was guilt and a fraud perpetrated, that the co-founder and co-defendant along with all indicted would be pursued the same in the absence of the primary defendant.
Dissolution and receivership were adjudged to be "vacated".
Again, That left those alleged as guilty, free to continue in their former faith and practice that was found by the trial court to be a fraud upon their own fellow members???
All of the 13 minor issues were "disposed of somewhat summarily" based on two sightings. That the alleged villain was dead (making all of the other authority defendants not guilty?), and the complaints were "inconsequential" or so "remote" as to "have little bearing, if any, upon the plaintiff's right to the relief claimed upon the ground of an alleged public nuisance."
Again, how simple and quickly these absurd charges were disposed of as not being of any consequence to the proof of guilt or innocence of any defendant, being primary or co-defendants.
Let us review the prophetic significance in the light of the prophetic statements at the top of this page.
Alleged and found by the trial court: fraud, cover up, immoral behaviors perpetrated due to positions of power and influence.
Sound familiar ?
Chappaquiddick, Water Gate, Justice Clarence Thomas, O. J., and Bill Clinton, that has left the legal system in America with little credibility in the eyes of the world.
Immorality in high places, or just simply in general. Reminding us of a cartoon several years ago depicting school children standing in front of their teacher, and the teacher replying to them, you can ask me for a condom, but you cannot ask me for a Bible.
This is also a reminder of the prophetic instance of Jesus comparing the coming of the Son of man to that of Lot in Sodom.
Numbers 3 and 4 of the major issues in complaint were false, and seemingly interpreted poorly in regards to defendant testimonies.
Benjamin was never in hiding; during the hype of a 3 continent manhunt, he was seen daily on his rounds at the new construction site of Mary's Hotel in down town Benton Harbor. The people of the House of David were not taught to lie, however, no one was going to give the kiss of Judas, either.
A small publication was issued from within the colony to alert members, particularly that had contact with those outside the community (i.e. people that worked in the Eden Springs Park), to be aware of inquiries that were more than ordinary in nature. The State found that to be teaching perjury. Strange to say, in today's legal morass, any defendant first has a right to silence and conference with an attorney before any interrogation is legally begun. And beyond that, defendants and witnesses are carefully counseled as to proper wording and what to say as well as what not to say in their own defense.
Preparation of witness defendants for their own protection?
Let us review the 13 minor complaints that were summarily discharged in the final decision:
- "That home life is frowned upon and families broken up."
Look now at today's world of broken families and the vanishing home life.
- "That faith requires celibacy and prohibits reproduction of species."
Yes, condemn and close down with a sweeping action all monasteries and convents in America, and prohibit freedom of religious expression, immediately.
- "That husbands and wives and parents and children are separated and made to live apart."
From my own family experience, my grand parents and my father all shared a living accommodation together always.
- "That children do not receive an adequate education."
This was cited because of an unfounded complaint of teaching Bible lessons in classrooms. Should we talk about Christian church run schools, or home schooling in response to the deterioration of today's public schools, where Bible study and prayer are forbidden.
Recent findings within our archival collections reveal an 8th grade promotion diploma from 1918 in the House of David School. The pupil had successfully completed 12 courses of studies (much more complete than today's curriculum) under the license of the State of Michigan. None of which were religious studies or Bible studies. Truth is that the Israelite children were taught the faith at home, not in the classroom. It is also proper to note that the schoolteachers were all professionals from within the Israelite community and so licensed by the State. The children's studies did not stop in the classroom; they went out into the real world of trades and skills, which they had ample opportunities to learn from the many trades and arts that were abundantly represented in the colony. Arts and music were taught and encouraged as well as culinary arts and all studies and aptitudes that would be necessary for a next generation to sustain a large and vibrant community of intelligent people.
Columbine student prayer to God asking why He did not stop what happened there. God's response: I am not allowed in public schools.
- "That disloyalty to the government is taught and, during the World War, fictitious dependencies were created to mulct the government upon military allowance."
This is total ungrounded, our draftees served as non-combatants.
The country certainly came to it own by mandating an end to the useless carnage in Vietnam.
Or perhaps, if more people adopted our policy of objection to war, the economic powers that be might not have armies of pawns to command into their economic strategies.
- "That members are held in peonage."
A ridiculous finding by a supposedly intelligent court of law.
As an observance of today's replica, we have a world strapped to a killing pace, where responsible married couples with a family have to have 2 pay checks, leaving them no time to raise their children, having no time to take care of their elders in family, and virtually having no quality time to live and enjoy family, friends or special interests. Strapped to the debt payments that all are in peonage to, as the economic polarities widen between the haves and the have-nots.
- "That the colony is set up as a kingdom not subject to civil law."
There is noted only one arrest at the House of David in 100 years, and that was Benjamin Purnell, on an expired warrant. In the 1927 trial, the State had to obtain witnesses to create their case, none of which was from Berrien County; they simply could not find a local citizen to testify against the House of David.
- "That members are forced into marriage to subvert justice and hide crime."
In the record of the defense are found no such instances, but to the contrary, complete objection.
- "They are not provided with sufficient food, clothing and shelter."
Interestingly enough, the complaint within the colony was that because of such plenteousness, there was little to overcome, saving personal habits or inter-personal problems.
- "That High Island, a possession of the cult in Lake Michigan and off the coast of Charlevoix, is used as a place of punishment and exile."
From 1912 through 1929, over 500 members lived in or visited the Israelite lumber camp. Strange to think over half of the population at any given time was imprisoned or constrained at a location that the State had supervision over, particularly the island school house that was used in conjunction with the native American and Israelite children. Actually the Island community was a favorite vacation spot for parties of members after the work of the summer season in Benton Harbor.
- "That Sunday is not observed as a day of rest but used as a particular profitable business day."
Well, Call out the Seventh-Day Adventists ... you are to rest on Sunday. And this was such a travesty of American principles, to accommodate the thousands of Sunday after churchgoers with a healthsome and wholesome, family kind of park.
Not only will we slap your hands for so doing, but take the idea into the greatest telemarketing day of the year, Super Bowl Sunday ...
- "That the members are required to vote as ordered on order of excommunication."
The membership was asked to "block vote" for issues and candidates that were compatible with our views and concerns. It is not, nor ever has been a commandment to follow suit, or to vote at all.
So today, coalitions are created and districts/precincts are redrawn to politically secure the desired political seats so that the democratic process is, the way we want it. This is quite the norm today ... another great idea for which we were chastised and then our ideas used commonly.
- "That the property is held by Benjamin and Mary in fraud of the other members and should be declared to be a charitable trust."
As Francis Thorpe points out in his 1929 book, The Crown of Thorns, "It is an anomalous proceeding indeed that would permit the attorney-general as a real estate agent to prosecute an action whereby the property may be decreed by the court to be confiscated and a receiver appointed because of fraud perpetrated upon the present members of the House of David, who have never made any complaint, and who are at the same time made parties defendant to the action. Also, it is a particular circumstance to note that Benjamin and Mary (defrauders) as alleged and found by the "decree", are made co-defendants with the members of the association (the defrauded). And this not withstanding, no present members have complained.
The Trial Judge found that the party perpetrating fraud upon the members (the defrauded) are all on same team as co-defendants. Was there really a Judge hearing this case ???
This brings to an end the listing of 13 minor issues of complaint that the High court quickly "disposed" of (such an embarrassment for any credible court of law in America) under the guise of Benjamin's death, and "so remote in point of time or so inconsequential that they have little bearing, if any, upon the plaintiff's right to the relief claimed upon ground of an alleged public nuisance."
Even the most casual observer of interest cannot miss seeing the ridiculous fabrication of the one-man grand jury for the State of Michigan's case.
RESULTS: Dissolution intended (prayer for relief) by the trial court, set aside; dissolution of the House of David, interpreted as, not intended.
Receivership of properties and intended governing by the State was thrown out. "The State had no right to institute this litigation for the purpose of securing an adjudication of issues in which it had no apparent interest."
Mary Purnell's exile, as decreed, was lifted without comment (tip-toe quickly and quietly away from this one). And silence upon the officers and leading members, who, "to some extent, were instrumental in creating and perpetuating the conditions which constituted this nuisance."
The colony divides into two communities over Mary Purnell's rightful stand in authority (co-founder), and her desire to reorganize.
Both Israelite communities prosper and grow with new growth in membership and become the economic power of SW Michigan through tourism, agriculture and industries, as both the largest property owners and tax payers in the region for the next 30 years.
One individual within the State Attorney-general's team of prosecutors would soon after become the youngest governor (Greene) elect in the State's history.
Judge Louis Fead, the specially chosen one-man grand-jury (1927), received an appointment to the State Supreme Court bench in Lansing before the time of the appeal was heard (1929), and therefore could not sit on the tribunal.
The Detroit Free Press and numerous other newspapers and tabloids from that day to this have used the mythologies generated by this trial to sell papers. Sensational misinformation continued to attract attention, regardless of the facts. Truth is, these papers not only spread the fallacies but helped fabricate them and were deeply inve$$ted in the legal process and its subsequent irresponsible pulp journalism which successfully created an extremely perverted cult, a "King Ben", and a society of dim-witted dupes in following. None of which ever existed outside of these publications, nor can be, in the furthest dimensions of imagination, proven.
The Crown of Thorns
For a further study of this subject, a suggested text would be the 1929 writing by Francis Thorpe, assistant secretary for the colony, and part of the legal team through the whole catalog of legal troubles during the 1920s. Mary's City of David still stocks and sells original imprints in our Gift Shop.