The history of Jehovah’s Witnesses began in the United States in the 1870’s, when Charles Taze Russell and his associates formed a class for Bible study. Over the next few years, they began publishing literature, formed a corporation later known as the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, and established their first headquarters, in Allegheny, Pennsylvania.
Jehovah’s Witnesses in the United States are free to practice their religious beliefs. However, in the early 20th century, they faced stiff opposition from some misinformed government officials and influential members of the clergy. Particularly during the 1930’s and 1940’s, the Witnesses were embroiled in numerous legal battles. Police arrested Witnesses for engaging in their public ministry, schools across the country expelled Witness children for refusing to salute the flag, and federal courts sentenced thousands of young Witness men to prison for refusing to perform military service. Ultimately, the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Jehovah’s Witnesses on these issues.
To date, the Witnesses have won 50 cases before the Supreme Court. They have also won numerous cases in state and federal courts throughout the country in matters regarding patient rights, child custody, zoning, employment discrimination, and immigration. These victories have not only shaped constitutional law and secured freedom of speech, press, assembly, and religion in the United States but also have had a positive influence on high courts around the world.