DERR v. DERR was a 1942 Pennsylvania appellate court
decision.  Floyd Derr and Ruth Derr were married in August
1935, and soon thereafter had two sons. The relationship
between the Derrs was good until the spring of 1940.  At
that time, Ruth Derr joined the Jehovah's Witnesses. That
was the principal, if not the only, cause of the Derrs'
problems.

Keep in mind, while reading about Ruth Derr's WatchTower
activities and demands relating to such, that Floyd Derr was
employed, at a time of high unemployment in the United
States, at the town's "country club", which also furnished
the Derr's housing and meals as part of the husband's
compensation. The wife's Jehovah's Witnesses activities
consisted of going from house to house throughout the
town urging the townspeople to listen to a bible lecture
played on a victrola and distributing literature. She wanted
her husband to agree to permit her to hold WatchTower
meetings in their home at the "country club" (which he
refused to do).  Ruth Derr even asked her husband to
furnish her with a maid so that she could devote more time
to her religious activities.

At the 1941 divorce trial trial, Ruth Derr testified that, "He
tried to force me to go to church with him, and I refused to
do it." She said, "He talked terribly to me, all because of the
fact that I believed the way I did. He said if you give up that
rotten, dirty belief, he says, I'll do anything for you, but that,
I refused to do."

Evidence at trial indicated that in March 1940, Ruth Derr left
the home and took the children with her to Scranton to live
with her Jehovah's Witnesses mother and stepfather where
she could continue her religious activities unmolested. She
remained away until July 1940, when, at the request of the
husband, who agreed to tolerate her beliefs provided she
kept them to herself, she returned. The Derrs lived together
until October 1940, when the wife again removed the
children to Scranton. She said she intended this separation
to be permanent and when asked, "Would you consider
going back to your husband in Indiana [, Pennsylvania]?"
said, "No, I could never think of that." There is no denial
that the husband had been, and was at the hearing, willing
to take her back with the children at any time.

Further evidence indicated that Ruth Derr's mother's home
was but a small two-bedroom house in Scranton. Neither
Ruth Derr nor her mother worked, and the sole source of
income of the household consisted of the earnings of Derr's
stepfather, who was a Works Progress Administration
worker (W.P.A. -- We Piddle Around).  Although, if custody
of the children were awarded to the wife, she would be
entitled to receive from the husband some contribution for
their support.  However, in the Derrs' situation, the difficulty
was that a substantial part of the husband's salary
consisted of living quarters, meals and other emoluments
which it was impossible for him to pass on via support
payments.

The trial court granted custody of the two sons to Floyd
Derr. Thereafter, Ruth Derr and her Jehovah's Witnesses
Mother appealed. The appellate court affirmed the lower
court's ruling, and in doing so, quoted from the trial court as
to the basis:

"... we cannot escape the conclusion that [Ruth Derr]
regards the observance of her obligations to her
denomination and the furthering of its interests as superior
to her obligation to care for her children. From her own
testimony it is quite apparent that she devotes as much of
her time as is possible to the proselytizing work of her
religion and leaves the care of her children for many
portions of each day to her mother. We also think that the
legal fitness of the respondent to care for her children may
be seriously questioned when we consider that the children
must of necessity be raised in an atmosphere which
condones the deliberate break-up of a family because of
one spouse's idea of a superior way of life."
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Jehovah's Witnesses Lose in Court-Often....