United States v. Ballard, No. 472

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtDOUGLAS
PartiesUNITED STATES v. BALLARD et al
Decision Date24 April 1944
Docket NumberNo. 472

322 U.S. 78
64 S.Ct. 882
88 L.Ed. 1148
UNITED STATES

v.

BALLARD et al.

No. 472.
Argued March 3 and 6, 1944.
Decided April 24, 1944.

Mr. Charles Fahy, Sol. Gen., of Washington, D.C., for petitioner.

Page 79

Messrs. Roland Rich Woolley and Joseph F. Rank, both of Los Angeles, Cal., for respondents.

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Respondents were indicted and convicted for using, and conspiring to use, the mails to defraud. § 215 Criminal Code, 18 U.S.C. § 338, 18 U.S.C.A. § 338; § 37 Criminal Code, 18 U.S.C. § 88, 18 U.S.C.A. § 88. The indictment was in twelve counts. It charged a scheme to defraud by organizing and promoting the I Am movement through the use of the mails. The charge was that certain designated corporations were formed, literature distributed and sold, funds solicited, and memberships in the I Am movement sought 'by means of false and fraudulent representations, pretenses and promises'. The false representations charged were eighteen in number. It is sufficient at this point to say that they covered respondents' alleged religious doctrines or beliefs. They were all set forth in the first count. The following are representative:

'that Guy W. Ballard, now deceased, alias Saint Germain, Jesus, George Washington, and Godfre Ray King, had been selected and thereby designated by the alleged 'ascertained masters,' Saint Germain, as a divine messenger; and that the words of 'ascended masters' and the words of the alleged divine entity, Saint Germain, would be transmitted to mankind through the medium of the said Guy W. Ballard;

'that Guy W. Ballard, during his lifetime, and Edna W. Ballard, and Donald Ballard, by reason of their alleged high spiritual attainments and righteous conduct, had been selected as divine messengers through which the words of the alleged 'ascended masters,' in-

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cluding the alleged Saint Germain, would be communicated to mankind under the teachings commonly known as the 'I Am' movement;

'that Guy W. Ballard, during his lifetime, and Edna W. Ballard and Donald Ballard had, by reason of supernatural attainments, the power to heal persons of ailments and diseases and to make well persons afflicted with any diseases, injuries, or ailments, and did falsely represent to persons intended to be defrauded that the three designated persons had the ability and power to cure persons of those diseases normally classified as curable and also of diseases which are ordinarily classified by the medical profession as being incurable diseases; and did further represent that the three designated persons had in fact cured either by the activity of one, either, or all of said persons, hundreds of persons afflicted with diseases and ailments;'

Each of the representations enumerated in the indictment was followed by the charge that respondents 'well knew' it was false. After enumerating the eighteen misrepresentations the indictment also alleged:

'At the time of making all of the afore-alleged representations by the defendants, and each of them, the defendants, and each of them, well knew that all of said aforementioned representations were false and untrue and were made with the intention on the part of the defendants, and each of them, to cheat, wrong, and defraud persons intended to be defrauded, and to obtain from persons intended to be defrauded by the defendants, money, property, and other things of value and to convert the same to the use and the benefit of the defendants, and each of them;'

The indictment contained twelve counts, one of which charged a conspiracy to defraud. The first count set forth all of the eighteen representations, as we have said. Each of the other counts incorporated and realleged all of them and added no additional ones. There was a demurrer and a motion to quash each of which asserted among other things that the indictment attacked the religious beliefs

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of respondents and sought to restrict the free exercise of their religion in violation of the Constitution of the United States. These motions were denied by the District Court. Early in the trial, however, objections were raised to the admission of certain evidence concerning respondents' religious beliefs. The court conferred with counsel in absence of the jury and with the acquiescence of counsel for the United States and for respondents confined the issues on this phase of the case to the question of the good faith of respondents. At the request of counsel for both sides the court advised the jury of that action in the following language:

'Now, gentlemen, here is the issue in this case:

'First, the defendants in this case made certain representations of belief in a divinity and in a supernatural power. Some of the teachings of the defendants, representations, might seem extremely improbable to a great many people. For instance, the appearance of Jesus to dictate some of the works that we have had introduced in evidence, as testified to here at the opening transcription, or shaking hands with Jesus, to some people that might seem highly improbable. I point that out as one of the many statements.

'Whether that is true or not is not the concern of this Court and is not the concern of the jury—and they are going to be told so in their instructions. As far as this Court sees the issue, it is immaterial what these defendants preached or wrote or taught in their classes. They are not going to be permitted to speculate on the actuality of the happening of those incidents. Now, I think I have made that as clear as I can. Therefore, the religious beliefs of these defendants cannot be an issue in this court.

'The issue is: Did these defendants honestly and in good faith believe those things? If they did, they should be acquitted. I cannot make it any clearer than that.

'If these defendants did not believe those things, they did not believe that Jesus came down and dic-

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tated, or that Saint Germain came down and dictated, did not believe the things that they wrote, the things that they preached, but used the mail for the purpose of getting money, the jury should find them guilty. Therefore, gentlemen, religion cannot come into this case.'

The District Court reiterated that admonition in the charge to the jury and made it abundantly clear. The following portion of the charge is typical:

'The question of the defendants' good faith is the cardinal question in this case. You are not to be concerned with the religious belief of the defendants, or any of them. The jury will be called upon to pass on the question of whether or not the defendants honestly and in good faith believed the representations which are set forth in the indictment, and honestly and in good faith believed that the benefits which they represented would flow from their belief to those who embraced and followed their teachings, or whether these representations were mere pretenses without honest belief on the part of the defendants or any of them, and, were the representations made for the purpose of procuring money, and were the mails used for this purpose.'

As we have said, counsel for the defense acquiesced in this treatment of the matter, made no objection to it during the trial, and indeed treated it without protest as the law of the case throughout the proceedings prior to the verdict. Respondents did not change their position before the District Court after verdict and contend that the truth or verity of their religious doctrines or beliefs should have been submitted to the jury. In their motion for new trial they did contend, however, that the withdrawal of these issues from the jury was error because it was in effect an amendment of the indictment. That was also one of their specifications of errors on appeal. And other errors urged on appeal included the overruling of the demurrer to the indictment and the motion to quash, and the

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disallowance of proof of the truth of respondents' religious doctrines or beliefs.

The Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of conviction and granted a new trial, one judge dissenting. 138 F.2d 540. In its view the restriction of the issue in question to that of good faith was error. Its reason was that the scheme to defraud alleged in the indictment was that respondents made the eighteen alleged false representations; and that to prove that defendants devised the scheme described in the indictment 'it was necessary to prove that they schemed to make some, at least, of the (eighteen) representations * * * and that some, at least, of the representations which they schemed to make were false.' 138 F.2d 545. One judge thought that the ruling of the District Court was also error because it was 'as prejudicial to the issue of honest belief as to the issue of purposeful misrepresentation.' Id., 138 F.2d at page 546.

The case is here on a petition for a writ of certiorari which we granted because of the importance of the question presented.

The United States contends that the District Court withdrew from the jury's consideration only the truth or falsity of those representations which related to religious concepts or beliefs and that there were representations charged in the indictment which fell within a different category.1 The argument is that this latter group of

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representations was submitted to the jury, that they were adequate to constitute an offense under the Act, and that they were supported by the requisite evidence. It is thus sought to bring the case within the rule of Hall v. United States, 168 U.S. 632, 639, 640, 18 s.Ct. 237, 239, 240, 42 L.Ed. 607, which held that where an indictment contained 'all the necessary averments to constitute an offense created by the statute', a conviction would not be set aside because a 'totally immaterial fact' was averred but not proved. We do not stop to ascertain the relevancy of that rule to this case, for we are of the view that all of the...

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404 practice notes
  • Sherbert v. Verner, No. 526
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 17 Junio 1963
    ...is not foreclosed by the prohibition against judicial inquiry into the truth or falsity of religious beliefs, United States v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78, 64 S.Ct. 882, 88 L.Ed. 1148—a question as to which we intimate no view since it is not before us—it is highly doubtful whether such evidence w......
  • Heritage Village Church and Missionary Fellowship, Inc. v. State, No. 87
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • 5 Marzo 1980
    ...of "fraudulent intent" necessarily involves deeper scrutiny of a defendant's religious beliefs. See generally, United States v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78, 64 S.Ct. 882, 88 L.Ed. 1148 (1944). In comparison,[299 N.C. 430] the legislative scheme in the instant case limits its scrutiny to the essent......
  • Molko v. Holy Spirit Ass'n for Unification of World Christianity
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 31 Marzo 1986
    ...Church's religious teachings and permitting a jury to do likewise, which is constitutionally forbidden. (United States v. Ballard, supra, 322 U.S. 78, 87, 64 S.Ct. 882, 886; Founding Church of Scientology v. United States (D.C.Cir.1969) 409 F.2d 1146, 1159, cert. den., 396 U.S. 963, 90 S.Ct......
  • Molko v. Holy Spirit Assn., S.F. 25038
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 17 Octubre 1988
    ...inquire into the sincerity of a person's beliefs, it may not judge the truth or falsity of those beliefs. (United States v. Ballard (1944) 322 U.S. 78, 86-88, 64 S.Ct. 882, 886-87, 88 L.Ed. 1148.) The government may neither compel affirmation of a religious belief (Torcaso v. Watkins (1961)......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
399 cases
  • Sherbert v. Verner, No. 526
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • 17 Junio 1963
    ...is not foreclosed by the prohibition against judicial inquiry into the truth or falsity of religious beliefs, United States v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78, 64 S.Ct. 882, 88 L.Ed. 1148—a question as to which we intimate no view since it is not before us—it is highly doubtful whether such evidence w......
  • Heritage Village Church and Missionary Fellowship, Inc. v. State, No. 87
    • United States
    • North Carolina United States State Supreme Court of North Carolina
    • 5 Marzo 1980
    ...of "fraudulent intent" necessarily involves deeper scrutiny of a defendant's religious beliefs. See generally, United States v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78, 64 S.Ct. 882, 88 L.Ed. 1148 (1944). In comparison,[299 N.C. 430] the legislative scheme in the instant case limits its scrutiny to the essent......
  • Molko v. Holy Spirit Ass'n for Unification of World Christianity
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 31 Marzo 1986
    ...Church's religious teachings and permitting a jury to do likewise, which is constitutionally forbidden. (United States v. Ballard, supra, 322 U.S. 78, 87, 64 S.Ct. 882, 886; Founding Church of Scientology v. United States (D.C.Cir.1969) 409 F.2d 1146, 1159, cert. den., 396 U.S. 963, 90 S.Ct......
  • Molko v. Holy Spirit Assn., S.F. 25038
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • 17 Octubre 1988
    ...inquire into the sincerity of a person's beliefs, it may not judge the truth or falsity of those beliefs. (United States v. Ballard (1944) 322 U.S. 78, 86-88, 64 S.Ct. 882, 886-87, 88 L.Ed. 1148.) The government may neither compel affirmation of a religious belief (Torcaso v. Watkins (1961)......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
4 books & journal articles
  • The Fiction of the First Freedom
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 6-2, June 1953
    • 1 Junio 1953
    ...Social Democratic Publishing Co. v. Burleson, 225 U.S. 407 (1921); Leach v. Carlile,258 U.S. 138 (1922); United States v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78 (1944); Donaldson v. Read Inc., 333 U.S. 178 (1944). 9 May Dept. Store Co. v. N. L. R. B., 326 U.S. 376 (1945); United States v. Congress of Industr......
  • If Research Agenda Were Honest.
    • United States
    • Yale Journal of Law & Technology Nbr. 24, January 2022
    • 1 Enero 2022
    ...to Make Law, or Give Law."); Stephen E. Sachs, Finding Law, 107 CALIF. L. REV. 527, 529 (2019) (similar). (77) United States v. Ballard, 322 U.S. 78, 94 (1944) (Jackson, J., dissenting); see also Pub. Utils. Comm'n v. Pollak, 343 U.S. 451, 466 (1952) (Frankfurter, J., concurring) (Judges "m......
  • Religious Sincerity and the Reasons for Religious Freedom
    • United States
    • Political Research Quarterly Nbr. 73-4, December 2020
    • 1 Diciembre 2020
    ...Mark. 2015. “Accommodation of Religion Thirty Years On.” Harvard Journal of Law & Gender 38:1–34.United States v. Ballard. 1944. 322 U.S. 78.United States v. Pritchard. 1969. 413 F.2d 663. 4th Cir.United States v. Quaintance. 2010. 608 F.3d 717. 10th Cir.University of Notre Dame v. Burwell.......
  • State and Local Regulation of Religious Solicitation of Funds: A Constitutional Perspective
    • United States
    • ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, The Nbr. 446-1, September 1979
    • 1 Septiembre 1979
    ...that a the free exercise of religion." Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 214-15 (1972). 45. 319 U.S. at 112. 44. 319 U.S. 105 ( 1943). 46. 322 U.S. 78 scheme to defraud necessarily in- even require unlimited access to a cluded false representations, there- group’s books and records. Finally......

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