In Charlotte, North Carolina, Judge Thomas J. Shaw disallows testimony from Ben Wells because he is an atheist. Judge Shaw is sitting as a magistrate in lieu of a grand jury and is investigating anti-communist mob violence, including the kidnapping and flogging of Ben Wells.
Thus, despite being the victim of a serious crime, he is not permitted to testify in court about what happened to him because the testimony of atheists is considered too untrustworthy.
After identifying the men who kidnapped and flogged him on September 9, then admitting to not believing in God, Ben Wells is called into a private meeting in Judge Shaw's chambers. The details of the discussion are not made public, but Shaw allows testimony which is designed to paint the union in a negative light, even though the union is not on trial.
Carl Holloway, a former striker, is asked by Solicitor John G. Carpenter why he quit the union and he answers that it was "because of free love, association with negroes, and religion.":
"They taught us there was no God, to do away with marriage laws, and overthrow the government."
Ben Wells is a British labor organizer who has come to Gastonia, North Carolina, to support striking textile workers. His injuries are so bad that he wasn't even able to appear during the initial phase of Judge Shaw's judicial inquiry.
After a week of investigation and despite disallowing the testimony of the primary victim, Judge Shaw will still find enough evidence to justify holding over seven of the fourteen accused men for a full trial. Shaw is very critical of the mob violence occurring in Gastonia:
"The evidence shows that only fifteen were guilty of taking the man out and beatinJi him, but the others are just as guilty as the men who carried him.
The trouble about mob lawlessness is that if a person joins in with the mob prior to the time the crime is committed, all entering in the conspiracy are guilty whether they had active participation in the crime or not. ...
I want to repeat again. I don't care who is connected with it, that the kidnapping of these men and that which occurred Saturday are a disgrace to Gaston County."
Judge Amos Morehead Stack will preside over the actual trial and he will reject the idea that being an atheist disqualifies a person from giving testimony in a court of law.