Open Letter to Congress, March 14, 1978

Pamela Bradshaw
Photo Courtesy of California
Historical Society, MSP 3800

During the first nine months after the mass migration of Temple members to Jonestown, the residents of the jungle community grew frustrated with what they perceived as interference and harassment by U.S. federal government agencies. The Social Security Administration and the U.S. Post Office had intervened in the forwarding of checks to Guyana, the Internal Revenue Service was reviewing the Temple’s tax-exempt status, and the Federal Communications Commission had monitored HAM radio broadcasts with an eye towards suspending the group’s license. Even the Customs Service came under criticism for being over-zealous in its legitimate duties.

Behind these government actions, the Temple saw the influence of former members and relatives who were acting alone or in coordination with the Concerned Relatives organization.

In the spring of 1978, the leaders of Jonestown began an offensive directed at their enemies. In an open letter to Congress dated March 14, 1978, Pam Bradshaw Moton describes the “various forms of harrassment” by U.S. government agencies, and lays responsibility at the feet of  “Radical Trotskyite elements.” Most significantly, the letter concludes with a dire warning:

“I can say without hesitation that we are devoted to a decision that it is better even to die than to be constantly harrassed from one continent to the next.”

The major impact of the letter was not upon the U.S. Congress, though. The frustration within the Jonestown community was felt by its opponents as well, and the Concerned Relatives seized upon the Moton letter as evidence that their worst fears were about to come true. Within a month, the group had prepared a lengthy Accusation of Human Rights Violations prepared by the Concerned Relatives, and the Moton letter was the first of 10 supporting documents.

Open Letter to Congress, March 14, 1978, RYMUR 89-4286-MM-1-27

Whether Pam Moton had any role in the composition of the letter is unknown. However, an undated letter to “Dad” expresses the same willingness to die for the cause.

Pam Bradshaw Moton letter to Dad, RYMUR 89-4286-C-5-a-3 – C-5-a-4