November 28, 1954

This is “Religion in the News,” a program of non-sectarian comment on current items of religious significance.

Clergymen, like any occupational group, are expected to impress the people they meet by displaying certain characteristics associated with their calling. Doubtless many of us wonder what a clergyman is like – that is, the person himself, not the professional worker he is recognized to be when he meets us. A glimpse into the clergyman as a man is revealed in a brief item with a New York dateline. In that city, the reputed favorite rendezvous of clergymen is the clerical department of Rogers Peet Company, a clothing firm known as “Duffy’s Tavern,” because it has been run for some 30 years by Frank Duffy, who probably knows more clergymen than any other man in the country. He travels 40,000 miles a year and outfits some 10,000 priests, ministers, and rabbis. Duffy says clergymen are relatively easy to please because they know what they want. (In parenthesis he comments that they usually don’t bring their wives along to help them shop.) Another factor contributing to this easy-to-please characteristic is that styles for clergymen change slowly. Duffy goes on to emphasize that clergymen “have a wonderful sense of humor.” “They enjoy a good joke,” he says, “and when they meet here they rarely talk about ecclesiastical or political matters.” That might be a tip for all of us who feel impelled to talk shop when the minister comes to call.


A short time ago considerable time was devoted on this program to a consideration of the importance of separation of church and state. It is more than gratifying to note that the North Carolina Baptist State Convention, just ended, has adopted a report of its Religious Liberty Committee urging United States Baptists to oppose the teaching of religious subjects in public schools as being contrary to the principle of religious freedom from political involvement. One of the spokesman at the convention pointed out that giving public funds to support church schools is giving away part of our freedom. He says, “to remove, destroy, weaken or change our conception of church and state will prove our undoing.”


We Protestants, and I suspect also many Catholics, probably have only the haziest of ideas as to what life is like in a monastery, or a convent, where, secluded from the secular world, men and women devote their lives primarily to things of the spirit. A glimpse into a hitherto unsuspected feature of monastic life is provided in a book just off the press entitled Cracks in the Cloister. It all started when the monks of a certain Benedictine abbey in England decided sometime ago that at each Christmastime they would feature certain aspects of their lives by satirizing in caricature form their cloistered existence. The showing of these cartoons proved so entertainingly funny to the monks that a Catholic publisher requested and received permission to publish them in book form. The above-named title is the result. The anonymous author signs himself “Brother Choleric.” He has never taken any lessons in art and he carries on regular duties of preaching and teaching. His characters are crotchety, appealing, pompous, and crabby. E.G., a monk is shown prostrating himself before his bishop, and one colleague remarks to another, “Rather ham, don’t you think?” Another shows a fierce little monk clutching a horsewhip and snarling, “Who pinched my relic of the little flower?” Most of the caricatures are taken from real life. The author remarks that one doesn’t have to think up jokes in a monastery. Life there is full of them.

Perhaps too many of us take ourselves too seriously in the sense that we have never learned, nor learned to enjoy, the relaxation that humor brings. It is especially refreshing to be able to laugh at ourselves. I even find some of my own colleagues occasionally taking offense at cartoons or jokes carrying not altogether complimentary connotations about teachers. To me, such things are wholesomely funny, for they take something of both the ego and the seriousness out of me and my regard for my own work. Perhaps these Benedictine monks have found one of the profound secrets of a balanced perspective – the ability to see themselves as human beings with very human foibles.


And, just as we Protestants have the vaguest of conceptions of Catholic precepts and practices, we probably have even more vague ones about the Jewish faith. Yet, about 5.5 million Americans are Jews, and their religion is much older than that of either the Catholics or the Protestants. The smallest segments of Jewry are known as Orthodox Jews. These are the ones who adhere as closely as possible literally to the letter as well as to the spirit of the Old Testament. The largest group, the Conservative Jew, is something of a middle-of-the-roader. He conforms to as much of the old law as is possible under modern conditions, but he is inclined to regard more of the law as symbolic rather than to be taken literally. The third branch is the Reform Jewish faith, constituting some 20 percent of American Jews. This last is by far the most liberal of the three.

A subject of importance in today’s world, especially the Western and Protestant world, has caused considerable controversy among the branches of the Jewish faith – namely, divorce. According to the older Jewish belief, a man could divorce his wife virtually at will, taking as authority for this Deuteronomy 24:1. However, last week conservative Jewish leaders meeting in Atlantic City, New Jersey, decided to make divorce more difficult to get by setting up something of a marriage court into which their members having domestic troubles likely to end in divorce must take their difficulties for adjudication and possible settlement before entering legal divorce proceedings. Couples who ignore this new body or fail to follow its recommendations may find themselves penalized by the church.

As might be expected, and because of their differing views, the three groups regarded the innovation differently. The Conservatives approved it as a constructive change; the Orthodox saw it as an unwanted and unnecessary growth on the smooth perfection of the law; while the Reform segment, which relies on “moral suasion,” said the change was merely an academic one.


Adequate housing has come to be recognized as a fundamental necessity for wholesome family living and personality development, but we as a nation have lagged – and are lagging – far behind our needs in this matter. It is bad enough for the middle and upper income white groups, but it is in a dreadful state for lower income and non-white groups. All too little attention is paid to this crucial matter, but a group of Quakers in a steel-boom area in Bucks Country, Pennsylvania, has done something about it. A development of 140 ranch houses at Concord Park is under construction, and not less than 50 percent of these houses are reserved for Negroes. Two nearby suburban developments, one with 10,000 homes, do not permit Negroes to live there. It is expecting the impossible of any people to condemn them to substandard housing because of race or other unimportant difference, and expect them to be in all respects like people who have their choice of the best of houses in which to live and rear their families. First-class citizenship is not only a matter of responsibility; it is also a matter of rights. Reserving a certain proportion of anything for a particular group smacks of favoritism, which is a restriction upon choice. But perhaps under present conditions, which many of us hope are temporary only, such reservations are the only effective way to insure fair play. Anyway, the example of this Quaker group is one that well could be imitated on individual merit regardless or race, creed, or other distinction. It is an example that doubtless would have warmed the heart of William Penn, who set a historic example of religious and racial toleration in conducting the affairs of his colony, Pennsylvania.


This coming week in Boston, some 2,500 leaders of 30 Protestant and Orthodox churches will meet in the Biennial Assembly of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. This assembly represents 30 Protestant and Orthodox churches in this country and at least 35.5 million members, and will deal with problems ranging from establishment and maintenance of Christian broadcasting stations in Asia to religious education for American children. This, the largest of U.S. religious organizations, will survey its church cooperative activity in 75 different fields, such as evangelism, missions, and research.

The council president, Bishop William C. Martin, of Dallas, says the U.S. has only recently emerged as the most powerful nation in history. But, he adds, if the nation is not brought more fully under God, its own future will be in peril and the peace of the world will be jeopardized.

The Associated Press Religious News Correspondent, George Cornell, says this big experiment among U.S. churches is a giant, thriving, concern after only four years of life. The aim at the start was to see if the various churches could get along working together, but by now it has become one of the dominant features of present day activity in this country.

The national council will hear prominent religious, government and civic persons at its sessions, which will be held at various places in Boston. Among the speakers will be President Eisenhower and Canadian External Affairs Secretary Lester B. Pearson.


For several weeks now a situation of importance to religious people everywhere has been building up in Argentina. Exactly what the details are have not been revealed. From the meager information available, it appears to be basically a difference of opinion between the Catholic Church and the government of President Juan Peron.

The Argentina Constitution declares that church and state are inseparable. Hence whatever the church does is of distinct interest to the government, and may well be the object of governmental regulation. Apparently some priests have interested themselves in the lot – perhaps plight would be the better word – of the working people in their localities, participating in the efforts of the working class to take collective action through labor unions to improve their lot. Last week came news that two priests had been sentenced on charges of disturbing the peace – of course, the peace that dictator Peron wants to prevail. This week a news item informs us that Argentina’s Catholic leaders have promised to keep out of politics, that is, from engaging actively in secular affairs. Along with this promise, however, is a declaration that they will never cease to fight for the basic principles of the church.

A pastoral letter is being read today from pulpits throughout the country pledging the church’s principal prelates to try to find ways to clear up misunderstandings created by the president’s conflict with the clergy. But they make it clear they will not compromise with principles. The letter says, “No priest can engage in the struggle of political parties without compromising his office and the church itself.”

Just what this means when translated into plain English it is hazardous to conjecture. But it can easily be construed to prohibit church leaders from taking an active part, whether as churchmen or merely as citizens, to promote through public organizations, i.e., political parties, the social and economic welfare of their parishioners. A comparable situation would exist if President Eisenhower forbade the National Council of the Churches of Christ to petition Congress to enact legislation providing for low-cost public housing for low-income groups.

While this interpretation may not be correct, it would seem to be logical from the information we get. At any rate, it is a classical illustration of the importance of our maintaining in this country as complete separation of church and state as is humanly possible.


November 21, 1954

A short time ago another radio program dealing with religion used as its theme question one which is of much concern to religious people of all faiths today, namely, should the church concern itself only with making individuals better and stay out of the realm of social action? In other and perhaps simpler words: Is not the main job of the church to save souls and not to concern itself with social and economic matters affecting its members? This is a fundamental question that has caused differences of opinion among church people. It seems worthy of some consideration here.

Virtually all of us would agree that the individual has a right to expect from his church personal help and comfort and inspiration and guidance in his personal life. Whatever else the church should stand for, it must never neglect this primary task of ministering to individuals.

But many people, an increasing number of people, are convinced that the church has a further obligation to hold up before men those principles which should govern a righteous society, and that the church must call attention to gross abuses of human dignity and gross failure to meet human needs wherever they exist in our society. If a family with no roof over its head was going to have to stay out in the cold, and you had an opportunity to put them up or to find them shelter, undoubtedly you would consider it your Christian duty to do so.

But, if we are concerned about a family without a roof over its head, should we not also be concerned about many families who find it impossible to secure adequate shelter and do whatever we could to secure for them, through private resources if possible – if not, through public resources – low-cost housing that will enable us, working as members of society, to see that the less fortunate among us be removed from the degrading situation of having to live in hovels or to beg for a night’s lodging?

But housing is not the only matter affecting the well-being of human beings in our world. We subscribe to the idea that every human being, regardless of race or other artificial distinction, is a child of God and as such has inherent dignity that should be recognized and respected at all times. If, then, we really believe this, do we not have an obligation to speak out when that dignity is being trampled upon by those who have no regard for human personality and who destroy the reputations of innocent people by accusation and insinuations?

One could go on almost indefinitely citing areas of human living which the Christian cannot ignore if he is interested in putting the principles of his faith into practice to the end of making the health, economic, moral, and spiritual conditions under which people live more conducive to human happiness and well-being. We cannot overlook the fact that the Master himself spent much of His time on Earth ministering to the physical and social and economic needs of human beings, as well as to the purely spiritual. He healed the sick, comforted the troubled, fed the hungry, and spoke out against abuses of his day. His example cannot be improved upon.


A United Press dispatch from New York raises a question in connection with this concern about social problems. American Protestant leaders are said to be concerned over a papal statement that the authority of the Roman Catholic Church is not limited to purely religious matters.

Dr. Claud Nelson, executive director of the Department of Religious Liberty of the National Council of Churches of Christ, says Protestant leaders are studying implications of the statement.

Pope Pius XII recently said social problems are not outside the authority of the church because they are of concern to the conscience and salvation of man.

It would seem that the Protestant concern arises of the use of the word “authority,” a word about which we Protestants are very sensitive when applied to control by the church over temporal matters. We generally agree that churches should be “concerned about” such matters, but to suggest that they “have control over” them is another matter. Details regarding the papal statement are meager, and it would be hazardous and perhaps unfair to draw conclusions until more is known as to his meaning.


Atlanta: The Congregational Christian Churches will deny endorsement by the church of Piedmont College until it purges itself of a controversial endorsement by the Texas Educational Association. This college is a relatively small church school in mountainous north Georgia. It has been accepting donations from the Texas association, upon the condition that the college include among its elements of instruction the doctrine of white supremacy. A spokesman for the Southeast Convention of the Congregational Christian Churches says the college will be dropped from sponsorship by the church until it rejects further such donations and, presumably, drops also its emphasis on racial supremacy. Americans of all faiths who believe in the Constitution will applaud this action, for neither the Constitution nor Christianity concedes that one race is superior to another; both affirmatively oppose such a misconception.


The National Council of Churches of Christ is joining with the Japan National Christian Council to give United States troops in Japan opportunity for a more wholesome recreational environment. The American Council says that soldier recreation in Japan, Okinawa, and Korea is limited almost completely to such places as cabarets, burlesque houses, and taverns. The council, which includes 35 major United States Protestant denominations plans, with its Japanese counterpart, to provide not only a more wholesome environment for American troops in Japan but also hopes to improve and restore good Japanese-American relations at the same time. Its plans include the raising of funds to provide off-base recreational centers. The United States General Commission of Chaplains will cooperate in directing the project.


Dr. Price, Chairman of the General Committee of the Friends of Presbyterian Union, is confident that a large majority of his organization will approve his work which seeks to unite the three Presbyterian bodies into a single church. His committee is an agency of a Southern regional group. This group will vote on union in January of next year. Ratification requires an approving majority of three-fourths of the members, or 63 of the 85 Presbyteries. Some groups who are against the union have already voted, for what some churchmen describe as a psychological effect.


One of the oldest Church of England practices has been challenged during the past week; that is, the historic right of the prime minister to appoint bishops of the church with the consent of the queen.

Bishops, rectors, and laymen adopted a resolution at the Annual Church Assembly this week challenging the right of the head of government to make such appointments. Dr. Cyril Garrett, archbishop of York, said: “The present method of appointing bishops and deans is impossible to defend on principles.”


In contrast to the above-cited movement toward unity among the divisions of the Presbyterian Church, the Wisconsin Synod of the Lutheran Church has opposed common prayer sessions held with other groups and denominations. It has also taken a stand against church sponsorship of secular groups, mentioning Boy Scout troops as an instance of the kind of groups it had in mind.


An item of importance, and one of interest to the friends of one of America’s staunchest friends in the United Nations has just been announced. This is the appointment of Ambassador Charles Malik of Lebanon to the board of advisers of a new program of Advanced Religious Studies at the Union Theological Seminary in New York. This program is to start early in the coming year. Dr. Malik’s name is similar to and has often been confused with that of Jacob Malek of Russia, who has likewise been a national representative of the United Nations. No two men could be more different, for the Lebanese Malik is a Christian and a good friend of the West, while the Russian Malek is a communist and quite naturally is a friend only to Russia and Russian interests.


One of the imponderable questions that continually intrudes itself upon the interest of thinking people is the nature of the human being. With some of the simplicity that the ancient philosophers viewed matter, the Rev. George H. Murphy believes contemporary life is made of mind, body, and soul. At Western Maryland College he majored in biology and anatomy to learn, he says, about the body. At divinity school in Philadelphia, he studied the ways of the soul. He learned something about the mind at the graduate school of Temple University through courses in mental hygiene.

By the time he was ordained in the Protestant Episcopal Church in 1945, he had concluded the three components of life were indivisible. His pastorate has been a search to link the three, for he says, no man of God in the world today can be a specialist. At pastorates in Wilmington, Delaware, Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Atlanta, Georgia, he did not find the synthesis he sought, although he did score something of a personal triumph in Georgia by converting one of the town’s intellectuals, Ralph McGill, editor of The Atlanta Constitution. His belief in and emphasis upon the indivisibility of these three components, mind, body, and soul may well be studied by those among us who conceive the role of the church simply to minster to the spiritual aspects of the individual, without regard to the mental and physical conditions under which that individual lives.


The National Council of Churches of Christ will launch nationwide Thanksgiving services this week with an observance on Washington Cathedral in the nation’s capital.

The aim will be something more than merely giving thanks. The council points the services to the Share-Our-Surplus program of Protestant denominations through Church World Service. At least a half billion pounds of surplus foods are to be distributed free to needy persons in foreign lands through the three-year Share-Our-Surplus appeal.

The executive director-elect of Church World Service, the Rev. R. Norris Wilson, says this week’s services will show millions of Americans demonstrating brotherhood with all humanity by sharing the material abundance with which they have been endowed by Providence.


One more consideration regarding this season of Thanksgiving –

It is quite easy to develop a spirit of Thanksgiving for one day. Often, though, when our Thanksgiving is limited to one day or one short season, our thanks are for material things. The aim, however, is that we make the spirit of Thanksgiving a normal, practical attitude of our everyday living, being aware of its relation to development of character. This is both a task and an opportunity.

November 14, 1954

This is “Religion in the News,” a program of non-sectarian comment on items of religious significance that have appeared in the press during the past week.

Washington: Two-hundred Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish leaders this week brought President Eisenhower a report on the nation’s spiritual resources. Presentation of the report at a White House ceremony marked the high point in a three-day annual meeting of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. During the conference, ten lay leaders and clerics joined in issuing a Brotherhood Statement to be used as “a platform of American action to combat communism.” This platform asked Americans to rededicate themselves to fundamental spiritual values.


A United States Roman Catholic archbishop, Richard Cushing of Boston, is often mentioned as a possible candidate for a cardinal’s red hat. His name is increasingly being brought up now that five vacancies exist in the College of Cardinals. The number in this College dropped to sixty-five this week, with the death of Giuseppe Cardinal Brune, who had been Chamberlain of the College. Pope Pius XII is generally thought to be ready to call another consistory to elect new members. Most new Princes of the Church would probably be Italians, but it is not impossible that one of the places would go to an American, and if so, it would bring the United States’ total to five.


Archbishop Cushing is also in the news this week in another connection. He declared that organized labor and organized religion have many enemies in common. Speaking at the 16th Annual Convention of Massachusetts CIO, he said it is difficult to tell which is more sad and disgusting – to hear a professed churchman explain away tyranny’s attacks on organized religion or to hear a professed friend of the common man defend tyranny’s destruction of organized labor.


One observer with years of new experience in Russia, Associated Press correspondent Eddie Gilmore, says anti-religious workers have obviously gone too far. He points out that instead of leading the Russians away from the church, the workers, that is the party workers, are driving the people into it.

That this may be true can be seen by reading between the lines of a recent decree of the Communist Party chiefs in which Red propagandists are told to keep up their thumping for atheism. The same decree, however, also said they must quit being hard on the churches. This somewhat unexpected order follows a Soviet press campaign against religion. The campaign apparently got out of hand in some places where local Russian officials persecuted believers and clergy.

Reinforcing this impression is information contained in one of our national magazines, Newsweek, for November 15, just off the press. Under the title of “Technique of the Godless,” the magazine stresses that while Russia professes to be neutral toward religion and to permit freedom of worship, the facts are that the party seizes every effort it can to militate against religion, whether it be Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox. Communist Party members are forbidden to go to church. If an official youth group outing is held, it is sure to be on Sunday at exactly the time when the children would otherwise be going to church. If a government worker is to be discontinued or demoted, it is always the religious ones who suffer. Religion is fought in the schools. Pressure is put on priests and other church workers to conform to Party doctrine, or, at most, to refrain from saying or doing anything that would reflect disparagingly upon the Soviet government structure or policy. Everywhere people of religion in Russia report that they are constantly watched and any evidence of suspicious talking or acting on their part is communicated to the local Party officials. Despite this continuous campaign, Russian people are flocking into the churches more than at any time in recent decades.


American churches have shipped over millions of pounds of food, clothing, and medical supplies to the hungry and homeless people around the world during the first nine months of this year. This was reported this week by the director of Church World Service, the International Relief Wing of the National Council of Churches. Included in this amount were 8.5 million pounds of United States surplus commodities made available free by the government. While this amount by no means meets the need of hungry and suffering people, there can be little doubt that this American performance is everywhere contrasted with Russian promises that are almost never fulfilled. Hence, in the aggregate it should do much to build up good will between the recipients and the people of America, perhaps more in the long run than some heralded diplomatic triumphs.


The Baptists of Tennessee have just ended their state convention in Nashville with a declaration of emphasis to which all Christians can subscribe, namely that “Our youth needs intellectual attainment plus a Christian conception of life.” In this topsy-turvy world of today, a sane, workable philosophy of life that is both coherent and consistent is perhaps more important than ever before for personal and social well-being. Yet, one rarely hears an acquaintance express such a philosophy. The Baptist speaker was saying, in different words, what the writer of Proverbs 29:18 said long ago, that “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”


One of the most controversial figures in today’s world is that of Prime Minister Nehru of India. It may seem somewhat strange to include him in a broadcast relating to religion, but the sober fact is that what he thinks and does may do much to determine the conditions in which we find ourselves in the future. To many Americans, he is a hard-to-please man with communist leanings. This is hardly a correct picture. He has his prejudices and inconsistencies, and like all national leaders, he is primarily concerned with serving the interests of his own nation, as he sees those interests. But to condemn one of the world’s greatest statesmen because we think he is not suspicious enough of Russia and China is a foolish thing to do, and yet that is what many of us are doing. We need to look a little further than his statements of diplomacy to discover just what his attitudes are toward communism. He has definitively and vigorously opposed the growth of communism in India. He is a friend, and also a critic, of the United States, wanting us to avoid anything that smacks of imperialism. But, he is, or tries to be, likewise a friend and critic of China and Russia. As The New York Times put it recently, he wants “precise safeguards against communist subversion in South and Southeast Asia.” This is important to the Free World, and certainly to the welfare of religion, not only in that area but throughout the world, for religion has no freedom to flourish under communism. One question disturbingly emerges from this attitude toward Nehru: Have we reached the point in our climate of opinion here where we insist that anyone who offers criticism of us or who disagrees with us is both a scoundrel and a traitor to the free world? This is a question that we well might ponder, for democracy in the Free World, as everywhere else, flourishes in considerate appraisal of opposing views, and upon constructive criticism, constructively given. People of religion, most of all, should always distinguish between an accusation and evidence.


Delegates to the National Conference of the Evangelical United Brethren Church are balloting at their convention in Milwaukee for seven new bishops. Four bishops will be chosen from the United Brethren Church and three from the Former Evangelical Church. At least three of these bishops will be new.

This denomination, as its name implies, was brought about eight years ago by the Union of the former United Brethren Church and the Evangelical Church. Two retired bishops of the former United Brethren Church have credited the success of the union to the fact that the parties brought out their problems in advance and had most of the answers before they merged. At this convention, this church was reminded, as have been other denominations in recent months, of the growth of urban areas and the implications this growth has for existing and projected churches. The Rev. Marlo N. Berger of Dayton, Ohio, describes this city growth as coming on the American church as a great tidal wave. He went on to urge that home missions and church extension officials must be added in order to meet the spiritual obligations of the church to those newcomers in city areas.


Report of another attempt at united action comes to us this week. The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations has taken notice of what one of its officials terms “reawakened interest” in Jewish religious observance. So the three million member denomination of the Jewish faith will seek to organize 50 new United States congregations in the next two years. Orthodox Union Vice President Benjamin Mandelker of Lynbrook, New York, told of the necessary expansion at the Union’s convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey. One of the key objectives of the new inter-faith program is to put religious forces to work on human problems in the social and civil order. The aim of the movement, incorporating Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Jewish church bodies is to throw up a wall against communism. This program to strengthen the United States’ religious fabric was launched in Washington this week at a National Conference Party instigated by President Eisenhower. He says the new plan “can well take the Bible in one hand and the flag in the other and march ahead.”


In Italy this week, a Protestant sect won full rights to practice its religion without government interference. The Italian Council of State ruled that the Assembly of God churches in Italy are entitled to recognition under the law and their pastors may hold services. The Assembly of God sect has fought a six-year battle to gain a legal standing for its houses of worship. The step was hailed as possibly having beneficial results for other Protestant churches seeking recognition in Italy.


Our final item today deals with a question that is of tremendous importance, but one which many of us find it difficult to think objectively about. That is the apparently increasingly popular habit of regarding religious conformity as a touchstone of loyalty to democratic institutions. Perhaps this is part of the current climate of opinion to which I referred earlier. To those who think realistically about both their government and their religion, recognize that there is not necessarily pervading reason why one cannot be a good citizen without being also a believer in religion. The attempt to establish a 100 percent correlation between loyalty and religion is naturally offensive to patriotic believers. Often in the press or on the street one sees or hears implications that because a given individual does not affiliate with any religion, he is, because of that very fact, a person whose loyalty is to be questioned. Perhaps their logic, or lack of it, goes like this, “Communists are opposed to Christianity. This man is not a Christian. Hence, he must be a communist.”

The Master Himself recognized that there was not any necessary relation between good citizenship and religion. His adroit answer, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s,” in no sense implies that because a person does not formally render to one he cannot render to the other. It is conceivable that one can be a good citizen without being religious; it is hardly conceivable that one could be religious and not be a good citizen. Therein lies the difference. The fact is that we cannot have freedom of religion unless there is always possible freedom from religion, and any imputation that non-believers, per se, are not good citizens is to relate two things that do not have any absolutely necessary relationship.


November 7, 1954

This is “Religion in the News,” a program of non-sectarian comment on items of religious significance that have appeared in the press during the past week.

The welfare of the rural church has been a matter of concern to many people for a long time. This week the Town and Country Department of the National Council of Churches issued an estimate that 20,000 country churches have closed during the past 25 years, an average of almost 1,000 a year. To find why this is true and what can be done about it, 1,000 ministers and laymen from 250 communities in 30 states met recently in Salina, Kansas. These delegates, representing 20 Protestant denominations, agreed there are four major reasons for decline of the country church.  These are:

  1. Shortage of ministers. Only about half the rural churches have full-time pastors.
  2. Uneven distribution of funds and leadership. Rural people are less able to support churches than are urban people.
  3. Wasteful competition among denominations. Many rural communities have from two to a half-dozen churches when the community is able to support only one.
  4. Steady migration of rural people to the city.

As for remedies for this situation, some reported programs to pep up their ministry to get them interested in revitalizing the country church; others suggested a single community church to be attended by all denominations on an equal basis; still others reported that two or more churches of the same denomination were consolidating.

The number one conclusion of the Salina conference was that rural churches should get rid of their “excessive denominationalism.” In the words of one congregationalist, “In the country, denominationalism is an anachronism. The whole community is the important thing to think about.” It might be well for all of us to think about this too.


From Germany comes announcement of a plea that Protestants and Catholics pray for and work toward overcoming the division in Christianity. At a church congress in Berlin, 150 Protestants and Catholics agreed that, in their words, “Human sin has been responsible for the split among Christians…. We have sinned in not following Christ’s command for unity…” This congress came about as part of the activities of the Una Sancta movement, started in 1916 to bring both groups together for joint talks to promote better understanding. At this congress, Professor Lortz, of Mainz, said that what we have in common is more important than what separates us. We could all do well to remember this when we find ourselves putting undue emphasis upon denominationalism.

Many Protestant churches are still observing the 1954 Festival of the Reformation. It began last Sunday, October 31. On this same day 437 years ago Martin Luther posted his famous 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany. That action began the Protestant Reformation. An official of the National Council Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. notes that the number of Reformation observances this year is some 100 over the figure for 1953. This official, the Rev. Barlyn Farris, adds that this indicates increased consciousness among Protestants of their heritage and tradition.


The Synagogue Council of America will mark the 300th anniversary of Jewish settlements in America with a four-day general assembly in New York City beginning next Friday. This Council is the central national Jewish organization representing the Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Rabbinical and lay movements in the U.S. today. The oldest Jewish synagogue will mark its own 300th anniversary. This is the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, in New York City.


Beginning today, November 7, and lasting through November 13, is American Education Week, a period set aside annually to appraise the work of the public schools of this nation. Hence, our final and feature item today is devoted to a consideration of the very important relationship between public education and religion, a relationship not always understood and appreciated by all of us. Two basic principles have given rise to the American public school as it is today:

  1. The assumption that each child, irrespective of his background or origin should have an opportunity for a free education.
  2. That church and state should be separate.

This last does not mean that government is either indifferent or hostile to religion; it merely means that the maintenance and promotion of religion and religious institutions shall be free from governmental authority. In other words, “Government shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

This is a principle that has served us well throughout our history. Yet, during recent years, public education has come under severe attack from individuals and groups who would transform this traditional character so as to divert public funds into church schools and who would use public school classrooms for purpose of instruction in religious doctrine. While these attacks have doubtless come from well-meaning people, in their zeal to promote their religion they have resorted to accusations that our public schools are “irreligious,” implying that these schools are not concerned about religions. That is incorrect.

This reporter is not entirely unacquainted with both the nature of these attacks and of the practices of the public schools. In none of the attacks is any evidence given to support the charges, however, there is plenty of evidence that the schools are concerned about religious and moral values. Let us look at some of that evidence.

Textbooks are perhaps the best indication of what is taught in the schools. “Civics” is commonly taught in the ninth grade, and in one of the most widely-used texts in this field, a very extensive chapter is devoted to the church as an important part of community life. “World History” is usually taught in 10th grade, and, again, in one of the most popular texts, a large unit entitled “Religion Takes Leadership,” indicates the emphasis there. “American History” is taught at both elementary and high school levels, and every text in this field acquaints the student with the important role that religion has played throughout our history as a nation. “Problems of Democracy” is frequently taught, and here too religion is one of the major elements of the course. In no textbooks in our public schools has there been found evidence of prejudice against religion; much evidence is found in all of them as to the importance of religion.

Next to textbooks, “Courses of Study” outlines are perhaps the best place to look for attitudes of teachers and contents of teaching. I have examined many such courses as well as worked with many teachers in several states on them. From neither teacher nor course of study has there been any evidence of an anti-religious bias. Much prejudice has been found in favor of religion. Moreover, many teachers themselves are members of the church and take an active part in its work. This inevitably affects their attitude toward religious values in their teaching.

Again, critics say that public school leaders are guided by purely materialistic philosophy in which there is no room for religion. Now teachers are about as individualistic a group as can be found in any occupation, and to say that they are all motivated by the same philosophy is nonsense, as much so as saying that all farmers think alike. Teachers vary in their views on education, economics, politics, religion, just as do any other group. The nearest consensus as to what teachers think was stated in a recent report by the Educational Policies Commission, made up of people with the widest possible differences of viewpoints. This report, entitled “Moral and Spiritual Values in the Public Schools” agreed that “to omit from the classroom all references to religion and the institutions of religion is to neglect an important part of American life.” The rules and regulations of the Tennessee State Board of Education emphasize that one of the educational needs to be met by the schools of this state is the “acquisition of spiritual, moral, and ethical values that will provide sound guides for personal living.”

These are some of the evidence that religious and moral values are being taught in our public schools. These schools believe that they have responsibility of teaching pupils about religion, but that it is dangerous to both religion and the state to violate the principle of separation and teach religious doctrines as such.

These schools must meet their educational obligations to all the children, and many religions are represented in a single class. To illustrate, yesterday I took a poll of a class of 36 college students. Among them I found nine who were of the Baptist persuasion, three belonging to the Christian Church, two of the Church of Christ, two to the Church of God, six who were Presbyterians, one was a Catholic, five Methodists, two belonging to non-denominational churches, some who belonged to one church and attended another, and so on. Probably the same, or greater diversity is to be found in any comparable class. The schools have an obligation to acquaint the students with the facts of religion as occasion arises in history, literature, music, art, the natural and social sciences, etc. They have no right to help determine for the student the faith he is to make his own. As different and contrasting points of view among religions become evident, young people will doubtless appreciate and respect the position of the teacher who makes clear that in matters controversial, the school is the representative of society as a whole, not an advocate of a particular segment of that society.

The public school seeks to discover and make clear to the student those values and principles of morality that all good men hold in common, morality that is grounded in something more important and fundamental to society at large than the doctrines of any one creed or creeds that divine men into warring schools. No definition of religion can be adequate for all purposes and people, but that by Justice Field seems more nearly so when he said that “Religion has reference to one’s views of his relation to his creator, and to the obligations they impost of reverence for his being and character, and of obedience to his word.” The schools recognize that this concept of religion is implicit in all the denominations represented in the classroom, and they respect them all, recognizing that they rest upon basic and common moral and ethical values. The school is uniquely qualified to do this and to promote these values, precisely because of its public and secular nature.

Consequently, were we to yield to the temptation to ground these common moral principles in religious orientation, whether this orientation be a narrow denominational one or as vague and general as the Judaeo-Christian affirmation, we would succeed only in warping the character of these principles and limiting their range of application. As stated by the commission cited before, the role of the school with respect to religion is:

  1. To display a friendly attitude toward all religious beliefs and practices of students;
  2. To promote religious tolerance. Get across if possible to all students that one can have a preference for his own religion without at the same time developing a prejudice against religions other than his own;
  3. To teach as fully as time and circumstances permit and require all the accepted facts about all religions as important parts of our culture.

To venture beyond the solid ground of general acceptance is to run the risk, almost certainly, of becoming mired in the quicksands of religious strife and controversy. This would not only be a departure from our past tradition and principle, it would be suicide for both education and religion as we know them today in America.