The tensions and strains in the complicated situation in Argentina, in which the struggle between Peron and the Catholic Church has been ongoing, came to something of a focus this week by the outlining of the issues in controversy by the radical opposition party. The head of that party presented by a broadcast a 10-point list of demands for reform, the first broadcast of its kind that Peron has permitted since he took office in 1946.
Arturo Frondizi, radical leader, stated his party’s case over a 14-station network, demanding the rebirth of democracy in his country and calling for:
- An end to the state of emergency and internal war under which Peron has suspended constitutional guarantees for the past four years;
- Amnesty for all political prisoners, and an end to persecution of those whose views do not coincide with the dictator;
- An end to corruption of public officials (Seems like I remember hearing that in this country, at least every four years);
- Full freedom of thought, religion, assembly, press, and organization;
- Appointment of judges without regard to their political affiliation;
- Election reforms, including assurance of freedom in campaigning;
- An end to use of the schools for political propaganda purposes;
- Withdrawal of congressional consideration of a government contract to grant exclusive drilling rights over extensive areas of Argentina to the Standard Oil Company of California. (It fails to mention what the party’s attitude is toward offshore oil);
- Land reform;
- A consistent foreign policy instead of the current “zigzagging” one. (Mr. Dulles, please note).
The interesting thing is that Peron has permitted this broadcast. Furthermore, the president of Argentina’s lower legislative house, the Chamber of Deputies, has ordered debate on radical charges against the police, something which has heretofore not been permitted. Now nobody except the most naive would suspect that Peron has of his own volition suddenly become more open-minded about discussion of his policies. If this news is straight, and it comes to us with an AP dateline from Buenos Aires, those of us inclined to be cynical about such matters would suspect that Peron’s grip on the country may be considerably less secure than it has been in the past. On the other hand, few of us here would consider these demands radical or anything else except something of the minimum essentials of a free society.
In something of a footnote, it might be added that the communists, with their unfailing willingness to bathe in troubled waters, have clashed with the police in Rosario, the country’s largest city. They were writing slogans on walls and attempting to organize a demonstration. But since when has slogan-writing and peaceful demonstration become a crime against morality or even law and order? Moreover, the radicals charge that the police killed a Communist Party leader in Santa Fe province after he had been arrested, and the circumstances would indicate that he had been eliminated in the best (or worst) Nazi or communist style.
All these developments indicate certainly that there is more than a one-sided ferment going on in our most Southern neighboring country. Most of us can subscribe wholeheartedly to the program of the radical party there without feeling that we are any more radical than Thomas Jefferson or a Morris Plan bank.
Two items of interest on the same subject appear in the news this week. One comes from El Paso, Texas, in a decision by a federal judge that state laws upholding racial barriers in public schools have, in his words, become junked by Supreme Court decisions. The ruling was by Judge R. Ewing Thomason, former west Texas congressman who specifically ordered Texas Western College, a subsidiary of the University of Texas, to lift its ban on Negro students.
Following this decision, but insofar as the news reveals, not necessarily as a direct outcome of it, at Kilgore, Texas, a citizens’ council has promised to fight “by every lawful means against ending the centuries-old separation of whites and Negroes.” The new president of the chapter, an A.G. Morton, Jr., said, “We will fight desegregation by every lawful and legal means at our disposal whenever and wherever it threatens this community.” Well, the only comment there would seem to raise the question of how one can legally and lawfully fight against what has been decreed by the highest court in the land to be the constitutional law of that land.
Citizens’ councils made their first appearance in Mississippi and Georgia as an organized protest against desegregation. Their main aim is to preserve segregation through economic methods. The Negro or the white man who advocates desegregation finds his credit cut off at the store, his loan at the bank due immediately; he has difficulty in acquiring a place to live; his neighbors no longer neighbor with him. Economically and socially he becomes an outcast insofar as this Klan-like organization is concerned. And there have been reports, albeit somewhat suppressed ones, of veritable reigns of terror in some communities with heavy Negro populations.
The second news item on the subject comes over the A.P. with a Chattanooga dateline. The attorney general of the state of Georgia has forthrightly declared that “Tennessee’s position on the segregation problem has embarrassed Georgia to the point that Tennessee is no longer a friend.” Well, as a matter of fact, Tennessee’s position on the matter has also embarrassed some Tennesseans, but for another reason. However, the crux of the situation would appear to be that in Hamilton County, just across the line from Georgia, the Board of Education of Chattanooga has announced that it will bow to the law and bring desegregation forthwith in its schools. This apparently has roused the ire of Attorney General Cook in Georgia, for he recognizes the embarrassment into which his state will be thrown by the example of American obedience to law and order – and justice – just north of him. And we still send missionaries to the heathen in foreign lands.
Two weeks ago I reported a trial of a unique kind going on within the Lutheran Church, that of the Rev. George P. Crist, Jr., against whom charges of heresy have been lodged by his fellow churchmen. Well, the trial was held this week, and the results are known. Specifically the charges read that the Rev. Mr. Crist has adulterated the word of God and has mixed his own opinions and surmises with the scripture. In all, he has been accused of 14 counts of deviation from Lutheran doctrine.
Preparatory to his trial, the accused said he would deny some of the charges as not representing his views. The trial itself centered around 18 sermons delivered by him this year. He insisted that these sermons correctly reflected his views and added that he would not and could not with clear conscience recant any of his preachings. The charges include that he denied the virgin birth of Christ, the physical resurrection of Jesus, and the occurrence of some miracles, as well as casting doubts upon certain effects of prayer.
On its side, the church insists that it will not tolerate teachings in conflict with the faith it officially professes.
The verdict of the seven-pastor trial board found him guilty of nine counts of deviation and recommended that he be suspended immediately from his pulpit. In commenting upon the outcome of the case, Crist says that he is still convinced that he has committed no offense against the rules of the church; that he is saddened by the verdict; that he will continue his ministry, whether it be as a pastor in service or in some other capacity, perhaps, he says, as a teacher of philosophy at the college level. Well, he did not ask for any advice from me, but someone should inform him that nonconformists among teachers these days are looked upon with not much, if any, more respect than is true among members of the ministerial profession.
Obviously, any religious organization has the power, and perhaps the right, to determine what shall and shall not be taught in its name from the pulpit by its ordained ministry. There are, however, many of us who wonder just how much and how long it can retain a realistic hold in the imagination and loyalty of a broadening membership when it insists that all members conform without any deviation to long-standing dogmas that are just that – statements of belief that can neither be proved nor disproved, but about which honest and sincere people can faithfully disagree, while at the same time those same people can agree on all the really fundamental essentials that go to make up a practicable religious faith in today’s world.
How many of you can remember when a certain senator from Wisconsin was daily catching the headlines in newspapers and on the radio from coast to coast – just one short year ago? Well, an item in the news this week that did not make the headline, but certainly contains more substance than most of the rubbish that did find its way to inclusion in headlines a year ago, came from the court of Judge Edward Weinfeld of New York. Back in 1953, three men, among them Corliss Lamont, refused to answer questions before McCarthy’s subcommittee. Lamont had contended that the subcommittee never was legally authorized by the Senate to conduct its investigations. In refusing to answer some 22 questions put to him by the subcommittee, which then meant only Joe himself, Lamont [cited] the First Amendment with its guarantee of free speech. Without ruling on the validity or scope of McCarthy’s authority, Judge Weinfeld said, “The indictment is barren of any allegation or fact from which the authority of the permanent subcommittee can be ascertained.” Hence, the contempt citation was thrown out. This is another heartening pronouncement indicating the distance we have traveled in one year from craven subjection to the reckless swaggering of one self-appointed keeper of the nation’s conscience.
Now this reporter has no desire to keep kicking a dead body around longer than necessary, but another incident in the week’s happenings seems too good, and too indicative of our more wholesome atmosphere today, that he cannot refrain from passing it on. Like the item just mentioned, it deals with the boy in the basement.
This week in the Senate, McCarthy made a speech in which he insisted that any possible forthcoming talks between representatives of the Free World and the government of Red China should be attended by delegates also from the Nationalist Chinese government, i.e., Chiang Kai-shek. He went on to charge that the administration had brought this matter up just as Congress was adjourning, so that it could appease the Chinese communists without any restraints from, as he put it, the representatives of the American people. Further, he charged that the whole thing was a subversive move, and insinuated that anyone cordial to the idea was himself a subversive.
Whereupon, Senator George from Georgia, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee took over. He excoriated McCarthy for his charge of subversion, ridiculed the idea that any appeasement was intended, and proceeded in general to tell the Wisconsin representative that it made sense to seek peace with anyone anytime, and that such could be done without sacrifice of principles.
McCarthy, noting the lowered temperature in the Senate as well as the heat in the words of the Georgia senator, came back contritely with a perennial apology, assuring Sen. George that there was no doubt about his loyalty; that he, McCarthy, had always known the Georgian as a patriotic American, a scholar, and a true gentleman.
In reply, Sen. George thanked his colleague for “them kind words,” remarked that he had no doubt as to the Wisconsin Senator’s sincerity, and ended by saying, “I wish I could in all honesty pay a similar tribute the scholarliness and gentlemanliness of my colleague that he has paid to me, but I cannot honesty do so, and I refuse to perjure myself by pretending that I can.”
To which climax this reporter has only two words in comment. Bravo! And touché!