December 18, 1955

In the state of California, the constitution has been amended and legislation enacted that requires churches, in order to be tax- exempt, to take a loyalty oath. Presumably the taking of this oath implies a presumption that the whole membership is presumed to be guilty until the oath of innocence has been registered. It also implies that refusal to sign such an oath is subversive. But the matter of loyalty goes deeper than any oath can do. Nor does the signing of an oath prove loyalty. Churches must be free in their right to make moral and ethical judgments, even though such judgments may at times be critical of the status quo.

The churches have not all taken this matter lying down; some have paid taxes in full under protest and have gone to court to test the validity of this intrusion into religious matters by the state. Unitarians, Methodists, Quakers, and other religious bodies have taken an unequivocal stand against this invasion of religious freedom. And there have already been results. A Southern California court has ruled that the law is discriminatory and unconstitutional. In another case a court has upheld the law. In a San Leandro case involving the Methodist Church, the decision was that the law violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Other cases are pending, and some of the suits entered will doubtless be taken to the highest state court, and if the issue is not resolved satisfactorily there, perhaps ultimately to the U.S. Supreme Court. A fund for religious freedom is being solicited by the Pacific Coast Unitarian Council, with a view of giving the matter a full test in the courts. This would seem to be a case requiring continual if not eternal vigilance.


Considerable concern has existed for many months over the practice of the Post Office Department arbitrarily to withhold what it terms “foreign propaganda” from distribution through the mails to the general public, though individuals in that public have personally subscribed to and paid for such materials. Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the department is now delivering such so-called propaganda materials from abroad to newspapers, universities, and certain special individuals. Protests have [arisen], quite rightly it would seem, over the assumption of authority on the part of the department to make distinction between special individuals, institutions, and the general public. Once the government assumes control over the reading material of its citizens, it has taken a long step down the road to totalitarianism. In recent months the department has held back, banned, and even burned material from overseas that it broadly defines as “communist propaganda.” Last March in Boston, for example, authorities destroyed a shipment of pacifist pamphlets published in England and addressed to the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker affiliate. Well now, the Quakers have been noted for their pacifism since the days of William Penn, but this is the first time, insofar as this reporter knows, that it has been inferred that they deal in subversive literature. Even the conservative but well-known columnist George Sokolsky, who prefers what he calls “nineteenth century freedom” to what he terms “twentieth century liberalism” last spring public protested the post office’s long refusal to deliver to him periodicals from the Soviet Union which he had subscribed to and paid for. All this is a considerable departure from the conviction of Jefferson that we should have no fear of error as long as reason is free to combat it.


This being the holiday season, perhaps you listeners expect some recognition of it on just about every program these days. Well, at the risk of leaving myself open to criticism, I should like to pass along part of what one of my students had to say about our high-pressure commercialization of Christmas, especially the fact that each year, it would seem, the public is subjected to longer and more persistent pressure. Lea Lawrence, writing in the December 9 issue of the [East Tennessee] State College Collegian has this to say, in part:

“I am getting a grudge against the Christmas season, just like I’m getting a grudge against some of the other holidays, and if you want to look aghast and think you’re face-to-face with a reincarnation of Ebenezer Scrooge, just go right ahead.… The once-pleasing carols are now revised and feature advertising jingles, and department store Santas no longer wait for junior’s lists. Instead they come calling door-to-door.… Every medium of communication is busily employed saturating the masses with “musts” for the shopping lists. No sooner than Gene Autry moans to a halt with ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,’ a voice crackling with enthusiasm bursts forth with the old pitch, ‘Having trouble with your shopping list? Well, here’s something the kiddies will really get a kick out of, it looks and feels like a genuine BB pistol, but shoots dum-dum bullets! And it’s yours for only…blah, blah, blah.’

While the kids turn flips in anticipation, parents have little to look forward to nowadays. The fuzzy aftermath of Christmas Eve will be met bright and early with helmeted and goggled junior spacemen skittering here and there through the house, dousing every passing object with alpha, beta and gamma rays. And topping off the entire head-splitting event will be the parade of little heads swathed in coonskin caps marching by, presenting a living reflection of an indistinct nogging complete with large hairy tongue in the form of a coon’s tail.

To attempt to perpetuate the pleasant legend of Santa Claus is a ridiculous task. Small children may not be able to count, but when they see no less than two-dozen Santas in one shopping tour, all of various sizes, shapes and vocal qualities, they figure pretty well. Two in one trip used to shake me up rather badly….

Another thing that bothers me is to awake one fine June morning to the clatter of sleigh bells as background effect to the ‘lay-away early for Christmas’ tune given by a jovial announcer who mentions at the same time that there are less than 190 shopping days until Christmas. I have a sneaking hunch that these reminders are edging back yearly. April may be the mark for next year. Christmas is all right … but it’s beginning to mess up my Fourth of July, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving. And if the mania spreads to any of the other holidays, we may be seeing Easter bunnies in October, turkeys somewhere around May Day. I’m so used to the regular dates that it’s difficult to change.”

Ever since I read the above, I’ve tried to determine whether he was simply being facetious, or was he serious? Obviously, there is something to what he says. In looking at the loads of packages and deluge of cards in our small post office, one can hardly help but conclude that Christmas is becoming more of a time when we exchange merchandise than a time of observing in heartfelt manner its spiritual significance.


My comments on education last week caused some comment. Here is another charge and reflection that we who try to teach are much concerned about but, like in many other situations, do not know the answer or are not in a position to use it if we think we know. Two vice presidents of the American Federation of Teachers have made the charge that our public schools are neglecting the gifted students and are “educating” for mediocrity. They go on to assert that overcrowded classrooms which produce too great a teacher load, at times disinterested administrators, and poorly trained teachers are among the reasons for our catering to the mediocre.

Most teachers and administrators have long recognized that under our system such a danger exists. The easiest, sometimes about the only, thing to do under the circumstances is to pitch the level of instruction toward those of average or median ability. While at the other end of the scale the below-average student may find the pace too fast for his limited ability. As a result, both students, the brilliant and the below average, may become disinterested and discouraged.

Various solutions have been offered and attempted, from permitting brilliant students to skip grades to special classes and tutoring for the below-average students. School systems, individual schools, and individual teachers have struggled with the problem. In some schools classes are divided into sections on the basis of learning ability, thus permitting better students to advance more rapidly, maintaining a normal pace for average students, and enabling the below-average to proceed at the pace dictated by their abilities.

The problem can be solved, but not until the American public recognizes and provides the facilities required: more and better-trained teachers and more and better-equipped classrooms with a consequent reduction of the teacher load. Opportunity for an education commensurate with one’s ability is a birthright of all boys and girls, but so far there has been forthcoming no blueprint to provide such, despite the fanfare of the White House Conference on Education.

December 11, 1955

Last week I gave a brief report on the incident in Erath, Louisiana, over the fact that teachers of Catholic catechism had been teaching white and Negro children in the same classes. More nearly complete information on the matter is now available. Erath is a small town of 2,500, some 125 miles west of New Orleans. One morning one of the teachers started to the church and when she got there she found a group waiting. Three women began striking at her with their fists and shoe heels. The teacher filed assault-and-battery charges against the attackers. Even the priest, Father Labbe, found that he was being followed, and he asked a friend to accompany him as a bodyguard.

Shortly thereafter, Bishop Jules Jeannard returned from a church meeting in Washington and took prompt action. He issued a letter of excommunication to be read at all Sunday Masses at the church in question. He named no names, but referred to the culprits as those who had caused a “scandal to the church and to the community.” He denied to them the sacraments, participation in prayers of the church, and Christian burial, until they repented. His action brought results rapidly. Soon it was announced that those guilty had made reparation. Classes were resumed but the priest has disclaimed any plans for integrating the races beyond the classroom, and has not expressed any assurance over a hope for the future, saying somewhat philosophically, “We shall have to wait and see what the future brings.” At any rate, it would appear that race will not be a dividing factor among the students as they seek to learn church catechism, and it is difficult to see why it should.


For several days, some 1,800 delegates from all the states and territories conferred in Washington at the White House Conference on Education, trying to determine what should be done to meet the crisis in education that is daily growing worse. So far, nothing concrete and specific has been released to the public as to what the conference consensus will be. From what has been printed, it is pretty obvious that the conferees have ranged pretty much all over the educational spectrum in their deliberations. In a way, however, this conference seems to be pretty much an ex-post-facto affair. School people already knew that the nation needs some 200,000 classrooms now and will need almost that many more in another five years. Two-hundred-thousand teachers are needed to staff those classrooms. Fewer and fewer college students are taking teacher-training courses and fewer still are going into teaching.

Money may not be the most important element in the problem, but it is an indispensable one. Many states and local divisions have pretty well taken themselves up to the legal or economic limit for school purposes. The president warns that “Responsibility for educating our young is primarily local.” But simply saying that a school district is responsible does not bring about better schools if that district is unable adequately to discharge its responsibility.

And in the matter of teachers, it is difficult to see how the shortage is to be met until or unless teaching is made as attractive as other types of work requiring comparable training and skill. Young college people of today look rather realistically at the job world, and since most of them will have to work for a living, they evaluate objectively, not cynically, the comparative opportunities from a financial point of view of the possible career areas. While recognizing the opportunity for giving service in teaching, they recognize as fully that unless rewards for that service are commensurate with what they can command in other fields, they cannot afford to teach.

Several things are necessary to attract capable young people. First, working conditions should be greatly improved. Teachers quite naturally dislike being looked upon as a public servant on call any time of the day or night for the performance of any chore needing done in the community. They resent also intrusion into their private and personal affairs, while at the same time recognizing their special obligation to the community because of their position in it.

Second, teacher salaries must be made commensurate with salaries in other fields. Community gratitude, if any, is very satisfying to the teacher, but it is not something that he can spend in the stores for life necessities.

Third, once equipped by training, and having demonstrated his fitness for teaching, teachers want and have a right to demand security in their position. The teacher who is continually forced to wonder how long his position will continue is not going to be free to concentrate his time and thoughts on his work as he should, and he is not going to be able to plan his future with any degree of certainty. And this is an age and a social order that make the teacher, like all other workers, conscious of the imperative nature of job security.

Other conditions could be enumerated, but certainly the above are fundamental ones. The White House conference can debate, argue, and extemporize, but for the welfare of the millions of young children in this country needing an education, shibboleths and slogans about local responsibility, about educational philosophy, about political philosophy, will not build the needed schoolhouses nor will it attract capable teachers to fill them. An opportunity for an education is a birthright of every boy and girl in this country, and that opportunity should be approximately the same whether he lives in Maine or California, Tennessee or Idaho. This nation is able to provide such opportunity, and if the White House conference fails to meet the challenge, it will be failing to discharge its responsibility to the nation’s children. No amount of debate over federal, state, or local respective responsibility can change that fact.


The last item is largely personal, but it is embedded in a fundamental and provocative question by Alan Beck entitled “What is a Boy?” and his answer to that question for the sake of time I shall have to abbreviate it. He says,

“Boys come in assorted sizes, weights and colors. They are found everywhere – on top of, underneath, inside of, climbing on, swinging around or jumping to…. A boy is a truth with dirt on his face, wisdom with bubble gum in his hair, and the hope of the future with a frog in his pocket.

A boy has the appetite of a horse, the digestion of a sword-swallower, the energy of a pocket-size atomic bomb, the curiosity of a cat, the lungs of a dictator, the imagination of Paul Bunyan, the shyness of a violet, the audacity of a steel trap, the enthusiasm of a firecracker, and when he makes something he has five thumbs on each hand.

He likes ice cream, knives, saws, Christmas, comic books, the boy across the street, woods, water (in its natural habitat), large animals, Dad, trains, Saturday mornings, and fire engines. He is not much for company, Sunday School, books without pictures, music lessons, neckties, barbers, girls, overcoats, adults, or bedtime.

Nobody else is so early to rise or so late to supper. Nobody else can cram into one pocket a rusty knife, a half-eaten apple, three feet of string, two gumdrops, 6 cents, a slingshot, a chunk of unknown substance, and a genuine supersonic code ring with a secret compartment.

A boy is a magical creature – you can lock him out of your workshop, but you can’t lock him out of your heart. You can get him out of your study, but you can’t get him out of your mind. Might as well give up – he is your captor, your jailer, your boss and master – a freckle-faced, pint-sized bundle of noise. But when you come home at night with only the shattered pieces of your hopes and dreams, he can mend them with two magic words, ‘Hi Dad!”

Well, those lines were written about boys in general, and during periods of the average boy’s life he probably engages in and is all of these things. Some of them apply aptly to the boy I have in mind, some do not. But for that particular boy, who is today celebrating his 13th birthday, I want to wish for him, with all my heart, that every birthday he has will be better than the previous one. So “Happy Birthday, Thomas. You’re a swell guy.”




December 4, 1955

I should like to call your attention to the cover page and a featured article in this week’s December 5 issue of Time magazine. This article traces, as well as a magazine of this type can do, some 20 centuries of baptismal belief, from Rome in 100 A.D. to Richmond, Virginia, in 1955. It is a well-done article dealing mainly with the rise of the Baptist denomination, together with something of the recent changes that have come about in Baptist beliefs and practices. Instead of trying to give you a thumbnail summary of it on this program, I am calling it to your attention, for time available here cannot do justice to this well-deserved tribute to a great denomination.


A significant comment by John B. Hollister, director of the International Cooperation Administration (formerly FOA), upon his return from a month’s trip to the Far East and Southeast Asia came in these words that the Free World “is not holding its own” in competition with the communists. This points up the curious timing in announcements from Washington that foreign aid officials are hopeful that further cuts in the U.S. overseas aid program can be made. It is curious because it comes at a time when the Soviet Union is mounting its coexistence offensive around the world. Probably something could be trimmed from the foreign aid program of some $2.7 billion, but the bulk of this (over 2 billion) goes for military assistance and defense, while less than a half-million goes for technical and economic assistance. In the meantime, Russia is intensifying her competition in India and elsewhere. Recently the premier of Burma praised Russia for buying the rice surplus of his country and thus averting an economic crisis there. Wherever Khrushchev and Bulganin have gone recently they have held out promise, and made a start carrying out their promise of assistance. In India, for example, where our assistance programs amount to some $70 million, Soviet technicians are planning a steel mill to be rebuilt with Soviet funds in central India to cost $100 million. Thus, at a time when our own diplomats admit that we are barely holding our own in the competitive fight against communism in the economic realm, Washington politicians suggest cutting back on our program. This may well prompt the question so often heard these days: Do they really want to fight communism, or don’t they? Budget cutting is always a good line to take prior to an election year, but it may well be a high price to pay if by so doing, in this case, we fail to hold our own among people who are now our friends but who desperately need help which our foreign aid program can provide.


One of the tragedies coming out of the so-called Conference at the Summit at Geneva in July, the 11th Annual Meeting of the United Nations in New York, another meeting of the United Nations in New York, and another meeting of the foreign ministers at Geneva is that hundreds of millions of common people all over the world were led to believe that these meetings were all in good faith and, consequently, expected something constructive for global peace; a result that in the very nature of things was most improbable if not impossible. All those attending the meetings knew beforehand that they would not result in the unification of Germany, the security of Europe, the tranquilizing of Asia, the pacification of Africa, nor disarmament, upon all of which world peace really depends.

The fact is that neither the powers that be in the so-called free democracies of the West nor the powers that be in the so-called people democracies of the East want world peace on the basis of complete disarmament. Both Eisenhower and Bulganin, spokesmen for the West and East, respectively, made that clear. It is equally clear that the alternating softness and toughness of Soviet leadership is only a tactic in an overall strategy to soften and divide the Free World. It would seem about time that we recognized that, and that we not try to soothe our own people and those of our friendly allies by misrepresenting the total results of such conferences.


Down in Rock Hill, South Carolina, a state not noted for progressive race relations, something has been happening during the past two years that represents a constructive approach to a tough problem, and gains have been made at the community level that other communities well could imitate; in fact, it is being imitated elsewhere. One winter night about two years ago a mayor, a priest, and a business man of this city discussed the possible effects of the forthcoming court decision regarding segregation, and the larger problem of human relations in the South, namely how to open up channels of better communication between Negroes and whites. With them was an expert in the field, Dr. George S. Mitchell, executive director of the Southern Regional Council. As a result of this meeting, there was initiated a council on human relations consisting of 21 persons, including five Negroes, appointed by the city council.

Since that time, a Negro has been appointed to the City Recreation Commission; a study of hospital space and needs has been undertaken, and various projects to improve Negro recreational facilities in the community are about completed. This human relations group is making detailed studies of local education, welfare, health, and safety and is reporting its findings to the city council. The city has been host to a state council on human relations, a meeting at which college presidents, ministers, teachers, and others discussed such subjects as “offering job opportunities for all,” ways and means of working toward rapid compliance with the court decision, and other similar topics. Europeans on tours sponsored by the U.S. Information Agency have visited Rock Hill to see how one Southern community is facing up to its problems brought about by the court order.

Now there is a human relations council in every Southern state, though not many in some. In at least one instance, the formation of a council was precipitated by a flare-up of racial tensions. Late in June of this year a bi-racial church conference at Southern Union College, a Congregational Christian church college at Wadley, Alabama, was broken up by a threatening white group. Four days later the council was formed, with the mayor serving as chairman, and containing members of the city council, three ministers, businessmen (white and Negro) and Negro teachers. Governor Folsom condemned the action of the white group which broke up the meeting, and asked law enforcement officers to see that no further mob action takes place.

One day last summer Bryant Bowles, president of the National Association for the Advancement of White People flew to North Carolina and tried to stage a much-publicized rally in the stadium there. The local and state Councils on Human Relations urged “the decent and fair-minded people in our community to concern themselves with this problem (i.e., desegregation) and provide the necessary leadership for a sensible approach to it…” The rally was a flop. About 200 persons showed up in the large stadium and Bowles postponed his efforts to organize a local chapter of his organization, and bitterly denounced local newspapers and organizations, including that of the Council on Human Relations, which had, too fully for his purposes, informed the citizenry of his background and beliefs.

In commenting on what happened at Charlotte, the president of the Rock Hill Council said, “If we repulse the outsiders, then we must face our own problems ourselves,” and that, it would appear, its just what Rock Hill is doing. What is your community doing about its problems?


Just north of us, another state, Virginia, is attacking her problem posed by the court in an entirely different manner. A bill would direct the governor to call a statewide vote of the people on whether to have a constitutional convention that would amend the [state] constitution by striking out a section prohibiting the use of public money for private schooling. If such an amendment were to pass, it would enable the state, technically and temporarily, legally to subsidize education in private schools, thus eliminating the possibility of integration in the public schools. Well, one way to cure a headache is to chop off the head.


Lafayette, Louisiana: Bishop Jules Jeannard has lifted his excommunication decree against two Erath, Louisiana, women. They had been accused of beating a Roman Catholic teacher who had instructed Negro and white children in the same catechism classroom. The bishop said the women “have indicated to their pastor their repentance.”


Vatican City: An authoritative source says Pope Pius XII will recite a Mass over television for the first time on Christmas Eve. Never before in Catholic history has the traditional Mass been celebrated by a pope before TV cameras.


Milan, Italy: An Italian magazine has mentioned reports that Pope Pius has been credited with the miraculous cure of a blind child. Another Italian magazine recently was the first to report that the pope had had a vision of Christ. Vatican quarters say they know nothing about the new report.


New York: The American Bible Society’s Advisory Council and Board of Managers has approved a budged of $3,858,000. The money will be used for the 1956 intern denominational program of translating, publishing, and distributing the Bible and encouraging the reading of scriptures.


Milwaukee: A Lutheran congregation has voted against accepting the resignation of its pastor who was convicted by high church officials of heresy. The Rev. Victor Wrigley of Gethsemane Lutheran Church in suburban Brookfield had been found guilty of deviating from church doctrine.


Omaha: The president of the National Council of Churches will conduct religious services for members of the Armed Forces in foreign lands for the third successive year. Dr. Eugene Carson Blake of Philadelphia will spend the Christmas period visiting members of the Northeast [Air] Command, their families, and Air Force chaplains in Newfoundland, Labrador, and Greenland. He accepted an invitation to conduct the services from Donald Quarles, secretary of the Department of the Air Force.


A Roman Catholic layman and a Protestant minister have criticized adults for their part in the youth problem. Frank H. Sheed, Catholic author and publisher of London, England, says society is sick and most adults are “mixed up kids.” He further describes such adults as unable to provide examples and to teach moral standards to their children. His statements have been made at the National Conference of Catholic Youth Work, held in St. Louis this week. Sheed has urged the delegates to teach moral standards in their child guidance programs, stepping in where parents fail. And all of us who are honest will admit that we fail many times. Protestant minister Billy Graham also blames parents for the delinquency problem.


Some U.S priests of the Russian Orthodox Church say Soviet Archbishop Boris should be allowed to come to this country. The Americans, visiting in Moscow, have expressed opposition to the U.S. refusal to give the prelate an unrestricted visa. The protesting priests belong to a part of the U.S. Russian Orthodox Church still loyal to the Moscow patriarchy. The U.S. Department of State gave Boris a visa to the U.S., but limited his ministry to Soviet nationals only. The visa was revoked when the Soviet government declined such conditions. One of the Russian priests says it has been a tradition since 1794 for the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in North American to be appointed from Moscow. That clergyman, Father David Abramstov of Wolf Run, Ohio, thinks the practice should be continued.


The oldest active pulpit in the U.S. is to get a new minister. The Rev. Joseph Barth of the First Unitarian Church of Miami, Florida, will go to King’s Chapel in Boston on January 1. He will succeed the Rev. Dr. Palfrey Perkins as pastor of the 270-year-old church.


About 500 Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jewish rabbis in the New York metropolitan area are discussing religion in the public schools in their Sabbath sermons this weekend. The rabbis are against what one of them terms blatant attempts by the New York City Board of Superintendence to introduce religion into the public school system. Rabbi Edward Klein has stated in his sermon that Catholics, Protestants, and Jews alike are agreed that the need of the hour is not less religion, but more. But he added, “Let us be Catholic, Protestant, and Jew in churches and synagogues and homes, but in the classrooms of America, let us be Americans all.”