Time on last week’s broadcast permitted only the mere mention of some evidence that perhaps we are on the road back form the hysteria that for the past several years has eroded the foundations of our democratic system of government and certainly has weakened our moral fiber as a people, as well as presented a ridiculous, and at times disgusting spectacle to the world of a great nation gripped not only in a fear of hateful ideology from without but by suspicion among ourselves within. Developments in this week’s news make this subject even more pertinent.
Since around 1945, and especially since McCarthy’s West Virginia speech in 1950, we have seen five lines of attack upon basic principles of our social order.
- Restrictions and assaults upon academic freedom, or the right of the people to have access to knowledge: to think as they choose without fear of penalty: and the right to teach the truth unhindered by those dictators of the mind who look upon nonconformity … as either subversion or outright treason. Teachers’ oaths and other methods to nail down patriotism of teachers have interfered with education and frightened teachers away from controversial subjects in the classroom. An objective study of the results of these restrictions is now being made under the direction of representatives of Columbia University, away from the emotional fanfare of ridiculous television spectacle that arouses much heat but does little to throw any light upon an important subject.
- Violation of due process and equal protection of the laws. Citizens have been hauled before investigating committees where the procedure has been more like that of the Gestapo than of a group of elected representatives seeking the truth from citizens in accordance with long-respected constitutional safeguards to individual rights. In this process we have seen individuals branded as subversive, disloyal, traitors simply because they had the temerity to invoke sections of the Constitution that were written specifically to prevent happening what has happened by crusading senators and representatives more interested in promoting their own political fortunes than in getting at the facts regarding a really dangerous situation. The Association of the Bar of the City of New York has undertaken a study by distinguished persons of the government’s security-loyalty program, with a view of pointing up wherein it has operated with more zeal than wisdom. And only this week President Eisenhower has called upon the natural scientists employed by government to make their own evaluation of the program and help work out a security individual system that will protect us from subversion and at the same time safe guard individual rights under the Constitution.
- Protection of the rights of minorities. A study is being made now by the American Friends Service Committee, the Catholic Interracial Council of Chicago, and the National Council of Churches of Christ to determine just what is happening in the field of minority-majority relations and what can be done to improve upon these relations. In the meantime, desegregation of schools is going on here and there, without fanfare, but with each accomplishment, however small, bringing us nearer to the Declaration of Independence principles that all men are created equal, and nearer too, to the unanimous decision of the Supreme Court of May 17 last year holding that segregation in the public schools is a violation of our Constitution.
- Censorship, boycotting, and blacklisting by private groups. We have seen attacks upon freedom of the press by self-appointed keepers of the public morals as to what the public shall and shall not be permitted to see, heard, read and think. Vigilante committees have been appointed by such groups to do their own snooping and reporting. Moving picture, radio, and television contracts have been cancelled for no other reason than that some private but powerful group disagreed with the public or personal life of the performer. A former editor of Commonweal is carrying on an investigation in the entertainment industry to determine just what has happened, what have been the results, and what can be done about them.
- Guilt by association. Far too many examples of this have come to public attention. All of them rest upon the assumption that one cannot have attended a meeting ten years ago of a group now on the attorney general’s black list without having at that time, since then, and now been contaminated by the such association. In some cases, individuals have lost their jobs and their reputations in the community simply because someone spread a rumor or gave testimony that the individual in question was reputed to be in sympathy with a group or organization that is now considered by the attorney general to be subversive. Many times such testimony has been only that of self-confessed communists or other similarly untrustworthy witnesses who, after admitting their own participation in every conceivable sort of nefarious activity, now turn paid informers and are held up before the country as valid witnesses against citizens whose connection with undemocratic organizations has never been proved. Just this week it comes to light that Mr. Matusow and Mrs. Natvig now admit that they lied in the first place – lies which helped send persons to prison and blasted the reputations of others. In one case, a senator and his former chief counsel conspired to suborn perjury, if you can now believe these revolting liars; and in another, accusation is made that a member of the FBI advised her not to admit her former perjury.
Several university professors are now conducting factual investigations into the record of communism in the United States, its impact on civil liberties, and what the Communist Party now amounts to.
These are some of the absurdities in which we have indulged during recent years. The road back to decency and sanity is not an easy one. Already there has been done much damage to our national thinking: suspicion and acrimony recently so rife will doubtless continue for some time. Others will go on equating nonconformity with subversion, and hangovers of various kinds will doubtless continue to plague us. The encouraging thing is that the crest of this excess seems to have been passed, and the possibilities for sanity have increased. Much will depend upon what citizens, you and I, do to let public and private organizations know where we as individuals stand with respect to common decency and morality in these matters. The road back will be much easier if we do.
This week saw the president’s recommendations to Congress with respect to federal assistance to public education. These recommendations are what one reporter called applying a band-aid to a cancer. In brief, they included only $200 million in federal grants to aid in a program that is conservatively estimated to need at least $10 billion immediately. Seven-hundred-fifty million dollars was asked for over the next three years to purchase local community school bonds if such communities are handicapped in selling their bonds at reasonable rates of interest; another $150 million was asked for to match funds put up by individual states to establish school building agencies. And a final $5 million was included for helping bear administrative costs of state programs developed by the states themselves.
Admittedly the school problem is a knotty issue everywhere. Here in Tennessee the education forces have had to resort to the unpopular advocacy of an increase in the sales tax to finance what is the barest minimum needed to hold our own the next two years. Some people regard federal aid as a step toward invasion of states rights, but those same people have no such fears about federal aid for highways, for wildlife conservation, and for other non-human ventures. The fact confronting the schools is simply this: We have a greatly increased school enrollment due to high birth rates during and after the war, and there is no sign of the birth rate decreasing. Those children need the best education this nation can afford; and we can afford the best. That education will not wait while politicians and others quibble over respective rights of the various units and levels of government. Those of us who put human values above property rights and philosophical speculation see only the child who deserves a better break from us than he is getting. We have a moral, religious, and human obligation to provide him with what he needs. The problem is as simple as that. What are we as a nation going to do about it?
This coming Tuesday representatives of two Protestant denominations will meet in Cleveland for further discussion of a long planned merger. The meeting will be attended by executives of the Commission of Evangelism and Stewardship of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Church. The Evangelical and Reformed president, the Rev. Dr. Wagner of Philadelphia, says a majority of the members of both churches favor the union, but it has been delayed by court action instituted by a congregational Christian group.
A Jewish leader points to religion as one of the foundations of the U.S. Rabbi Maurice N. Eisendrath of NYC says democracy is founded on the concept that the U.S. is a nation under God. Dr. Eisendrath heads the Union of American Hebrew Congregations that begins its 43rd biennial convention in Los Angeles today. Some 2,000 representatives of almost one million Jews in the U.S. are expected to attend. Dr. Eisendrath says Abraham Lincoln knew this nation could not have a new birth of freedom unless it were under God. The Jewish leader adds the U.S. cannot even retain its freedom unless it is under God. Rabbi Eisendrath has praised the Supreme Court’s decision on desegregation. But he adds he would have found the step more welcome if religious groups had been in the lead.
At Cincinnati, a minister has declared that in teaching the Gospel, churches should use language that their parishioners can understand. The Rev. Robert E. Luccock, of the Church of the Redeemer in New Haven, Connecticut, has also asserted teaching the Gospel is difficult because ministers are not clear in their own message. He points to a second difficulty as being that many persons in the world find the Gospel irrelevant because of the dull manner of presentation.
Along the same line, the Rev. Dr. Roy M. Pearson notes that U.S churches have 90 million laymen. He describes them as not penned up in the ecclesiastical headquarters. He goes on to point out that in a day when we make so much of the lack of able ministers, it is the biggest responsibility of the seminaries to train men who can bring to life this tremendous dormant power of the lay ministry.
A Lutheran Minister says the only difference between a city and a country pastor is nervous tension. In the country, he explains, the telephone isn’t ringing all the time. The Rev. A.B. Lentz has been for 25 years in charge of a church five miles from town in the farm country around Plattsmouth, Nebraska. He says his country church has as many working committees and youth groups as any city church. And he believes the reason why so many rural churches close is simply because some pastors want to move to the city. He thinks further that people have confidence in a man who stays. He agrees that it takes a great deal of faith in the persons around the minister to make a go of the country church, but in his area, his parishioners have always lived up to his hopes in this respect.
At Kansas City, former President Harry Truman said this week that human rights and freedom are being deliberately violated. He addressed a National Conference of Christians and Jews there. He said Americans must acknowledge that in the U.S. there are instances of discrimination and injustice because of differences in color, religion, and national origin. He added, “But we are working diligently to overcome these violations of the fundamental faith which holds us together.”
And in London a lively discussion is going on over the number of Billy Graham converts who stay converted. The question arose as Graham prepared for a return engagement to that county. A year ago in a series of evangelical meetings there he drew more than 1.5 million persons to his services and made what were reported to be huge numbers of converts. So-called independent surveys have been published saying only 15 percent of Graham’s converts were active churchgoers a year after making their decision for Christ. However, an assistant of Graham, Lorne Sanny, has replied, “I’d like to know where they get those figures. We have a big statistical department, and it’s all we can do to keep track of converts for three months after they make their decision.” Which leaves us in about as much perplexity over the matter as existed before we read the dispatch.