June 14, 1957

Expressions of concern expressed on this program regarding censorship of reading materials by both public and private groups have been met with misunderstanding by some listeners; and, it would seem, by misinterpretation by others, perhaps misinterpretation based on misunderstanding. My meaning has always been clearly in mind, even though the words may not always have conveyed clearly that meaning. Any private group has a right to evaluate literature, movies, etc., and to make known its evaluation. That is a part of private freedom possessed by all. However, when an organization, public or private, tries to prevent the public from having access to literature, movies, television and radio programs, it enters a field where only the courts can make decisions regarding what is and is not obscene.

Perhaps the most widely known and publicized private group of this kind is the National Organization for Decent Literature, a nationwide organization whose membership is made up largely of Roman Catholic layman. Its units are to be found in many towns and cities. Its purpose is to campaign against “the lascivious type of literature which threatens moral, social, and national life.” Now few if any will disagree in principle with such a worthy purpose. It is only when it campaigns through use of force, expressed or potential, to prevent the public from reading what it, the organization, conceives to be immoral, and prevents the public from having access to the criticized materials that its work becomes indefensible. The novel, for example, which may be thought of by a committee of Catholic mothers to be unsuitable for a Roman Catholic adolescent may not be so thought of by a non-Catholic. The organization thus becomes a self-selected conscience of the whole country. And at the risk of crowding out other materials today that might well be included, it appears justifiable to observe that the recommendations of this organization have often gone far beyond merely expressing disapproval of a publication.

For example, representatives of the organization … call upon booksellers and ask that the condemned titles not be offered for sale. They inform non-complying booksellers that they will boycott him unless he complies with the request, thus contradicting its own assertion that the list is merely an expression that the publication does not conform to the organization’s code. Newsdealers who agree in advance not to sell anything to which the organization objects, are given monthly certificates of compliance. Lists of complying and non-complying dealers are widely publicized, and the public, both Catholic and non-Catholic, are urged to confine their purchases of all commodities to complying dealers. Check-ups by organization representatives are recommended at fortnightly intervals, thus creating a private-morals police force. And, worst of all, in many cases … , prosecuting attorneys, and military commanders of Army posts have issued instructions or orders that no books or magazines on the organization list shall be sold within their jurisdiction, thus putting the authority of the state in the service of a private sectarian group. For example, the prosecutor of St. Clair County, Michigan, has officially recognized the organization’s list as a guide to what publications cannot be sold in his jurisdiction. Thus the judgment of a particular group is being imposed upon the freedom of choice of a whole community.

Furthermore, many of the titles appearing on the organization’s proscribed list are considered among the most distinguished in literature. Books by recipients of the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, and the National Book Award have been made markedly less available to the reading public by the censorship of a private and anonymous jury acting under its own standards of morality and taste. To mention just a few: Nelson Algren, National Book Award winner of 1950 had his “The Man With the Golden Arm” banned by the organization; William Faulkner, prize winner of many awards, had his “Sanctuary” denounced by the group; James Jones, who wrote “From Here to Eternity,” found that book listed among the immoral; Ernest Hemingway’s “To Have and Have Not” met with a similar fate. Works by such famous writers as John Dos Passos, Aldous Huxley, Erskine Caldwell, Kathleen Winsor, Richard Wright, and many others have been banned.

For an organization to let the public know what it thinks of a given publication is one thing, a justifiable action; to decide that the public must not read certain materials, and to use pressure to prevent publication and distribution of such matter, is another, and decidedly unjustifiable, procedure. To defend its right to evaluate is in no sense to support its right to prohibit. Freedom to know is an essential ingredient of the American bundle of freedoms, and no private group, Catholic or otherwise, has a right to impose its conviction and prejudices upon the public at large.

It would be both interesting and illuminating to know who, of those seeking government aid to suppress literature they do not like, are also among the emotional crowd now bewailing recent decisions of a branch of that same government, the federal judiciary, upholding the right of individuals to see the evidence upon which they are being tried for criminal charges. Unless one can separate morals from religion, both are involved here. All the courts have done is to say that a man cannot be convicted in a criminal case on secret evidence. But the congressmen and the Department of Justice have become near hysterical over these decisions and have rushed legislation seeking, as they put it, to protect the FBI files. They ignore or fail to mention that the FBI can protect itself, while the individual, faced with the power of government, is the one who really needs protection, to the end that government itself does not wreak an injustice.

Why are some Americans, who now constitute the most powerful nation in the world, afraid of the magnificent, fundamental liberties nailed down in the last years of the 18th century by a small nation, one that was weak, poor, and exhausted by a victorious war against a great power?

To put it another way, one may ask why should 170 million Americans, armed with the hydrogen bomb, be alarmed by the rights to free speech, press, and religion, won for us by fewer than 3 million colonials who at times not only fought barehanded but, at Valley Forge, barefoot in the snow. Are we so terrified of internal subversion on the part of a mangy political party, whose numbers probably do not exceed 50,000 persons, that we are willing to let civil liberties guaranteed to us by the Constitution go by default? Until the [Supreme] Court in recent decisions called a halt to such attrition, the guarantee in the First and Fifth Amendments were literally going by default. What the court has done is simply to scrape the barnacles off this vital portion of the ship of state.

If those now yapping at the Court for returning to fundamental American precepts want to put the matter to a test, let them have the courage of their convictions and try to get an amendment in Congress to repeal the Bill of Rights. That way we could find out if the American people are running so scared that they will yield up their basic liberties for a false security. Who, minus liberties, is secure? What is security, minus freedom, except prison?

Too often the past 10 or 15 years any unpopular idea, even fluoridation of water, has been equated with subversion and pronounced communistic. The people who established the Constitution had had considerable experience with unpopular ideas, but they were not afraid of them when they wrote the Constitution and, two years later, framed the Bill of Rights.

The record of their fears of unbridled government, i.e., one without a Bill of Rights, is impressive. Both Virginia and New York came to the first session of Congress with separate and long bills of rights. The subject was a major item of business in the first session of the first Congress of the United States. North Carolina even refused to ratify the new document until such a bill was added. Massachusetts and New Hampshire ratified it, but made urgent recommendations that civil rights be spelled out. Until the Court spoke out these past few weeks, these great, fundamental rights were being nibbled away little by little by little people who were afraid of the very freedoms that make America unique among her enemies. Secret trials and conviction by secret witnesses are trappings of the dictatorships against whom we are competing. To emulate them is to become like them and destroy the very reason for competing. To imitate them is to surrender the right to freedom of speech, press, assembly, and religion –  and nobody but the commies wish that. And they wish it because they are afraid of it. It is time Americans quit being afraid.


New York: Two Iowa clergymen report the tremendous postwar prosperity in West Germany has brought with it a decline in religion, while in communist-run East Germany there is a religious revival. Father Robert Welch, a Roman Catholic priest, and Dr. George Ferrell, a Lutheran minister, returned last week from a one-month tour of Germany, France, Holland, and Switzerland. Both men are associate professors in The University of Iowa School of Religion. Dr. Frederick Bargebuhr, a Rabbi, who is also an associate professor at the School of Religion, accompanied them on the trip. Dr. Bargebuhr is now in London. The chief purpose of their trip was to tell students and teachers about the School of Religion. Students who attend their lectures often expressed amazement that clergymen of three different faiths now associated socially but traveled together and spoke from the same platform.


Mackinac Island, Michigan: Representatives of India, Japan, and South Korea addressed the Moral Re-armament Assembly of Nations at Mackinac Island this past week. Japanese Senator Takeshi Togano called the gathering, in his words, “a testing ground for the atomic bomb of moral re-armament. This fallout, he said, will blanket the world in answer to the fallout of the military bomb.”


A 10- year-old Lutheran girl and her mother are flying to Lourdes, France, seeking a miracle cure at the Roman Catholic shrine. Neighbors of Lynn Lambrecht of West Allis, Wisconsin, donated $1,000 to cover expenses for the trip. The girl is critically ill with arthritis. Catholic authorities have confirmed the report that many miracles have occurred at the shrine. But the Rev. Adolph Kappes, pastor of the Lutheran church attended by the Lambrecht family, said, “The shrine of Lourdes has no more power to cure than any other church.” So, it would seem that this is a case of “You pays your money and you takes your choice.”


Dr. Maurice Eisendrath, President of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, returned last Friday from religious conferences in England, France, and Switzerland. He also attended the meeting of the World Union for Progressive Judaism in Amsterdam, Holland. His organization is the parent body of more than 550 Reform temples in the United States and Canada, representing more than 1 million congregants.


A prominent Jewish author died this week. He was Sholem Asch, who had said he tried to demonstrate in his novels the interdependence of the Jewish and Christian religions. That was in the hope that mutual understanding might lead to a better world. Asch left his home in Miami Beach, Florida, about four years ago because of some Jews’ hostility towards his books. They had criticized his handling of New Testament personalities in such works as “The Nazarene.” To persons who said Asch seemed preoccupied with Christianity, the author replied he had never considered leaving the faith of his fathers and never intended to. He admitted his books made him some enemies. But he added that he had shown how deeply rooted Christianity is in Jewish history and religion. He was a fervent Zionist, inspired by the state-building experiment in Israel.

Asch was born in Poland and received rabbinical training. But he decided such spiritual leadership was not for him. He came to the U.S. in 1910 and became a citizen in 1920. He died in self-imposed exile in London at the age of 76.


This weekend, the Seventh-day Adventists are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their youth department. The meeting is being held on the campus of the Adventist Mount Vernon Academy [Ohio], where the movement was started in 1907. When it began, the department had about 5,300 members. Almost that many, 4,000, are attending this golden anniversary session. Now the youth department has more than 400,000 members all over the world.


A flying hero says he will now limit his air trips to serving his two congregations. He is the Rev. Lester J. Maitland, former Air Force brigadier general, one-time aide of Air Force General William Mitchell. Friday of this week he was ordained a priest in the Protestant Episcopal Church, and will serve at St. John’s Church in Iron River and St. David’s at Sidnaw, both in Michigan’s upper peninsula.

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