The Tennessee Press Association, meeting this week at Gatlinburg, continues its fight for the right of the people to know how government is handling, or mishandling, the public business. Resolutions were approved affirming the stand of the association, under the slogan, “What the people don’t know will hurt them.” Is it not ironical that in America, devoted to the government supposedly of, by, and for the people, that elected and appointed officials should consider that the work they are doing in behalf of the people is none of that same people’s business? Boards of education, meeting of administrative officials, and the like, which should be open to the public are being held behind closed doors from which the public is excluded. The press should be commended for its continuing fight for democracy against the stubborn undemocratic attitudes of public agencies that would deny the people the right to know what their government is doing.
One adjustment to the uncomfortable summer weather in this region is made by the Rosemont Presbyterian Church of Bristol, which began this morning at 8:30 its services normally held at 11:00 o’clock. Sunday school, usually preceding the service, will hereafter be held immediately after the sermon. This practice is intended to continue through the worst heat period of the summer. It is the first adjustment of its kind that so far has been reported in the news.
A prominent speaker and writer, one Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, writes that God always answers prayer. If you get that for which you pray, that’s proof. If you don’t, he says, “Your prayer has been answered negatively.” This would seem to be a sort of “heads I win; tails you lose” proposition, is it not? Anyway, it is very definitely in the Peale tradition. That should be something, though just what, it is very difficult to say at times.
A short lesson in theology appeared in the news this week. It goes like this: “Humanism is not a denomination but a philosophy of religion. Unitarianism is not a philosophy of religion but a denomination, providing a framework for many different philosophies of religion. Each person should make his own spiritual adventure. Thoreau said we do not all march to the beat of the same drum.” Make sense, does it not?
It is gratifying to know that the Ten Commandments for parents that were passed along in the last broadcast struck a receptive note with some of you, and it is a pleasure to pass along the ten for children, which was mentioned then. Here they are:
- You shall not cause one parent to turn against the other.
- Remember your parents have the same right as you to enjoy life, secure rest, and to have the fruits of their labor.
- You shall not ignore your parents’ experience and wisdom.
- You shall share in the responsibilities and labor of the family according to your ability and according to the need.
- Your brother and sister shall be your friend and not your rival.
- Your behavior before your teacher and in the community shall not bring reproach upon your family.
- You shall respect the privacy of your father and mother, brother and sister.
- You shall not reveal the secrets of your household nor bring gossip within your gates.
- You shall observe the routine of your household and need not to be reminded of your daily tasks.
- You shall learn diligently thy faith, observe its commandments, and attend its worship that you may be worthy of the best life.
Much has been appearing in recent weeks and months about censorship. Movies, radio, television, newspapers, and even courts have dealt with the matter – not to mention the local busybodies, official or self-appointed, who are always trying to tell someone else what can be read. These same people would resent anyone telling them what they could or could not read. Several times the National Organization for Decent Literature, a Catholic agency, has been mentioned on this program. And some of you listeners have taken offense when none was intended. For that matter, it seems appropriate here to explain again the program viewpoint on the matter. The Roman Catholic Church, or any other private agency has a right to express its opinion on literature. That is merely an exercise of the right of freedom of speech. However, it does not have the right to coerce publishers or bookstores. The government is forbidden by the First and 14th Amendments to abridge the freedom of the press. If Catholics want this organization to tell them what they can and cannot read, that is their business, but it is likely that most of us resent having a priest, minister, or rabbi tell us what may or may not be read. It would appear that the organization’s priests are not in favor of sex. Under its express standards it would be logical to ban the Bible, the Odyssey, and Shakespeare. It would be very illuminating to you listeners, Catholic and non-Catholic, to secure a list of books banned by this organization. You can then see the dangerous quagmire into which such interference with legitimate knowledge can lead.
And along the same line, it is pertinent to observe that the Supreme Court this week held that freedom of speech and press under the First Amendment does not extend to the obscene. Now probably 95% of Americans could agree upon certain things as being obscene; a similar proportion might be found agreeing upon what is not obscene. But what about the in-between? By what criteria is obscenity to be determined? Any of you listeners want to send in a definition that will fit all situations? It is more than likely that the court is going to have a fine list of cases coming up to it where not even the wisdom of a Solomon can draw a dividing line between the ’tis and the ’tain’t. In most cases it is also likely that whether something is or is not obscene depends upon the inner state of the reader or hearer, and this fact defies even the collective wisdom of the Supreme Court.
So you have evinced some interest as to why this, a program devoted to current items of religious significance, is concerned so often and so much about various American freedoms, some of which are not exclusively religious in themselves. There should be no wonderment on this. Our bundle of freedoms is indivisible, and an attack on one anywhere anytime is a potential threat at least to all the rest of them. How can one have freedom of religion without freedom of speech? If speech can be curbed in the name of secular ideology, it can also be restrained next, in the name of religion. Without freedom of the press, dissemination of diverse views on religion would not be possible. If men and women were not free peaceably to assemble, if government at any level can prevent today a meeting of a political group, it may tomorrow, with as much logic, interfere with the gathering of a religious body that it does not like. Restriction of any one of the traditional freedoms sets up a chain reaction that can have reverberations throughout the whole range of civil liberties, including that of religion. And yet, some religious-minded people, or people who think they are religious-minded, would, if they could, curb ideas, meetings, or publications they do not like. I personally detest some of the stuff that rolls over the air waves, purporting to be music. To me, it is just noise, and very unpleasant noise at that. But who am I to say that it shall be banned? Some people actually like that stuff. And I could not be consistent in my thinking and behavior if I tried to ban it. Instead, I reach for the knob and turn it off. That is the limit of my freedom to curb. If my neighbor wishes to listen to it, that is his business, not mine.
All of us are familiar with a supposed saying of a former president that his minister was “agin sin.” Well, the current chief executive, it would appear, is also. At his press conference this week, he was asked for a comment on the recommendation by a federal study commission that Congress make it a crime for private citizens, including newsmen, to disclose secret government information. The president replied that anyone doing that ought to be ashamed of himself. It is comforting to know that he is going to take such a firm and forthright stand on a very critical issue.