The current issue of Time magazine reports something of an unusual development in faraway Western India. There some 100 Jain temples containing around 600 priests. The regimen of these priests consists in ritual prayers, guarding temple treasures, and abstaining from smoking and drinking. They eat before sundown because lamps would lure moths to destruction. They even wear white cloth pads over their noses and mouths to prevent their breathing from destroying gnats and germs. But even within these cloisters the secular age is penetrating. Recently some priests have been seen in public without their masks, have eaten in restaurants, and use lamps without thought for the safety of moths, etc. Recently these priests went even farther, for some 100 of them met and announced that their work in interceding with the gods is something like industrial employment, and they formed themselves into a union demanding a raise from $5 to $8 a month. They even want seven days of paid sick leave during the year, three week’s paid vacation, and retirement. Somewhat naturally, the rich Jains composing the temple committees objected, complaining “How can priests be dedicated to poverty if they go about forming unions and making wage demands?”
When the Nazis rounded up the Jews in Amsterdam, two-and-a-half-year-old Anna Beekman was slipped into the underground just in time. Her parents were gassed to death by the Germans. Eventually Anna was placed in the hands of five maiden sisters who were Catholic. Throughout the war Anna was safe. However, Dutch Jewish organizations, after the war, applied for her transfer to a Jewish foster family so she could be reared in the faith of her parents. The maiden sisters objected. Publicity ensued, and when a social worker went to the house to get Anna, she had disappeared. In March 1954 police raided a Belgian convent school and missed her by only a few minutes, but they had enough evidence to make again a wave of bitterness sweep over the Netherlands. The maiden sisters were arrested for hiding the girl, who had by now been baptized in the Catholic faith. The sisters were sentenced recently, but Anna is still missing. Commented the leaders of Amsterdam’s Jewish congregation, “Though only a single child is concerned, this case is a measuring rod for civilization and freedom.”
Several of you have wondered why so much of the time on this program has been devoted to the subject of American liberties. I had thought, rather hoped, that the reason was fairly obvious, though at times I have taken pains to make the application more direct and clear. To explain further my reason for emphasis on this subject, I should like to treat it somewhat more in detail.
When the settlers of America came here, doubtless they wanted to better their economic condition. But there were also great moral and political principles actuating them. These principles came to a focus with the drafting of the Constitution and its Bill of Rights. These documents together form the greatest pronouncements for freedom ever designed by man.
The rights and liberties set forth in the Constitution and Bill of Rights reflect the disabilities under which the people in the Old Countries lived. The new Constitution tried to make impossible in the new republic that long train of abuses with which the colonists were familiar. It is a document that gives effect to the principle of the worth of the humblest citizen, and seeks to protect the weak and unwise from the exploitation and abuse of the strong and ruthless. Insofar as a political document can do so, it seeks equality of privilege, justice, and opportunity. It seeks to prevent any discrimination because of religion, race, or previous condition of servitude. It protects citizens and aliens against the tyranny of a majority political or religious group. Its protection of property was meant to make the humblest citizen secure in his few possessions.
The dream, then, of our Founding Fathers was to bring forth on this continent a government of, for, and by the people; to protect freedom of conscience in religion; and to guarantee fullest expression of political views. It is the only constitution in existence that states as one of its purposes “to promote the general welfare” (and we become concerned about the possibility of developing into a welfare state).
Here in the U.S., we take for granted our American principles. In back of the provisions for civil rights were centuries of human misery. The framers of these documents well knew that. They erected a wall of law around the weak and helpless. Looking at the past each outrage on human dignity they asked, “How can this be prevented?”
This Constitution provides for separation of church and state and protects man in his holiest aspirations. It guarantees fundamentals of democracy and human dignity: the right to think, write, speak without coercion, to assemble peaceably, to petition, to educate, to propagandize, to influence minds and the course of events by human reason and persuasion. Under the provisions of these documents man became a man and entered into his birthright as a human being of worth, possessed of the right and privilege of making his contribution to the common welfare, the organization of that society of which he was a constituent part.
He was to be secure in his house, person, papers, against searches and seizures except on warrant for probable cause. He must not twice be put in jeopardy for the same cause. He must not be compelled to be a witness against himself. He must not be deprived of liberty or property without due process. These provisions corrected Old Country abuses.
Our history in action has not always lived up to either the letter or the spirit of these ideals. After World War I, e.g., there was a reign of terror under the notorious Attorney General Palmer who, it was claimed, expected to be made president by a grateful electorate. There was a familiar pattern: arrests without warrant, detention without charges preferred, trial by administrative agencies, excessive bail, deportation of aliens without court actions, anti-Semitism, racism, the Ku Klux Klan, and so on. The press apparently approved in many, perhaps most, instances.
There were attempts to suppress or hamper labor unions: spies, agents, provocateurs, police brutality, strikes broken, unions busted.
Fortunately tyrants are not immortal, and their places are taken by people who, sooner or later, slowly and painfully build back that which was destroyed.
Today is another era of reaction that at times runs counter to the principles enunciated in our basic documents. I suppose as the years pass and the history of this time is carefully studied and written, the verdict will be that this decade was one in which the powerful and wicked sometimes deliberately confused the public to make it hate what it loved and love what it hated. Certainly during this decade, many principles of Americanism have gone into eclipse and historic rights and liberties lost or infringed upon. In this topsy-turvy world, he who defends the Constitution and insists on constitutional rights is likely to be called a traitor, and we have seen communists-turned-spy wined, dined, and paid with taxpayer’s money.
But, again, it is some consolation to reflect that change is constant; that the hysteria through which we have been going seems to be subsiding. And it certainly is true that without adherence to the foregoing principles of government set forth in our basic documents, our freedoms of religion, speech, press, and all the others would be gone. It is for this reason that this program has more or less continually emphasized the importance of the political aspects of our society, for religion is concerned with all those elements of society that affect the well being of people, and without our constitutional safeguards, our well-being in every area of living would be restricted or destroyed.
Memphis: Delegates from more than 2,500 churches will attend the Tennessee Baptist Convention at Memphis. The three-day meeting opens Tuesday at First Baptist Church. Dr. Fred Kendall of Jackson is convention president.
A new diocese of the Greek Orthodox Church in the U.S. has its first bishop. The Very Rev. Polyefktos Finfinis will head the new See, the sixth of his church in the U.S. In it are Eastern Ohio, Northern West Virginia, and Western Pennsylvania. The prelate was installed this week as bishop of Pittsburgh by Archbishop Michael of New York, the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church in North and South America. Bishop Finfinis was born in Istanbul, Turkey, and has been pastor of San Francisco’s Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church.
Agreement has been reached between the U.S. and Russia for an exchange of churchmen of the two nations. A U.S. Roman Catholic priest may now minister to the spiritual needs of U.S. Catholics in the Soviet Union, and a Russian church leader may do the same for Soviet Union nationals in the U.S. who belong to the Russian Orthodox Church. The Rev. Father Louis F. Dion of Worcester, Massachusetts, is expected to leave for Russia about December 1. To the U.S. will come the Russian Orthodox Archbishop Boris.
This ends a stalemate that began about six months ago. First, the U.S. refused to extend a visitor’s visa held by the archbishop, on the grounds the Russian Church serves political aims. Then Russia expelled the Rev. Father Georges Bissonette, like Father Dion, a member of the Assumptionist Order. Washington’s complaint that the two cases were not similar got no response. The State Department also argued the ouster of Father Bissonette violated the 1933 agreements under which the U.S. formally recognized the Soviet communist regime. The U.S. also stated Father Bissonette had to carry out his duties within his small Moscow apartment. But Archbishop Boris was free to travel in the U.S. and hold services in several churches. The new agreement avoids such disparity. But it sets up new curbs. Each churchman may minister only to nationals of his own country. The archbishop will have at most 400 parishioners (if all the Russian citizens in the U.S. go to his church). About half are in Washington and half in New York City. Father Dion will have the spiritual care of about 150 U.S. Catholics in the Soviet Union. Boris will not be permitted, now, to deal with Americans who follow Russian Orthodox teachings. But Father Dion will apparently not be permitted to minister to Roman Catholics of nations other than the U.S. and Russia who are in the Soviet Union.
The American Jewish Committee has challenged Russia to prove its “new look” is genuine. The committee says thousands of Jews are still in Russian jails or slave labor camps for no other reason than their religion. The committee has proposed a six-point test for the U.S. State Department to learn if the Russians have had a genuine change of heart. These include release of all persons in jail or slave labor camps on charges related to race, religion, or national origin … restoration to Russian Jews of true freedom of worship … and establishment of full freedom of movement for Eastern Europeans.
The committee notes communist countries recently made a few departures from Stalinist anti-Semitic policies. Among them are the small number of Romanian Zionist leaders released from prison … and a Russian magazine warning against anti-Semitism.
From Cleveland, Ohio: This week, the nation’s churches were urged to extend their social welfare services quickly and widely. The appeal from a body of the National Council of Churches stated such expansion is needed to cope with forces changing and enlarging the needs of U.S. citizens. The plea from the Protestant council’s Conference on Churches and Social Welfare asked church members to extend personal deeds of kindness into a highly organized system of social and health services. The meeting’s message to the churches also declared “immense social and economic forces are at work in our time changing American culture” and its very setting. Thus the increased social services are called for, to meet what the gathering termed “this panorama of need.”