Menu JTA Search

Religious Tolerance No Issue in Presidential Campaign, Louis Marshall Declares in Reply to Question

SIGN UP FOR THE JTA DAILY BRIEFING

The issue of religious intolerance in the United States is non-existent in the present presidential campaign; if there is anything well settled in the national life of the United States it is the principle of religious liberty and the right of everybody to exercise his religious convictions, declared Louis Marshall, president of the American Jewish Committee and eminent lawyer, Republican.

The statement was made by Mr. Marshall in reply to an inquiry directed to him by Samuel C. Lamport of New York. “So much has been said and printed in the past few days to the effect that there is a religious issue at stake in the present campaign,” Mr. Lamport wrote to Mr. Marshall, “that I am anxious to have the benefit of your views on the subject. Knowing how consistently you have for years battled intolerance I trust that you will express yourself freely to me in this instance as you have never hesitated to do.”

Mr. Marshall’s statement in reply, under date of September 26, 1928 read:

“It surprises me exceedingly to learn that anybody familiar with the fundamentals of our political system can for a moment regard religious tolerance as an issue in the pending campaign. There is certainly nothing to be found in the declaration of principles or policies of either of the two great parties, which to the remotest degree tends to create such an issue. Happily, both of them are irrevocably pledged to the principle embodied in Article VI, Section 3, of the Constitution of the United States, that ‘no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.’ Both of them likewise adhere to the doctrine laid down in the First Amendment to the Constitution, that ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise there of.’

“If there is anything well settled in our national life it is the principle of religious liberty and the fact that not only religious tolerance but the right to exercise religious convictions is guaranteed to all of the inhabitants of the land.

“This idea has never been better expressed than by President Coolidge in his noble address to the American Legion at Omaha, Nebraska, on Oct. 6. 1925, when he said:

“‘It is not easy to conceive of anything that would be more unfortunate in a community based upon the ideals of which Americans boast than any considerable development of intolerance as regards religion. To a great extent this country owes its beginnings to the determination of our hardy ancesstors to maintain complete freedom in religion. Instead of a State church we have decreed that every citizen shall be free to follow the dictaes of his own conscience as to his religious beliefs and affiliations. Under that guaranty we have erected a system which certainly is justitied by its fruits. Under no other could we have dared to invite the peoples of all countries and creeds to come here and unite with us in creating the State of which we are all citizens. But having invited them here, having accepted their great and varied contributions to the building of the nation, it is for us to maintain in all good faith those liberal institutions and traditions which have been so productive of good. The bringing together of all these different national, racial, religious and cultural elements has made our country a kind of composite of the rest of the world, and we can render no greater service than by demonstrating the possibility of harmonious cooperation among so many various groups. Every one of them has something characteristic and significant of great value to cast into the common fund of our material, intellectual and spiritual resources.

“So much for the parties. The candidates for the Presidency of the respective parties now seeking the approval of the electorate, are also concededly free from the taint of religious intolerance and have announced in the most emphatic terms their abhorrence of a state of mind which would question the religious beliefs of a candidate for public office. Both of them by their conduct evince the broadest liberality toward all religious faiths. Mr. Hoover is of Quaker descent. His ancestors knew what it was to be persecuted, and in his work as the head of the American Relief Administration he gave convincing evidence of his freedom from bias or prejudice. In that great philanthropic enterprise, which was under his sole management and which affected the lives of millions of human beings in Belgium, France, Poland, Russia, and other European countries a vast majority of the beneficiaries were either Roman Catholics, Greek Catholics or Jews. Comparatively few were Protestants, Governor Smith is a sincere Catholic who has likewise demonstrated time and again in the performance of his official duties, that he has made no distinction whatever among those with whom he has come in contact because of race or creed.

“Why, then, should one speak of a religious issue when there is absolutely no occasion or basis for it? The very suggestion arouses my ire, because it seems to cast suspicion upon the soundness of the very foundations of our Government, and by doing so would cause irreparable injury to our cherished institutions.

“My attitude on this question is precisely the same as that which I have taken for many years, in common with most Jews, of discountenancing all efforts to organize so-called Hebrew Democratic or Hebrew Republican clubs, or similar political organizations under any other disguise or masquerade. There is, and must be no Jewish vote, as there should not be a Protestant or a Catholic vote. A reference to my letter on this subject appearing on pages 42 to 45 of the Twenty-first Annual Report of the American Jewish Committee, will serve as emphasis of this declaration.

“Unfortunately, it is too much to expect that among our millions of citizens there are not those who are intolerant, bigoted or fanatical along religious, racial and other lines. Individual cases of religious intolerance are to be found among the members of all political parties, in every stratum of society, among all classes of our population. They are, however, a negligible minority and act merely as individuals, as distinet units, not as representatives of the political entity to which they belong. It would be unjust to charge their personal idiosynerasies against the political parties with which they may be affiliated or to the candidates of those parties. If the personal views of every individual citizen were to be contorted into a political issue, it would lead to the most fantastic results. An analysis of the mental opeations of a considerable part of our population would disclose a most complicated state of mind, replete with inconsistencies, devoid of logic, and frequently based on strictly personal considerations. Consequently, if parties and candidates were to be judged by the personal views of selected individuals, politics and government would become hopelessly chaotic. I trust that we shall never witness here the complexity prevailing on the European continent caused by a multitude of parties subdivided into a infinite variety of groups and blocs founded on hair-splitting shades of opinions inconsistent with the practical administration of government.

“You and I know that there are Democrats and Republicans as well who are moved by a virulent hatred of Jews and who consistently refuse to rise for Jews placed in nomintion by the political parties to which such began being. Is this Insame delusion of ## individuals to the regarded as creating a political issue? Are the political parties to be treated as regarded in the individuals who entertain such hateful opinions? If such a view were to obtain when, where and how will party lines be drawn? Thus, for example, if there are some Protetrants who decline to vote for Catholics are there not also Catholics for Cathodox are there not also Catholics who are unwilling to vote for Protestants? How can the number of those swayed by religious hostility be determined? How can they be identified by party leaders? What can the latter do to counteract motives of this character which are usually secretly entertained? How can they deal with those to influenced who are not of their own party?

“So far as I have been able to observe during the pending campaign, the strongest individual animosity based on religion that has been expressed, has been by Democrats living in that part of this country which for more than fifty years has been solidly Democratic. If some of these Democrats threaten to desert their own party, why should their abnormal conduct, pursued on their own initiative, be twisted into an argument that the Republican candidate for the Presidency should be defeated on an issue of religious intolerance, when he has firmly set his face against it and when there is probably no man in this country who is freer from intolerance than he? In that same region laws have been passed by Democratic legislatures and regulations have been adopted by Democratic State committees forbidding Negroes, though Decmocratic, from voting at the primaries of the Democratic Party. Even though this violation of the Constitution constitutes party action in the States referred to, I question whether even that fact would justify the contention that a racial issue is involved at the coming election and that those who believe in upholding the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments should vote against the candidate of the Democratic Party regardles of party principles.

“In a letter recently published Mr. Ralph Adams Cram, after announcing that in his opinion religious intolerance is the major issue of the campaign, evinces an almost numorous confusion of thought. He first makes the astounding assertion that in our present social system intelligence and culture have been increasingly submerged ‘by a rising tide of ignorance, bigstry and ?los superstition’ He then hastern to add: ” But I believe that these qualities are inherent and congenital; they are not engendered by argument and propaganda, and no one not already predisposed toward these opinions is induced to accept them by extraneous means’ In spite of these comments, he proceeds to jump all hurdles and lands on the unparalleled man sequiter that in order ‘to express his disgust with ignorance and superstition,’ he proposes to vote for the candidates of the very party to which those whom he has thus stigmatized have always belonged. Conceding as he does, that they are acting as individuals and that they have not been iniluenced in their action by argument or propaganda, by way of protest he seeks to punish, not those guilty of bigotry, but those who are entirely innocent of religious prejudice. He does not like Heflin and Straton (there are few who do), but to give evidence of his disapproval of them he intends to vote against Mr. Hoover, who by word and deed has exemplified his hostility to intolerance and bigotry in a manner that has aroused the admiration of the civilized world. This merely proves that though Mr. Cram is an eminent expert in Romanesque and Gothic architecture, he is a mere child in human affairs.

“The unfair and artificial injection into this campaign of so palpably false and irrelevant an issue as that sponsored by Mr. Cram and other presumably well-meaning citizens, bodes evil to free government, is the height of injustice, and constitutes an unpleasant reflection on the intelligence of the American people.”

The Republican National Committee headquarters made public the following statement by Herbert Hoover, when his attention was drawn to letters such as the one signed by Mrs. Willie W. Caldwell, member of the Republican National Committee in which she asserted “Mr. Hoover himself and the National Committee are depending on the women of the country to save the United States in this hour of vital meral religious crisis.”

“I cannot fully express my indignation at any such circulars. Nor can I reiterate too strongly that religious questions have no part in this campaign. I have repeatedly stated that neither I nor the Republican Party want support on that basis.

“There are important and vital reasons for the return of the Republican Administration, but that is not one of them.”

NEXT STORY