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Roosevelt Hits Religious Persecution; Asserts U.S. Can’t Be Passive

President Roosevelt yesterday renewed his attack on oppression abroad with an assertion that the United States would contend “with every peaceful means” for religious freedom, now denied in some countries, and “the other freedoms of the Bill of Rights.” He addressed members of all branches of the Government, foreign diplomats and distinguished visitors at the 150th celebration of the first Congress under the Constitution.

“Today, with other many democracies, the United States will give no encouragement to the belief that our processes are outworn or that we shall approvingly watch the return of forms of government which for 2,000 years have proved their tyranny and their instability alike,” the President declared.

Speaking of freedom of religion, he asserted: “Freedom of religion — that essential of the rights of mankind everywhere — goes back also to the origin of representative government. Where democracy is snuffed out, where it is curtailed, there, too, the right to worship God in one’s own way is circumscribed or abrogated. Shall we by our passiveness, by our silence, by assuming the attitude of the Levite who pulled his skirts together and passed by on the other side, shall we thus lend encouragement to those who today persecute religion or deny it? The answer to that is ‘No.’ Today, just as in the days of the first Congress of the United States it was also ‘No.’ Not for freedom of religion alone does this nation contend by every peaceful means. We believe in the other freedoms of the Bill of Rights, the other freedoms that are inherent in the rights of free choice by free men and women.”

Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes of the Supreme Court, in a plea for unity to maintain democracy, warned against passion and prejudice. He said: “Our guarantee of fair trials, of due process in the protection of life, liberty and property — which stands between the citizen and arbitrary power — our guarantees of religious freedom, of free speech, free press and free assembly — these are the safeguards which have been erected against the abuses threatened by gusts of passion and prejudice which in misguided zeal would destroy the very basic interests of democracy.”

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