Anti-defamation League Reports Discrimination in 781 Clubs in U.S.

Two-thirds of 1,152 clubs in the United States, including country clubs as well as similar organizations in the cities, practice religious discrimination, it was reported here at the 49th annual meeting of the B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation League which concluded today. The report was made by Bernard Nath, of Chicago, chairman of the ADL’s civil rights committee, and was based on a special ADL study conducted during the last year.

Religious discrimination in American club life, said Mr. Nath, is “far harsher and more severe” than it is in employment, education and other areas, and, “in the long run, just as damaging.” He found club discrimination “a disturbing, astonishing” phenomenon. He reported that the survey established the following facts:

1. Sixty-seven percent of the clubs investigated–781 clubs out of a total of 1,152 surveyed–practice religious discrimination. Of the 781, there were 691 “Christian” clubs excluding or limiting Jewish membership; while 90 were “Jewish clubs” excluding or limiting membership of Christians.

2. The rates of discrimination were 72 percent in country clubs, 60 percent in city clubs. By regions, the rates were 74 percent in the North Atlantic states; 73 percent in the Midwest; 60 percent in the South and Southwest areas of the United States; and 58 percent in the Far West.

3. Of the 781 clubs that were found to practice discrimination, 696, or 90 percent, maintained their restrictions “unofficially”–without religious barriers in their constitutions or by-laws. The remaining 85 enforced religious restrictions that were “officially” written into their constitution or by-laws.

4. Of the 781 discriminatory clubs, 640 practice total exclusion, 141 permit a few or token members of other religious faiths to join.

5. The total number of clubs studied included 693 that were considered to have maximum prestige in their communities. Among these “prestige clubs,” the report states, 60 percent of them discriminate against Jews.

EXTENT OF RELIGIONS BIAS IN CLUBS TERMED ‘SHOCKING AND DISTURBING’

The fact that such a high percentage of clubs discriminated on the grounds of religion, said Mr. Nath, “indicates a serious failure on the part of the American community, on the business and social level, to accept the individual on the basis of his worth and merit alone.” One tragic and direct consequence of the exclusionary practices of the “Christian clubs,” Mr. Nath said, “is the fact that almost eight percent of all the clubs studied were “Jewish clubs” and discriminated to one degree or another against Christians.” This is an example of the further in stitutionalization of religious prejudice and its perverse effects,” he declared.

“The extent of religious discrimination is shocking and disturbing,” Mr. Nath stressed. “True, comparatively few of the exclusionary clubs are strategic elements in the power structure of a community. Many more foster undesirable and undemocratic social practices. Such clubs singly may be only minor sources of irritation but, in their totality they represent a formidable expression of anti-Semitic attitudes. Since they represent the attitudes of individual Americans, they signify that education for democracy and human relations still has a long way to go in the United States.”

Henry Edward Schultz, national chairman of the League, pointed out in the floor discussion that “while private clubs do overlap into areas of public concern, they also involve issues of the rights of privacy that cannot easily be dismissed. There is therefore some comfort to be gathered from the fact that 33 percent of the private clubs–including some of the most celebrated in the country–do not discriminate on religious grounds.”

The nationwide survey, called “A Study of Religious Discrimination by Social Clubs,” was conducted by the League’s civil rights division under the supervision of Arnold Forster, its general counsel.

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