Kennedy Lauds National Conference on Religion and Race in Chicago
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Kennedy Lauds National Conference on Religion and Race in Chicago

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President Kennedy, in along and warm message to the First National Conference on Religion and Race, expressed his gratitude today for the fact that so many Americans “diverse in religious faiths” shared convictions, moral heritage and dedication essential to create in the United States “a good society that makes it possible for all to realize their hopes and destiny.”

Peace Corps Director R. Sargeant Shriver, Jr., the President’s brother-in-law, told the 1, 000 participants of all three faiths that churches and synagogues should ask each of their congregants to “pledge a tithe of his time to removing racial barriers at work, at play and at worship.” He said every congregation should map “a specific program” for actions in its community that would “promote concrete gains in the next 12 months.”

The Rev. Will D. Campbell, associate director of the Department of Racial and Cultural Relations of the National Council of Churches denounced elements in all three religions who fail to live up to the tenets of their religions within their own religious organizations.


A recommendation that American synagogues and churches take “sanctions and disciplines against members of their congregations who practice racial discrimination, up to the point of expulsion from membership,” was made here today by Rabbi Balfour Brickner director of the Social Action Commission of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis. He reported the recommendation on behalf of a Protestant-Catholic-Jewish work group which was one of a number such units discussing possible concrete actions that could follow the overall conference.

Gratification over the success of the conference was expressed today by Rabbi Ernst M. Lorge, president of the Chicago Board of Rabbis. He is one of the tri-faith honorary chairmen of the Chicago hosts committee for the conference. Pointing out that “the race problem goes to the heart of any religion,” Rabbi Large called for more action to wipe out racism in America and added:

“The Jewish group has perhaps less direct areas of friction with the Negro and, at the same time, probably a deeper emotional involvement with the problem. There are less areas of friction because a negligible percentage of the colored people belong to the Jewish faith. Therefore there is little we can do within our own religious organizations to embrace people of a different color. We are emotionally more involved in the problem because the Jew, too, is a member of a minority. We too have suffered discrimination. We resent any prejudice and inequality.

“When our nation is not safe from prejudice against one minority, there is no guarantee for the rights of any minority. Thus, the religion of the Jewish people, its historic experience, and its enlightened self-interest, makes every true member of the Jewish faith a devoted fighter for the ideals to which this conference addresses itself.”

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