Protests Mount Against American Legion’s Bar of Award to Rabbi

Protests continued to mount today over the action of a Boston American Legion post in withdrawing a Good Government award to a Boston rabbi because he was a sponsor of the November 27 march in Washington protesting United States involvement in the Viet Nam war.

The Crosscup-Pishon Lagion post originally had planned to present the award to Rabbi Roland B. Gittelsohn, former national chaplain of the Jewish War Veterans of America, Richard Cardinal Cushing, Archbishop of Boston, and Bishop Phelps Stokes, Jr., of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts. The awards were scheduled for presentation at a banquet on January 28.

When the post’s withdrawal became known, Bishop Stokes notified the post he would not accept it. However, Cardinal Gushing said he would accept the honor, declaring that the dispute was an American Legion affair and “has nothing to do with me.”

William Gurran, post commander, said that he believed the rabbi “has a right to do what he wants. This is just a matter of policy. We are supporting the national policy of the American Legion, which has supported our United States national policy.”

Rabbi Gittelsohn, who said he did not take part in the march because it was staged on the Jewish Sabbath, criticized the post’s action. He said; “The claim that patriotism at all times demands an uncritical acceptance of Government policy is a characteristic of dictatorship, not democracy.” He declared that he had spoken against United States policy in Viet Nam as “an individual, a member of the Jewish Community, and a spiritual leader.”

A group of Catholic, Protestant and Jewish clergymen issued a statement here criticizing the post’s action. The statement said that “no organization, government or private citizen has the right to subject anyone to its own litmus paper test of what Americans should think. Even high spokesmen of the Government have recognized the right of dissension for private individuals and groups. This right must be fully protected. Only a totalitarian government prohibits such dissension.”

The statement added that it was “reprehensible” for the Legion post to seek “to cast a shadow on the loyalty and integrity of a distinguished rabbi. Such action violates the spirit of free inquiry which undergirds America.”

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