WASHINGTON (Dec. 17)
The United States Department of Commerce said it has under “serious investigation and consideration” a protest lodged by the American Jewish Congress against a Federal grant of $181,500 to enhance a project sponsored by Gerald L.K. Smith, a professional peddler of racial hate propaganda since the early 1930s.
The grant, announced by Rep. John P. Hammerschmidt, (Rep. Ark.) is for roads leading to the “Christ of the Ozarks Statue” and the “Passion Play” at Eureka Springs, Ark. where Smith has his headquarters. Its purpose is to improve access to the tiny mountain community in the interests of tourism. Both projects are sponsored by Smith through a foundation named for his wife, Elna, which purports to be religious and enjoys tax exemption.
George Soll, chairman of the AJ Congress’ commission on law and social action, wrote to Secretary of Commerce Maurice H. Stans and Secretary of Transportation John A. Volpe on Dec. 2 asking that the decision to allocate Federal Funds be reversed. Today Mr. Soll made public a letter from the Department of Commerce assuring the AJ Congress that the matter was “receiving priority treatment” and that no Federal funds have been spent on the project yet. No reply has been received from the Department of Transportation.
The AJ Congress protest noted that “Gerald L.K. Smith’s public record, over three decades, as a peddler of hate–against Jews, Catholics, Negroes and others–is known to every student of the subject. Smith and his publication ‘The Cross and the Flag’ are synonyms for racism of the worst kind.”
The AJ Congress observed that the “Passion Play” Smith intends to present at Eureka Springs, “like the notorious presentation in Oberammergau, Germany, presents the Jews as a race accursed for all time.” It said that it would be “monstrous” for the Federal Government to make it easier for Smith and his followers to reach an ever wider audience.