NEWS: Church and State

Viet Nam: Bullets and Brickbats

As the hot jungle war of Viet Nam grows bloodier, missionaries with ears attuned to the cacophony of gunfire do their job but keep their bags packed, and prominent Protestants in the United States and abroad are joining the debate over America’s mushrooming involvement.

A fourteen-member Clergymen’s Emergency Committee for Viet Nam toured the battle-baked Asian landscape for ten days this month, then declared America should stop bombing North Viet Nam and submit to a peace parley to include the North and Red China. Sponsoring the trip was the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a pacifist group in Nyack, New York, which in April mobilized 16,916 Protestant ministers to sign a petition urging President Johnson to “stop the bombing now.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., chose the July Fourth weekend to bombard American actions and said he might channel protests from his civil rights drive into the Viet Nam peace issue. He wired the clergymen visiting Saigon: “The war in Viet Nam must be stopped. America must be willing to negotiate with all involved parties.”

The Church of the Brethren, which holds fast to pacifism, joined the criticism at its annual conference in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. A resolution said U. S. policy tends to escalate the war, and joined the call for an end to bombing and a U.N. settlement. The representatives of the 201,000 Brethren also advised a withdrawal of some American troops “as a measure of good faith” even before a truce is reached.

Meanwhile the foreign missionaries in South Viet Nam warily continued their witness in the fortified villages where most have been withdrawn for safety. The Christian and Missionary Alliance’s 100 missionaries have had an emergency retreat plan ready for ten years but don’t expect to use it, reports the Rev. Louis L. King, the denomination’s foreign secretary. “We have known since February that the situation would become almost intolerably bad through October and have planned on it,” he said. Alliance workers, who once covered the countryside, are now specializing in city work, as symbolized by three new churches being built in Saigon. King said the war has meant more people listen to the Gospel more seriously.

When U. S. government dependents were sent home in February, officials asked Alliance workers to pull out but weren’t successful. King said Alliance policy is to leave only when the U. S. diplomatic corps does. If a withdrawal comes, he said, a strong indigenous church will remain with 350 pastors and 65,000 laymen who operate now without American money.

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A second major group in Viet Nam, Wycliffe Bible Translators, has also withdrawn into defended villages in the past year. But it has taken natives along to speak the tribal languages so that the work of translating the Bible into these tongues can go on. The organization has forty-four persons assigned to Viet Nam, of whom nineteen are on furlough. All Wycliffe teams are “within the sound of gunfire,” said Dr. Richard Pittman, director of work in Asia. But there have been no casualties since two men and a baby were killed in 1963. Pittman said Wycliffe follows American and Vietnamese military advice on where to locate, since it is dependent on military transportation.

In contrast to this business-as-usual attitude near the front, Protestants elsewhere stepped up their barrage of criticism. The Christian Century and Christianity and Crisis, in identical editorials, lamented the National Council of Churches’ silence on the subject. The NCC has reported criticism of the American moves by Protestants in Latin America and Japan and was prepared to host five Japanese, headed by Dr. Isamu Omura, moderator of the United Church of Christ in Japan, who were to leave July 20 on a peace mission to the United States. The foreign policy advice of the ministers who toured Viet Nam was offered by Dr. Harold A. Bosley of Christ Church (Methodist) in New York, Dr. Edwin T. Dahlberg, former president of the NCC and the American Baptist Convention, and Dr. Dana McLean Greeley, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Another team member, Episcopal Bishop William Crittenden of Erie, Pennsylvania, said in Australia that it is a “civil war” and an economic and social problem more than a military one.

No Anonymous Sponsors

Religious broadcasts that are carried on time purchased from radio and television stations must be accompanied by a clear announcement naming the sponsor, according to the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC notified radio station WFAX, Falls Church, Virginia, of liability to a forfeiture of $1,000 for failing to identify Dr. Dale Crowley as sponsor of his own broadcasts on that station.

Crowley, a veteran radio evangelist in the Washington, D. C., area, purchases time from the Virginia suburban station for three fifteen-minute broadcasts daily and an hour-long broadcast on Sundays. He said that in asking support for his evangelistic work he makes an occasional reference to the fact that he must pay for the time for his broadcasts, but that he relies on the station announcer to make such daily announcement of sponsorship as is required by the FCC rules. He suggested that an oversight by an announcer must have been responsible for the FCC action.

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The Federal Communications Commission dismissed a complaint by the Democratic National Committee against Dr. Carl Mclntire and radio station WCCB, Red Lion, Pennsylvania, asserting that it believes the station has satisfied requirements of the “fairness doctrine.”

McIntire criticized the Democrats’ deputy national chairman, Samuel C. Brightman, in two broadcasts in 1964 after Brightman wrote a letter to stations carrying McIntire’s broadcasts reminding them that the “fairness doctrine” applied to religious broadcasts conveying political attacks, as well as other types of broadcasts. A number of stations gave Brightman a chance to reply, and McIntire later carried on his “Twentieth Century Reformation Hour” a twenty-minute tape recording of one of Brightman’s broadcasts.

The FCC also noted that Carl Rowan, former director of the U. S. Information Agency, was offered time by McIntire to reply to a broadcast attacking him but that Rowan refused because USIA has a policy of “not becoming involved in partisan politics.”

The FCC also cleared the Red Lion station, owned by the Rev. John M. Norris, of several other allegations of unfairness arising from the “Life Line” program and the “Dan Smoot Report.”

‘Ready To Die’

The Army used intravenous force-feeding to end a two-week fast by Private David Ovall, who wants to be discharged as a conscientious objector. The 23-year-old Ovall isn’t a member of any religious group, and the Pentagon rejected his application for a discharge in June despite favorable endorsements from officers at his base, Fort Monmouth, New Jersey. The unwilling soldier waited eight months after being drafted before he mounted his protest, and explained he didn’t know previously that an objector without formal religious ties could be discharged. Such discharges are rare, but some have been granted.

J. Harold Sherk, executive secretary of the National Service Board for Religious Objectors, visited Ovall in an Army hospital and reported the youth is “ready to die for what he thinks God wants him to do.” He’s sure Ovall qualifies for the requirement that an objector believe in a supreme being.

The National Service Board wants Ovall to accept the Army’s offer of a general discharge on grounds of unsuitability for military service. But Ovall so far has insisted on a discharge as an objector, whether honorable or general. Sherk said the Army handles about one case a day of a soldier who wants an objector discharge after being in service. This compares to some 11,000 men in the files who have been classified as “l-O” prior to induction, and more than 8,000 men who have entered civilian work in lieu of military service. Sherk, a Mennonite, said Ovall’s personal religion is obscure and apparently stems from a wide variety of sources. The private’s father is a Rosicrucian, and his mother is a member of the Unity Church. A brother, 25-year-old Donald, just finished two years in the Army without a fuss.

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Angel On A Stamp

Responding to complaints from the public that recent Christmas stamps issued by the U. S. Post Office have been of secular and even pagan design, Postmaster General John A. Gronouski chose a religious theme for the 1965 stamp—the Angel Gabriel.

The design is taken from a watercolor painted by Boston artist Lucille Gloria Chabot in 1939. Her model was an antique New England weathervane that depicted the Angel Gabriel in flight blowing his horn. Fabricated about 1840 by the firm of Gould and Hazlett in Boston, the weathervane featured a five-foot gilded iron figure of the angel blowing a tubular copper horn.

The colorful Christmas stamp will be printed in red, green, and yellow, with the green introduced in such a way as to give the golden figure of Gabriel what the Post Office Department describes as a “weather-beaten appearance.” The stamp, which thus bows in both secular and religious directions at the same time, will be given a first day of sale in November at a site not yet selected. The department was sharply criticized two years ago when it had a first-day-of-sale ceremony at Santa Claus, Indiana.

Previous Christmas stamps have featured a holly wreath, the nation’s Christmas Tree, which is annually erected near the White House, and Christmas flowers, including mistletoe. Religious leaders pointed out that holly wreaths, evergreen Christmas trees, and mistletoe all originated in the pagan practices of the Nordic winter solstice festivals, which, though animistic in origin, became associated with Christianity and Christmas.

Critics have suggested that stamps with such designs, and first-day ceremonies at post offices such as Santa Claus, Indiana, were contributing to the secular commercialization of Christmas rather than honoring a religious holiday. The 1965 design, although carefully tied in with other recent commemorative stamps honoring American art, is a significant concession to religious sentiment, since the Angel Gabriel is the biblical messenger who told the Virgin Mary that the son she was to bear would be the Messiah.

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Naval Watermark

Rear Admiral James W. Kelly is the first Baptist ever to be named chief of Navy chaplains. His appointment this month means two of the services’ three top chaplains are Southern Baptists. The other is Major General Robert P. Taylor of the Air Force. The Army’s chief is a Methodist, Major General C. E. Brown, Jr.

Kelly, former deputy chief, was replaced in that post by a Roman Catholic, Rear Admiral Henry R. Rotrige. Before assignment to the chief of chaplains office, Kelly was senior chaplain at the U. S. Naval Academy. He is a native of Lonoke, Arkansas, and holds the B.A. from Ouachita Baptist College, Arkadelphia, Arkansas, and the B.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville.

Kelly’s predecessor was Rear Admiral J. Floyd Dreith of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

Religious Radio In Canada

Canada’s Board of Broadcast Governors is considering holding a public hearing on religious broadcasting in Canada. It is reserving decision, meanwhile, on two requests for establishment of religiously oriented radio stations.

Canada’s equivalent of the U. S. Federal Communications Commission says that there seems to be a renewed interest in establishing religiously oriented stations and that it might be related to dwindling time assigned religious matters on many stations.

Applications for licenses for “special religious stations” have been filed by John O. Graham of CFGM, Toronto, who asked for an FM license in the Toronto suburb of Richmond Hill, and James D. Dixon, who asked for an AM station in Kitchener, Ontario.

Bridling The Sabbath-Breakers

The Knesset (Parliament) of Israel is considering a bill that would impose $333 fines for Sabbath violations. The measure, approved by Israel’s Cabinet last month, establishes the Sabbath and certain religious festivals as official rest days. Non-Jews are exempt, however, provided they observe their own rest days.

Public services would remain unaffected (service stations, restaurants, pharmacies, beaches, and so on). Coming under a ban for the first time, however, are Friday night stage and dub performances.

The bill fulfills coalition conditions imposed by the National Religious Party in 1961, when the present Eshkol government assumed leadership. The government had successfully postponed the issue and might have done so indefinitely except for one reason: elections are coming in November and the government party needs the support of the religious parties.

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Although most of the proposed Sabbath restrictions are already enforced under local bylaws, the religious parties are determined to see legislation on the national statute books. Religious party leaders had hoped for a more stringent law banning all but essential travel on the Sabbath.

Advocates of separation of religion and state decry the measure as being another step back toward the achievement of the Orthodox goal of a “Torah State” theocracy such as was characteristic of ancient Israel.


Baptists On ‘Religion Row’

Eight major Baptist denominations got a more strategic vantage point on the Washington scene this month as their Joint Committee on Public Affairs leased office space on Capitol Hill. The new quarters, on the third floor of the gleaming white marble Veterans of Foreign Wars Building, are within sight of the Capitol, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress, and the Senate and House office buildings. The Baptists thus join a chain of religious interest groups whose real estate forms a veritable “Religion Row” extending northeast from the Capitol grounds.

The Joint Committee’s move from the old Baptist Building on Sixteenth Street was necessitated by an expanding operation. A new research program is to be initiated August 1 under Dr. Walfred H. Peterson. Peterson comes from Bethel College, St. Paul, Minnesota, where he has been professor of political science. Dr. C. Emanuel Carlson, executive director of the committee, was formerly dean at Bethel, a Baptist General Conference college.

The committee dates back to the late thirties, when resolutions were passed in the Northern and Southern Baptist Conventions providing for the “Joint Conference Committee on Public Relations.” The Washington office was established under a full-time executive director in 1946. Its undergirding rationale has been the traditional Baptist pursuit of preserving religious liberty.

Is the committee now a Baptist lobby? The committee’s description of its work includes the explanation that “Baptists do not maintain a lobby in the nation’s capital. However, ‘the right of petition’ belongs to all groups in the United States. The Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs is often the channel through which Baptist agencies and conventions make their views known to government.”

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The man who makes the views known is Carlson, who testifies from time to time before House and Senate committees, most often on issues related to the public stake in education.

W. Barry Garrett is the committee’s associate director in charge of information services. Garrett, who is also Washington editor for Baptist Press, the promotional news agency of the Southern Baptist Convention, is one of the few representatives of religious publications ever to win accreditation to the White House and to the House and Senate press galleries. The accreditation specifically prohibits Garrett from lobbying.

Also on the staff is James M. Sapp, whose duty is “to make the resources of the committee available to Baptist conventions, associations, agencies, etc., to develop stewardship of influence.”

The four-man executive staff is directly responsible to the committee, which is composed of the public affairs committees of the participating conventions (Southern Baptist Convention, American Baptist Convention, Baptist Federation of Canada, the two National Baptist Conventions [Negro], the Baptist General Conference, and the Seventh Day Baptist General Conference). The larger conventions are represented by fifteen members, the smaller ones by three members.

There is some speculation over what influence the Capitol Hill environment might have on the committee’s range of interests and its future role in political issues. The religious interest groups that now flank the Baptists’ base of operations tend toward increasing involvement in selected social questions. The politically and socially liberal outlook of most church-related agencies in Washington enables them to form frequent solid fronts (see “Religious Coalition in Washington,” CHRISTIANITY TODAY, May 21, 1965). The Baptists, however, have not shown the willingness to play as broad a part in public affairs.

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