Ypsilantians are running scared. Nearly everyone in the Detroit suburb is Polish and Catholic and wants to keep his children that way (not necessarily in that order). This means parochial schools, but they are a white-collar luxury in this blue-collar town. The high cost of Catholic education has the 300-student parochial high school on the brink of closing. To Ypsilanti’s 25,000 citizens, that could play havoc—$150,000 worth a year. Even a much larger community would find it hard to absorb 300 new students overnight.

Yet what is happening in Ypsilanti threatens to happen from Hartford to Helena. Catholics just can’t afford to maintain their freedom of choice in education and pay for public education as well. Where once an occasional school would be closed, now, as in Connecticut, parochial systems in entire states threaten to close, swamping taxpayers with education bills many Catholics feel fellow citizens should have been helping with all along. Time may be running out when public-school budgets can use the “free” money more than two million Catholic taxpayers with children in church schools have been paying over the years.

Threats to close the schools have become common—especially every biennium, when many states convene their legislatures. No fewer than nine states now have school-aid fights going on. Many proponents feel that under President Nixon they have a good chance to accomplish an important church-state breakthrough in federal aid to parochial schools. Bland remarks by the American Catholic hierarchy on Vatican recognition may tie in. The bishops—though they are cool to the recognition idea for other reasons—don’t want to raise the hackles of Protestants and Jews more than necessary while major school money issues are at stake.

Threats now carry a sting. Early this month, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee announced closing of eighteen schools, adding 5,000 more students to the public rolls. Last year, 10,000 made the shift. Each child requires approximately $600 a year in taxes, less the cost of buildings. Pennsylvania saw 33,000 change over last year.

In Wisconsin, nearly all facets of the struggle come into play. Another parochial system run by the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod has 27,800 students and is smug in its healthy position, adding instead of losing schools. To offer aid to Catholic schools would require a triple outlay from this group, school secretary Clarence Koepsell said:

“It would put us in a position of having to support the public school with our taxes … as well as our own school, but then also to help support the school system of another church body.” This would eventually erode the synod’s line against accepting aid for its schools, he added.

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Missouri Synod Lutherans, who operate the nation’s second-largest parochial system (177,000 students to the Catholics’ 5.3 million), exercise local parish option on whether they will hold their hands out for aid. No one is made to blush in looking outside the denomination for help. The parish guideline is simply a 1965 resolution adopted by the evangelical body “that federal aid for children attending non-public schools, as authorized by Congress and defended by the courts, be deemed acceptable so long as it does not interfere with distinctive purposes for which such schools are maintained.”

A guiding light in the Missouri Synod system is astute schools secretary William A. Kramer. Even though his schools are in no great straits, he sees real difficulty ahead for the nation if there is no government aid to parochial schools. To him, it looks like $3.3 billion worth a year. Jesuit school strategist Virgil C. Blum estimates the amount would be $4.5 billion a year, to start out. Blum keeps up a regular schottische for the drumbeating Citizens for Educational Freedom (CEF), a strongly Catholic but mildly ecumenical lobby group fighting hard in the big battles in Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut. He says Catholics are tired of remaining “second-class” citizens. Kramer, with less an ax to grind, nonetheless keeps sharpened up at CEF rallies.

But it is precisely at the education-aid question that ecumenicity wears perilously thin. The Greater Milwaukee Council of Churches opposes aid efforts. In New Mexico, the state Council of Churches rallied quickly behind the attorney general when he announced that a pending bill to aid 16,000 parochial students would be unconstitutional.

Nearly from the start, the National Council of Churches saw Lyndon Johnson’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act rubbing into constituents’ sore spots. They warmly endorsed the act as a breakthrough that provided aid to the needy child, irrespective of what bus he took to school each morning. But before a year was over, many had complained that maybe the churches behind the schools were the real beneficiaries. They wanted safeguards.

More overt opponents such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the American Jewish Congress, and the American Civil Liberties Union—frequent collaborators in litigation—cite four main objections: erosion of church-state separation; harm to public schools; ill feeling; and lack of public control in aided church schools.

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Missouri Synod’s Kramer, on the other hand, lists four main points in favor, as long as “equivalent education on an equivalent grade level” is guaranteed by any school receiving aid: preservation of freedom of choice (“a biblical concept in education which is upheld by the Supreme Court”); provision of options necessary in a pluralistic society; good competition to keep public education from becoming sterile and non-innovative; and annual savings of billions in public funds.

American Catholicism’s chief education officer, Monsignor James C. Donohue, said that for $5 billion annually the nation could aid each of 50 million students in all schools to the tune of $100 each and avert possible localized fiscal tragedies if parochial systems should go under. Since Catholics are largely urban (twenty of the 147 dioceses contain more than half the Catholic enrollment), core cities would be hit hardest. Many of these same schools serve the poor, who render either minimal or no tax return at all.

Many of the better-off white suburbanites have escaped wholesale racial integration, or, in many cases, deteriorating public-school conditions, by opting for a growing wide range of private schools. Although most are not denominationally connected, often they are founded by evangelical ministers. They are spurred by genuine educational and spiritual concern—from the Association for Christian Schools’s fight against even theistic evolution in the public systems, to the National Association of Christian Schools’s disdain of the situational ethics approach to sex education. Even in the secular field few pooh-pooh their accomplishments.

The Rev. T. Robert Ingram’s St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Houston serves as a good example. The rector started a school thirteen years ago. It now has 415 students from kindergarten through high school. “Very often, when children transfer from here, they’re advanced a grade or two.… We’re generally regarded as the finest school in the city—you can check me out on this.”

Ingram, who admits he sometimes has difficulty from higher-up Episcopalians because he builds his system on a fundamentalist concept of creation, says the state has no right “usurping” parental prerogatives in educating their children. “It is part of the universal law of mankind,” he said, “and it is a criminal action for the state to step into education.” The state, from a biblical perspective, is for administering justice and equity. “Parents have a right to sit in judgment of the schools, not the schools in judgment of the parents.”

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NACS’s William L. Brown said interest in private schools is “snowballing because of excesses in the public schools.” Each year, he said, his group receives 250 requests on how to get a school started. “The public schools are undermining themselves.” Currently, his umbrella group for 33,000 students is mulling over a more specific stand on the school-aid problem. On a personal level, Brown sees it as virtually inevitable, though in saying so he isn’t committing the NACS.

The Christian Reformed Churches stand arm-in-arm with Catholics in the fight for aid in Michigan. Although their National Union of Christian Schools enrolls only 61,500 students, they have a man working full-time for government aid. Seventh-day Adventists enroll 55,000, plus 10,500 in boarding academies, while Episcopalians have 31,000 in schools and 14,500 in boarding academies. Southern Baptists educate 13,500; American Lutherans, 6,000; and Mennonites, 5,000.

Such private schools cater largely to people who can afford to exercise their freedom of choice. But what will the nation do about those who feel they must exercise a choice they are constitutionally entitled to, but are being squeezed out financially? This education stepchild has obstreperously plunked itself on all the taxpayers’ laps. Unquestionably it is a hard child to manage.

A few words have been added to the Apollo 8 astronaut stamp design originally announced in January. Apparently in the public mind the reading of Genesis 1 characterizes man’s first flight around the moon as much as anything else. Hence the new design (above) announced last month by the Post Office. Even Americans United for Separation of Church and State, still at war against Christmas stamps, issued no protest. In Houston, Toledo’s Free Will Baptist pastor Fred Taylor presented the space agency with petitions from 500,000 persons in three nations endorsing the astronauts’ right to read the Bible publicly in space. Meanwhile, Southern Baptist pastor Adrian Rogers reports a spiritual upsurge among space technicians at Cape Kennedy. No fewer than thirteen of the highly paid scientists have already resigned to enroll in theological study or take church jobs, and seventy-one in all have made commitments for full-time Christian service.

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What’S New In Prayer

“How we doing, God,” began a prayer opening a session of Indiana’s State Senate, guaranteed to wake up woolgathering lawmakers. The uptight message was the work of stocky Methodist preacher L. Ray Sells, who works on the poor side of town.

“We’ve made our deals, given our reports, and made our great speech. Did you see us, God? But we’re hung up, God. Help us to see beyond the chair ahead of us, beyond this chamber. Help us leap the barrier of our party, and most of all, help us overcome our great urge to be mediocre.

“Help us to see the hungry and sick who want food and medicine, not a balanced budget. Help us hear those who cry for justice in the land, not Mace in their eyes. Help us to make life better for all, and not more comfortable for a few.

“Whip us into shape, God, and hound us until we do what needs to be done. Make our nights restless, our steaks tough, and our martinis sweet till we care as much for others as we care for our political neck. Amen.”

Swearing In Scientists

Pioneering young theologian Jürgen Moltmann has won world-wide acclaim for his efforts to bring the future back into the academic dialogue. But in his current U. S. lecture tour, Moltmann also demonstrates a new kind of concern for the present. He thinks that technology has gotten out of hand, that man has become a slave to it, and that the “industrial system needs to be humanized.” One specific suggestion: Professional scientists should take a common oath to serve the best interests of man.

“Society needs to be rebuilt,” says Moltmann, 42-year-old professor at the University of Tubingen, and an oath like that traditionally taken by physicians might be a good place to start. In this way, Moltmann contends, man would begin to re-establish benevolent goals now conspicuously absent in an environment of technology that seems intent only upon perpetuating and expanding itself.

Moltmann cites the “democratic control of technological power” as a necessity. “Technological power is international,” he declares, “but the control of it is still provincial.”

The German-born scholar, whose radical new outlook on theology represents a major break with current existentialism, has scored the apathy of Christians everywhere, including those in his own country. He has been especially critical of Christians who refuse to resist what he regards as dehumanizing elements, such as the Soviet-led occupation of Czechoslovakia last summer. Man should work to end famine instead of going to the moon, he says.

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As he stood in the chapel pulpit in creaky old Watts Hall at Richmond’s Union Theological Seminary last month, Moltmann’s short, slight figure bore a resemblance to that of Harvey Cox. But the German accent and clean-shaven face distinguished him from his chief American competitor in the younger theological set. A long shock of black hair flopped over his left eye as he read his lecture.

Moltmann did not elaborate on who should develop the oath for scientists, what it should say, or how it should be administered. His only description was that it be a counterpart to the Hippocratic oath still required of prospective physicians by a number of medical schools. That oath, which dates back to the fifth century B.C., has many variations, but primarily deals with preserving life and not exploiting patients.

Moltmann’s suggestion of an oath for scientists raises the question whether theologians ought to take oaths—or vows. This becomes especially relevant inasmuch as Moltmann’s magnum opus, The Theology of Hope, implies that man lacks cognitive knowledge of metaphysical realities. Oaths and vows obviously lose meaning when they aver something less than universally valid truth.

Bibles And Bombs

Mystery and controversy surround thirty-eight criminal counts lodged this month against nine members of a California Bible-study group. They are charged with vandalism, use of explosives, conspiracy, and syndicalism (terrorism to effect political change) linked to a rash of recent anti-leftist bombings in the San Francisco area.

Most counts involved a visit by undercover Menlo Park policeman Armand Lareau and five of the defendants, disguised as hippies, to a free university class on Mao Tse-tung at the Palo Alto Unitarian Church. They planned to disrupt the meeting with tear gas and firecrackers, but a heavy police guard stalled the plan. Police later confiscated an array of weapons and munitions, rightist literature, and Nazi relics.

The defendants express pro-Jewish sentiments and disavow Nazi sympathies because “a Christian can’t be a Nazi.” The Bible class, composed of several dozen members ranging from hippies to middle-class businessmen, met Friday nights in the home of the James McGees. The McGees played tape-recorded doctrinal lessons by the Rev. Robert Thieme, pastor of a large independent Dallas church. After class, a hard core remained to discuss current politics and, informants said, to devise anti-leftist strategy.

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The other defendants besides the McGees, free on bail till April or May trial, are:

J. D. Cooney, retired engineer and county George Wallace chairman who traces his Christian conversion to anticommunist preachers. Robert Lake, grocery clerk and ex-soldier who accepted Christ during Billy Graham meetings in Japan. Walter Peddy, a painter who became a Christian through Thieme tapes; his father is an archsegregationist, and his leftist-activist brothers helped police build a case against him. John Mirto, a munitions salesman who is not yet a Christian but is intrigued by Thieme’s eschatology. Donald Smith, an assistant to Mirto, who accepted Christ while in jail. Steven McLean, unemployed former dope addict converted to Christ in a Hawaii coffee house. And Douglas Neher, gas-station attendant led to Christ during a Thieme tape session at Wallace headquarters. (Neher used to be active in Nazi causes. Police took his collection of Nazi tracts, but left behind stacks of leftist and other extremist pamphlets.)

None regularly attends church because they can find no preacher to match Thieme. All are heavy smokers; several are gun collectors; some occasionally drop profanities. Their neighbors speak well of them.

Lake, Peddy, and Smith were beaten by other prisoners after the arrests. But by the second night they had turned the jail into a revival hall. They read from the Bible, testified, and led inmates in singing hymns and patriotic songs.

Police investigation began with a long tipoff letter from Joseph Dobiss, a leftist ex-convict currently under indictment for assault. A police officer admits much of Dobiss’s report “did not check out,” and a detective said his bombings probe “was leading us away from the group” when Police Chief Victor Cizanckas took over.

Thieme says “anyone listening to my tapes for long is bound to become politically conservative,” and he thinks “nationalism” is one of the four “divine institutions.” But he denies there is racism in the 6,000 tapes a month he mails to groups across the nation. Now eavesdropping on the tapes is the county district attorney’s staff, which seized 100 of them.

Meanwhile the Bible study thrives, with fifty persons cramming weekly into the McGee home. And many of the old regulars are meeting elsewhere, some to dissociate themselves from the group, others to escape harassment.


On March 2 Richard Nixon became the fourth U. S. President a row to call on a pope. He said the hour-plus chat with Paul VI at the end of his eight-day European tour encompassed “some of the great issues which divide the world.” In an adjoining room Secretary of State William Rogers met his papal counter-part, and the presence of Vatican Viet Nam experts left little doubt on the topic. Reportedly, diplomatic recognition was discussed in neither meeting, though the President, when back home, said a Vatican envoy is under consideration John Lodge. But Protestant opposition to the idea was impressive.

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A Modern Polish ‘Passion’

Even in Eastern Europe, great expressions of faith are still being created and performed. This was one of many exciting things about this month’s New York premiere of the Passion and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ According to St. Luke by Poland’s avant-garde composer Krzystof Penderecki.

Penderecki, 36, who attended the performance, is a practicing Roman Catholic who considers his music a confession of his religious convictions. The overflow Carnegie Hall audience greeted warmly his contribution to religious music and seemed moved by its descriptive impact.

The composer draws upon Luke’s narrative, segments of the Fourth Gospel, and the Roman Holy Week liturgy for his Latin text. The words are spoken, sung, shouted, and hissed in a remarkable choreography of sound dances. There are identifiable hints of Gregorian chant and other thematic material, but the work is in no way tonal.

Penderecki is deeply involved in what musicologist Alan Rich calls “the impact of pure sound.” It is his overwhelming unification of text and sound that communicates the tense emotions of the Passion story so well. The powerful E major chord that concludes the piece (text: “Thou hast redeemed me, O Lord, the God of Truth”) is one of only two triads in the entire work, yet the composition conveys a deep and thorough understanding of the Passion to the listener.

Stage as well as audience was “standing room only.” Under Stanislaw Skrowaczewski’s baton in the beautiful performance were the Minnesota Orchestra, soloists, and 160 voices from Bethel, Macalester, and St. Catherine-St. Thomas Colleges, and the boys choir of Minnesota’s Cathedral of St. Paul.


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