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AMERICAN UNITARIAN ASSOCIATION
RESOLUTIONS OF GENERAL PUBLIC INTEREST ADOPTED BY THE FOURTH BIENNIAL
CONFERENCE, PHILADELPHIA, PA., OCTOBER 19–22, 1931, AND THE FINDINGS OF THE ROUND-TABLE DISCUSSION GROUPS ADOPTED BY THE CONFERENCE
THE DENIAL OF CITIZENSHIP TO DOUGLAS CLYDE MACINTOSH
Whereas we Unitarians, here assembled, have been pledged by our traditions to uphold freedom of conscience, and have been devoting this present conference to the theme of the supreme worth of personality in all its relationships ; and
Whereas it has been declared by the Supreme Court of the United States that Douglas Clyde Macintosh, professor in the divinity school in Yale University, is not eligible for citizenship in the United States, for the reason that he could not promise in advance to bear arms in any war in which the United States may be engaged, "unless he believed the war to be morally justified”; and
Whereas the decision of the court was by à majority of 5 to 4, the majority opinion declaring that the promise to bear arms is implied in the words of the oath of the naturalization act, “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic”; and
Whereas the minority opinion, Chief Justice Hughes speaking, declared that there was no such implication, either literally or historically, in the general words of the naturalization oath, and that such a requirement to bear arms " should not be implied because such a construction is directly opposed to the spirit of our institutions and to the historical practice of Congress "; and
Whereas the majority opinion went beyond its interpretation of the naturalization act and declared that “the conscientious objector is relieved from the obligation to bear arms. in obedience to no constitutional provision, expressed or implied; but because, and only because, it has accorded with the policy of Congress thus to relieve him";
Be it resolved, That we Unitarians who are here assembled, while respecting the judicial procedure in this case and with no purpose to call in question the legality of the decision, nevertheless declare that we feel profoundly moved to protest against it; that the majority opinion looks backward upon precedents in the past, while the minority opinion looks forward with the growing sentiments of the American people against the war system, thus interpreting the naturalization oath in harmony with the moral conscience increasingly felt by American citizens as to whether they can or can not approve and support a declaration of war;
Be it further resolved, That we feel a deepening dismay at the decision of the Supreme Court to the effect, first, that liberty of conscience, even in the bearing of arms in any or all wars, has no guarantee whatsoever in the Constitution of the United States but only in the judgment of Congress, a decision which appears to subject all citizens, and especially all officeholders taking the oath of office in substantially the same terms of the naturalization oath, to the implied promise in advance to bear arms in any and all wars of the Nation, no matter what religious scruples may be felt; and, second, that the decision puts a construction upon the Constitution contrary to our American practice in all its history, because it definitely assures to Congress the right of universal cunscription of conscience without regard to religious scruples in the bearing of arms;
Be it further resolved, That we who approve these resolutions, pledge ourselves to all possible efforts to move Congress to find some relief, if necessary, in a constitutional amendment, from the intolerable results of the Supreme Court decision, as it affects both the native-born citizen and the applicant for citizenship who have or feel that they may have religious scruples in the bearing of arms in war, though subject, it may be, to noncombatant duties;
Be it further resolved, That we extend our sympathy to Professor Macintosh in his dilemma and to all others in the same plight.
EXCERPT FROM RESOLUTIONS ADOPTED BY THE MASSACHUSETTS BAPTIST CONVENTION
AT THE ANNUAL MEETING IN WORCESTER, MASS., OCTOBER 28–29, 1931 Whereas the Supreme Court of the United States has, by a vote of 5 to 4, denied the right of citizenship to any alien who refuses to participate in any
war that might be waged by the country, even though he believe that war is morally unjustified and contrary to the will of God, as revealed by the teachings of Christ; and
Whereas such a policy is, in our opinion, contrary to the highest interests and noblest ideals of Christian citizenship: Be it
Resolved, That every effort be made to secure the enactment of adequate legislation to bring about the abolishment of such unjust and un-Christian requirements.
THE FELLOWSHIP OF RECONCILIATION,
New York City, January 26, 1932. Hon. SAMUEL DICKSTEIN,
House of Representatives, Washington, D. C. MY DEAR MR. DICKSTEIN: As I am not able to be personally present at the hearing on the Griffin bill, H. R. 297, I beg to assure you that in my opinion the membership of the Fellowship of Reconciliation are practically 100 per cent in favor of the general principle of not excluding aliens from citizenship in the United States solely because they may have philosophical convictions which would prevent their taking part in war or because they would refuse to bear arms in war.
In so far as the Griffin bill covers these points, we are for it. We agree emphatically with the dissenting opinion of Chief Justice Hughes in the MacIntosh case that
“ In the forum of conscience, duty to a moral power higher than the state has always been maintained. The reservation of that supreme obligation, as a matter of principle, would unquestionably be made by many of our conscientious and law-abiding citizens.”
The Fellowship of Reconciliation believes that the method of war violates the essential teachings of Jesus and the supreme value of personality and that Christians, and others, should refuse to take part in it and should appeal to the conscience of mankind for its abolition.
I will be grateful if you can have this letter inserted in the record of the hearings on the Griffin bill. Yours sincerely,
JOHN NEVIN SAYRE,
PHILADELPHIA, PA., January 26, 1932.
D. STEWART PATTERSON, Washington, D. C.
Reply to letter Roy E. Burt, Chicago Office, sending to you short notice, please direct properly, Meeting Monday, January 25, District Cabinet representative of 5,000 young people, Epworth League, North District, Philadelphia Conference. We go on record as being in favor of Griffin bill to amend naturalization law."
CAROLINE B. ROLLE,
WOMEN'S INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE FOR PEACE AND FREEDOM, MARYLAND BRANCH Hon. SAMUEL DICKSTEIN,
February 2, 1932. House of Representatives, Washington, D. C. DEAR MR. DICKSTEIN : At a meeting of the Maryland Branch of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom held January 28, the following resolution was passed :
Be it resolved, That the Maryland Branch of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom hereby indorses the principles of the Griffin naturalization bill, and urges that the bill be favorably reported to the House as soon as possible. Very truly yours,
(Mrs. ARTHUR K.) REBECCA R. TAYLOR,
EUGENE, OREG., January 19, 1932.
COMMITTEE ON IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION,
House of Representatives, Washington, D. C. DEAR SIRS: At their annual meeting last night the Eugene Council for Prevention of War voted unanimously to urge the passage of the Griffin bill amending our naturalization laws so that individuals having conscientious scruples against war may become United States citizens. This country is at this time, we believe, the only country withholding citizenship upon this basis. We greatly hope this bill may pass. Sincerely,
EMILY EDWIN ADAMS, Secretary.
[The Christian Century, January 20, 1932)
A CALL TO PATRIOTS
Something quite without precedent in American Protestantism is reflected in this issue of the Christian Century. Twenty-seven of the most influential religious papers in the United States, representing all the leading denomiantions, are simulatneously making a protest against the Supreme Court's decision in the Macintosh citizenship case, and on behalf of religious liberty and the rights of conscience. Our readers are, therefore, asked to peruse these pages with an awareness of the fact that it is not merely the Christian Century which they are reading, but that, allowing for variotion in individual emphasis, they are listening to the almost unanimous voice of the Christian press of the Nation.
And not only of the Protestant press, but of the Roman Catholic as well. For the leading minds of that communion see eye to eye with us as to the gravity of the issue which the Supreme Court's decision has precipitated. It is only fair to say that our Catholic colleagues were more prompt in sensing the sinister implications of this decision than were the Protestant editors. We are advised that all but a small fraction of the Catholic organs have already taken a strong position of protest. This fact deserves to be emphasized, and its significance should not be discounted by any difference which obtains between Catholic and Protestant on the question of the authority of the church in the realm of conscience. It is sufficient for the present issue that the Christian press of the Nation, Protestant and Catholic, sees clearly that the doctrine promulgated by the Supreme Court, imputing to every American citizen the pledge that he will hold an act of Congress supreme over his conscience, spells doom both for religious liberty and a spiritual church.
The only way in which a spiritual faith can be kept alive in the United States under this decision is to protest against it, to repudiate it, and to work for its correction either through reversal or by appropriate legislation. To tolerate the decision, to be squeamish about raising one's voice against it, to imagine that any principle of sound patriotism is violated by incontinently repudiating it and dissociating oneself from all obligation under it, is simply to confess how fully one's mind has been brought under the yoke of subjection to a thoroughly pagan conception of the state.
We regard the united expression of the religious press of the Nation on this subject as one of the most heartening tokens of the post-war period. Besides exhibiting a unity which has never been so finely dramatized before, it demonstrates that there is yet the spark of vitality in the religious press which its critics have been led to believe had gone out.
What is the religious press aiming at by this concerted effort? It is undertaking to inform church people that something serious and unprecedented has happened to their status as citizens, to arouse them to a repudiation of the restriction which the Supreme Court's decision puts upon their long-established guarantee of freedom of conscience, and to enlist them in a Nation-wide peti. tion to Congress for relief.
It is unnecessary to argue the issue editorially at this time. Readers of the Christian Century have been made familiar in past months with the implications of the court's decision. Besides, articles appear in these pages this week which sufficiently refresh the reader's understanding of the issue. On a special page will be found a " Declaration” intended to be signed by every person who reads it and approves it. This declaration reflects the conclusions reached by the editors of the 27 cooperating religious periodicals. It is appear
ing in their papers as it appears here, and is being reinforced by an independent editorial in each of these papers as it is in the Chrisian Century. The papers participating are the following:
Each editor leads off by signing the declaration himself, and publishes the text of the declaration with a line for the signature of his readers. He will ask his readers to sign the declaration, tear out the page and send it to the office of the paper from which it was taken. But this is not all. It is designed that the movement shall spread far and wide beyond the reading constituency of the religious press. For this purpose, arrangements have been made for printing the declaration on separate sheets for distribution, in any quantity, in congregations, public meetings, community groups, and by individuals who are prompted to secure signatures. These signed declarations should be returned to the editor of your paper, who, in cooperation with the other editors, will see that they are delivered to Congress and the President of the United States.
Fortunately, this concerted effort is able to come to a head in a specific and practical way by the introduction in the United States Senate of a proposed amendment to the naturalization law designed not only to admit such alien applicants for citizenship as Professor Macintosh, but to relieve the native-born American citizen of the tyrannous restraint which the court's decision imposes upon him. By the time these words are in print, no doubt, Senator Cutting, of New Mexico, will have introduced his bill. It has been drawn with the aid of the legal firm of Davis, Polk, Wardwell, Gardiner & Reed, who represented Professor Macintosh before the Supreme Court. The Hon. John W. Davis, of this firm, was democratic candidate for President in 1924. The text of the proposed statutory amendment is as follows:
“No alien otherwise qualified under this act shall be denied citizenship by reason of his refusal on conscientious grounds to promise to bear arms or otherwise participate in war; but every alien admitted to citizenship shall he subject to the same obligation in all respects as a native-born citizen.”
The passage of this amendment, while it does not cover the entire theoretical case, will fully meet the practical issue and reinstate our traditional national policy of receiving as citizens those who are otherwise qualified without requiring them to abdicate their consciences in order to become citizens. At the same time it practically unbinds the consciences of those who are now citi. zens by identifying the status of such naturalized citizens with the status of those native born.
Speaking for himself personally, the editor of the Christian Century has signed the declaration. Moreover, the editor has had occasion to act upon it
and has acted. In an application for a passport he attached to the oath of allegiance or repudiation of the Supreme Court's interpretation in these words:
“I also add a word of explanation on the question of conscience, in the light of the decision of the Supreme Court in the Macintosh case. I have taken the oath of allegiance many times in past years. In doing so it has never occurred to me that I was thereby giving a pledge to surrender my conscience to Congress as the final and absolute interpreter of the will of God. It is my understanding that to require such a pledge is the essence of tyranny. I am willing to pledge everything I have for the well-being of the Nation, including my life. But as a Christian I can not give my conscience, which belongs to God. In taking the oath of allegiance I do not assent to any contrary interpretation of its meaning."
The time is ripe for a vigorous uprising against those postwar influences which are operating to set up a nationalistic state as absolute as that which we once miputed to Prussianized Germany and as pagan as that of the Roman Caesars. The most precious treasures of our American heritage are at stake. If those who believe in a spiritual religion; in a free church within a free state; in a democracy whi jealously guards its most precious asset, namely, the free consent of the governed ; in a living God who holds in His hands the destinies of nations—if such citizens as these hesitate to voice their convictions but bend their wills supinely to a pagan deity, the future of both religion and democracy will be dark indeed.
It is unthinkable that the spirit of our fathers has abandoned their sons and daughters of this generation. That spirit is still alive. It needs only to be evoked. In the great argument of Chief Justice Hughes there lies a new charter of that spiritual freedom which the fathers thought they were establishing forever, but which their children will lose if they are blind or cowardly or inert.
FEDERAL COUNCIL OF THE CHURCHES OF CHRIST IN AMERICA (Inc.),
January 22, 1932. Hon. SAMUEL DICKSTEIN,
House Office Building, Washington, D. C. DEAR SIR: Inclosed you will find, for the information of the House Committee on Naturalization, in connection with its hearing on January 26—
1. Copies of three recent actions of the executive committee of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America.
2. Copies of actions taken by several denominations in their national gatherings.
In the light of these documents it may be suitable by way of summary to state briefly and clearly—
1. The demand by the churches, as expressed in their official resolutions, for legislation removing the intolerable situation created for vast numbers of loyal and patriotic Christian citizens by the judgment of the United States Supreme Court on the case of Douglas Clyde Macintosh (No. 504, October Term, 1930) is practically unanimous and urgently insistent. Seldom has there been among the churches of the United States a matter on which they have been so united and so urgent. I inclose for your further information an editorial in the Christian Century for January 20, 1932, listing 27 religious journals which have joined in a concerted movement to secure a change in the present situation.
2. The legislation needed would seem to us to be a simple amendment of the law of naturalization, providing that no alien otherwise qualified under this act shall be denied citizenship by reason of his refusal on conscientious grounds to promise to bear arms, but every alien admitted to citizenship shall be subject to the same obligations in all respects as a native-born citizen.
May we request that this letter and the accompanying resolutions be read at your hearings and inserted in the record? Respectfully and sincerely yours,
(Bishop) FRANCIS J. McCONNELL, Chairman.
(Rev.) SAMUEL MCCREA CAVERT, General Secretary.