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ACTIONS BY THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE OF THE FEDERAL COUNCIL OF THE CHURCHES
OF CHRIST IN AMERICA December 5, 1929:
“We believe the United States should welcome as citizens all applicants for citizenship otherwise qualified who conscientiously seek to follow the highest ideals, including those who have, in their own hearts, renounced war as an instrument of dealing with others. We urge that the statutes relating to the naturalization of aliens be amended to this end and be brought into harmony with the spirit of aliens be amended to this end and be brought into harmony war as an instrument of national policy."
December 3, 1930:
“In view of certain recent judicial decisions which raise fundamental questions as to the justice of our present naturalization laws, we desire to put on record the following convictions:
“We hold that our country is benefited by having as citizens those who unswervingly follow the dictates of their consciences, and who put allegiance to God above every other consideration, and that a policy of denial of naturalization to aliens of such character is contrary to the ideals of a Nation into whose very structure the inciple of political and gious liberty has been built.
"If the present naturalization law does, under fair interpretation, require the exclusion from citizenship of applicants who put allegiance to God above every other consideration, we believe that the law should be amended."
December 3, 1931 :
“The recent authoritative interpretation of the law of naturalization, denying citizenship to persons who have conscientious scruples against military service, creates an intolerable dilemma for the great body of Christians in the United States who, recognizing God as “the Lord of conscience,” place loyalty to God above every other loyalty. We urge such an amendment of the naturalization law and such other needed measures as shall conserve the moral and religious principle at stake.”
PRONOUNCEMENTS BY NATIONAL CHUROH BODIES ON CONSCIENCE AND CITIZENSHIP
NORTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION, 1930 “We regard with grave concern the recent ruling of a district Federal court which refused citizenship in the United States to Prof. Douglas Macintosh, a Baptist minister and professor of theology in Yale Divinity School, on the ground that he considered ‘his allegiance to be first to the will of God’ and therefore would not promise in advance to bear arms in defense of the United States under all circumstances but only if he believed the war to be morally justified.'
We believe that such a policy is not only unjust to the individual but contrary to public welfare ind in conflict with the ideals of a nation into whose very structure the principle of political and religious liberty has been built. More than anything else our country needs citizens who unswervingly follow the dictates of their conscience, making allegiance to God the supreme guide to life and conduct.
“We believe, moreover, that, at this time when the United States and 57 other nations have renounced war and have pledged themselves to use only the methods of peace in the settlement of their controversies, it is quite unsuitable that our courts and our laws should require applicants for citizenship to make pledges that conflict with the spirit and intent of the peace pact.
“We appeal to our fellow citizens to help secure the needed amendment of our naturalization law and thus establish the principle that refusal to promise in advance to bear arms because of supreme allegiance to God shall not be a bar to citizenship in the United States.”
DISCIPLES OF CHRIST, INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION, 1930 “We reaffirm the well-founded principle of the sanctity of the individual conscience in the matter of participation in war, and declare the invasion of this right by the government, either in the refusal of nationalization to foreign-born persons of good character seeking citizenship or in the coercion of native-born citizens to be an unjustified invasion of conscience. We hold it to be the duty of all good citizens to support the State up to the point where obedience to man becomes disobedience to God, in the firm conviction that the state has bound itself by the terms of the Kellogg pact never to resort to war for the settlement of any dispute, whatever its origin or however it may arise."
PRESBYTERIAN IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, GENERAL ASSEMBLY, 1930
" What the general assembly reply to the overture of the Presbytery of Los Angeles:
" Whereas the general assembly has repeatedly declared the aversion of the church to the settlement of international difference by war, or by the appeal to arms, and its belief in the substitution therefor of peaceful processes of conference and adjudication : and
“ Whereas the standards of the church declare that God alone is Lord of the conscience'; and
Whereas the church has always taught that it is the duty of men to obey their conscience in the fear of God and in fidelity to His word; and
“ Whereas men and women should stand on the same basis of principle, enjoying equal rights and having equal duties in the church and in the State: Therefore,
* Resolved, That the assembly declares its belief that the right and duty of citizenship should not be conditioned upon the test, of ability or willingness, contrary to conscience, to bear arms or to take part as a combatant in war.
“ That a copy of the above answer be sent to the President of the United States and to the Congress of the United States."
CONGREGATIONAL AND CHRISTIAN CHURCHES, NATIONAL COUNCIL, 1931 “(1) Resolved, That it is the sense of this council that Christian ministers and church members should once more be reminded that a supreme obligation rests upon them to share in the conduct of their governments—city, State, and National-and to participate not only at election but all the time in public affirs. It is essential that good officers be thoughtfully and publicly supported and applauded as well as bad officers denounced.
“(2) Whereas in the United States v. Macintosh, the Federal Supreme Court decided 5 to 4 that Douglas Clyde Macintosh, a Christian minister and professor in the divinity school at Yale University, is ineligible for citizenship for the sole reason that he would not promise in advance to bear arms in any war in which the United States may become engaged, if such war was to his conscience contrary to the will of God; and
“ Whereas in the dissenting opinion in this case of the Chief Justice, Hon. Charles Evans Hughes, concurred in by Justices Holmes, Brandeis, and Stone, the historic American constitutional doctrine and practice of freedom of conscience, and the superior obligation of the religious man to the will of God, was maintained and vindicated
“Whereas this minority opinion of the Supreme Court in our judgment maintains the tradition and practice of the American people, the guarantees of the Constitution as expressed therein, and the supreme law of this land as set forth in the peace pact (the Briand-Kellogg treaty of Paris)
“ Whereas Professor Macintosh has applied to the Supreme Court for a rehearing of this case: Now, therefore, be it
“ Resolved by the General Council of Congregational and Christian Churches in convention assembled in the city of Seattle, this 2d day of July, 1931, That we respectfully plead with the Supreme Court to grant this petition for a rehearing of this case."
PROTESTANT EPISCOPAL CHURCH, GENERAL CONVENTION, 1931 “Whereas under the present laws of the United States an applicant for citizenship will be refused if he states that he would be unwilling to bear arms in a war to which he might conscientiously object; and
" Whereas the present laws of the United States relieve citizens who are conscientious objectors from the duty of bearing arms;
“ Resolved, That this convention expresses its earnest hope that the naturalization laws and the oath of allegiance of the United States may be so modified that such conscientious objectors may be admitted to citizenship, provided they are willing to serve their country in the event of war by noncombatant service; and further
“Resolved, That we earnestly petition Congress to modify existing laws, particularly the naturalization act of 1906, so as to avoid placing multitudes of loyal citizens in the unhappy position of being forced to choose between their country and their God."
SEVENTH DAY BAPTIST CHURCH, GENERAL CONFERENCE, 1931 “The general conference of Seventh Day Baptists in session at Alfred, N. Y., August 18-23, 1931, in considering the recent Supreme Court decision refusing citizenship to Prof. D. C. Macintosh and Miss Bland, which involves principles of liberty of conscience that we hold dear, makes the following declarations:
“1. While a nation has a duty to survive, yet its first duty is to 'seek justice, love, mercy, and walk humbly before God.'
“2. Our Nation has by the Constitution and by legislative enactment even in times of war safeguarded religious liberty, thus recognizing that a citizen's first duty is to God.
"3. The Kellogg-Briand treaty anticipates the formation of a body of conscience-led citizens in every nation who shall assure the peaceable settlement of international disputes.
" 4. Our Nation must not put itself in the position of demanding that incoming citizens give up the right to be conscience-led when by the Constitution, by legislative enactment, and by the Kellogg-Briand treaty, this very thing is safeguarded and encouraged for native-born citizens.
“5. We express ourselves in agreement with the minority opinion written by Chief Justice Hughes.
“6. We hope that the petition for a rehearing of the case by the Supreme Court will be granted.
“7. We recommend that copies of these resolutions be sent to the Supreme Court, to Professor Macintosh, and to Miss Bland.”
PEACE PATRIOTS, Hon. ANTHONY J. GRIFFIN,
New York City, January 19, 1932. House Offices, Washington, D. C. DEAR SIR : In vigorously petitioning the Committee on Immigration and Naturalization to make a favorable report to the House on the Griffin bill (H. R. 297), I wish first to identify myself.
Among my ancestors were William Bradford, of the Mayflower, and William Floyd, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and a member of the first Congress.
My background, you see, is thoroughly American. I was brought up in reverence of early American traditions and of the sacrifices made to establish our liberties. In the mellowing years of my business life I have witnessed the deterioration of these ideals, and I must regretfully say that the people most responsible for the violation of these traditions have been the self-styled patriots. Pretending to safeguard Americanism, they have merely protected their selfish interests in denying to others the freedom to think, speak, and act, even when such thought, speech, and action were well within the guaran. ties of the Constitution. They have engendered a cynical disbelief in peaceful, orderly processes.
Freedom of conscience, with a willingness to take the penalties which the majority may impose, is as dear a right to the individual as any in the first 10 amendments. I am confident that the founders of our Republic would approve the measure which you are now sponsoring. Yours very truly,
NATIONAL LEAGUE FOR AMERICAN CITIZENSHIP (INC.),
New York City, January 19, 1932. MY DEAR CONGRESSMAN GRIFFIN : I have read through my statement to you of March 7, 1930, which statement I sent in to you at the ime when it was our hope that your bill would receive a hearing, and later, favorable consideration. I find very little in that statement that I can change because the sentiments I expressed there I still hold.
I still beliere that if we could carry out the beliefs set down by the makers of the Constitution of the United States and by the authors of the Declaration of Independence we must be consistent in allowing those who differ from us, and whose views are not in conflict with the safety of the community, to adhere to those beliefs. There is an inexplicable inconsistency between prating over freedom of thought and denial of the right to carry out the beliefs of Christ. There is inconsistency in talking of freedom of speech and in denying to others the right to express themselves, particularly when such freedom of speech can not be interpreted as in any sense different from that spoken by such pacifists as former Secretary of State Kellogg and innumerable members of Congress.
As executive director of the National League for American Citizenship for more than a decade, I have worked with the foreign born in helping them to become citizens of the United States. It was my privilege to come in contact with the applicants in thousands of cases and to note from personal observation the motives that prompted them to seek American citizenship. I found them always to be sincere and genuine in their desire to become affiliated with us as American citizens and therefore feel keenly the need for an amendment such as you offer to the present naturalization law.
It would seem that the expression given voice to by Secretary of State Seward as far back as 1868 is still applicable to the theory of citizenship. In a letter that he wrote to Doctor Chernbuck, a native of Rumania, he mentioned the fact that “ Government should not be deprived of the services and industry of its citizens,” and I feel that in these two words he has given expression to our major fundamentals in requiring aliens to become citizens. If they are equipped mentally and morally to live among us, to appreciate the form of government under which we are ruled, and the standards of living that are a distinct component part of our national make-up and national culture, they should be considered as fully qualified for citizenship in the United States.
** Service and industry” are important factors in citizenship. We seek no idlers and we wish to have no nonproducers. So long as any man or woman brings to the naturalization court proof of the fact that they are truly interested and believers in our form of government, anxious to carry on their economic welfare in consonance with our laws and are at the same time in full possession of their reasoning powers, they should be fit subjects for American citizenship. Of course I do not include in this category of qualifications, reasoning powers that tend to subvert government or that point to anarchistic or polygamous form of life. The opinions of any one person should be sacred to them so long as these opinions do not injure or harm the community in which they live.
After all we boast, and boast rightfully, that this is a country where free speech is not alone permitted, but also encouraged. In the cases that I understand have been responsible for the introduction of your bill, the opinions of pacifists have been regarded as disqualifying them for American citizenship. Your bill, if enacted into law, would make such a qualification impossible. In upholding pacificism, I can not be accused of being a pacifist not only because my opinions do not lean that way but also because as a veteran of the World War, I find myself very often in conflict with their precepts. Nevertheless, I recognize the fact that we are a peaceful nation whose major religious roots lie in a belief in God which is associated with the concept of peace, and, therefore, those who believe in peace should not be considered at serious variance or odds with our own principles.
Citizenship should be looked upon from the standpoint of the general welfare and history of the United States and not from the sporadic pages that are devoted to war. Throughout our history the years devoted to war have been comparatively few; it is the service and industry of our people that has carried us through years of peace—which for us are our normal years—and have brought us to the high state of civilization that we now enjoy. The qualifications for citizenship should be the aptitude on the part of the individual applicant to serve this Nation and to be industrious, and if his religious views or philosophical opinions do not conflict with his being of use to the community, it would seem that the insertion of such a condition must necessarily be interpreted as unwise and in a large sense un-American.
Nor should service consist solely in the narrow limitations of the term as applied to war. We serve our country daily by contributing to its economic, social, and political progress. The sum total of the individual standards make for our national standards and any applicant for citizenship should be permitted the freedom of religious opinion which formed the basis of the Constitution.
Until Congress amended our naturalization laws in 1906, corresponding to section 381, title 8 of the present United State Code, no questions as to the nonnaturalizability of pacifiists had, or could, reasonably come up. Quakers and other conscientious objectors were freely naturalized, and the oath exacted of all our new citizens was simply that prescribed by section 2165 of the United States Revised Statutes, to the effect that the applicant swears that he will support the Constitution of the United States.” We need a reversion to that frame of mind. We must understand that freedom of opinion and freedom of religion admit the atheist and pacifist to the halls of theological observation and national policy.
I can not refrain from thinking that some of those who have been denied citizenship within the last year or more, because of a strict interpretation of the existing statutes by the courts, seem to represent creeds that have long been respected in the communities in which they exist and the members of which have made excellent citizens of the United States. We must not overlook the fact that the President of the United States is a member of a church whose theories would come and have come-within the pale of this narrow definition. We learned in the last war that there was something that could be contributed to the success of the Nation in war times as well as in peace times by those whose conscientious scruples did not permit them to carry on one task, but did allow them to carry on another function.
If freedom of thought and freedom of religion are to remain with us, we must eliminate for all time the thought of restricting potential citizens to creeds and policies of thought approved of by administrative and legislative bodies. In the last analysis, as I conceive it, your bill seeks to do nothing more than to make possible the admission to citizenship in the United States of a group of men and women whose strong belief in ethical conduct and in national responsibility is so overwhelming, as to make them be willing to fight for these principles rather thai to subordinate them in a cowardly fashion. For the belief in their principles—with which I repeat I am not in entire accord-and for the courage to uphold these principles, I believe them worthy of citizenship in the United States, since we seek that same pioneer spirit that was so evident in our people of less than a century ago. It would be a forward step in the re-enunciation of the belief of Congress in the basic principles upon which our Constitution was founded and of the spirit in which the Declaration of Independence was conceived.
I earnestly indorse its favorable recommendation by the House Committee on Immigration and congratulate you upon having been the introducer of so necessary a bill. Very cordially,
HAROLD FIELDS, Executive Director,
[From the Christian Leader)
THE DECLARATION OF AN AMERICAN CITIZEN
We have signed the declaration on the Macintosh case. We have invited our people to sign it. We have done so because acceptance of the decision of the United States Supreme Court, in our opinion, means the end of religion, Either conscience is supreme or it is nothing.
Here is the question: Are we willing to give over into the hands of the Government the right to decide for us plain questions of right and wrong?
Chief Justice Hughes in his minority opinion wrote: “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."
Has there ever been a time in our free churches when we have not made that reservation? What brought the Pilgrim Fathers to these shores?
Admit that every crank can take refuge in this position, admit that cowards and law-breakers might make improper use of it, admit that the collective wisdom sometimes is better than individual wisdom, still the proposition holds, 'In so far as citizens assent to the doctrine advanced by the court's decision, they consent to the nullification of the most basic principle of ethical religion, and surrender their own and the church's freedom to preach and practise that truth which is the vital breath of any spiritual faith, namely, that God alone is Lord of the conscience, and that we must obey God rather than men.
We who sign this petition are not signing a declaration that we will not take part in any future war. We are declaring that nobody in WashingtonPresident, major general, or bureau chief-can decide for us what is right and what is wrong. We are saying to our representatives, “ Your acts must square with the enlightened consciences of the American people if you want support."
Do we love our country? Far better, we dare affirm, than those who echo the shallow toast of a century ago, My country, right or wrong.'
Had we framed the declaration of an American citizen, we should have put in the opening paragrah a statement that it is the clear duty of the legislative branch of our Government to change the law. What the majority of the Supreme Court did was to interpret the law as they saw it. It was a close shave for their opinion. The vote was five to four and the weight of brain power and man power was with the four. That decision makes law. Congress can unmake it. Not a day should be lost in starting.