President Johnson’s thumping victory at the polls this month promises to have important repercussions for the American religious scene.

Perhaps the most immediate if not the most important effect is the likely burial of the proposed Becker amendment to the U. S. Constitution, which would have overridden the Supreme Court’s ruling against public school devotional exercises. The legislation lost its chief sponsor when Republican Congressman Frank Becker, a Roman Catholic from Lynbrook, New York, declined to run for re-election. But the Republican platform included an implicit endorsement of the measure, and it could have been revived had the GOP candidates made a better showing.

The Harris poll indicated just four days before the election that an overwhelming 88 per cent of American voters agreed with Senator Barry Goldwater’s contention that prayers in public schools should be restored. But a tide of votes swamped Goldwater, and inasmuch as Democrats have been largely silent on the school prayer question, a constitutional amendment now appears unlikely.

The results of the election also seem to underscore the fact that a political candidate’s religious affiliation no longer makes much difference to American voters. Johnson is said to have won substantially larger majorities in predominantly Roman Catholic areas than John F. Kennedy did in 1960. Goldwater’s selection of a Roman Catholic running mate, William E. Miller of New York, obviously failed to attract any appreciable Catholic support. Miller lost his own county by a margin of more than two to one.

The 1964 election campaign drew many churchmen into the political fray. When Goldwater questioned the propriety of the condemnations he got from liberals, Johnson was obliged to rally to their support. The President said that “men in the pulpit have a place in political leadership of our people and they have a place in our public affairs.”

Presumably such encouragement will tend to stir a greater degree of political activity among American religious leaders in future election campaigns as well as in the continuing legislative process.

The National Council of Churches, no stranger to political maneuvers, came through last month with a well-timed indictment of “the radical right.” Information Service, a bi-weekly publication of the NCC’s Bureau of Research and Survey, devoted a special twelve-page issue to the extremists, charging that their “primary challenge is to the basic philosophy of democracy and to government itself as we have known it.” The publication’s appearance was followed by news release mailings from the NCC’s Office of Information announcing the material as “the first comprehensive review of material on the nature, methods and objectives of right-wing extremists and their organizations.” Neither Goldwater nor the Republican party was mentioned, but an unsigned introduction to the review declared that “these forces and their ideas have moved from the fringes of American life into a prominent role in the current political campaign.”

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One thing the campaign seems to have made clear is that American religious figures, both rightist and leftist, are losing respect for the principle of church-state separation. They find it cramps their style. And the public’s growing interest in politics, especially since the advent of television, creates envy in the heart of many a churchman who longs for a wider hearing. Those who champion the church-state separation principle on old norms are finding themselves increasingly removed from centers of public discussion. A new complex of church-state questions is emerging, but vested interests discourage debate.

Increasing political activity by church leaders could conceivably result in the eventual creation of a Christian or even an interfaith religious party. Most observers still regard that hazardous development as unlikely, but the presuppositions of today’s politically excitable churchmen coincide to a remarkable degree with the old arguments advanced in favor of religious political parties.

The outcome of the 1964 election apparently demonstrated that a generalized appeal for moral recovery elicits little response from the American people. Goldwater’s plea for “law and order” seemed only to produce its own kind of backlash: the antagonisms of liberal churchmen.

A Question Of Values

Dr. Wayne Dehoney, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, says the election results show that “the American people refuse to accept the premise that responsibility for the moral dereliction of the nation can be laid at the doorstep of any one party, administration, or individual.”

Dehoney declared that the strongest planks in the party platforms were appeals to personal values. “For one, it was ‘individualism and personal responsibility,’ for the other it was ‘compassion and concern for human welfare.’ Both are basic in our Baptist tradition.”

Protestant Prizes

Former President Dwight D. Eisenhower was honored with the second annual Family of Man Award by the Protestant Council of the City of New York last month at a $100-a-plate dinner in the Hotel Astor. Eisenhower, unable to attend because of a bronchial infection, was represented by his son. Some 3,000 guests were on hand.

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Special citations and $5,000 grants also were made for outstanding “examples of excellence” to Adlai E. Stevenson, U. S. ambassador to the United Nations, for world peace efforts; Zulu Chief Albert John Luthuli of South Africa (a Nobel Prize winner who was not permitted to leave the country to receive the honor); Edward R. Murrow, noted newsman and former chief of the U. S. Information Agency, for communications; and New York’s television channel 13, a non-commercial educational station.

John Hay Whitney, editor-in-chief of the New York Herald Tribune, who served as chairman for the dinner, said it netted $259,685.

Second Chance For Clergymen

Clergymen who have not signed up for social security may do so until April 15, 1965, under recent amendments to the law.

Since 1962, when a previous deadline expired, only newly ordained clergymen have been eligible to initiate social security participation. Now the amendments make it possible for all clergymen to be covered on a voluntary basis, since by law they are excluded from automatic social security coverage.

To become eligible, a clergyman must file a waiver certificate (Form 2031) with the district director of internal revenue, report his earnings from the ministry, and pay social security taxes on the earnings for the taxable years 1962, 1963, and 1964.

A clergyman reports his earnings as a self-employed person, even though he may be an employee for other purposes, so that the church or religious organization that he serves will not become involved.

After a clergyman has elected coverage, he may not withdraw from the social security program. Filing of a waiver certificate obligates him to pay social security taxes for each year he receives $400 or more in net income, any part of which comes from the exercise of his ministry.

Exemptions For Designated Gifts

The U. S. Tax Court overruled the Internal Revenue Service last month in a case involving designated missionary contributions.

The IRS had disallowed the gifts as income tax deductions, contending that since they were designated for the support of certain missionaries named on the receipts, they were not contributions to the mission. An attorney for the donors countered that the mission’s policy as stated in printed materials gives the mission control over all funds, even though they are designated.

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The Tax Court ruled that “it was the petitioners’ intention that their funds go into a common pool to be administered and distributed by the mission as it desired.”

Missionary News Service, reporting the action, noted that “the favorable decision was based largely on the written policy statement of the mission which made very clear the fact that the mission had full control of the disposition of the funds contributed.

War On The Air Waves

A group of prominent women declared war on the publicly owned Canadian Broadcasting Corporation last month by demanding a “cleansing” of programs that they say promote violence and perversion.

The women endorsed a statement charging that many CBC programs present a stream of “constant prostitution of sex and violence for entertainment.”

They are asking other women across the nation to sign a “Declaration by Canadian Women,” to be presented to Parliament with a demand that CBC programming be reformed.

Their action coincided with Jewish and other protests against the recent screening of a filmed interview with George Lincoln Rockwell, U. S. Nazi leader. The Canadian Jewish Congress assailed the CBC interview of Rockwell as an “irresponsible action.”

A CBC spokesman in Ottawa said the women’s declaration had been rejected by most major women’s groups in Canada.

The Pen And The Bomb

A “Feed the Minds of Millions” campaign to raise some $2,800,000 for Bible and Christian literature distribution in Africa, Asia, and Latin America was launched in London last month at a St. James Palace reception attended by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

Giving her patronage to the drive, she expressed belief it would be a landmark effort in the history of Christianity in Britain.

Also in attendance and endorsing the drive were Britain’s new prime minister, Mr. Harold Wilson; civic heads from throughout the country; Dr. Michael Ramsey, Archbishop of Canterbury; and Dr. Frederick D. Coggan. Archbishop of York.

The campaign was organized by the British and Foreign Bible Society, the National Bible Society of Scotland, and the Archbishop of York’s Fund for Christian Literature.

Dr. Coggan, noting that it is expected that the United Nations’ literacy program will create more than 300 million new readers in the coming decade, commented: “The hunger of the mind as millions become literate is sweeping like a forest fire through nations which we have hitherto regarded as backward. That fire will never be put out. I do not want to see it damped down.… I want this nation to have a say in the kind of literature with which this desire will be satisfied.”

He added that the Communists “think they have a philosophy worth propagating and they rightly believe that this is the most effective way of doing it. The pen is more powerful than the bomb.”

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