What is religion’s role in ‘Great Society’ program for labor, welfare, education?

A legislative blitzkrieg hit the Capitol this summer. It pleased many churchmen who support welfare causes, but long-range implications of government’s increasing involvement were disquieting to others.

Bills approved—or likely to be—covered voting rights, public housing, Medicare, immigration, poverty-program extension, and aid to higher education.

When the dust had settled, one casualty was the Senate attempt to block reapportionment of state legislatures on the “one man, one vote” principle. The National Council of Churches had testified against the bill.

Another casualty, in the House, was a religious exemption in the repeal of the “right to work” law. But the Senate labor subcommittee voted August 12 to include such an exemption in its version of the bill.

With the new federal thrusts, Baptists are pondering what to do about college aid, and Lutherans are asking aloud whether churches still belong in welfare work at all.

And strict church-state separationists are going to court in Kansas City, challenging use of Catholic schools for pre-school training under the anti-poverty program.

That project, however, is paled by a $7 million blockbuster in Mississippi, described by Director R. Sargent Shriver of the Office of Economic Opportunity as the “boldest” project yet. A non-profit corporation formed by the Catholic Diocese of Natchez-Jackson plans to train 25,000 adults now considered unemployable.

About 100 religious organizations already have enlisted in the war on poverty. John J. Adams, lawyer in the Kansas City suit for Americans United for Separation of Church and State,The agency is separating the “Protestants and Other” from the front of its name. said the poverty bill was rushed through without proper scrutiny of church-state issues.

Rep. John H. Buchanan (R.-Ala.), a Southern Baptist minister, sought unsuccessfully to get an amendment to the law barring religious groups from grants.

The House’s blanket right-to-work repeal would affect many Seventh-day Adventists and others whose faith forbids union membership. Rep. Edith Green (D.-Ore.), a strong labor supporter, sponsored the exemption and told the House that national legislation is needed because Adventists “often run up against a stone wall” when negotiating with locals. Under her plan, and the Senate proposal, objectors would contribute to non-religious charities in lieu of dues.

A furor developed when the three-man First Presidency of the Latter-Day Saints wrote Mormon congressmen asking votes against repeal because it violated man’s “right to free agency.” But the legislators asserted their own free agency and protested the Presidency’s move.

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In contrast to House action on “right to work,” the Medicare bill signed by President Johnson included careful safeguards for minorities. Christian Scientists will get virtually the same coverage in their sanitoria as is provided for conventional institutions. Old Order Amish and other sects that believe insurance shows lack of faith are now freed from all Social Security assessments.

The bill also reopened until next April 1 the deadline for ministers to elect coverage. And it included a “living in sin” amendment that allows widows to keep Social Security benefits if they remarry. Previously, many couples had cohabited without marriage to keep the payments rolling in.

Growing dimensions of church-state interaction are dramatized in a study by the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs that shows aid is available to churches under at least 115 current federal programs.

Nearly half of these involve education, and Dr. C. Emanuel Carlson, committee director, said Baptists are rethinking not just aid as such, but whether distinctly Baptist schools should assume broader functions. He noted that the proposed higher education bill views colleges as wide-ranging community service centers.

For Lutherans, welfare is the problem. Missouri Synod leaders will confer in Chicago September 16–17 to consider the church’s role in the light of the poverty, housing and medical care programs. Synod self-examination is spurred also by plans to merge welfare efforts with other Lutheran groups.

Dr. Henry F. Wind, executive secretary of Missouri Synod’s welfare board, said this month that “churches are beginning to wonder whether they still have a place in the welfare field,” especially administration. If members don’t provide money, says James C. Cross, Wind’s assistant, “we are driving our agencies into the arms of the government.”

Crime And Cigarettes

President Johnson has declared another war—on crime. He named a national crime commission to spend eighteen months deciding what to do about the growing problem. The nineteen-member panel, headed by Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, includes no clergymen.

The commission was established the same day the FBI reported that major crimes increased 13 per cent during 1964. The study is to consider prevention and rehabilitation as well as enforcement.

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The President also signed a bill requiring all cigarette packs, after January 1, to warn that “cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health.”

The measure is not considered a major blow to tobacco interests, since they could have fared worse if regulation had been left to the Federal Trade Commission.

The Unsettling War

Viet Nam dominated August’s news. As President Johnson sent 50,000 more soldiers to Viet Nam with his right hand and floated a new peace balloon with his left, the war bothered Protestant leaders.

The National Council of Churches, paying its customary attention to headlines, formed a committee to work up a new policy statement on Viet Nam. The study group is headed by President Arthur S. Flemming of the University of Oregon, NCC vice-president and former secretary of health, education, and welfare in the Eisenhower Cabinet.

NCC President Reuben H. Mueller said August 11 as he appointed the committee, “There is no real consensus on Viet Nam among American Christians.”

The difficulties of Christian ministry in the midst of battle were highlighted by the murder last month of a young native pastor in the resettlement town of Le Thanh, near South Viet Nam’s border with Cambodia. The town was “turned over” to the Viet Cong as too difficult to defend. The pastor, unwilling to leave his flock, was slain by Red terrorists.

But there is a brighter side. A month-long series of tent meetings in the university town of Hue repeatedly drew overflow crowds. The location was strategic—right in the center of a city just 100 kilometers from the seventeenth parallel—as was the time, the traditional celebration of Buddha’s birthday.

The Rev. Gordon Cathey, minister of Saigon’s International Protestant Church, returning to the United States after his first year there, expressed cautious optimism. Cathey, who hitched a ride across the Pacific with retiring Ambassador Maxwell Taylor, said the war has created new spiritual introspection among the Vietnamese and the American soldiers who are filling the capital city to overflowing. Many Vietnamese now view both Buddhism and Roman Catholicism as political movements, he said, which has left a new opening for Protestant advance.

The NCC’s special study committee probably won’t be ready to formulate a new policy statement on the war until sometime this fall.

The council’s current position—a general endorsement of America’s hopes for negotiations with United Nations assistance—necessitated profuse disclaimers when the NCC hosted five Japanese pacifists last month. The five, claiming to speak for the bulk of Japanese Protestants, visited several cities to pray with U. S. Protestants and to present their views on foreign relations.

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In the opinion of this delegation, oriented to the Socialist view of Red China as a benign tigress, America should stop bombing North Viet Nam immediately, negotiate with the Viet Cong and pull out all troops.

The quintet landed in Washington the day President Johnson doubled the draft call and dispatched the new troops to Viet Nam. Nevertheless, in visits to the White House, the Pentagon, and the State Department, the Japanese thought the Americans seemed more flexible than before, according to Professor Yoshiaki Iizaka, political scientist who was spokesman for the team.

Stars, Stripes, and Evangelism

That American flag flanking Albert Tompkins as he shouts the Gospel to his transient congregation on Times Square is no patriotic ploy. City rules have required it since some asphalt preachers were locked up for losing control of their crowds several years ago. The local Civil Liberties Union, backstopping a Socialist who broke the flag rule, hopes to get it revoked. Some of the evangelists also consider it a rein on their freedom. But Tompkins, a 71-year-old Baptist layman, thinks that “if you don’t have such a requirement, every Communist, every atheist, every Tom, Dick and Harry will get up and preach.” (Photo by Sam Tamashiro)

Iizaka told an audience in Washington that Americans suffer from “self-imposed ignorance about Communism.”

Dr. Vernon L. Ferwerda, head of the NCC’s office in Washington, was agitated by what he considered the Japanese’ naïveté about Communism’s designs in Southeast Asia. But he thought talks with such policy spokesmen as Walter W. Rostow had at least exposed them to an accurate view of American policy. “American pacifists had given them the worst possible view of our policy,” said Ferwerda, who is also a political scientist.

Other members of the Japanese group were Dr. Isamu Omura, moderator of the United Church of Christ; the Rev. Sekikazu Nishimura, a Methodist who is a member of the Japanese Diet and who talked with Ho Chi Minh earlier this year; Professor Kosaku Yamaguchi; and Mrs. Hatsue Nonomiya, peace chairman of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. (War is as big a concern to the Japanese WCTU as liquor, she said.)

No Need To Say It Twice

Colleagues predicted a great future for Edward Heath when for six hundred days, from January, 1948, to October of the following year, he worked as news editor of the Church Times, an influential Anglican weekly. Heath was remembered as one who easily digested facts and figures and who never had to be told anything twice. His coverage of the Anglo-Catholic Congress of 1948 indicated, moreover, he had an understanding of high theological arguments.

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Heath, who last month became leader of the British Conservative Party, did have some problems on the Church Times. Ecclesiastical terminology sometimes baffled him, and he was even more bewildered by the schism caused by the creation of the Church of South India. Rival definitions of priest and presbyter caused him some consternation, too.

Speeches he planned to help him on in the political world were often prepared in the office of the Church Times, and on occasion Heath became irritated at being sent on assignments when there were, to him at least, more important matters needing his attention.

Eclipsing the hint of ruthlessness in his makeup were his friendliness, fairness, and generosity. But colleagues of those journalistic days have been puzzled by Heath’s reluctance to mention his stay with them in Who’s Who.


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