A Threat to American Liberties

46th General Assembly
November 1961
Washington, D.C.

We view with increasing concern the growth and militance of ultra-right wing organizations in the United States whose propaganda is anti-democratic and whose techniques of infiltration and slander are calculated to set group against group, neighbor against neighbor. At this time of grave international tension, when the American way of life is seriously threatened, our security rests in large measure on the maintenance of our rights and guarantee of liberty and justice for all regardless of race or creed. We are fearful that rational discussion is being corrupted by the hatred and fear fomented by ultra-right-wing groups which exploit cold war anxieties and the frictions engendered by integration and other social problems.

The most prominent of these groups, the John Birch Society, impugns the integrity and patriotism of such reputable organizations as the National Council of Churches of Christ, and such leaders of the nation as former President Eisenhower, President Kennedy and Chief Justice Warren. It denounces the United States' membership in the United Nations, the International Labor Organization, the World Health Organization; and attacks NATO, all foreign aid, social security, the graduated income tax and integration. Groups such as the John Birch Society and the Christian Anti-Communism Crusade include powerful political figures, are well endowed and exert influence on local and national levels. In the guise of anti-Communism, they weaken America by stirring division and hysteria.

The democratic process requires the interaction of responsible conservatism and equally responsible liberalism, but may be endangered by political pressure groups which, in the words of Isaiah, "call evil good and good evil, that change darkness into light and light into darkness". To curtail their right to organize and speak out would constitute a violation of constitutional liberties and an even greater danger to the democratic system. Our best defense lies in exposure, counter-propaganda, vigilance and, above all, in the implementation of democratic freedoms in every area of life.

This applies with equal validity to those on the left who would subvert the American way. It in this spirit that we refer to the House Committee on Un-American Activities. We do not question the inherent rights of the Congress to investigate; we do denounce the abuse of such power. In the tradition of our faith, which gave to the world, the concept of the sanctity and dignity of the individual and has always taught that respect for the rights of all men is each man's duty to God, we are duty-bound to oppose a committee which has consistently disregarded human dignity by vilifying citizens and institutions, even such respected ones as the National Council of Churches of Christ, Bishop G. Bromley Oxnam, Reverend John Haynes Holmes and, posthumously, Rabbis Judah L. Magnes and Stephen S. Wise - to name but a few.

We recognize the necessity of protecting our country against criminal acts threatening its security. We are convinced, however, that the executive branch of our government has both the authority and the facilities to investigate acts of criminal sabotage whether by the radical right or left, and that the judicial branch is equally competent to determine the guilt or innocence of persons accused of such crimes under constitutional safeguards. Self-respect as human beings concerned for our country's welfare, and the imperatives of our faith as Jews, compel us to implore the House Committee on Un-American Activities on all occasions to permit men the constitutional right to speak out, to associate and to differ without fear.