THEOSOPHY, Vol. 37, No. 4, February, 1949
(Pages 155-160; Size: 16K)
(Number 53 of a 57-part series)

STUDIES IN KARMA

ASPECTS OF CENSORSHIP: I

[Part 1 of 2]

OVER sixteen centuries ago, the Grand Council of the Catholic and Apostolic Church at Constantinople convened in 325 A.D. to issue its first anathema. From having been for three centuries the victims of sporadic but terrible persecutions at the hands of a long line of Roman emperors, Christians had become political favorites, endorsed by the Emperor Constantine, and their faith was eventually made the vehicle of the state religion of Rome. The purity and devotion to principle which had characterized the Christians through centuries of fearful oppression received its first check, paradoxically enough, with its first worldly success. From the furious anathema hurled against the Alexandrian priest Arius, through to its logical sequel, more than a thousand years later, in the Inquisition, the Church proceeded to wrap herself more and more closely in the folds of Infallibility, and subjected her world to the increasingly rigorous controls of censorship.

From the perspective of so many centuries, the average reader can see in the famed Arian heresy nothing, perhaps, but a theological dispute. In the contention of Arius that the Father and the Son were not of one substance, but that the Son was created out of nothing and that God existed before the Son, what was there to cause men for centuries to hate each other, pursue each other, massacre each other, and bring about the ruin of a great Empire? What was there in this doctrine to so perturb the Church that it resorted to the now common protection of anathema? In his study of the early Church, Guglielmo Ferrero answers this question by enlarging on the implications of Arius' doctrine, showing that by separating Christ from God and making Him merely one of God's emanations or manifestations, Arianism tacitly admitted that other emanations and manifestations might follow:

Even as God had raised the Christ out of nothing and adopted Him, He might, at His own will, raise up other redeemers out of nothing and adopt them. The book of revelation was, therefore, not closed, it might be continued in new volumes; other Messiahs might still appear, and the Christian doctrine change itself into a continual development such as was later conceived by certain of the most radical of the Protestant sects, of which Arius was really the precursor.
To admit the possibility that Truth might not have been finally and for all time revealed in its present doctrines, the Church would have had to abandon its most central source of power over the human race -- the dogma that the Church was the One Way to Christ, that it contained the One and Only Truth, now and forever the One Word of God. It was, naturally, then, the Arian "heresy" of the non-uniqueness of Christ and the non-finality of the doctrines supposedly based on his teachings which the Church was determined to expunge, once and for all.

This dictatorialism marked the close of the primeval pure Christianity and ushered in the era of Churchianity. From this point on, the Church Fathers were to be either rivals or supporters of the State, for both stood on the common ground of institutions and could no longer ignore each other. The centuries which have witnessed the juncture of these two powers have not been happy ones for mankind, their history alone accounting for the conviction of the Founders of the American nation that such a union could not be anything but unfortunate. The Church, perhaps more even than the State, owes its existence to the preservation of the status quo, both doctrinally and actually, and no more than it could, sixteen centuries ago, allow itself to be viewed as fallible, changeable or impermanent, can it at the present day allow itself to be critically examined and evaluated as any other temporal institution.

Early in June, 1948, for instance, the Board of Education of the city of New York quietly dropped the magazine, The Nation, from the list of publications provided for school libraries and classroom use. The Nation of June 5 had concluded a six-week series of articles by Paul Blanshard on various phases of Catholicism, making unmistakably clear the implications of Church policy and doctrine in regard to democracy, science, education, culture, and family life. When challenged, Superintendent of Schools William Jansen attempted to show his lack of bias and prejudice -- though actually muddling matters still more -- by stating that if any other magazine "is offensive to any group, then it will be banned." Commenting on this, Freda Kirchwey, editor of the Nation, remarks that "any group" is a phrase not to be taken quite literally. It really means any group strong enough to wield political power -- the Roman Catholic church, the National Association of Manufacturers, the power interests. "We have yet to hear," she points out, "of censorship based on the objections of Jews or Freethinkers, labor unions or the Communist Party."

It comes as no surprise to hear that the Nation was subsequently banned in state teachers' colleges of conservative and religious Massachusetts. It has been suggested that these bans represent a step toward the condition in which the standard of education will become the teaching, not of the truth, but of that part of the truth to which no group objects -- with the result that the bigotry and ignorance of minorities will dictate the knowledge of the whole people.

Another phase of "democratic censorship" appears in the loudly publicized "investigations of the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which has received Congressional approval to the extent of a $200,000 grant -- twice the amount of any of its previous appropriations. Congressional immunity confers on the committee and its members the right to question, accuse and expose without danger of law suit or even cross-questioning, and full advantage has been taken of this extraordinary exemption.

While these spectacular "trials" are going on, the "silent partner" of the Committee, the Administration's Loyalty Review Board -- the closest a democracy can come to a "Holy Office" -- carries on its investigations behind closed doors in checking the more than 2,000,000 Government employees. The investigation may start from a report by a neighbor or a fellow-worker to the Federal Bureau of Investigation that a certain employe is frequently seen with suspicious characters....

An analysis of "Our Lawless Loyalty Program" was provided in the October, 1948, Progressive. Written by Mr. L. A. Nikoloric, a member of the law firm of Arnold, Fortas, and Porter which has handled many of the major loyalty cases in the national capital, the article points out that--

You are disloyal -- in the Federal service -- if, in the opinion of your agency's loyalty board, you are or ever have been

(1) sympathetic to Communism,

(2) friendly to organizations allegedly sympathetic to Communism,

(3) associated with persons in groups (1) or (2), or

(4) considered talkative in the presence of persons in groups (1), (2), or (3).

Furthermore, it is not required that the boards prove that you belong to any of these categories. If there is any doubt, you lose the verdict.

Some of the unconstitutional or undemocratic aspects of the program deserve mention. In the first place, charges are preferred in general terms. Only if the employe is able to retain a lawyer and the lawyer insists that the agency board furnish more specific charges will the various departments list the names of the alleged evil associates. The federal accusers commonly provide no description of when the association is supposed to have taken place or say precisely why it should be regarded as evidence of "disloyalty." There is no recourse to the courts. The employe "answers" the charges to his accusers -- not to an impartial judge. He is not told where derogatory information originated; it is impossible to impeach the reliability of its source. There is no cross-examination. The employe's only defense, concludes the author, "is to prove a somewhat nebulous 'loyal' state of mind."

According to a sampling of cases made by the Progressive writer, evidence on the basis of which charges are preferred is typically of an inconsequential nature, when it is not outright hearsay and prejudiced opinion. Transcripts of actual hearings show the damaging effect on an employe's standing of association with Negroes, as this is considered prima facie evidence of Communist sympathy. Interest in or sympathy for the labor movement is also a long step toward conviction of disloyalty. Intellectual activities and particularly an interest in political affairs are suspect. "How," demands Mr. Nickoloric, "is the employe to be certain that his luncheon companion never attended a meeting of the Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee or contributed to the American Peace Mobilization? How can he be sure that a member of his car pool does not read 'left-wing' publications?"

It is not difficult to see that such an atmosphere of suspicion and insecurity, if allowed to continue, will inevitably result in a morally and mentally static government, whose concern is solely with its own preservation, and no longer with the creation of larger and more constructive outlets for its citizens. The life of a government is the collective life of all those under its purview, and the internal state of any government can be determined by that of its officials, even to the most lowly clerk. As fear and insecurity constrict his mind, we are witness to the incipient death of the constructive elements of the régime.

Interestingly enough, at the same time that one Congressional Committee is busy filtering the population for Communist sentiments, another, activated by a determination to protect religion at all costs, is carrying on an investigation of the Federal Communications Commission to find out whether it is abridging freedom of speech. The source of the trouble lies in a 1946 decision -- the "Scott ruling" -- by the F.C.C. that if radio broadcasters give radio time to religious programs, they should also provide time on request to atheistical broadcasters. Robert H. Scott had been unable to procure radio time, by sale or otherwise, from San Francisco and Palo Alto stations for broadcasting talks on the subject of atheism, although these same California stations permitted the use of their facilities for direct statements against atheism as well as for frequent church services, prayers, Bible readings, etc.

It was not long before numerous complaints were heard from religious groups who objected to the Commission's ruling, and who now find voice in the statements of Rep. Forest A. Harness of Indiana, chairman of the special House investigating committee. Mr. Harness avers that "he does not intend to see the right of freedom of speech used as a wedge to drive religion from the air." Under what logic Mr. Harness can propound such an anomaly, we do not know. The idea that comparatively unorganized atheistical or non-believing individuals could, in the first place, possibly command sufficient funds to monopolize radio time to the exclusion of the heavily-backed church interests is ludicrous.

The five-page ruling of the F.C.C. must appear to every unbiassed citizen a commendable upholding of the First Amendment, with due regard given to limiting circumstances. The report sustains the principle on which Mr. Scott took his stand: "I do not throw stones at church windows, I do not mock at people kneeling in prayer. I respect every man's right to have and to express any religious belief whatsoever. But I abhor and denounce those who, while asserting this right, seek, in one way or another, to prevent others from expressing contrary views." The Commission adds:

Freedom of religious belief necessarily carries with it freedom to disbelieve, and freedom of speech means freedom to express disbeliefs as well as beliefs. If freedom of speech is to have meaning, it cannot be predicated on the mere popularity or public acceptance of the ideas sought to be advanced.
The report then summarizes the many widely divergent ideas of God and concludes that "So diverse are these conceptions that it may be fairly said, even as to professed believers, that the God of one man does not exist for another. And so strongly may one believe in his own particular conception of God that he may easily be led to say, 'Only my God exists, and therefore he who denies my God is an atheist, irrespective of his professed belief in a God'." Under such reasoning, the report points out, Jefferson, Jackson and Lincoln could all be barred from expressing their religious views on the air.

Having thus set forth the principles which in its judgment should guide the policy of broadcasters, the Commission takes pains to recognize the practical problems such as insufficient available time, lack of general public interest, etc., which prevent the passing of a hard-and-fast ruling compelling the granting of radio time to atheists. Admitting that broadcasters will be able to find any number of plausible excuses to justify what may really be an arbitrary and prejudiced exclusion of atheist or other minority viewpoints, the Commission's finding can best be summed up as a strong and reasoned warning against violating the spirit of free speech.

With this summary of the F.C.C.'s ruling before him, the reader needs no comment on the evident bias of Mr. Harness' report:

It takes little imagination to predict the effect this [ruling] would have in the homes of those who habitually use the radio for instruction and entertainment. The millions of children who are radio "fans" would be caught in a vortex of blasphemous attacks on religion. Elderly people would have their declining years punctuated with irreligious attacks on the very principles which had guided them throughout their lives. The public generally would be revolted....
Adherents to such "cotton-batting" concepts need to consider Chief Justice Holmes' doctrine of the free trade in ideas -- "the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market."

Next article:
STUDIES IN KARMA
ASPECTS OF CENSORSHIP: II
[Part 2 of 2]
(Part 54 of a 57-part series)

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