Flouting the Bill of Rights

GAG-LAW is always being demanded by religious bigots. The Lynch Bill (a similar bill has been introduced by Representative Dickstein), now pending before Congress, would stifle freedom of the press and liberty of opinion on a national scale by debarring from the mails all printed matter or expression of opinion "offensive" to any religious group.

The bill is appropriately named. It would "lynch" those who express any criticisms of religion, or who in any way attack religious doctrines or creeds. To laugh at the story of Adam and Eve, or to ridicule the myth that Jonah was swallowed by a whale, or that Joshua made the sun stand still, would be a violation of law. To criticize Jewish doctrines and beliefs or the Jewish sacred writings would be tantamount to going to jail. Under the Lynch Bill, anything that "offends" a religious or racial group is considered a crime.

The Postmaster General, Frank C. Walker, and Solicitor of the Postoffice Department, Vincent M. Miles, are both rightfully opposing the bill, on the ground that it would violate the principle of free speech and would be unconstitutional. The American Civil Liberties Union has voiced its opposition.

Who are behind this bill? First, politicians who are ready to scrap our American Bill of Rights and nullify our freedoms for the sake of votes. Secondly, for the most part, religious bigots, who do not want their religion criticized, and who would bar by law any discussion of "religious" or "racial" questions. They are the usual line-up of fanatics who would like to stifle opinion by inquisitional methods and thumb-screw legislation.

No decent-minded individual, least of all the believer in liberty, wishes to see any group "persecuted" because of its religion. But there is a vast difference between "persecution" of a group and "criticism" of its religion. Criticism is not persecution, and those who confuse one with the other are obscuring the issue and striving to obtain immunity from criticism. The sponsors of the bill are deliberately plotting to penalize those who, in any way, hold up a religion to ridicule, by converting the Post Office into a modern Star Chamber.

The Lynch Bill is sponsored for the ostensible purpose of doing away with "racial" and "religious" animosities. But so long as the Jews consider themselves "the Chosen People of God" and a more "favored" race than all others on the face of the globe, they will be inviting antagonism from other religious groups. Catholics and Protestants do not consider themselves any less "favored" in the eyes of God than the Jews. On the contrary, Christians are convinced, according to their doctrine of salvation, that non one can be "saved" who does not accept "the Lord Jesus Christ". The Jews, by rejecting Jesus Christ, are considered "lost".

One would think that a people who had suffered at the hands of the Catholic inquisition, who had been expelled from Spain by the Roman Catholic Church, and who throughout Christian Europe had been relegated to the Ghetto and the slums, would welcome their asylum in America and be the last to back legislation that penalizes opinion. But it is too much to expect that religion can engender anything else but bigotry and intolerance.

"Little need be added", writes S. Margoshes, editor of the leading Jewish New York daily newspaper, "The Day", "except to urge all those who want the Lynch Bill to emerge from the stage of a mere controversy and into the phase of actual legislation, to write or wire their respective Congressmen to help in the passage of the bill. Nothing is now so important, if the bill is to be passed, as pressure from the citizens back home."

Backing of the Bill is well represented by orthodox Jews, who think they are being "persecuted" whenever their superstitions are attacked, and who are always ready to raise the hue and cry of "anti-Semitism" whenever one speaks disparagingly of Judaism. They would, if entrenched in power, enact a Spanish Inquisition in America and throttle our press by vicious legislation such as that which is embodied in the Lynch Bill.

If there is any "un-Americanism" in our midst, it is that which would penalize opinion, gag freedom of the press, and drag in the gutter the very fundamentals embodied in our Bill of Rights.

These rights cannot be suffered to be lost even in a time of war. Our Supreme Court has wisely ruled:

"The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times, and under all circumstances. No doctrine involving more pernicious consequences was ever invented by wit of man than that any of its provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government."

Since the war began, we have been told, over and over again, in magazines, in sermons, and in syndicated articles, that "there are no atheists in fox-holes." Atheists are not asking that anyone be put in jail for circulating this stupid lie. But let someone state that "there are no Jews in foxholes" and the Lynch Bill provisions would be instantly invoked. Bigotry and fanaticism are always ready to use the secular arm.

America is a land of free criticism, not of Oriental despotism. We criticize here and lampoon even the President of the United States. Those who can't stand criticism or who are "offended" by it, should get out and stay out until they have learned what freedom of the press means.

Under the Lynch Bill, Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice" could be barred from the mails because it is "offensive" to Jews. Mark Twain's book ridiculing Christian Science could be barred, also, because it "offends" a particular religious group. Voltaire's gibes at the Roman Catholic Church "offend" Catholics. Anyone who spoke disrespectfully of Voodooism, laughed at Fundamentalists, or called Catholicism a fraud and a fake and its Purgatory a "racket" could be clapped in jail. To tell the Jews that their religious rituals are silly and their holy book a humbug, would constitute a crime. Any criticism of any superstition would be "offensive" to some particular group and automatically condemned.

"Minority" groups are no more entitled to immunity from criticism than "majority" groups. Under our basic American laws, there is no Sacred Cow in America, nor are the American people, in the manner of the Hindu, obliged to accept one and venerate its dung. Controversial questions must be decided in the free air of open discussion.

What controversial question can't be construed as "offensive" to some particular group? The Lynch Bill would reduce us to talking about the weather. When that time comes America may as well scrap its Constitution.

In the Library of Congress, one may find hundreds of books which criticize Judaic doctrines and practices and reject the "sacred" history of the Jews. It would be interesting to watch, under the Lynch Bill, how the Post Office would handle these "objectionable" books if they were committed to the mail.

It would be interesting, too, to observe how the Postmaster General would handle the Catholic prayer books now being sent to our men overseas, which, in no very complimentary language, calls the Jews "the synagogue of Satan." This book, printed at Government expense and distributed to Catholics in the military service, would be barred from the mails by the very Government tat sponsors its distribution.

The Lynch Bill is a nefarious proposal to stifle freedom of opinion and freedom of the press. It will be a terrible thing for our boys fighting abroad to come back to America after Hitler has been trounced and find our liberties being sabotaged at home.

"Today", wrote the Attorney General, "we are at war with the great Axis powers, and with their little satellites. This war will test whether the free democracies can endure and whether their people can remain free."

Our "national unity" in the prosecution of the war is not helped by flouting the Constitution or by nullifying our right to voice our domestic differences on controversial questions. No subject under the Sun is taboo in a free State. Those who would throttle the press and block the path of free expression by setting up a Postal Gestapo for the crushing of ideas hostile to their own are the real Hitlerites in America.

"Men", wrote Voltaire, "will not cease to be persecutors, until they have ceased to be absurd."

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