JUNE 21, 1940
NEW YORK, Thursday—Something curious is happening to us in this country and I think it is time we stopped and took stock of ourselves. Are we going to be swept away from our traditional attitude toward civil liberties by hysteria about "Fifth Columnists," or are we going to keep our heads and rid ourselves of "Fifth Columnists" through the use of properly constituted government officials?
If we violate the rights of innocent people or even of guilty people, we lose our long established liberties because of our desire to curtail the activities of those who are dangerous as groups or as individuals, by trying to curtail them in unconstitutional and ill considered ways.
On page one of a newspaper this morning there appear three articles showing the heat and lack of consideration with which many people are acting. One heading reads: "Crowds Force Sect Members to March with Flag in Wyoming." The story tells how six people of a certain religious sect were dragged from their homes and forced to pledge allegiance to the flag.
In public places at this time we might exact this of all people, and the most dangerous Fifth Columnists would be the first to conform. Must we drag people out of their homes to force them to do something which is in opposition to their religion?
In another article it is reported that the Attorney General has had to explain to Congress that a bill approved by the House will, if it becomes a law, constitute a historic departure from an unbroken American practice and tradition for 150 years. This bill is perhaps the best example of abridging our liberties in order to protect ourselves from one individual, who can easily be rendered harmless by far less dangerous methods.
The third article is one which states that a leader of great prominence in Catholic Youth, Boy Scouts and Boys Club of America, is going to lead the fight on what he considers subversive elements in a youth-led organization. One of the first things he suggests is that he will demand that this organization advocate the suspension of civil liberties in this country as far as Communists are concerned. He is quoted as saying: "I don't think it is any time to pamper those who are bent on destroying our country. These birds (meaning the Communists) are saboteurs. I fought in one war and I will fight in another to defend my country, but I don't want to do it with a lot of saboteurs at my back."
The gentleman in question is forty-two years old. The people in the youth-led organization are likely to be dead in the front line of battle before he is even called. If they happen to feel that our Constitution should be adhered to, unless it should be changed, they seem to be thinking along the same lines as the Attorney General of the United States.