Page 6


`Mr. Nixon is preparing his statement on a new farm program.’ Bartlett Appears Exclusively in the Texas Observer Provocation .. . The Catholk Issue THE TEXAS OBSERVER . One day Charles Young, 26, stole .a stereo magnetic recorder from Commercial Recording Corp., 3104 Maple St., Dallas. A Dallas jury thereupon sent him to prison for life for this offense. This kind of penalty for theft over $50 is possible under Texas law i f a man has been convicted twice before of such offenses. Young had been convicted twice before of burglary over $50. Many a murderer and rapist gets off free or goes to jail for a lesser term than life. But steal thrice more than $50 and brother, you may retire from the sunlight, except within walls. We recall the week a few years back when two Texans were sentenced for their various offenses. The one, the recent state land commissioner, had allegedly misappropriated several hundred thousand dollars and accepted bribes totaling tens of thousands ; for this, after trials in which he was skillfully defended by expensive lawyers, he received a two-year prison term. The other, an East Texas Negro, had broken into a store at night and stolen $40. For this, after a trial which was not sufficiently distinguished to merit journalistic notation, lie received 40 years. The retail merchants’ association has recently, as we gather it, been engaged in a campaign to equate shoplifting with the debauching of young girls. Indignant state senators and Senator Kefauver’s two-to-one victory over his right-wing segregationist challenger ought to suggest, at least, the possibility that the South is cornMg around to an understanding of the regional suicide its racists seem to want. True, Tennessee is a border state ; but Kefauver”s opponent was conceded to be formidable, and the coonskin-cap senator had rendered himself vulnerable to attack as a leftish liberal and an advocate of civil rights. If at the borders, as in Texas and Senator Johnson, having misled most of the Democrats of the United States by saying he will “campaign on” the Democratic platform, now begins to tell them what he meant. One : If the people elect Kennedy and Johnson, they have a mandate to carry out the platform; but not until then. Therefore, no civil rights in the August session of Congress. Two: The platform does not, as far as he is concerned, oppose the oil depletion allowance. “Not oil !” he says. Three : Sit-ins are not endorsed in the platform, they are simply taken to be evidence of a problem. In other words, Senator Johnson has not given up his Texas position ; he simply assumes the national Democrats intended to adopt it all along, and did so. One can understand the Kennedy Published by Texas Observer Co., Ltd. Entered as second-class matter, April 26, 1937, at the Post Office at Austin, Texas, under the Act of March 3, 1879. AUGUST 5, 1960 ‘Ronnie Dugger Editor and General Manager Willie Morris, Associate Editor Sarah Payne, Office Manager Published once a week from Austin, Texas. Delivered postage prepaid $4 per annum. Advertising rates available on request. Extra copies 10c each. Quantity prices available on orders. representatives can become quite exercised about the need to incarcerate these vicious felons who slip candy bars into their pockets. Whence this reasoning? We are pleased to see that the more sensitive consciences of the state have become concerned about the ethics of capital punishment and are organizing statewide to abolish it. They are realizing that when the system permits rich men to get off and poor,. men to be made the examples in the death chair, there’s something wrong with the system. If you can hire Percy Foreman, you don’t need to worry much about the Texas electric chair. Nobody blames Mr. Foreman for his skill as an attorney ; more and more of us blame the tradition of killing killers. But we have done little or nothing to work out more equitable relationships between crimes and punishments for offenses . short of the capital crimes. When, a thousand years from now, our descendants study our systern of justice, they will be as incredulous about its inequities as we now are about the old tribal tests of guilt, flinching under branding or fingernail-slivering. When . we see a headline, “Four Years In Prison,” we have little confidence justice was done, or fairness served. Do you? How about one of those righteous legislative investigating committees calling the lawyers and judges to taw ? Tennessee, the misgivings about diehard segregation have become rejections of it, then is it not also likely that in the core of the South, in the morbid, frightened, desperate core, the same understanding and alarm are also taking root”the sound like shovels” is also being heard? We think so. If more men will now speak out men like Fred Baldwin of Marshall on the adjoining pagethe South will sooner come to terms with modern times. Johnson reluctance to undertake filibuster and civil rights reforms in August. There is a great deal to be done, and a civil rights fight would bog it all down in a Southern filibuster. On with politics !leave us not be delayed by these haggles over the rights of man. The liberal Reppublicans of New York cannot be blamed, however, for calling on the Democrats to deliver on their promises, even though they know this cannot, as a practical matter, be done in August. If Kennedy and Johnson fail to make any attempt to deliver on civil rights, they run the grave risk Johnson’s presence on the ticket represents : the crystalization of opinion among liberal voters that the platform is gusto for generalizations and the same not-now-manlater doubletalk for action. EDITORIAL and BUSINESS OFFICE: 504 West 24th St., Austin, Texas. Phone GReenwood 7-0746. HOUSTON OFFICE: Mrs. R. D. Ran dolph, 4191/2 . Lovett Blvd., Houston 16, Texas. We will serve no group or party but will hew hard to the truth as we find it and the right as we see it. We are dedicated to the whole truth, to human values above all interests, to the rights of man as the foundation of democracy; we will take orders from none but our own conscience, and never will we overlook or misrepresent the truth to serve the interests of the powerful or cater to the ignoble in the human spirit. AUSTIN Of course Catholicism is an issue. When the folks start telling jokes, they’re making the issues more of festively than Baptist ministers ever can. In the coffee shops these days, you’re told that supporters of the Catholic. Texan ticket are greeting each other, “Hail Mary, youall,” and the Democrats are raising money by freezing holy water and selling Popesickles. To these jousts the Democrats reply, “I’ll never vote for a Quaker for president.” It’s just the beginning. Senator Kennedy will get a lot of votes because he is a Catholic, and will lose a lot for the same reason. In Texas Catholicism will be a principal issue among a large’ portion of the state’s votersmembers of the conservative Protestant faiths. Already four or five Baptist ministers have spoken out in Texas, the anti-Catholic mailings must be placing a considerable strain on the post-office, .and the only people left to deny Catholicism is an issue are hypocrites and the major candidates, who of course have a special dispensation from the penalties for hyprocrisy. In general, it seems to me, criticism ,of electing a Catholic president comes from two kinds of people : those who, as partisans of other ,faiths, fear the ascension of the vigorous, proselytizing Catholics, and an eventual liaison between church and state in the United States along the lines of similar liaisons in other countries ; and those who, whether religious or skdptical, are alarmed about the growth in the United States of a church which is based on the proposition that personal sovereignty in matters of religious beliefs and personal conduct is a heresy. Hypocrisy, alas, is not confined to ordinary sinners, but occurs, although only slightly, among those ordained to lead them. Anyone who has given . reasonable attention to Senator Kennedy’s positions on the separation of church and state, his opposition to federal aid to parochial schools, and his belief in the unqualified independence of the American presidency must concede that as President he would be pledged strictly to observe the nation’s traditions of personal liberty and secular government. Nevertheless, Rev. Criswell in Dallas, sounding much more like a politician than a minister, says Kennedy’s election would end religious liberty in America, install a U.S. ambassador in Rome, and all but finish off the Baptiststhat’s the import of his polemic from the pulpit. It is clear that any attempt to suppress freedom of religion in the United States would fail or, if appioaChing accomplishment, result in violent revolution. We might even have a Baptist-communist front. W E HAVE ALSO, however, received a petition from the members of the First Agnostic Church of West 31st St., prepared and signed during a session in the Shoal Creek Chapel at a scandalously untoward hour, holding forth to these effects : 1.Catholicism, as a religion, doctrinally opposes the assertion of the individual’s right to decide and evaluate his personal conduct. 2.Its expansion, therefore, reduces personal liberty in personal life. 3.The election of a Catholic president, through no fault of Kennedy’s, provides the Catholic Church with a public hero who, because of the Hollywood-like glamor now accompanying the office, will make it easier for . the Church to expand its membership and domain in American life. 4.This is one element, but only one, in the 1960 election. We have inquired whether the petitioners plan to form a Baptist-agnostic front, provided the Baptists do not join forces with the communists. .They have informed us that they prefer voting for Kennedy to risking connections which might haunt them in later life. The points they make remind me of some I have thought of, myself. OVER THE LONG RUN, long enough for the natural consequences of one of the Church”s doctrines to give birth to decisive changes in the American constituency, the time may arrive when the Democrats will hesitate before nominating a nonCatholic for president. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty, and not the only one. But conceding that neither fundamentalists nor skeptics can be asked not to be concerned about the expansion of Catholicism in America, Kennedy’s Catholicism is only one issue of many, and not, we hope, a decisive one. R.D. Let those flatter who fear, it is .n of an American art. JEFFERSON e ven Pun i6 hinertb i\(elauver Victory Auguot Re/roved