George Truett and Religious Liberty
July 3rd, 1960 @ 10:50 AM
GEORGE TRUETT AND RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
Dr. W. A. Criswell
7-3-60 10:50 a.m.
Once a year on the Sunday that is closest to the death, the anniversary of the death of Dr. Truett, I prepare a special address on some phase of the work in which he was greatly interested or upon some aspect of his life and ministry. For example, the Relief and Annuity Board was founded, organized in this First Baptist Church; and I have spoken on Dr. Truett and the Relief and Annuity Board. Dr. Truett was the great moving force with Colonel C. C. Slaughter for the organization and launching of the Texas Baptist Memorial Sanitarium that you now know as Baylor Hospital; and I have spoken on Dr. Truett and Baylor Hospital. Through these sixteen years, every Sunday on the anniversary closest to his death, I speak on some special denominational or religious facet of his life: Dr. Truett and Evangelism, Dr. Truett and this Beloved Church, Dr. Truett and our Southern Baptist Denomination. Today I am speaking on Dr. Truett and American Freedom, or Dr. Truett and Religious Liberty. It is an address which takes the substance, as you shall listen to, of some of the great pronouncements of his life, and a seeking to apply them to our present pivotal hour in the governmental life of America.
Every Sunday, morning and night, three times every Lord’s Day I preach a sermon on the Bible. Almost always, where I leave off in the text Sunday morning I pick up Sunday night. There is only one time in the year that I depart from that sermonic procedure and that is when I prepare these special addresses on the anniversary of Dr. Truett’s death. Now the sermon this morning has governmental overtones, and I do not want to hold you here under a false pretense as though you had come to listen to a sermon, and I deliver a political address. So I am going to give you an opportunity to leave, anybody that would like to leave. We are going to sing a hymn written by a great Baptist preacher; and we are going to sing the first and the last stanzas of it without a book. And while we sing that song, anybody that would like to leave is privileged to do so; you are not going to hear a sermon this morning. You are going to hear an address, and it has, as I say, tremendous governmental overtones. And I am not asking you to stay; you are at liberty to leave. Now let’s sing this Baptist hymn dedicated to our country. Let’s stand.
My country, ‘tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing;
Land where my fathers died,
Land of the pilgrims’ pride,
From every mountainside,
Let freedom ring!
Our fathers’ God to Thee,
Author of liberty,
To Thee we sing;
Long may our land be bright
With freedom’s holy light;
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God, our King.
[“My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” Samuel F. Smith]
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock morning message entitled Dr. Truett and Religious Liberty, or Dr. Truett and American Freedom.
And they sent out unto Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know Thou art true, and teachest the way of God . . . neither carest Thou for anyone: for Thou regardest not the person of men.
Tell us therefore, What thinkest Thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?
And Jesus perceiving their hypocrisy, said, Show Me the tribute money. And they brought unto Him a denarius.
And He saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription?
And they say unto Him, Caesar’s. Then saith He unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.
And you will find that a good text for Dr. Truett’s message, and you will find it quoted in the address that I now make on Dr. Truett and Religious Liberty.
He had been in Dallas and in this pulpit seventeen years when the storm of the World War I burst upon the world in August, 1914. He had inherited the Baptist love of freedom, and immediately in his sermons, in his addresses, he encouraged the people to sacrifice for their country, saying, “Some things are worth living for, fighting for, and dying for.” In the summer of 1918, President Wilson selected twenty outstanding preachers in America to go overseas, quote, “To deliver their messages of patriotism and religion to the Allied armies.” By the way, in a current magazine you will find presented the ten most beloved churches in America, and one of the ten is the First Baptist Church in Dallas.
Dr. Truett was one of the members of that team of twenty men selected by the president of the United States, and their mission was first to the troops in England and in Ireland, in the field and in the hospitals, who had come back from the war; and then to those who were getting ready for the battlefields in France. He wrote home, “Tonight I spoke in a hospital; the chapel holding perhaps one thousand was packed. Oh, they did give me such a welcome, some with only one foot, some with only one hand, some with only one eye. I saw them unloading a trainload of new arrivals of wounded; the sight of it all is burned into my brain forever. I talked to one of them from El Paso, to another from California, to another from Iowa, a curly-haired, sweet-faced boy of nineteen. I fairly took him into my arms and loved him; and he so clung to me. They were so brave and uncomplaining. Surely, surely I shall know better than ever to be a murmurer anymore about the little things, when men by myriads are dying without a murmur for me, for my country, for liberty, and for civilization. I could wish I were a thousand men that I might tarry beside every boy for a personal interview.” Isn’t that a shepherd’s heart?
The gracious providence that watched over Dr. Truett was evidenced in an incident after his speaking in Ireland. He had passage on a boat to return to England, had put his baggage on the boat, but he missed the thing in a providence of God: it was sunk by German submarines, and his baggage is on the bottom of the sea to this day. But his life was spared in the providence of the Almighty. He was soon at the front, speaking four to six times a day, then until the early hours of the morning, writing letters to every Texas boy whom he met, writing to his father and his mother back home.
After the Armistice, he went into Germany with the army of occupation. Here is a paragraph about that ministry, taken from Powhatan James’ biography of Dr. Truett, on page 146 and 147:
Dr. Truett was billeted for a while in a modest German home presided over by a devout and motherly housewife, who constantly kept fresh flowers in his room, and somehow managed to always have some fruit or little cakes, or some other food on the small table beside his bed when he came in at night from his day’s service with the soldiers. It appeared that the Germans were doing everything in their power to make a good impression on the army of occupation. That their efforts were in large measure successful with the rank and file of the American men was evidenced by the remark often heard among them, as the American soldiers said, “Boys, as sure as you live, we’ve been fighting the wrong crowd. We like these Germans more than any other people we’ve met on this side of the big pond.”
May I say “Amen” to that? After World War I, had the nations of the Allied confederacy been gracious to the German people, there would have been no World War II, nor would we be bowing before the iron hand of a Khrushchev. We have always fought the wrong people in World War I and World War II. And that’s why we’re in the tragic dilemma that we face today. There would have been no Hitler, nor would there have been a Nazi regime, nor would there have been the awful tragedy and stark prospect of a world engulfed in communism had it not been that we forced that war in our previous actions upon the German people. They are our greatest allies today, and the greatest barrier between us and the onslaughts of the hordes of the communist Soviet armies this moment is, and lies in, the development of the German people in West Germany. So these tributes the boys made, when I go to Europe, and I’ve been in Germany three times; I go away with that impression of those people every time. They are our great cohorts and comrades.
After his service was ended, he returned home to America through France. In Paris…
And by the way, that’s the reason I greatly admire Charles de Gaulle: Charles de Gaulle thus far has never yet allowed himself to be pulled away from his friendship for the new German Republic. Charles de Gaulle is committed, with the German people, to building a barrier against the inroads of the Soviet empire.
In Paris he [Dr. Truett] spoke to over three hundred French civil and military leaders in a dinner meeting. He spoke on the cherished principles dearest to Baptists. And the people who listened to him were amazed, and their enthusiasm unbounded; especially as he spoke to them of our cherished doctrine of religious liberty.
Returning home to Dallas—
and many of you shared in this—
They welcomed him with a vast number of people at the Union Station. They gave him a great banquet in the Scottish Rite cathedral, attended by a thousand of the civic leaders of Dallas.
After the war, of course, came that terrible disillusionment that I spoke of. Because of the greed and rapacity of our Allied friends, the aftermath of the First World War was tragic beyond compare. And Dr. James, his biographer, says, “For them,” the ex-servicemen and hosts of other disillusioned people, “Dr. Truett has been able to recapture some of the dignity, the heroism, the altruism, and idealism which for a time surged through most American hearts; an enthusiasm which was later forced into almost total eclipse by the sordid hypocrisy and selfishness of war and its aftermath.”
Now, one of the greatest addresses of all time was delivered by Dr. Truett on the steps of the Capitol in Washington D.C., in May, 1920. It was entitled “Baptists and Religious Liberty.” Dr. J. B. Gambrell, who was president of the Southern Baptist Convention, in a forward to that address as it was published, said:
This address was delivered to a vast audience of from ten to fifteen thousand people from the east steps of the national Capitol, at three o’clock on Sunday afternoon, May 16, 1920…Since Paul spoke before Nero, no Baptist leader ever pleaded the cause of truth in surroundings so dignified, impressive, and inspiring. The shadow of the Capitol of the greatest and freest nation on earth, largely made so by the infiltration of Baptist ideas through the masses, fell on that vast assembly, composed of Cabinet members, Senators, members of the Lower House, Ambassadors, intellectuals, with peoples of every religious order and of all classes…The speaker had prepared his message. In a voice clear and far-reaching—
they didn’t have any PA system—
he carried his audience through the very heart of his theme. History was invoked, but far more history was explained by the inner guiding principles of a people who stand today, as they have always stood, for full and equal religious liberty for all people…I commend this address as the most significant and momentous of our time.
Then Dr. Truett begins:
Southern Baptists count it a high privilege to hold their annual convention this year in the national Capitol, and they count it one of life’s highest privileges to be citizens of our one great and united country.
Grand in her rivers and her rills.
Grand in her woods and templed hills;
Grand in the wealth that glory yields,
Illustrious dead, historic fields;
Grand in her past, her present grand,
In sunlight skies, in fruitful land;
Grand in her triumph on land and sea.
Grand in religious liberty.
Years ago, at a notable dinner in London, that world-famed statesman, John Bright, asked an American statesman, himself a Baptist, the noble Dr. J. L. M. Curry, “What distinct contribution has your America made to the science of government?” To that question Dr. Curry replied: “The doctrine of religious liberty.” After a moment’s reflection, Mr. Bright made the worthy reply: “It was a tremendous contribution.”
Indeed, the supreme contribution of the new world to the old is the contribution of religious liberty. This is the chiefest contribution that America has made to civilization. And historic justice compels me to say that it was preeminently a Baptist contribution.
Then he recites the long struggle for religious liberty in the old and in the new.
Constantine, the Emperor, saw something in the religion of Christ’s people which awakened his interest, and now we see him uniting religion to the state and marching up the marble steps of the Emperor’s palace, with the church robed in purple. Thus and there was begun the most baneful misalliance that ever fettered and cursed a suffering world…When Christianity first found its way into the city of the Caesars, it lived in cellars and alleys, but when Constantine crowned the union of church and state, the church was stamped with the impress of the Roman idea, and fanned with the spirit of the Caesars. Soon we see a Pope emerging, whom himself became a Caesar, and soon a group of councilors may be seen gathered around this Pope, and the supreme power of the church is assumed by the Pope and his councilors.
The long blighting record of the medieval ages is simply the working out of that idea. The Pope ere long assumed to be the monarch of the world, making the astonishing claim that all kings and potentates were subject unto him.
When, in the fullness of time, Columbus discovered America, the Pope calmly announced that he would divide the New World into two parts, giving one part to the King of Spain and the other to the King of Portugal, but keeping all for himself. And not only did this great consolidated ecclesiasticism assume to lord it over men’s earthly treasures, but they lorded it over men’s minds, prescribing what men should think and read and write. Nor did such assumption stop with the things of this world, but it laid its hands on the next world, and claimed to have in its possession the keys of the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of purgatory so that it could shut men out of the kingdom of heaven or lift them out of purgatory, thus surpassing in the sweep of its power and in the pride of its autocracy the boldest and most presumptuous ruler that ever sat on a civil throne.
The coming of the sixteenth century was the dawning of a new hope for the world.
Dr. Truett then recounts the struggle of the Reformation. Then he follows the struggle for religious liberty in this New World, resulting in the state of Rhode Island, and in the winning of Washington, and Jefferson, and Madison, and Patrick Henry, and the writing into our Constitution that church and state must be in this land forever separate and free.
Then Dr. Truett continued:
It was pre-eminently a Baptist achievement. Much of the time were Baptists pitiably alone in their age old struggle. But I take it that every informed man on the subject will be willing to pay tribute to our Baptist people as being the chief instrumentality in God’s hands in winning the battle in America for religious liberty. Do you recall Tennyson’s little poem, in which he sets out the history of the seed of freedom? Catch its philosophy:
Once in a golden hour
I cast to earth a seed,
Up there came a flower,
The people said, a weed.
To and fro they went,
Thro’ my garden bower,
And muttering discontent,
Cursed me and my flower.
Then it grew so tall,
It wore a crown of light,
But thieves from o’er the wall,
Stole the seed by night.
Sowed it far and wide.
By every town and tower,
Till all the people cried,
“Splendid is the flower.”
Read my little fable:
He who runs may read,
Most can grow the flower now,
For all have got the seed.
[“The Flower,” Alfred, Lord Tennyson]
Very well, we are very happy for all of our fellow religionists to have the splendid flower of religious liberty, but you will allow us to remind you that you got the seed in our Baptist garden?
And then Dr. Truett launches into his great and extended appeal:
And now, my fellow Christians, and my fellow citizens, what is the present call to us in connection with the priceless principle of religious liberty?
…Standing here in the shadow of our country’s Capitol, compassed about as we are with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us today renew our pledge to God, and to one another, that we will give our best to church and to state…Let us go our ways, singing more vehemently than our fathers sang them, those lines of Whittier:
Our fathers to their graves have gone,
Their strife is passed, their triumph won;
But greater tasks await the race
Which comes to take their honored place,
A moral warfare with the crime
And folly of an evil time.
So let it be, in God’s own sight,
We gird us for the coming fight;
And strong in Him whose cause is ours,
In conflict with unholy powers,
We grasp the weapons He has given,
The light and truth and love of Heaven.
That’s the way he closed that epochal, memorable address on the steps, the east steps, of our National Capitol in Washington.
Now, I heard this address delivered at the Baptist World Alliance in Atlanta, Georgia, in July 1939, over which he presided as president. He entitled the address “The Baptist Message and Mission for the World Today.” And he said, “You have come together in one of the most ominous and epochal hours in the life of the world. Stupendous influences and forces are shaking the world to its very foundations.” He stood on the threshold of World War II, and we are still in World War II. Don’t you ever think it is past, don’t you ever think to let down our guard, don’t you ever think that to be oblivious to the driving influences and forces all around us assures to us a sanctuary here, guarded by two seas, in a hemisphere to ourselves: we stand in the midst of that conflict and that battle now.
Fear seems to have the passkey to whole nations. Vast changes are rapidly sweeping the world, as swirling ocean currents sweep the seas. Misunderstandings, both national and international, seem relentless in their persistence. Wars and rumors of wars, even now are casting their dark shadows across the earth. All these conditions poignantly remind us how desperately we need help above ourselves. The right of private judgment is the crown jewel of humanity. For any person or institution to come between the soul and God is a blasphemous impertinence, and a defamation of the crown rights of the Son of God.
Man, can’t that man talk!
Baptists regard as an enormity any attempt to constrain men by penalty or patronage to this or that form of religious belief. What a frightful chapter has been written the world around by disregard of this lofty principle of freedom of conscience and its inevitable corollary, the separation of church and state.
He then spoke of John Bunyan; then Henry Dunster, the first president of Harvard, a Baptist—became a Baptist by conviction and then they ousted him. Then he spoke of Roger Williams, John Clarke, Obadiah Holmes, and the founding of the state of Rhode Island. Then he spoke of the lands of Baptist people who were confiscated in Connecticut. Then he spoke of the imprisonments and persecutions of our Baptist people in the early colony of old Virginia. Then he continued,
On and on our Baptist forbearers waged their unyielding battle for religious liberty. They dared to be odd, to stand alone, to refuse to conform, though it cost them suffering and even life itself. They pleaded and suffered and kept on with their protests and remonstrances and memorials until, thank God, forever . . .
Isn’t that a strange thing that he could think that? “Forever,” he says, “their contention was won in these United States.” And openly and blatantly that great principle is being publicly assailed now:
They won in these United States, and written into our country’s Constitution that church and state must be in this land forever separate and free. The impartial historian will ever agree with Mr. Bancroft, our American historian, when he says, “Freedom of conscience, unlimited freedom of mind was from the first the trophy of the Baptists.” And such historian will also agree with the noble champion of human rights, John Locke, who said, “The Baptists from the first were the proponents of absolute liberty, just and true liberty, equal and impartial liberty.” And still again will he agree with the eminent Judge Storey, long a member of our nation’s Supreme Court, when he says, “In the code of laws established by the Baptists of Rhode Island, we read for the first time since Christianity ascended the throne of the Caesars, the declaration that conscience should be free; and that men should not be punished for worshiping God in the way they were persuaded that He requires.”
The Baptist contention is not for mere toleration, but for absolute liberty. There is a wide difference between toleration and liberty: toleration implies that someone falsely claims the right to tolerate. Toleration is a concession, while liberty is a divine right. Toleration is a matter of expediency, while liberty is a matter of principle. Toleration is a gift from men, while liberty is a gift from God. It is therefore the consistent, insistent, and persistent contention of our Baptist people, always and everywhere, that religion must be voluntary and un-coerced, and that it is not the prerogative of any power to compel men to pay taxes for the support of a religious organization to which they do not belong, and in which creed they do not believe. In the very nature of the case, there can be no proper union of church and state. Jesus stated the principle in two sayings: “My kingdom is not of this world”; and, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” This marked the divorcement of church and state forever.
I speak now with special word to our Baptist people of our United States of America. While we are lamenting the loss of religious liberty in different sections of the world, it behooves us to open our eyes to insidious encroachments here in our own land. Once more the frank declaration is here made that any trend or suggestion of a possible establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and the Vatican would call forth an immediate and unyielding protest from uncounted millions of our American people.
That was a violent issue at that time; will be a violent issue again:
Our doctrine of religious liberty in America is for all men alike. The Pope is simply the honored head of the Roman Catholic Church, and the plea that his dominion over a few acres of land called the Vatican City gives him the status of a temporal sovereign is essentially unreal. He has in fact no better title to receive governmental recognition from the United States than has the archbishop of Canterbury, head of the Anglican Church, or the moderator of the Presbyterian General Assembly, or the presiding bishop of the United Methodist Church.
The most difficult situation is created any time that you speak of the Roman Church. The reason for it is this: first, it is a religion, and we have an innate congenital dislike in America to criticize another man’s religion. We believe in religious freedom: every soul has his right to choose under and before God. And if a man wants to be an atheist, that’s his prerogative. If he wants to be an infidel, that’s his right. If he wants to become a Muslim, if he wants to be a Hindu, if he wants to be an agnostic, if he wants to be a Mormon, if he wants to be a member of the Christian Science faith, or if he wants to be a Roman Catholic, that is his choice. And we have a congenital historical dislike for criticism of any man’s religion. But, our problem lies in this: that the Roman Catholic institution, hierarchy, is not only a religion, it is a political tyranny.
In the July 4, 1960, the current issue of United States News and World Report, on page 49, there is a quotation there in that article from the great Spaniard, Salvador de Madariaga, who was a former professor of Spanish at Oxford University and the last president of the League of Nations. He said, and I quote, “It is extremely difficult to attack clerical abuses without seeming to attack Catholic institutions. That is, without being called a bigot.” There is no disposition on the part of any true American or any man who loves democracy and religious liberty, to attack any faith or any religion. It is only that we are faced with a political system that, like an octopus, covers the entire world, and threatens that basic freedom and that constitutional right of church and state, for which we have died in generations past.
For example, the Vatican ambassador is asked for on the basis that the Vatican is a political state. They say it is a sovereign government. They say that it is a political entity. Then if you say anything about them and about that, they accuse you of being a religious bigot. We’re not attacking the religion, nor are we attacking the institution. We are merely facing a political reality. In one instance they present themselves as religionists. Then in the next instance they ask for an ambassador to the Vatican on the basis of that they are a sovereign state and a political power. If you’ve ever seen the symbol of the Pope of Rome, he has two keys: one is the key of religion, and the other is the key of sovereign political power; and he claims to possess both of them.
For example, here in America, in defending nuns and priests in their religious habits, in their religious garbs, teaching in the public school systems, they say, “Our priests and our nuns in their garbs and their religious habits have the right to teach in the public school system on the basis that they are our fellow American citizens.” Fine. Then they are received into the public school system and are paid by the tax money of the American people, dressed in the habitat and dressed in the garb. Then when the Internal Revenue collector seeks to have them pay taxes, income taxes, on the salaries that they receive, as being on the public payroll, and as being public school teachers, then they say, “We are not other than representatives of the Catholic Church, and we pay no taxes.” And there are two thousand fifty-five and more nuns and priests in their habitats, on the public payrolls of the American people, who receive salaries from the taxpayers, on the basis that they are American citizens. But they pay not a dime of income tax because when it comes time to pay taxes, they say, “We are the representatives of the church.” It’s a hydra-headed affair. And whichever head you hit, then this is the head that predominates.
They have elected for the second time a Catholic governor in the state of Ohio. And in Ohio, it is the law of the land, under the aegis of those two Catholic governors, that the Catholic nuns and sisters and priests in their garb and in their habitat are on the public payrolls as school teachers. That’s a concomitant and a corollary of this elective office, when they’re able to seize it.
The drive for tax money to support their institutions is relentless; and never, never does it withhold its pressure. For example, when I was preaching up there in Canada, every young preacher that I preached to that day and that series, who were from the province of Quebec, had been in jail, Baptist preachers. Why? Just for preaching the gospel. And the public school system in the province of Quebec, in the state of Quebec, is a Catholic system. And they pay taxes to support it.
Referring to our own country, they succeed tremendously in getting tax monies into the support of their institutions. John McCormick, the Roman Catholic from Massachusetts, who is the Democratic majority leader of the House, has been himself responsible for national legislation which is handed over to the Catholic church more than thirty million dollars of our tax money. When you pay your income tax, a part of that income tax goes to the support of the Catholic church in the United States of America.
The constitution of Argentina states, “To be eligible to the office of president or vice president of the nation, a person must belong to the Roman Catholic church.” The constitution of Paraguay states, “The president of the republic must profess the Roman Catholic religion.” The constitution of Spain states, “To exercise the office of chief of state, or king, or regent, it shall be necessary to profess the Roman Catholic religion.” In the South American country nation of Columbia, during the past eight years, a government dominated by the Catholic Church, forty-nine Protestant churches have been destroyed, thirty-four Protestant churches have been confiscated, and eighty-nine Protestant church leaders have been murdered in these last eight years.
Now, during the Second World War, the American ship Dorchester was sunk by enemy fire. The four chaplains on the ship, two of whom were Protestants, one Jewish, and one Catholic, all gave their life preservers to four sailors, and locked arm in arm, they went down with the ship, each giving his life in order that one of his fellow Americans might live. After the war, the father of one of the Protestant chaplains, Dr. Daniel A. Poling, conceived the idea of building an interchurch chapel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in memory of the four chaplains. In the fall of 1950, Dr. Poling concluded the financial campaign, in which he raised money for the erection of the chapel of the four chaplains, with a banquet in the Bellevue Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia. It was an interfaith occasion. A representative of each of the three leading faiths was invited to speak on that important occasion. The honorable Charles B. Taft, mayor of Cincinnati, Ohio, was invited to speak for the Protestants. Senator Herbert H. Layman was invited to speak for the Jewish faith. And John Kennedy of the United States Congress, from Massachusetts, was invited and accepted to speak for the Catholic faith.
Dr. Poling relates how Mr. Kennedy notified him at the last minute that although he had his speech prepared; he would have to cancel his appearance due to the fact that His Eminence, Dennis Cardinal Dougherty, had requested him not to speak at the banquet and not to appear. Dr. Poling tried to reason with John Kennedy and pointed out to him that it was a civic affair and they were meeting not in a Protestant church but on neutral ground in a hotel. John Kennedy replied that he understood all that and that he had done all that he could to change the cardinal’s position. “But as,” and I quote John Kennedy, “as a loyal son of the church,” he had no other alternative but not to come. It was too late to procure another speaker, and there was no speaker representing the Catholic faith at the banquet.
Is my president of the United States to be a man who could not come into one of my services because he’d be contaminated by walking into the precincts of a Protestant church? And there are something like seventy-five million Protestant people in the United States of America. And the president of the United States, lest he offend a priest, or lest he offend the hierarchy, could attend no religious service simply because he belongs to the Roman Catholic religion; and “as a loyal son of the church,” he has no alternative but not to come.
In November of 1957, Senator John Kennedy stated, “People are afraid that Catholics take orders from a higher organization. They don’t; or at least I don’t.” And he continues that and continues that and continues that. Now as Senator Kennedy continued in this avowal, in May of this year, 1960, the official newspaper of the Vatican, L’Osservatore Romano, published a special article which is labeled “authoritatively binding on all the church.” It said, and I quote from the official published editorial of the Vatican paper;
The church has full powers of true jurisdiction over all the faithful, and hence has the duty and the right to guide, direct, and correct them on the plane of action and ideas. The church has the duty and the right to intervene even in the political field, to enlighten and help consciences. A Catholic can never prescind the teachings and directives of the church. In every section of his activities, he must inspire his private and public conduct by the laws, orientation, and instructions of the hierarchy.
End quote. And that was published in order that John Kennedy himself might know that his avowals that, “I can be disassociated from and free from the claims of the Roman Catholic Church,” the hierarchy says, “It is not so.”
Now immediately that created a tremendous repercussion here in America, and the following is an editorial comment in the current home mission magazine of our Southern Baptist Convention:
United States Catholic officials immediately began to say that this pronouncement of the Vatican did not apply here. No, of course not. Neither does the Catholic Church close Baptist churches in the United States, as it closes Baptist churches in Spain. But once given the power to do so without strong opposition, then what is the Catholic position?
The Roman Church wins most of its victories with the weapon of time. Kennedy, in today, with strong emphasis that he says on separation of church and state; and the door is open for another Catholic leader who gives the Pope, his ambassador, the church schools state support; and finally, recognition of one church above America. Then religious liberty has also died in America, as it has died in Spain, as it has died in Columbia, as it has died wherever the Roman Catholic hierarchy has the ableness and the power to shut it down and to destroy it in death.
In an address delivered in France, and with this I must close, in an address delivered in France, Dr. Truett said:
We conceive of religion as being a personal, individual, voluntary, and spiritual relationship between a man and his Creator and Savior. In our scheme of things, there is no room whatsoever for coercion or the use of physical force in the realm of religion. For example, gentlemen, I am a Baptist, and would rejoice to see men everywhere voluntarily accept the tenants of my faith because I sincerely believe those tenants to be in harmony with the revealed truths of God. But if by the pressure of the weight of my little finger I could physically coerce every person in the world to become a Baptist, I tell you frankly and truthfully I would withhold that pressure, even of the weight of my little finger. Religion must be free. The soul must have absolute liberty to believe or not to believe, to worship or not to worship, to say yes or no to God, even as that soul and that soul alone shall dictate. Every true Baptist in the world, and there are millions of them, would take the same stand that I take on this matter because they believe and I believe this to be the clear teaching in the New Testament as to religious freedom: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and render unto God the things that are God’s.” To Caesar, the duty, the patriotism, the love, the honor that we owe to our government and our state; and to God, the liberty of the love of an individual choice to bow down and worship in His name, as any man, anywhere, any time shall be led in his own heart and in his own conscience. This is the Word of God, and this is the foundation upon which our Baptist prerogative and gospel message is delivered to the listening world today.
Now we are going to sing our invitation hymn; it’s past time. And while we sing that hymn, somebody you, anybody you, trust in Jesus as his Savior, come and stand by me. Somebody you give his heart in faith to the Lord, come and give your hand to the pastor. A family this morning to put their lives in the fellowship of the church, would you come and stand by me? As the Spirit of the Lord will open the door, as the gracious inviting Holy Ghost of God shall lead the way, would you come? On the first note of the first stanza, “Here I am, preacher, and here I come; I make it now,” while we stand and while we sing.