Those subversive Unitarians, the way they go about freely associating…

Below you’ll find an excerpt from Violations of State Department Regulations and Pro-Castro Propaganda Activities in the United States, Part 2: Hearings before the Committee on Un-American Activities, House of Representatives, Eighty-Eighth Congress, First Session, July 1 and 2 and August 5, 1963 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. government Printing Office, 1963), pp. 474-475. Whatever you think of Mr. Randolph and his politics, what stands out for me is that the Palo Alto Unitarian Church was creating an open space for free association — James Luther Adams, one of our most prominent Unitarian theologians, contended that the freedom to associate was one of the best ways of keeping fascism at bay. (And yes, I know Castro’s Cuba was not very strong on the freedom to associate in 1963 — again, please be sure to separate Mr. Randolph’s politics, and Mr. Castro’s politics, with the actions of the church committee.)

Mr. [Robert Eugene] Randolph. Again, I want to remind you that you are dealing in the area of speech and the dissemination of opinions and views, and I decline to answer on all my constitutional grounds previously elicited.

Mr. [Alfred M.] Nittle [Counsel to the Committee]. In view of your remark, may I state briefly for the record, Mr. Chairman, that the Supreme Court in the Communist Party case has passed upon these first amendment claims.

The Chairman. Oh, of course they have, and let’s not lose time on quotations. He knows that. Get to the question.

[Laughter and applause.]

Mr. Nittle. Now, we hand you a copy of the Palo Alto Times of May 24, 1961. The article is entitled “Church sets Cuba program for Sunday.” It is numbered for identification as “Robert Randolph Exhibit No. 5.”

That item reports that the “world affairs committee of the Palo Alto Unitarian Church, 505 Charleston Road, will sponsor a color-slide talk on Cuba on Sunday at 8 p.m. in the church”; that Mr. and Mrs. Robert Randolph of Berkeley will give the talk, and states that they recently returned from a 3-week tour of five of the six Cuban provinces. It is also stated therein that Randolph’s training in economics and experience in real estate assisted him in evaluating housing and property financing in present-day Cuba.

Did you address the church group as set forth in the news account?

Mr. Randolph. I decline to answer — I decline to answer on grounds previously stated.

(Document marked “Robert Randolph Exhibit No. 5” and retained in committee files.)

Mr. Nittle. Did you youi-self seek this engagement to speak to the Palo Alto Unitarian Church group?

Mr. Randolph. I decline to answer on the grounds previously stated.

Mr. Nittle. Were these arrangements made for you on your behalf by the Fair Play for Cuba Committee or any of its representatives?

Mr. Randolph. To say it is interesting is really an understatement that this committee concerns itself with who organized what meetings where. Somehow the holding of public meetings of any group is very consistent with the pursuit of the democratic processes, which more and more seem to be falling into disrepute in this country when vigorously exercised.

I would say this and proceed to say that I decline to answer this question on my grounds as I have enumerated them.

(Later the committee interrogated Mrs. Randolph as well.)

Hooray for the Palo Alto Unitarian Church for hosting Mr. Randolph’s exercise of his First Amendment rights.

3 thoughts on “Those subversive Unitarians, the way they go about freely associating…

  1. Bill Baar

    Free Association but I bet many of the players clandestine party folks. We used to go to Chicago’s Third U in the 70s and make fun of the older communists there sort of undercover. We who thought ourselves more radical would sort of out the undercover reds. It is a sort of lack of disclosure that can be awfully unhealthy for a Church.

  2. Dan

    Bill Baar @ 1 — I’ve served Unitarian Universalist congregations that had people as members who were also members of the Communist Party. They never made a big deal out of it, because they were at church to do religion, not politics. I used to think to myself that some Unitarian Universalist Democrats and Republicans could learn from those Unitarian Universalist Communists who didn’t let their politics trump their religion (at least not at church).

    I got to know one Communist Unitarian Universalist well enough to ask, “What about Marx saying that religion is the opiate of the people?” My Communist friend reminded me that Marx didn’t say religion is bad, and after all you might need an opiate to deaden your pain enough that you can fight to get rid of capitalism — in addition to which, this person felt that Unitarian Universalism’s fight for justice and equality sometimes surpassed the Communist Party in certain areas (e.g., gay rights).

  3. Amy

    Free Association but I bet many of the players clandestine party folks

    Which also is supposed to be legal in a democracy, though we routinely turn away would-be visitors to the country if they’re Communists–or at least we did as recently as the 80’s.

Comments are closed.