The Adventist Church and Americans United

In 1847,  Archbishop John Hughes, of New York, had organized a church political party, to obtain government financial subsidies of Roman Catholic schools in New York State. The Vatican anticipated that success there would be followed by government subsidies of Catholic schools all over America.

The next step would be additional church-state entanglements, enabling the church to gradually take control of the government.

But there was a strong anti-Catholic sentiment back then, and Hughes proposition was defeated at the polls. His party disintegrated and New York State wrote, into its constitution, some of the strictest prohibitions on the use of public funds for church schools that are to be found in any such document.

So the archbishop told his associates they would have to build their own school system.

A hundred years later, Roman Catholic leaders felt the time had come to demand recognition and state financial support of their schools which, by that time, numbered 4 million students at the elementary and secondary levels.

In 1947, Priest W.E. McManus, head of the educational division of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, appeared before a House subcommittee and demanded financial aid.

On November 21, 1948, U.S. Catholic bishops issued an official statement, attacking the Supreme Court doctrine enunciated in the McCollum case, which barred religious schools from receiving public subsidies. They declared it was an establishment of secularism which must be abolished.

This unchanging Catholic position, that the State must support the Church, was reflected the next year in Cardinal Spellman's public attack on Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, because she had opposed government subsidy to religious schools.

In 1960, he expressed anger that John F. Kennedy, first Catholic to be elected to the U.S. presidency, refused to obey the Vatican on this issue. (Those of you who were alive when Kennedy was shot may recall, as I do, that Herbert Hoover said it occurred because Kennedy got into trouble with his church.)

As soon as World War II was over, representatives of a group of Protestant organizations gathered. Their objective was to found an organization which could oppose Roman Catholic encroachments. Dr. Rufus W. Weaver, a prominent Baptist living in Washington, D.C., was the first to see the need for such an organization. Working closely with Dr. Joseph Dawson, director of the Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, and Elder C.S. Longacre, a prominent religious liberty leader at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, they convened a meeting at a D.C. hotel on September 19, 1946.

Among those who attended a second meeting on February 5, 1947, was Dr. Charles Ormond Williams, president of the National Education Association; Elmer Rogers, editor of the Scottish Rite magazine, The New Age; H.H. Votaw, editor of Liberty Magazine; Elder C.E. Longacre; Dr. Clyde Taylor, secretary of the National Association of Evangelicals; and several others.

On January 29, 1948, their new organization, Protestants and Other Americans United for Separation of Church and State, was chartered in the District of Columbia. Glen L. Archer was selected as the one who would lead the new organization, a position he assumed in July of that year. POAU later changed its name to Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU). (The POAU and AU names had been selected because the NEA, Scottish Rite, our General Conference, and several others did not want it known that they were working together.)

From that point onward, AU opposed Catholic efforts to get government money. It also countered efforts, by other denominations, to do it also.

For decades, our General Conference heavily subsidized the work of AU. The present writer attended a lecture by Glen Archer, at the St. Helena, California, Church in the summer of 1957. Noting that Archer walked with a limp, I was told it was the result of a beating he had earlier received from Catholic thugs. Little wonder; because of his efforts, the Catholic Church in America lost millions in special benefits and subsidies.

In early summer, 1969, I heard a prominent non-Adventist AU staff member (an Italian), in a speech at Sligo Church in Takoma Park, tell the audience that the General Conference was his boss.

But a conflict of interest occurred in the 1970s; when, as a result of bitter controversy between our Religious Liberty Department, our colleges, and universities, church leaders voted to begin accepting government funding for those schools, as nearly all the other denominations were doing.

But AU was also changing as, in the 1980s, secularists and atheists gained control. Ultimately in the 1980s, the General Conference severed ties. This year (1998), AU filed an amicus brief with the court against Loma Linda Medical School, in an employment discrimination case.

AU has changed from being a church-state separation organization to one which is controlled by humanists, initiating attacks against anything and everything religious. It ranks with the ACLU, and works hand-in-hand with it.                  vf