Reed Irvine - Editor
|February B, 1983|
CBS HITS THE COUNCILS OF CHURCHES
To many people in this country criticism of the National Council of Churches (NCC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) is old hat. These two ecumenical organizations have been attacked many times for nurturing Marxist causes, disseminating Marxist propaganda, and even providing financial assistance to Marxist terrorists. However, this was not considered to be news by Big Media. Newsweek magazine's former senior editor and chief foreign correspondent, Arnaud de Borchgrave, says that stories that he submitted to Newsweek on the leftist activities of the World Council of Churches were invariably spiked in New York.
It came as a surprise or a shock to many people when the CBS program, "60 Minutes," on January 23, 1983, devoted two-thirds of its time to exposure of both the NCC and the WCC in a segment titled, "The Gospel According to Whom?" No less a surprise was the correspondent who carried out this task--Morley Safer. Safer is not known as a critic of the left. The last time we observed him reporting on religious matters on CBS, he was extolling the left-leaning Maryknoll order and criticizing The Wycliffe Bible Translator Society missionaries in Latin America. The latter are traditional Christian missionaries, whose specialty is translating the Bible into exotic languages. Communist terrorists in Colombia murdered one of their missionaries, Chesler Bitterman, in March 1981. On the CBS Morning News on March 23, 1981, Safer criticized the Wycliffe missionaries, charging that their aim was "to resettle communal people into areas where they can be controlled and thus converted," building "instant slums" and "instant disillusion." Safer praised the Maryknolls as missionaries "who have worked selflessly for the enhancement of the human spirit without ideological strings."
It is a measure of the changes that have been taking place that ten months later this same Morley Safer came up with a devastating expose of the National and World Council of Churches on "60 Minutes." The idea for the program came from the producer, a young lady named Marti Galovic. She became interested in the subject when she heard Richard Ossling, religion editor of Time magazine; discuss some of the activities of the World Council of Churches on a CBS radio broadcast. She told AIM that her proposal to research the subject for a "60 Minutes" segment was readily approved and that no one ever tried to block the project. She was more fortunate than Patricia Kappmeyer, a public high school teacher in Lytle, Texas who permitted a column critical of the leftist activities of the National Council of Churches to be published in the school paper last year. The school board promptly sat on Mrs. Kappmeyer, ordering her to submit all copy for the paper to the principal for approval before publication. Mrs. Kappmeyer resigned in protest.
Safer opened his program with the observation that Americans give more to their churches than to any other charity. He then showed film clips of Fidel Castro and a military parade in Moscow, and he asked, "But what if some of that money is doing this man's work? Or these people's?" He proceeded to make a strong case that church donations being given to mainline churches that belong to the National Council of Churches are to some extent being used to finance Marxist propaganda and to assist armed Marxist guerrillas. He showed that this was being done through the National Council of Churches, the World Council of Churches, and in some cases by the leadership of large denominations. The United Methodist Church and the United Presbyterian Church were specifically mentioned.
Safer and critics of the NCC that he interviewed acknowledged that the amount of money that is used for funding leftist causes and propaganda represents only a very small portion of the budgets of the NCC and its member churches. Bishop James Armstrong, the president of the NCC, was shown complaining that outsiders were placing too much emphasis on the political activities of the churches and not enough on their religious and humanitarian activities. Safer's reply was that the religious activities were assumed to be a proper role for the churches, but many of those who were putting up the money did not agree with the political goals of the NCC and WCC.
Safer said, "One is careful in this kind of report not to use guilt by association, not to use what are generally described as 'McCarthy tactics.' but whether it is by design or mischance or deliberate manipulation from outside the churches, church money and the churches themselves are found to be supporting highly political movements. The Rev. Richard Neuhaus, a Lutheran minister, and the Rev. Edmund Robb of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, a group critical of the NCC, said that the amount of money being spent on those activities might be relatively small, but that any moment was too much. Robb said that they were concerned not only about the money, but about the involvement of the staffs of the NCC and the churches in propagandizing for Marxist causes. They believe that this is incompatible with the goals of Christianity and is contrary to the wishes of most of the churchgoers who are putting up the money that pays the bills.
Safer saved for the very end of the program his biggest scoop--proof that Bishop Armstrong and those who run the huge church bureaucracy at 475 Riverside Drive in New York City are well aware of the fact that they do not really speak for the millions of churchgoers they presume to represent on political issues. He revealed that a survey done for the National Council had found that three-quarters of the individual church members it supposedly represents consider themselves either moderate or conservative. In an analysis of these findings, the NCC said: "Although we may all agree that public opinion does not set our marching orders, there are those who will see some of these findings as showing how 'out of step' the National Council is with its own constituency and censure us for it. To those who are hunting for such ammunition we need not supply a 'silver bullet.' This is not intended to be a broadly disseminated document for the general public."
The people who run the NCC and their fellow thinkers in the church bureaucracies are far more interested in trying to shape and guide public opinion than in reflecting the views of their constituents. This is evident from an interview that Morley Safer had with the Rev. Philip Wheatley, a radical Episcopal priest who runs an organization called the Ecumenical Program for Inter- American Communication and Action (EPICA). The NCC to the tune of $15,000 a year funds this. Safer asked Wheatley if he thought the parishioners who were supplying that money agreed with his radical political ideas.
The Rev. Wheatley replied: "People throughout the churches in the United States in relation to Central America and the Caribbean are reading our materials, are using our materials regularly for study programs. The Methodist Church has a regular program of bringing students into Washington, D.C., and they bring me in to present an analysis of Central America. So my answer is that certainly a portion of the churches find our work very helpful, very useful."
The Rev. Wheatley told Morley Safer "90 percent of the terror that is going on in Central America is being created not only by the ruling juntas and the paramilitary forces, but by U.S. aid and support going to those regimes." His organization has published a book titled, Puerto Rico: A People Challenge Colonialism. It is called "A People's Primer." It presents the communist line that Puerto Rico is an American colony that should be liberated, ignoring the fact that those advocating independence for Puerto Rico have never been able to muster more than six percent of the Puerto Rican vote. Wheatley told Safer "the whole previous concept of the United States as an empire is under very strong attack." This is the man who is the NCC's adviser on Central America and the Caribbean and who lectures Methodist youth sent to Washington to broaden their education.
Safer showed a film strip on the war in El Salvador produced by the Education and Cultivation Division of the General Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church in cooperation with the NCC. The point of the film was that the communist-armed guerrillas in El Salvador are really good Christians. Showing pictures of guerrillas wearing crosses around their necks, the narrator says: "Many of the FMLN have been branded communists, but everywhere I walked I saw the cross of Christ--the Christian symbol of death and resurrection--was worn around the neck together with bullets. To our western hearts and minds to see this juxtaposition of the cross and the gun is a shock, but in our own history through the Revolutionary and Civil Wars we have frequently sought God's help in fighting forces of injustice."
The villain in Latin America, in the view of these people, is frequently American business. Safer displayed a book, Agribusiness and the Americas, which he described as an indictment of capitalism and American agricultural corporations. It was published with funds provided by the Presbyterian Hunger Project to an organization called North American Committee for Latin America (NACLA). NACLA is a well-known Castroite organization, one of whose moles inside the U.S. government was exposed when the Cuban agent, Orlando Letelier, was assassinated and his briefcase yielded up a letter from NACLA asking Letelier to cooperate with a Treasury economist named Richard Feinberg who was said to be assisting them.
Cuba is portrayed as a model for other developing countries to follow. Morley Safer displayed booklets on Cuba published by the Cuban Resource Center. Which he said received heavy support from the National Council member churches. He described these as blatantly pro-Castro publications. He said that one was "a propaganda tract that shouts out the glories of the revolution." One of the articles was tilled. "Living Joyfully in The Midst of Revolution." A common theme. Safer said, was the redefinition of Christianity in Marxist revolutionary' terms. The Rev. Richard Neuhaus described one such booklet as holding up Cuba "as a model not only for Latin America and China. But also for The United States."
After the Caribbean island of Grenada, off the coast of Venezuela, was taken over by Castro-backed forces in a coup, the National Council of Churches funded the publication titled, Grenada, The Peaceful Revolution. It praised the revolution that has converted Grenada into a harsh police state and a potential Soviet-Cuban air base.
Safer quoted from a booklet published by the World Council of Churches, which gets about $12 million a year from U.S. contributions, telling what that organization thinks of the free enterprise system. It said: "The international capitalist economic system is repugnant to the concept of justice and is a denial of the lordship of Christ and therefore an abomination." NGG President James Armstrong was asked if he agreed with that. He replied: "No, nor do I believe that the capitalist system nor the socialist system is beyond the judgment of God. We don't belong to Karl Marx. We don't belong to Adam Smith. We belong to Jesus Christ."
Safer replied:" A great deal, thought of the World Council would seem not exactly to belong to the Marxist system, but to speak much the same language." To which Bishop Armstrong made this ringing rejoinder: "But you're asking me to speak in the language of the United States government. I won't."
The World Council of Churches is more candid about admitting its Marxist orientation. Its general secretary, a West Indian minister named Philip Pot tar. Told Morley Safer. "I would say that Marxist analysis of the causes of poverty and repression has been very useful." That analysis is reflected in the WCC's explanation of its "Program to Gorebat Racism," which it says is intended to get the churches to "move beyond charity to relevant and sacrificial action, to become agents for the radical reconstruction of society. There can be no justice without a transfer of economic resources to under gird the redistribution of political power."
The Rev. Potter showed his adeptness at Marxist analysis in criticizing the philosophy of the Salvation Army, which withdrew from the WCC because it objected to its political activities and policies. Potter said that the Salvation Army had a philosophy of "soup. Soap and salvation." but he said. "Soup and soap are not enough. The causes of the need for soup and soap are deeply important. And when you speak about the causes, the structure of those societies, which bring about oppression and bring about poverty, and so on, these are the things we have challenged. Now the Salvation Army depends for its aid work, its work of mercy, on large contributions from powerful groups that are involved economically and militarily in these countries."
That reeks of Marxist determinism, right down to the innuendo that economic interests into pulling out of the World Council coerced the Salvation Army. Morley Safer asked Salvation Army Commissioner John Needham about that. He said there was absolutely no pressure from any corporate interests for their withdrawal. He said the Salvation Army had long been concerned about the WCC's support of radical causes, but the straw that broke the camel's back was their grant of $85.000 to the Patriotic Front in Rhodesia just two months after the terrorists had murdered eight missionaries. Including two from the Salvation Army. (The WCC blames the murders on the Rhodestan Army).
The Rev. Potter bristled when Safer referred to communist East Germany as "an entire nation enclosed by barbed wire." He protested the reference to "barbed wire." noting that the WCC had met in East Germany last year and had mingled freely with many German Christians there. "So the barbed wire question is a bit much, isn't it." he said. Safer rejoined: "No it's not. How many of the parishioners would be allowed to come and visit here in Geneva?" Potter said. "Well. That is a problem. There is a problem. But don't call it barbed wire in that sense." To which Safer replied: "Well. If you've been to that border, sir, it's barbed wire."
Safer revealed that since 1970. The World Council has raised about $5.5 million to help Marxist guerrillas such as FRELIMO in Mozambique. The Patriotic Front in Rhodesia and SWAPO, which is trying to take over Namibia from its bases in Cuban-occupied Angola. He described all of these groups as openly violent, and he observed that critics note that these groups have not been guarantors of either political or religious freedom once they have seized power.
Safer said that the money was supposed to be used for humanitarian needs, but the World Council had no way of enforcing that. The Rev. Potter told Safer, "When we give it (the money) we show an act of faith and confidence in the people."
Other beneficiaries of the churches' largesse include Nicaragua, which received S1.5 million from the World Council to help fund its program of political indoctrination through literacy training. The teachers were Cubans. The Methodist Church put up $60,000 for a center in Sandinista Nicaragua "to serve the revolutionary reality in Latin America." The World Council helped Vietnam with a $2 million grant to buy heavy equipment and material for its so-called "new economic zones." which are really places of exile for persons the regime doesn't like. (Safer didn't say so, but the NCC has also put a half million dollars into the new economic zones through the Church World Service, it defends this on humanitarian grounds, while it opposes economic aid for war-ravaged El Saivador).
Safer disclosed that a Conference in Solidarity with the Liberation Struggles in Southern Africa was organized by the Methodist Church in New York City, but FBI documents show that it was run by the Communist Party, USA, and was entirely manipulated by the Soviet Union. Safer said, "The only Methodist official on the platform was the one who gave the invocation."
The Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), according to captured documents released by the Department of State, was the product of a visit to this country by Farid Handal, a top communist from El Salvador. Safer said that "an ad hoc committee made up of various member denominations working out of national headquarter (NCC headquarters) helped CISPES get started, and the denominations gave it money and support services."
Safer adds: "When CISPES released some controversial documents that it claimed were confidential State Department memoranda on American involvement in El Salvador. the same documents were also released by a group called the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), which is funded by the National Council and member churches. The FBI says this document is a forgery, precisely the same forgery the KGB tried to circulate in Central America."
Officials of the NCC have denounced the "6O Minutes' program. Charging that it presented a "distorted, sensational and biased' report. They denied that the NCC supports communism, saying that the program was "wholly unable to support this claim." Dr. Claire Randall, general secretary of the NCC. Said: "It is ludicrous to contend that the NCC has become a political organization that supports communism, and this was not supported by any evidence. The program used guilt by association and innuendo and distortion... The critics seem to be saying that one should not give a cup of water or a Crust of bread to another human being he or she happens to be living under a government with which they disagree."
Missing from this reply is any citation of any specific errors or distortions in the CBS program. Bishop Armstrong also made a statement totally devoid of refutation of the factual evidence presented by "60 Minutes." He said, "Being faithful to the Gospel involves risk and misunderstanding: it will also be seen by some as 'political.' In that sense. The religious community has always been political. Moses challenged the pharaoh. Elijah challenged his queen. Jesus quietly defied Caesar. A Presbyterian minister named Witherspoon signed the Declaration of Independence. Abolition. Temperance. Civil rights, abortion. Peace with justice--these are profoundly religious issues that will spill over into the public arena."
These denials have a hollow ring to them. There is a notable lack of any criticism of communism either in the interviews with NCC and WCC officials in the CBS program or in their denunciations of the program. There is no statement that the support of organizations such as the Cuban Resource Center, which Bishop Armstrong told Safer he had not heard of, was a mistake that was being rectified. There was no effort to dissociate the NCC from the wild anti-free enterprise rhetoric of the World Council. There was no indication of any regrets about having helped the communist regime in Vietnam exile victims to the harsh "new economic zones."
The emptiness of the NCC reaction to the CBS program confirms the validity of the evidence presented. Actually. "60 Minutes" could have presented a much longer bill of indictment if it had not been limited by time. The article on the NCC in the January Reader's Digest. "Do You Know Where Your Church Offerings Go?" by Rael lean Isaac has additional damning information not covered by CBS.
For example, it points out that the Church World Service, an arm of the NCC, summarily fired its long- time director, James Mactracken, when he refused to alter the organization's traditional mission of helping the poor and hungry to a new course of "liberation and justice." The new course has been reflected in the establishment in Washington of a CWS Office on Indochina Relations which is supposed to "educate' members of Confess and government officials on the need to normalize relations with communist Vietnam and extend them economic aid.
Here are some additional activities of the NCC and the WCC that "60 Minutes" did not mention.
1. The WCC has authorized a $500,000 donation to the Ecumenical Council for Humanitarian Assistance in El Salvador (CESAH). This is a front for the Marxist guerrilla groups terrorizing El Salvador. The WCC contact in El Salvador has been identified as Marta Benavides, a member of the Communist Party.
2. In 1981, the WCC gave $65,000 to the African National Congress. Which it said was carrying on the "liberation struggle from both inside and outside South Africa to gain power politically so that 'people shall govern.'" The African National Conoress is a terrorist organization controlled by the communists.
3. In 1981, the WCC gave $125,000 to the South West African Peoples Organization (SWAPel, bringing its total contributions to this group since 1970 to a' least $823,500. SWAPO receives its training and support from the USSR and its satellites. A Marxist, Sam Nujoma, heads it.
4. On September 14, 1982, the NCC issued a statement denying religious repression in Nicaragua, saying that reports to the contrary "are part of a general trend in the U.S. to discredit the Nicaraguan government." This was issued a month after government newspapers in Managua published photos of a priest who headed a Catholic radio station being forced to walk down a public street naked. His crime was having broadcast an account of another priest being beaten. Mobs have attacked even the archbishop, who is no longer permitted to broadcast his weekly homilies.
5. In February 1979, the then president of the NCC, the Rev. M. William Howard, advocated the redistribution of wealth in the U.S. as the solution to the disparity between rich and poor. Asked if he was proposing a Marxist solution. The Rev. Howard said: "I don't think we can apply strictly to our context any formula that presently exists."
6. The Rev. Howard also launched a program of publicizing alleged political prisoners in the U.S., guided by the research of an organization affiliated with their International Association of Democratic Lawyers, a Soviet front group.
Write to Van Gordon Sauter, President, and CBS flews. 524 West 5th Street, N.Y., N.Y. 10020 to commend CBS for airing this program, "The Gospel According to Whom?"
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WE ARE BREAKING WITH PRECEDENT IN THIS ISSUE, DEVOTING THE AIM REPORT ENTIRELY to a program that we are praising rather than criticizing. We mentioned the program in our last issue--the double segment on "60 Minutes" on the National and World Councils of Churches. I heard so much favorable cogent on the program that I decided it deserved more extensive treatment, especially since I also discovered that a lot of people missed it. Also, the program has come under heavy attack from the National Council of Churches and five of the mainline churches belonging to the NCC. It is bound to be widely discussed, and it should be helpful to our readers to have in writing what was actually said by CBS.
I LEARNED OF A LETTER SENT TO CBS BY THE MAINLINE CHURCHES ENUMERATING ALLEGED errors in the program only after the Report was already set in type. I shall therefore deal with them here.
1. The churches say that CBS erred in charging that a Conference in Solidarity with the Liberation Struggles in Southern Africa in October 1981 was organized by the Methodist Church but was actually run by the Communist Party and manipulated by the Soviet Union. They point out that the Outreach Office of the Riverside Church, whose pastor is the Rev. William Sloane Coffin, organized the conference. They deny that the Communist Party ran it. A detailed article on this conference was published in Information Digest on October 31, 1981. The conference call said that responses should be sent to the Conference, c/o the United Methodist Office for the United Nations, 777 United Nations Plaza, New York, X. Y. 10017. The letterhead of the conference listed as donors and special sponsors The Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church, Africa Office, and the National Council of the Churches of Christ. The efforts of both the Mathodist Church and the NCC to dissociate themselves from this conference appear to be misleading, to say the least. The preparatory committee for the conference was headed by Gong. Ronald Dellums of Berkeley, Calif., a far leftist, Lennox Hines, a member of the National Lawyers Guild, which long ago was identified as a Communist front, and Carl Bloice, a prominent CP member for several years. Sponsors included Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, members of the CP Central Committee and Angela Davis. Scheduled speakers (who didn't show) included Oliver Tambo of the terrorist Africa National Congress and Sam Nujoma of SWAPO, the Marxist terrorist organization based in southern Angola. The fact that non-communists such as Arthur Ashe were also listed among the sponsors in no way rebuts the charge that this was a communist operation.
2. The churches say that the Cuba Resource Center went out of business in 1979 and that the churches have not supported it since that time. We are informed by John Rees, editor of Information Digest, that the Cuba Resource Center is in existence today, run by the same people who have run it in the past. They are still listed in the New York phone book, but there was no answer when we called.
3. They say that CBS was wrong in suggesting that the "New Economic Zones" in Vietnam, to which both the NCC and WCC have contributed material help, are the equivalent of forced labor camps. They say these are areas in which Vietnamese who volunteer to do so are helped to open up new farms. They volunteer like the kulaks volunteered to go to Siberia under Stalin. An NCC spokesperson was more candid. She told us that they acknowledged that the "New Economic Zones" were not nice places, but they felt that it was better to help the victims than to simply let them suffer. On the other hand, she defended the NCC's opposition to U.S. economic aid to El Salvador on the ground that people were concerned about the human rights situation there and the aid was going to the government, not to the people.
4. The churches deny that the Washington Office on Latin America, a very leftist operation, which they acknowledge, supporting, distributed the forged document mentioned in the CBS program. We have been informed that a WOLA employee was observed distributing this document at a meeting of the Organization of American States. This is not the kind of document that is normally passed around as an official publication, and it is not surprising that those involved in circulating it are not eager to admit having done so.
5. The churches object to the CBS description of the Nicaraguan literacy program, to which they contributed. They say that the U.S. government, through AID, contributed $3 million to this program and that it was successful in reducing illiteracy in Nicaragua. The Carter administration helped bring the Sandinistas to power, even though it knew that most of the leaders were Cuban-backed communists. They gave them substantial aid before it became clear that they were taking Nicaragua down the Cuban road. CBS was quite correct in its description of the literacy program. This program was one of the signs of Cubanization" of Nicaragua listed by the Catholic Archdiocese of Mexico City in 1980. They described it as the indoctrination of youth in the Marxist ideology, under the guise of a campaign against illiteracy led by 2,000 Cuban teachers.
6. The churches say CBS was wrong to suggest that money from the collection plate is going to support terrorists in Africa without the knowledge of the donors. They say that contributions to the WCC's campaign to "Combat Racism" have to be earmarked by the donors for that purpose. They also doubt that the money is being used to buy arms, even though its use is unsupervised, since the amounts given do no exceed the amounts needed for humanitarian purposes. It doesn't matter much. Money given for food frees up other money for other purposes. The charge is that they were aiding terrorism. That holds.