• U.S.

National Affairs: Nothing Sacred

3 minute read

West Virginia’s rabble-rousing old (80) Senator Matthew Neely has been advocating a campaign to take off political kid gloves and go after Dwight Eisenhower with brass knuckles. Last week Democrat Neely found a national arena where he could demonstrate what he meant.

In a speech before the United Auto Workers convention in Cleveland, Neely roared that the Eisenhower Administration is the “second everlasting monument to confusion,” surpassed only by the Tower of Babel. The President, he acknowledged, was first in war. But he was also “the first of all Presidents on the golf course and the last to leave it.”

Neely reached his lacerating low when he brought up the subject of Eisenhower’s religion. “Strange to say,” he marveled, “when I look at Monday morning’s paper, I see his picture on the front page or some other page telling me that he has been to church on Sunday. When you see that, you will decide that he must have been an apostle, a crusader for the Babe in Bethlehem ever since he was old enough to speak or walk or talk. But do you know that he didn’t join a church until after he became President of the U.S., and then he joined the church which I joined more than 50 years ago.*

“Away with hypocrisy! I don’t care what denomination it is. I don’t care what color or creed a church is. I denounce a man who tries to parade his religious associations or connections for political purposes. It is ungodly and against the teachings of Scripture. If that is an unreasonable and unfair statement, then you can make the most of it.”

As Neely’s speech guttered out, the autoworkers gave him a standing ovation. Around the country an angry cry of “foul” rose from editorial pages, rectories and forums. Said the Rev. Edward L. R. Elson, pastor of the President’s church: “The religious life of the President is so transparently sincere as to be self-validating.” Even low-hitting Senator Joe McCarthy was appalled. “I had thought the day had passed,” he said, “when a public servant could be held politically accountable for worshiping God as his conscience directed.”

*Ike was brought up in a devout (Brethren in Christ) family, later considered himself a non-sectarian Christian. He was formally baptized in Washington’s National Presbyterian Church in a private ceremony two weeks after his inauguration (TIME, Feb. 9, 1953).

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