Sep 20, 2014
In 1928, the first Roman Catholic ever nominated for president, Gov. Al Smith of New York, came to campaign in Oklahoma at the height of the Ku Klux Klan's power. Smith was greeted with numerous burning crosses during the night as his train rolled across the state. When Smith spoke to a rally in Oklahoma City, the KKK burned more crosses outside of the stadium where his campaign rally was held, inciting hatred and fomenting violence. Some of Smith's relatives were listening to radio broadcasts of the proceedings and said they believed the atmosphere was so volatile that “they expected a bullet, expected to hear a gun go off.”
Smith then delivered what many consider to be the most courageous speech ever given by a presidential nominee. In it he said, “There is no greater mockery in the world today than the burning of the cross by these people who are spreading this propaganda .... (the symbol of) the Christ they are supposed to adore… . To inject bigotry, hatred, intolerance and un-American sectarian division into a campaign... . Nothing could be so contradictory of our whole history.”
As a child in 1966, I remember leaflets were dropped by an airplane over Bartlesville that read, “Don't vote for Dewey Bartlett. He is a Roman Catholic.” The fair-minded voters of Oklahoma overcame the religious prejudices and elected the best person for the job – Bartlett, our first Catholic governor.
Despite past hobgoblins in our state history who have insulted Catholics and the Catholic Church, nothing compares in degree or kind to what the government of Oklahoma City has sanctioned at the Civic Center on September 21. A Satanic “Black mass” is scheduled on government property. One particular faith is being blasphemed, ridiculed, and mocked in what can only be called in contemporary terms, “hate speech.” The specious legal reasoning that Oklahoma City bureaucrats used to permit this sacrilege fails standards of reason and civility. Harvard University in May canceled the same event on their campus without fear of legal reprisal or First Amendment abridgement.