Record #1236

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Dr Arthur H. DeBra
Carl E. Milliken
Mr Will H. Hays, President, MPPDA
Reel 8
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Magazine - The Churchman

Interviews with prominent churchmen concerning the probable church reaction in the event of a successful prosecution of a libel suit against the Churchman


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18 February 1930 Memo, DeBra to Milliken and Hays re interviews he has had with leading Protestant clergymen over The Churchman affair -- notably Dr. Henry Sloane Coffin, "political strategist for the modernist wing of the Presbyterian Church during the recent controversy." Coffin had also had hostile encounters with Christian Century, again over articles written by Fred Eastman. "He pointed out that the Protestant churches were for the most part without Sunday night audiences and the motion picture theatres were full; he intimated that the screen had not been too friendly to the Protestant clergymen; and suggested from his own experience that wholly apart from the moral tone of pictures, which he wished was better, he thought that the general level of art should be improved and that the interpretation of American life, which the movies were taking to the Orient, was unfortunate. ... Together we arrived at the conclusion that the real difficulty in the present Protestant protest was the fact that these men did not realize that what they were asking Mr. Hays to have accomplished in eight years was to have changed the taste of the public as to entertainment rather than to have changed the attitude of the industry itself toward its product. Dr. Christian F. Reisner, pastor of the Broadway Temple, extreme conservative Methodist but also radical in his use of publicity -- "he runs a three ring circus on Sunday nights and ... has written the only text book on church publicity that is worth anything. ... He reasoned that motion pictures could never entirely suit clergymen; the very position of the church demanded that it upheld a moral and ethic always far ahead of practice; he also said that from the very nature of clergymen and the church, they would want everything righted at once and would be intolerant of a progressive but slow process of cleaning pictures up. He said he felt that the process had been too slow and went on to describe a few pictures which he had seen recently which he thought were highly objectionable. ... The Christian Century seems to be 'in bad' with everybody with whom I have talked. However, all the men have thought it the most influential of the church journals, especially among clergymen of modern thought." Dr. William P. Merrill, Pastor of the Brick Presbyterian Church -- also a party to the controversy in the Presbyterian Church. He first suggested discussions with The Churchman editors, and was not surprised that that had not worked. He recognized that publishing articles in either of the papers would "dignify what we considered libelous material," and could not suggest an appropriate name for someone else to write such articles. "His final suggestion seemed to me to have some merit" -- a conference with Hays and Milliken answering questions from the editors of the religious press and leading ministers and giving an account of what they had been trying to do. "He pointed out that while he had read the Christian Century articles, and while he was active in the Federal Council, he did not know the story of the CDL nor of the Redfield Commission nor of the present set-up in the Research Department of the Council."I think Redfield had resigned from the Commission because of its predetermined attitude, and the Research Department was dominated by anti-MPPDA forces -- Andrews?

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