National Liberal League

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The National Liberal League (1876 – c.1885) of the United States advocated separation of church and state and the freedom of religion.[1] The league evolved into the American Secular Union in 1884. The First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis grew directly out of the chapter there.

History[edit]

The National Liberal League was one of the first national organizations dedicated to separating church and state. It was presaged by a series of local organizations that emerged before the Civil War that sought to combat Sunday laws, bible-reading in public schools, and other government policies perceived to violate religious liberty. These issues would concern the National Liberal League that formed in the 1870s.[2] Officers included Francis E. Abbott, T.B. Wakeman, Elizur Wright, Robert G. Ingersoll, and others.[3] Annual conventions took place in Syracuse (1878)[4] Cincinnati (1879),[5] St. Louis (1882),[6][7] Milwaukee (1883),[8] and Cleveland (1885).[9]

In 1884 The Radical Review observed that the League "gave promises of great usefulness in the early years of its existence. In the fall of 1878 its activity was crippled by the appearance of some of those internal strifes and dissentions which seem to be the inevitable accompaniment of the development of all reformatory organisations. To screen personal animosities, always contemptible, side issues were introduced, and the essential aim of the League lost sight of. ... The National Liberal League split on the discussion of the constitutionality of the so-called Comstock law of 1873."[10] Ingersoll resigned from his vice-presidency after the 1879 convention, in opposition to an adopted motion to provide a general defense, rather than his preference to exclude distributors of prurient material and only defend "real Freethought".[11] The league evolved into the American Secular Union around 1885.[12] Circa November 1901, a faction of the American Secular Union split off, and resumed use of the older "National Liberal League" name.[13]

The name was again in use circa 1945 by an organization which is claimed to have been unrelated.[14] During Eisenhower's presidency, the National Liberal League questioned the appointment of William Brennan to the Supreme Court.[15] In the 1960s, James Hervey Johnson is reported to have assumed the leadership of the National Liberal League of that era.[16] Current era records[17][18] suggest that Johnson relocated operations in his era of the 1947-founded organization to California, that the organization renamed itself in 1966 to the "National League For The Separation Of Church And State", and that subsequent to Johnson's death an organization of that name continued in New York, with leadership passing to Fred Edwords.

See also[edit]

National Reform Association (19th century, U.S.)

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Thirteen Principles: Platform of the National Liberal League." In: The Truth seeker collection of forms, hymns, and recitations: Original and selected; for the use of liberals. NY: D.M. Bennett, 1877; p.19+
  2. ^ Kyle G. Volk, Moral Minorities and the Making of American Democracy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014)
  3. ^ New York Times, September 30, 1882
  4. ^ Anthony Comstock. "The Syracuse Congress." In: Frauds exposed: or, How the people are deceived and robbed, and youth corrupted. NY: J. H. Brown, 1880
  5. ^ Positiveatheism.org
  6. ^ Equal rights in religion. 1876
  7. ^ New York Times, September 30, 1882
  8. ^ New York Times, September 22, 1883
  9. ^ Frugal Bob Ingersoll: how he worked the National Liberal League to his own profit. New York Times, January 4, 1886
  10. ^ Radical Review. June 28, 1884
  11. ^ "Obscene Literature", from The Collected Works of Robert Ingersoll
  12. ^ New York Times, January 4, 1886
  13. ^ Volume 19 of The Free Thought Magazine, pp669-672; https://books.google.com/books?id=B5cYAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA671
  14. ^ http://www.thedailyjournal.com/story/news/local/2014/10/07/history-column-free-thinkers-united-vineland/16811399/
  15. ^ W. Wat Hopkins (1991). Mr. Justice Brennan and Freedom of Expression. Greenwood Publishing Group. Retrieved 2016-09-19.
  16. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/1990-02-01/news/mn-1601_1_atheist-organizations
  17. ^ Companies NY
  18. ^ 14th Story directory of California Companies

Further reading[edit]

  • Equal rights in religion: Report of the Centennial Congress of Liberals, and organization of the National Liberal League, at Philadelphia, on the Fourth of July, 1876. Boston: National Liberal League, 1876 Google books
  • "The Thirteen Principles: Platform of the National Liberal League." In: The Truth seeker collection of forms, hymns, and recitations: Original and selected; for the use of liberals. NY: D.M. Bennett, 1877; p. 19+ Google books
  • A Liberal League Fight: Free-lovers and Anti-free-lovers Disputing; lively sessions of the National Liberal League - men and women advocating the unconditional repeal of the obscene literature laws - vile epithets bandied about, mingled with yells and cat-calls - half a hundred bolters - new officers elected. New York Times, October 28, 1878
  • Funeral Services of the National Liberal League. Christian foundation, or, Scientific and religious journal, April 1880.
  • Anthony Comstock. "Infidelity wedded to obscenity: the spouse of the National Liberal League." In: Frauds exposed: or, How the people are deceived and robbed, and youth corrupted. NY: J. H. Brown, 1880. Google books
  • Sidney Warren. American Freethought, 1860-1914. New York: Columbia University Press. 1943.
  • Kyle G. Volk. Moral Minorities and the Making of American Democracy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014.
  • Robert C. Kennedy. Cartoon of the day: “The Tramp’s Millennium," November 8, 1879, by Thomas Nast. HarpWeek, Nov. 2009. Retrieved 2010-09-15