1942 April 14

Attorney General Biddle OKs Censoring Father Coughlin’s “Social Justice” Magazine


In a letter to Postmaster General Frank Walker on this day, Attorney General Francis Biddle proposed banning the magazine, Social Justice, from the mails. Social Justice was the publication of Father Charles Coughlin, a Catholic priest in the Detroit area, who in the late 1930s became a public, ultra-conservative critic of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. When the U.S. entered World War II, Coughlin became a critic of the war effort, in part because he was anti-Semitic. Coughlin’s criticisms were the reasons for Biddle’s censorship proposal.

In the end, the Post Office did bar Social Justice from the mails. It was one of the relatively rare instances of suppression of dissent during World War II, however, and there was no repetition of the massive repression of freedom of speech and press that occurred during World War I under President Woodrow Wilson. World War II, however, was marked by the evacuation and internment of the Japanese-Americans (February 19, 1942), a civil liberties tragedy that far exceeded anything that happened in World War I.

Learn more about Father Coughlin: Charles J. Tull, Father Coughlin and the New Deal (1965)

Listen to a 1939 Coughlin speech on “corrupt warmongers”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FuYUbzxV5bs

Read: Richard W. Steele, Free Speech in the Good War (1999)

Learn more about Father Coughlin’s anti-Semitism: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/coughlin.html

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