1951 September 12

LA Unitarian Minister Accused of “Aid and Comfort to the Communist Cause”


Rev. Stephen Frichtman, Pastor of the First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles, was on this day accused of “giving aid and comfort to the Communist cause for many years” by a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). Frichtman had appeared as an “unfriendly witness” in a preliminary session of HUAC in preparation for HUAC’s full hearings in LA a week later.

Frichtman was a liberal activist, and his church was a forum for public meetings on many social and political issues. Consistent with its procedures, HUAC labeled him as “pro-communist” without any evidence of any overt criminal acts (such as espionage or treason), or even conspiracy to commit criminal acts, in violation of federal law.

On April 16, 1945, the Los Angeles First Unitarian Church had been labeled a “Communist Meeting Place” by the California Senate Fact-Finding Subcommittee on Un-American Activities. Known as the Tenney Committee after its chairperson state sentator Jack Tenney, the committee imitated the Congressional HUAC in its reckless violations of freedom of speech and association, labeling people solely on the basis of their words, or organizations they belonged to, or had once belonged to, or people they had associated with.

Learn more about the Cold War: Ellen Schrecker, Many Are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America (1998)

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