1927 October 28

New York Debates Censoring Offensive Racial or Religious Films


The New York legislature on this day debated whether to ban films that promoted racial or religious prejudice. The demand for banning such films came largely from the Irish-American community, and was provoked by the recent film, The Callahans and the Murphys. The film reportedly led to “disorder, arrests and court convictions.” The legislative hearing room was crowded with representatives from Irish-American organizations. In the 1920s the Irish-American community felt very much under attack from the Ku Klux Klan, which had considerable power even outside the South, and directed much of its energy to attacking Catholicism. Opponents of the proposed ban, interestingly, were not opposed to censorship, per se, but argued that the existing New York film censorship law was adequate.

In the 1930s, the Catholic Church emerged as the leading advocate of film censorship and played a major role in the notorious film censorship code that was adopted on June 13, 1934.

Learn more: Frank Walsh, Sin and Censorship: The Catholic Church and the Motion Picture Industry (1996)

Learn more at a timeline of movie censorship: https://www.aclu.org/files/multimedia/censorshiptimeline.html

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