1926 November 20

Protests Greet Planned Speech by Communist/Atheist Anthony Bimba in Boston

 

A Boston city council member protested the planned speech by Anthony Bimba, a controversial communist and atheist at the famous Faneuil Hall tomorrow night. Council member Michael Ward declared that Bimba’s speech would “contaminate” the Hall, often referred to a the “Cradle of Liberty,” because of its role in the American Revolution. A Lithuanian immigrant, Bimba was both a communist and an atheist. Earlier this year, a planned speech in Worcester, Massachusetts, he generated controversy.

The remarkable aspect of Bimba’s Boston speech was that the Mayor Nichols had issued him a permit to speak. In the 1920s, local officials — either the police or the mayor– routinely denied communists and other radicals, union organizers, and the ACLU permits to speak.

Also in 1926, Bimba was prosecuted on charges of blasphemy and sedition in Massachusetts. He has the distinction of being one of the last people ever prosecuted for blasphemy in the U.S. The jury acquitted him on the blasphemy charge but convicted him on the sedition charge. The sedition charge was provoked in part by his statement that, “They tell us there is a God. Where is he? “There is no such thing. Who can prove it? There are still fools enough who believe in God.”

Learn about the history of the crime of Blasphemy: Leonard Levy, Blasphemy: Verbal Offense Against the Sacred (1993)

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