1940 August 17

Rabbi Warns of Wartime Threat to American Liberties


Rabbi Benedict Glazer of New York City warned in a sermon on this day that the war in Europe — and America’s possible entry into that war — threatened traditional American liberties. In defending the country, Rabbi Glazer said the U.S. “must not employ means which will destroy the very things and values that we are seeking to preserve.” He specifically cited the civil liberties of free speech, free assembly, a free press, and freedom of religion.

See also the ACLU’s similar warning about the threats to civil liberties posed by the war in Europe and America’s possible entry into it on July17, 1940.

After the U.S. entered World War II there was no massive suppression of dissent as there had been in World War I. (The truth is that World War II was a popular war and there was little dissent to suppress.) The great civil liberties tragedy of World War II, of course, was the evacuation and internment of the Japanese-Americans. See President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s executive order authorizing it on February 19, 1942.

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

Read about the evacuation and internment: Peter Irons, Justice at War: The Story of the Japanese-American Internment Cases (1983)

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