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A Statement

In this tragic hour of struggle between the totalitarian concept of force and the democratic concept of liberty, when the call has gone out for continuing effort to make democracy work within our own borders, when the love of freedom, we are happy to believe, is aflame in the hearts of our people, we feel impelled from deep conviction and from the verdict of history to register our considered judgment touching a matter of vital concern not only to our Southern Baptist people from Maryland to Texas and from Illinois to Florida, but as well to all men alike everywhere, both for the present and the unfolding future.

Believing that a priceless and cherished principle is involved–a principle which must be kept inviolate at all times and supremely so in these testing days, we, the messengers from the 25,018 churches composing the Southern Baptist Convention, with a membership of 4,949,174 persons, in this the 85th annual session, this June 12, 1940, in Baltimore, Maryland, make this statement:

1. That the President of the United States did, on December 24, 1939, announce the appointment of the Honorable Myron Taylor as the representative of this government to the Vatican with the rank of ambassador.

2. That subsequent developments have established the fact that the appointment was made without the consent or advice of the Senate; that he is to report from time to time to this government; that his term of appointment is unlimited; that the Vatican has officially received him as an ambassador from this government.

3. That this action on the part of the President of the United States appears clearly to be in direct violation of the Constitution of the United States, section two, paragraph two, which reads: “The President shall have power, by and with the consent and advice of the Senate, to appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls. . . .”; and, article one of the amendments to the Constitution, which reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise therefore . . .”

4. That we profoundly believe that this action on the part of the President of the United States does definitely jeopardize the cherished principle of complete separation of church and state, for which principle our fathers suffered that the citizens of this nation, irrespective of creed or class, might alike enjoy religious liberty.

5. That we do most heartily commend the efforts of the President and all fellow Americans in seeking by every rightful and lawful method and measure to promote the peace of the world and to alleviate human suffering.

6. That we are compelled in conscience most earnestly to protest the action of the President of the United States in his appointment of a representative from this government to the Vatican with the rank of ambassador, whether as a temporary expedient or as a step towards permanent diplomatic relations, even as we would protest such an appointment to any other religious body in the world.

7. That we are compelled to register this protest in the firm conviction that if the President’s action in appointing an ambassador to the Vatican is not terminated, it will bring further and constantly increasing confusion within our own nation and definitely embarrass our international relationships in an hour when our nation should be united in meeting the sinister challenge of totalitarianism to democracy.

8. That we respectfully voice the very earnest hope that the President will terminate this appointment, and we pledge him anew our uncompromising desire and purpose to preserve here in our nation a free church in a free state as one of the cardinal principles of democracy, which, we pray God, shall not perish from the earth.

9. That a copy of this statement be sent to the President of the United States.


1. That we hereby reaffirm our unfaltering belief in and our deep devotion to the principle of the absolute freedom of the individual in all the concerns of religion and in all acts of worship, both private and public, and in its corollary the complete separation of church and state, or of organized religion and of organized government, in so far as directing authority and right of control are concerned. Each and every individual is endowed by the Creator with the unalienable right to worship as his own conscience may direct, or even not to worship at all if he is so inclined. Over religious beliefs and religious acts neither the state nor the head of the state may properly assume to exercise any authority or control. Nor can organized religion assume any authority or control over the affairs of the state.

2. That this principle of the freedom of religion and of the separation of church and state excludes all financial grants and subsidies from governmental funds derived from taxes levied upon citizens to the promotion of religion as such or to the maintenance of teachers of religion or to the maintenance and promotion of churches and other religious institutions whether missionary, educational or benevolent, which are built and fostered by religious denominations, or under distinctly religious auspices.

3. That this principle, with all of its implications, is expressed in the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States, commonly known as the Bill of Rights; that this is the most distinct and distinctive principle of the government of the United States, and is the largest contribution made by the United States of America to the political thought of the world. Just as this principle is the most vital and distinctive principle of American life, its preservation and inviolability are, and of a right should be, a matter of deepest concern to every citizen of this government.

4. That we deeply deplore the fact that in recent years both the Federal Government and many of the State Governments, have shown a careless disregard for this principle and have resorted to many and varied schemes for offering financial subsidies to religion and religious institutions. All of these schemes, whether they offer money directly or indirectly to denominational colleges and Roman Catholic parochial schools, are simply the nose of the camel finding its way into the tent. If these things are not checked and if religious institutions, especially Baptist Colleges and Colleges of other evangelical denominations, do not spurn all offers of governmental subsidies the time is not far distant when freedom of religion and the separation of church and state will be things of the past.

5. That we express our earnest disapproval of Senate Bill 3579, introduced by Senator Walsh of Massachusetts, which proposes so to amend the Social Security Act as to bring churches under its operation; that we suggest to our Baptist people that they use their influence with their Senators and Representatives to prevent the passage of this Bill; and that the Social Service Commission be authorized officially to indicate to members of Congress the mind of this Convention touching this matter. The Bill is objectionable both because it would impose a tax on churches and also and particularly because it would be class legislation, exempting from its operation churches or denominations having religious orders.


Be it resolved by the Southern Baptist Convention in annual session assembled in the city of Baltimore, Maryland, June 12-16, 1940:

1. That, while we accord to the President of the United States all credit for worthy motives in all of his efforts to secure International Peace, we cannot but express deep disappointment and regret at the method he adopted in linking his efforts with the Vatican. We cannot but believe that the President did the cause of peace and the government of the United States a great disservice when he brought the influence of the United States, the greatest neutral power, into alliance and in essence made it subject and subservient to the Vatican.

2. That we cannot but express our disapproval of the President’s action in sending Mr. Myron C. Taylor as his special, or personal representative to the Vatican, and assigning him the rank of ambassador, without consulting the Senate, and in violation and circumvention of the plain meeting of the Constitution.

3. That we solemnly and earnestly enter our protest against the action taken by the President in this matter and solemnly and earnestly request that he take steps immediately to recall Mr. Taylor as his representative to the Vatican, thereby reassuring the people of the United States that he does not propose to continue a violation of a fundamental principle of our American Government, and of the rights and prerogatives of the Presidential office.