Father Coughlin

Father Coughlin - mixing religion with politics just seemed like a no-brainer. . .to some.

Father Coughlin
Father Coughlin – mixing religion with politics just seemed like a no-brainer. . .to some.

Easter 1937 – Father Coughlin’s Easter Sermon – Gordon Skene Sound Collection –

Easter 1937. Father Coughlin has been referred to as one of the first, if not the first purveyors of hate radio. That under the guise of giving religious sermons, he went on extended rants, vilifying and demonizing just about everything in the FDR Administration and went so far as to praise Hitler and Nazism. After the 1936 Presidential election, Coughlin expressed overt sympathy for the fascist governments of Hitler and Mussolini as an antidote to Communism. He believed Jewish bankers were behind the Russian Revolution, backing the Jewish Bolshevism conspiracy theory.

Coughlin promoted his controversial beliefs by means of his radio broadcasts and his weekly rotogravure magazine, Social Justice, which began publication in March 1936. During the last half of 1938, Social Justice reprinted weekly installments of the fraudulent, antisemitic text The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

On various occasions, Coughlin denied that he was antisemitic. In February 1939, when the American Nazi organization the German American Bund held a large rally in New York City, Coughlin immediately distanced himself from the organization, and in his weekly radio address, he said: “Nothing can be gained by linking ourselves with any organization which is engaged in agitating racial animosities or propagating racial hatreds. Organizations which stand upon such platforms are immoral and their policies are only negative.”

On November 20, 1938, two weeks after Kristallnacht (the Nazi attack on German and Austrian Jews, their synagogues, and businesses), Coughlin, referring to the millions of Christians who had been killed by the Communists in Russia, said, “Jewish persecution only followed after Christians first were persecuted.” After this speech, some radio stations, including those in New York City and Chicago, began refusing to air Coughlin’s speeches without subjecting his scripts to prior review and approval. In New York City, his programs were cancelled by WINS and WMCA, and in New Jersey, Coughlin’s programs were only broadcast on the part-time Newark station WHBI. On December 18, 1938, thousands of Coughlin’s followers picketed the studios of station WMCA in New York City to protest the station’s refusal to carry the priest’s broadcasts. A number of protesters yelled antisemitic statements, such as “Send Jews back where they came from in leaky boats!” and “Wait until Hitler comes over here!” The protests continued for several months. Coughlin received indirect funding from Nazi Germany during this period.

After 1936, Father Coughlin began supporting a far-right organization called the Christian Front, which claimed that he was an inspiration. In January 1940, a New York City unit of the Christian Front was raided by the FBI for plotting to overthrow the government. Coughlin had never been a member of it.

While members of the Catholic hierarchy did not approve of Coughlin, only Coughlin’s superior—Bishop Michael Gallagher of Detroit—had the canonical authority to curb him, and Gallagher supported the “Radio Priest”. Owing to Gallagher’s autonomy, and the prospect of the Coughlin problem leading to a schism, the Roman Catholic leadership took no action. In 1938, Cardinal George Mundelein, archbishop of Chicago, issued a formal condemnation of Coughlin: “Coughlin was not authorized to speak for the Catholic Church, nor does he represent the doctrine or sentiments of the Church.”

Although this broadcast is not as overt a showing of his radicalization as other have been alleged, it only vaguely alludes to Father Coughlin’s political views by mentioning he’s “written a book”, and offers it free of charge. It gives some idea of what sort of personality Coughlin was and how, in 1937 hellfire and brimstone had a political edge attached to them.

Here’s that sermon as it was (apparently) carried by Mutual, late March 1937.

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