This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.
Jay Nelson Tuck moderates.
Interview with George Runquist, director of the New York City Civil Liberties Union discuss issues related to civil liberties in New York City - particularly related to education.
Fingerprinting of city employees and particularly teachers. Though Runquist disagrees with it personally, he does not think it is a infringement on civil liberties and therefore not the business of the Civil Liberties Union. Every teacher and every civil servant is checked before hiring and is required to attest to the fact that they are not in an organization trying to overthrow the government.
Some people look on the Civil Liberties Union as a leftist organization. Runquist describes it as a conservative organization. He gives a brief history of the organization, beginning with Roger Baldwin. He states that the ASLU believes in equal treatment under the law for all people - despite race, color, creed, wealth, etc.
The government is not allowed to bar an individual from joining the communist party. Though he says "no one but a fool would join the communist party at this time."
Runquist discusses the conscientious objector status.
Questioned again about fingerprinting, Runquist brings up national identity cards and speaks about fears related to actions under one administration being held against an individual during a future administration.
The ACLU objects to the saying of "The Lord's Prayer" in public schools, because this is a distinctly Christian prayer and feels this defies the separation of church and state. The interviewer presses him, saying that the prayer is a compliment to one's education, and that those who do not wish can just sit through the prayer.
Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection
WNYC archives id: 72129
Municipal archives id: LT8330
This is a machine-generated transcript. Text is unformatted and may contain errors.
Teaches the fingerprinting should teachers be fired for exercising their constitutional rights under the Fifth Amendment forced integration of violation of the press and civil liberties should any religious training be included in our public education programme person being denied the right to join the Communist Party but the answers to these and other questions listen now to your study stations campus press conference each week at this time in this transcribed discussion editors of college newspapers question a newsworthy personality. A moderator is a noted editor and used to command a Datsun talk now to do battle in tonight's guest here is Mr Tuck Good evening. In some respects it seems that New York is never quiet and one of these is certainly in the area of civil liberties there is almost no time when there isn't at least one lively dispute about somebody's civil liberties going on among us an organization that actively concerns itself with these problems is the New York Civil Liberties Union which is the local Om of the American Civil Liberties Union our guest tonight is its executive director Mr George run Quest Mr Ron Christie has been working actively with the American Civil Liberties Union since one nine hundred forty eight and is headed its New York arm since one thousand nine hundred fifty one prior to that he worked for the American Friends Service Committee and after World War two He assisted in the resettlement of interned Japanese Americans while he was an employee of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ here tonight to question Mr Ron Crist Barbara been most of the Hunter College Carroll and former members of the Fordham student Bar Association Bill Arkin Jack Parker. And Jim Farrell and Ed has the first question is the wrong question. Several of the classifications New York City employees have been fingerprinted What is your read What are your reasons for either opposing or approving of the finger printing of teachers the similes Union is limited to action involving violations of civil liberties the fingerprinting of employees of the city is not a violation of civil liberty much as I personally have a strong dislike for it for the simple reason that this seems to be in line with the kinds of things that are happening to make us conform to. Certain groups that a patriotic and upright citizen will of course. Identify himself by his fingerprints possibly carry around a certain set of occasion that may be issued either by government or some private voluntary group attesting to the fact that he is a good citizen that his state has no opinions that. May be considered to be. Or even controversial. This is in the area of controversy and we believe that all citizens should have a right Mr On QUEST you mentioned this I guess I understand from the remarks that this is a little strength for you this idea of. Requiring teachers to be fingerprinted Well don't you think that this would come from this is profitable after all I know that quarks are required to be fingerprinted and I think their profession is dignified in the teaching profession I would agree with you and I see no reason for it I don't see what the Board of Education expected to learn from it. If it's if it's a matter of trying to find out who may be subversive then you have to set up a file of identification along with the fingerprints that this person has certain ideas that are unacceptable to the community or to certain groups of citizens but if you're going to require a civil servant to be fingerprinted then why not every single citizen to be fingerprinted. You think that a person in the trust that any responsible position of a teacher perhaps should have some sort of a check on perhaps in their background they have been criminals in the back in their background and perhaps that this will be brought out by fingerprinting or otherwise it might not be. As a matter of fact every teacher along with every civil servant goes undergoes a very thorough investigation we have a New York to the Do they need a law going back to nine hundred thirty nine which requires that all civil servants attest to the fact that they are not members of any organization. Advocating the overthrow the government by force of violence you have the New York security risk which was an emergency measure nine hundred fifty one which requires that every. Person. Seeking employment by the state or any agency of the state has to answer certain questions whether or not he has ever he or she has ever been a member of the Communist Party whether they have aided the Communist Party or any organization which advocates the overthrow of the government by force of arms and there is a very careful check made with the reports of the individual applicant for a job and the files in Washington and those are really for members as a file I think of something like at least six seven million names that are checked each time that an applicant. Applies for a job he qualifies as a check is made by the city officials and then with watching to see if there's any derogatory information that he signed a petition. For the nomination of someone who may be running on the American Labor Party or the Communist Party. To run despite the long history of the American Civil Liberties Union and despite the activities of such eminent members Edward Bennett Williams I'm afraid that a lot of people do not understand the nature and the aims and purpose of your organization and unfortunately there is a small minority of people who look upon the American Civil Liberties Union as almost a leftist outfit now so I wonder if you would tell our listening audience tonight something about the nature and the aims and purpose of the organization I'm glad to. Because I was afraid that most people who were not familiar with the work of the Union may associated with the connotation has been given by many to the words civil liberties by many citizens meaning that civil liberties are something that belongs to just the political radical as a matter of fact the similar vision is a very conservative organization. It came into being well let's aniseed and swear in one team seventeen when Roger Baldwin there was a professor of sociology at George Washington University. Who has a very lively active inquiring mind became interested in what was happening to juveniles and I was talking about juvenile delinquents but they weren't calling friends ma'am but juveniles who got into trouble were in the courts if you can became concerned with what was happening to them didn't they have rights the same rights as adults out of his interest then develop what later became the National Probation Association to share in the range of his interest later the president of the Audubon Society he was also a pacifist a follow up or a disciple of he was against the war militarism taking the life of any animals even needlessly and persons doing Lee. Prior to our entry to the First World War labor's rights to speak out to organize. Circumscribe Roger Burton became interested in the problems of labor that they had the right to see the same as any employer had he became concerned with the rights of conscientious objectors religious objectors if you will who have so many front of the press and said what was called a civil liberties bureau which was part of a committee in Washington that was concerned with propaganda to try and keep the United States from entering the first war Roger in one thousand twenty right to vote in one nine hundred twenty organize the American Civil Liberties Union and the purpose has been to take the Bill of Rights. Of United States Constitution as its guide and criterion for the things that the union will engage in for instance the First Amendment the Constitution that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for redress of grievance that's probably the most important right because if you can't speak your mind. In the world can you ever convince others that you have something that should be of some concern to the certainly of this country and also of the press the other thing that we've been concerned with besides freedom of speech and speech and passing assembly has been what is known as due process of law that there shall be an orderly procedure whereby if you are required to answer to some alleged violation of law you and your lawyer will have a procedure established whereby you can defend yourself and it may not be abridged or shot by either a court or a district attorney and the other thing that we've been concerned with is equality before the law or not doesn't mean that all people are equal but we think that regardless of your ancestry your political opinions your color your religion that each of us are your wealth or your wealth your right each of us are entitled to be treated as equals in the courts and that is simply the job that we have now that every issue that comes to the Union for its attention the question always asked of the criterion is what is the civil liberty involved now the union cannot and in every case in which there is an alleged violation of civil liberties but it does attempt to part in the law to test the law and that is what we're engaging all of the time. Mr Ron Christie. Person be denied the right to join the Communist Party by the government as long as the Congress party is not an illegal party then this should be the prescription and their right to join I think it's Bush I think it's on why is. And people have joined the Communist Party believing that the party was standing and fighting for equal rights for better race relations for labor and so on but with the various trials and the ties with Russia certainly. No one but a full would join the party at this time I see do you feel it is a violation of a person's right to be denied the right to join any political party despite their beliefs how do you mean despite their beliefs despite their beliefs say to overthrow a government by force perhaps even you may have a belief and you may even talk to others about it until you get to the point where you are around yourself and others to the point where you say let's move on the city hall let's get our guns our weapons and so on and chased us on so I was out of office for our lives to see it in the night. To give me Jim There isn't a declaration of illegality of a party in a sense of denial Yes but that the become his party has not been declared to be an illegal party there have been convictions of individuals who allegedly conspired to overthrow the government but membership in the party is not an unlawful act should this happen should this be declared as such when such an act on the part of you says long as it is not the great illegal when the very act of declaring a an ideology a party a church illegal be a denial of civil liberties we would believe so. Barbara. In view of Baldwin present does having to sign a Supreme Being cause in order to get a conscientious objectors reigning in the army constitute a violation of the individual civil liberties Well the American Civil Liberties Union recently has. Issued a statement of general policy in principle that any contest a conscientious objector to war should be entitled to the same rights as those who refuse to. Engage in military service because of a certain religious belief that is providing there is evidence that these persons are sincere and their beliefs are not merely using it was a conscientious objection as a means of avoiding military service or service which every says and I think most of us government unless he has sincere convictions against serving or killing people Jim sort of return to where they let me the finger pointing for a moment you said before you make two points one. We have adequate investigation processes now and the such laws as that of any act and the quest for conforming age Waltzer the first rule of investigation is to be sure investigating the proper person and the fingerprint on a photograph is merely an objective means of arriving at that identification and my second coverage on your second point stems from that namely once identified and once a person knows he is identifiable every actually done is done in a sense that he isn't eventually responsible for it so apart from a quest to conform it would seem to me to make a person be more sensitive to his own individual responsibilities to society as an individual. You mean that the fingerprinting would help to do that the fact that he could whether it be a fingerprint record a blood type A college degree or a prison record some individual records kept by society of him then there should be a record on every service whether he worked for Macy's or teachers in a private school or university through sort of brokerage officers and then you have an all carry an identification card is that right what would be the objection to such an objective identification system such as a driver's licenses because for the simple reason then that you'd have to know that each a picture or administration would approve of the view that you may have expressed in a during a private prior administration for instance you have a situation when. The criminal when Truman was in office that there were certain acts of government certain acts committed condoned by administrators in government which later came under scrutiny of Mr McCarthy Now these acts were at that time considered reportedly proffered to be right but they could be. By the very nature of some of the things that they dealt with security if you will my mouth or other places indicate that maybe there was a little carelessness and then they could be charged and not being not being given a chance to come to to go to court and I would you have to be sure sir that the subsequent administration would approve of your acts or would you have to be sure that your own acts would not be as you describe them to be merely callous you would be more careful what you have now is that there's so much fear that what may be done in a prior administration that's what may be done by a person administration will be scrutinized by another ministration of another party to make political hay for perhaps your example before the first no sign American Labor Party petition maybe such a system would discourage such actions but it may make a person really think before he does commit the responsible so that after signing a political point that the language is not not today Americans have always been joined us there are you we've had all kinds of mavericks stuck with Gerry Simpson you've had all kinds of economic ideas that have been expressed by individuals who have been able to win out here in our country you have the same thing with