Free Speech Movement Religious Voices


Scans (129 pages)

The FSM as a Thing of the Spirit
The Spirituality of Free Speech
Walt Herbert
October 9, 2004, 40th Reunion of FSM

Panel: And the Spirit Moved Us: Religion and the FSM: Walter Herbert, Marilyn Noble, Dustin Miller
The FSM as a Thing of the Spirit
Walter Herbert

Presentation for the Panel:
And the Spirit Moved Us: Religion and the FSM: Walter Herbert, Marilyn Noble, Dustin Miller
October 9, 2004, 40th Reunion of FSM

 

San Francisco Examiner
10/3/1964

How a Sermon Cooled Rebels

A Catholic priest's sermon from the hood was credited with dispersing rebellious students on the UC campus early yesterday, and helping to prevent a potential clash with a similar opposition group.

The Rev. James Fisher of the campus Newman Hall climbed atop the battered·police car that has served as a student rostrum about 1:30 a. m.

There had been milling and shouting and a vocal battle between the demonstrators·in·residence and a column of 200 fraternity and sorority members who marched in to mock them.

"The right of free speech, great as it is, and the right of authority, as greatly as it should be respected, should not be brought into conflict if human life is to be endangered," Father Fisher said.

"John F. Kennedy once said: 'Ask not' what your country can do for you, ask rather what you can do for your country'.' …

"Hatred will beget bloodshed: the kind of cat-calling going on today will get worse as the night goes on. You have presumably come to this university because you are men attempting to perfect your rationality.

"This is not the sort of thing that tends toward that. I have nothing more to say."

The priest climbed down. There was utter silence in the plaza for fully a half hour. Most students went home to bed, an orderly 200 remained.

The demonstrations were over for the moment.

 

David Goines, The Free Speech Movement:

Right at the moment when things had quite nearly gotten out of hand, Father James Fisher of Newman Hall got up on the car and began pleading for peace, calming the crowd. In his prayerful manner, he took the fuse right out of it:

This is Father Fisher from Newman Hall. I'm not a student; I once was. I don't know whether I'm the only impartial member of this crowd. I think I know some of the issues that are involved. The right of free speech, great as it is, and the right of authority, greatly as it must be respected, should not be brought into conflict if a human life is going to be endangered. John Kennedy once asked, "Do not ask what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."


― 195 ―
And what you can do for your countrymen is to respect their differences without bloodshed, and hatred begets bloodshed. The kind of catcalling that's gonna go on here will get worse as the night goes on, unless somebody calms down. He who hates his brother is a murderer. And those who begin in hatred and resort to abuse are going to produce murder. It's easy in a crowd to get carried away. It's a lot harder to face yourself in the mirror in the morning.

I'm not sure of all the issues involved, but I am convinced that in a free society rational men can discuss and solve their differences without bloodshed. You presumably have come to this University because you are rational men seeking to perfect your rationality. Tonight is your chance to prove it. I have nothing more to say. (Decorous, enthusiastic applause.)[3]

Father Fisher climbed down from the car, and no one else stood up to speak. Every single one of the demonstrators fell silent. No noise at all. There was only one remark made among the demonstrators during the next thirty minutes, and the speaker was quickly shushed. The only sounds were shushings from a couple of thousand people. Soon it became painfully obvious who was standing up and who was sitting down, and who was being noisy and who was being quiet. The standing crowd began to drift away, leaving only the demonstrators. One of the fraternity boys observed that they didn't want to hurt anyone, and went on to say that the students had remained peaceful when a representative of the Nazi party spoke on campus, but had shown their opinion of him by walking out in the middle of his speech. They had made their opinion of the demonstrators clear, he said, now they should walk out on them, too. And the forty or fifty students with him walked away.

The other freddies began to go, too—"C'mon fellahs, let's go!" and


― 196 ―
"Gee, this is a drag, let's beat it!"—breaking off in little bunches of twos and threes and twelves, and by two-fifteen or two-thirty, they all were gone.