Nazis, Communists, Klansmen, and Others on the Fringe: Political Extremism in America

By John George; Laird Wilcox | Go to book overview

24 The Church League of America

The Church League of America was founded in Chicago in 1937 by George Washington Robnett, a Chicago advertising man, Henry P. Crowell, the head of Quaker Oats, and Frank J. Loesch, a corporation lawyer and former head of the Chicago Crime Commission. On March 24, 1937, Robnett called a meeting of Protestant laymen and announced that his studies of subversion had convinced him that communists had infiltrated various Protestant denominations. He proposed that a "National Laymen's Council" be formed to monitor this situation. The National Laymen's Council of the Church League of America was formed that afternoon and within a year more than six thousand ministers of various denominations and more than fifty thousand individuals were receiving its publications. In 1942 the league received tax-exempt status from the Treasury Department. 1

Originally in Chicago, the league headquarters moved to Evanston and then to Wheaton, Illinois, where it settled in 1961. Housed in a one-story, red brick, colonial-style building in a wealthy neighborhood, the league resembled other religious organizations headquartered in the area. According to the Suburban Sun-Times of southwest Cook County, Illinois, in 1984 the forty-seven-year-old organization had assets of about $2.5 million and a small funding base--$386,720 in revenues according to a recent financial statement. 2

Succeeding Robnett as director of the league was Major Edgar C. Bundy, who served for twenty-five years until he was forced out in an internal dispute in 1982 (discussed later). The primary function of the league was to compile, store, and disseminate information on everybody the league had deemed Communist, Marxist, or otherwise subversive. The league's files, which included a collection of more than seven million index cards listing every person, organization, and publication that had been tied to "leftist subversives," were used widely to link (in guilt by association) any moderate leftists with those organizations on the extreme left, such as the Communist Party USA. Arnold Forster and Benjamin R. Epstein write:

The Church League also has a valuable library on Leftist organizations. One entire section is stacked with outright Communist publications, some of which date back to the time in 1919 when the Communist Party was first established in the United States. It includes complete sets of the Daily Worker, New Masses, People's World, and similar Communist periodicals. The files contain original documents and leftist propaganda issued by such organizations as the American League for Peace and

-234-

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