A Harvard professor of Astronomy, a citizen of the United States and the commonwealth of Massachusetts, is now defending the right of all citizens to write and speak as they please. This is the position of Harlow Shapley, victim of the wildest horseplay that demagoguery and ignorance can combine to produce. John Rankin, Congressman, demanding that Shapley produce records of organizations that Shapley patently does not belong to, descended to mens' rooms tacties by forcibly seizing some of his witness' papers.
But such tactics, albeit sensational, do not involve dangerous violations of civil rights. The real danger lies in the ability of one man to create, dominate and pervert a Congressional Committee the way john Rankin has. When a Congressman can subpoena an American for taking a vocal role in an election campaign, can cite this same man for contempt and force him to waste his and the government's time with a costly contempt suit, and can deprive the witness of counsel in the manner of the better Inquisitors, it is time Americans look closely to discover where the shoe fits.
Professor Shapley is performing a service to the community by refusing to subject himself to any indignities, however inconsequential, at the hands of the Wood-Rankin Committee. By doing so, he may force a re-examination of the activities of the Rankin group who would down and persecute American citizens for campaigning on the "wrong" side in an election.