United States churches are rife with segregation, a young Negro clergyman charged yesterday. The Rev. James P. Breeden warned that racial separation in the structure of the church has intensified racial disunity in the country.
"Eleven o'clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in the week," the Rev. Breeden, member of the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity, told a Divinity School conference on the role of churches in racial crisis.
Ninety-five per cent of Negro church members belong to Negro denominations, the clergyman pointed out, and the rest worship for the most part in segregated congregations.
Emasculated by segregation itself, the church has been unable to take an effective stand against segregation in society, Breeden declared. He said the Southern response to the 1954 Supreme Court decision exemplifies the "moral weakness" in the position of the churches. While the highest levels of the church advised Christians to abide by the law of the land, Southern congregations financed parochial schools "precisely to avoid desegregation."
The Rev. Breeden called it "ironic" that the church had to establish special commissions and committees to further integration. He said that segregationists had reacted to such committees with "surprise, shock and withdrawal."
Pointing out that the civil rights movement was attempting to combat the economic as well as racial division of American society, the clergyman said that he hoped that Negroes who had learned to ignore class lines while demonstrating for racial equality would not settle for "easy integration" into the economic divisions of white society.