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Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Ku Klux Klan v. Irish Catholics

Donald Trump recently hesitated to condemn the Ku Klux Klan. On St. Patrick's Day, it is worth noting that the Klan targeted Irish Catholics as well as African Americans.

Matt Hadro writes at the Catholic News Agency:
In 1922, Oregon passed a law forcing all children between the ages of eight and sixteen in parochial and private schools into public schools. The law, the Compulsory Education Act of 1922, was supported by the Ku Klux Klan as a measure to push for standard American education and to prevent what they saw as a foreign influence – the Catholic Church – from educating immigrant children.

The Society of Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, along with a military private school, fought the law in court. Three years later, in Pierce v. Society of Sisters, the Supreme Court resoundingly struck down the law in a unanimous decision, ruling that it violated the freedom of parents to send their children to parochial schools.
In 1924, as the Irish Echo reported some years back, the Fighting Irish lived up to their nickname:
Seventy-eight years ago this week, on May 17, 1924, hundreds of Notre Dame students gathered at the train station in South Bend, Ind. They were waiting to greet a train, but the mood was anything but festive. For on the train were members of the Ku Klux Klan, heading for a mass Klan rally in South Bend. Their decision to hold the gathering in South Bend was no accident, for Indiana’s Klansmen looked upon Notre Dame as a symbol of rising Catholic power in America. The Klan event was intended to send a signal of intimidation to the university, its faculty and students that they were unwelcome in the American heartland. Instead, the only message delivered that morning came from Notre Dame’s students, who pummeled the Klansmen as they disembarked from their train.