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Letter July 16, 1918 from Norman Thomas to John Mott
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Dr. John R. Mott
347 Madison Avenue
My dear Dr. Mott:
I am sending this letter because of an inner compulsion that cannot be denied. It is personal and not sent by direction of The Fellowship.
I have been greatly concerned by the attitude the Y M C A has taken to some of the deep religious problems of our time. I recognize that the nature of the welfare work that it has undertaken and its relations to the government may make it necessary to abandon any express references to Christian character. I am a little surprised that some of my friends should tell me (perhaps they are mistaken) that the chief moral qualifications a man must have are, that he have no sympathy with pacifism or socialism and that he be “not too pious”. However, I can understand even this, although the situation is not without its dangers to the future and I should think might easily result in a profound modification of the basis of the Y M C A and its work.
What I find much less easy to understand is the attitude the Association has taken toward Conscientious Objectors. At Camp Upton, Christian men like my brother have resented some of the things said and done by Y M C A secretaries more than anything done by any officers. At Camp Dix, I am told, the Secretary put up a notice which reads: “We conscientiously refuse to serve those who conscientiously refuse to conscientiously serve their country.” Whether this was meant humourously or not I do not know. At Camp Grant, at least,