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Activity 1: Introduction to HUAC (25 minutes), Workshop 9: Free Speech

In "Resistance and Transformation," a Tapestry of Faith program

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Read Handout 1 and copy for all participants.
  • Read Leader Resource 1 and prepare to read it aloud to the group.

Description of Activity

This activity offers a snapshot of the House Un-American Activities Committee and its relationship with American life, and liberal religion in particular. It invites participants to form an impression of HUAC and the experience of those who testified, rather than inviting them into a discussion or conversation about it. Some may want more of a verbal debate, as this topic often stirs up strong opinions. Encourage participants to try and let go of the need to "discuss" these events and assure them that there will be more in-depth conversation later on in the workshop.

Distribute Handout 1, Rev. Stephen Fritchman and the House Un-American Activities Committee. Give participants a few moments to read it. Take one or two minutes to discuss any factual questions that come up. You are not expected to be an expert on this topic, and there may be questions to which you do not know the answer. Post a sheet of newsprint and have a volunteer from the group record unanswered questions for you or a volunteer to research later. If the conversation veers away from a basic understanding of the events, remind participants there will be time later in the workshop to talk in more depth.

Invite participants to get comfortable in their chairs, or find a spot on the floor if they choose, and prepare for a short guided reflection. Explain that you will read a first-hand account of testimony at a HUAC hearing. Invite them to close their eyes. Ring the bell or chime. Slowly read Leader Resource 1, What Was It Like? A First-hand Account of HUAC aloud. Allow about 30 seconds of silence at the end of the reading. Then ring the chime or bell as a signal that the reflection time is over.

Invite participants to turn to a partner and share their responses to the meditation. After five minutes, re-gather the group. Engage them in conversation about the experience of going before HUAC. Possible questions include:

  • What struck you most in the physical description of the experience?
  • What feelings came up for you during the meditation?
  • What feelings do you think the Committee was intending to provoke?
  • Do you think the experience was what Bishop Oxnam had expected when he asked for the chance to present his case to the Committee?
  • If you were called before such a Committee, how would you prepare yourself emotionally for the experience?

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Last updated on Saturday, December 10, 2011.

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