Blue Grass Blade vs. Hough Pt. 1 : A Reckless Assault Upon the Truth

Of Liberal, Missouri and individuals involved, there would of course be attempts to discredit the characters and beliefs of the Freethoughters, and how better to do so than with stories of their renunciation of Freethought upon experiencing Christian conversion. And I’m certain that such conversions did happen for whatever reason. Or were perhaps assumed to have transpired if a Freethoughter fell silent through exhaustion with prejudice and societal pressure.

But conversions were also conjured when no such turn about occurred.

One such case is seen in articles and letters published by the Freethought “Blue Grass Blade” over a period of several months. The controversy concerned a Rev. Hough preaching that M. D. Leahy, the founder of Liberal’s Freethought University, had eventually seen the error of his ways, undergone a private acceptance of Christ, and thereafter attempted to undo the evils of his former days. Smelling something foul, the “Blue Grass Blade” hopped on it and took Hough to task, perhaps because he had brought the Freethoughter Col. Robert G. Ingersoll into the matter, Hough crediting Ingersoll with establishing the university. This doesn’t seem to have been the case, but “Blue Grass Blade”, though they knew of Liberal, had no knowledge of M. D. Leahy or that the university had existed. This ignorance is seen in their first piece here, but they also immediately put out a call for the facts, asking for individuals who knew Leahy to contact them so they may uncover the truth of the matter.

This and several following posts are transcripts of those articles and the ensuing letters which assured that the then deceased Leahy had never abandoned his Freethought ideals. Even a brother of Leahy’s contacted the Blue Grass Blade.

The “Blue Grass Blade” was published out of Lexington, Kentucky by Charles Chilton Moore, a former minister and grandson of Barton W. Stone, founder of the Disciples of Christ. His dedication was such that, in 1899, Moore served five months in the federal prison in Columbus, Ohio for blasphemy and the advocacy of “free love.” More information on Moore and his publication can be found here.

One of the more interesting assertions, about Liberal, that the Blue Glass Blade makes in the following is that the Freethoughters of Liberal were undermined with the backing of the state: “…where absolute freedom of thought and liberty of conscience reigned, friends and relatives were invited to join them. Taking advantage of the opportunity, the unusual liberty afforded, in matter of religion and religions worship, the Christian element gained a foothold, and under its charter successfully claimed the right to build, establish and maintain a Christian church. This was done. The aims and objects of the Freethinkers who had settled the community were cast aside, and backed by the State, the Christians gained control.”

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BLUE GRASS BLADE
Volume XVIII, Number 7
Lexington, KY, June 13, 1909

A RECKLESS ASSAULT UPON THE TRUTH

Inordinate vanity has ever and always, in all places and at all times, in season and out of season, been the stock in trade of fools.

To say that Rev. George A. Hough, pastor of the Grace Episcopal Church, San Fransisco, is possessed of a replete stock of vanity, would be putting the case mildly, and before we are through with this castigation, we will show that he is even worse than vain.

Something has been said about prevaricators being in need of good memories. At times they manifest a convenient memory, but the two adjectives do not convey the same meaning. The professional prevaricator can remember many things that never occurred and they take to lying just as naturally as a duckling takes to water, not infrequently lying for the mere pleasure of the occasion. This trait in expounding of the gospel of the Nazarene is by no means rare. It is as common as fleas at a camp meeting. Paul encourages them in the art, but if there be a semblance of a monetary reward in sight, they go right at the business without any encouragement at all. From what is reported, the Rev. Hough must be classed in the latter category.

In a recent sermon reported in the San Francisco Call, a copy of which has been sent to our office, he makes a reckless assault on truth when referring to “Ingersoll’s College” at Liberal, Mo.; and uses statements in connection therewith not altogether in accord with history. As a matter of fact, Ingersoll had nothing to do with the founding of the town named “Liberal,” in Missouri. It was established by few independent, enthusiastic Freethinkers, many years ago, and succeeding in the experiment of establishing a truly liberal community, where absolute freedom of thought and liberty of conscience reigned, friends and relatives were invited to join them. Taking advantage of the opportunity, the unusual liberty afforded, in matter of religion and religions worship, the Christian element gained a foothold, and under its charter successfully claimed the right to build, establish and maintain a Christian church. This was done. The aims and objects of the Freethinkers who had settled the community were cast aside, and backed by the State, the Christians gained control. But this is not the most grievous untruth stated by Rev. Hough. Speaking of the college which he denominates as a “National Freethought College,” he goes on to say, as reported:

“Its first president was a friend and classmate of mine, an exceptionally brilliant man. In three years this pet scheme of Ingersoll’s was proved a miserable failure. My friend, the president, a sincere enthusiast, went lecturing about the country, preaching his doctrine of Freethought, and ultimately went back to educational work on the strict understanding that he should keep his beliefs to himself. He was finally converted.”

Upon due reflection, after reading the above, we felt take the Episcopal churches of America under our wing that the several congregations might not be so flagrantly imposed on by their pastors. When Rev. Hough is able to come off his high perch of seeming great dignity, he will, doubtless, feel like asking to be recognized just long enough by honest men to apologize for his existence.

Can it possible that a minister of the gospel will not be truthful when dealing with an intellectual foe? According to his own estimation of Freethought, it is a synonym for intelligence, for does he not say that this “friend” who was also a “classmate” of his, and the “first president” of the “pet scheme of Ingersoll’s” was an “exceptionally brilliant man?” But mark the consistency of Christian advocates, they gave him a position as an educator, presumably, because of his exceptional brilliancy, but he was well charge to “keep his beliefs to himself.” In other words, he must be a hypocrite in a land of liberty and freedom, or starve.

But, “He was finally converted.” This is the climax. Upon that statement the curtain is rung down. The audience departs. The person rubs his hands together in great glee, reflecting how successfully he has got the people fooled. Rev. Hough knew that his congregation did not know and he also knew that, being well trained, they would take no trouble to investigate. Christian congregations, especially of the Episcopal denomination, are not prone to investigation. The error was in permitting such a statement to be published and thus affording those who did know an opportunity to read what he had said. In his church Rev. Hough was safe. The danger came from publicity. There would have been scarcely any point to his fabulous story unless a conversion was alleged. To have permitted an infidel, who was an “exceptionally brilliant man”, to have remained an infidel, would have done his profession no good, hence, the alleged conversion.

At this point we are prone to ask Rev. Hough the name of the “first president” of this “pet scheme of Ingersoll’s”. He might also state some of the places at which he lectured. When and where did the alleged conversion take place? Is this converted Freethinker still in the land of the living? If so, will Rev. Hough give his name and address that one may communicate with him?

In the first place, no “National Freethought College” was ever established at Liberal, Mo. There was, indeed, a Freethought society which held regular meetings, and it had its officers, including a president. If this is what is meant, will Rev. Hough so state? But there are hundreds of similar societies in existence throughout the United States today, so if this one became a “miserable failure” what answer can Rev. Hough give regarding other and numerous Freethought societies organized since that time and in existence and operation now? Assuming for the sake of argument that it was a “miserable failure,” how many “miserable failures” are recorded concerning Episcopal churches in America. If such an argument is good in one instance, is it not also good in the other?

Rev. Hough may deplore the “atheistic tendency of the age,” but if the story he has related about Liberal, Mo. be true, he ought not to feel the slightest fear. “He was finally converted” bespeaks a fearful apprehension lest a fat job should slip away from him. It is the solace of priestly fools, who seeing danger, shut their own eyes in the hope of not having to recognize it.

But we spoke of vanity, and we asserted that Rev. Hough has his plethora of a very suspicious brand of that article. This we gather from the fact that he exploits his “party” in the paper along with the report of his sermon. Judging from his physiognomy, he ought to be planting post-holes in the dark of the moon, instead of relating to ignorant congregations incidents that never had any actual occurrences, selling the truth for a miserable mess of pottage.

Such men cannot be put in the penitentiary, but if the Christian could prove his religion true, there would be some satisfaction in knowing that somewhere in this universe was a sulphurous hell where fiends howling lie, and that the warmest section would be reserved for him.

To part 2

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