Clergy and religious leaders were losing influence and leadership in many different areas of life.
Look at the governing boards of such organizations as even the Red Cross, the Committee of Mercy and similar societies, and the astonishing fact reveals itself that the clergy are effectively boycotted! The very men on whose co-operation and good-will success in appealing for funds mainly depends are carefully excluded from membership; acknowledged to be essential in the gathering of the money, they are allowed no voice in its disbursement.
As they forfeited no rights of citizenship by becoming clergymen, it would seem that it is as much their duty to be interested in politics as any one else. To be sure, for partisan politics in their public ministrations there is and should be no place, but there are always grave moral questions back on the political setting, and on these the clergy should constantly speak, just because they are clergymen.
Strange things have been happening in Washington. Certain “missions” from abroad have been here. They came about war and peace and international relationships. Naturally they were much entertained, not only in a private way, but also officially. Yet so far as we have been able to learn at not one of these official hospitalities were any clergymen present — their absence being markedly in contrast with their presence at certain of the foreign embassies, where they do these things better. Of course politicians were there, so were representatives of the army and navy; also the people with large pocketbooks, but the one class that should have been invited first of all was not invited at all. Why?
in the social realm:
The boycott which prevails so effectively in our political and philanthropic worlds is just as effective in the social world. For some reasons the hospitalities and social courtesies commonly extended to prominent men are rarely extended to the clergy… under penalty of loss of votes.
It was a very able (Episcopal) Bishop, the head of one of the largest dioceses in the East, who was thus addressed in his Diocesan Convention: “May I venture to make the suggestion that you go more about among your people in a social way? Thereby they would know you better and you would greatly increase your influence for good.”
Promptly the Bishop replied: “I heartily agree with my brother and thank him for his suggestion, but since I have been in this city I have received exactly three invitations to dinner and have accepted them all. What more can I do?”
This seems to be connected to what was, at the time, decreasing religiosity in many circles. President Woodrow Wilson, asked four years later in 1922 whether he believed in evolution, replied: “Of course like every other man of intelligence and education I do believe in organic evolution. It surprises me that at this late date such questions should be raised.”
And now the vice president is Mike Pence.
America’s Attitude Toward the Clergy: Member of the Profession Discusses Its Lost Leadership and Suggests Reasons for the Change — Exclusion from Politics and Ostracism from Social Life
Published: Sunday, July 14, 1918