The final episode begins in the 1880s when freethinkers faced a new adversary, Roman Catholicism. Eugene Macdonald – Truth Seeker editor and President of the American Secular Union – challenges the Catholic church and evangelical Christians bent on turning back the clock on the modern age. We learn how freethinkers respond to Sunday Laws and some of the most significant historical events in late 19th and early 20th America including the Haymarket Tragedy and McKinley assassination. The “War to End All War” segment takes viewers through the turbulent years of contentious debate leading up to the First World War and the Red Scare. The Truth Seeker publication is suppressed under the Espionage Act after editor George Macdonald publishes damning exposés of the YMCA and the Salvation Army. Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer’s raids and deportation of anarchists including atheist publisher Emma Goldman is detailed. This episode comes to a climax with the founding of the ACLU and the much-publicized 1925 Scopes Trial which set agnostic attorney Clarence Darrow against fundamentalist presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan. The controversy surrounding director Cecil B. DeMille’s silent film The Godless Girl – based partly on the activism of Truth Seeker editor Charles Smith – is reviewed. H.L. Mencken’s censorship trial and evangelist Billy Sunday’s plagiarism of Robert Ingersoll is brought to light. The series concludes with the advent of radio evangelism, the decline of freethought, and a recognition of the momentous contribution made by the men and women – the freethinkers – whom Clarence Darrow declared “made it safe to think.” Chris Finan, president of American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, reminds us that “what we have gained in free speech in this country in the 20th century was something that was fought for.”

© Roderick Bradford 2013