Bomb Threat Interrupts Sunday Service as Southside Church is Host to Negroes
Worshipers Move to Football Field for Commission
A segregationist bomb threat Sunday morning forced a large Southside Christian church to adjourn integrated services it was holding and complete them in a nearby high school athletic stadium.
Sunday morning worship was proceeding at Olive Branch Church, Disciples of Christ, with the interracial congregation of People’s Temple Christian Church as guests, when a threat to bomb the church was telephoned in, The Recorder was informed.
Rev. George Florence, pastor of the church, calmly directed the evacuation first of the children and then the adult worshippers.
Approximately 800 people filed out of the church at 101 E. Raymond, and proceeded in an orderly manner to Manual High School’s football field, where Communion was administered.
Far from disrupting the services, the use dramatic incident brought about a higher level of Christian fellowship, persons present said. Many white members of the host church grasped the hands of Negro guests warmly and said they were glad they had come.
THE EVENT CAME to light after The Recorder received an anonymous “hate letter” Monday from a so-called “Indiana Council for the Preservation of Social Segregation.”
The letter — fourth in a series to reach this newspaper through the U.S. mails within the past month — was hand-printed in yellowish-green ink in what appeared to be a left-handed slant. It was mailed in Indianapolis and before an illegible return address. The figures “8915” were clear but the ostensible street name could not be deciphered.
The letter voiced a threat against Rev. James W. Jones, pastor of People’s Temple and director of Mayor’s Human Rights Commission. It then stated:
“We failed to place a small bomb at the Olive Branch Church Church on Sunday, Sept. 3, because of certain complications.”
The Recorder turned the letter over to the FBI.
Rev. Florence declined to comment on the incident and referred inquiries to Detective Lieut. James C. Fox, head of the Internal Security Division of the Indianapolis Police Department.
ON SATURDAY NIGHT preceding the services, Lieutenant Fox said, a bottle with a note wrapped around it was thrown by persons unknown on the sidewalk in front of the church.
The note bore a message which had been pieced together by cutting out printed letters, apparently from a newspaper, and pasting them on a white sheet of paper. It read:
“WE DON’T WANT NIGGERS.”
Church officials ignored this
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Incident but on Sunday morning, just as Rev. Florence was beginning his sermon, an anonymous telephone call was received in the church office.
Mrs. Florence answered the telephone. The caller represented himself as a “friend” who had “overheard” plans to bomb the church.
When asked his name he replied “John Smoltz,” but Lieutenant Fox said a search failed to identify any such person.
The detective officers were called and with their cooperation, the dramatic adjournment to Manual’s filed was carried out.
THE VISIT BY the People’s Temple congregation was one of a series which had been prominently announced in the press “in order to bring about stronger ecumenical ties among all churches” as well as to advance racial integration on the church front. The visits are not “kneel-ins,” but are being made at the invitation of the host churches.
Rev. Jones was not present Sunday morning due to illness. He said the visits will continue and will include inter-faith worship with the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation on Friday, Oct. 13, at 8 p.m.
“WHO’S AFRAID OF the big bad wolf?” said Rev. Jones in commenting on Sunday’s incident.
“In my opinion there’s no mass movement of any size — such as the Klu Klux Klan of the 1920’s–behind these threats.
“In fact, the haters are down to such small numbers that the nasty letters I get are written in no more than two or three hands. One man sometimes even disguises his voice like a woman in order to make himself appear more numerous.
“A few years ago in Indianapolis, we at People’s Temple were seriously harassed and I was actually beaten up. But the great thing today is that the overwhelming majority of churches and synagogues with their pastors, priests and rabbis, are sincerely and enthusiastically with us in favor or integration.”