Father Coughlin Video Series
Charles Edward Coughlin, commonly known as Father Coughlin (October 25, 1891 – October 27, 1979), was a controversial Canadian Roman Catholic priest based in the United States near Detroit at Royal Oak, Michigan's National Shrine of the Little Flower church. He was one of the first political leaders to use radio to reach a mass audience, as up to thirty million listeners tuned to his weekly broadcasts during the 1930s. He was forced off the air in 1939.
In 1923 a change in the internal life of his religious congregation led to a major shift in his future. The Basilians were required by the Holy See to change the structure of the congregation from a Society of common life, on the pattern of the Society of Saint-Sulpice, to one which required them to follow a more monastic way of life, taking the traditional three religious vows. Coughlin could not accept this, and left the congregation, moving to the United States, where he settled in Detroit, Michigan, and was incardinated by the Archdiocese of Detroit in 1923. After being transferred several times to different parishes, in 1926 he was assigned to the newly founded Shrine of the Little Flower, at that time composed of some 25 families in the largely-Protestant suburban community of Royal Oak, Michigan. His powerful preaching soon caused the parish congregation to flourish.
Coughlin began his radio broadcasts in 1926 on station WJR, in response to cross burnings by the Ku Klux Klan on the grounds of his church, giving a weekly hour-long radio program. His program was picked up by CBS four years later for national broadcast. Until the beginning of the Depression, Coughlin mainly covered religious topics in his weekly radio addresses, in contrast to the political topics which dominated his radio speeches throughout the 1930s. He reached a very large audience that extended well beyond his own Irish Catholic base.
His radio addresses began to communicate a more political message in January 1930, when he began a series of attacks against socialism and Soviet Communism. He also criticized the capitalists in America whose greed had made Communist ideology attractive to many Americans. He warned, "Let not the workingman be able to say that he is driven into the ranks of socialism by the inordinate and grasping greed of the manufacturer." Having gained a reputation as an outspoken anti-Communist, in July 1930 he was given star billing as a witness before the House Committee to Investigate Communist Activities.