Methodist Board of Temperance, Prohibition, and Public Morals

The Drunkard's Progress: A lithograph by Nathaniel Currier supporting the temperance movement, January 1846.

The Methodist Episcopal Church Board of Temperance, Prohibition, and Public Morals was a major organization in the American temperance movement which led to the introduction of prohibition in 1920. It was headed for many years by Clarence True Wilson.

The Methodist Episcopal Church South had a similar agency called the Board of Temperance and Social Service, with which Bishop James Cannon, Jr. was long associated.

The Board of Temperance, Prohibition and Public Morals constructed the Methodist Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC in the 1920s to further increase its influence and lobbying power in public policy matters regarding alcoholic beverages.

After ratification of the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution established Prohibition, the Methodist Board promoted its aggressive enforcement. It also attempted to eliminate any criticism or opposition to what many called the Noble Experiment. In 1925, it charged that vaudeville acts and comic strips were being used to dispense wet (anti-prohibition) propaganda in New York City, which it called "a foreign city, run by foreigners for foreigners according to foreign ideas."

The Methodist Board was dissolved after a merger of Methodist denominations in the 1960s and the united church created the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS). The 1965 trust contract requires all principal and income from the trust's assets to be used exclusively for "work in the areas of temperance and alcohol problems."

Some United Methodists have pointed out that the GBCS corporation is funding programs on antiwar, environmental, technological, and dozens of other activities unrelated to reducing the consumption of alcohol. GBCS officials respond that they interpret the trust's language to include a variety of social causes.

The GBCS has asked the D.C. Superior Court to ratify its interpretation of the 1965 trust edocument. A trial is scheduled in late 2008.

See also


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