History Book


NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, April 22nd. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: The WORLD Radio History Book.

Today, the first solo circumnavigation of the globe by boat. Plus, 15 years ago, a half-million people gather in Washington D.C. to voice support for abortion.

EICHER: But first, 75 years ago a legal decision that keeps the government and the courts out of theological arguments. Here’s Paul Butler.

PAUL BUTLER, REPORTER: On April 24th, 1944, the Supreme Court rules that government agencies cannot determine if religious doctrines are true or false. That’s even if the teachings might seem incredible.

DOUGLAS: Freedom of thought, which includes freedom of religious belief, is basic in a society of free men…Heresy trials are foreign to our Constitution.

In United States v. Ballard, the court upholds that freedom of belief is a key component of the First Amendment.

The case centers on the Ballard family who started the “I AM Activity,” a religious cult. After Guy Ballard’s death in 1939, a district court indicts his wife and son on 18 counts of fraud. It says they had collected over $3 million from their followers, knowing their religious claims were false.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the conviction, and the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals’ decision. In the majority opinion Justice William Orville Douglas argues that if someone could be jailed for what a hostile jury determined to be false, little would be left of religious freedom.

Kim Rasmussen reads here a portion of his decision:

DOUGLAS: The fathers of the Constitution were not unaware of the varied and extreme views of religious sects. They fashioned a charter of government which envisaged the widest possible toleration of conflicting views…But if those doctrines are subject to trial before a jury charged with finding their truth or falsity, then the same can be done with the religious beliefs of any sect.

United States v. Ballard did more than reinforce individual religious freedom. It also proved an instrumental case for setting boundaries around the courts—preventing their involvement with religious controversies.

Next, 50 years ago today:

AUDIO: The cannon has gone. Day 312, twenty-five past three on April the 22nd…

The unassuming British sailor Robin Knox-Johnston wins The Sunday Times Golden Globe Race. Knox-Johnston becomes the first person to complete a solo, unassisted, non-stop circumnavigation of the world by way of the Capes.

Over the summer of 1968, nine sailors set off from Britain for a trophy and 5-thousand pound purse. Four withdrew while still in the Atlantic Ocean. Another retired just after passing Cape Hope. One sunk while in the lead, and another commited suicide. French competitor Bernard Moitessier chose to protest commercialized sailing competitions, altered his course and didn’t complete the race.

So after 10 months at sea in his 32-foot yacht Suhaili, Robin Knox-Johnston was the only one to successfully complete the voyage.

He went on to circumnavigate the world three more times. A few years ago he jokingly said it’s really not that hard.

JOHNSTON: Well, sailing around the world is terribly simple from a navigation point of view. You leave Britain, turn left, go down until you reach Cape Town, turn left. Go around to Cape Horn, turn left, come up the Atlantic, smell fish and chips, turn right and there’s England.  

Queen Elizabeth II made Robin Knox-Johnston a Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order in 1995. In 2006 he became the oldest sailor to complete a round the world solo voyage at age 67.

AUDIO: [The March]

And finally, April 25th, 2004. Hundreds of thousands of protestors gather on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. They’re protesting the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003:

BRAUN: At a minimum, we must not allow others to take away our freedom by dictating our reproductive choices, and we will not let others make us second class citizens. [Cheers]

Former U.S. senator and presidential hopeful Carol Moseley-Braun speaking to the so called: “March for Women’s Lives.”

A large coalition of abortion rights groups planned the event.

Democratic Congresswoman Barbara Lee was one of the many politicians and celebrities in attendance.

LEE: …that’s why we’re out here marching today. So we can have regime change in this country…and get rid of this anti-choice, anti-woman, anti-family president.

The march did not prove successful. George Bush won re-election seven months later. And the Supreme Court upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban in 2007 by a vote of 5 to 4.

The ban is still in affect today, though the Center for Medical Progress reported earlier this year that Planned Parenthood admitted on hidden camera that the practice continues behind closed doors.

That’s this week’s WORLD Radio History Book, I’m Paul Butler.


(Photo/PPL, Bill Rowntree) Sir Robin Knox-Johnston.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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