The mayor of New York City’s attempt to ban sugary drinks recalls the exertions of the once famous or infamous southern Methodist Bishop James Cannon.
As I recall in my new book METHODISM & POLITICS IN THE 20TH CENTURY, Cannon was possibly the most famous champion of Prohibition in the 1920s. Thanks to his exertions, through Methodism and the Anti-Saloon League, Prohibition was overwhelmingly approved by the nation in 1920 for a 13 year experiment that ultimately was perceived to have failed and was overwhelmingly revoked. Deeply controversial, Bishop Cannon’s enemies in politics, the church, media and politics, including powerful Virginia Democratic Senator Carter Glass and the Hearst newspapers, tried to destroy him. He faced various civil and church trials over allegations of financial, political and sexual misconduct. But he was always acquitted! Here’s a video of him leaving a Washington, D.C. courthouse during a trial over his alleged misuse of funds during the 1928 presidential campaign, when Cannon, although a Democrat, opposed pro-liquor candidate Al Smith:
After Prohibition was revoked, Cannon retired, but not quietly. He was outspoken against Nazi Germany and militarist Japan, urging U.S. entry into World War II, contrasting with Methodist pacifists and isolationists. Bishop Cannon also spoke out forcefully in defense of persecuted Jews when too many others were silent. Similarly, during the 1920’s, Cannon had urged relief for the Armenian Christians during their genocide by the Turks.
Maybe New York’s mayor would do better to imitate Bishop Cannon’s advocacy on behalf of the persecuted rather than recreate Prohibition, this time against sugary drinks!