« PreviousContinue »
lies all its power.
The Statė, when it swears Mohammedan upon the Koran, does not thereby affirm or legally adopt the Koran. So, when it swears a Jew in accordance with his own faith, it does not adopt that faith. So, also, when it swears a Christian upon the "Gospels," it does not say that
“ these “ Gospels” are true. Its act while not touching the question that relates to the truth of any religious system, refers exclusively to the assumed faith of the party sworn.
The State does not coerce that faith or coerce the taking of an oath on its basis, and it does consent, at the option of the person to be affected, to accept a simple affirmation as a substitute for an oath; and, even when the oath is administered, it adapts the form to the faith of the party taking it. These legal facts clearly prove that the civil oath is not a State confession of faith or a State incorporation of religion, whether Christian or otherwise, into its own organic structure.
When, therefore, the advocate of Bible reading and religious exercises in the public schools appeals to the civil oath as a precedent for what he demands he certainly deceives himself with a totally fallacious argument. He asks that Christianity, by the authority of the State and at the public expense, shall be included in the educational system of the public school.
If a Protestant, then he means Protestant Christianity; and if a Catholic, then he means Roman Catholicism. In short, he means the religion in which he believes. He means his
religion, and he means that the State shall tax the people to propagate it. This is the substance of his demand.
One of the arguments used to sustain the demand is the civil oath. The State administers such an oath, and, hence, in the public school it may properly become a propagandist of Christianity. There would be no force in this reasoning even if the State confined the oath to the Christian form, since the two cases would not be parallel. When, however, we remember that the State not only does not require the oath at all, but also does not limit it to the Christian form when it is administered, then the logic appears so contemptible that it is really an abuse of the word to call it logic. Christianity in the public school is a specific thing, a definite system of religious faith, introduced by State authority and there maintained at the general expense, and, hence, a legally preferred religion. The civil oath is Christian, or Jewish, or Mohammedan, or Mormon, or even Pagan, according to the faith of the party who is to take it; and, moreover, the law, by accepting an affirmation as its substitute, does not absolutely require the oath in any form.
He who can see any analogy between these two cases, especially such as makes the latter an argumentative precedent for the former, is certainly an adept in detecting analogies. One of the incidental charms of the argument, seemingly not discovered by him, we have in the fact that it is just as
good to prove that Mormonism or Mohammedanism should be taught in the public school. The State will swear a Mormon according to the faith of a Mormon. Why not, then, teach Mormonism in the public school ? So, also, it will swear a Mohammedan according to the faith of a Mohammedan. Why not, then, teach Mohammedanism in the public school, and tax Christians to pay the expenses thereof ? If the civil oath, administered in the Christian form, is good to prove what a certain class of Christians claim in respect to the public school, then, when administered in other allowable forms, it is just as good to prove very different conclusions. Being so exceedingly flexible, it is a very dangerous premise from which to reason.
As to the question whether the civil oath is morally lawful, and, if so, then whether it is expedient, we intentionally omit to express any opinion, since the answer has nothing to do with the matter under consideration. We accept it as an institution of our legal system. What we do not accept is the proposition that the oath involves a virtual commitment of the State to Christianity as a system of religious belief. The utmost that the State does is to use the religious faith of the person sworn, whether true or false, as the means of securing a purely temporal end; and, that it may perpetrate no injustice upon the citizen, it consents that he may, at his own option, decline even this use, and simply pledge himself by a solemn declaration of
truthfulness, whether testifying as a witness or being inducted into public office. This is the whole case, and there surely is nothing in it even to suggest any legal connection between the State and Christianity.
NATIONAL AND STATE CHAPLAINS.
National chaplains are of three classes-namely, congressional, army, and navy chaplains. Of the first class there are two chaplains, one for each house of Congress, whose duty is simply that of opening its sessions with prayer. These chaplains are placed among “the officers and persons in the employ of the Senate and House of Representatives," and each receives a salary of nine hundred dollars a year. (Revised Statutes of the United States, sections 52, 53.) Their appointment is simply a matter of usage with each house of Congress, and all that law does is to provide a compensation for their services. The selection is not, except by usage, limited to Christian ecclesiastics, or even to ecclesiastics at all. There is nothing to preclude the suspension of the usage altogether. No such custom is adopted by the Federal courts. The practice pays a tribute of honor to the prevalent religion of the country ; but it does not establish that religion, or invest it with any legal attributes. If such were the effect, it would be unconstitutional. The cost is but tri. fling, and hence, no question has been raised as to the power of Congress to appropriate money for such a purpose, as would doubtless have been the fact if the service involved any considerable expense. There is no reason, except that of usage, why a legislative body should have a chaplain, any more than a court of justice or a board of aldermen.
The President of the United States is authorized, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to appoint thirty post chaplains, four regimental chaplains, and “a chaplain for each regiment of colored
, troops," as a part of the regular Army of the United States, having the rank of a captain of infantry without command, and as to tenure of office, retirement, and pensions, standing “on the same footing with other officers of the army " and each receiving a salary of fifteen hundred dollars a year. The law provides that no person shall be appointed to this service“ until he shall furnish proof that he is a regularly-ordained minister of some religious denomination, in good standing at the time of his appointment, together with a recommendation for such appointment from some authorized ecclesiastical body, or from not less than five accredited ministers of said denomination.” The duties of post chaplains and chaplains of colored regiments “include the instruction of the enlisted men in the common English branches of education."
All regimental and post chaplains are also required, “when it