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we have a statute providing that a chaplain shall be attached to the staff department of each militia regiment, and that he “shall be a regular ordained minister of a Christian denomination.” This undoubtedly implies the existence of such denominations in the State, having a recognized ministry, from which militia chaplains are to be selected; but it does not, in the remotest sense, incorporate Christianity into the law of the State. This religion being the prevalent religion of the people, and the militia being a part of the people, militia chaplains, if provided for at all, would naturally be selected from the recognized ministers of that religion. The selection incidentally recognizes this religion ; but it does not legalize it or invest a solitary one of its precepts or doctrines with any civil authority.
The chaplaincies authorized in State prisons have no relation to the people at large ; but are provided for criminals-a comparatively small class of persons who, being deprived of their liberty, cannot furnish themselves with the facilities thus afforded. They relate exclusively to prison discipline and introduce religion as one of the elements of moral influence. And because Christianity is the religion generally accepted by the people of the State it is naturally the system employed for this purpose, just as Judaism or Mohammedanism would be employed for the same purpose if either had a like prevalence. Convicts should not by any penal discipline be forced to accept these religious
facilities. It is enough to supply them. In supplying them the State, while showing a merciful regard to the isolated and dependent condition of those whom it is compelled to punish, treats them as an exceptional class to all the rest of the community. It gives them a Bible and a hymn-book, which they may use or not as they please ; and also provides for them, in the person of the chaplain, the ministrations of that religion which is the popular religion of the State.
Whether the arrangement adopted is the best possible in the circumstances, and whether it would not be better to leave the religious instruction of prisoners exclusively to the voluntary efforts of those who might choose to engage in it, subject to such rules as are necessary to maintain the order and efficiency of prison discipline—these are questions with which this discussion is not concerned. We are not inquiring as to the best mode of doing the work; but simply considering the mode adopted by the State, and that, too, with reference to the point whether the mode makes Christianity a legalized system under the sanction of the State. The mode certainly does not operate beyond the limits of prison discipline ; and this happens to apply to a mere fragment of society. The general policy of the State in regard to religion is not changed by its special provision for this exceptional class. The provision itself is exceptional to this policy; and its only justification must be found in the particular condition of the parties for whom it is intended. That condition does not consist in their poverty, their ignorance, or their depravity; but in the fact that the State has taken the absolute control of their personal liberty and shut them out from all contact with human society, except such as it chooses to grant. They are absolutely helpless in its hands and can make no provision for themselves. For this reason the State supplies them with food and clothing, to meet their animal wants; and for the same reason it offers to them religious services in the chaplain system.
It may be said that these services are provided at the public expense, and that at last they are made a charge upon the people, through taxation. This is true, and so far as it is true it is the compulsory support of religious instruction ; and this, beyond all question, is contrary to one of the standard principles of our political system. The action of the State being thus clearly exceptional to this principle, the only possible solution of the problem is wholly to abandon the chaplain policy in respect to convicts, for the sake of the principle, or to regard the peculiarities of the case as justifying the non-application of the principle. One or the other of these positions must be taken ; and the latter is the theory practically adopted by most, if not all, of the States in the Union.
The constitution of Michigan (IV., 24) provides that “ the legislature may authorize the employment of a chaplain for the State prison; "and then immediately adds that “no money shall be appropriated for the payment of any religious services in either house of the legislature.” Here we have a prohibition and a permission in direct juxtaposition and seeming contrast—the one asserting in a specific application the American principle that the public money shall not be used to defray the expenses of religious services, and the other providing for an exception to this principle in the case of prison convicts. The reason for the exception must be sought in the particular condition of those in whose behalf it is made ; and in this view of the case the exception proves the rule. The State virtually affirms the rule in limiting the exception to a single and small class of persons. The limitation is an indirect mode of such affirmation.
The constitution of the same State (IV., 40) says that "no money shall be appropriated or drawn from the treasury for the benefit of any religious sect or society, theological or religious seminary, nor shall property belonging to the State be appropriated for any such purposes;" and yet, to qualify the application of the principle here asserted, it also says that “the legislature may authorize the employment of a chaplain for the State prison ”_clearly implying that this is regarded as an exception to its general theory in regard to religion. Whether such an exception should be made or not is not the matter of the present inquiry.
The result reached from this survey of chaplaincies, whether national or State, is that they involve no legalization of Christianity and no purpose on the part of the civil authority to patronize the system or make it a preferred religion. They cannot, therefore, be justly cited as a precedent to sustain the theory of those who demand that the State shall become a religious propagandist in its public school system. There is no analogy between the facts that respectively mark the two cases.
The chaplain service, so far as it involves religious ministrations at the public expense, is limited to a very small class of persons, whose condition is no example of the general condition of the community; and it is on this ground solely that the service is admissible at all. The public school, on the other hand, is intended for all the families of the State, the rich and the poor alike. It is the school of the whole people, supported by all who pay taxes and extending its educational advantages to all. There is nothing in it, nothing in its purposes, and nothing in the condition of those whom it seeks to educate that constitutes a reason why the State should change or omit to apply its general policy in regard to religion. The State does not take charge of the government or support of children. It does not become a parent or assume the religious obligations of the parental office. The children are left under the custody and control of family government.