Page images

against the religion of anybody, and no partiality for the religion of anybody. They would not utter a word of complaint if the Pope and his whole college of cardinals were to come to these shores, and here do their utmost to propagate Roman Catholicism by methods that lie within the limits of the law. His Holiness is at perfect liberty to make the experiment whenever it may suit his pleasure. If he can outwork Protestants in propagating religion, then so be it.

9. “But men have no business to be superstitious Catholics, and especially to be Infidels, Rationalists, and Free Thinkers; and if they will be such, then let them take the back seat in the synagogue of citizenship.” So you say ; but, unfortunately for the saying, the American people, expressing their judgment through legal methods, do not agree with you. Their theory is, that whether a man shall be a Catholic, or a Protestant, or an Infidel, is, as between him and civil society, his own business, and the business of nobody else. If he chooses to be .. fool, in the religious sense, then civil society will let him be a fool; and, so long as he does not violate the laws, afford him the same protection that it would if he were religiously wise. All questions between him and God it leaves for him to settle.

10. “Would you really expel the Bible from the public school, and thus perpetrate an outrage upon the sacred book?" There is a kind of argument

? which logicians call argumentum ad reverentiam, or


an appeal to the feeling of reverence as the means of carrying a point with any one who has the feeling. This is precisely the import of the above question.

We answer the question candidly by saying that, with a profound respect for the Bible, and a firm belief in its Divine authority, there are, nevertheless, a great many uses to which we would not apply the book. We would not consult it in solving a question of constitutional law, or in settling a problem in mathematics, or in determining the character and cure of diseases, or in deciding which is the best currency system, or in trying to find out how one can raise the largest crop from an acre of land, or in laying a plan for building a cotton factory. A man would be simply stupid who should seek these kinds of information in the Sacred Scriptures. They are not a cyclopædia of universal knowledge; and it is no disrespect to them not to use them where they should not be used. We object to their use in the public school, not for the want of faith in their doctrines, or for the want of reverence for their sacred character, but because the school in question is a civil institution of the State, supported at the general expense by compulsory taxation, and because the propagation of religion is not a proper function of the State.

For this reason we would not use the Bible in the public school, and wherever it is thus used we would discontinue that use, not simply because the Catholic demands the discontinuance, but because it is not the business of the State to teach religion in

any form, and because an American State cannot do so without contradicting one of the first principles of our system of government. This clamor about the irreverence of not thus using the Bible is but a weak and foolish bluster of words that with no sensible man will take the place of argument. The question is not at all one of reverence for the Bible, and not whether it be true, but whether an American State, in consistency with its own organic life and the principles that ought to rule in the construction of every civil government, can, at the public expense, embark in the work of religious instruction and worship. This is the question, and in respect to it our answer is an unqualified negative. Any appea! here to mere sentiment, as the means of supplying the lack of brains, or to substitute sentiment for brains, poorly befits the question, furnishes no rule for deciding it, and is not worthy of any one who means fairly and squarely to meet the issue. It may be a mere trick played upon human weakness.

Such are some examples of thoughts that here and there shoot themselves into the discussion on the School question, and which we have called fragmentary thoughts for the want of a better title. Their most conspicuous feature consists in the fact that they either wholly ignore the character of our governmental system, or assign to it a false character. They spring either from religious zeal not well directed, or from bigotry which in its very nature is almost sure to be wrongly directed. They are anything but safe guides in ascertaining the true solution of the School question.



The present article completes the somewhat extended series which has appeared in the "INDEPENDENT ” with reference to the question of religious instruction and worship in the public schools of this country. The three central topics of the series are these:-1. A statement of the question to be considered. 2. A general view of civil government in application to the question. 3. The principles of our American system of government in relation to the subject of religion. To the first of these topics the first seven articles were specially devoted, bearing the following titles - 1. The New Political Programme. 2. The Roman Catholics. 3. The Protestants. 4. The School Problem. 5. Secular Education. 6. Religious Teaching by the State. 7. The Bible in the Public Schools.

The subject, as thus explained, raised the question whether it comes within the province of civil government to undertake the work of administering, regulating, supporting, propagating, or teaching religion, or attempting to perform any function in regard to it beyond that of simply protecting the people in the peaceable and orderly exercise of their religious liberty, and especially whether such a work would be in harmony with the political and civil institutions of this country. The first or generic aspect of this two-fold question was considered in the next eight articles, whose titles are as follows I. The Unchristian Method. : :

2. Governmental Jurisdiction. 3. State Theology. 4. Civil Government. 5. The Political Value of Religion. 6. State Personality. 7. State Conscience toward God. 8. The Majority Conscience.

Each of the above articles was framed in view of the fact that the direct and immediate issue before the American people is not the general question of Church and State, but the specific question of Bible reading and religious instruction and wor. ship in our public schools. This question is merely a branch of the larger one that relates to the attitude which civil government should assume and maintain with reference to religion. All the general principles that are applicable to the latter are equally so to the former. The conclusion reached from the

of the more extended field is that civil government, as such, should have nothing to do with the work of


« PreviousContinue »