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administering, sustaining, or teaching religion, and that on this subject its only legitimate function consists in affording an impartial protection to all the people in the exercise of their religious liberty, while so limiting this exercise as to make it compatible with the peace and good order of civil society. It has taken the world a long time to discover and embody this elementary truth; and even now the discovery and embodiment are limited to a small portion of the race. It is practically an unknown truth to the greater part of mankind.
The acceptance of this general doctrine in regard to the province of civil government settles the School question and all other questions that come within the range of its application. The public school, as an institution of the State, exists and is regulated by its authority, and is, moreover, supported by compulsory taxation. To prescribe for it a religious system to be taught therein, or forms of worship to be there observed, is to determine by the authority of the State what the system or forms of worship shall be, and then to compel the people to pay the expenses thereof. Such a coerced support of religion is equivalent to a State religion in the public school, and that, too, whether the religion and the worship accord with the views and wishes of the majority or not.
All this and much more would be very proper, provided the administration or teaching of religion comes within the rightful province of civil government. But, if this province be simply that of im. partial protection, and not at all that of administration or teaching, then besides being highly improper, it is a trespass upon the rights and religious liberty of the people. It is such because it compels them by law to do what should be left to their own discretion. It is especially such in a country where there is great diversity in the religious faith of the people. A school system in which a specific form of religion shall be taught or practiced at the public expense, is among such a people unjust to all who dissent from that religion, but are, nevertheless, compelled to contribute to its support. It puts civil government in a false attitude. It invests it with a function that does not belong to it. On this gen.
. eric ground we believe it both impolitic and wrong to employ our public school system as the means of propagating any form of religion.
This conclusion we have endeavored to confirm by the study of the constitutional and legal system of this country. The articles relating to this branch of the argument are
sixteen in number, and bear the following titles—: 1 The Divine Right of Civil Government. 2. Christianity and the Common Law. 3. The National Constitution. 4. Religious Amendment of the Constitution. 5. The Guaranty of Religious Liberty. 6. State Constitutions. 7. Constitutional Rights of Conscience. 8. Taxation of Religious Corporations. 9. Sabbath Legislation. 10. The Civil Oath. National and
State Chaplains. 12. Criminal Blasphemy and Profanity. 13. Thanksgiving and Fast-day Proclamations. 14. Preambles to State Constitutions. 15. The Law of Religious Societies. 16. Fragmentary
The one inference sought to be derived from this part of the discussion is that we have in this country a system of secular governments, established by the authority of the people for secular and not for religious purposes, which, when coming in contact with religion, are planned to afford protection to the people in the peaceable exercise and enjoyment of their religion, but not to regulate, support, or teach that religion, or to make any discriminations on religious grounds. The Constitution of the United States, so far as applicable to the subject at all, is constructed on this general principle; and the same is for the most part true of the constitutions of the several States.
Any divergence from this great principle, as is the fact in some of the State constitutions, is merely exceptional to the general spirit and purpose of our governmental system. A religious test as a qualification to hold office, or to perform any political or civil duty, or to enjoy any political or civil right, is such an exception. In two of the States the power of taxation for the support of religion is granted by their constitutions ; yet this, too, is an exception. So, also, in most of the States religious corporations are exempted from taxation; yet this, while an inconsistency surviving by the force of habit and usage after the theory which gave it birth is dead, is not based on religious grounds. Notwithstanding the exceptions that mar the absolute unity and harmony of the system, considered in relation to religion, it is, nevertheless, true that the system, taken as a whole, disclaims all jurisdiction over religion, all right to discriminate among the people for religious reasons, and all right to impose any tax burdens for the support or propagation of religion. We express this general fact by the oft-repeated declaration that in this country we have no union between Church and State. One need but to study its fundamental laws to see this truth.
This constitutional principle is the result of slow but steady growth. Congregational Puritanism, was once a State religion in nearly the whole of New England, as was Episcopacy a State religion in Virginia. The original settlers of this country did not in the outset understand or practice the principles of impartial religious liberty. They did not understand the proper limitations of civil government; -and, hence, they were often oppressors, and sometimes persecutors on religious grounds. It has taken the lapse of time, the struggle of conflicting thought, the progress of ideas, and the intermixture of diverse religious sects in the bonds of a common citizenship, to correct the early mistakes of the fathers and their descendants, and bring us to the point where it can be truly said that we have established an American doctrine on the subject of religion, considered with reference to the State. And if there be, as there are, some things still remaining that need to be eliminated in order fully to carry out this doctrine, then judging from the past, we may anticipate that the work will go steadily forward until the last fragment of anything that partakes of the nature of State religion shall wholly disappear from our political and civil institutions. The tendency of public thought is in this direction, and has been for more than a century. The earlier State constitutions have from time to time been changed in obedience to this tendency, and those of more recent date need no change on the subject of religion.
The premise derived from the functions of civil government, especially as constitutionally defined and qualified by the American people, supplies the proper solution of the School question. That solution is clearly the one which grows out of and accords with the fundamental principles of our national and State organization. We can accept no . other, and put no other into practice, without contradicting these principles. The Puritan public school, with the religious catechism and the Bible in it—which was once the public school of New England as New England then was-does not conform to the standard furnished by the American doctrine of civil government. It gave preference