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Meditation 1094
Faith or Fact

Religion and Education

by: Henry M. Taber

Comment by JT: Taber asks: "What has religion to do, necessarily, with education?" Good question!

He goes on to say: "There is a proper place to teach religion, not in any school or college, the studies in which have no necessary connection whatever with religion; but religion (for those who desire it) should (only) be taught in the home, in the Sunday-school, or in the church."

We hear the complaints from the religious right about God being taken out of the public schools as if it was only yesterday, and yet we can see from some of Taber's examples, the process was already well underway 125 years ago.

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THERE seems to have been an opinion prevailing among past generations that religion was a necessary part of education. Such opinion is, however, gradually changing, under the influence of modern rational thought. It used to be considered that no person without the prefix of “Reverend” to his name was eligible to the presidency of any college. Now we have two colleges in New York City presided over by gentlemen who are not clergymen, and there are many other colleges in the country of which it is not thought necessary that a clerical should be at the head. Why should not such be the case? What has religion to do, necessarily, with education? What connection is there between religion and any of the primary, or of the higher, branches of education? Young people are not sent to school or to college to learn religion, but to be instructed in those branches of study which will enable them to acquire such knowledge as may be useful in the various avocations to which they may be called, and religion is entirely unnecessary to fit them for any of these avocations, except such as may be inclined to select the ministry as an occupation, and for all such there are theological institutions, where theology is taught as an entirely distinct and separate study.

Rudimentary education consists in the teaching of reading, writing, arithmetic, geography, history, etc. Why introduce religion into these studies? In the higher branches of mathematics, chemistry, astronomy, microscopy, literature, the languages, etc., why should religion be intruded into these studies? Religion is entirely irrelevant to any such branches of study. There are schools for the teaching of penmanship, for the learning of trades; law and medical schools; business colleges; in none of which is religion taught, and what an absurdity the introduction of religion would be in connection with any such instructions. Rev. Howard Crosby, D.D., said that “we might as well insist on reading the Bible in a machine shop, as in a public school.”

There is a proper place to teach religion, not in any school or college, the studies in which have no necessary connection whatever with religion; but religion (for those who desire it) should (only) be taught in the home, in the Sunday-school, or in the church.

We may not complain so much of the teaching of religion in schools and colleges, where we pay for our children’s instruction in the various departments of learning, knowing that religion is there taught; though it is a great wrong to those who do not believe in the prevailing religion, that there are so few educational institutions where religion is not taught; but it certainly is the rankest injustice to compel us to pay (through the tax levy) for the support of schools, academies and colleges, in which is taught a religion that we may abhor. It is a violation of the great principle, which is the boast of our Republic, of equal rights and of exact justice to all; of our constitutional prerogative that we cannot be compelled to contribute to the support of any religion of which we do not approve; of that inestimable, wise and just claim, which so distinguishes us from almost every other nation, the utter and entire separation of Church and State.

The teaching of religion in the public schools and other institutions, under State support, is a wrong, which no consistent person, no one in whose character is the element of justice, no true patriot, can, for a moment, advocate or palliate.

It is not necessary to discuss the question as to whether religion has been, or has not been, a benefit to mankind. There are those who think in the affirmative, and those who think in the negative. It is sufficient to know that the latter class think so-and it may be added that it is a very large class, and which class is entitled to all privileges and immunities which every other citizen is entitled to.

Religion was very properly – and designedly – omitted from any notice whatever in the formation of our Constitution, and in order to emphasize the idea of its disassociation with the State, the first of the constitutional amendments demands that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of Religion.”

The Constitution of the State of New York, and of several other States, are also emphatic in enunciating the principle that religion is – and ever shall be – entirely separate and distinct from the State. And yet, in the face of these explicit declaration of both United States and State law, every one – including those who believe religion to have retarded civilization, suppressed learning and discountenanced science – is compelled to pay to the State his quota of what is taxed to support educational institutions, where a religion, which is repulsive to him, is taught.

This unjust system is advocated by those who (falsely) claim that there is no justice, no honor, no fidelity, no integrity, no purity, no truth, outside of the Christian Church.

Listen to what is said by ministers of righteousness (but not of rightness), by preachers of Godliness (but not of goodness), by teachers of the “Golden Rule” (but who do not practice it).

Bishop Chitard, of Vincennes, says: “Six hundred thousand pupils are now receiving instruction, at an expense to the (Catholic) Church of $9,000,000 a year, and I demand that this $9,000,000 should be paid by the State out of the money raised by taxation.” (!)

Archbishop Purcell says: “We cannot approve of that system of education for youth which is apart from instruction in the Catholic faith.” (!)

Pius IX. declares: “ Education of children in a knowledge of natural things, apart from the Catholic faith, is a damnable heresy.” (!)

Bishop Gilmour, of Cleveland, Ohio, says: “We solemnly charge and most positively require every Catholic to send his children to a Catholic school, and authorize confessors to refuse the sacraments to such parents as disobey.” (!)

Other Roman Catholic utterances of similar intolerance, injustice, selfishness and self-righteousness, could be quoted. Another Romish Archbishop (Ireland) so insists upon the teaching of religion in the public schools, that he expressed himself as favoring the teaching of the Protestant – rather than no – religion. And a Protestant clergyman (Rev. Abbott E. Kittridge, of Chicago), has said that “if the position of the public school is to be… No Bible… then I stand with the Roman Catholics for religious schools.”

Rev. Joseph Cook, of Boston, of course, insists upon religions teaching in the public schools. He demands that education must be supplemented with “the theology of the fall of man, the immortality of the soul, the judgment to come,” etc.

Dr. Shearer, President of Davidson College, N. C., denounces the common school system of the country, advocating the education of children of Protestants in schools fostered by the Church (only).

Ex-President Woolsey, of Yale College, denied the right of the State to teach the discoveries of science, “if theism and revelation be banished from the scholastic halls,” and adds, “why permit evolution to be publicly professed more than predestination?” (!)

The late Rev. A. A. Hodge, D.D., of Princeton Seminary, in insisting upon religious teaching in the public schools, says: “Christians have the power in their own hands. The danger arises simply from the weak and sickly sentimentally respecting… the supposed equitable rights of an Infidel minority.” (!)

President Seelye, of Amherst College (like Dr. Hodge), evidently is of the opinion that minorities have no rights which majorities are bound to respect. He says: “The State must teach religion. If the consciences of its subjects approve, well; if not the State must not falter. Undoubtedly, if the State enter upon the work of religious instruction, the consciences of some of its subjects might be invaded, but no wise government will let the consciences of its subjects control its public policy… The question of conscience has no relevancy to the matter.” (! !)

Prof. Noah K. Davis, of the University of Virginia, alluding to the above utterance of President Seelye, says: “There is a breath of Torquemada in that… What is a constitution, but an aegis of the minority, to shield them from tyranny of the majority? To the chivalric and just the feeble are sacred.”

Rev. Galusha Anderson, D. D., of Salem, Mass. – also in allusion to what President Seelye has said – remarks : “This is the grim doctrine that fed, for years, the fires of Smithfield. Conscience is a domain into which human governments have no right to intrude. Can a State teach religion without striking down the rights of conscience? But, it is asked, ought not the State to compel the reading of the Bible without note or comment-in its schools? To do this, when men are in conscience opposed to it, is to strike down, by the power of the State the doctrine of religious liberty for the establishment of which so many of our fathers poured out their blood like water.”

The Day Star says: “Nine-tenths of all the blood and rapine, the murder and oppression, of the world, has been caused by the attempt to enforce just such doctrine as is advocated by Reverend Seelye ; than which nothing more atrocious could be devised. Rivers of blood have flowed because men loved truth and liberty better than life, and (because) the consciences of the ‘subjects of the State’ did not approve. The ashes of ‘subjects’ burned at the stake, because their consciences did not approve the edicts of the State, would fertilize the soil of a continent.”

Rev. Hillary Bygrave, of Toronto, says: “It is doubtful if the children of schools are made wiser, more useful, or even more moral, by being compelled to read the Bible. I plead for freedom of conscience and equal rights for all, Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Chinese, Agnostic and Atheist, alike.”

At a conference of Baptist pastors in the State of New York, held March, 1890, it was unanimously resolved: “We believe that it is a manifest injustice to tax those who do not believe in religion, for the maintenance of schools in which are taught religious principles which they do not wish their children to learn… The State should teach only that on which all are agreed, and should not invade matters of conscience.”

The New York World thus expresses the true American idea on this question: “Ours is a purely secular State, in which men of all religions, and of no religion, are upon an exactly equal footing before the law. It has nothing whatever to do with creeds or religion. The public schools are maintained by the secular State, for the secular education of children; their religious education is a matter with which the State has no business to concern itself. That is a matter of parents and pastors. The State has no more right to teach a religion which is held by a majority of the people, than to teach one held by one of all its citizens.”

“The American idea of the State is simple and consistent… The State is absolutely secular, and must be so if we are to enforce the root principle of popular self-government, viz.: the absolute equality of all citizens before the law. Our population consists of Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Agnostics, Atheists, and men representing all other forms of thinking. All these are equally citizens; all have an equal right and part in the government. We raise the school fund by taxing all these, and we have no more right to tax the Jew to support a Christian school, or the Methodists to support a Catholic school, or the Catholics to support a Presbyterian school, than to reverse all these processes, or to build churches at State expense, or to pay priests and clergy out of the public treasury, or to force a religion upon the people by statute.” (New York Commercial Advertiser.)

“Nothing is more apparent than that the existence of the schools depends upon the total exclusion of religion from them.” – (New York Sun.)

President Elliot, of Harvard University, has expressed himself in opposition to “imposing religious opinions upon the susceptible mind, not only in State education, but in all our colleges and universities.”

President James C. Welling, of the Columbian University of Washington, D. C., argues that “public education should be confined to that modicum which may be necessary for the common defense and general welfare,” and in respect to which there is a consensus of opinion; his conclusions being, “the State cannot rightfully teach the tenets of any particular religious creed, whether it be Jewish or Christian, Agnostic or Atheistic. Public education, supported by public taxation, must needs be colorless in point of religion.”

General Grant wrote: “No sectarian tenet should be taught in any school supported by State or National tax.”

The late Rev. Howard Crosby, D.D., has said: “There is no safety for our country, but in non-religious elementary education in the public schools. If the State is to teach religion, what religion is it to furnish; the Roman Catholic, the Jewish, the Chinese, the Agnostic? Why not these? If the State must furnish religion, it must also logically furnish the inquisition, and so the foundation of American independence must be destroyed. Is it not better that the Atheist should make his children Atheists, than to break up the country and array men against each other?

Rev. Dr. Tiffany, who was a listener to the foregoing, gave it his unqualified approval.

The Christian at Work says: “We cannot, as a people, too strongly insist that religion in the public schools shall not be taught, against the opposition of those who support the schools… Reading a Protestant portion of the Bible is sectarian, as against the Douay or Roman Catholic version.”

Dr. J. G. Holland, in Scribners, February, 1876, speaking of the compulsory reading of the Bible in the public schools, says: “It is to the Catholic, Jew, and Atheists, a grievance, a hardship, an oppression.”

Rev. Dr. W. S. Crowe, of Newark, says: “As a nation we are not Christian. We are nothing, theologically. The nation has no creeds. Your State, or your city, because the majority of the people happen to be Protestant, has therefore, no right to force Bible-reading into the public school, if there be one single Hebrew, one single Atheist, one single Catholic, who objects to it. If the parents of one single child objects, then your Bible-reading becomes a tyranny.”

Hon. A. S. Draper, late Superintendent of Public Instruction, says: “When any objection to the Bible in public schools is made, the only just course is to take it out.”

“The Superintendents of Public Instruction, including Hon. John A. Dix, have, for fifty years, held that religious instruction should form no part of the public school exercises.” – (Truth-Seeker.)

The Albany Law Journal says: “The State has no more right to permit the reading of the Bible in the public schools, than to permit the reading of the ‘Westminster Catechism,’ the ‘Book of Common Prayer,’ or the ‘Talmud.”
The New York Independent, in quoting the above, says: “This is putting the matter in a plain, simple, and true light. The only just solution of the school question is to confine instruction in the public schools to purely secular education and leave religious education to the family and the Church. Catholics, Protestants, and Infidels, should be able to agree to this course. It is all nonsense to say that the public school is ’godless.’”

Rev. Dr. S. H. Greer, of St. Bartholomew Church, New York City, has expressed himself as opposed to allowing the Bible to be read in the public schools, and added: “The charge that the schools of to-day are godless, is largely rhetorical.”

Rev. Dr. H. G. Jackson (Methodist) says: “It is not fair to require the Jews, or those of some other faith that are not Christians, to read the scriptures. The question arises – if you read the Bible in the public schools – what Bible? King James’ is the Protestant Bible, and the Douay the Roman Catholic… What we call morality can be taught without the use of the Bible. The State has nothing to do with religion.”

Rev. Robert S. MacArthur (Baptist) says: “Should Romanism ever become dominant in this land, Protestants would make a great outcry if the Romish version of the Bible was forced upon the children in the schools. We can never properly antagonize them until we become entirely willing to omit all forms of distinctively religious teaching in the public schools. Further, we have no right to subject Atheists to taxation for the support of schools in which Christianity is taught. The teaching of religion belongs to the family and to the church.”

Rev. Charles H. Eaton (pastor of the Church of the Divine Paternity, New York City), says : “ We would remove from the public schools the Bible), and take away all religious exercises, and make the public schools what they were intended to be – the foundation and beginning of knowledge, which shall be the best protection of the American Republic.”

“ The reading of the Bible in the public schools is a good deal of a ‘performance’ and is conspicuous for nothing so much as for its farcical features. It is more a ‘fetich’ than a moral agency.”  – (Rev. Dr. Parkhurst.)

“Protestants are wrong in claiming a right to have the Bible read as a religious book. This branch of education should be relegated, where it belongs, to the family and the church.”  – (Rev. Dr. Shipman, Christ Church, New York City.)

“I object to the Bible being read in the public schools:

  1. “Because there is no common agreement as to what constitutes the Bible.
  2. “Because there is no common agreement as to what parts are historical, and what parts are allegorical.
  3. “Because there is no common agreement as to what doctrines are taught in the Bible.
  4. “Because it contains so much that is cruel and obscene.
  5. “Because the moral is so mixed up with the immoral, that there is great danger of contamination by contact.
  6. “Because of its defective morality.” – (Judge Richard B. Westbrook, of Philadelphia.)

That true patriotic and fearless son of the “Mother Church,” Rev. Dr. McGlynn, thus expresses himself on this question: “We do not wish to unite secular and religious education. Our public schools are the pride and glory of Americans, and should be made institutions where Christians and Infidels, Jews and Gentiles, may alike send their children to be educated, without any fear that they would be subjected to any religious or sectarian bias. An Infidel, Jew, or Mohammedan, has the same right in our government, that you or I have, and the right of all should be respected. The business of public instruction should be in the hands of secular, and not entrusted to religious orders… Is there any reason why there should be, in the common schools, anything to offend Hebrews Catholics, Agnostics, or Atheists? Protestants are setting a bad example, for the time may come when Hebrews or Catholics may be in the majority, and then they will make the schools Hebrew or Catholic.”

The question of the Bible in the public schools is not a religious one, but one of principle. Most of the utterances quoted above – as opposing any religious teaching or inculcation – are from clergymen and other professors of religion.

Why is it that the Romanists (or many of them) are clamoring for a portion of the school fund, with which to endow their parochial schools? Because they claim that the Protestants (being in the majority) have persisted in reading the Protestant Bible, and thereby inculcating the Protestant religion in the public schools; consequently they claim (and justly, too), that, as the State funds are thus appropriated to the inculcation or teaching of the Protestant religion, they (the Romanists) are equally entitled to a portion of the State funds for the support of schools where the Douay Bible is read, and, thereby, the Catholic religion is taught. ’

This subject has agitated the country for a half century or more. It has ever been a “bone of contention” – especially in this State – from the time Mr. Seward was governor. He had the courage of his convictions in sustaining the position of Archbishop Hughes, who insisted that the Bible should be taken from the public schools. Governor Seward was denounced at that time by nearly all – if not quite all-of the Protestant clergy. He simply contended for the principle that no semblance of religious teaching should be permitted in the public schools, and that, consequently, the reading of the Protestant Bible was an improper and unjust act.

If the Romanists are successful in obtaining public funds for the parochial schools, the Protestant Church is responsible for it. If our (admirable) school system is destroyed, if the principle of secular education is abandoned, if these nurseries of citizenship are broken up, the Protestant Church must be held answerable for the calamity which will surely ensue. The same unprofitable contention (with regard to Bible-reading) has been going on for fifty years in the London school board.

As indicating the determination and bitterness of Romanists, with regard to the reading of the Bible in the public schools, a quotation from the New York Catholic News may be given, viz.: “The only claim Protestantism has on the country, is that it intruded itself here after the continent had been discovered by Catholics, and immediately began by persecuting them. An American Protestant has the same right as an American Mohammedan or Hebrew-but no more, And when he undertakes to impose his King James’ (Lion and Unicorn) English Bible, he will find that American Catholics will not tolerate his intolerance. The Protestant Bible, in the public schools, for the support of which Catholics pay taxes, must go.”

Some progress has been made towards ridding communities of the annoyances arising from the agitation of this vexed question. Religious exercises, of any description, have been forbidden in the common schools of the cities of Troy, Rochester, Cincinnati, and Chicago, and great efforts are being made in the same direction in other places.”

In most States, the question of Bible-reading is left to the direction of the school commissioners, or to- the teachers, but we are happy to say that the constitution of one State, at least, viz.: Washington, forbids the reading of the Bible entirely within the schools under the jurisdiction of the State.

The following utterance of a judge of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, before which came the question of the Bible in the public schools, indicates the rancor which this question engenders: “There is no such cause and source of strife, quarrel, fight, malignant opposition, persecution and war, as religion.  Let it once enter into our common schools, they would be destroyed; let it once enter into our civil affairs, our government would be destroyed.”

Appropriation of money for schools, in which the reading of the Bible is insisted upon, is in direct violation of the following provision of /aw : “ No school shall be entitled to receive any portion of the school money, in which the religious doctrines or tenets of any Christian or other religious sect shall be taught,inculcated or practiced. ”

In conclusion, in view of the wrongful position assumed by those who persist in Bible-reading, or other religious instruction, in our public schools, the following questions would seem to be proper and pertinent, viz.: When will Christians (as a body) act upon principle ? When will they be just? When will they do to others as they would that others should do to them? When will they render to Caesar the things that are Caesars? When will they recognize the rights of minorities? When will they respect the consciences of those who differ from them in opinion? When will they cease assuming superiority in wisdom, in knowledge, in morality, in uprightness? When will they be humble-minded, simple-hearted, kindly-disposed, forbearing, tolerant, to those who may not happen to think as they do? In fine, when will Christians become Christ-like?”

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