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2. The Relation of the State to Religious Education; John D. Minor et al. versus the Board of Education of the City of Cincinnati et al.; Argument for the Defence. By STANLEY MATTHEWs. Cincinnati: Robert Clark & Co. 1870. 3. The School Question, from the Christian World for February, 1870.
4. Bible Gems; or, Manual of Scripture Lessons, specially designed for Public Schools, but equally adapted to Sunday Schools and Families. By R. E. KREMER. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co. 1870.
THESE are a portion of the contributions to the Public School controversy with which the press now teems, and which show how profoundly it agitates the public mind. The first is a heavy octavo of nearly 800 pages, compactly printed. It recites the history of the Public School Society of New York City during the whole of its beneficent career, from its first attempt to do well and thoroughly what the religious charity schools had before done partially, until its functions were assumed by the State Board of supervision. It is a volume of great value. It is, in fact, a thesaurus of the literature, the arguments, the controversies in reference to the organization, basis, and conduct of common schools in the metropolis of the country. Here, where the Romanists came first, at least in the Northern States, into a position to display their attitude and claims in respect to common schools and the public school moneys, they have shown what their precise demands, arguments, and pretensions are. This volume contains the grand arguments of the Romanists, as exhibited in their public documents, the great speeches of Bishop Hughes, the debates before the Common Council, between him and the distinguished representatives of the Public School Society. Any careful examination of it will show, beyond the shadow of a doubt, what they insist on, and what alone will satisfy them.
The second of these publications is the great argument of Judge Matthews, a leading Ohio lawyer, and Presbyterian elder, in defence of the recent action of the School Board of Education of Cincinnati, prohibiting the reading of the Bible in public schools. It, in substance, maintains that the Protestant version of the Bible is a "sectarian book," and thus far agrees
with Bishop Hughes and the Romanists, as well as indifferentists, sceptics, and non-religionists generally, including some Protestant Christians, who, like the judge himself, are coming to the same ground. We are very far from agreeing with him in some of his main positions. But his argument is exceedingly able, adroit, and learned. What he has left unsaid on that side is hardly worth saying.
The third is a pamphlet reprint of an article in the February number of the Christian World, showing, by a copious collection and comparison of the declarations (mostly recent) of Romanists, different classes of Protestants, and various secular journals and persons, the grounds now taken by the chief parties involved, with regard to the preservation of our common schools, and the moral and religious teaching to be maintained in them. It is quite timely and helpful to those seeking light on the question.
The fourth is a little manual prepared by an experienced and successful teacher, for the purpose of aiding the giving of really biblical and really unsectarian instruction in the public as well as other schools, and in families. It is in the form of question and answer. It gives only unquestioned statements and facts of Scripture. It collides with no denomination or denominational scruples, but presents only what is gladly accepted by all denominations. It has already received warm encomiums from leading clergymen of several principal Christian bodies. It has also received the cordial approval of the heads of the public school department of Pennsylvania. If the school controversy could be settled by the introduction of such a manual as this for study in our common schools, we should rejoice in the consummation.
We have been looking into this contest over common schools, and the Bible in schools, which has been looming up so largely of late, and find ourselves surcharged with interest enough to write, off-hand, scores of pages, instead of the few left at our command. We are persuaded that the parties are forming and marshalling for a contest on this subject, which for depth and earnestness has seldom been paralleled in the history of the nation.
The Romanists insist on the appropriation of the public
VOL. XLII.-NO. II.
moneys to support the Romish schools in which their religion is taught, and in proportion to the number of children so taught. They utterly scout the public schools, and withdraw their children from them wherever they are strong enough to set up their own, no matter what these schools may do to satisfy them. If the schools teach the elements of morality and religion, even by reading the Douay Bible, without note or comment, they stigmatize it as unsafe and hurtful to their children. If no Bible is read, no religion taught, no prayers offered, they denounce these schools as giving a Christless and godless education. They ask nothing, and will accept nothing less than the appropriation of the public money to support their own church schools. This appears from all their outgivings on the subject, by their priests, prelates, and periodical organs. This we are satisfied the American people will not grant for two principal reasons :—
1. They are unwilling, on conscientious grounds, to be taxed to pay for teaching children the Romish religion, with its known contempt and hatred of all other systems of faith and bodies of Christians. While willing to tolerate them in such teaching at their own expense, the mass of Protestants are not willing to pay for it.
2. To concede this demand, in the present circumstances of the nation, is to break up the whole system of common schools. For if it is allowed to the Romanists, it cannot be withheld from Christians of other denominations, from Jews and people of other religious and irreligious persuasions. This at once substitutes sectarian schools, supported by the State, for common schools. But, unless in large cities and towns, such schools are impracticable in this country, because too few of any one denomination live near together to sustain a school, much less a good one. The result would be smaller and inferior schools, or no schools, with no provision for the children of that large outlying population not connected with any church. For the education of this class our people will insist on keeping up common schools; not only so, but the magnitude, the unity, the system, the classification attainable in our public schools, give them an incomparable advantage over any possible system of denominational schools in this country. Were our
people compactly settled, and homogeneous in their religion, as in Scotland, or formerly in some New England States, the case would be altered. But as the concrete case is, and whatever be the abstract merits of the question, our people, except the comparatively late importation of Romanists, are unalterably opposed to the abandonment of their common schools. Here and there some may set up their own church schools, and for the best of reasons. But they will not appropriate the public money to them, or often ask it, or for a moment abandon their common-school system.
Assuming, then, that common schools must and will be maintained, having the support of all classes of our population but Romanists, the only remaining question is, how far morals and religion shall be taught and have place in them? Particularly, shall the Bible, or any portion of it, in any version, be read there? May the Lord's Prayer, or any prayer, be publicly offered? Shall those Christian truths that are accepted alike by Protestant and Romish churches as undisputed, be allowed to be taught? Or shall the word of God, and all religious exercises of every kind, be banished from these great training schools for our American youth? To this question, which is beginning to stir the American mind as nothing else has since the bombardment of Sumter, various answers are given. Infidels, sceptics, and indifferentists, for the most part, of course say, Out with every vestige of religion and Christianity. It infringes the rights of conscience. The state discriminates against certain views of religion, or patronizes some religious opinions at the expense of others. It is, in short, church and state, contrary to the fundamental principles of our republican institutions, which forbid all patronage of any religious opinions or dogmas by the state. The Romanists join hands with them here, because they maintain that every form of religious teaching not Romish, including the reading of their own version of the Scriptures without comment, is sectarian, heretical, and pernicious.
A considerable class of Protestants, including some ministers and laymen of eminence, favor or consent to the removal of the Bible, and all religious exercises and teaching, from the common schools on some or all of the following grounds:
First. That the state has nothing to do with religious education; that its only and proper sphere is to give a secular education to qualify its citizens for the ordinary duties of life. If we let the state teach religion, we must take such as it sees fit to give us.
Secondly.-That the Bible, or at least the Protestant version of it, is a sectarian book, and that the reading of it in the public schools infringes upon the rights of the Roman Catholics who contribute, through the taxes they pay, to the support of these schools.
Thirdly. That our government is based upon the principle of universal freedom, and that by insisting upon having the Bible read in our schools we violate the consciences of the Roman Catholic population, who are, with all others, entitled to the benefits of this freedom.
Fourthly. That the reading of the Bible, as now practised in the schools, is a mere perfunctory service, of too little effect and value to justify its maintenance in the face of the existing peril to the school system.
These are the great points in Judge Matthews' argument. Others still fear that unless the sceptical and irreligious part of community be conciliated, by withdrawing the Bible and all religion from common schools, they will conspire with the Romanists for their overthrow. Thus their very existence will be endangered. The Romanists will carry their point. We shall be thrown back upon merely denominational schools, weak and inadequate as they will be without aid from the public treasury. Vast masses of our children will be wholly uneducated and unfitted for their duties as citizens. Most of the residue will be poorly educated. They will grow up in isolation from each other, with blind and intense sectarian antipathies, such as would melt away if they were educated together in the public schools, where they would grow up with that sense of unity and brotherhood which would fit them for a common citizenship of our great republic. For these reasons, although they would deplore the withdrawal of the Bible and religion from common schools, they would think it a less evil than to lose them, or to drive the Roman Catholic or Jewish children from them. We confess that this reasoning is plausi