REFERRING further to the scheme for the governmental support of the Catholic Church and the priests and high church dignitaries in Cuba, which is being fastened upon the Government of the United States by Cardinal Gibbons and Archbishop Ireland through President McKinley, it is worth while to consider the principles that are involved according to the views of the men who made this nation.
The contest which developed and established the governmental principle of total separation from religion, and from any recognition of it, as finally reflected in the Constitution of the United States, was focalized in “A Bill Establishing a Provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion,” which was brought before the General Assembly of Virginia in 1777 or 1778.
That bill proposed for that State the identical thing that is now being worked upon the national Government—the support of the clergy from the public treasury.
The men who made this nation as it was made declared that that “bill exceeds the functions of civil authority;” that “the enforced support of the Christian religion dishonors Christianity;” and that “to compel a person to furnish contributions of money in the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical.”
These views prevailed throughout the whole country, and the principle was embodied in the national Constitution and the supreme law, in the provisions refusing governmental recognition of religion. And now when President McKinley has “determined that the Catholic churches [in Cuba] shall be kept open and that public worship shall be provided for; and that to this end sufficient money will be advanced by this Government to support the Catholic Church: it is perfectly plain that in this “determination” he is proceeding directly contrary to the fundamental and constitutional principle of the nation.
Again: Of that bill they said that “The same authority which can force a citizen to contribute threepence only, of his property, for the support of one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever;” and that “Distant as it may be in its present form from the Inquisition, it differs from it only in degree. The one is the first step, the other is the last, in the career of intolerance.”
Now the difference between levying a direct tax for the support of religion, and the appropriation to the support of religion of funds already raised by taxation  is a difference only in form and not at all in principle; is merely a difference in method and not at all in fact. It is hardly possible that the President would determine to levy a direct tax for the support of the Catholic Church and clergy in Cuba: certainly he would say that such a thing would be unconstitutional. But whatever is forbidden to be done directly is equally forbidden to be done in directly. And as certainly as the levying of a direct ax for such a purpose would be unconstitutional and subversive of fundamental national principle, so certainly the advancing for such a purpose, of money already raised by the Government, is equally unconstitutional and subversive of fundamental national principle.
If the President can advance for the support of the Catholic Church threepence only of the money of all the people and oblige the people to submit to it, he can with equal right and authority oblige the people to conform to the wishes of that church in all cases whatsoever. Thus this thing that has been “determined” “differs from the Inquisition only in degree. “The one is the first step, the other is the last, in the career of intolerance.”
The Washington correspondent reported that this thing of the national Government supporting the Catholic Church in Cuba, is done in order that the Catholic clergy there may not be made “a dangerous set of enemies” by having “reason to regret the presence of the American flag on the island:” it is to avoid “the malign influence that is in the power of a hostile clergy to exercise.” This is nothing else than the employing of religion as an engine of civil policy.
The man who made this nation, said of that “Bill Establishing a Provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion,” that it implied “either that the civil magistrate is a competent judge of religious truths, or that he may employ religion as an engine of civil policy.” And upon this they declared that “the first is an arrogant pretension, falsified by the contradictory opinions of rulers in all ages and throughout the world; the second [is] an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation.”
They declared that the “fruits” of this thing, upon a trial of “almost fifteen centuries” had been “more or less, in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both superstition, bigotry and persecution.” And that such has been precisely its fruits in the remaining one hundred and twenty years, unto this time, in Cuba is certain from the statement of this same Washington correspondent that though there is in Cuba a “vast number of priests and high church dignitaries” who “exercise complete control over their parishioners,” yet the “population is densely ignorant,” and “have never been taught to support their church and clergy by direct voluntary contributions;” and that this same clergy is of such a dangerous and malign disposition that unless the Government of the United States shall now continue the support that the Spanish government always gave, “it is easy to believe that the new American government in Cuba would have at its very inception built up a dangerous set of enemies” in this priesthood.
And to continue the old system of things which the makers of the nation repudiated, but which has been continued by Spain, is the very thing that this Washington correspondent says President McKinley has determined to do, as the consequence of “numerous conferences with Cardinal Gibbons and Archbishop Ireland.” In other words, the President has espoused, and is committing the national Government to the very principles in toto, which the makers of the nation distinctly and in fullest detail repudiated, and fixed their repudiation of those principles in the national Constitution and the supreme law as they intended and supposed forever.
This is a complete revolution: silent it is true, but none the less a revolution; and a revolution backward at that.
A. T. J.