“Doctor Schaff and the Public School” American Sentinel 3, 5, pp. 33, 34.

May 1888

THE third of Doctor Schaff’s “links” between Church and State, is, “The Public School.” He confesses that,—

“Positive religious instruction is the duty of the family and the church, which has the commission to teach all nations the way of life. The State cannot be safely intrusted with this duty.”

That is all true. The State cannot teach Christian religion, or Christian morality, because, as we showed in the April SENTINEL, it has not the credentials for it. That work is committed to the church alone. It is the church which is “the pillar and ground of the truth.’ It is the church which was commissioned to go “into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” It is with the church that Christ promised to be till the end of the world. Without the presence and help of the Holy Spirit, no religious teaching can ever be effectual. But it is the church, which is “an habitation of God through the Spirit.” None of these things are spoken to the State, nor of the State. None of these things pertain to the State. But without these things no effectual religious instruction can ever be possible. Therefore it is perfectly certain that the State never can, with any propriety whatever, take it upon itself to give religious instruction. It is indeed true that “the State cannot be safely intrusted with this duty.”

But, as in this we perfectly agree with Doctor Schaff’s statements, the reader may query wherein we sufficiently disagree with him to justify the writing of an article on the subject? It is in this: Although the doctor grants that to the church and not to the State belongs the work of imparting religious instruction, yet he insists that religious instruction shall be given in the public schools at the public expense. Now, as this work belongs to the church, and cannot be intrusted to the State, and as this work must be done in the public school, at the public expense, it therefore follows that Doctor Schaff proposes that the church shall use the machinery of the State with which to do her own work. In this way he makes the public school a “link” between Church and State. But we deny the right of the church to use the State for any such purpose. We protest that the church shall do her work, herself, with the means which God has appointed her, and with no other; for whatsoever is more than this is sin. If the church cannot do her own appointed work with the means which God has appointed her, she cannot do it at all. If the church cannot impart religious instruction without the help of the State, she cannot impart it with the help of the State. If the church possesses enough of the presence and power of the Spirit of God, to make her instruction effectual, she will not need the help of the State; and if she lacks that power her instruction will not be effectual even though the doors of every public school building in the Nation be opened to her.

It is particularly interesting to notice the Doctor’s plans for imparting religious instruction in the public schools. He says:—

“The Catholics certainly have a right to demand the Douay version as a substitute for that of King James, and both might be read, the one to the Catholic the other to the Protestant pupils.”

There are some questions that we should like to have answered on this proposition: 1. Is the same teacher to give instruction from the Douay version to the Catholics, and from King James’s to the Protestants? or shall there be two teachers—a Catholic and a Protestant—in every school? 2. If the Catholics have “a right to demand the Douay version,” and the Protestant, have a right to demand King James’s version, then why is it that those who are neither Catholics nor “orthodox” Protestants, have not “a right” to demand that there shall be no version at all used in the public schools? or is it true that all rights belong alone to Catholics and “Protestants”? 3. Is it so wholly essential to the welfare of the Nation that the Catholic “demanmands” shall be satisfied more than those of any other people in the nation?

The reason which Doctor Schaff gives, why the State cannot be safely intrusted with this duty, is that,—

“It might teach Rationalism, as is actually done in a great many public schools and Universities of Germany, Holland, and Switzerland.”

Therefore to make it certain that there shall be just the proper kind of teaching in the public schools of our country, he offers this plan:—

“The State may, if necessary, allow the different denominations to monopolize certain school hours in the school building for religious instruction.”

Let us look at this a moment. The school day consists of about six hours, and the State is to allow the different denominations to monopolize certain of these hours in the schoolroom. Of the “different denominations” there are the Catholic, Episcopalian, five of the Methodist, eight of the Baptist, ten of the [34] Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Dutch Reformed, Lutheran, Unitarian, Universalist, and two Adventist—this makes at least thirty-two “different denominations” who are to monopolize certain of the six school hours in the school building. Now will the Doctor have the State distribute the six hours of the school day equally among these thirty-two denominations? If so where is the State to get in any other instruction? Or will Dr. Schaff have each of the “different denominations” monopolize one hour a day in its turn? If that be it, then let us see—there are twenty school days in a month, and there are thirty-two different denominations. As it would take more than six weeks to go round once, there would be given to the different pupils but one hour of religious instruction in about six weeks. Then the same question again arises, During this round of “religious instruction” how are the regular teachers to get anything else into the minds of the pupils to any purpose? Or would the doctor have all thirty-two of the “different denominations” go to “the school building” and monopolize an hour each day all together?!! That would be Babel risen again indeed.

And, says the Doctor:—

“In this way the problem of united secular, and separate religious, instruction could be solved, at least to the reasonable satisfaction of the great majority.”

It is perfectly safe to say that in this way the problem could not be solved to the reasonable satisfaction of any reasoning person in the Nation. The “different denominations” themselves would not be satisfied with it; those who belong to none of the different denominations could not be satisfied with it; nor could the school authorities be satisfied with it. The truth of the matter is, that an attempt to carry into effect any such scheme would be the utter destruction of the whole public-school system. From another sentence in the same paragraph the Doctor seems to imply that the regular teachers of the schools are to do the work of the religious, as well as the secular instruction. He says:—

“In communities which are sufficiently homogeneous one teacher would answer; in others two or more might be chosen, and the children divided into classes according to the will of the parents or guardians.”

A community sufficiently homogeneous to require but one teacher, would consist of but one denomination. But how many such school districts can be found in the United States? The places where two or more teachers would be required, would be of course where there are two or more “different denominations,” and there would necessarily have to be as many teachers as there might be different denominations. Or does Doctor Schaff intend that the teachers in the schools shall all be so polemically versatile that any one of them shall be able to give religious instruction in harmony with the religious views of any one or all of the different denominations? Then, again, who is to examine the teachers, and pass upon their qualifications to impart the requisite amount and the quality of such religious instruction? Oh! that important office would fall to the church, of course. And thus we are brought round again to the point which we made at the first, that Dr. Schaff’s proposition, and that of everybody else who proposes to put religious instruction, into the public schools, is only a scheme to secure to the church the help of the State in furthering her own aims, and so the “connecting link between Church and State” is to be formed.

How it would be possible to frame a scheme of public instruction more utterly absurd than is set forth in this essay by Dr. Schaff it would be difficult to conceive. And how any man of the standing of Dr. Schaff could get off such a perfect medley of nonsense, would be surprising were it not patent on the very face of public affairs that the emasculated Protestantism of to-day has set itself to secure control of the power of the State to wield it in its own interests, and it is willing to countenance any absurd scheme, and propose any sort of a compromise to gain the support of the Roman Church, because its managers know that they cannot win without this. This is shown by another statement from the Doctor:—

“Possibly the more liberal portion of our Roman Catholic fellow-citizens might agree to such a compromise” (as is proposed in the statements which we have quoted).

There is a good deal being said about the danger to our institutions, from Romanism. There is such danger, but it lies not in Romanism direct, but in this degenerate Protestantism ambitious of civil power and willing to compromise with Rome to obtain it. This it is that needs to be constantly and carefully watched.

A. T. J.

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