“Editorial” American Sentinel 9, 12, pp. 89-91.

March 22, 1894

WE have also been asked what we think of the so-called League for the Protection of American Institutions, which is the originator and promoter of this proposed Sixteenth Amendment?

WE are perfectly willing to answer both of these questions. Indeed, we answered them four years ago in these columns; but are ready to answer them again, not only because we are asked, but because this subject comes naturally in the line of our studies and discussion of methods of opposing the encroachments of Rome.

THIS proposed Sixteenth Amendment is framed as follows:—

No State shall pass any law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or use its property or credit, or any money raised by taxation, or authorize either to be used for the purpose of founding, maintaining, or aiding, by appropriation, payment for services, expenses, or otherwise, any church, religious denomination, or religious society, or any institution, society, or undertaking which is wholly, or in part, under sectarian or ecclesiastical control.

THERE are two objections to this proposed amendment. First, it does not go far enough; and second, it is not honest as far as it does go. It does not go far enough because it only forbids “any State” to use its property or credit or money for the purposes named, while it leaves the United States—the national Government—free to keep on doing it, as it has been doing, to the extent of hundreds of thousands of dollars ever since 1885. Again, it does not go far enough, in that it only forbids any State to aid, “by appropriation,” “any institution, society, or undertaking which is wholly, or in part, under sectarian or ecclesiastical control,” while it does not forbid any State even to make appropriations in aid of religious institutions, societies, or undertakings, under State control. So that there is nothing in this proposed amendment to prevent any State or the national Government from making all the appropriations of property, credit and money that can be obtained, for the support of religion or for religious purposes, so long as the institution or society, or even the church to which the appropriation may be made, is under State or national control, and not “under sectarian or ecclesiastical control.”

THIS is not only so, but is intended to be so, by the chief organizers of the league and the originators of the proposed amendment. And this is where the thing is not honest as far as it does go. And here we begin to tell not what we think of this league, but what we know of it. The chief, if not the sole originators of the league, were James M. King, D.D., of this city, who has always been and is not its secretary; and Hon. John Jay, who was the first president of the league, and continued its president for several years, until his death. And it is a plain and distinct matter of record that both James M. King and John Jay were all this time actively committed to the support of religion by the State. Of this there is abundant and undeniable proof, some of which we shall now give.

IT is well known, and a matter of public record, that in 1888 Henry W. Blair, then United States Senator from New Hampshire, introduced a join resolution to amend the Constitution of the United States, which provided in so many words for the enforcement, by the national power, of the teaching of “the principles of the Christian religion” in all the public schools in the land. February 15, 1889, James M. King, D.D., then the representative of the Evangelical Alliance and now secretary of this league, appeared before the Senate Committee on Education and Labor, and argued in favor of the adoption of that proposed Blair amendment. He argued earnestly for that “Christianity” which is “a part of American law,” and further said:—

The Christianity which has from the beginning characterized our public schools, and which properly belongs to the schools of Christian people, is thus alluded to by the Evangelical Alliance in a recent circular to the American people:—

“Touching the management of our common schools, on the purity of whose teaching depends the character of the nation, this Alliance would earnestly and respectfully entreat all who would maintain in their purity and beneficence our American institutions to have eye to the schools in their own immediate neighborhood; to cherish them with affectionate and jealous care; to guard them from partisan and sectarian manipulation; to see that the teachers are fitted for their work, morally as well as intellectually, and that they worthily appreciate the grandeur of their task in training children for their high duties as American citizens. They should clearly understand that while those duties are based upon the broad, tolerant Christianity which our country holds to be, in a modified sense, a part of the American law—the Christianity revealed in the Bible, and whose divine origin and birth are judicially recognized—a Christianity not founded upon any particular tenets, but Christianity with liberty of conscience to all men—the Christian ethics and influence thus authorized and demanded in our schools must never be narrowed or perverted in our State institutions, and least of all in our public schools, by the admission of denominational dogmas or doctrines, or of decrees or maxims at variance with American rights, American principles, or American law, or inconsistent with the fundamental American principle of a complete separation of Church and State.”

AGAIN: In the winter of 1889-90 the Supreme Court of Wisconsin decided against the use of the King James version of the Bible in the public schools. The court decided thus upon the strength of the clause in the State constitution forbidding sectarian instruction in the public schools, and which forbids the State to make any law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. In short, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin decided against the use of the Bible in the public schools, under constitutional provisions which in substance and on their face are identical with this amendment which is proposed by the National League for the Protection of American Institutions; yet, on the eighth day of April, 1890, in the New York Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Dr. King, at the time general secretary of this league, as chairman of the Conference Committee on Religion and Public Education, presented a report, in which are the following statements of what the committee called “principles“:—

2. That the separation of Church and State cannot [90] mean, under our form of government, the separation of Christian morality and the State.

3. Historically, and by the highest legal and judicial precedent, we are a Christian nation.

4. It is well settled by decisions in leading States of the Union that Christianity is a part of the common law of the State; “the American States adopted these principles from the common law of England.”

5. Education consists in the symmetrical development of the whole man for the purpose of his creation. This purpose is admitted to be moral. Purely secular education is impossible in a land whose literature, history and laws are a product of a Christian civilization.

12. We repudiate as un-American and pagan, and as a menace in the perpetuity of our free institutions, the recent Supreme Court decision in the State of Wisconsin, a decision dictated and defended by the enemies of the public schools, that the reading of the Bible, without comment, is “sectarian instruction of the pupils, in view of the fact that the Bible contains numerous passages, upon some of which the peculiar creed of almost every religious sect is based. And that such passages may be reasonably understood to inculcate the doctrines predicated upon them.” The enemies of the common school declare that “exclusion of the Bible would not help the matter. This would only make the schools purely secular, which were worse than making them purely Protestant. For as it regards the State, society, morality, all the interests of this world, Protestantism we hold to be far better than no religion.”

In the present state of the controversy, we hold it to be the duty of the citizens of a commonwealth, Christian in its history and in the character of its laws, to deny that the Bible is a sectarian book, and to claim for it a place whenever the State attempts to educate youth for the duties of citizenship.

THE New York Times criticized this report upon the basis of the fundamental principles of the Government of the United States which maintain the total separation of the State from religion. Thereupon, April 16, 1890, in a long letter to the Times, Hon. John Jay, then president of this league, took the Times severely to task for its criticism upon Dr. King’s report.

The sole object of this letter is to prove that “Christianity is a part of American law,” and that therefore Christianity and its interests must be respected and enforced by the law; and he distinctly defends the right of the State “to teach morality,” “to approve the ten commandments,” and “to instruct children in the law of God and the sermon on the mount.” And he assumes the task of “defending American law from the charge of ignoring Christianity,” which he declares “is not difficult for even a layman.”

BY these evidences it is plain enough that this so-called League for the Protection of American Institutions is a deceitful thing. It does not really intend to protect American institutions. It does not really intend to protect the American public school. For, while proposing that this amendment shall prohibit the State from devoting any money to any church school or institution, the league does intend that the State shall teach the Christian religion in the public school, and such other educational institutions as can be put under State control, and shall use the money of the State for that purpose. The league gives to the word “sectarian” a meaning of its own, a meaning which the word cannot fairly be made to bear, and it intends that under that interpretation, the league’s views of the Christian religion shall be forced upon the people in the public schools and other places, by the State, at the public expense.

WE are not alone in the view that by interpretation this proposed amendment is to be made to enforce what it does not say. The same day on which Dr. King spoke before the Senate Committee in behalf of the Blair amendment, Rev. T. P. Stevenson, corresponding secretary of the National Reform Association, spoke immediately preceding Dr. King, and presented a memorial, of which the following resolution is a part:—

Resolved, That while our schools are and should be Christian no preference or advantage should be given to any one sect or denomination in connection with the public schools. Above all, no sect can justly or fairly claim any share of the public money for the support of its own sectarian schools.

This expresses the same principles precisely as those held by Dr. King and Mr. John Jay. And of this amendment that is framed and proposed by the league, the Christian Statesman, of which Mr. Stevenson was then editor, said:—

It ought to receive the immediate and serious support of all loyal Americans.

Then it said:—

Right interpreted, the foregoing amendment could not be used in any way as a lever to overthrow the Christian elements in our public schools.

BY these it is plain enough that if that amendment were adopted and were a part of the United States Constitution, and the United States Supreme Court should by it decide against the use of the King James version of the Bible in the public schools, as the Supreme Court of Wisconsin did, then that court would be denounced by this league as an aider and abettor of “the enemies of the common schools,” and such decision would be denounced by this league as “un-American and pagan.”

THE ideas of Christianity held by this league, and the King James version of the Bible, according to the views of the president and secretary of the league, are not sectarian. These are held to be not sectarian, because the leading Protestant denominations all agree that this is proper. With this meaning given to the word “sectarian,” these denominations might establish what they would call a national university, say at Washington City. They could put it under State control and then could draw from the public treasury all the money that by any influence they could secure in support of that school, and so teach their views of Christianity in the school, just as they are now doing with the Indian church schools. All this, even though that amendment were a part of the national Constitution: because the school would not be under ecclesiastical control, but State control; and, according to their interpretation, the teaching of their views of Christianity and the Bible would not be sectarian.

Or, on the other hand, the United States itself might be persuaded, as Senator Edmunds’ bill proposed to establish a national university, and these denominations, according to their interpretation of the word “sectarian,” could have taught there, at the national expense, their views of Christianity and the Bible. And if these things were not so taught in such an institution, then, according to the “principles” of these originators and officers of this league, and these originators and promoters of this amendment, the league would repudiate the action, and even the institution, as “un-American and pagan, and a menace to the perpetuity of our free institutions.”

ACCORDING to their ideas, Christianity and the Bible are not sectarian, therefore they should be taught in the public schools. But if the question to be left to the States, there will be a disagreement between them, as has already appeared in Supreme Court, decisions But it this proposed amendment should be adopted, the whole question would at once be removed from State jurisdiction and made national only. Then if a decision of the United States Supreme Court should be secured sustaining the ideas of the league, that Christianity and the Bible are not sectarian, a national religion would thus be established at one stroke. And as the Supreme Court of the United States has already unanimously declared that “this is a Christian nation,” and that “we are a religious people,” there is not the least room for doubt that this court would readily enough sustain the views of the league that Christianity and the Bible are not sectarian, and can therefore be taught and supported by appropriations of public money. And thus the far-reaching and dishonest purposes of this league would be accomplished. Therefore, as the ultimate object of this proposed Sixteenth Amendment is to support religion by the State, and is therefore to be used only to establish so-called Protestant or non-sectarian Christianity as the national religion, we have all the objection to it that we have to any other effort to establish any other form of Christianity or any other religion as the national or State religion.

So much for this proposed amendment, but we are not done with this league. There is another piece of its wickedness to be exposed. In the New York legislature of 1890, James M. King D.D., the general secretary of this league, acting in his official capacity as such, had introduced a bill written by himself, upon the subject of public schools and compulsory education. That bill provided that even a parent could not teach his own child in his own home without first passing a successful examination “by a superintendent of schools.” The bill was discussed by the Union League Club of New York City, and was referred to a committee of eight members, who were to draw up a report for the action of the club. The committee made a lengthy report, which so ably exposes the mischiefs of the bill, and the mischievous spirit of the league which framed the bill, that we reprint the main points of it. It is worthy of the most careful consideration of every person in the United States, and especially so in this connection, as the editor of the SENTINEL himself heard the author of the bill—Dr. King—declare that he would never cease his effort to secure the enactment of such a law. The report of the committee of the Union League Club, which was unanimously adopted, runs as follows:—

The Committee on Political Reform have had under consideration Assembly Bill No. 106, entitled “An Act to secure to children the benefits of an elementary education, and making an appropriation therefore,” and submit the following report and resolution, and recommend their adoption:—

“This bill purports to be in favor of compulsory education and in support of the common schools. Nothing is more important or desirable to the preservation of our institutions than the universal dissemination of knowledge, and, as a means to that end, the most vigorous support of the public schools is needed, consistent with individual liberty. It is believed that every member of this club is a staunch supporter of the common school system, in common with the great body of the citizens, and would do nothing to weaken their hold upon public affection, or impair in any way their usefulness.

“The proposed bill is so extraordinary in its provisions as to require a careful and critical examination. It incorporates within it certain principles and methods [91] of action that are entirely inconsistent with individual liberty and the sacred rights of the family. The bill seems to be, in some measure, a substitute for the act passed in 1874, but with additional powers and limitations that make it a dangerous and vicious bill.”

After describing a number of sections of the bill, the report continues:—

The bill invades the privacy of the domestic circle and supersedes the authority of the parent in the education of children of tender age, and substitutes therefor [sic.] persons authorized by act of the legislature to discharge these delicate and important duties.

Although sections three tolerates education in the family circle, it does not leave that to the choice and discretion of the parent, but provides that that teaching shall be under the supervision and control of a “school commissioner or a superintendent of schools, by whatever name known in the city or the State.” The same section also graciously provides that in case a child is taught at home, the instruction in the branches specified in the bill shall be at least equivalent to that given in the public schools.

There is also a provision that, in case of the physical or mental condition of a child being such as to render its attendance at school inexpedient or impracticable, a physician’s certificate may remit the penalty.

The general effect of the bill is to bring all matters of education, whether in the family circle or in public or private schools, under the supervision of school superintendents or school commissioners. The neglect of the duty of educating children according to these public officials is made a misdemeanor.

This bill proceeds upon the theory that the artificial and intangible body known as “the government” is a better guardian of children than those to whom they owe their existence, and that the most ignorant and incompetent public school teacher in the State is qualified to train any young child, while the most refined, intelligent, virtuous, and loving mother of that child, if for any reason she fails to obtain the consent of the school authorities, is not competent for that purpose. It calls for interference between parent and child at precisely that tender age when the character of the latter is unformed, and when it is in the most need of parental guidance and teaching. An attempt to enforce the provisions of this bill will be likely to lead to violence and breaches of the peace.

However desirable general education may be, it never can be desirable to invade the rights of parents and the sanctity of the family in the manner proposed by this act, under the guise of public instruction.

The bill specifies certain fundamental subjects of education as essential to fit a child as a member of the State. True education consists in the harmonious and symmetrical development of mind and character, and both should proceed together as far as practicable. In most cases no one is as likely to know the character of children as well as parents, and only in exceptional cases should be taken from them the absolute right to determine what and what kind of education they shall receive. The object of the public school system is to aid parents in the education of their children and not to override the parental control or usurp its place. The bill reduces parents to the humiliating position of being obliged to obtain the consent of the school authorities before they can teach their own children, or select a teacher for them at home, and to the risk of fine and imprisonment if they act without such consent. Such legislation as this tends to destroy individuality and substitutes therefor State control in matters that should always belong to the individual. It is a long step in the direction of Socialism, where all property and all individuals are placed under the direction of government.

Dr. Kittridge, of this city, recently said: “The home is the grandest university in the world, and to its wise and religious education we owe, more than to any educating influence, the scholars and patriots and benefactors of our race.” This we believe to be a true statement of the value of the home and home influence; and whatever evils may exist touching the education of certain classes of our citizens, those evils cannot by any possibility justify the subversion of the homes, and home control of children, which serve to lay the foundation for all that is best and holiest in our lives and our country.

The tendency of this bill, if enforced, will be to weaken parental authority over the children, and divide responsibility between the parents and the State authorities for their education. It is in the line of the most vicious class of legislation with which we are afflicted—that of State interference and control in matters with which the State of right ought not to interfere. However paternal the government may be, in this field it should keep its hands off. Whatever may be said in favor of enforced education of those whose education is entirely and grossly neglected, nothing can justify the public scrutiny and control of family education as contemplated by this act.

We therefore submit the following:—

Resolved, That the Union League Club deems this bill in the particulars mentioned a menacing invasion of the sacred rights of the family, in the matter of the education of children, and we request the members of the legislature so to vote as to defeat the passage of the bill.

Signed by E. B. Hinsdale, chairman; Edward H. Ammidown, R. M. Gallaway, Cephas Brainerd, Clarence C. Buel, John Jay Knox, D. B. St. John Roosa.

M. M. BUDLONG, Secretary.

Union League Club House, January 28, 1890.

Such are the purposes, the objects, and the aims of the National League for the Protection of American Institutions, John Jay, president, James M. Kind, D.D., general secretary. As the legislation which it proposes is dangerous and vicious legislation, so the league which proposes it is a dangerous and vicious league. Instead of its being for the “protection,” it is rather for the destruction of American institutions. Therefore the best thing the American people can ever do is to protect American institutions themselves, by giving no place to the dangerous and vicious designs of this dangerous and vicious National League for the Protection of American Institutions. A. T. J. [92]

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