SOME weeks since, we referred in these columns to the passage of a statute in Florida, prohibiting the co-education of the races. Referring to this “law,” the Independent, of July 18, says, that “it affects not only teachers, but patrons of such schools—that is, parents may be imprisoned from three to six months in the county jail.” The Independent further says: “The American Missionary Association will receive and teach pupils, white or black, who apply for instruction at Orange Park; and there will be teachers to run the risk of imprisonment. Scholars will be fitted to teach Florida schools, white or black.”
We are glad the American Missionary Association has determined to disregard this so-called law. It is clearly violative of the constitution of Florida, because it is an infringement of religious liberty, and undertakes to interfere with missionary operations in that State. The gospel commission is,—“Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Missionaries, everywhere, find it necessary, not only to preach the gospel in the common acceptation of the term, but to establish schools wherein a Christian education may be given. This the American Missionary Association has done at Orange Park, Florida; and it is this which the statute referred to proposes to prohibit.
When American missionaries go to foreign lands and there establish schools for the instruction of the natives, and these schools are interfered with by the authorities, our Government protests against such interference, as an invasion of natural right and of the law of civilized nations. Here, an American State is proposing to do precisely the same thing. By this statute, Florida tells the American Missionary Association how it shall not preach the gospel in Florida; that it shall not educate colored pupils in a school conducted by white people. This attempt is as great an outrage upon religious liberty, and the excuses made for it, are as disingenuous as the Sunday laws of the various States, and the so-called reasons for maintaining them. Both are alike in open violation of natural, God-given rights, and both should be alike disregarded; and we are glad that, as the Independent says, “there will be teachers ready to run the risk of imprisonment,” for violation of this Florida statute.
We honor the Independent for the stand which it has taken in this matter; and we honor the American Missionary Association for its determination to disregard this iniquitous measure, just as missionary associations have always disregarded similar so-called laws, designed to hinder their work in heathen lands; and just as Christians always have and always must everywhere disregard human enactments which trench upon the sacred rights of conscience.