IT is claimed by those who want religion taught in the public schools that it is primarily for the benefit of the State; that it is not with the view of fitting the children for heaven, or of making them Christians, but rather to fit them for this world and to make them good citizens; that it is not that religion needs the support of the State, but rather that the State needs the support of religion. It is argued, therefore, that it is only as a political factor, and its worth only according to its “political value,” that the State proposes to enforce the teaching of religion in the public schools; that the object of the instruction is not “the spiritual welfare of the children” but “the benefit of the State.”
This argument appears very plausible, but it is utterly fallacious. The supreme difficulty with such a view is that it wholly robs religion of its divine sanctions and replaces them only with civil sanctions. It robs religion of its eternal purpose and makes it only a temporal expedient. From being a plan devised by divine wisdom to secure the eternal salvation of the soul, Christianity is, by this scheme, made a mere human device to effect a political purpose. And for the State to  give legal and enforced sanction to the idea that the Christian religion and the belief and practice of its principles are only for temporal advantage, is for the State to put an immense premium upon hypocrisy. But there is already entirely too much of the profession of religion for .only what can be gained in this world by it politically, financially, and socially. And for the State to sanction the evil principle, and promote the practice by adopting it as a system and inculcating it upon the minds of the very children as they grow up, would bring upon the country such a flood of corruption as it would be impossible for civil society to bear.
Let us not be misunderstood. We do not deny for an instant, but rather assert forever, that the principles of the Christian religion received into the heart and carried out in the life will make good citizens always. But it is only because it derives its sanction from the divine source—because it is rooted in the very soul and nourished by the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit. This, however, the State of itself can never secure. This at once carries us into the realm of conscience, upon the plane of the spiritual, and it can be secured only by spiritual forces, none of which have ever been committed to the State, but to the Church only.
A. T. J.