“State and Parochial Schools” The American Sentinel 5, 38, pp. 297, 298.

September 25, 1890

STATE supremacy and jurisdiction over church schools seems to be spreading like an epidemic. Wisconsin, Illinois, and Ohio have laws already in this line. Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and other States are seriously proposing laws and even considering amendments giving the State jurisdiction over church schools. It seems singular that not only the evil in this thing itself, but the actual danger to the State lying in it, cannot be seen by those who are carrying foward [sic.] the movement.

First, the thing is evil in itself, because the church school is a private school. Those who establish it pay to the public school all the State demands, and then they take their own money and hire their own teachers to teach their own children, perhaps in their own houses; and then this movement demands that the State shall assume jurisdiction over these private schools, and authority to dictate as to the teaching in such schools. This is but to claim the right of the State to assume jurisdiction and authority to dictate in the private affairs of the people. But if the State has this authority in one thing, it may have it in everything that it chooses, and soon all private rights are gone, and nothing that a man has, not even his own person belongs any longer to himself, but to the public. The State is put above the people, and the people become only a part of the machinery of the State. This is directly the reverse of the American principle—the true principle of government. “All men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” These rights belong to the individual. They are his own. He may, in establishing government he does, surrender the personal exercise of certain of these rights; but he never does, and according to the American principle, he never can, surrender himself bodily, and yield to the Government any jurisdiction over his private concerns. The assertion of the rights of any such jurisdiction on the part of the State is but the assertion of the rightfulness of despotism, and springs from a spirit essentially despotic.

Again, these are church schools organized for the purpose of teaching to the children of the members of that church the doctrines and religion of the church. In many of the schools, the preacher and the teacher are one and the same person, and the building which is the meeting house of the church on Sunday, is the school house for the children of the church members on other days. If the State may rightly assume jurisdiction over what is taught in that house by that preacher to the children of the church members during the week days, why may not the State also assume jurisdiction over what is taught in that house to the children and their parents together, on Sunday? There is no possible argument that will justify the first that will not likewise justify the second. And if the State may do this in these particular circumstances, it may do so in all places and under all circumstances. And then the distinction between Church and State is broken down and destroyed.

This brings us to the second phase of this subject, the danger to the State which lies in this movement against church schools. As we have seen, the result is the destruction of the distinction between the Church and State, and is a union of Church and State, instead of a separation. By the State thus forcing itself upon the Church, and really making the Church a part of itself, forcing it to be so, those churches will inevitably be driven to take [298] a constant and active part as churches in every department of the State. Because when the State assumes jurisdiction of the church schools to any extent, it becomes of paramount interest to that church to secure as much interest as possible in the affairs of the State, so that the Church through the officers of the State may recover jurisdiction over her own schools and her own affairs. And to this action the Church is driven by the action of the State in first assuming jurisdiction over the affairs of the Church. But in a government of the people just as soon as the Church, as such, becomes a part of the State as such, it remains only a question of time when the State in the proper sense of the word, will be gone, and all that is left of it will be but the tool of the Church in carrying forward her own schemes.

The American principle of Government is the absolute and total separation between the Church and the State. The Church neither dictating to the State in anything, nor yet the State dictating to the Church in anything, but each one occupying its own sphere, and exercising jurisdiction in its own affairs only. We know the cry that is made in defense of this movement to give the State jurisdiction of the church schools,—the cry of danger to the State, and that it is necessary for the general welfare that the State shall do so. But this cry in the first place is a fraud. There is not a particle of danger to the State in anything that is aimed at in these laws; but even if there were some real danger there, it would be nothing at all in comparison with the danger to the State that will come inevitably from the slightest step taken by the State in assuming jurisdiction of church schools, or church affairs in any way whatever. Every man who believes in the separation of the Church and State, every man who believes in the principles of the Declaration of Independence, must oppose always and everywhere, every move to have the State interfere in any way with the workings of the church, or private schools.

Another phase of this question we will reserve for next week.A. T. J. [298]

Share this: