The National Establishment of the Christian Religion

American Sentinel 3, 9 , pp. 69, 70 (1888)

THAT amendment to the National Constitution that has been offered by Senator Blair, and which is now pending in Congress, is a singular sort of a document, though hardly any more so than was to be expected in the promotion of the scheme which underlies it, i.e., the establishment of a National religion. The proposed amendment is just about as flatly self-contradictory as any proposition could be. Section 1 reads as follows:—

“No State shall ever make or maintain any law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

The first sentence of section 2 reads as follows:—

“Each State in this Union shall establish and maintain a system of free public schools adequate to the education of all the children living therein, between the ages of six and sixteen years, inclusive, in the common branches of knowledge, and in virtue, morality and the principles of Christian religion.”

That is to say, No State shall ever make or maintain a law respecting an establishment of religion; but every State in this Union shall make and maintain laws establishing the principles of the Christian religion. And to make assurance doubly sure, section 3 declares that—

“The United States shall guaranty to every State, and to the people of every State and of the United States, the support and maintenance of such a system of the free public schools as is herein provided.”

And that is to say that the United States Government pledges itself that every State shall establish and maintain the principles of the Christian religion. This proposed amendment therefore, at one stroke, establishes Christianity as the National religion, because it declares that every State shall maintain the principles of the Christian religion in the public schools, and the Nation is pledged to see that this is done. Therefore there must be a National decision of some kind declaring just what are the principles of the Christian religion. Then when that decision shall have been made, every State will have to receive from the Nation just those principles of religion which the Nation shall have declared to be the principles of the Christian religion, and which the Nation will have pledged itself shall be taught in the public schools of every State. In other words, the people of the United States will then have to receive their religion from the Government of the United States. Therefore, if Senator Blair’s proposed amendment to the National Constitution does not provide for the establishment and maintenance of a National religion, then no religion was ever established or maintained in this world.

But how shall this National decision be made as to what are the principles of the Christian religion? It would seem that the second sentence of section 2 makes provision for this. It declares that no “instruction or training shall be given in the doctrines, tenets, belief, ceremonials, or observances peculiar to any sect, denomination, organization, or society, being, or claiming to be, religious in its character; nor shall such peculiar doctrines, tenets, beliefs, ceremonials, or observances, be taught or inculcated in the free public schools.”

As therefore no religious tenets, doctrines, or beliefs can be taught in the schools, except such as are common to all denominations of the Christian religion, it will follow inevitably that there shall be officially called a National council of the churches to decide what are the principles common to all, and to establish a National creed, which shall be enforced and inculcated by National power in all the public schools in the United States. And that will be but the establishment of a National religion. And that is exactly what Senator Blair’s constitutional amendment assures, so surely as it or anything similar to it shall ever be adopted. And that is what the National Reformers intend shall be.

It was in this way precisely that the thing was worked in the fourth century. Constantine made Christianity the recognized religion of the Roman Empire. Then it became at once necessary that there should be an imperial decision as to what form of Christianity should be the imperial religion. To effect this an imperial council was necessary to formulate that phase of Christianity which was common to all. The Council of Nice was convened by imperial command, and an imperial creed was established, which was enforced by imperial power. That establishment of an imperial religion ended only in the imperious despotism of the Papacy.

As surely as the complete establishment of the Papacy followed, and grew out of, that imperial recognition of Christianity in the fourth century, just so surely will the complete establishment of a religious despotism after the living likeness of the Papacy, follow, and grow out of, this National recognition of Christianity provided for in the constitutional amendment proposed by Senator Blair, and which is now pending in Congress.

A. T. J.

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