“The New Leaders in ‘National Reform’” American Sentinel 12, 50, pp. 785, 786.

THE Christian Endeavorers, who are now the leading National Reformers, have announced that they intend to present to the Congress now in session, one and a half million petitions for the passage of a resolution to amend the national Constitution so that it shall recognize God and the Christian religion.

As these folks are following the lead of the original National Reformers, it is proper to raise an inquiry as to the character of those positions. Those who have gone this way before, have pretended to present the names of more than twenty times as many petitioners as they really had. A few were multiplied into thousands; one was multiplied into millions. As the Christian Endeavorers think they must now take up this matter, it is seriously to be hoped, even though their enterprise in this direction is decidedly bad, that they will at least conduct it honestly.

Of all the people in the United States who desire legislation on the subject of religion, it is but just to say that those who propose to bring it about by constitutional amendment are the only ones who are entitled to any respect in this connection. Of these it must be said [786] that however wrong and ungodly may be the thing which they attempt to do, the means by which they propose to accomplish it is strictly legal.

Amendment of the Constitution is a perfectly legal thing. The Constitution itself makes provision for its own amendment. Of the legality of such a procedure, therefore, there can never be any question. The Constitution is the voice and will of the people. Whatever the will of the people may be which they choose thus to express, whether civically it be good or bad, conservative or ruinous, yet legally it is strictly valid.

Now no worse thing could possibly be done by amendment to the Constitution than to establish “the Christian religion.” No more ruinous step could be taken through amendment to the Constitution than this proposed recognition of God and establishment of religion. Yet if such thing were done by amendment to the Constitution it would be perfectly legal, and nothing could properly be said against it on that score. So likewise these people who want a religious despotism established in this nation; so long as they hold to amendment of the Constitution as the means of accomplishing it, it must be said that legally their course is beyond question.

But when this is said, every concession, every allowance, has been made that can possibly be made in any way whatever in reference to that thing. The thing itself is evil and only evil, and that continually and continually increasing. So far also the methods of endeavoring to accomplish this thing, even legally, have been dishonest, hypocritical, and fraudulent. Therefore it is a thing sincerely to be wished that with the accession of this new element of Endeavor, square and honest methods may characterize their attempts to accomplish a purpose which, though legal in form, is evil in itself and ruinous to the nation.

While the worst thing that could possibly be done by amendment to the Constitution, is the establishment of religion; still a worse thing than that is the establishment of religion without an amendment to the Constitution. To do it by amendment to the Constitution would be legal, though exceedingly bad. To do it without an amendment would add to its inherent badness the further elements of illegality and usurpation. Yet this latter things has been diligently striven for by the predecessors of the Christian Endeavorers; and has actually been accomplished by the government, in principle and in fact.

It is a curious thing, too, that the predecessors of the Christian Endeavorers in this matter actually endeavored to accomplish their purpose by both these methods at once. They tried to get passed a resolution to amend the Constitution so as to legalize legislation and governmental action on questions of religion; while at the same time by threats of political perdition backed by fraudulent petitions they were doing their utmost to force legislation and governmental action on the questions of religion. The curious feature in all this lies not in the fact, nor in the methods employed,—all that seems natural enough to these folks,—but in that they should be so blind as not to be able to see that what they were doing was self-contradictory.

Their call for a religious amendment to the Constitution was, and is in itself a positive argument that without it any governmental recognition of religion would be unconstitutional, and therefore illegal and voice—a usurpation. Yet in the face of this positive argument of their own devising, they did their utmost to get the government to commit this very usurpation; applauded every item of such usurpation when it was committed; and even while applauding it, openly declared it unconstitutional.

No greater effort to undermine constitutional government has ever been made in the United States than has thus been made by the people who have urged upon Congress and the government the enactment of Sunday laws and other acts of a religious character, without an amendment to the Constitution.

And now that the Christian Endeavorers have taken the lead in this campaign and are calling for a constitutional amendment establishing religion, it is but proper to call their attention to the crooked and self-stultifying course of those who have led in this thing before, and ask that they shall not disgrace themselves by following the same course.

To ask for an establishment of religion in the United States by the strictly legal course of an amendment to the Constitution is enough disgrace for any body. We really desire that the Christian Endeavorers may spare themselves the greater disgrace of demanding the governmental recognition of religion without such an amendment.

A. T. J.

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