January 1, 1891
WITH the issue of this number, THE AMERICAN SENTINEL enters upon the sixth year of its publication. When THE SENTINEL was started there was but one organization—the National Reform Association—working to secure what THE SENTINEL was established to oppose. Now there are four such organizations wholly pledged to it. These four are the National Reform Association, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, the American Sabbath Union, and the National League for the Protection of American Institutions, besides the Presbyterian General Assembly, and the Methodist Conference of New York. Then, the one organization, though not very large, except in its head, was active and influential. Now, all of these organizations are much larger, very active, and very influential, both in their heads and in their members. Then, the one organization had made no decided success in securing religious legislation, now, all of these organizations have had most decided, and, to the careful student of public affairs, startling success in this bad direction.
At this the beginning of this new year in an everlasting campaign, it will be well to take a glance at the field as it at this moment appears as related to religious legislation. How many measures are pending in Congress which propose to commit the Government to the guardianship and the teaching of religion?
1. The Blair Sunday Bill, which proposes to secure the “due observance” of Sunday as a day of “rest and worship.”
2. The Breckinridge Sunday Bill, which, like the Blair Sunday Bill, proposes to enforce a “conscientious belief in, and observance of,” a day of rest.
These bills both propose by law to require everybody to conscientiously believe in and observe some day as a day of rest. But everybody has both the natural and constitutional right to observe or not to observe a day of rest, just as he pleases, whether he conscientiously believes in it or not. He has just as much right not to do it as he has to do it. The Legislature invades the freedom of religious worship when it assumes the power to compel a man conscientiously to do anything. The principle is the same whether the law compels us to do that which we wish to do, or whether it compels us to do that which we do not wish to do. The compulsory power does not exist in either case. In either case the State assumes control of the rights of conscience; and the freedom of every man to worship according to the dictates of his own conscience is gone, and thenceforth all are required to worship according to the dictates of the State, that is, according to the caprice of the majorities. But the American Constitution has forbidden the Federal Government to invade “the home of reason, the citadel of conscience, the sanctuary of the soul.” Therefore these two Sunday bills do distinctly invade both the constitutional and the natural rights of the American people.
3. The Blair Educational Amendment. This measure proposes to amend the national Constitution so that it shall empower Congress to enforce upon all, the teaching of the Christian religion.
4. The Blair Educational Bill, the intent of which is to open the way for the easier adoption of the proposed amendment, and for the fuller exercise of the power of Congress in enforcing its provisions.
5. The Edumunds University Bill, which proposes to establish a national university, and provides for the teaching of “Christian theology” in said university.  Theology is the science concerning God. To establish a national theology is to create a national god; and the enforced service and worship of that god will logically and certainly follow. For as soon as that bill should become a law, then a contention would arise among all the leading sects in the land, to decide which of them should teach and represent the “Christian theology” required.
6. Several bills greatly enlarging the number of chaplains in the Army. It is true that, in defiance of the Constitution and of the principles of the Government, chaplains have been employed all these years. Yet in connection with all the other efforts to make religion an essential element in the Government, this is significant enough to deserve mention in this list. It is difficult to conceive how the Constitution could be more openly disregarded than it is and always has been in the appointment of chaplains. The Constitution declares that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the Government,” while for the office of chaplain religion is the very qualification that is required, and specifically the Christian religion at that.
.7. Appropriations of public money for religious uses. We have given in full the facts and the items which show that more than $600,000 is given annually by the Government to certain churches, to be used by those churches in teaching their own church doctrines to their own church members and adherents. We have given the items which show that these appropriations, beginning with the fiscal year of 1885-86, with only a little more than $227,000, grew so rapidly that for the fiscal year of 1890-91, the sum was more than $604,000. Thus in five years, increasing by two and two-third times the amount with which the appropriations started. We have given the facts which show that by this means the church power has already secured such a hold upon the Government that it is found impossible to shake it off.
These are the measures that are now actually framed in legislative proposals, and are to-day pending in Congress-the last two of them actually in force. There is another measure, which, although not yet introduced in Congress, is so far on the way that it is proper to mention it in this list. That is, the Constitutional Amendment proposed by the National League for the Protection of American Institutions. This measure in its intent means all that any one of the others does; but it is so framed as to convey the impression that it is not only a safe but a necessary measure.
Now any one of these taken alone, in itself and in the intent with which it is proposed, means only a union of Church and State. How much more then do they mean this when they are all taken together. And yet how much more do they mean it, when they must not only be all taken together, but in addition must be taken with the solid support of the National Reform Association, the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, the American Sabbath Union, the National League for the Protection of American Institutions, and the great majority of the churches as such.
All these are measure of national interest and import, to say nothing at all of the different movements in different States, in the same line. We have not space for more than the mere mention of the persecutions being carried on in Tennessee and Missouri; and of the anxious hope in other States that the like opportunity may soon be enjoyed there.
These are facts that ought to arouse to the most active opposition every one in the Nation who has any regard for the rights of conscience, or respect for the genuine principles of our Government. But will they? That is the question. Many times have we asked whether the American people will awake before it is too late; but we have now about come to the conclusion that will not awake either before or after it is too late. This however is a matter of their own free choice. We would not compel them to awake if we could. Their freedom of choice is forever and sacredly their own. If they chance to see danger in any or all of these things, that is their right. THE AMERICAN SENTINEL, however, will continue to warn all of the danger there is in these things which have already arisen, and faithfully call attention to others as they arise. This is what THE SENTINEL lives for. This is what it was established for. It has had plenty of it to do so far, and will never have less.
Therefore, with implicit confidence in the justice, the righteousness, and the necessity of our cause, we enter with renewed courage upon the larger work that is before us in the year which begins with this New Year’s number.
A. T. J.