ANOTHER most important phase of State interference with church schools is that in which it is advocated that the State must prohibit the Roman Catholic Church from excommunicating members of that church who persist in sending their children to the public school. And of all phases of the question this most betrays the silly blindness and unreasoning dullness of those who advocate the measure.
The facts upon which this claim is based are these: Where there is not a sufficient number of Roman Catholic children to form a school of their own, the parents are allowed to send them to the public school; but where there is a sufficient number a church school is to be established, and Roman Catholics are required, by the church, to send their children to that school. They are required to do this under penalty of church discipline. For instance, if there is a church school, and a Roman Catholic parent sends his child to the public school instead, the bishop or the priest will command him to send his child to the church school. If he disobeys, then the eucharist will be withheld from him. If he persists in sending his child to the public school, the next step will be excommunication, that is, turning him out of the church entirely, and if lie should die he would not be buried in consecrated ground.
The claim that is made on these facts is, that in so doing the Catholic Church is making war upon the public schools, and in that is making war upon the State. Therefore the State in self-defense must prohibit the Roman Catholic Church from exercising church discipline upon any of its members who send their children to the public school in disobedience to church orders.
This claim is made up of a whole bundle of absurdities, and is composed of nothing else. First, it is a confession that the public school, and therefore the State, is dependent upon the Roman Catholic children for its existence; and that it is so weak that it cannot bear the effect of Roman Catholic excommunication in opposition. If this be so, neither the Roman Catholics, nor anybody else, can reasonably be blamed for not wanting to send their children to the public school. But such is not the case. The public school is not dependent upon the Roman Catholic children for its existence, and neither  the public school nor the State is in the slightest danger from all the Roman Catholic excommunications that could be pronounced in a thousand years.
Further, this claim demands that the State shall assume control over the discipline of the Catholic Church in this particular thing. But that involves a union of the Roman Catholic Church and the State, and if the State may assume jurisdiction over the discipline of that church it may exercise it also over the discipline of every other church; and if the State may assume jurisdiction over the Roman Catholic Church in this one thing, it may exercise jurisdiction in that church in everything that it chooses; and if in that church, it may do so in every other church, so that a union of Church and State is unavoidable in any attempt to enforce the claim that is made in behalf of it.
Again, this claim is made by those who profess to be Protestants, or at least, if not Protestants in faith, strong opponents of the whole Roman Catholic system. Yet their position is, that the power authority of the State shall be exercised in prohibiting the Roman Catholic Church from excommunicating any of its members. Therefore the proper thing for them to do, would be to put forth their utmost efforts to make the public school as nearly perfect as possible, so that every Roman Catholic parent would choose to send his child there instead of to the parochial school, and thus get himself excommunicated. This would soon make the Roman Catholic Church so small that even the danger which these parties dread would be utterly dispelled.
As for THE AMERICAN SENTINEL, we believe in the public school, and support it heartily; and we are opposed to the whole Roman Catholic system from beginning to end. But we shall never sanction for an instant, any proposition for the enactment of a law, either constitutional or statutory, to prohibit the Roman Catholic Church, or any other church, from exercising to the fullest extent all the provisions of its discipline upon any church member who chooses to send his children to the public school instead of to the church school, or for anything else. The discipline of the Roman Catholic Church is its own affair. That church has the right to establish, and to exercise upon its members, its own form of discipline; and to excommunicate any member of the church for any offense to which that church wishes to attach the penalty of excommunication. And we should be is so heartily glad if the Roman Catholic Church would excommunicate every person that belongs to it in the United States. We think that one of the best things that could ever happen to a Roman Catholic would be, to be turned out of that church so far that he could never get back. Therefore we say let the public school be made so good, that every parent in the Roman Catholic Church will choose to send his children there instead of to the parochial school, and that he will be so persistent in doing so, that the church will inflict its impotent penalty of excommunication.
But it is gravely argued that the Roman Catholic Church compels its members to obey. For instance, Rev. E. H. Ashmun, of the Boulevard Congregational Church, of North Denver, soberly presents the following:—
It is claimed that the parent has the sole authority over the child in education, but it is difficult not to charge Cardinal Manning and Bishop Keene with insincerity when they make this claim, for no Catholic parent is free to choose the education of his child. The church dictates and he must obey.
But why must he obey? What force or what power is there at the command of the church by which he is compelled to obey? The answer must be that there is no force nor power at all except such as exists in the belief of the individual himself. Therefore if the State is to interfere with the exercise of the authority of the Roman Catholic Church over its membership, it must necessarily enter into the realm of doctrine and belief of the church and its membership. And thus again it is found that a union of the State and the Roman Catholic Church is inevitably involved in any attempt on the part of the State to exercise jurisdiction over the discipline of the church.
Neither Cardinal Manning, nor Bishop Keene, nor any other Roman Catholic prelate or priest, can be charged with insincerity, when he says that in this country at least, the parent has the sole authority over the child in education, and that the Roman Catholic parent is free to choose the education of his child. This is the truth. He is just as free as any other person to do so. If there be any limit to his freedom in this connection it is simply because of his own belief, and this is simply a matter of his own free choice. And therefore we say again that if the State is going to interfere with the exercise of the authority of the Roman Catholic Church upon its membership, then the State will necessarily have to exercise its authority over the doctrines and beliefs of that church and its membership; because in the doctrines and beliefs is where the whole difficulty lies. If the Roman Catholic did not believe that the threatened excommunication is a real and forcible thing, he would not be re-strained by it from sending his children to the public school. And as his belief is solely a matter of his own free will it is certain that there is where the difficulty lies; and therefore it is also certain that no effort of the State can ever reach the difficulty without sweeping away every safeguard to the free exercise of thought and religious belief.
Yet more absurd than all, it is actually argued by professed Protestant ministers that there is real merit, force, and power in a Roman Catholic excommunication. For instance, a Congregational minister in Milwaukee (we have lost his name but think it is Caldwell), in a sermon last spring on “The Bennett Law, and American Liberty,” discussed the comparative force of the Bennett law and the Roman Catholic opposition to the public schools. After stating the penalty of the Bennett law, which is “not less than three dollars nor more then twenty dollars,” he said:—
Bishop Hennessy, of Iowa, issued an edict compel-ling the people to take their children out of the public schools and put them in parochial schools. The penalty affixed was excommunication which to a Catholic means damnation. Which is the greater penalty?
Well we should say so, too. Which is the greater penalty, indeed! a three dollar fine or a Roman Catholic damnation? Why, a three dollar fine is a heavier penalty in a minute, than ten thousand times ten thousand Roman Catholic damnations would be in all eternity!
But what shall be thought of this professed Protestant preacher in his magnifying the merits of Roman Catholic damnation? For this is precisely what he did in his argument. A fine of from three to twenty dollars is a real, tangible thing, and therefore when he compared to this the force of the Roman Catholic damnation he did thereby distinctly argue that that also is a real, tangible thing and the greater penalty.
Yet this is no more than is argued in this whole theory from which comes the claim that the State shall prohibit the Catholic Church from excommunicating its members for sending their children to the public school. This argues that membership in the Roman Catholic Church is a thing of real, tangible worth, at least equal to that of attendance upon the public school; and the demand that the State shall by law, prohibit that church from excommunicating its members for sending their children to the public school, is a demand that the State shall set its sanction to the idea that there is real, tangible worth and value in membership in that church, and that there is actual force and virtue in the excommunication pronounced by that church.
Of all the wild ideas that are connected with this subject of State interference with church schools, this certainly takes the lead; and yet such laws are gravely demanded in Massachusetts; and in New Jersey even a constitutional amendment is advocated. The proper thing is for the people of every State to keep the statutes and the Constitution entirely clear of any interference, to the slightest extent, with any private or parochial school. Let them put their attention upon the public school and keep it there. Let them make the public school what it ought to be. Then there need be no fear from the  schools of the Catholic Church, nor the Lutheran Church, nor any other, nor all of them together.
A. T. J.