July 17, 1889
SENATOR Blair’s proposed amendment to the Constitution is to the effect that no sectarian religion shall be taught in the public schools. Yet the men who went to Washington to plead for the adoption of that amendment, argued before the committee entirely from a Protestant standpoint upon a Protestant basis, and in behalf of Protestantism as directly opposed to Catholicism. The proof is abundant. George K. Morris, D. D., of Philadelphia, said to the committee:—
“I ask your attention to the fact that on this matter of the proposed constitutional amendment the country stands divided along a line indicated by the evangelical church bodies on one side and the Roman Catholic Church on the other.”
The argument of James M. King, D. D., who represented the Evangelical Alliance, was aimed directly at “Jesuit attempts to misrepresent and blacken the schools.” “Jesuit attempts to drive the Bible from the schools,” and “the hostility of Jesuits to American institutions.” He attacked the “Ultramontane boasts,” and exposed “the low civilization of the Catholic colony in New York.” He declared:—
“The testimony of statesmen, political economists, and historians … warns us as a people to beware of the Jesuits and Ultramontanes.”
In short, there was not a single argument presented by any one of the men who spoke in favor of the amendment, that was not aimed directly at the Roman Catholic Church and its doctrines, nor one that was not intentionally made directly antagonistic to that church and her doctrines. And yet they pretended all the time to be arguing in favor of what they called a “broad tolerant Christianity,” and pleaded for the adoption of an amendment to the Constitution of the United States forbidding any use whatever of any public money in support of instruction in any religion sectarian in its character.
From the facts in the case, as they appear on the face of the record, the manifest conclusion is that these men must hold that Catholicism is sectarian while Protestantism is not. In other words that the religion of the majority is not sectarian. According to their own proceeding, it is apparent that if that resolution were adopted the question that is to be settled by it, instead of being so, would be more unsettled than it has ever yet been in this country; because if that amendment were adopted, as it is the religion of the majority only which is non-sectarian, there would arise an inevitable religio-political contest amongst the religious bodies, to determine which could secure the majority, by which alone it could prove that it was not sectarian. The truth is, that the arguments of those men before the Committee on Education and Labor were wholly disingenuous, if not hypocritical.
Suppose a committee of Roman Catholic bishops and priests had gone before the Senate Committee and argued in favor of that same constitutional amendment by an attack upon Protestantism, giving their opinion of it, and what, according to their opinion, its tendency is, and all this while pleading for an amendment forbidding public support for sectarian religion. Would not the Protestants throughout the country, and these men themselves, have counted that a queer way to secure instruction in the public schools in non-sectarian religion? There is no doubt whatever that they would. But if that would be so when done by Roman Catholics, wherein is it better when done by Protestants?
We are not defending the Roman Catholic Church as such, nor her doctrines. We are only defending her rights. We have no disposition at all to deny any statement that was made by these divines before the Senate Committee against the Catholic Church or her doctrines. We think the statements are all true; but what we are objecting to here is the way in which these professed Protestants undertake to plead for a non-sectarian religion in the public schools, by arguing straight ahead upon a sectarian basis. Catholics have all the rights that Protestants have; Catholics have just as much right to their views of the public school question as Protestants have. Catholic’s have a right to ads that a constitutional amendment shall be adopted establishing Catholicism as a non-sectarian religion just as much as Protestants have to ask for an amendment establishing Protestantism as a non-sectarian religion.
The truth of the whole subject is simply that, with religion, sectarian or non-sectarian, in the public schools or anywhere else, the State can never of right have anything to do.
A. T. J.