IN the words, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” the United States Constitution guarantees perfect religious liberty to every soul in this Nation. A great many people appear to dread the encroachments of the Roman Catholic power. But, so long as the United States Constitution shall be kept as it is, and legislation in harmony with it, such fears are groundless. Cardinal Gibbons might be elected president, Archbishop Corrigan, vice-president, every seat in the Senate might be filled with bishops, and every seat in the House of Representatives might be filled with priests, yet so long as they should respect the Constitution they could not pass a single law affecting Protestantism in any way, because the Constitution says that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” And under this Constitution, the Roman Catholic, in the exercise of his religion, is just as free from any interference by Protestants as Protestants are from the interference which they profess to fear from Catholics.
Much is said of the hatred of infidels toward Christianity; but with the Constitution as it is, and with legislation and public sentiment in harmony with it, infidels might hate Christianity as heartily as many persons think they do, and yet they could do Christianity no harm. Colonel Ingersoll might be elected president and every seat in Congress filled with infidels as outspoken as he, yet so long as the Constitution should be respected, they could not make a single law affecting Christianity in any way, even if they wanted to, because the Constitution says that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”
Under this Constitution religious profession and worship are absolutely free. And so long as public sentiment shall see to it that the Constitution remains as it is, and legislation in harmony with it, every man’s religious profession and worship will remain free. Constitutional safeguards are such only so long as there is “an enlightened public opinion based on individual intelligence.”
There is, however, an already large, and constantly increasing element demanding that the Constitution shall be so amended as to empower Congress to legislate in behalf of Christianity. And a great many are even calling for religious legislation without any such amendment. May 21, 1888, Senator Blair, of New Hampshire, introduced a bill to “promote” the observance of the Lord’s day “as a day of religious worship,” and to secure the “religious observance of the Sabbath day.” Four days afterward, May 25, the same Senator introduced a “joint-resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, respecting establishments of religion and free public schools;” providing for instruction in “the principles of the Christian religion” in all public schools of the Nation; and empowering Congress to “enforce this article by legislation when necessary;” which only proposes to empower congress to Iegislate in regard to the principles of the Christian religion. During the last session of the Fiftieth Congress, there were repeated visits of large and influential delegations to the Senate committee having these items in charge, pleading strongly for the passage of both. The adoption of either would be but the establishment of a national religion, and the establishment of a national religion is but the establishment of a national despotism, even though it be under the name of Christianity. True Christianity never can be made a national religion. To make it national is to pervert it. Christianity is universal. It embraces all the world, having its head in Heaven and not on earth.
Jesus Christ separated forever civil government from his religion when he said, “My kingdom is not of this world,” and, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Cesar’s, and unto God the things which are God’s.” Bancroft, the historian of the United States, says: “No one thought of vindicating religion fire the individual, till a voice in Judea, breaking day for the greatest epoch in the life of humanity, by establishing a pure, spiritual, and universal religion for all mankind, enjoined to render to Caesar only that which is Caesar’s. The rule was upheld during the infancy of the gospel for all men.” “The new Nation when it came to establish a government for the United States refused to treat faith as a matter to be regulated by a corporate body, or having a headship in a monarch or a State. Vindicating the right of individuality even in religion, and in religion above all, the new Nation dared to set the example of accepting in its relations to God the principle first divinely ordained of God in Judea.” The United States Constitution as it is, upon the subject of religion, is in exact harmony with the principles and the word of Jesus Christ. Therefore, any effort to change that Constitution, respecting religion, even though it be professedly done in behalf of Christianity, is directly opposed to the word of Jesus Christ.
Again the Declaration of Independence declares that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. This is the fundamental principle of American institutions, and it is in harmony with the word of God. Yet, at a convention held in Sedalia, Mo., May 23 and 24, in behalf of the proposed National Sunday law, Mr. W. P. Gray, the secretary of the convention, who was made secretary of the State Sabbath Union, said:—
“I for one, do not believe that as a political maxim, governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. And I believe with Mr. Gault on this, I think. And so the object of this movement is an effort to change that feature in our fundamental law.”
This statement is quoted and endorsed by the Christian Statesman, which is the official organ of the National Association for securing such an Amendment to the United States Constitution as Senator Blair proposed. Therefore, it stands proved by their own words that, those who favor the resolution and the bill introduced by Senator Blair on the subject of religion, are, through these, aiming at the subversion of the fundamental principles of American institutions, the destruction of the rights and liberties of men; and that their work is directly opposed to the principles and the word of Jesus Christ.
It is true that both these pieces of proposed  legislation died when the Fiftieth Congress expired, March 4, 1889. But it is also true that all those who favor them are preparing to do their utmost to have them introduced as soon as the next Congress convenes, and also to do their utmost to secure their adoption.
Do you respect the word of Christ? Do you love liberty, civil and religious? Do you respect the rights of men? Do you appreciate the liberty asserted in the Declaration of Independence and guaranteed in the Constitution of the United States? If you do any one of these, then you should be willing to let your voice be known in the endorsement and your name in the signing of the following petition:—
“To the Honorable, the Senate of the United States, (duplicate also to the House):—
“We, the undersigned, adult residents of the United States, twenty-one years of age or more, hereby respectfully but earnestly petition your Honorable Body not to pass any bill in regard to the observance of the Sabbath, or Lord’s day, or any other religious or ecclesiastical institution or rite; nor to favor in any way the adoption of any resolution for the amendment of the National Constitution that would in any way give preference to the principles of any one religion above another, or that will in any way sanction legislation upon the subject of religion. But that the total separation between religion and the State assured by our National Constitution as it now is, may forever remain as our fathers established it.”
The lines are being drawn. On which side will you stand?
A. T. J.