A. D. (Amory Dwight) Mayo.

Religion in the common schools. Three lectures delivered in the city of Cincinnati, in October, 1869 online

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Online LibraryA. D. (Amory Dwight) MayoReligion in the common schools. Three lectures delivered in the city of Cincinnati, in October, 1869 → online text (page 2 of 6)
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religious parties and sects, and the interminable conflict of eccle-
siastical powers, the State has taken up all of religion and morality
necessary for the public guidance of the people, in the form of
statute and common law, which it administers on its own authority.
The State is secular at everv point where any form of religion
comes in, and claims the right to administer justice by its own
ecclesiastical or religious authority. And that is just as it should
be. We can not guard too strictly against the encroachments of
ecclesiastical power, and while we confess that the authority of
God and His law is always binding upon the conscience and the
life of every cicizen, we empower the State to organize the grand
eternal verities of justice, humanity, and religion, into a political
constitution and government, and administer it on human authority,

12 Religion in the

appealing, in the words of our martyr president, " to the deliberate
judgment of posterity and the gracious favor of Almighty God."

What I assert is this : That the people of Ohio, like the people
of every State that ever existed on earth, have recognized, and do
recognize, the fact that religion and morality, the obligation to
worship God and do good to man, are the very foundation of
human society itself, the basement structure of their whole form
of government, the sanction of all their laws, and the final judge
of all their public policy. They have never been so mad as to
assert that justice, freedom, humanity, religion, can be made or
unmade at Columbus, Ohio. These are eternal. They existed
when Ohio was a pathless forest ; by virtue of them alone is Ohio
the commonwealth she is ; they will abide when historians will
divide on the question, if the existence of Ohio is not an unstable
myth of the past.

According to our frail and wavering, through growing wisdom,
we have organized as much as we can comprehend and apply of
those majestic realities into the government and institutions of our
beloved State, administering that government, as we act in all
human affairs, by the authority we hold as children of the feather
in heaven. As the years roll on, we hope to make our institutions
conform more and more to the spirit of these eternal laws of life,
for all human government is at last but "the re-enactment of the
law of God ;" and surely it is a sight that may well arouse our pity
or provoke our indignation, when men, clad in the dignity of official
position, bound by solemn oath to God to administer public affairs,
lift up their voices and proclaim the expulsion of God and religion
from the State.

We learn that such men are surprised at the excitement in this
community ; at the deep apprehension which runs through the
homes, the churches, and the schools ; that arouses our too slug-
gish population to such demonstrations as we have witnessed ; and
hints are darkly given that such people as flood the Board of
Education with petitions, and crowd the Music Hall, and hold
counsel with each other everywhere, are the instigators of mob law
and personal violence! We beg them to calm their apprehensions.
Religion is not so near its end in Cincinnati yet, that it must fly to
carnal weapons in self-defense. Religion is not on the defensive at
all in this matter.

In a time of profound tranquility, while the people are rejoicing
with pride in their common schools, paying a million dollars a year
for their support, and crowding our school-houses with their
children, they are suddenly appalled by the fear that a Catholic
and an Atheistic sect have struck hands to divide, distract, and
wholly change that great institution. They have risen and ex-
pressed their will; the common schools of Cincinnati shall not be

CoT)%mon Schools. IS

Catholic, and they shall not be atheistic ; and now they calmly wait
to see what servants of theirs are sufficiently courageous to defy
their will.

The State of Ohio has declared, in the same unmistakable lan-
guage, through her whole history, the same momentous fact ; the
State is not sectarian, the State is not atheistic, the State is founded
upon and everywhere acknowledges the eternal and binding force
of religion. Were it not so, Ohio would be the one solitary excep-
tion to every commonwealth of ancient or modern times. Nobody
denies that every state that existed before the American Republic
was not only founded on religion, but supported some form of
religion by law. No man acquainted with the history of the
thirteen American colonies will deny that in every one of them
religion was not only acknowledged and legally protected, but at
some time a special form of religion was established.

Anybody who can read knows that the men who issued our
Declaration of Independence declared that "all men are created
equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalien-
able rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of
happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted
among men." They appeal to the "Supreme Judge of the world,"
and "with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence,
they mutually pledge to each other their lives, their fortunes, and
their sacred honor." The Continental Congress recognized the
binding force of religion by electing chaplains, attending divine
service in a body, purchasing and circulating the Bible and causing
to be published the first edition of the Scriptures printed with
American types, and enforcing religion in repeated resolutions and

Standing on this rock of ages, Washington drew his sword as
commander-in-chief of the patriot armies. His first order at Cam-
bridge was a recognition of God and a command for divine wor-
ship. In every colony during the Revolutionary war, religion was
thus acknowledged. For our fathers had not arrived at that height
of wisdom that they would essay to build a new nation without the
help of Almighty God.

The articles of confederation "implore the Great Governor of the
world to incline the hearts of the legislatures we respectively repre-
sent in Congress to approve of, and to authorize us to ratify the
said articles of confederation and perpetual union."

In the convention that formed our Constitution and created the
Republic, Benjamin Franklin brought its quarrelsome delegates to
their senses by moving the appointment of a chaplain in a speech
that every American school-boy should learn by heart ; just as in
1852, the House of Representatives at Washington paused in the
strife of its election of speaker, and solemnly resolved, in view of

1^ Religion iiv the

the dangers besetting them, that every morning session should be
opened with prayer. The Constitution of the United States is no
atheistic document. It wisely leaves all legislation respecting the
establishment of religion to the several States, and guarantees to
the people the free exercise of religion itself, placing it alongside
the sacred rights of freedom of speech and the press and the right
of petition.

It recognizes the memorable year of its own creation as "the
year of our Lord." It imposes the solemnity of an oath upon
every official of the Government. Washington declared that tlie
new constitution was religious. When inaugurated as first presi-
dent, lie kissed the Bible as he swore the oath, saying aloud, "so
help me God ;" then walked with the whole assembly to church,
where prayers were read; and then, in his inaugural address, said:
"No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible
hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of
the United States -," and his Farewell Address contains a solemn
adjuration to the people to "abide by religion and morality as the
firmest props of the duties of men and citizens."

Chief Justice Story, of the Supreme Court of the United States,
in his Commentaries on the Constitution, declares that : " The
attempt at the time of its formation to make it a matter of State
policy to hold all religions in utter indifference, would have created
universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation."

Under a constitution and government thus consecrated by the
acknowledgment of religion as the supreme law of human life, our
national legislation has perpetually recognized this beneficent power.
The first Congress, in the ordinance of 1787, to which the State of
Ohio owes her existence, says : " Religion, morality, and knowledge,
being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind,
schools and the means of education shall be encouraged ;" that every
man shall be protected in the enjoyment of religious liberty, and
there shall be no slavery in the great North-west. And on those
conditions, for the support of an education based on religion and
morality, the public lands were given, from which a portion of the
school fund of Ohio is derived.

Congress has always appointed congressional chaplains, and opened
its halls for frequent religious services on Sunday. It appoints chap-
lains for the army, and makes post-chaplains school-masters, and by
the law of 1 861, selects them entirely from Christian ministers.
Every one of the thousand glorious regiments that drove the slave
power into the sea bore the flag and the Bible, and the minister of
God shared in all its toils and dangers. The captain of every ship
of war is compelled to hold divine service and exhort his men to
attend. The military and the naval schools and the government
hospitals are provided with religious instruction. A movement, in

Common Schools. 15

1853, in Congress, to abolish the office of chaplain on the ground
of unconstitutionality, was rejected with overwhelming unanimity.
Washington appointed Thanksgiving Day, and Lincoln, in the peri-
lous times of war, summoned the people to fast and rejoice. The
Government of the United States has alwavs acknowledged the
authority of religion in all ways that would not trench upon the
boundary lines of ecclesiastical and sectarian influence. It is
neither ecclesiastical nor sectarian, nor atheistic, but it is religious.

As if to confirm the signal wisdom of the fathers of the Amer-
ican republic, the people of France were left to found their new
commonwealth on the blasphemous denial of God and the contempt
of religion. The blazing fires which consumed that short-lived
structure shed a lurid light over the new American states. It was
amid the fires of that European conflagration that their old consti-
tutions were remodeled and new ones created. The atheism that
held that torch was not without disciples among ourselves, while
bigots of every sect clamored at the doors of the conventions for
power. But the people, with that common sense which has been
the guardian genius of America, struck the key-note of civil and
religious liberty in every commonwealth ; — the State is not secta-
rian ; the State is not atheistic ; the State is religious ; — and no
State more decisively than Ohio has affirmed that mighty idea.
The first words of the Constitution of Ohio — the corner-stone of
her temple of liberty — are these solemn words : " We, the people of
the State of Ohio, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, to
secure its blessings and promote our common welfare, do establish
this Constitution." The very freedom itself which the Constitu-
tion is made to perpetuate is the gift of Almighty God. In section
7 of the Bill of Rights it is solemnly declared, as a protection
against atheistical intolerance, no less than religious persecution,
that "all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship
Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience."

At the close of the clause protecting the religious rights of the
citizen, it is declared that "nothing herein shall be construed to
dispense with oaths and affirmations." The State claims the right
to put every citizen on his religious honor whenever he comes
within her precincts. It affirms, in reiteration of the old language
of the ordinance of 1787: "Religion, morality, and knowledge,
however, being essential to good government, it shall be the duty
of the General Assembly to pass suitable laws to protect every
religious denomination in the peaceable enjoyment of its own mode
of public worship, and to encourage schools and the means of
instruction." Atheism says, knowledge alone is essential to good
government; Ohio says, " religion, morality and knowledge." Athe-
ism would only protect and encourage a godless school. Ohio pro-
tects every religious denomination. Atheism finds indifference to

16 Religion in the

religion itself in the words : " No person shall be compelled to
attend, erect, or support any place of worship against his consent;
and no preference shall be given by law to any religious society, nor
shall any interference with the rights of conscience be permitted.
No religious test shall be required as a qualification for office, nor
shall any person be incompetent to be a witness on account of his
religious belief." Ohio qualifies these words by reserving the right
to impose the oath, and places the word " however " in its declara-
tion concerning religion and morality, as if to guard against this
very misconception. The constitution provides that " no religious
or other sect or sects shall ever have any exclusive right to or control
of any part of the school-funds of this State." The Committee on
Education, in the Convention of 1851, that framed our present con-
stitution, on July 5, made a majority and minority report. In both
those reports are found these words : " No religious sect or party shall
ever have exclusive right to, or control of, any part of the common
school-funds of this State." After deliberate reflection the conven-
tion made a notable addition, and wrote, " No religious or other
sect or sects." With prophetic wisdom these men saw that " other
sects " would arise and claim the control of the people's schools.
In this year of our Lord, both a religious and "another sect" have
appeared at opposite doors of the council chamber in the City Hall,
obstreperously commanding the Board of Education to let them
in. The State of Ohio politely bows them down stairs, out of the
front door into the street, saying : "Go about your own business ;
the common schools of Cincinnati are neither sectarian nor atheistic,
but they are, and shall be, religious." So does the great authority of
the State acknowledge and perpetuate the supreme authority of
Almighty God.

The history of the common schools in the United States, is only
a repetition of our civil history in this respect, with, perhaps, this
exception : that in the education of their children the people have
been slower to throw off the shackles of religious sectarianism
than in their civil affairs. Every State now protects its school
funds against the invasion of religious bigotry, in theory ; though
in some localities Catholic and in others a Protestant sect is shrewd
and powerful enough, occasionally, to evade the laws. Doubtless
in strong sectarian communities the prevailing sentiment of the peo-
ple overflows into the common schools, as into their domestic, indus-
trial, and even political life. It is only by the gradual growth of
true wisdom and pure religion among the people, that such abuses
can be overcome. And in Ohio, at least, every person thus
aggrieved has a remedy at law.

In some communities, possibly in some of the States, the Bible
is not generally read in schools. In Massachusetts, Pennsylvania,
Indiana, Iowa, and West Virginia, it is a legal text-book. In

Common Schools. 17

Rhode Island, New York, Ohio, and other States, there is no law
concerning any form of worship, and every community is left to its
own discretion in the matter. It is doubtful if any teacher could
be prevented by our rules from reading the Bible in a Cincin-
nati school, whatever may the rights of the parents who object.
But no State, to my knowledge, has ever forbidden religious
instruction of an unsectarian character in its common schools, and
the authors of the resolutions that propose to expel God Almighty
from the schools of Cincinnati will certainly achieve the distinction
of being pioneers in this radical reform. In the common school,
as in every department of our civil life, the States of this Union
unite in the declaration, — neither sectarian nor atheistic, but relig-

If any sectarian abuses have crept into the public schools of Cin-
cinnati, if any of our teachers or trustees have so parted with their
common sense as to enforce on the children of the people the creeds
Qv ceremonies of any religious sect, it is easy to find out and correct
the abuse. It is claimed that the morning devotional service,
wherein the teacher reads a passage from the Scriptures without
explanation, unites with the pupils in a religious song, and, in some
cases, in a reading of the Lord's prayer, is a "Protestant Christian
form of worship." I think a little observation will show that all
public worship, in all ages and lands, consists greatly in repeating
prayers, singing sacred songs, and reading sacred books. These are
the universal elements of worship, differently blended, but always
existing, and sectarian worship invariably consists in some departure
from this form.

I know that an Atheistic parent may claim that his rights are
invaded by the invocation of God's name at all in the presence of
his child. But Atheism, as such, has no rights under the constitu-
tion of Ohio, as Catholicism has no such rights. The State declares
that no man shall be deprived of his civil rights because of his
Atheism, and there it leaves him. If, emboldened by this, he turns
upon the State itself, tries to knock out its underpinning, to poison
the very wells of its water of life, to obscure the very atmosphere,
and darken the light by which it lives and breathes; if he pre-
sumes, in short, to demand the expulsion of religion itself from the
public institutions of Ohio, whether he be of foreign or native
birth, a philosopher or a clown, he will ascertain that he has yet to
learn the first principles of American civilization ; that this repub-
lic is not an atheistic or socialistic Utopia, but is a practical govern-
ment, made by practical men, who believe in Almighty God, who have
the wisdom to maintain, and if need be, the strong arms to defend
it. We sent five hundred thousand soldiers to heaven, and sunk
uncounted millions of dollars in the sea, to defend American civili-
zation from an aristocracy proclaiming the divine right of human

18 Religion in the

slavery. And, if need be, we have a million more young men and
the rest of our property to protect our civilization against that
anarchy which begins with rebellion against Almighty God.

But I ask in this connection, is all the right of such an aggrieved
family lodged in the Atheistic father? Has a pious, Christian
mother no rights in the education of her child ? Has the child
itself no protection against the contagion of what Plato calls " the
disease of the soul?" If an imperious father, under the inspira-
tion of poor philosophy or poorer whiskev, forces his Atheism into
his own family, deprives his wife and little ones of the right to read
the Bible, scoffs at or ridicules all the sacred instincts and associa-
tions of their life, and changes his home outwardly to a temple of
ungodliness, that family has still one place of refuge ; the benignant
State opens the doors of her countless school-houses, and places therein
noble men and tender women to teach those little ones and instruct
them in their duties to themselves, to man, and to God. That mother
can " bear all things and endure all things," praying in secret,
and hoping and living in the future of the little darlings at school.
And now comes up the father and demands that the city of Cincin-
nati shall become his accomplice in this bad enterprise of crushing
out the religious life of his children. Excuse us, gentlemen. The
city of Cincinnati is not above reproach \ she needs to mend many
of her bad ways, and remove the stains of many an unsavory
creek. But Cincinnati has not yet, thank God, fallen so low that
she can help an Atheistic parent to put out the light of God in the
soul of a little child. It has been said, with a sneer, that many of
the names on these great petitions have been the names of women.
And pray who should remonstrate against the expulsion of religion
from the public schools if not the mothers and the sisters of these
little ones ? Are gentlemen willing to leave this matter to the votes
of the women of Cincinnati ? Would they leave it to the children
and youth ? Atheism is generally a masculine disease, the last to
assail even the most abandoned womanhood. We remember a
wise old deacon, on a church council, where a brother pleaded an
injured conscience in favor of some irreligious license, bringing the
matter to a crisis by saying : " My brethren, we can't take down
the whole side of this meeting-house to let one man come in." I
don't believe the Queen City of the West, the first-born child of
this new republic, will take her whole system of common schools
in pieces to let a few Atheists indoctrinate the whole body of the
people's children. To all such demands she will say: " My public
schools are open to all wise and judicious reforms ; but to retreat
upon Rome or fall back upon Tom Paine, is no reform, but a lapse
into the deepest darkness of the past."

The city of Cincinnati, in educational affairs, is a city set upon a
hill which can not be hid. Thanks to the wisdom of a ^q-w devoted

Common Schools. 19

mefi, and the growing liberality of her people, she has an excellent
and progressive system of public schools. That system is on the
eve of great expansion, through its public library and its free univer-
sity, and if no side wind blows it out of shape, it will rise into a
structure in whose grand proportions we shall all rejoice. The
Catholic priesthood are trying with desperate pertinacity to keep
the Catholic children away from it. But the Catholic laity are
learning their rights as American citizens, and men are growing up
who will lead their offspring into our temple of knowledge. Napo-
leon said, "When you would do a great thing, let alone the leaders
and strike for the people." Let us hold no more conference with
the Catholic clergy, but build our school-houses broad and high,
make our schools the best in America — as soon as we are able
make even school-books free,'and invite the children of all the peo-
ple to come in. Cincinnati has no conference to hold and ho favors
to ask of Atheism ; but every child of such parents she invites to
come in and take the bread and water of life freely. Across the
border half a score of great states and territories, where the com-
mon school is just emerging into life, are watching the progress of
our glorious temple of the instruction of the people. When those
walls are set and that dome is spread, shall those commonwealths
behold the stars and stripes flaunting to the breeze entwined with
the black flag of Atheism ? Not so. We will finish our temple,
make it large enough for all, and then we will raise our flag and
nail it there ; that flag which our fathers raised ; that flag which
their sons bore across a hundred bloody fields ; and every man shall
know it means Liberty, Knowledge, Religion, now and forever-

20 Religion in the


On the 8th day of December, 1864, while a million patriot
soldiers were forming the mighty line that swept the relics of the
great rebellion of American despotism into the sea, Cardinal Anto-
nelli, the soul of Pope Pius IX, sent forth a manifesto to the Cath-
olic bishops of the whole world. This manifesto consisted of an
"Encyclical Letter" and a "Syllabus of Modern Errors," and
was a new platform for the Catholic priesthood, defining their rela-
tions to modern society and the affairs of the nineteenth century.
With the unerring eye of despotism the great central authority of
the Roman Catholic church saw that a crisis was upon it. In the
destruction of American slavery the bulwark of its political power
in this republic was overthrown, and freedom, with all its blessings,
would prevail over the land. Every European government would
be changed by this momentous event, and make haste to throw off
the yoke of priestly bondage so long and grievously borne. Italy
had already gone down stream, and Austria and Spain were heaving
with the premonitions of the earthquake which has shaken those

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Online LibraryA. D. (Amory Dwight) MayoReligion in the common schools. Three lectures delivered in the city of Cincinnati, in October, 1869 → online text (page 2 of 6)