“A PETITION was presented in the Assembly on the 23d inst., from A. H. Dennis and others of Cayuga County, asking for an appropriation to aid the preaching of the gospel at Sandy Hill, Washington County. This is the first time that we recollect of the legislature of this state being called upon directly for an appropriation to aid the preaching of the gospel, although it is done annually in an indirect way. We suppose that the legislature will have in the first place to ascertain whether it is the gospel or law that is preached at Sandy Hill, before they make an appropriation for that purpose. On this subject we opine there will be a difference of opinion among the members. We would like to know on what page of the bible it is recorded that Christ or his apostles ever called upon the rulers of state to make an appropriation to aid the preaching of the gospel. If it is necessary to raise money for that purpose, it must be done by moral obedience, and not by legal force.” – Goshen Clarion.
WE are inclined to regard the above application to the legislature by citizens of Cayuga County, to make an appropriation to aid the preaching of the gospel in a sister county, as intended for an experiment to see how far our pious legislature will go in mingling church and state affairs by legal enactments. Our state legislature was engaged a considerable portion of the preceding session in the discussion of and legislation upon subjects of a religious character, and generally of a sectarian bearing. Fifty-nine thousand, six hundred dollars were appropriated for religionizing our common schools, by and through the establishment of a monster State Normal School, after the most approved Prussian model, and in placing that school under the semi-supervision of grave Doctors of Divinity. Much time and treasure were expended in long and grave debate by that session, on the subject of revising, improving and enforcing the Mosaic law upon the Gentile sinners of the state of New York.
Now if our legislature has the right and competency to define, revise, amend and enforce the law of God, abolish the right which our Creator has vested in parents to direct in the education of their own children, to settle by legal enactment the long controverted question in regard to a legal Sabbath, we see not why they may not determine what is, and what is not gospel, arid make appropriations of the people’s money to sustain the one, and use their legislative authority to suppress the other. As a bold attempt was made last winter, and a bill came well nigh passing, after much debate, to proscribe a certain religious sect called Shakers, and strong efforts were made to deprive the Catholics of their constitutional rights, and to lavish charters and special privileges upon the unobjectionable sects of our state, why not carry out the policy to its legitimate extent and bearing, and determine by legislative dictation what sects shall be tolerated – what doctrine in religion shall be regarded as sound and orthodox, what days we shall worship our Creator, and how, and at what hour in the morning and evening we may pray?
The Clarion, in the above extract, remarks that appropriations to aid the preaching of the gospel have been asked for, in an indirect manner, before. Although nothing can be done by any legislature to aid in the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God, either directly or indirectly, further than to protect all classes, sects and descriptions of our citizens in the uninterrupted enjoyment of their civil, social and religious rights, yet it is notoriously true, that thousands of the funds of this. state have been appropriated for chaplains, colleges, theological schools, and in special privileges to chartered religious institutions, for the indirect aid of the preaching of what is profanely called gospel; and if the memorial from Cayuga will have the effect to open the eyes of the public to this encroachment upon the constitutional rights of the people, we shall rejoice. We have reason to hope that the present legislature of this state is not so fully under the dictation of a clerical power which has formerly lurked behind the throne, as the preceding; but a vigilant watch should be maintained, and every innovation upon the equal and unalienable rights of all classes of citizens should receive an early and effectual rebuke.
New Vernon, N.Y.,
February 1, 1846
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 2
Pages 616 – 618