THE same spirit that was manifested by the king of Babylon when he passed a decree that all his subjects should worship Daniel's God, is now manifested by a set of zealous religious fanatics in the city of Philadelphia, in their attempts to force the bible into the public schools as a text book, together with a set of teachers and books which favor their sectarian views. The passions of the common people are strongly appealed to by leading and influential clergymen, and large mobs are collected into public squares to hear the incendiary and infatuating declamation of the ringleaders of this fanatical party. By the wicked misrepresentations of those who profess to hold the spiritual guardianship of the nation, the common people are made to believe that an order has been sent over from the pope of Rome, to exclude the reading of the bible from our children; and the impression is attempted to be made that our children can have no opportunity of reading the bible, unless it is provided by law that that book shall be read in the public schools; but, how far is this from the truth? According to the constitution of our nation, and of all the states, all sects of religionists are recognized as having equal rights, none to be patronized by the government to the prejudice or proscription of others. The public schools are sustained at the public expense; the cost of them is raised, directly or indirectly, from all classes of the people subject to taxation, without reference to their politics or religion. It is, therefore, proscriptive, unjust, unconstitutional, and wicked, to apply the money of Jews, Pagans, Papists, christians or infidels, without their consent, to the support of any system of religion in which they do not all agree. This course of the clergy, striking, as it does, at the root of the civil and religious liberty, threatens our nation with all the horrors of speedy persecution, misery, and blood.
They talk much about a bible without note or comment, but still insist that the teacher and visitors of the schools shall comment upon the scriptures, and it is well known that no school book finds favor in their eyes, that is not corrupted by some of their religious opinions. What is the difference, whether the bible be introduced into the schools with note and comment printed and bound within its lids, or, that the bible be in one book, and the notes and comments in other books?
Is it not enough for every sect, that they be allowed to teach whatever system of religion they please, at their own expense? Why should any wish to monopolize our public institutions? If the Presbyterians, Methodists, or Baptists, wish to teach religion as a science in their schools, they have only to get up schools at their own expense, and the right is guaranteed to them by our constitution and laws; and, the same right belongs also to their papal and other neighbors; but it is as unjust to apply the money of the Papists to support Protestant sectarianism, as it would be to take the money raised by taxation from the Protestants, and apply it to teach the peculiar doctrines of the Roman Catholic religion. In neither case would it be any better than highway robbery.
While the fanatics of our age seem conscious that their religion must be established and maintained like that of their prototype, (Cain,) by violence and force of arms, we have reason, as Old Fashioned Baptists, to rejoice that "their rock is not as our ROCK, our enemies themselves being judges." "God is our refuge and strength;" and he "hates robbery for burnt offerings." His "kingdom is not of this world," not can its foundations be made stronger by human legislation, or its interests promoted by oppression, proscription, or falsehood.
Brethren, it is our firm conviction that the party which has been so long and so insidiously laboring to establish THE MAN OF SIN, in the union of secular and ecclesiastical power upon the ruins of our liberty, is now using all its power and influence to effect its wicked purpose, by corrupting all the fountains of primary instruction in our country. Their object is to unite the public schools with the Sabbath and Theological schools, and bring them under the control of clerical aspirants. Let this be done, and the boasted freedom of America is gone forever.
New Vernon, N.Y.,
April 15, 1844.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 2
Pages 427 - 429