THE BIBLE IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS.

"The editor of the SIGNS OF THE TIMES, the organ of the Old School Baptists, attacks in no very mild terms or gentle spirit, the recent meeting of Protestants of various denominations in Philadelphia, to oppose the attempts of the Papists of that city to banish the bible from the common schools. He deems their proceedings fanatical, sympathizes with the Papists in their efforts to discard the bible, and if we comprehend him aright, which is sometimes a matter of difficulty, think that is not a fit book to be read in school, and that the compilations for the use of schools ought to have no religious matter in them. Well, strange things will sometimes occur. A professed Baptist joining with the Papists in preventing the use of the Bible in schools! That interdicted book tells us, in that same day Herod and Pilate were made friends." – Rel. Herald.

One would suppose on reading the above article, that the editor of the Herald was an admirer of mild terms and gentle spirits; but with all his courtesy and gentleness, it will be seen that he would gladly make the SIGNS OF THE TIMES the official organ of all Old School Baptists, and hand us as a body over, with the proscribed Catholics, to the tender mercies of the "Protestant Association" of Philadelphia. Because the Old School Baptists are not ready to take the bible in one hand, and the incendiary torch in the other, and with the Protestant Association, put all civil and military power of our country at defiance, trample under foot the constitution and laws of our country, and butcher down such as they may mark as heretics, we are charged with discarding the bible, and joining with the Papists in preventing its being read. The editor of the Herald, who for the last twelve years has been familiar with the peculiar sentiments of the Old School Baptists, will find it difficult to conceal the baseness of his insinuation. He knows full well, that our unyielding attachment to the scriptures, as our only rule of faith and practice, has made us the objects of his cruel hate and bitter aspersions, from the day that a company of Old School Baptists, at their meeting at Black Rock, Md., refused any longer to recognize him and his New School associates, as Baptists of the primitive order, because they had gone out from us, and had left the order of the gospel, and embraced heresies to which we could not subscribe. And well he knows, that at any moment since that separation, the New School Baptist would gladly have ceased their hostilities against us, if we would but consent to lay aside our bibles, and adopt their rules.

Much pains had been taken by the Protestants to represent the Catholics as the aggressors in the late frightful riots of Philadelphia. But how stand the facts? Whatever the history of that sect may show of persecutions and cruelties in former times and in other countries, no spirit of insubordination to the laws of our country, or disposition to invade the rights of other sects, had been manifested by them, to draw down the wrath of their neighbors; when an alliance as anti-christian as it is anti-republican, was entered into by several of the most popular, powerful, and influential denominations, and New School Baptists among the rest, expressly to suppress Catholicism in the United States. We appeal to all who retain one spark of that patriotism which glowed in the bosoms of our revolutionary sires, is it either republican or christian for any number of religious sects to unite their energies to proscribe and exterminate another sect? Was it not the design of the founders of our government that all men should have equal rights, in regard to their religious privileges? The very foundation of this "holy alliance," or unholy alliance, was in itself an aggression; but here it did not end; vast sums of money were collected, printing establishments called into requisition, missionaries employed, and numerous public lectures were given to excite the people against the Papists, as citizens, for this was the only vulnerable point of attack; as professed christians they held no doctrine or practice which could not be found also among these very Protestants which had leagued themselves against them.

As citizens, the Catholics were taxed in common with others for the support of our government, and were entitled to an equal representation in that government; not as Catholics, but as citizens; but the Protestant Association, by whom, also, the Native American party has been originated, made a direct attack upon their rights of suffrage, and required even a change of constitution, which was framed by our fathers, and established at the expense of blood and treasure, in order to disfranchise the Catholics.

It is urged, the Catholics had attempted to expel the bible from the public schools, and deprive our children of the use of that blessed book. But is this a fair statement of the case? By no means. The truth is, the Catholics and the Protestants occupy the common ground, in relation to the matter of teaching their religion as a science, only the Protestants insist on using the Catholic's money, without their consent, to teach the science of their religion, and the Catholics demur, and plead the constitution of the country for their protection. The Protestants are not willing to be taxed to teach the Catholic bible to their children, and the Catholics also protest against being compelled to support a bible and system of scholastic divinity in which they do not believe. Then where is the difference? If the one party are justifiable, then, so are the other. Let those who have become exasperated against the Catholics for objecting to support schools where the king James translation of the bible is used and Protestant doctrines are taught, ask themselves the question, whether they would willingly have our schools use the Catholic bible, and teach the Catholic religion? We would die before we would submit to it; why then impose upon them an injury which we consider worse than death?

While Mr. Sands, of the Herald, would charge upon the SIGNS OF THE TIMES, and upon the Old School Baptists, a union with Catholics, like that of Herod and Pilate, the charge returns to its legitimate source. The SIGNS, and the Old School Baptists, have no connection with any kind of religion, Catholic or Protestant, Jew or Pagan, that an be taught as a science. We give to none of them a preference; we discard them all alike, while we hold and profess that religion which is purely a revelation from God, by his Holy Spirit, which we received not of man, neither were we taught it but by revelation. That religion of which it is written, "they shall no more teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, know the Lord;" that in which they shall be all taught of God, from the least of his covenant children even unto the greatest; that which is absolutely hidden from the wise and prudent, and revealed unto babes, because so it has seemed good in the sight of our God.

We are aware that the teaching religion as a science in the public schools, was the ostensible bone of the contention in Philadelphia; but the Catholics are as willing to teach religion as a science as are the Protestants; the latter are indebted to the former for the practice, the theory, and the art of scientific divinity. The dispute is as to which religion shall be taught. The Catholics have private schools, convents, &c., where their religion is taught according to their interpretation of their own bible, and at their own expense. The Protestants also have their divinity schools. Let these schools be sustained by those who have use for them, and there will be no cause of contention. In a city like Philadelphia, there are among the taxable citizens, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Friends, and Old School Baptists. These sects are all taxed to support a common school, and all have children which they wish to have educated. Confine these schools to strictly educational purposes, and all may realize the benefit; but the moment these schools are seized upon as church property for sectarian purposes, they cease to be useful, and become the fruitful source of contention, and ultimately of persecution. Wrap it up as we may, if we make a study of the common version of the bible a part of common school education, we violently rob the Jew and the Catholic of their money, and their rights, which are dearer still, to support our religion; nor can this difficulty be remedied by the substitution of any other bible or oracle. The only plan then upon which public schools, supported by legal provisions, can possibly be sustained and made useful to all classes, without proscription or discord, is to restrict them to their appropriate sphere; to teach in them what properly belongs to the various branches of literature. There is room enough for all to enjoy their conscientious rights in our country. Those who wish to teach their religion as a science, are at full liberty to establish schools of their own, distinct from the common schools. The Catholics may have their converts, their daughters of every Protestant name can have their Sunday Schools, colleges, and theological schools, and leave the church of Christ under the instruction of Him who taught as never man teaches. Dearly as we love the bible, we cannot consent to rob our neighbors of their rights nor of their money to teach it to our children. We love it too well to so grossly violate its instructions. The Lord hates robbery for burnt offerings.

In conclusion, we will appeal to the editor of the Religious Herald, and to the "Protestant Association," is there not a fearful responsibility resting upon you, stained as you are with the blood of those victims which have fallen in the two late riots at Philadelphia? Go feast your guilty eyes upon the mangled bodies whose massacre you have occasioned, count the number of distracted widows and wretched orphans you have made; survey the ruined walls of those churches as they were called, which your religion has prompted you to burn, and the ashes of the library which your desire for the diffusion of knowledge led you to commit to the devouring element; mark the consternation which you have occasioned, the dreadful array of your minions against the military and civil powers of the land, and remember there is a day of dreadful retribution, for "THE LORD SEETH."

New Vernon, N.Y.,
August 1, 1844.

Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 2
Pages 472 - 477