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Rights of Religion and the Bible in Public

and Private Schools

By Raymond M. Hudson of the Washington, D. C., Bar.

Representing a group of Christian clients, a brief was prepared on the above subject for use in two important cases pending in New York and Colorado wherein the questions were raised whether the State by appropriate legislation could require the reading or study of the Bible in public or private schools.

The following conclusions are in support of the proposition that the several States and sub-divisions thereof by appropriate legislation have the right to, and can require the readings or study of the Bible in public or in private schools and that they can likewise authorize religious instruction to the pupils so long as it is not restricted to any specific Church, Sect or denomination; nor can the States prohibit such reading or study of the Bible and its teachings. The subject is treated both from a legal and Christian viewpoint.


This amendment is as follows:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

It was held by the United States Supreme Court in Permoli v. First Municipality, 3 How. 589, in 1845, that the Constitution of the United States makes no provision for protecting the citizens of the respective States in their religious liberties; this is left to the State Constitutions and laws.

This was twenty-three years prior to the adoption of the 14th amendment in 1868, and there are cases cited hereinafter as authority that the States can not by constitution or law prohibit, since the adoption of the 14th amendment, the reading or teaching in public schools of the Bible or any other book unless it is dangerous to "the health, morals or understanding of the ordinary child."

Meyer v. Nebraska, 262 U. S. 390, 43 Sup. Ct. Rep., at 628. The Constitution was adopted and is adapted to meet new conditions and circumstances, as was said in an early case by Justice Story:

"The Constitution unavoidably deals in general language. It did not suit the purposes of the people, in framing this great charter of our liberties, to provide for minute specifications of its powers or to declare the means by which those powers should be carried into execution. It was foreseen that this would be a perilous and difficult, if not an impracticable, task. The instrument was not intended to provide merely for the exigencies of a few years, but was to endure through a long lapse of ages, the events of which were locked up in the inscrutable purposes of Providence. It could not be foreseen what new changes and modifications of power might be indispensable to effectuate the general objects of the charter, and restrictions and specifications which at the present might seem salutary might in the end prove the overthrow of the system itself. Hence its powers are expressed in general terms, leaving to the legislature from time to time to adopt its own means to effectuate legitimate objects and to mold and model the exercise of its powers as its own wisdom and the public interests should require."

Martin v. Hunter, 1 Wheat. 326.

The historical origin may be considered, and historical evidence may be resorted to as aids in the construction and applications of words and provisions. What went before the adoption of the Constitution may be resorted to for the purpose of throwing light on its provisions in placing a construction upon an article of doubtful meaning, the safe way is to read its language in connection with the unknown conditions of affairs out of which the occasion for its adoption may have risen, and then to construe it in a way, so far as is reasonably possible, to forward the known purpose or object for which it was adopted.

Twining v. New Jersey, 211 U. S. 78.

Marshal v. Gordon, 243 U. S. 521.

South Carolina v. United States, 199 U. S. 457.
Williamson v. United States, 207 U. S. 425.

Appleyard v. Massachusetts, 203 U. S. 222.
Missouri v. Illinois, 180 U. S. 219.

Kendall v. United States, 12 Pet. 524.

It is a well-known matter of history that thousands of the Colonists in this country fled from religious persecution in England, France, Ireland, and other European countries, caused by the Established Church in those countries, and in Virginia the Established Church was endeavoring, through the States, to crush the Dis-senters and all other denominations, and this was largely true as to all the colonies. This "Established Church" was controlled and supported by the State through taxation of all the people.

The real object of the First Amendment to the Constitution was not to countenance much less advance Mohammedism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating the Christian religion, but was to prevent any National Ecclesiastical establishment which should give to a hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the National Government according to Story on Constitution, Section 1877.

We often forget the distinction between three sets of rights preserved by the Constitution, viz: Federal Rights, State Rights, and Rights reserved to all the People, which latter neither the State nor Federal Government can infringe or restrict.

10th Amendment, U. S. Constitution.

The rights reserved to all the people is to all the people of all the States of the United States, and not just the people of one particular State.

Thomas Jefferson requested that he be remembered by posterity simply as the "Author of the Declaration of Independence of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom, and the Father of the University of Virginia,” and his Statute of Religious Freedom in Virginia and to leave it free and open for all people to worship God according to the dictates of their own consciences, and the Act (12 Hennings Statutes, pp. 84-85-86), a copy of which is hereto attached, shows a strong faith in God and the Bible and in the religion that is accepted by the large body of American people.

The Virginia Bill of Rights, adopted June 12, 1776, provided

"16. That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence, and therefore, all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love and charity toward each other."

The Spiritual Church of God and the Bible is a living organism and everything else is merely organization and the "establishment of religion," as stated in the Constitution, is limited by the history of our Country and Constitution to organizations as various denominations and does not apply to the living organism. The persecution of our forefathers for their faith and religious freedom was merely one organization fighting another organization and none of them fighting the living organism of the Bible, but one trying to force on the other its idea of how to worship the living organism and to construe the Bible, and our

whole history is filled with laws and statutes and constitutions, courts and legislatures and other organizations sustaining and upholding the Bible, but it forbids any one to force on any one, or any organization to force on another organization its own particular manner of worshipping God and construing the Bible.

In Reynolds v. United States, 98 U. S. 145 (1878), the United States Supreme Court held that Congress can prohibit polygamy and Mr. Chief Justice Waite states at page 162:

"Congress can not pass a law for the government of the territories which shall prohibit the free exercise of religion. The first amendment to the Constitution expressly forbids such legislation. Religious freedom is guaranteed everywhere throughout the United States, so far as congressional interference is concerned. The question to be determined is whether the law now under consideration comes within this prohibition.

"The word 'religion' is not defined in the Constitution. We must go elsewhere, therefore, to ascertain its meaning, and nowhere more appropriately, we think, than to the history of the times in the midst of which the provision was adopted. The precise point of the inquiry is, what is the religious freedom which has been guaranteed.

"Before the adoption of the Constitution, attempts were made in some of the colonies and States to legislate not only in respect to the establishment of religion, but in respect to its doctrines and precepts as well. The people were taxed, against their will, for the support of religion, and sometimes for the support of particular sects to whose tenents they could not and did not subscribe. Punishments were prescribed for a failure to attend upon public worship, and sometimes for entertaining heretical opinions. The controversy upon this general subject was animated in many of the States, but seemed at last to culminate in Virginia. In 1794, the House of Delegates of that state having under consideration 'a bill establishing provision for teachers of the Christian religion,' postponed it until the next session, and directed that the bill should be published and distributed, and that the people be requested 'to signify their opinion respecting the adoption of such a bill at the next session of assembly.'

"This brought out a determined opposition. Amongst others, Mr. Madison prepared a 'Memorial and Remonstrance," which was widely circulated and signed, and in which he demonstrated that religion or the duty we owe to the Creator', was not within the cognizance of civil government. Semple's Virginia Baptists, Appendix. At the next session the proposed bill was not only defeated but another, 'for establishing religious freedom," drafted by Mr. Jefferson, was passed. 1 Jeff. Works, 45, 2 Howison Hist. of Va. 298. In the preamble of this act (12 Henning's Stat. 84), religious freedom is defined; and after a recital that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion, and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency, is a dangerous fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty. It is declared, "That it is time enough for the rightful purposes of civil government for its officers to interfere when principals break out into overt act against peace and good order.' In these two sentences is found the true distinction between what properly belongs to the church and what to the State.

In a little more than a year after the passage of this statute the convention met which prepared the Constitution of the United States. Of this convention Mr. Jefferson was not a member, he being then absent as minister to France. As soon as he saw the draft of the constitution proposed for adop

tion, he, in a letter to a friend, expressed his disappointment at the absence of an express declaration insuring the freedom of religion (2 Jeff. Works, 355), but was willing to accept it as it was, trusting that the good sense and honest intentions of the people would bring about the necessary alterations. 1 Jeff. Works. 79. Five of the States while adopting the Constitution, proposed amendments. Three New Hampshire, New York and Virginia-included in one form or another a declaration of religious freedom in the changes they desired to have made, as did also North Carolina, where the convention at first declined to ratify the Constitution until the proposed amendments were acted upon. Accordingly, at the first session of the first Congress the amendment now under consideration was proposed with others by Mr. Madison. It met the views of the advocates of religious freedom, and was adopted. Mr. Jefferson afterwards, in reply to an address to him by a committee on the Danbury Baptist Association (8 Id. 113), took occasion to say: 'Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his his worship; that the legislative powers of the Government reach actions only, and not opinions-I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between Church and State. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the sentiments which tend to restore man to all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.' Coming as this does from an acknowledged leader of the advocates of the measure, it may be accepted almost as an authoritative declaration of the scope and effect of the amendment thus secured. Congress was deprived of all Legislative power over mere opinion, but was left free to reach actions which were in violation of social duties or subversive of good order."

Daniel Webster said in his great speech in the Girard College case:

"The generations that are gone before speak to it and pronounce it from the tomb. We feel it. All, all proclaim that Christianity, general, tolerant Christianity, Christianity independent of sects and parties, that Christianity to which the sword and fagot are unknown, general, tolerant Christianity is the law of the land."

7 Works of Daniel Webster 176.

In what is known as the "Christian Nation Case," decided in 1892, the United States Supreme Court has declared that ours is a Christian Nation and that we are a religious people, in a wonderful opinion in Holy Trinity v. United States, 143 U. S. 457, 12 Sup Ct. Rep. 511, where the Court held, that the alien contract labor law did not apply to or bar Ministers of the Gospel, and Mr. Justice Brewer, for the Court, said, page 514:

"But beyond all these matters, no purpose of action against religion can be imputed to any legislation, state or national, because this is a religious people. This is historically true. From the discovery of this continent to the present hour, there is a single voice making this affirmation. The commission to Christopher Columbus, prior to his sail westward, is from 'Ferdinand and Isabella, by the Grace of God, King and Queen of Castile.' etc., and recites that 'it is hoped that by God's assistance some of the continents and islands in the ocean will be discovered,' etc. The first colonial grant, made to Sir Walter Raliegh in 1584, was from 'Elizabeth by the Grace of God, of England, France and Ireland, queen, defender of the faith,' etc., and that grant authorizing him to enact statutes of the government of the proposed colony provided that

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