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Meditation 1094
Faith or Fact

Church and State

by: Henry M. Taber

Comment by JT: This chapter, addresses the issue of separation of Church and State. The USA is fortunate to have this separation guaranteed in its Constitution, yet, there is always a considerable segment of the religious that fail to see this is to their benefit and seek to overturn it, thinking it is their particular version of religion which will recive state sanction.

I find some interesting point in Taber's article here.

First, the argument presented for non-separation of Church and State is the idea that the US inherited English comon law. This argument is not much heard today – Taber shreds it along with poimnting out the fatal implication to most of America's Christians if it were true - it would specifically be the Church of England which would be established in the USA.

Secondly, Taber feels no need to address – or even mention – the argument so often heard today – that all of the founding fathers were believing practicing Christians. This is because no-one was stupid enough – or a brazen enough liar – to make such a risible claim. There would have still been people alive who knew founding fathers first hand or second hand.

The third point which undermines the argument that the US Constitution does not separate Church and State is the number of clergy that Taber quotes who either fully support that Constitutional separation – or alternively who were actively working to rewrite the Constitution to eliminate the clause.

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“Religion is a matter which belongs to the churches and not to the state.” – Washington.

THE most distinctive feature, and the most important principle, promulgated on the formation of our government, was the complete separation of the church from the state.

Learning the lessons of experience taught by other nations, of the persecutions, tortures and butcheries, in which this unnatural union has resulted, the founders of our Republic were most pronounced in their determination that this fearful blight upon the prosperity and happiness of older nations should not find entrance on the soil of a people devoted to freedom from all “entangling alliances,” be they political or ecclesiastical; and so Washington and Hamilton and Franklin and Jefferson and Paine guarded this sacred principle with the most jealous and anxious care.

In order to emphasize and enforce the declaration of this principle, in Article VI, Section 3, of the Constitution of the United States, it is provided that “no religious test be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States;” and in the very first of the amendments to the Constitution we read : “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.”

Yet, in face of these most positive inhibitions, firmly imbedded in the Constitution of our country, we hear those over-zealous in the cause of religion insist that “this is a Christian nation.” The argument which it is claimed sustains that position being that as we were once colonies of Great Britain, and subject to her laws, we inherited the laws of the United Kingdom. It being maintained that in the absence of positive law to the contrary we are subject to the “ common law of England,’ ’ and (it being further maintained) that as this law is based on the Christian religion, therefore Christianity is the fundamental law of the United States. The fallacy of this method of reasoning has been often exposed; by none, perhaps, more thoroughly than by what is known as the “Committee for Protecting and Perpetuating the Separation of Church and State,” a body of gentlemen composed mostly of clergymen and other believers in the Christian religion, whose report on the question may be found on pages 718 and 719 of the New York Churchman of December 11, 1886, which reads, “Neither the Constitution of the United States nor that of the State of New York authorizes or permits any discrimination or preference in favor of Christianity as against any other religion… With the majority of the people Christians, and no important body of citizens to advance any claims for other religions, it was inevitable that not only legislation but judicial decisions (especially under an elective judiciary) should accord with popular opinion. This usage, which will inevitably continue while the prevailing sentiment is Christian, is the sole foundation for the claim sometimes made that Christianity is established by common law…

“Attention has been called to the claim that the United States Constitution recognizes and re-establishes the common law of England, and that this is a Christian land. Various judicial decisions and legislative enactments are pointed out which are distinctly Christian; therefore it is claimed that Christianity in this country is, by law, established. If the argument proves anything it proves too much. The common law of England was not a Christian law, but was the law of a church established by law. The conclusion inevitably would be that if the common law of England is recognized and established by the Constitution of the United States, then not only Christianity but the Church of England, is, by law, established here” (!)

Madison said: “If the common law of England had been understood to be the common law of the United States, it is not possible to assign a satisfactory reason why it was not expressed.” And again he says : “Who does not see that the, same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish, with the same ease, any particular sect of Christianity in exclusion of all other sects.”

President Madison was so impressed with the belief that the state had no business with the churches he vetoed, in 1811, a bill to incorporate a church in the District of Columbia.

Washington, in the treaty made with Tripoli, in 1796, distinctly stated: “The government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded upon the Christian religion.”

Jefferson says it was ”meant by the framers of the Constitution to comprehend within the mantle of protection the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and the Mohammedan, the Hindoo and the Infidel of every denomination.”

President Jefferson, in 1808, on being petitioned to proclaim a day of fasting and prayer, refused, saying: “I consider myself interdicted by the Constitution from doing anything that pertains to religion.” He also refused to appoint thanksgiving days.

Chief Justice Kent, in 1810, denied that Christianity was part of the law of the State of New York.

Ex-President Woolsey, of Yale college, says: “Our Constitution would require no change to be adapted to a Mohammedan nation.”

The Christian Register says: “Ours is not a Christian government. It is a civil government strictly and exclusively… A Christian government implies a state religion.”

For Judge Samuel F. Miller, speaking for the Supreme Court of the United States, says: “The law knows no heresy, is committed to the support of no dogma, the establishment of no sect.”

Lord Chief Justice Coleridge said: “Christianity is no longer the law of the land.”

Judge Story, of the Supreme Court of the United States, says: “The Constitution of 1790… expressly declares: “No man can of right be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship or to maintain any ministry against his consent; no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience; and no preference shall be given, by law, to any religious establishment or modes of worship… It must have been intended to extend equally to all sects, whether they believed in Christianity or not and whether they were Jews or Infidels.”

Even the Roman Catholic Cardinal Manning (in the Forum of March, 1889,) takes the position that as the entire separation of church and state is a fundamental principle of the Republic, therefore the state knows nothing of Christianity.

Rev. Dr. Gregg, of the Park Street Church, Boston, says: “It (the Constitution) offers no more protection to the religion of Jesus Christ than the religion of Buddha.”

Rev. Dr. Armitage says: “The Baptists maintain that so far as the civil government is concerned a man may be a Jew, Mohammedan, Christian, Pagan or Infidel with impunity.

Rev. Wm. Chauncy Langdon, of St. James Rectory, Bedford, Pa., says: “From no principle of English social or political. life did the revolution separate our fathers more effectually and more thoroughly than from that which recognized an established religion of the state.”

The late Bishop Phillips Brooks said: “Every institution in which the doctrine of a particular church is inculcated ought, for its own sake and the state’s sake, to be guarded most jealously from any connection with state support.”

Such is the opinion of all intelligent, broad-minded people, whether they are Christians or not.

The laws of our various States are (like the Bible) contradictory and inconsistent. They all assert, with much “flourish of trumpets,” the principle of separation of church and state and at the same time adopt other laws which are dictated by the church. They all provide for the equality of their citizens before the law and yet certain citizens are deprived, by law, of their rights.

The constitution of Illinois recites: “The free exercise of religious profession, without discrimination, shall be forever guaranteed, and no person shall be denied any civil or political right, privilege or capacity on account of his religious opinions.” And yet there are several laws there enacted in the interest of a particular religious faith.

In the bill of rights of Arizona we read: “The civil and political rights of no person shall be abridged or enlarged on account of his opinions or belief concerning matters of religion.” And yet restraining laws with reference to Sunday, to (what is called) blasphemy, oaths, etc., are passed. Blasphemy, in some of the States, consists in questioning the deity of one of the sons of Joseph and Mary, or of the (incomprehensible and impossible) doctrine of the Trinity.

The constitution of Tennessee (in Article I, Section 3) provides that “ No preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishment or mode of worship… no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.” And yet, in article IX, Section 2, it is also provided that “No person who denies the being of God, or a future state of reward and punishment, shall hold any office in the civil department of this State.” And in the same article, Section I, it is also provided that no minister of the Gospel, or priest, shall be eligible to a seat in either house of the legislature.” It is in this State that, recently, three of its inhabitants (Christian men, too) were imprisoned for weeks because they exercised the “rights of conscience,” which the constitution of Tennessee guaranteed to them, in observing the seventh, instead of the first day of the week as a religious day.

In several of the States the testimony of Agnostics, in the courts, is made liable to discredit, and in other of the States their testimony is forbidden.

Although, as has been said, the principle which sustains the separation of church and state is boldly enunciated by all, the violation of this principle is shown in the appropriation of National and State monies for religious purposes; in the exemption of church property from taxation; in the payment of chaplains to the army, navy, prisons, legislative bodies, etc.; in the teaching of religion in the public schools; in the enactment of Sunday laws; in the proclamation of fast or thanksgiving days.

With reference to appropriating money for religious institutions, Col. Rush C. Hawkins has furnished statistics which show such appropriations in twelve years, from 1875 to 1886, to have aggregated $12,500,000 for New York city alone, of which sum Roman Catholic institutions received nearly two-thirds.

A great wrong has, for years, been perpetrated by the practice of making (United States government) appropriations for “Indian schools,” all of which are sectarian institutions, where the tenets of the respective religious denominations are taught. Hon. Thomas J. Morgan, ex-commissioner of Indian affairs, has made an exhaustive report on these matters, prefacing it with the patriotic utterance that he comes “to plead for America, for the Republic, for our most cherished and characteristic institutions, for free thought, free speech, a free press, free schools, free ballots and freedom of conscience.” General Morgan informs us that this system was inaugurated in 1877, when the modest little sum of $20.000 was appropriated from the Federal treasury; but which in sixteen years has grown to $2,300,000! (nearly two-thirds of which went to the Roman Catholic church).

The Baptist church has always been the most pronounced of (probably) all the churches in the advocacy of the principle that the state and the church should be absolutely separate, and it is exceedingly gratifying to state that at a meeting of the American Baptist Home Mission Society, in May, 1891, this society, in refusing to longer violate the principle it believed in, gave utterance to these true and honest words: “History is proof that the meddling of ecclesiastics with civil government has embittered political discussions; has added religious fanaticism to partisan rancor; has divided society; has engendered civil international wars ; has made princes the tools of prelates, and has endangered the very existence of the state… The hand of the church on the state has induced hypocrisy, formality; a church palsied and corrupt.” The Methodists and Congregationalists have, more recently, also refused to accept the share which was more recently allotted to them, and still more recently the Episcopalian and Presbyterian churches have taken similar action.

In the Free Thought Magazine of Sep., 1893, is an article on the taxation of church property, showing the rank injustice of a system which (virtually) takes money from the community and gives it to the churches to disseminate their dogmas. This article gives estimates of the value of church property exempted by law from taxation; beginning with that of Rev. James Freeman Clarke, who placed the value of such exempted property at $87,000,000 in 1850. Following this are estimates made by Samuel Roberts, Judge Westbrook and General Grant, showing that such exempt property doubles in value decennially (or approximately so). Thus we have the startling figure of $3,000,000,000 as the probable value of exempt church property five years hence, and the alarming sum of $100,000,000 (!) in 1950, unless some action be taken (as has been done in California) to do justice to the rest of the community by compelling the churches to pay their equitable share of taxation.

It is gratifying to note a disposition to right this great wrong on the part of the more liberal minded and honest of the clergy, and of the religious press. As illustrations of this fact two quotations (among many others) may be furnished, viz.: “That which is protected by the government may justly be compelled to maintain it… I would like to see all church property throughout the land taxed to the last dollar’s worth.” – Rev. Dr. Shipnan, of Christ Church, New York city.

“In the wiser day coming every dollar of church personal value and every foot of church land will pay taxes to support honest secular government. Remission of taxes for church and church school uses is a secular gift to churches.” – N.W. Christian Advocate.

The Baptists of Baltimore, of Montreal and of other places have already taken action in favor of taxing church property.

“The Minister’s Association of the United Presbyterian Church, at their October meeting in Pittsburgh, debated the question of church exemption from taxation and decided that such exemption was wrong.” – Truth Seeker.

One of the most absurd violations of this principle of church and state separation is the appointment of chaplains to be paid from the secular treasury, A portion of the money raised by the tax levy goes to support persons employed by the State to enunciate certain dogmas (not one of which they know anything about).

Both the State and the United States governments pay for the teaching of these dogmas in the army and navy, in our prisons, in our legislative and congressional halls. Is there a more Useless expenditure of money, to say nothing of the wrong of teaching religion at the expense of the State?

Judge Waite tells us that the church failed to introduce chaplains into the convention that framed the Federal Constitution. In the earlier Congresses the church was more successful. In 1839, 1840, 1845, 1850 and 1860 there was vigorous opposition to the continuance of the chaplains. But the church thus far has proved too much for the state.

There is not the slightest warrant in law for appropriating money to pay chaplains.

The reading of the Bible and the inculcation of religion in our public schools is another phase of the violation of the principle of non-union of church and state. This has long been a most vexed question and has engendered the bitterest feeling among Protestants, Catholics, Jews and Agnostics. A more intelligent and liberal view of this subject is constantly gaining ground, and people are more and more induced to agree with the late Rev. Dr. Howard Crosby (a thoroughly orthodox Presbyterian clergyman) when he says: “We might as well insist on reading the Bible in a machine shop as in a public school…  There is no safety for our country but in non-religious, elementary education in our public schools… If the state is to teach religion, what religion is it to furnish? The Roman Catholic, the Jewish, the Chinese, the Agnostic? … Is it not better that the Atheist should make his children Atheists than to break up the country and array men against each other?”

Sunday laws, another violation of principle, are on the statute book of every State in the Union, notwithstanding the fact that there is not the slightest warrant for the religious observance of that day to be found within the lids of any book which is recognized as authority. I challenge any of the clergy or any other believer of Christianity to produce such warrant. On the contrary, very many of the church fathers, the Reformers of the sixteenth century, and all the enlightened and honed of the clergy of to-day, have acknowledged that our Sunday laws have no foundation whatever in the Christian or any other religion.

Again, the principle of church and state is violated by the appointment of days of fasting, prayer and thanksgiving. President Cleveland recently issued a proclamation in which he calls upon the American people to render thanks to the “Supreme Ruler of the Universe,” to pray to the “Father of all mercies” for blessings, to seek the favor of the “Giver of every good and perfect gift,” to meet in our “accustomed places of worship” and evince our gratitude to “Almighty God,” to acknowledge the “goodness of God,” to invoke “Divine approval,” etc., etc.

Mr. Cleveland was elected President of the United States for no such purpose. He cannot show the slightest authority for any such act. He issues this proclamation at the dictation (or in the fear) of not one-third – probably not one-tenth – of the people of this country.

It is an extra executive act.

Is this government of ours a Theocracy? One might think we were living in the days of ancient Israel, when “thus saith the Lord” was the talisman by which national existence was sustained.

Notwithstanding the fact that the principle on which our government was founded is already violated by laws enacted in the interest of the Christian religion, there is an attempt on the part of even more fanatical Christians to do still further violence to the spirit which was the guiding principle of the fathers of our Republic.

Many attempts have been made to change the preamble to the Constitution of the United States so as to recognize the Christian religion; and a most determined (but fortunately unsuccessful) effort was made during last year under the auspices of the “National Reform Association,” which, with the “American Sabbath Union,” are the two chief conspirators against the liberties of the Nation. These traitors to our country are working diligently for the overthrow of that “justice, domestic tranquility, general welfare and blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,” which was ordained and established by the Constitution of the United States.

What would be the consequences of their success? Precisely what it has been whenever Christianity has clutched at the throat of the state and made it subservient to the church.

But let these religious bigots speak for themselves, in order that we know definitely their purposes.

The Christian Reformer says: “The chief thing for us to do is to demolish the secular theory of government and reconstruct the Constitution on a Christian theory.”

Rev. M. A. Gault says: “It cost us all one civil war to blot slavery out of the Constitution, and it may cost us another war to blot out its infidelity.”

Rev. J. W. Foster says: “The state and its sphere exist for the sake of, and to serve the interests of the church.”

Rev. E. B. Graham says: “If the opponents of the Bible do not like our government and its Christian features, let them go to some wild, desolate land, and… stay there till they die.”

Rev. Dr. Edwards says: “We want state and religion, and we are going to have it... It shall be revealed religion – the religion of Jesus Christ.”

Rev. Samuel Small says: “I want to see the day when the church shall be the arbiter of all legislation, National, State and municipal; when the great churches of the country can come together harmoniously and issue their edict, and the legislative powers respect it and enact it into law.”

At a meeting of the Reformed Presbyterian Synod, at Newburgh, the following resolution was adopted, viz: “That we will endeavor to teach more forcibly the duty of our Nation to God, and the Bible view of civil government, and maintain our political dissent in refusing our elective franchise to put into office men who are bound by their official oaths to support the Constitution of the United States.”

The Protestants are making overtures to the Roman Catholics to co-operate for the purpose of supplanting this Democracy of ours with a Theocracy, forgetful of the fact (which Protestantism has ever claimed) that the Romish Church is symbolized by the woman of Babylon “drunken with the blood of saints.”

But this conspiracy against the Republic and against its more cherished institutions will NEVER succeed. The intelligence of the age, the growth of knowledge, the progress of scientific discoveries, the “higher criticism” of the times, the advance of liberal thought, the love of justice and respect for truth will all work in harmony for the protection and perpetuation of the noblest heritage ever bequeathed to a nation.

The Christian Catilines may succeed in stirring up bitterness, animosities, contentions, strifes, perhaps wars ; but the grand principle which underlies all that makes this country the envy of other nations – the principle of the non-union of church and state – is an indestructible and immovable foundation.

Christianity began to manifest its arrogance and malevolence the very day it ascended the throne of the Caesars. It seemed to have (at once) imbibed the spirit of tyranny and persecution from the murderous despot who was the first to unite the Christian church with the state.

Notwithstanding the atrocious character of Constantine, Christians seem to delight in speaking of him as “the great Christian emperor.”

Had the church never formed the unholy alliance with the state, Christianity would doubtless have remained the simple, practical, beneficent religion that it was when founded by its author, instead of the pretentious, imperious, intolerant, unjust system which it has become.

Speaking of the religious persecutions, and of the wars which for centuries carried terror, desolation and death throughout Europe, Buckle says : “ Not one would have arisen if the great truth, that the state had no concern with the opinions of men, had been recognized.”

The late Rev. Philip Schaff, D. D., LL. D., says: “The principle of persecution – to the extent of burning heretics – is inseparable from the union of church and state.”

Rev. James M. King says: “Whatever religion has been wedded to the state, individual conscience has been debauched; and a gigantic, tyrannical, political machine has been instituted.”

Bishop Venner says: “The mixing up of politics with religion is fraught with manifold and multiform dangers… There is no tyranny so cruel, no yoke so intolerable, as priestcraft, when vested with temporal power… More political atrocities, butcheries, crimes and enormities have been committed in the name, and on the account, of religion than have arisen from any and all other causes combined.”

Dr. McGlynn says: “The union of church and state means the corruption of both.”

The Jewish Times says: “ A careful compilation of sectarian enactments teaches us that religious fanaticism and intolerance injected into politics have united church and state. There is not one of these enactments that may not one day be invoked against citizens who profess the Christian religion… The Adventists, Jews, Agnostics, the great body of the Rationalists at large, have not the ‘equal rights’ guaranteed by the Constitution that Christians have.”

The Western Union says: “No religious man can advocate legislative action in behalf of religion without endangering his own religious liberty.”

Rev. Dr. Silverman, speaking of the movements in Congress to recognize Christianity in the Constitution, says: “It may result in using the civil power to make men pray and read the Bible. They tried to benefit society in that way in the middle ages.”

Prof. Francis E. Abbott, editor of the Index sounds this note of alarm in the ears of the fanatical traitors who seek to tamper with our Constitution, and thus, perhaps, accomplish the overthrow of the Republic: “I make no threat whatever, but I state truth, fixed as the hills, when I say that before you carry this measure and trample on the freedom of the people you will have to wade through seas of blood; every man who favors it voted to precipitate the most frightful war of modern times.”

It is a singular fact that while, throughout Europe, they are trying to rid themselves of the influence of the church in matters of state, in this country Christian zealots are trying to fasten the church upon the state.

In France, while they are taking the word “God” out of their public schools, in this country a set of fanatics are at work to put this word in our Constitution.

One word (in conclusion) as to who it is that makes this demand that the Christian church become a partner with the state in administering the government.

It is an an anomalous fact that this demand comes mainly from those who profess to be believers in “the right of private judgment,” but who practically deny it.

What portion of the people is it that insist that the church shall control the state?

The New York Evangelist (edited by Rev. Henry M. Field, D.D.,) says: “Four-fifths (eighty per cent.) of the young men of the country are skeptics.”

Henry Ward Beecher said that “Ninety per cent. of those engaged in the higher field of research are Agnostics.”

Rev. Geo. J. Mingens says: “Of the 40,000 people who die every year in New York city, not ten per cent.  believe in God.”

The Mail and Express says that in California only five per cent. of those between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one years of age ever attend church.

Rev. J. W. Waddell says: “Only one in ten of the population of Chicago are Christians.”

Dr. Dorchester says that in Colorado only one in twenty are Christians; in Nevada, one in forty-six; in Wyoming one in eighty-one; in Arizona, one in 685!

All of the above are religious (Christian) authority, by which we learn that, probably, not exceeding ten per cent. of the people of this country could, by any possibility, be favorable to a system which would accomplish a union of church and state; and yet, owing to their method of organization and facility of co-operation, to their great wealth and (consequent) influence, and to the fear which religion has ever – more or less – influenced and controlled (especially the masses of) the people, this one-tenth of our population has succeeded in gaining the mastery of the nine-tenths.

But this state of things will surely have its limitation. There is growing inquiry among thinking people as to “why religion should any longer claim our allegiance” (to quote the language of John Fiske.)

The theory of evolution has undermined the foundation dogma of the “fall of man; ” the criticisms of liberal minded Christian writers are gradually removing from the blinded eyes of faith all reverence for an untruthful and vulgar Bible.

Christian ministers pronounce the doctrine of the atonement superstitious, if not immoral; Christianity is discovered to be but an inheritance from older religions; the term “God” is largely believed to be synonymous with nature.

The dogma of the Trinity obtains the assent of no thinking person; scarcely anyone now believes in endless punishment; heaven is now said to be a “condition” and not a place.

Surely, with these tendencies to more intelligent thought, the time will come (and in the near future) when those who believe in perpetuating the blessing of a secular government, which its founders bequeathed to us, will celebrate a substantial victory over the wiles of the most unreasoning and unjust enemy with which this country has contended or can contend, viz.: the Christian Church (or at least that portion of the Christian church which would risk the destruction of this country for the sake of imposing upon its people a series of unprovable and effete dogmas.)

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