« PreviousContinue »
“(2) That the teaching of religion in State schools will tend to work an injustice to individuals, for the reason that the church is divided into numerous churches because of differences among the people in respect to the theory of religion.
“(3) That it is better for both science and religion that they be taught by different teachers and in different places. The church furnishes the best environment for the teaching of religion. The theory of religion can not be understood by children, and the atmosphere of scientific teaching is unfavorable to the successful teaching of religious dogma.
“(1) The school is made no more godless by this exclusion of religious instruction than are nature and the secular institutions of man. And these are held to be not godless but god-full by any rational interpretation of Christianity.
“(5) The ultimate solution of this and all other school problems will be found in a more permanent, more devoted, more scholarly, and freer body of teachers, and in a more Catholic clergy, who shall join hands in working for both the temporal and the eternal welfare of the children, and shall see that nothing can be helpful to the one that is harmful to the other.”
Minnesota.-In the closing months of 1889 a dispassionate correspondence occurred between Hon. D. L. Kiehle, LL. D., then superintendent of public instruction for the State of Minnesota, and Right Rev. James McGolrick (Catholic), bishop of Duluth. There were two letters by each, forming a pamphlet—The Public Schools and the Catholic Clergy.
The essential points of the correspondence were the following:
“MY DEAR SIR: I feel bound to avail myself of your late patriotic utterance and expression of good will toward the public schools of Minnesota, and to ask that you express yourself with definiteness respecting the attitude of the priests of the Catholic Church toward the common schools of the State.
In discharging the duties of my office, devising ways and means for the improvement of common school education among the people, I have met obstacles of ignorance and prejudice in extended neighborhoods of our foreign population, which to this time show few or no signs of yielding. In these neighborhoods prevails not only a foreign language, but often an illiteracy, habits of intemperance, and lack of culture that disgrace our civilization. In our efforts to penetrate this obscurity, and to encourage good schools, we have frequently been opposed by the authority of priests, who, by reason of the circumstance that these people were in some cases Catholics, have seriously retarded their progress toward intelligence, and what else belongs to American citizenship. It is, therefore, with a view to a better information, and to secure all reasonable cooperation from yourself and those over whom you have authority, that I respectfully ask the following:
“First. Do you recognize it as the duty of American citizens of the Catholic faith to support the public school system in that spirit of loyalty with which they support other departments and institutions of the Government?
“Second. Have American citizens of the Catholic faith the right to exercise their independent judgment, and to send their children to the public school, when they are satisfied that it is in the best interest of their children?
“Third. Is it the position of the priests of the Catholic Church that American citizens of the Catholic faith sending their children to the public school without permission of the priests commit sin and forfeit their right to the sacraments of the church?”
Bishop McGolrick wrote November 30: “MY DEAR SIR:
I am well aware that in dealing with our foreign-born population you have met with many disagreeable and foolish objections; but it is well to remember that they often come from countries where, both openly and under disguise, edncation was made the means of proselytism and an engine for the destruction of the faith. A great and powerful state church built up an edifice into
which they hoped to drive an unwilling people, and actually used the whole force of the state by fines, imprisonment, banishment, and even death, in the effort to turn poor, uneducated Catholics into enlightened Protestants. These faithful people were made to support a religion in which they did not believe, and every power in schools and colleges was directed to the undermining of their faith.
“If you ask me, 'Ought Catholics to support a system of common free schools?' I would say without hesitation they ought to support and should be in favor of such free schools; but when you ask, “Ought they support the present public school system?' I answer that there are certain obstacles in the way of conscientious Catholics availing themselves of these schools as at present constituted, and I trust you will give them kindly consideration.
“It is the duty of the state to foster and encourage education; but the parent is by divine right the natural educator. To the family belongs this highest mission, and the parent must not be ousted from this right, but assisted iu his efforts to educate, that Government being best which interferes least.
Of course, the state could take due action in case of the criminal neglect of parents in the education of their children; it is the right and duty of the state to see that such education is given, but to form the good citizen this is the work of parent, religion, and school.
" Then, the public school system under its present rules can not teach Christianity, for the Jewish children would be offended, and could justly protest. Neither can it teach morality, for morality must be founded on religion, and the state can not teach religion. There are those interested in the workings of the schools who propose a hybrid system of morals.
Such slipshod methods will not teach the child the controlling of strong passions.
“To this [second] I answer, certainly; they can do so when they are satisfied it is for the best interest of their children. But interest' is a doubtful term. There are worldly interests and 'interests' of an eternal importance. With the explanation given above, as faithful children of the Catholic Chureh, they would not sacrifice the eternal interests of their children for any worldly interest, and so would not endanger willingly the faith of those so dear to them.
“Answer [third]. “The lips of the priest shall keep knowledge and they shall seek the law at bis mouth. The priest is the guardian of the sacraments, and if there be for his flock any proximate danger of sin they are bound to warn them and prevent, if possible, the danger. But it must be remembered that the priest is a member of a living church and that he can not, according to his whims and fancies, make laws; his business is to act according to the laws made by the ehureh, and interpret and condemn as she interprets and condemns.
“From all this you can readily understand that while we rejoice at the spread of education, Catholics maintain that an additional element is wanting to complete the great work of forming good and true citizens, and this must somehow be supplied. In Canada, perhaps soon to be an integral portion of our great Republic, the difficulty is admirably solved.
“Notwithstanding the bitter opposition to the position of the Catholics, I have entiro trust that this will pass away, and so fair-minded a people as the Americans in our liberty-loving Republic will find some way by which all can share in the common benefits of a thorough education under the fostering care of the state.”
The establishment of parochial schools by Catholics engrossed attention so fully that it sometimes seemed as if they alone had an interest in controlling the religious training of their children. The occasional expression of Presbyterian authorities of the desirability of such schools passed unheeded, the rare establishment of parochial schools by a Protestant Episcopal Church was hardly recognized, and the people of the country at large scarcely knew that other bodies of Christian people not less in earnest than the Catholies were maintaining schools for the especial purpose of impressing their religious faith upon their children.
THE SO-CALLED BENNETT LAW.
The most striking incidents connected with recent popular attention to parochial schools occurred in Wisconsin. They were closely parallel in Illinois, and there was an eagerly expectant attitude in adjacent States.
The Catholics had strong parochial schools, and whatever the framers of new legislation might have intended, the popular support which their effort received was largely the continuation of the current feeling against a possible Catholic domination. To many people it came in the nature of a surprise that the law which they had indorsed bore heavily upon large bodies of most earnest Protestants.
It occurred in 1889 that a suit was instituted against a school board (City of Edgerton, No. 8) of Wisconsin to cause the discontinuance of Bible reading in its schools. The lower court refused the mandamus asked for, and the case at this stage was cited in national discussions? as establishing the use of the Bible in the public schools of the country. When the case reached the supreme court the decision of the lower court was reversed, and the reading of the Bible was decided to be unlawful on tho ground that it was a sectarian book. The Catholics, part of them using the German language, and the Lutherans and Evangelicals, partly German in tongue, partly Norwegian and Swedish in speech, were busily teaching their religious convictions in schools of their own. At the time of the decision that King James's version of the Bible was a sectarian book, a zealous campaign was in progress to bring all children under English instruction in the common schools. A law was enacted known as the Bennett law, the essential provisions of which were as follows:
“ The people of the State of Wisconsin, represented in senate and assembly, do enact as follows:
“SECTION 1. Every parent or other person having under his control a child between the ages of seven and fourteen years shall annually cause such child to attend some public or private day school in the city, town, or district in which he resides, for a period not less than twelve weeks in each year, which number of weeks shall be fixed prior to the first day of September in each year by the board of education or board of directors of the city, town, or district, and for a portion or portions thereof, to be so fixed by such boards, the attendance shall be consecutive, and such boards shall, at least ten days prior to the beginning of such period, publish the time or times of attendance in such manner as such boards shall dircct; provided, that such boards shall not fix such compulsory period at more than twenty-four weeks in each year.
“SEC. 2. For overy neglect of such duty the person having such control and so offending shall forfeit to the use of the public schools of such city, town, or district a sum not less three dollars nor more than twenty dollars, and failure for each week or portion of a week on the part of any such person to comply with the provisions of this act shall constitute a distinct offense; provided, that any such child shall be excused from attendance at school required by this act, by the board of education or school directors of the city, town, or district in which such child resides, upon its being shown to their satisfaction that the person so neglecting is not able to send such child to school, or that instruction has otherwise been given for a like period of time to such child in the elementary branches commonly taught in the public schools, or that such child has already acquired such elementary branches of learning, or that his physical or mental condition is such as to render attendance inexpedient or impracticable, and in all cases where such child shall be so excused the penalty herein provided shall not be incurred.
“SEC. 3. Any person having control of a child, who, with intent to evade the provisions of this act, shall make a wilful false statement concerning the age of such child or the time such child has attended school, shall for such offense forfeit a sum of not less than three dollars nor more than twenty dollars for the use of the public schools of such city, town, or district."
For instance, John Jay before National Educational Association, elsewhere herein cited.
Sec. 4 provides that five days prior to prosecution under the act the board shall cause written notices to be served; and if on hearing of tho prosecution the court is satisfied that the party has cansed the child to attend as provided, in good faith and with intent to continue, the penalty shall not be incurred.
“Sec. 5. No school shall be regarded as a school under this act unless there shall be taught therein, as part of the elementary education of children, reading, writing, arithmetic, and United States history in the English language.”
Sec. 6. Prosecution by the authority of and in the name of the school board, and all tines and penalties for the benefit of school moueys.
“SEC. 7. Jurisdiction to enforce the penalties herein described in this act is hereby conferred on justices of the peace and police magistrates within their respective counties.”
SEC. 8 pertains to truancy.
SECS. 9-13 relate to employment of children under thirteen years of age, prohibiting it except under a permit from judge of county court.
“Sec. 14. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage and publication.
“Approved April 18, 1889.”
A law in Illinois of a similar character was noarly coincident with the above law. It will be convenient to treat the laws as essentially the same, without separate detail of minor circumstances, in the two States, but it will be well to point out the differences that existed in the laws themselves.
Section 1 of the Illinois law required attendance for at least sixteen weeks, eight of which were to be consecutive, at some public day school in the city, town, or district where the child resides, the time to begin with the opening of the first term of the school year or as soon as notice is served. Fine $1 to $20 and stand committed till costs are paid. The words of section 5, Wisconsin, are included in section 1, Illinois.
Sections 2, 3, Illinois, pertain to truancy.
Section 4, Illinois, resembles section 6, Wisconsin, but requires prosecution to be in the name of the State.
Section 5, Illinois, corresponds to section 7, Wisconsin, but adds “judges of the county court."
The Illinois law had no provisions regarding employment of young children; a subject treated in another law. It was approved May 24, 1889.
The opposition that at once made itself manifest was centered upon the Bennett law as it was called, of which the Illinois law was treated as a duplication. It was plain that there was an intention to secure similar legislation in adjacent States. The Lutherans were thoroughly roused. Various synods took action, and a mass of literature from a Protestant source was added to that which had been accumulating for over half a century almost wholly in discussion of the Roman Catholic view,
In June, 1889, the Lutheran Synod of Wisconsin adopted this declaration:
“We are not enemies of the public schools; we consider them and declare them to be a necessary institution. We are ever willing to pay our taxes for the support of the public schools. We are opposed to any and every grant of public school funds to private schools. But we insist upon enjoying the privilege of founding private schools with our own means, of regulating them and governing them, without external interference, according to our conviction and according to sound principles of pedagogy, for the sake of making our children loyal and good citizens. We therefore protest against the assertion which has been made by so many, and even by ofticers of the State, that our Lutheran Church is hostile to the public schools, and that our parochial schools are a standing menace to the public schools."
In a pamphlet entitled The Bennett Law and the German Protestant Parochial Schools of Wisconsin, Christ. Koerner cites cases of arbitrary ruling in Illinois where the power of approving a school was abused. In one case directors of three districts are said to have approved a German Lutheran school which the directors of a fourth district refused to approve, and the father of a child attending from this last district was therefore fined.
As the law has ceased to have any interest except as a matter of history, with its lessons for the future, some of the objections that died with it may be passed over. There are some points that will have value till some kind of settlement is reached and accepted as to religions instruction or the use of the Bible in public schools.
Mr. Koerner quotes this provision of the constitution of Wisconsin: “The right of every man to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of his own conscience shall never be infringed,
nor shall any control of or interference with the rights of conscience be permitted, or any preference be given by law to any religious establishments or modes of worship."
He goes on to say: “With this constitutional provision the Bennett law, if enforced, will come into conflict.
Our children we hold, should, if possible, constantly be surrounded by a religious, a Christian atmosphere. Now in our public schools knowledge of God and Christ and love and fear of God are not taught, and can not be taught, for they are established for all children whose parents wish to make use of them.
In order, therefore, to give their children Christian instruction and training, very many German congregations in this State have established parochial day schools, which, as a rule, are well attended; we support these schools at a great expense because our conscience demands that we bring up our children in such manner, in a Christian school."
German Protestants of the city of Milwaukee, after affirming their loyalty to the public schools,
“Resolved, That as the Bennett law is in direct opposition to the personal liberty of conscience guaranteed us in the constitutions of the United States and of this State, we will oppose the same with all lawful means in our power and endeavor to have the same repealed.
“And as execution of this law, so far as we are concerned, is intrusted to our city officials, be it
“Further resolved, That we will use our influence at the coming city election and will vote for such candidates only as are opposed to the Bennett law.”
The following platform was adopted by the anti-Bennett law State convention, held at Milwankee June 4, 1890:
“I. We, citizens of Wisconsin, in convention assembled, in order to protest against the so-called Bennett law, in the first place consider it necessary to defend ourselves against false representations calculated to prejudice our cause, and do therefore declare:
“1. We are not enemies of the English language; on the contrary, we endeavor to furnish our children the very best instruction therein.
“2. We consider public schools necessary, but maintain that parents have the right to establish and select for themselves schools for their children.
"3. We claim no part of the public school fund for the use of parochial or other private schools.
“4. We are not opposed to a law prohibiting the employment of children in factories, nor to an enactment providing for reasonable compulsory attendance at school, nor do we object to an interference by the State with schools conducted contrary to the public order and morality.
"II. But we protest against the so-called Bennett law, because it unnecessarily and unjustly curtails our civil and religious liberty; for it
“1. Offers the school boards an opportunity of determining arbitrarily that a child, during the period of enforced attendance, must attend a school in the city, town, or district to which it resides, thus depriving parents of the right to send their children to a better or more suitable school outside the district.
“2. It com pels parochial and other private schools to observe the time or times