Religious freedom, as based on the rigorous separation of church and state, has traditionally been regarded as one of the foundation stones of American democracy. Against this background, many view with apprehension increasing efforts on the part of the churches to use state funds and power on behalf of religious education and, by one means or another, to invade the public school system.

To cite some recent examples: In the session of the New York Legislature that ended in March a bill was introduced in both the Senate and the Assembly to make Good Friday a legal holiday. Governor Dewey signed a proclamation which designated the week beginning April 8, 1946 as Sunday School Week in the State of New York. A shocking proportion of boys and girls in the State of New York are receiving no religious instruction, the proclamation stated. To correct this “it is urgent that attendance at Sunday Schools be promoted and encouraged by all our people.”

One would think that the State of New York, with its large Jewish population and its many Christian sects, would have ample guarantees against the adoption, or even the introduction, of laws or proclamations committing all of the people of the state to any religious profession or conduct. In other states the trend is even more evident; on the legislative agendas in almost every section of the country there are signs that various denominations intend a militant effort to secure state aid for religion, especially religious education. They want a share of the tax dollar; they want use of public property; they want the prestige and power that come from official recognition.

They also want the financial aid of the federal government. Taking advantage of the wide support being given by liberal groups to the movement for federal aid to education, the churches have persuaded the sponsors of S. 717, the pending Federal Aid to Education bill, to include a provision that the $300,000,000 to be allocated by the federal government to the states shall be available for parochial as well as public schools.

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An American Principle

This open pressure for government aid to religious education is something both old and new. In colonial times and in the early days of the Republic the states supported the churches and the church schools. For the last hundred years, however, and until the end of World War I, the sharp separation of church and state was considered an inviolable principle of American democracy. Practically the only aid the church received was tax exemption of its property. And even this measure of support was under violent attack. President Garfield, for example, said: “The divorce between church and state ought to be absolute. It ought to be so absolute that no church property anywhere, in any state, or in the nation, should be exempt from equal taxation; for, if you exempt the property of any church organization, to that extent you impose a tax upon the whole community.” Garfield followed the precedent set by President Grant, who, in a message to Congress, referred to tax exemption of church property as “an evil that, if permitted to continue, will probably lead to great trouble in our land before the close of the nineteenth century.” In 1850, he said, tax-exempt church property was valued at $87,000,000; in 1870 it was over $350,000,000. By 1900, he said, the amount would be over $3,000,000,000. (In 1936 the value of 180,000 out of 250,000 church edifices alone was $3,412,000,000, not to speak of other church property.) “So vast a sum,” said Grant, “receiving all the protection and benefits of government, without bearing its proportion of the burdens and expenses of the same, will not be looked upon acquiescently by those who have to pay the taxes.” In no uncertain terms he urged “the taxation of all property equally.”

Today a President would be committing political suicide were he to make such proposals. From the middle of the 19th to the middle of the 20th century we have gone a long way in closing up the distance between church and state; and the end is not in sight. The churches are well organized and aggressive; and ambitious politicians have learned it is easier to be on the side of the churches than against them. The churches blame the scientists and the politicians for the unchristian destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; they blame the godless schools for juvenile delinquency and crime. They speak for decency, public order, and morals. They say they are on the side of God and that God is on their side. Who else can make such a claim? And if they make such a claim, who dare oppose them?

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Public Aid To Parochial Schools

The Mead-Aiken Federal Aid to Education bill focuses national attention on the question of public aid to parochial schools. While the pressure for government support of parochial schools comes chiefly from Catholic quarters, it may be assumed that, with the increase in the number of Jewish all-day or parochial schools, some Jews will in time join the Catholic Church in movements to get for their own religious schools part of the tax dollar. Principled thinking may be set aside in the interests of short-range gains.

The Catholic slogan is: “Every Catholic child in a Catholic school.” There are 2,000,000 pupils in 8,000 Catholic elementary schools in the United States, taught by 60,000 teachers throughout the forty-eight states. In New York State alone there are 900 such schools. There are about 2,000 Catholic high schools, with an enrollment of over 300,000 pupils. Catholic colleges and universities add up to 184, with a total enrollment of 143,000 students. All told, there are about 10,300 Catholic schools, with over 2,500,000 students, taught by 90,000 teachers. The annual expenditure of the Catholic grade and high schools is well over $200,000,000.

Other religious denominations also provide parochial schools but their number, by comparison with the above figures, is insignificant. The enrollment in Lutheran parochial schools is 180,000. The total enrollment in parochial schools conducted by all other Protestant denominations is 95,0000. While about 35 per cent of Catholic children attend Catholic parochial schools, the proportion of Protestant children in Protestant parochial schools is almost negligible.

A recent survey by Noah Nardi for the Jewish Education Committee of New York shows that there are 9,000 pupils in Jewish all-day schools, or about 1 per cent of the 800,000 Jewish children in the United States. These pupils are to be found in sixty-five schools, located in twenty-six cities; but thirty-seven of them are in New York City, with an enrollment of 7,000 pupils. These all-day schools spend about $1,500,000 annually.

It is obvious that the financial burden on the Catholic parent is great. He must pay taxes; part of this tax money goes to the support of the public schools. In addition he must pay for the construction and operation of the Catholic parochial schools. For many years Catholics have been clamoring for a change in the system: a person, they say, should have the choice between supporting the public school and the church school. If his children attend a parochial school, he should be relieved of the public-school tax. As it is today, it is pointed out, the parochial schools save the public the expense of educating the Catholic pupils who are in these schools. This saving should be returned to the Catholic citizens.

When stated so simply, the argument makes good sense. If the parochial schools were to close down, the public would need to spend an additional $200,000,000 annually for the education of Catholic pupils (not to mention the need to build or buy school buildings equivalent in value to the $1,400,000,000 investment in Catholic elementary and high schools).

The debate reduces itself to this question: While the principle of separation forecloses public support of the religious instruction given in parochial schools, why should not the public pay for the cost of the secular studies offered in these schools? What difference does it make to the public whether a child gets his secular education in a public or in a parochial school?

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The Catholic View

But thus far one important point has been overlooked: the Catholic parochial school does not distinguish between secular and religious studies. To the Catholic (many Lutherans and Episcopalians share this view) all of one’s education is essentially religious in character. This is true from kindergarten through college, even through law or medical school. A parochial school that conducts its educational program in such a way that a line can be drawn showing where secular teaching ends and Catholic education begins would be accounted a failure. This has been said in no uncertain terms. In Essays on Catholic Education in the United States (Catholic University, 1942) the author of the chapter on the elementary school says:

In only too many instances the courses produced in the various dioceses have conformed to a large extent to the pattern set by secular courses. Since Catholic education is not secular education plus religion, our courses of study should likewise not be based upon this principle. Since our aim in Catholic elementary education is fundamentally different from the secular aim, our courses of study should exemplify this fundamental difference; they should be fundamentally Catholic. Our Holy Father, Pius XI, has set the goal for us: “In order that a school may accord with the rights of the Church and of the Christian family and be a fit place for Catholic students, it is necessary that all the teaching and the whole organization of the school and its teachers, syllabus, and textbooks in every branch, be regulated by the Christian spirit under the direction and maternal supervision of the Church; so that religion may be in very truth the foundation and crown of the youth’s entire training; and this in every grade of school, not only the elementary, but the intermediate, and then higher institutions of learning as well.”

In Vital Problems of Catholic Education in the United States (Catholic University, 1939) it is stated that:

Catholic education envelops the totality of human life, physical and spiritual, intellectual and moral, individual, domestic, and social, in order to direct and perfect it after the example and teaching of Christ.

The Catholic position is that Jesus established our true knowledge of the nature of man, the nature of society, and the nature of truth itself. This knowledge is the basis of Catholic education, which is unchanging: a pedagogia perennis. Jesus himself first promulgated the principles of this system of education. The Church has a mandate from Jesus to teach all nations: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” (Matt 28:19.). The state can only supplement the work of the Catholic Church and the Catholic parent. The mandate from Jesus makes no distinction between secular and sacred knowledge: all instruction is religious; the teaching of every subject must “be permeated with Christian piety” (Richard J. Gabel, Public Funds for Church and Private Schools, Catholic University, 1937).

The Catholic in the United States finds himself in a predicament. The Catholic Church has never accepted the principle of separation of church and state: the state should subserve the Church. The Church declares that “because of her institution by Christ, she alone possesses the whole of moral truth” (Vital Problems of Catholic Education in the United States). The primary object of the Church is the eternal salvation of mankind. Catholic education is a means to that end—an agency employed to achieve man’s salvation. This education envelops the totality of a man’s life. Now, from this standpoint the parochial school as it exists today represents only a half-measure, based on an enforced submission to the non-Catholic principle of separation of church and state. The Catholic ideal remains a preferred or monopolistic position for Catholic education, i.e., a Catholic education for all children, as in Spain, as in Italy under Mussolini, as in Peru and several other Latin-American countries in which the Catholic dogmas must be taught in all public and private schools, and in which the textbooks are prepared by the Catholic hierarchy.

Only when the philosophy of Catholic education is considered—even if the Church does not press for the maximum program in the United States—does it become apparent why remission of school taxes, or any other form of public aid to parochial schools, such as free textbooks or free bus transportation, seems a violation of religious freedom, a breakdown of the separation of church and state, and a violation of the prohibition found in most state constitutions against lending public aid to sectarian schools.

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The Right To Private Schooling

Some liberal philosophers would go beyond merely denying aid to sectarian schools. Professor Sidney Hook, in his recent Education for Modern Man, makes the point that, while it may be sound and essential to democratic educational policy to grant the right to receive education additional to that provided by public schools (e.g., from religious schools that begin their sessions after pupils are dismissed from public schools), the right to receive an education in a private school as a substitute for public education is not sound or essential democratic policy. Such private schools may be, under certain circumstances, an overt threat to democracy, he asserts.

However, so may the type of education offered in some public schools—thus the ownership of the school may be irrelevant. Moreover, “in a world where the state is growing stronger every day without overmuch concern for the rights of persons,” to use Professor Hook’s own language, the burden of proof against private schools would seem to rest on the state. In the absence of clear proof that such education as a substitute is an overt threat to democracy, I would say that the right to such an education is beyond question. At most, it would seem to me, we have only evidence that education offered in some private and in some public schools threatens democracy.

In the United States it seems beyond question that churches and other private bodies may conduct parochial or private schools, attendance at which meets the requirements of a compulsory attendance law, as long as the schools conform to the requirements placed on all schools—e.g., measures of safety, qualifications of teachers, the inclusion in the curriculum of certain subjects, hours of opening and closing. This I consider a very important right. In Soviet Russia and in Germany under the Nazis the Catholic Church was not able to enjoy this right (the Nazis suppressed 20,000 Catholic schools, with over 3,000,000 pupils). While the financial burden on the Catholic is admittedly great, he should be willing to pay the extra cost with thanksgiving. Religious freedom, like every other freedom, has its price. As long as the price can be put in only dollars and cents, it would seem no great matter. Only in a democracy such as ours can the highest court of the land say: “The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.”

Government support of parochial schools may be the death-knell of such schools; for he who pays the piper may ultimately decide to call the tune. The coexistence of private and parochial schools is crowning evidence of democracy among the people. Catholics should point to them with Catholic pride. Catholics and all others should point to them with democratic pride. Their existence is a democratic affirmation.

At the same time Catholics and non-Catholics should see in the free tax-supported school an equally important democratic affirmation. The public school is open to all children belonging to the 256 religious sects in the United States, and those belonging to no sect at all. It practices no religious discrimination. (One day it will be free of racial discrimination as well.) It is dedicated to tolerance, sympathetic understanding, reverence for the human personality. It respects each child as a carrier of divinity. As John Dewey and Horace M. Kallen have said, the American public school trains all children in cooperative living. Indeed one might well ask whether, were it not for these qualities of free public-school education, Catholics would so completely enjoy the equality, freedom and security of democratic America.

As Professor Hook has said in the book cited above, where churches divide, the schools can unite by becoming the temples and laboratories of a democratic faith. They can forge attitudes of reasonableness, scientific inquiry and devotion to shared human values, and can provide knowledge which heightens the sense of human responsibility.

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Protestant Efforts

While the pressure to secure public funds for parochial schools comes from the Catholic Church, the pressure to bring the Bible and religious instruction into the public schools, and then gradually convert the public schools into parochial schools, comes from the Protestants. While the Catholics have been forthright in affirming their objectives, this cannot always be said of the Protestant groups.

Until the middle of the 19th century Protestants made strong efforts to establish denominational parochial schools; but the attempt proved a failure. There are 26,000,000 children in America’s public schools, but only 275,000 children in the Protestant parochial schools. The financial support of such schools has been meager. Sponsors have not been able to make up their minds whether to be Fundamentalists or liberal Christians; denominations have not been able to develop teaching orders, and without properly trained teachers there cannot be effective parochial schools.

Orthodox Protestants feel as strongly as do the Catholics that the public schools are godless places. The thing to do, since Protestants will not put up the money for their own parochial schools, is to bring God or godliness into the public schools. To bring God into the schools means, to most Protestants, to bring the Bible into them; for Protestantism, as distinguished from Catholicism and Judaism, is a Bible-centered religion. The Bible can be read and understood by any literate person, they say; and Bible-reading is piety. Some Protestants, as we shall see, go further: they speak of bringing religion into the schools, by which they mean more than Bible-reading.

The movement to bring the Bible or religion into the free public schools has developed in our own day. In 1826 Massachusetts enacted the only law in the United States in the 19th century requiring Bible-reading. But in the 20th century ten more states have passed such laws. In the District of Columbia the same result has been achieved by a ruling. In addition there are seven states in which Bible-reading is expressly permitted by statute. In many other states school boards, in the exercise of their administrative discretion, have required Bible-reading in the schools.

In some places provision is made for excusing pupils from the class room or assembly if they object to participation; in other places no such provision is made. In some cases, as in the City of New York, where there are many Catholic and Jewish pupils in the public schools, the teachers attempt to avoid difficulties by reading, without emphasis or ceremony, a Psalm; but in many places the reading is accompanied by the singing of hymns and the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer. In the Trenton, New Jersey high school that the writer attended, the principal of the school almost invariably read long passages from the New Testament during assembly, and the reading was followed by prayers and hymns.

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A Non-Sectarian Bible?

The Bible has been taken into the public schools on the argument that it is a nonsectarian book; and many state courts have agreed with this contention. Notwithstanding the objection of the Catholics and Jews that the Bible ordinarily used in the public schools is the Protestant Bible, which is not the Bible of the other faiths, a survey made in 1940 discloses that out of forty-three states for which facts are available, thirty-three have Bible-reading.

There is no such thing as a non-sectarian Bible. The Catholics use the Douay version; the Jews use the Jewish Publication Society’s or some other Jewish translation of the Old Testament; the Protestants ordinarily use the King James version. These versions vary sharply in respect to what is included and what is excluded, in the translation of important words, in marginal notes, and in other ways. To the non-believer the differences may seem unimportant, but to the adherents of the various faiths the differences are of great significance. The attack on Bible-reading, therefore, comes not so much from the godless groups, but from religious groups who justifiably identify Bible-reading in the public schools with Protestantism.

In addition to pressure to introduce the Bible into the schools, there is strong pressure today for so-called non-sectarian religious education in these schools. It is argued that separation of church and state should not necessarily mean the exclusion of a state interest in religion and in religious education. It was the multiplicity of sects that led to separation. Today, when the sharp lines that once separated the sects are in the process of decay, the emphasis is on common convictions and responsibilities, not on divisive factors. People now, it is said, are seeking a common faith, in which the emphasis will be on personal and social values, and not on dogmas. The schools had to become secular because of the sectarianism of the churches. The secular schools encouraged religious toleration, guaranteed rights of minorities, freed the schools from church control and the churches from state control. But this, it is argued, was not a permanent solution. The time has come to bring religion back into the schools: a non-dogmatic religion that will unite the pupils. While parochial schools divide children along sectarian lines, nonsectarian religion will make of them one body. This non-sectarian religion is to be independent of ecclesiastical authority and institutions and is to have little to do with theology and ritual.

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Unity Or Protestant Unity?

This proposal has a wide appeal today. Even some rabbis (among them Dr. Bernard Heller) have been won as sponsors. But the inherent danger should be easily apparent. The religion meant is obviously one consisting of only those elements of Protestantism upon which the Protestant churches can agree. When Protestants argue that the trend today is away from sectarianism towards unity, they mean intra. Protestant sectarianism. They cite the movement to unify the Episcopalian and Presbyterian churches. They do not—and cannot—cite a movement to unite the Catholic and Protestant churches, or to unite Judaism with Christianity.

The Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America is named as strong evidence of the unity movement. But the Council represents only Protestant sects. (And not all such sects are affiliated; Unitarians and Universalists have been declared ineligible because their theology is too liberal—they are not “Churches of Christ.”) The International Council of Religious Education is also cited as an example of the new spirit of cooperation. But the Council represents only Protestants (and only 85 per cent of these). In a word: Catholics, Jews, humanists, certain liberal Protestant sects, and the non-Christian faiths generally find no place in any of these unity movements or organizations. Protestants do not use the word “Protestant” as often as they should to avoid misrepresentation, even when not intended. They should speak of the Federal Council of Protestant Churches and of the International Council of Protestant Religious Education.

In any case it should be clear that “non-sectarianism” in this discussion is Protestant non-sectarianism. To bring “non-sectarian” religious education into the public schools means to convert our public schools into Protestant parochial schools.

I say parochial schools advisedly, because the proponents of this plan do not want merely a course or two in non-sectarian religion included in the curriculum. They, too, want to wipe out the line that divides the secular from the sacred in education. Religion, they say, is related to the entirety of the personal and social experiences of the individual. Religion must not be separated from the rest of education and given its own label; for religion is the revaluation of all values—intellectual, economic, social, political, aesthetic and moral—into a total meaning of life. The religious point of view must, therefore, penetrate all subjects taught in the schools.

It is apparent that the Protestants are borrowing from the Catholic Church its philosophy of education. One has no wish to quarrel with this philosophy. I would defend the right of a person to maintain this philosophy and to apply it in the education of his children. But this philosophy has no place in the free public schools. It is entirely unacceptable from the democratic or libertarian standpoint. Just as Protestants have the right to object to the conversion of public schools into Catholic parochial schools, so the Catholics have an equal right to object to the conversion of the public schools into Protestant parochial schools. Jews and non-Christians have a right to object to both groups. Protestants who accept the Catholic philosophy of education, while rejecting the Catholic theology, should follow the Catholic pattern of establishing and maintaining their own brand of parochial schools—and themselves pay the bill, just as the Catholics do.

The free public school developed as a government institution because of the diversity of the religious sects. The situation is no different today from what it was a hundred years ago. We still have 256 sects in the United States. While the line between some Protestant sects may not be very marked, the line between Catholics and Protestants, between Christians and Jews, between Christians and non-Christians, between believers and non-believers, is just as sharp as it was in 1846. Besides, a majority of the people today are not affiliated with any church, synagogue, or religious denomination. Perhaps even more today than a century ago religious freedom and separation of church and state are imperative.

If the Protestants capture the public schools, non-Protestants will feel the need to withdraw their children and provide their own schools for them. But if the Protestant schools will be supported by the state as public schools, the state will need to support all other parochial and private schools. This is exactly what the Catholic Church has urged and what the Protestants have opposed. The inconsistency in the Protestant position is quite apparent, to an outsider. It would become apparent to the Protestants, too, if they decided to call things by their right names—if they stopped proposing religious education and urged instead Protestant religious education.

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Released Time

A Decision in January 1946 by a circuit court in Illinois has again focused public interest on “released time” for religious education, the movement of the last thirty-three years by which children are released from public schools at certain hours to attend religious instruction of their own denomination. In this case an atheist had brought suit to prohibit the teaching of religion in the public-school buildings.

In 1941 religious education classes were established in the public-school buildings in Champaign under arrangements between the school board and the city Council of Religious Education, representing Catholics, Protestants, and Jews. The school board made available school rooms without charge. The religious instructors were selected and paid by the Council. Students having the written consent of their parents were released for thirty minutes each week in the grade schools and for forty-five minutes in the junior high school. If a majority of pupils in a class signed up for religious instruction, they remained in the class room, the religious teacher came in, and the public-school teacher and the pupils who had not signed up left the room and went to another part of the building. At the end of the period the teacher and pupils returned. If a majority of pupils had not signed up, they stayed and the others, with the religious teacher, went elsewhere in the building. Each faith had the privilege of engaging an instructor. It was shown that 80 per cent of the pupils in the grade schools and 20 per cent in the junior high school took religious instruction on the released time plan. In certain grade schools there were only two religious instructors, both Protestant; in the junior high school and in certain grade schools there were Protestant and Catholic instructors. While originally there was a Jewish instructor, for the last several years there has been none; and apparently in some schools Catholic and Jewish pupils attended Protestant classes.

The court, upholding the constitutionality of the system, pointed out that at present no less than 1850 public-school systems in forty-six states have some form of religious education in the school system. As long as there is no compulsion on the pupils, as long as the door is left open for the objecting pupils not to participate, the scheme provided by the school board is beyond constitutional attack. There is no constitutional prohibition on the free exercise of religion. The only restriction is that no public body has the power to establish a church supported by taxes. Here, said the court, the public did not support out of tax moneys any religious denomination. The religious instructors were paid by the denominations; the cards distributed among the pupils for their parents’ signatures were paid for by the Council. Since the religious classes met while the schools were in session, during the regular school hours, the school system suffered no extra expense for janitor service and for supplying heat and light.

It was argued that the system fostered intolerance among pupils by emphasizing religious differences; but the court found from the testimony that, on the contrary, the plan fostered tolerance.

The case is of interest because it discloses intimately how the plan works in one community, and because it bears out the fears of opponents who have maintained that once religious denominations are given released time for religious instruction outside of school, they will in time ask for and get more privileges, using the plan as an opening wedge to bring religious instruction into the schools.

The released time plan originated in Gary, Indiana, in 1913, and since then it has spread to about 1,000 communities in ten states. Originally it meant releasing an hour or a half-hour earlier at the end of the day, once a week, pupils who signified a willingness to go for religious instruction to their respective churches or church schools. Those who did not want this instruction stayed in school until three o’clock or the regular dismissal time. But as the Illinois case illustrates, many variations on the theme have been developed.

Released time developed among Protestant groups who envied the Catholic parochial schools and the Jewish after-school classes. Released time was opposed by Catholics on obvious grounds: The plan involved cooperation among the faiths; but Catholics do not wish to seem to approve of the claims of Protestants and Jews that children require instruction in Protestantism or Judaism: the only true religion, the only religion worthy of public support, they maintain, is Catholicism. Catholics want the child’s full time. An hour a week for religious instruction is not in keeping with the Catholic philosophy of education.

The plan was also opposed by Jews. Their reasons were: Released time violates the principle of separation of church and state. The public schools are for secular education exclusively. Religion is a private matter and should be the concern of the parents and of the religious bodies, but not of the public schools. And, while they do not claim the child’s full school time, and generally recognize the distinction between secular and religious subjects or studies as valid, many Jews want more than an hour per week for religious education. They want Jewish children to attend the Talmud Torahs or weekday schools for several hours daily after they are dismissed from public school. As an alternative to released time, the Jews offered the dismissal plan: all pupils should leave school one day a week one hour earlier; those who desire religious instruction will go to their church schools, and the others will be free to do as they please. This plan, it was maintained, would avoid differentiation among the pupils within the school on the basis of religious affiliation; it would avoid a stigma falling on those who fail to sign up for religious instruction; it would avoid involving the teachers and principals in the plans of the religious bodies; it would not bring to bear on the pupils official pressure to sign up. But the plan has not won wide approval. For Protestants apparently wish pressure on the pupils to choose religious instruction.

Wherever released time has been adopted, however, Catholics and Jews have fallen in line and have tried to make the best—and most—of it. As a matter of fact, the Catholics have won a larger enrollment for religious instruction than have the other faiths. For example, in New York City there are about 100,000 pupils on released time. Of these, 80 per cent are Catholics, 15 per cent Protestants and 5 per cent Jews. (As against the 5,000 Jewish pupils on released time there are 42,000 pupils in the afternoon congregational schools and Talmud Torahs, and 7,000 in the all-day Jewish schools.)

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More Religion In The Schools?

The small response on the part of Protestants seems likely to lead to a new danger in released time. Because of the dissatisfaction with the results, Protestant groups are apt to demand revisions of the plan in order to make religious instruction more official, more compulsory. The Illinois pattern may be copied elsewhere; and that pattern may be only a step toward further integration of religious instruction with the public-school program.

In a recent article in Religious Education, Dr. Ben M. Edidin, of the Jewish Education Committee of New York, writes that “It should be stated in all fairness that some of the fears regarding released time have not materialized, at least in New York. It has not proved a divisive influence in the public school; there have been no reports of embarrassment of Jewish children who get up from their seats in the public school once each week to go to their religious school.” But New York, with its large Jewish and Catholic population, is in a different situation from cities upstate, where the state commissioner of education had to issue orders to Protestant ministers in Wayne County not long ago enjoining them to stop giving religious instruction in the public schools.

Protestant dissatisfaction with the results of simple released time has been expressed by the Reverend Mr. William Clayton Bower in his recent book Church and State in Education. Released time, and church afternoon and Sunday schools are not, he says, a satisfactory solution of the problem. Even if they reached all students, “the fundamental division of the education of the whole self into the secular and the religious could not be justified on the grounds of either a sound educational philosophy or a modern functional concept of the relation of religion to personal and social experience.” The existing procedures are objectionable, he says, because they separate religion from the rest of education; they perpetuate the sectarianism of religion; and they fail to reach the entire school population. His answer is the introduction of non-sectarian religion, i.e., non-sectarian Protestantism, into the public schools.

The answer to the Reverend Mr. Bower, and to the clergy of all faiths who insist that religion should swallow up the whole man, lies in the position taken by Jefferson: “I am for freedom of religion and against all maneuvers to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another” (letter to Elbridge Gerry, 1799). Religion in the public schools means Protestantism in the public schools; Protestantism in the public schools means the legal ascendancy of one sect over the others. Those who deny that there is a division between the sacred and the secular, those who deny that religion is a matter exclusively for one’s own conscience, those who deny that the public has no legitimate interest in a person’s religion, enjoy the freedom to found and maintain private and parochial schools. They should exercise self-restraint and not attempt to compel others to agree with them. Just as no one compels their opinion, so they must not compel another’s opinion. As long as the Constitution grants them the right to educate their children in parochial and private schools, they would seem to have no right to bring their brand of religion into the public schools.

While orthodox Protestants should practice Christian forbearance, to use the language of the Virginia Bill of Rights, it seems clear that liberal Protestants and Jews would do well to use vigilance and assert their opposition with more consistency than they have evidenced in the past. While Jews have opposed the introduction of released time, they have cooperated in its administration once the plan has been adopted. This ‘cooperation seems indefensible. Opposition was put on the high ground of principle; but principled objection means that there will be no submission to the majority.

Principled objection means that one will not swerve from his position whatever happens. But Jewish communal leaders have not acted thus. They have said: “We object to released time. We object strongly. It violates the principle of separation of church and state. This principle means a great deal to us, and we would suffer to maintain it. But if you reject our plea, we shall cooperate with you to make released time a great success.” This inconsistency is not unlike that of Protestants who would not give a penny of public funds to support Catholic parochial schools, but who at the same time adopt the Catholic philosophy of education and attempt to bring Protestantism into the public schools.

In times of such confusion, he who adheres to the old democratic truths which are so cherished and so valuable a part of the American tradition, can only pray, with Aeschylus: “May right, and might, and Zeus all help me.” Indeed, he needs all the help he can get, plus all the clarity of vision and firmness of purpose he can muster.

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