|Subject: "Nonsectarian" but still very religious
From: email@example.com (KEVIN4VFT)
Date: 04 Jan 1998 03:24:02 EST
>Kevin said: >>Horace Mann's schools were explicitly
religious. But they were
>non-sectarian. Christian but non-sectarian. You can't understand the First
>Amendment if you can't make that distinction.<<<
>And you don't understand
>either Horace Mann or the First Amendment if you think that the Constitution
>endorses Christianity, in schools or in any other form. That's just not
Well don't cite an authority or anything like that. The presence of evidence and stuff
like that might distract readers from the argument you're making.
What I know about Horace Mann I learned from a past president of the Columbia Teacher's
College, a widely recognized authority on the history of education in America, Lawrence
The dominance of the New England Primer in the 1700's and the McGuffey
Readers in the 1800's, shows that Education was Christian and Biblical throughout this
period. The Constitution and the First Amendment were never understood to prohibit state
and local governments from encouraging the teaching of religion in all schools.
Even Horace Mann, severely criticized by many Christians, did not attempt to remove
religion from the schools. It was not until the 20th century that religion was stripped
from schools, and this was a sociological phenomenon, not a legally-mandated one. The
legal "mandate" was not invented until the early 1960's.
In article <19971229081200.DAA11964@ladder01.news.aol.com>, firstname.lastname@example.org (EDarr1776) writes:
>I'm saying that your statement that all the states taught
>absolutely untrue. Politely I've given a few examples and asked you to
>document your assertion. That is in lieu of accusing you of a Ninth
>Commandment violation. But then, since you don't hold to organized religion,
>should we expect you to try to hold to the commandments?
>If you do hold to
>the commandments, at least tell us what source has led you astray on the
>teaching of religion in the public schools. It is not done, it has never
>been done on any substantial scale. If you have evidence otherwise, now is
>the time to present it.
Here we go:
Butts & Cremin, A History of Education in American Culture, Holt, Rinehart
& Winston, 1953, pp. 272ff.:
"The attempt to build a nonsectarian common school curriculum.
In order for the ideal of a universally available, publicly supported, and publicly
controlled common school to be at all workable, the teaching of sectarian religion had to
be excluded from the classroom. [KC Note: this does not mean excluding all Christianity,
just the denominational distinctives:] In their attempts to accomplish this by teaching
the common elements of Christianity and the Bible without comment, however, the reformers
encountered violent opposition from conservative religious interests and the forces allied
with them. The idea that morality and character -- for many the central purposes of
education -- could be included in the curriculum apart from the dogma of a sectarian faith
was a difficult one for people who had recently lived under religious establishments to
accept. Yet the reformers were able, in the space of a half century, to convince a
majority of Americans that the plan was practical.
"The development of the nonsectarian curriculum in Massachusetts well represents
the movement throughout the Union. Interestingly enough, while the general law of 1789 had
enjoined teacher to exert their best endeavors to communicate piety, justice, and other
virtues to children, it nowhere mentioned the teaching of religion. Although the
popularity of the New England Primer had begun to wane in favor of newer material, the
Bible and the Psalter were in wide use, and the law of 1789 probably represented a more
general trend replacing earlier Calvinist teachings with a milder conception of
Judeo-Christian ethics and morality. Far from excluding religion, the law merely required
the teaching of Christian principles to a Christian community.
"When the law of 1827 greatly strengthened the town school committees, the
question of sectarian feeling in the selection of school books received important
attention. In order to prevent undue sectarian interest in this matter, the following
clause was inserted in the law: "That said committee shall never direct any school
books to be purchased or used, in any of the schools under their superintendence, which
are calculated to favor any particular sect or tenet." Once again, rather than
excluding Christian morality from the schools, this provision obviously hoped to bar only
sectarian doctrines and tenets.
"No particular attention was paid to this provision until the establishment of the
Board of Education in 1837 and the appointment of Horace Mann, a Unitarian, as its
secretary. When Mann and the board vigorously supported the common elements of
Christianity conception, the more conservative religious groups in the state accused him
of trying to introduce Unitarianism into the schools. [note: in the early 1800's,
Unitarianism looked more like contemporary evangelicalism, but was clearly a departure
from Puritan Calvinism.] In 1838, in a controversy over school libraries with Frederick A.
Packard of the American Sunday School Union [which published public school textbooks, not
just "sunday school" texts --kc], and again in 1844 and 1846, in controversies
with Reverends Edward A. Newton and Matthew Hale Smith, respectively, Mann and the board
were accused of conducting "godless," immoral
schools which bred delinquency and vice. Throughout these continuing struggles, Mann held
steadfastly to his position that the common schools were neither irreligious nor
nonreligious; they were nonsectarian. If one examines the curriculum of these years,
Mann's arguments were entirely borne out in practice, at least to the extent that moral
instruction was non-sectarian Protestant in orientation. Very obviously, what his
attackers were urging was not that religion, ethics, and morals be taught in the schools,
but that their particular sectarian doctrines be taught.
"By the time of the Civil War, Mann's position enjoyed wide acceptance in most
places, and universal acceptance in others. A questionnaire sent to twelve leading
citizens of Massachusetts in 1851 revealed general concurrence in the conclusion that the
New England system of education, while nonsectarian, was far from irreligious. Had America
been entirely Protestant, there seems little doubt that well nigh universal acceptance of
this policy might have been achieved by 1865. But this was not the case, and after 1840,
their ranks strengthened by the mass immigrations of the 1840's and 1850's, the Roman
Catholics raised growing objections. Pointing to the fact that the Protestant version of
the Bible was read in schools and that this Bible, contrary to Catholic doctrine, was read
without comment or interpretation, this group continued to view the public schools as
sectarian. In some places temporary compromises were achieved; in others Protestants
refused to heed these complaints; and in still others separate Catholic schools systems
were established. Suffice it to say that before 1865 the Protestants had no adequate
solution to the problem."
If I am able, I will quote Princeton Calvinist
A.A. Hodge who railed against the Catholics for fighting Protestants over the King
James Bible when they should have joined the Protestants in fighting against the
secularists. Again, I blame ecclesiastical denominations for most of today's problems.
But the point is inescapable. The Bible was taught in public schools long after the
Constitution was ratified. Even while Horace Mann was active, the New England Primer was
still being used:
That Cotton Mather's injunctions were not simply the ravings of a [fanatic] minister is
attested by the whole content and spirit of the New England Primer which was the most
widely read school book in America for 100 years. The best estimate is made that some
3,000,000 copies were sold from 1700 to 1850.
Butts & Cremin, p.69
No one believed this to be unconstitutional (except a few wiggy and blasphemous
prototypes of the ACLU, who were always ruled against in court).
From: email@example.com (KEVIN4VFT)
Date: 18 Dec 1998 12:41:00 EST
In article <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com
>Kevin has posted nothing that suggests that the
"theistic spirit" of the
>Declaration is opposed to religious freedom,
No, the theistic spirit was NOT opposed to freedom for Christians of every sect. I've
never said it was.
>nor that it was designed to
>exclude any believer of any faith, nor any disbeliever of any faith.
Name one person (besides Franklin or Jefferson [maybe]) who signed the Declaration who
believed that atheists should be allowed to hold office or testify in court -- and quote
him to that effect. I will promptly cite the rest of the signers, and will quote the
constitutions they drafted which excluded atheists.
>"theistic spirit" was clearly a civil spirit, not a sectarian religious one.
I am against sectarianism, i.e., the preference by law of one Christian sect over
Gov Samuel Johnston affirmed this during No.Carolina's ratifying convention:
I know of but two or three states where there is the least chance of establishing any
particular religion. The people of Massachusetts and Connecticut are mostly
Presbyterians. In every other state, the people are divided into a great number of sects.
In Rhode island, the tenets of the Baptists, I believe, prevail. In New York, they are
divided very much: the most numerous are the Episcopalians and the Baptists. In New
Jersey, they are as much divided as we are. In Pennsylvania, if any sect
prevails more than others, it is that of the Quakers. In Maryland, the Episcopalians are
most numerous, though there are other sects. In Virginia, there are many sects;
you all know what their religious sentiments are. So in all the Southern
States they differ; as also in New Hampshire. I hope, therefore, that gentlemen will see
there is no cause of fear that any one religion shall be exclusively
Notice how the word "religion" is used. It is a mistake to impose our
ignorance on the Founders. They used words with a specific meaning, which we may not
understand 200 years later. Also speaking to the First Amendment in the same convention,
[Congress] certainly [has] no authority to interfere in the establishment of any religion
whatsoever; and I am astonished that any gentleman should conceive they have. . . .
Happily no sect here is superior to another. . . .
This article is calculated to secure universal religious liberty, by putting
all sects on a level.
As Story wrote specifically regarding the purposes of Article VI:
It is easy to foresee, that without some prohibition of religious tests, a successful
sect, in our country, might, by once possessing power, pass test-laws, which would secure
to themselves a monopoly of all the offices of trust and profit, under the national
(20) Jonathan Elliot, ed., The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the
Adoption of the Federal Constitution, Washington: Printed for the Editor, 1836, vol.
IV, p. 199. Emphasis added.
(21) Ibid., p. 194. Emphasis added.
(22) Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States,
Abridged Boston: Hilliar, Gray & Co., 1833, p. 690.
I join the Founding Fathers in defending a non-sectarian Christocracy.
I have been alternately called an aristocrat and a democrat. I am now neither. I am a
Christocrat. I believe all power. . . will always fail of producing order and happiness in
the hands of man. He alone Who created and redeemed man is qualified to govern him.
-- Benjamin Rush
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