Shall Religion Be Taught in the Public Schools?


There are some who, while accepting, in a general way the foregoing view of the question of religion in the public schools, nevertheless, insist on a compulsory reading of a portion of the Bible as an opening exercise in the public schools. To them the Bible means only the Protestant, or King James version, and in urging that it be read in the common schools, they do not recognize the fact that the Catholic has a different Bible, which he regards as the only faithful translation of the Scriptures; or that the Jew accepts of the Old Testament only, regarding the New not only as false, but as cruelly charging his ancestors with the murder of the world’s Messiah. RTPS 9.5

The difference between these Bibles is considered by each party as vital to the eternal welfare of the believer. Says the Protestant Bible, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” Says the Catholic Bible, “Unless ye shall do penance, ye shall all likewise perish.” RTPS 10.1

This is not an accidental difference in translation, but is a difference maintained throughout the entire Catholic Bible, based on the distinctive Catholic doctrine of penance, in opposition to the Protestant doctrine of salvation through faith, as the following quotation from the “Doctrinal Catechism” proves:— RTPS 10.2

“He [Luther] invented a thing which he called justifying faith, to be a sufficient substitute for all the above painful religious works, an invention which took off every responsibility from our shoulders, and laid all on the shoulders of Jesus Christ; in a word, he told men to believe in the merits of Christ as certainly applied to them, and live as they pleased.”—p. 37. RTPS 10.3

There are other important differences which appear in the text, and would be made apparent by the mere reading of the passages. RTPS 10.4

The difference between the Protestant and Catholic Bibles, and the Jewish Bible, is far greater, as the Jew rejects the entire New Testament as not only a base fabrication, but as containing an unjust charge against his people. RTPS 10.5

The infidel rejects the whole, and finds his views of religion met in the writings of Rosseau, Paine, or Ingersoll. RTPS 10.6

Which of these Bibles shall be read in our common schools? To this question comes a chorus of opposing answers. Who shall decide? Is it the prerogative of the State to decide which of these Bibles contains the truth, and which error? If we so decide, we adopt the theory which gave to the Dark Ages their moral gloom. RTPS 10.7

Leaving the difference in Bibles, there is another important difference with regard to the propriety of reading any Bible without comment. The Protestant position is that “the Bible without note or comment is the infallible rule of faith and practice.” The Catholic regards this as a dangerous doctrine, fraught with eternal ruin to the child; and to say that he is not sincere, is to sit in judgment on his conscience. And the conscience of the Catholic is as sacred in the eyes of the law as the conscience of the Protestant. RTPS 10.8

In studying this subject, we should not allow our preconceived ideas or time-honored practices to prejudice us. The time was, when men as conscientiously believed that the government should protect religion by burning heretics, as do some to-day that the Bible should be read in the public schools. One way of bringing this question squarely before us is to reverse the condition by placing the Catholic, the Jew, or the infidel in the majority. Would the Protestant, who believes that salvation comes alone through faith, be willing that his child be taught from the reading of the Douay Bible, that to obtain it, he must do penance? If infidels were in the majority, would the minority, Protestant and Catholic, be willing to have the exercises of the day prefaced by the reading of extracts from Thomas Paine, Robert Ingersoll, or some other exponent of infidelity? Here it is that the Golden Rule has a practical application: “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” RTPS 11.1

Referring to the use of the Bible in the public schools, the New York Independent, of Oct. 1, 1891 says:— RTPS 11.2

“There is no question that this is making public schools sectarian, and that it is unjust and contrary to the principles of our government, which allow of no establishment of religion. The only consistent and the only truly Christian way, is to give religion to the care of the Church and let the State take care of secular matters.” RTPS 11.3