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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 1

Bible Reading not Unjust to Roman Catholics

Bible Reading not Unjust to Roman Catholics

1. It was said to be unjust to the Roman Catholics. They objected to the Protestant Bible being read in the schools—it was an offence to their conscience. This difficulty could have been met, either by the withdrawal of the children, during the reading of Scripture, or or the rights of conscience could have been preserved by the use of the Douay version, or of the old Vulgate. But provision has been made all along for such conscientious scruples. The presence of the children of the Roman Catholic or of the Jew has never been insisted upon. Whose conscience then is offended? But, if regard has been had to the conscientious scruples of the Roman Catholic, no regard has been shown to the conscientious convictions of those who desire that which tends to the best welfare of the State and of society. The Roman Catholics are consistent in their demand that religion be connected with education, but if our statesmen thought to reconcile them to our school system by the conclusion of the Bible they made a grievous mistake. The attempt was made in Cincinnati with what result the words of the Tablet will show—"We see from the papers the School Board has voted to exclude the Bible and all religious instruction from the public schools in the city. If this has been done with a view to reconciling Catholics to the common school system its purpose will not be realised. To us godless schools are still less acceptable than sectarian schools, and we object less to the reading of King James's Bible, even in schools, than we do to the exclusion of all religious instruction," The prohibition of the Bible, then, has not met with the approval of the Roman Catholics. The result has been that they have not ceased to despise the schools as "godless," and to regard them as being deprived of one element which makes them valuable as a means of education in the eyes of all men of any religious belief; and their zeal in establishing schools of their own order is a rebuke to all other denominations, But what underlies this objection is the alleged injustice of taxing them in common with others for the support of schools not under the control of their own Church. In discussing this question we have really nothing to do with the justice or injustice of the mode of taxation any more than it would be binding on those who feel it their duty to protest against French occupation of the New Hebrides to assist the Premier in providing against a flood of convicts coming to these colonies; or, to use another illustration more apropos of the circumstances, the inequality of incidence of taxation is no more an argument for the exclusion of the Bible from our schools than it would be an argument for the prohibition of the sowing of the finest wheat among the cereals. Any just claims the Roman Catholics have ought to be recognised; but that cannot be accepted as a solution of the question which, in having regard to one-twentieth of the community, does violence to the conscience of the great majority. The exclusion of page 7 the Bible could only be viewed with Satisfaction by a nation of Freethinkers. It cannot be right for our statesmen to shelve such a question because it is beset with difficulties. Neither would it be right for us to rest contented with matters as they are.