The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79
[Appendix IV.] — Secular Education League. — Views of Religious Leaders on Secular Education
Secular Education League.
Views of Religious Leaders on Secular Education.
The Rev. Dr. Fairburn in the "Daily News" on January 11th, 1907:—
"I do believe that the grasp oí any Church or clergy round the throat of the State is, in the highest degree, dangerous. If, therefore, we are faced by a multitude of men who threaten to lead our schools into ecclesiastical controversie, I, for my part, would see no option save adopting "the secular solution." The secular may be non-ecclesiastical; hut it is not, and need not be, anti-religious. The State is, to me, a body little competent to legislate in religion. It may be more competent than any known Church: but this is a small matter compared with the awful impertinence of those who plead for intervention by the State between the man and his conscience, or the conscience and its God."
"It has never been held by us that majorities can righteously compel minorities to support common religious beliefs, and now that the Free Churches page 27 have become powerful, are they ready to repudiate those principles of justice for which, when they were weak, they fought and suffered? It is irreligious to be unjust to any man. The Cross, I repeat, stands for righteousness. The Churches cannot wisely delegate their duties to the civic authorities. Even if and our resources were exhausted there would be the greatest objections to the principle that the State, as such, should determine what prayers are to be addressed to God, and what religious ideas are to be taught the people, old or young. We shall land ourselves in deeper and deeper bogs if there is persistence in the present course. It is in the interests of religion that the civil power should leave it entirely alone. Non-interference is the best service that Parliament can render to the Christian cause, and the best service the Church can render to the nation is to be true to itself, to abide by its own ideas, and to discharge its own duties."
The Rev. J. H. Jowett, addressing the National Council of Free Churches, said:—
'The present attitude of the Episcopal Bench can have but one issue. The man in the street has a short and sharp way in matters of this kind. When he sees that there is this prolonged and growing contention, and that many vital things are suffering, he will tumble both denominationalism and undenominational ism into the street. That is the present purpose and temper of the Labour Party—a party destined to exercise an increasing influence in the State. But there is an increasing body of enlightened judgment which believes that in the interest of truth and perfect fairness it would be better for the matter of controversy to be removed clean out of the public schools, and that religious instruction should be committed to the Churches, who are primarily responsible for it."
"The sooner the present sectarian system of education is broken down the better, so that the nation may be driven to the only sound policy. The State school must be restricted to national and moral education, and religious teaching of all kinds must be thrown upon the Churches, in private hours, at their own cost, and by their own agents."
"Secular schools would not be irreligious. I am by no means sure that on the whole they would not be more religious. . . . I respect the feeling that makes England shrink from secular schools, but I cannot reverence what is so mere a sentiment. The sight of a secular system working by the side of the corelative religious system would dispel the whole feeling in a year."
"As a Nonconformist, I believe that no education can be complete which does not include thorough religious training; but I am a citizen, as well as a Nonconformist, and as a citizen I deny that it is the business of the State to furnish a complete education. That is a distinction which I hold to be vital. Under some circumstances the State may undertake to furnish an elementary education, which is a very different thing—so different, indeed, that it may include neither algebra nor theology. In such a matter as education it should be the business of the State not to see how far it can go, but how soon it can stop; and, for one, I venture to think that the State might very well stop when it has paid for a thorough knowledge of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Thus, I would not exclude religion. I simply would not include it. Why?
"My reason for not including religion in rate-supported schools is simply the ola Nonconformist reason, that religion is personal, sacred, varying its aspects and claims according to various convictions, and that to support it by rates and taxes, and thus by possible penalties, is to vex and offend its characteristic and essential spirit."