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us to enjoy, and looking to him for a blessing upon our endeavors to secure and transmit the same unimpaired to succeeding generations, * * * * do ordain and establish this constitution for the State of Illinois.” So reads the preamble, acknowledging God as existing, as being Almighty, as having granted to the people civil, political and religious liberty, and as having long permitted them to enjoy it, and also adding to this acknowledgment the expression of gratitude and a prayer to God for his blessing upon the endeavors of the people.
What, then, does the constitution itself say? It says (ii., 3) :-“ The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination, shall forever be guaranteed : and no person shall be denied any civil or political right, privilege or capacity, on account of his religious opinions.
* No person shall be required to attend or support any ministry or place of worship against his consent, nor shall any preference be given by law to any religious denomination, or mode of worship.” It still further says (viii., 3) :—“Neither the General Assembly nor any county, city, town, township, school district, or other public corporation shall ever make any appropriation, or pay from any public fund whatever anything, in aid of any Church or sectarian purpose, or to help support or sustain any school, academy, seminary, college, university, or other literary or scientific institution, controlled by any Church or sectarian denomination : nor shall
any grant or donation of land, money, or other personal property ever be made by the State or any such public corporation to any Church or for any sectarian purpose."
Here is a State, in the preamble to its constitution certainly not lacking in devout expressions with reference to the Supreme Being, and yet in the constitution itself dispossessing its government of all religious powers and making that government exclusively secular in its purposes. It cannot establish or regulate any form of worship. It can make no discriminations on religious grounds. It cannot deny to any one any civil or political right, privilege or capacity on account of his religious opinions. It cannot interfere with the religious liberty of any person. It cannot compel anyone to support any form of religion, and cannot appropriate a dollar of the public money for any such purpose. The denials of power made in this constitution leave to the government of Illinois nothing but secular power--power in relation to things temporal. The government of that State is not Christian in the sense of giving any legal preference to Christianity, or clothing it with any legal attributes, obligations or sanctions, or in any way endowing it or its institutions, or furnishing any support to these institutions, and cannot be Christian in any of these senses so long as its present constitution remains. It is not a religious government, but a republican and exclusively secular government. It is made such by the constitution of the State.
The religious sentiments found in the preamble do not in the slightest degree change this fact. They are not there for any such purpose, and are not permitted to have any such effect. Practically, the government of Illinois is just what it would be, if the preamble to its constitution had been like that to the constitution of Michigan, which simply says “ The people of the State of Michigan do ordain this constitution."
The same general principal of constitutional restriction is found in the other State constitutions, whose preambles contain recognitions and acknowledgments of God. They all have the common purpose of so restraining the powers of the State governments as to leave the people free in the matter of religion. Religious liberty for all men and for all sects, with no endowment or support of any form of religion, and with no encroachment upon the rights of a religious conscience, is the allpervading doctrine of our American State constitutions, no matter what religious sentiments may be expressed in their preambles. Christians have no monopoly of this liberty, and no exclusive privileges in respect to it. They are only a part of the people, and stand on the same footing with Jews, Deists, Rationalists, or any other class of citizens.
The conclusion that we derive from this survey of the recognitions and acknowledgments of God in the preambles to twenty-eight State constitutions, is that the premise thus given supplies no proof that the State should, or consistently can, undertake the work of a teacher or propagator of religion in its public schools. The governments organized under these constitutions are clearly secular in their objects and purposes, as abundantly shown by the limitations imposed on their powers; and this is a sufficient reason why they should be secular in any system of education which they authorize and support by compulsory taxation.
To infer the opposite from the preambles is to make these preambles contradict both the letter and the spirit of the constitutions themselves, and to give them a character which they do not possess. Especially, to infer that the religious instruction to be given in the public school should be distinctively Christian, whether of the Protestant or the Catholic type, is to assign to the preambles an import which their language does not authorize. They are not Christian preambles any more than they are Jewish or even Deistical preambles. They represent the faith of a Jew, or that of a rational Theist who is not a Christian, as really as they do the faith of a Christian. The latter, as against the former, has no special title to them, and no right to use them for purposes that are limited to his particular form of religious faith. Neither the Douay version nor King James's version of the Sacred Scriptures appears in these preambles. Nothing that is peculiar to and distinctive of the Christian faith is in them.
THE LAW OF RELIGIOUS SOCIETIES.
Christianity exists in this country, not as a philosophical system, known only to the few, but as a popular religion, so general that it has no rival to dispute its ascendency or divide its honors. Numerous societies in the form of local Churches have been organized by its influence; and these societies by union have given birth to sects or denominations. The offerings of its receivers and adherents have accumulated a vast capital in church structures, theological seminaries, and other material appliances, which may be called the invested fund of Christianity. Nearly the sum total of the organized religion in the United States is to be found in the sects that claim to be Christian. For the result we have a religious system intimately identified with Church organisms, living in them, operating through them, and supported by them. These organisms are voluntary societies of men and women, professing the same religion, frequently meeting together, and subject to some kind of self-imposed rules which constitute their ecclesiastical government. A number of them united under the same polity, and holding the same doctrines, forms a sect or denomination of such societies.