Religious Instruction in Public Schools

A look at some recent leading press declarations.

By W. H. TEESDALE, Associate Secretary, Department of Education

The following are not the words of a Sev­enth-day Adventist, but of the editor of the Christian Century, Charles Clayton Morrison. They were spoken before the Mis­souri State Teachers Association early this year, and appear in the May 14 issue of his journal: "For every adult convert won by preaching, ten of the church's children suc­cumb to the secularist influence of the public school system.. . . Protestant children in public schools are under an influence with which the churches cannot compete and which they can­not counteract."

The writer cites disturbing conditions as reasons for the introduction of religious in­struction in the public schools. The facts con­stitute a strong argument in favor of the separate Christian school.

The church is pictured as being utterly un­able, as it truly is, in a half-hour a week to recast in a religious mold the minds of its youth who have been subject for five days a week to the secularizing public schools. The Protestant faith itself, he says, has become secularized by the overwhelming influence. "It's spiritual convictions are thin and lean, and are rooted in shallow soil. . . . Public edu­cation without religion creates a secular men­tality faster than the churches can Christianize it."

These are some of the very reasons urged by Seventh-day Adventist leaders why the youth of the church should separate themselves from unfavorable conditions, and attend the Chris­tian school. If secular matters occupy the major place and the longer, time, life itself will become secular. If a majority of the youth of the Adventist Church brought back into it the secularizing influence received in non-Christian schools, soon the Adventist Church, too, would be overcome from within.

In his convincing way, the editor contends that the sectarianism of the churches is respon­sible for keeping religious instruction out of the public schools, and calls for a change. He urges "the common subject matter of religious faith," shorn of its "sectarian varia­tions," as the material to be presented in the public schools for an antidote for secularism. Teachers should be trained to present this com­mon subject matter in an acceptable manner.

All this sounds very much like a call to a further dilution of faith and doctrine, wherein the Protestant churches filter out their identi­fying characteristics. It seems like another cry for tolerance, in which the unsuspecting are disarmed, and the designing have an op­portunity to strengthen their position, unite, and arm for the conquest.

To the writer of the article, the "steady lib­eralization of the churches" is seen as a hopeful sign that sectarianism will not long remain as an inhibition to the teaching of religion in the public schools. Under those conditions it would not be difficult to find the organization with the plans, the teachers, the resources, and the con­viction ready for the task.

The address of Mr. Morrison may be sum­marized as follows: Owing to the secularizing influence of the schools in which religion is not taught, ten of the church's children drift away while one adult is being won to the church. The disparity of time at the disposal of the church to counteract the worldly influence leaves the church helpless. The convictions of the church are "thin and lean," diluted by thoughts of this world, as emphasized in the schools. Public education as it is "creates a secular mentality faster than the church can Christianize it." The practicable solution is to introduce religious instruction, shorn of its sectarian variations, into the public school.

Mr. Morrison is in a position to know the liberal attitude of Protestantism. Few would question his analysis of the influ­ence of the schools on the life and faith of the church members. His statement of facts should help the Adventist Church to shun the dangers in the way, and to save its youth and the purity and strength of its faith. This is no time to dilute the convictions of the advent people with the secularizing emphasis and in­fluence of schools where God is ignored and faith is neutralized.

What a treasure this church has in its sys­tem of schools with their positive principles, their impelling objectives, their inspiring devo­tion, their lifting power, their enriching influ­ence. How helpful they are in preserving the faith once delivered to the saints, and in propa­gating it in all parts of the earth.

Today the call to the youth in the church is to separate themselves from secularizing influences, lest they be overwhelmed by the world, and the church fail in its great mission. A stupendous responsibility rests heavily upon every type of leader in the church, wisely and timely to warn the youth and their parents of the dangers of walking in any way except where God leads, or of attending any school where affairs of this world take precedence of the heavenly.


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By W. H. TEESDALE, Associate Secretary, Department of Education

January 1942

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