“They Say but Do Not Perform”
CONCERNING the religious leaders of his day, Jesus once said: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the seat of Moses. Therefore all the things they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds, for they say but do not perform.” (Matt. 23:2, 3, NW) Are the religious leaders of our day any different? Let us see.
Certain Protestant clergymen of the United States give much lip service to the principle of the separation of church and state. They loudly denounce any breaching of that wall by others, such as former President Truman’s proposal to send an ambassador to the Vatican. But do they respect that wall of separation between church and state when it conflicts with their own interests to do so? They do not. The “Released Time” program by which school children are released from public schools so that they can take religious instructions elsewhere is a case in point. This program breaches the wall of separation in that it uses the state’s compulsory school machinery to supply classes for religious organizations.
Clearly the issue is not merely one of whether or not provision should be made for religious instruction, as the clergymen sponsoring the “Released Time” program are not satisfied with having the schools dismissed one hour earlier so that those who want to can proceed to religious houses for instruction, for they well know that they cannot depend upon the children to voluntarily find their way to the places where such classes are being conducted. Only to escape school will the children submit to religious instruction. Thus we have a union of church and state whereby the state furnishes classes for the church. The clergy preach separation of church and state to others, but do they practice it themselves? They do not.
Nor is that all. By advocating the “Released Time” program clergymen not only show inconsistency with their professions regarding the separation of church and state but do violence to the principle expounded by the One they claim to follow, Christ Jesus, who once said: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them.” (Matt. 7:12, NW) How so?
Because the “Released Time” program penalizes all not attending religious classes in that all vital instruction is suspended so that those attending the religious classes will not miss out on anything. So it is a case of taking religious instruction or wasting an hour. If the majority of the pupils were taking the religious instruction there would still be real injustice done and the harm be far from negligible. But what shall we say when 90 per cent of the pupils have to waste an hour so that 10 per cent can have the convenience of religious instruction during school hours as is the case in Chicago, Illinois; or when 98 per cent must waste an hour so that two per cent can benefit by this arrangement as is the case in one elementary school in Westchester county, New York state, where out of 500 pupils only 10 attend religious instruction? By what kind of reasoning can one justify the wasting of an hour by 490 pupils just so 10 others can have the advantages of the “Released Time” program?
Objections of parents in many instances have proved unavailing. The pressure on the part of the clergy is such that school boards, superintendents and principals are afraid to remedy the situation and school teachers dare not even express themselves on the matter. Is that justice? Is that brotherly love? Is that true Christianity? Is that doing to others as you would have them do to you?
That the “Released Time” program improves morals is open to question. Reliable statistics show that as many as forty per cent of the pupils dismissed for religious instruction fail to show up for it. And when we take into consideration time spent in going from school to the place where religious instruction is given, only a half or three-quarters of an hour remains. How much training in religious principles and teachings can be given in 30 to 45 minutes once a week?
It was in view of such facts that the last session of the White House Conference on Children and Youth, held in December, 1950, composed of 4,620 delegates who represented three-fourths of the total population of the United States, by a two-to-one vote adopted the following resolution: “Recognizing knowledge and understanding of religious and ethical concepts as essential to the development of spiritual values and that nothing is of greater importance to the moral and spiritual health of our nation than the works of religious education in our homes and families and in our institutions of organized religion, we nevertheless strongly affirm the principle of separation of church and state which has been the keystone of our American democracy and declare ourselves unalterably opposed to the use of public schools directly or indirectly for religious educational purposes.”
Commenting on the foregoing a prominent United States woman educator, Mrs. Agnes E. Meyer, had the following to say in the Atlantic Monthly, March, 1952: “The child is robbed of its full development if it receives no guidance in early years toward recognition of the religious aspects of life. But this teaching, to be effective, must originate in the home and family life with the cooperation of the Churches. . . . Having failed in their primary mission to strengthen the family and reach the children during their most impressionable and formative years, the Churches now seek a short cut, through the released time program, which will cure overnight the moral defects of children who have been neglected throughout infancy.” Underscoring the truth of the above is the news item that appeared in the New York Journal-American, November 8, 1952, which told of an eight-year-old boy in Newport, England, beating to death his 17-day-old baby brother with a feeding bottle.
The remedy for juvenile delinquency lies not in having the clergy say one thing and do another; it lies not in the unchristian and undemocratic “Released Time” program. The remedy lies in parents’ heeding God’s command:
“Jehovah our God is one Jehovah: and thou shalt love Jehovah thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be upon thy heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children.”—Deut. 6:4-7, AS.