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Gentlemen of the committee, there certainly should be nothing ambiguous in Federal legislation which makes outright gifts of millions upon millions of dollars annually to the States for any purpose, much less education, which, strange as it may seem, is daily becoming a highly controversial subject in this country.
Failure to define precisely and definitely the terms “public schools” and public education" may be used as an argument in many States to obtain support for sectarian or privately supported schools from funds derived from Federal taxation. Such support would be a violation of the principles of separation of church and state, for the State or Federal Government cannot support sectarian schools without aiding the church of the particular sectarian school.
Support of private or sectarian schools from public funds would also retard the growth and strength of our system of tax-supported free public schools, which, to repeat, is the foundation of our democracy.
Fortunately, there are a number of United States Supreme Court decisions which lend hope to the citizens who opposed the support of sectarian schools from Federal funds, should it be necessary to test the constitutionality of gifts from such funds to sectarian schools.
I shall cite for the record a few of the decisions presenting also observations of the justices who delivered the opinions of the Court:
In the case of Davis v. Beason (133 U. S. 33, 1889) the United States Supreme Court held: The first amendment to the Constitution
was intended to allow everyone under the jurisdiction of the United States to entertain such notions respecting his relations to his Maker and the duties they impose as may be approved by his judgment and conscience, and to exhibit his sentiments in such form of worship as he may think proper, not injurious to the equal rights of others, and to prohibit legislation for the support of any religious tenets or the modes of worship of any sect.
In delivering the opinion of the Court, Mr. Justice Field reminded the parties to the suit as to the causes which led to the first amendment. He said, in part:
The oppressive measures adopted and the cruelties and punishments inflicted by the governments of Europe for many ages to compel parties to conform in their religious beliefs and modes of worship to the views of the most numerous sect, and the folly of attemp ing in that way to control the mental operation of persons, and enforce an outward conformity to a prescribed standard, led to the adoption of the amendment in question.
The United States Spreme Court, in Watson v. Jones (13 Wall. 679, 1871), said:
In this country the full and free right to entertain any religious belief, to practice any religious principle, and to teach any religious doctrine which does not infringe personal rights is conceded to all. The law knows no heresy, and. is committed to the support of no dogma, the establishment of no sect.
In delivering the opinion of the Court, Mr. Justice Miller continued, in part:
One of the most careful and well-considered judgments on the subject is that of the Court of Appeals of South Carolina, delievered by Chancelor Johnson in the case of Harmon v. Dreher.
Chancelor Johnson said: “The structure of our Government has, for the preservation of civil liberty, rescued the temporal institutions from religious interference. On the other hand, it has rescued religious liberty from the invasion of civil authority.”
In Reynolds v. United States (98 U. S. 145, 1879), the first amendment was pleaded. Mr. Chief Justice Waite, in delivering the opinion of the Court, discussed the history of that amendment. He said,
The word "religion” is not defined in the Constitution. We must go else where, therefore, to ascertain its meaning and nowhere more appropriately, we think, than to the history of the times in the midst of which the provision was adopted. The precise point of the inquiry is, “What is religious freedoin which has been guaranteed ?"
Before the adoption of the Constitution attempts were made in some of the Colonies and States to legislate, not only in respect to the establishment of religion, but in respect to its doctrines and precepts as well. The people were taxed against their will for the support of religion, and sometimes for the support of particular sects to whose tenets they could not and did not subscribe. Punishments were prescribed for a failure to attend upon public worship and sometimes for entertaining heretical opinion. The controversy upon this general subject was animated in many of the States, but seemed at least to culminate in Virginia. In 1784, the house of delegates of that State, having under consideration a bill establishing provision for teachers of the Christian religion, postponed it until the next session, and directed that the bill should be published and distributed, and that the people be requested to signify their opinion respecting the adoption of such a bill at the next session of the assembly.
This brought out a determined opposition. Amongst others, Mr. Madison prepared a memorial and remonstrance, which was widely circulated and signed, in which he demonstrated that “religion, or duty we owe the Creator, was not within the cognizance of civil government” (Semple's Virginia Baptist appendix). At the next session of the assembly the proposed bill was not only defeated, but another "for establishing freedom" drafted by Mr. Jefferson, was passed. (1 Jefferson's Works, 95, 2 Howison 1 History of Virginia, 298.) In the preamble of the act (12 Henning's Statutes 89) religious freedom is defined.
In little more than a year after the passage of the statute the convention met which prepared the Constitution of the United States. Of the convention Mr. Jefferson was not a member, he being then absent as Minister to France. As soon as he saw the draft of the Constitution proposed for adoption, he in a letter to a friend expressed his disappointment at the absence of an expressed declaration insuring the freedom of religion (2, Jefferson's Works, 355) but was willing to accept it as it was, trusting that the good sense and honest intentions of the people would bring about the necessary alterations (Jefferson's Works, 79). Five of the States, while adopting the Constitution, proposed amendments. Three— New Hampshire, New York, and Virginia-included in one form or another a declaration of religious freedom in the changes they desired to have made, as did also North Carolina, where at first the convention declined to ratify the Constitution until the proposed amendments were acted upon. Accordingly, at the first session of the First Congress the amendments now under consideration were proposed with others by Mr. Madison. It met the views of the advocates of religious freedom and was adopted. Mr. Jefferson afterward, in reply to an address to him by a committee of the Danbury Baptist Association (u. i. d. 113) took occasion to say:
"Believing with you that religion is a matter which is solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of the Government reach acts only and not opinion, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act upon the whole American people which declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof' thus building a wall of separation between church and state. Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the Nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore man to all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural rights in opposition to his social duties."
Here is a citation, gentlemen, directly in point. I think you will be especially interested in, as I am sure you were in all the others, for that matter.
In the administration of Indian schools the question of Federal appropriation for sectarian education of the Indians came before the United States Supreme Court in the case of Reuben Quick Bear v. Leupp, Commissioner of Indian Affairs (210 U. S. 50, 1908).
Although the action was brought by Reuben Quick Bear and other Sioux Indians of the Rosebud Agency, South Dakota, the indirect plaintiff was the Indian Rights Association, which brought the action against Leupp, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and other Government officers. However, the real defendant, it may be pointed out, was the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions, of Washington, D. C., which demonstrates the interest that the Roman Catholic Church has in aid from the Public Treasury.
Briefly, the background of the case is as follows: A number of years after the education of Indians was undertaken by the Federal Government, certain church denominations which had been invited to establish church schools among the Indians began to request the Government to assist in financing their schools. The result was that by 1896, the money paid out by the Federal Government for the support of sectarian Indian education had reached a total of more than onehalf of a million dollars annually in addition to an appropriation of a million dollars annually by Congress by 1885. When these facts became generaly known, a determined sentiment arose against Congress making grants for sectarian education. Congress took steps to discontinue such appropriations, declaring itto be the settled policy of the Government to hereafter make no appropriations whaterer for education in any sectarian school (act June 7, 1897, 30 Stat. L. 97).
Two classes of Federal appropriations for the education of the Indian were considered by the Court in the above-entitled cause. One related to a certain treaty and trust funds under it which belonged to the Indians and which were administered for them by the Government. The other was gratuitous appropriations of public moneys not belonging to the Indians themselves, but which were also administered for them by the Government. Both funds went to sectarian schools for the education of the Indians.
In the first-named class of Federal appropriations, the Court ruled thatthe treaty or trust moneys are the only moneys that the Indians can lay claim to as a matter of rightadding that it was inconceivable that Congress should have intended to prohibit them from receiving religious education at their own cost, if they desired it.
In the second class here named, it upheld that part of the acts of Congress which forbid the payment of contracts for the sectarian education of Indians out of public money raised by general taxation from persons of all creeds and faiths, or of no faiths.
In tracing the course of the various decisions, it may be fairly deduced that religious doctrines have no status in either our State or Federal jurisprudence. And the support of sectarian schools in part or as a whole from funds derived from taxation is, so far as the taxpayer is concerned, an enforced support of religion.
Mr. Chairman, the struggle to attain religious liberty and its natural corollaries, political liberty, free speech, and a free press, was long and bloody.
A careful study of the State and Federal Constitutions, as well as the decisions of the State and Federal courts, will disclose that there is a very plain expressed determination to maintain that liberty by guarding against the slightest approach toward uniting church and state. However, there is now and has been for many years a determined and well-organized effort to obtain funds from the State treasurers for the support of sectarian schools. This is seen in the demands that are being made by the sectarian schools in almost every State for free transportation, free textbooks, free gymnasium privileges for their pupils, and the portion of public school taxes paid by certain religious groups.
The places in our social system where reaction toward the unity of state and church will first manifest itself is the introduction of religious teachings into the public schools or the support of sectarian schools in some manner from the Public Treasury. Movements to this effect are in evidence in many places in the United States today.
Our tax-supported free public education, free from sectarian influence, invades the rights of no one. So maintained, such education justifies its permanent support by general taxation on the grounds that it adequately meets the general educational needs and establishes a homogeneous and free people.
However, if our tax-supported free public schools and tax supported free public education are to provide the greatest benefits and privileges to our people and thus preserve for posterity all the implications of our free institutions, the Federal and State governments must ever maintain a complete separation of church and state. And the States, as well as the Federal Government, must forever deny sectarian schools any aid from public funds.
Mr. Chairman, we feel that any bill which gives Federal financial assistance to education ought to be drafted in the spirit of the first amendment. It is our opinion, therefore, that all such aid should be specifically earmarked for the use of tax-supported free public schools.
Senator ELLENDER. Are there any questions?
Senator ELLENDER. Step forward please, and give your name and principal occupation to the reporter.
STATEMENT OF LESLIE S. PERRY, ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT,
WASHINGTON BUREAU, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE
Mr. PERRY. My name is Leslie S. Perry, and I am administrative assistant of the Washington Bureau, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Senator ELLENDER. Have you a prepared paper ?
Mr. PERRY. I appear in support of S. 181, the Educational Finance Act of 1945, as a representative of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Our organization has 900 branches, youth councils, and college chapters in 43 States. We have a paid membership of more than 400,000 persons. Although our membership includes all races and nationalities from all walks of life, the overwhelming majority are persons of the Negro race.
As an organization, our primary interest and activity has been in the field of civil rights. Nevertheless, our membership is deeply concerned over the status of public educaiton in the Nation which, in many areas, is so markedly inadequate as to fall short of the minimum requirements for a wholesome and functioning democratic State.
The Negro population of the United States, according to the 1940 decennial census, in round figures is thirteen million, between eight and nine million of whom reside in Southern States which maintain separate schools for Negro and white children. In addition to being the poorer section of the country, the South also has, in proportion to the adult population, the largest number of children of school age.
I have here a table showing the current expenditures per pupil for public, elementary, and secondary schools in 1941-42. These data were prepared by the United States Office of Education.
This material shows that in New York, for example, the annual pupil costs based on average daily attendance amounts to $190.50, as compared with $33.13 for Mississippi. The same glaring disparity between State expenditures for the salaries of public school teachers is shown by the following table taken from studies of the Office of Education for the years 1941–42. As these data show, the average annual salary for all teachers in Arkansas, for example, is $678 as against $1,920 for the State of Washington.
It is clear, therefore, that through the sheer accident of having been born in one of these Southern States, a child attending its public schools begins life with a severe handicap when compared with children living in other sections of the country. Obviously, such wide differences for educational opportunity should not exist in a great and rich democratic country.
Directing attention to the status of Negro education in these Southern States, conditions confronting the Negro child and teacher are even more deplorable. Not only is he subjected to the usual and patent disadvantages peculiar to the school population of this area, but he is also the victim of an unequal and discriminatory distribution of even the limited educational funds available in these States. Material compiled by the United States Office of Education with respect to expenditures for Negro education in States maintaining separate schools underlines the gravity of the situation. The latest data available is for the period of 1939–40. As the following chart indicates, Louisiana, for example, makes an average annual expenditure of $77.11 for white children as compared with $20.49 for colored children, or, stated in other words, Louisiana expends 276.3 percent more for a white child than for a colored one.
Equally discouraging is the differential obtaining in the salaries paid white and colored teachers. In South Carolina the average annual salary for a white teacher in 1939-40 was $953, as compared with $371 for a Negro.