To The Daily Sun,
How did we get from being a nation whose people by consensus held the Bible to be the true Word of God, as I related in my letter of Nov. 13, that we were from our founding until sometime well into the 20th century, to one that treats the Bible as a banned book from our public schools? And what bearing does this have on the N.H. Supreme Court case Duncan v the State of N.H., which has been the focus of this series of letters.
That Christianity exerted a central influence in shaping American society, culture, government, laws, thoughts, morals, and institutions cannot be honestly contended against. It can be clearly seen in our history. Look at original state constitutions, and state and local laws right up until the the mid 1900s. Read the inscriptions on monuments you might find locally. Find an online copy of an addition of the blue back speller, the book commonly used to teach reading, in the 19th century. Check out which colleges began as seminaries. Read American literature from the 17th to the 19th century. I might note that the Jeremiad, a style of preaching was the first original American literary type. So, again, how did we go from being a society who's culture, laws and customs were based on the Bible and Biblical teaching to one where a teacher can get fired for having religious materials in his classroom? This story I believe has direct bearing on Duncan v State of N.H.
The beginning of education in America was largely Christian; you needed to learn to read in order to read the word of God. Our first schools where religious schools and tax money was used to support them. When the common school movement started in the 1830s our public schools still retained a protestant orientation, for that was the orientation of the people. Whether it was wisely or naively, after some protest, this new government involvement in education was for most part accepted as long as these schools were allowed to have what was agreed to be a nonsectarian protestant orientation. The King James Bible was widely used in public schools then. I might also note that the amount of time that a student spent in school each year was but a fraction of the time each child attends today. At the time of the passing of N.H.'s Blaine Amendment in 1878 this was the state of public education.
There was an element that sought to secularize our culture. It had been around since our founding. George Washington and his right hand man Alexander Hamilton warned of the folly of these in George Washington's Farewell Address. This element found a platform in public education and with the aid of the tensions between the Catholic and protestant populations they succeeded in moving public education — thus our population — toward the secular-humanist view. The longer you spent in this school system the more likely you were to be, and the more deeply you would be affected by it. The influence of Christianity had been deeply ingrained in our culture and, even into the middle of the 20th Century, though weakened by this inroads of secular-humanism into our schools; the custom of honoring God's Word in school still survived in many of our states and communities. This was a snag for these humanist though there was now more of them by this time. What then?