Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Nebraska Constitution - Grateful to God; Schools Teach Religion

Nebraska Constitution, from 1875

"We, the people, grateful to Almighty God for our freedom, do ordain and establish the following declaration of rights and frame of government, as the Constitution of the State of Nebraska."

Section 4:
"All persons have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences. ... Religion, morality, and knowledge, however, being essential to good government, it shall be the duty of the legislature to pass suitable laws to protect every religious denomination in the peaceable enjoyment of its own mode of public worship, and to encourage schools and the means of instruction."

See the whole Nebraska Consitution


Kyle said...

You have completely misread this clause. Note the parallel structure of the sentence-- it first mentions religion, then morality, THEN education in the clause's "preamble." Following that parallel structure, the Nebraska constitution guarantees a statewide "free exercise" clause (that religious institutions OF ALL denominations may be free to their means of public worship) and THEN that the State encourages public schools.
Do you get it?
Religion + Morality = Churches (free exercise of all denominations)
Education = Schools

History Matters said...

I disagree with your comment. While I might have read this text differently if it stood completely alone, if you study all the state constitutions you find that many of them have language that is roughly or exactly like language in the Northwest Ordinance (one of our four foundational documents):

"Religion, morality, and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall be forever encouraged and established in the Northwest Territory."

It seems clearer in that context that schools are a means of maintaining religion, morality, and knowledge.