Lemuel K. Washburn: “Save the Republic”


Which shall it be, Christianity or the Republic? It is apparent that the Christian church under a purely secular government, where justice is granted to all and where favors are allowed to none, cannot long survive. The Christian church in this country today is the worst foe of our free republic that exists within its borders. If the state survives it is plain to us that the church must perish, and the church can only flourish on the ruins of free institutions. We may have Christianity with a certain form of human government in America, but if the principles embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the rights implied in the national constitution are to survive, then we cannot have Christianity in this land.

The next conflict in our nation is to be between secularism and ecclesiasticism, between men who love liberty and priests who uphold tyranny, between the lovers of our republic and the foes of secular institutions. This conflict is nearer than the public imagines; in fact, it is already going on, and the growth of sentiment in the next generation in favor of human freedom and human rights will determine whether secularism will be upheld in our nation, or whether the reign of ecclesiasticism is to be dethroned.

The work of the Christian church throughout the land is to prevent the spread of secular principles and to hinder the further secularization of the government. This is the only hope of saving Christianity. If the state will not continue to exempt church property from taxation, to uphold the Christian sabbath, to prescribe prayers and Bible-reading in the public schools, to enforce the oath in courts of justice, and to otherwise lend its aid and support to the Christian religion, there is no chance of this religion resisting the spread of science and the arguments of rationalism.

Every victory won by Christianity is a nail in the coffin of this republic. Our government at the present time is a travesty of free institutions. Where does the freethinker have equal rights with the Christian, equal freedom, equal justice? He is obliged to take a Christian oath or have his word discredited in court; he is taxed to help support Christian chaplains in the state prisons, in the legislatures, and in the army and navy; he is made by law to pay the taxes on church property which is no benefit to him; he has to send his children to schools where religious services are conducted that to him are false and foolish, and in many other ways help maintain a religion that he considers more injurious than beneficial to the world.

The church in this country is not working for the good of the nation; it is working to save itself. What they, who love our free land, should do, is to make the government secular in every part, and compel Christianity to take its grasp off of the nation’s life. We must destroy Christianity if we would save the republic.

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