[To the Editor.]
Sir, —The question of why the Wakanui School Committee found it necessary to levy what you called a tax on religious services, is a question on which you seem to be very much in the dark. I therefore beg leave to enlighten you and your your readers on the question. In the first place, I must say that you are in error, for no such tax was ever levied by the Committee. But they have passed a resolution to the effect that no religious denomination, or any person, or body of persons, whatever I —not even Mr. Maguire
—should have the use of the school on a Sunday, or any other night throughout the week, without the consent of the Committee, and the payment of three shillings ; that is L 7 16s. a year, which, as matters stand at present, would have to be paid by the Wesleyan and the Presbyterian denominations. You say that you have no doubt but the action of the Committee will tell on the election in January. lam perfectly sure of it. The Presbyterians will move Heaven and earth to put every man out of the Committee that supported the resolution ; and in particular myself, who have done more for secular education in the district than any other man in it. As I have five children attending the school, its good or bad management is, to me, a question of great importance ; and I think that you will not be surprised when I say that I object to the interests of the children being subservant to any religious party. I have received a letter from Mr. D. Wilson—who authorises me to use it—saying that the action of the Committee is a “gross insult to the feeling of the' people ’’ that the principle involved is bad, and could only originate in a “low, mean, base, vicious mind.” Thank you, David. Moreover, he says that he will endeavor, as far as in him lies, to prevent any member who favored “ the obnoxious resolution ” from ever again being a member of the Committee. Truly, if his religion may be judged by its fruits,, it is time the axe were ajjplied, for the fruit , is bitter indeed. But what is the reason of this threatening? Simply because I will not be a pliant tool in the hands of a religious faction.
Thy spirit, Independence, let meshare, Lord of the lion heart and eagle eye ; Thy steps 1 "follow with my bosom bare, Nor heed the storm that howls along .the sky. There is a body of men here —practical Christians—who, on principle, cannot avail themselves of the use of the school for nothing ; because they believe that the State should in no way assist any religious body whatever, and that to use a" public school for nothing, and to insist on doing so, for religious service, is simply an attempt to make the State supply them with a church. I hear that that body are going to apply for the use of the school, juat_to help the Committee out of' thei culties, and set an example to the rigidly righteous, and pay the cash down beforehand for the use of it, for the next twelve months. Now, here—but tell it not in Gath, whisper it not in Ascalon—there is a prospect of the present orthodox lot being cut out entirely. Perhaps you have never heard of this Society : but it is no wonder, for their devotions have been conducted privately, and not proclaimed from the house-tops. The reasons why the Committee have resolved to make a charge are these :—The Committee are much in debt ; the incidental allowance has been much reduced and many necessary things require to be done about the school ; they have applied to the Board for money, but have been positively refused : moreover, the Presbyterians and the Wesleyans have had the use of the school for nearly four years, for their services, for their Sunday schools, for their meetings, and for their singing classes. In fact, they have had it so often, and so long, that I think they have begun to look upon it as their own. Now, they have never given a single penny to the school fund—not even towards tho cleansing of the room. Tho Committee actually thought they would have been glad indeed, delighted, at the opportunity of showing their gratitude. But they were sadly mistaken. Oh, credulous men, they little understand religion. The only recompense that ever I have known them to give was to leave the windows open, and by their negligence damage the school property. Your idea of taxing prayers in summer to buy fuel for winter has completely upset my gravity. But take care, you will have them round your devoted head like a nest of hornets. Would you tax the prayers by their length ? If so, I think it would make them less like the prayers of the Pharisees and more in accordance with Christian precept. Those who give them longest now, I will venture to say, would soon have them the shortest. I have thought the matter over ; I think it would not do. I believe that we could not make a net close enough in the meshes to catch them, they would become so very small. You speak of three white shillings. I cannot agree with you there. Why, let me see that would be one white shilling each ; no, it won’t do. I have weighed them, and take them ad valorem, they would not bring—no, not three brown farthings.
For myself, in this matter, I have been promised my fuel for ever, and ever, and ever. I sincerely hope you will be better provided for, with a printer’s devil to take care of you in your old age. Adieu, James Brown, Member of the Committee. September 6th.
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Ashburton Guardian, Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 149, 7 September 1880
WAKANUI SCHOOL. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 149, 7 September 1880
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