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PUBLIC MEETING AT WAKANUI.

A public meeting was held in the Wakanui schoolroom on Thursday evening to test the feeling of the householders of the district regarding the imposition by the School Committee of a charge for the use of the school for divine service. There was a crowded attendance, and Mr David Wilson, occupied the chair. Throughout, the meeting showed great indignation at the course adopted by the Committee, especially towards Mr James Brown, the member of the Committee who moved the resolution. On some of the people entering the schoolroom they were ordered out by Messrs Brown and Earle, who threatened to have them taken in charge, but the people did not seem inclined to pay attention to the danger that threatened them.

The Chairman expressed his great satisfaction at seeing so many take an interest in what he considered concerned them greatly. He said the School Committee had passed a resolution to the effect that they would impose a charge of three shillings: for every religious service held in the schoolroom. Therefore this meeting had been called, so that the mind of the people on the matter may be expressed as to whether they approved or condemned the action of the Committee. He thought it would have been much better had they taken this step before passing their resolution, and called a public meeting to ascertain the feeling; of the’-people on-the. matter. But the step taken was an insult to , the feelings and intelligence of the householders, which he trusted they would have; spirit enough to resent. (Hear, hear. ) He would ask were the people of Wakanui. prepared to allow religious teaching to be banished out of the district (which this action of the Committee meant)? Because, if they submitted to this he' felt quite sure the next move of a certain individual would be to deny to them the use of the school on any terms. (Hear, hear, and a Voice—You are right.) Now, it was their duty to make a stand somewhere, and not be always giving way. He hoped they would take their stand—(hear, hear)— and if they were firm and

steadfast he could guarantee them the victory ; at i least the victory of the other side would be short lived. Was it not both abusive and ridiculous that any man or men in that district should have the cheek and impudence to say that they should not have the privilege of meeting in their own school without paying a heavy rent or tax. He said their own school decidedly. Someone may say “Ho, the school is the property of the Board of Education. ” He would say no—emphatically no. Hot any more than it. was the property of the School Committee. The Committee was elected by the people, the Board was elected by the Committees ; they are both elective Boards. The Board of Education had the control of educational matters and school property, but the schools were the property of the people of the educational districts—and the people contribute the funds towards - their support. (Hear, hear). .The Presbyterians were the most numerous body in this district, and he hoped they would soon havea place of their own to meet in —so that they would be independent of the School Committee ; but it was their duty to act nobly and honorably, and help to fight the battle for their friends of ' the other denominations who are not so strong—and whom the charges imposed. ' would virtually drive out. (Hear, hear). Mr. James Brown was noble minded enough to expect them to pay for the education of his children, and then turn round and say, “ You shall not have the = privilege of meeting in the house you have ' erected for the purpose, without paying for the privilege.” Ridiculous I They were all aware that religious teaching was not allowed in the State schools; that the majority had given way and sacrificed their opinion to satisfy the minority—a minority that all past experience taught nothing would satisfy, but complete control on all matters—education, religion, . and politics. The matter stood thus.:— They were aware that education in this country was most liberally provided for, he might say lavishly. ’ The schoolhouses andimasters’ houses were good‘enough for the best gentlemen in the land, and very often these were occupied by mere boys. They knew that there was no provision made, for religious teaching, : without/-, which secular education often ; proved a curse. They know that in this district they were at too great a distance from the town to attend church regularly, and they knew very well that, c owing to the extreme depression, followed by two bad years with low prices, the people were not in a position to erect a church, and under the circumstances he did say that the Cpmmittee.had acted with very bad taste, and shown a decidedly bad feeling in the matter. With these few remarks he would leave the matter in the hands of the meeting, with every confidence that they would show their independence, and not submit, or allow themselves to be trampled upon, nor their liberties assailed from whatever quarter. (Hear, hear, and cheers.) Mr. Leadly—l should like to ask one question. Is anyone here prepared to say, that the former meetings of this School Committee are illegal 1 I am a member, and 1 say they were not legal. T call upon the Chairman to answer that question., ~,,. Mr. Earle—We are hot here to answer ’ questions, only to look after the, public . buildings. Your meeting is illegal. We : will make you appear before a magistrate., for this conduct. 1 ’’

Mr. Leadly—l say that the. two. former meetings of this School Committee were* illegal ; therefore the business done at,. those meetings must necessarily be a dead letter. Mr. Leadly then read several clauses of the Act to show in' what points the Committee had been at fault. Mr. Paynter—Whether is it lawful or ; not to tax the religious rervices held here ? I take my stand that it is opposed to the wishes of the people of the district. It is for the householders to decide whether the Committee are right or not. Mr. Trevurza—l have a resolution in my hand to put to the meeting, but before doing so, I should like to say a few words. ■ I hope you will give this your earnest attention. With all due respect to the School Committee, I think they have taken a wrong step. I think it is a measure unjust and uncalled for. . If the ~ majority see with me I shall do my utmost to 'oppose such a measure ; it is as much' for an example as anything else that we ■ 1 1 should take a stand. I have been nineteen years in the country, and have been connected with school committees more or ■ ’ less during the whole of the: time, and I . have never heard of such a step being;, taken before. I have attended this place regularly during divine service, and do> not see the damage done to make a charge, for. My own feeling in the matter is to protest against it in the strongest possible manner, with these few remarks, gentlemen, I propose the following resolution:— - ,

That this meeting strongly disapproves of the action of the School Committee in imposing a charge for religious services held in the schoolroom on Sundays, and protests against it* in the strongest manner possible, as both uncalled for and unnecessary, and an, undue interference with the privileges of the people of the district. Mr. W. P. Wilson seconded the resolution, which was carried unanimously. Mr. Clephane proposed, and Mr. Leadley seconded the next resolution as follows, which was also passed without dissent:—

That this meeting resolves to ask' the* Committee to rescind their resolution re charges for religous services. Falling to do this forthwith, that they be called on to resign. -■ Resolution No. 3 was proposed by Mr. Johnstone, and seconded by Mr* Cochrane.

That should the Committee refuse to comply with the former resolutions, this meeting pledges - itself to use all its influence, and do all; that in / , it lies, to prevent any member or members who . ; have been instrumental in carrying this! obnoxious resolution from sitting again on the School Committee at Wakanui. This was also carried unanimously, - /

Resolution No. 4 was proposed by Mr. Cochrane, and seconded by Mr. Paynter : That we refuse to pay a single pfehny for Sunday services, as there is a principle involved most repugnant, to our feelings ; and, • > : feeling as we .dp that it originated - ini a mind. ] hostile to religion, therefore we feel bound to ", , protest against it. ■ ; • - ll Carried unanimously. Resolution No. 5 was proposed by Mr. Leadly, and seconded by Mr. Trevurza. . That services be carried on as usual at Wakanui, and shoud the Committee persisi in carrying out their resolution and refuse us access to the school-room,’ the:services be held outside the school, in the school grounds. Carried unanimously. Mr. Brown—l have got a fifty acre paddock I will give you the use of. ■ i Proposed by Mr. Paynter, seconded by Mr. Trevurza

That the best thanks of this meeting, be accorded to the Chairman, who so ably and willingly presided over the meeting. Carried with acclamation.

At this stage of the meeting Mr. i-iv. Thoihas spoke, Saying that he was-sorry that he had not been present at the first part of the meeting. He continued—l do not know the result of it but 1 think the < Committee are acting most unjustly, and against the wishes of the people. I understand Mr. Brown very well. He can smile and look very pleasant, until ho gets in and gets a footing, then he begins to . show his authority, . domineering over' . common liberty. Mr. Brown is known in other districts as well as this, and he has cm always been a source of trouble.

A voice—-*'* Put him out,” and S( Keep , t him out.

Mr. Leadley proposed that the resolulutions be again read, so that all .present : might hear for themselves the decision ar- . rived at.

Tlje resolutions were read as asked... ' . Mr. Thomas was of opinion that the.;.,;,. Committee should be asked to resign 'at once—so that a new one might be formed.

Mr. Leadley proposed that a full report of this meeting be forwarded to the papers, and that a hearty vote of thanks bo accorded to Mr. Ginney for taking minutes of the same. Mr. Earle here rose—asking for permission to speak. The Chairman—You refused to speak when asked at first, saying that we were dangerous characters. (Roars of laughter). However, we will allow you. I believe you were led into it against your wish. Mr. Earle—The reason why this resolution was passed was that we are in financial difficulties, and we thought that if we were to charge Mr. Beattie and someone a small sum it would help us out of our difficulties. The people come here and collect money and take it to Ashburton and spend.it, I cannot see where we were wrong. Mr,, M'Guire —Is the school in debt 1 Mr. Brown—The school is in debt. Mr. M'Guire—Then give me the use of it for a lecture* and I will clear off the debt. . (Roars of laughter). A voice—-Mr. Brown will not grant it to you, you are too personal in your remarks.: , Mr. T. Wilson —Mr. Brown always has been a trouble. I gave him ray vote, thinking that he was gaining sense, but he getting worse. (Hear, hear.) Mr. Earle—lf you were in my position —expecting to be put over the hill any moment, for money owing, you would think different. After sundry remarks of this nature, the meeting broke up, the usual votes being.accorded at a previous stage of the meeting. We understand that the R.M. will have to deal with the matter.

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PUBLIC MEETING AT WAKANUI. Ashburton Guardian, Volume 1, Issue 151, 11 September 1880

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