The Bible in Schools.
EAST CHRISTCHURCH SCHOOL COMMITTEE. The ordinary monthly meeting of the East Christchurch School Committee was held yesterday evening; present — Messrß M. Sandstein (Chairman), J. T. Smith, W. Parkes, and the Rev G. Bond. The Chairman reported that the windmill pump at the main school had been repaired, and was now acting very well. CORRESPONDENCE. A letter was read from the head master, acknowledging the receipt of the Committee's resolution regarding corporal punishment, and requesting that that part of it prescribing that a copy should be affixed to the walls of the rooms might not be carried out, as it would tend to interfere with discipline. Mr Scott also requested that the second master should be allowed to use his discretion in regard to corporal punishment, as he frequently had to take charge of the school during the head master's absence on other duties. It was- decided to empower the second master to inflict corporal punishment when in charge of the school, and to accede to the request of the head master respecting posting the resolution in the school. The monthly report of the head master stated that the total average attendance at all the schools under the Committee's control was : — 752 boys and 567 girls ; total 1290. There was a falling off since last month. The Secretary to the Board of Education wrote stating the want of funds would not permit the purchase of an addition to the site at Phillipstown. A second letter from the Board stated that, in consideration of the great reduction in the expense of scavenging, of which tbe Committee would receive the benefit since the connection of the closets with the sewers, the Board had decided on making a deduction from the incidental allowances at the rate of i>3o per annum. The Chairman and Secretary were authorised to draw up a memorial, pointing out that the Committee could not do without the money. RESIGNATIONS. The following letter was read from Mr C. P. Hulbert :—" Dear Sir,— lfc is with great reluctance that I feel compelled to tender my resignation aB a member of the East Christchurch School Committee. The recent attempt of the majority of the Committee to introduce religious instruction in the schools under their control is, in my opinion, illegal and contrary to the letter and spirit of the Education Act, that the Committee^ were elected to adminieter, whicli opinion I expressed -when the subject was brought before the Committee, and urged that the Act should first be amended in the direction desired, or at any rate the matter should be deferred until the annual meeting of householders; and, I do not feel disposed to share the responsibility of the said majority in what I consider a deliberate breach of the law, and object to coerce the masters and teachers of the school to commit an illegal act, and I further have no desire to continue to be associated with those who consider it their duty to act with such religious intolerance and disloyalty to their Chairman as to insult him on a public platform because he happened to be born a Jew. One who accuses a late respected member and Chairman of the Committee of being ■impertinent, because he Btated what was 'known to all the members of the Committee to be the truth, namely, that, the' teachers had refused to add to their other duties the imparting of religious instruction during school hours. For these reasons I wish to retire from the Committee, and shall endeavour to justify my action to the householders at the next annual election of Committee. I remain, &c, C. P. Hulbert." Mr Smith thought that the statements contained in the letter were not exactly correct. There had been no attempt to introduce religious instruction into the schools — simple Bible-reading did not come under the designation of religious instruction. An interpretation had been put upon the act of the majority of the Committee which it was never intended to bear. Mr Hulbert had himself contended for religious instruction. He wanted ministers, or other duly authorised persons, to come into the school and teach religion out of school hours. The Committee wanted simple Bible-reading by the children only, without note or comment. He (Mr Smith) thought the letter was written in a style very disrespectful to the Committee. The majority had shown every disposition to be tolerant to Mr Hulbert, or anyone else who took the opposite view. Mr Hulbert had taunted them with being afraid of discussing the question at the annual meeting of householders, though it had been pointed out to him that it would be very inconvenient to discuss it when the votes were being counted at that meeting, but he had been the firat to object to giving publicity to the desire of the Committee by advertisement, showing that he himself was afraid of publicity. The Committee were willing to givo the householders every opportunity of considering the matter, and to be guided by their opinion. Their resolution stated that Bible reading was only to be introduced, if in accordance with the Act. If every member of the Committee were to take the course Mr Hulbert had, because he could not carry his own views, they could never work together at all. When a large majority of the Committee had decided a thing, the minority should give in with a good grace. He, for one, resented the dictatorial style of the letter. The Committee had no more desire than Mr Hulbert to do anything contrary to the Act, or to the interest of the teachers, or children. They did not wish to introduce Bible reading unless it was practicable on the part of the teachers. If the teachers could do it outside the ordinary school work, well and good. He moved — "That Mr Hulbert's resignation be accepted, and that this Committee regret that he should have deemed it necessary to write such a letter to the Committee." Mr Parkes seconded the motion. He remarked that had Mr Hulbert been present he would have answered his statements aB they deserved, as there were personal remarks with regard to himself. The letter was like Mr Hulbert exactly. The motion was then carried. Mr M. W. Green wrote, resigning his membership, on account of his departure from Christchurch. The resignation was accepted. BIBLE READING IN SCHOOLB. The Chairman reported the result of the meeting of householders held to consider the question of reading the Bible in the schools of the district. He said that before going any further he had to lay some information before the Committee. He need hardly say that the question had been very fully canvassed. The opinion of most people who had spoken to him was similar to that of Mr Hulbert. He had taken action, which he was sure the Committee would approve of, as the question was one of legality, and that affected the whole educational system, as there was no doubt that a great many schools would follow the example of Eaat Christchurch, whatever it was. What he had done would finally and distinctly settle the question. He had consulted his solicitors, Messrs Joynt and Acton- Adams, whose opinion he would ask fche Secretary to read. The opinion in question was summed up in the following paragraph: — "We think that it cannot be doubted that the object of readin,;; scripture in the school is that the children may thereby learn it, so that it is nothing more nor less than teaching it to the children ; and, therefore, the Bible and the Lord's Prayer being in no sense secular compositions, it is very clear that neither of them can, consistently with the express provisions of the Act, be taught or read in the school during the hours used for public school purposes, and, consequently, that tho resolution passed by the Committee aims directly at a violation of the provisions of the Ast, and is therefore illegal." The Chairman said that Mr Joynt, since giving the opinion, had informed him that he had omitted to mention that any district school teacher reading or teaching the Bible, or reciting the Lord's Prayer, in school hours, would be liable to prosecution. Mr Smith If in school hours.
The Chairman : If in school at all. The Rev G. Bond said that the Committee agreed with everything in the opinion as far as the teaching for four hours a day was concerned. The Committee was bound to provide secular teaching for at least four hours. At present they were giving five, so that, if they pleased, they could devote one hour entirely to Bible reading, and yet not violate the Act. The Chairman said that Mr Bond was perfectly wrong. The Committee had no power to make provision for Bible reading, or anything that might be termed religiouß instruction. If they had, what occasion would there have been to introduce a Bill in Parliament to alter the Act bo as to permit Committees to do exactly what they proposed to do now. That was the opinion of a gentleman whom he had consulted, and who knew more about the Act and its working than any man in Canterbury. Mr Smith said that the whole of the opinion assumed that the Committee were making arrangements for Bible reading during school hours. The Committee had power to fix the period of instruction, provided it was not less than four hours. The Committee had fixed it at five hours, and though they had no right to introduce religious teaching in that period, they had power to say that four and a half hours should be the period for secular instruction. Outside that period the rooms were under the direction of the Committee, who had power to grant any application for the use of them for religious instruction, and to lay down the conditions under which the rooms should be used, and therefore it was proposed that if any teachers were willing to give such instruction outside the school day, which was closed when the four and a half hours were expired, the Committee should give them liberty to do so. Mr Parkes said that the teaching proposed was moral, not religious. He thought so much of Mr Joynt's opinion that he would move — "That a sub-Committee, consisting of the Chairman, the Rev G. Bond, and the mover, be appointed to ascertain whether the teachers are willing to carry out the resolution pasßed by the Committee." The Chairman said that it was his duty to rule that such a resolution was out of order. Mr Parkes asked the Chairman to show how it was out of order, or to give a reason for his ruling. The Chairman said that he had taken a legal opinion, and found that the proposal was contrary to law. He trusted he had done what was right. It was a public matter, and he held himself accountable to the public for his acts as Chairman. Mr Parses said that he would press the motion. It was for the majority to rule. The Chairman was there to keep order, and not to dictate to the Committee. They could bring forward any resolution they thought fit. If there was a seconder to the motion, the Chairman would be bound to put it. The Chairman : I shall not. Mr Parkes said that the Chairman could not show the Committee that they were going outside the Act. He considered the Chairman himself was out of order. The Chairman: I have been told that before. Mr Smith did not think it was worth while discussing the matter. The Chairman had a perfect right to rule the motion out of order. He would submit. The responsibility rested with the Chairman. The Chairman would accept the whole responsibility. The Committee had acted as they thought fit, and, though he did not agree with them, he had carried out that action 5 but when they said deliberately that they would do thiß provided it was not contrary to the law — and his solicitor had advised him that what they proposed was against the law — he could not carry it out. If they were satisfied that what they proposed was in accordance with the Act, what need was there to have made the provision he had mentioned. Mr Smith said that the Committee had nothing to do with what Mr Joynt had said upon the matter, but they were bound to submit to their Chairman's ruling. The Chairman said that if he allowed the matter to go on he would be doing an illegal act. Mr Parkes would like to know whether the Chairman had the power to upset anything the Committee liked to do. The Rev G. Bond said that the Chairman had a perfect right to act upon his convictions, and as Chairman, had a right to rule the motion out of order, but there the matter ended. He (Mr Bond) did not agree with Mr Parkes that the teaching proposed was not religious. He believed it to be within the spirit and letter of the Acfc, but was willing to bow to the Chairman's ruling, because he knew that the Chairman had acted impartially and to the beßt of his judgment. He would also commend the kindly spirit the Chairman had shown throughout the entire discussion. The Chairman could pledge hiß word of honour as a man that if it had been legal he would have assisted the majority in every possible way to carry out their decision. Mr Smith moved — " That the discussion on this question be postponed for further enquiry." Mr Parkes seconded the motion. The Chairman said he could not take the motion. The Rev G. Bond said he knew that the Chairman's opinion was that of the majority of those who had studied the Act. Their remedy, therefore, was to amend the Act. The matter then dropped. NEW MBMBBR6. Messrs S. C. Farr and Jamieson were elocted to fill the vacancies caused by the resignation of Messrs Hulbert and Green. After passing accounts the Committee adjourned.
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The Bible in Schools., Star, Issue 5383, 8 August 1885
The Bible in Schools. Star, Issue 5383, 8 August 1885
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