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December 04, 1987 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-12-04

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Michigan Tradition Upholding Separation Principle


Editor Emeritus


major issue certain to be in-
cluded in the debatable disputes
involving candidates in the for-
thcoming Presidential election will be
the Separation of Church and State.
It will be most interesting to learn
who and how many will pledge
allegiance to this basic American ideal.
Who will be the courageous to
uphold and hail the Separation commit-
ment as originally authored by James
Madison and his associates?
Presently, fright is aroused in many
hearts whenever the subject of introduc-
ing religion in schools or similar
religious threats are challenged in the
courts. Those who defend the American
ideal are branded "irreligious radicals"
and even harsher names. Now there is
an advocacy of religious partisanship
that assails "Separation" as almost
It is an especially serious matter
with challenging emphasis when
Separation is threatened by a policy
that has become major in the specific
codes advocated.
Therefore the necessity to retain the
facts about Separation in the public
mind and to encourage militancy of
thought and action in its defense.
It is not generally known that in the
legislative and state records are incor-
porated precedents that keep Michigan
among the states that have acted pro-
tectively in behalf of the Separation
policies. Dr. Norman Drachler, a former
superintendent of Detroit Public
Schools and prior to that superinten-
dent of the Temple Beth El school, made
it the topic of his doctoral theme. Atten-
tion to it was drawn when the late Con-
gressman Louis Rabait introduced a bill
to include "Under God" in the Pledge
of Allegiance. He had the sponsoring
support of U.S. Senator Homer
Ferguson and his Congressional
associate Charles Oakman for his
measure, which had unanimous
It was before the adoption of the
Rabaut measure that I called its atten-
tion to the thesis by Dr. Drachler. Rep.
Rabaut made much use of the
arguments advanced by Drachler in his
commenting reply.
(From his Detroit Board of Educa-
tion superintendentship, Dr. Norman
Drachler went to Washington to be
associated with the Ford Foundation's
educational project, "Remaining in Ur-
ban Education:' He then continued his
service with the Ford Foundation at
Stanford University in California in the
university's Education Leadership In-
stitute. He recently retired and resides
with Mrs. Drachler in Los Altos, Calif.)
In his comments on continuing
tasks to avert religious instrusions in-
to the government and educational
spheres of this nation, Rep. Rabaut gave
emphasis to the view that we are a
religiously influenced people. Quoting
Supreme Court Justice William
Douglas who stated in an important



Dr. Norman Drachler

decision that "we are a religious peo-
ple," Rabaut declared that his "Under
God" proposal does not involve the issue
of state-church relations.
Rep. Rabaut, who was known as
"the Singing Congressman from Royal
Oak, Mich.," took into account the view-
points of Michigan scholars, academi-
cians as well as legislators and religious
dignitaries, in matters affecting the in-
jection of religiosity in state affairs.
The two solid pages in the April 1,
1954, issue of the Congressional Record
cover the basic facts in the Rabaut pro-
posal and its analysis. They represent
an inerasable chapter in Separation
discussions by this state's pioneering
legislators in preparation for all ensu-
ing debates on the Separation ideal that
will endlessly confront the American
people. The complete article from the
April 1, 1954, Congressional Record is
therefore must reading in preparation
for the challenges that will confront
voters in the coming months. An ex-
cerpted Rabaut text on the debatable
subject follows:
Dr. Drachler relates that a
delegate to the State constitu-
tional convention proposed an
invitation to clergymen, "alter-
nately one from each denomina-
tion;' to open convention ses-
sions. But an opponent of the
proposal insisted that the mere
presence of clergymen would
exert sectarian influence upon
the delegates. The resolution
calling for prayers at the con-
vention was defeated. But of far
greater importance was the pro-
posal to include in the constitu-
tion recognition of a Supreme
Being and a belief in a future
state of rewards and
punishments. The resolution
was rejected. Dr. Drachler, in his
thorough review and study
quotes the following striking
"denunciation of the move to
give the State a theistic nature
by a delegate, Willard":
"Sir, I protest against the
adoption of such an article into

Rep. Louis Rabaut

our constitution. I protest
against it because it is anti-
Republican, anti-Democratic,
anti-Liberal, anti-do-as-you-
would-be-done-by, anti-the-will-
of-the-people. I do verily believe
that nine-tenths of the people of
Michigan do not wish to pro-
scribe a fellow being on account
of his religious or irreligious
belief; and I do know that a very
large majority of my con-
stitutents do not wish it. . .
"I go the whole hog for hav-
ing every free white male citizen
of the age of 21 years, who shall
have resided in the State a cer-
tain stipulated length of time, a
voter, and every voter eligible to
any office the people may think
proper to bestow upon him,
whether he believes in 1 God, 20
Gods, or no God.. .
"Suppose a man's head is so
thick and brainless (if you
choose to call it so) that no
evidence can be beaten into it
which is sufficiently strong to
convince him of the existence of
an uncaused first cause — of an
unorganized, yet intelligent, im-
material Being, who existed
from all eternity, in nothing, on
nothing, and who did nothing
until about 6,000 years ago, at
which time He created not only
this vast globe and all that it in-
habits, but also myriads of
worlds and living creatures.
Suppose, I say, a man's head is
so thick and brainless that he
cannot comprehend nor believe
in such an existence, and has the
moral courage and honesty to
acknowledge it when inter-
rogated, shall he be debarred
from testifying in courts of
justice, and from holding an of-
fice of profit and trust, which his
equally thickheaded and skep-
tical neighbors may wish to
bestow upon him? Forbid it
justice. Forbid it ye freeborn
sons of Michigan.

"Palsied be the tongue of
him who shall advocate such
doctrine, and perish the hand
that shall put a vote in the ballot
box in favor of him who shall do
so. Mistake me not. I would
equally imprecate him who
should attempt to deprive the
most credulous fanatic that ever
disgraced human nature, of the
least of his inalienable rights
and privileges. No, sir, let us
have no proscriptive laws, either
in favor or against religion,
unless we mean to make liars
and hypocrites of our posterity.
Let religion stand or fall without
the proscriptive intolerance of
law. If it be of God, ye cannot
overthrow it; but if it be of man
it will surely come to naught .. .
In the name of mental liberty —
in the name of unborn millions
of our posterity — in, the name
of all that is near and dear to us,
the liberty of conscience, I pro-
test against the resolution:'
At the convention of 1850, we
learn from Dr. Drachler,
ministers of religion were in-
vited to open daily sessions with
prayers, but the delegates per-
sonally paid for these services.

William 0. Douglas

At the convention of 1867, an
attempt was made to have the
Convention Preamble embody
recognition of the Almighty and
acknowledge "the Lord Jesus
Christ, who is author of Chris-
tianity and has revealed god to
man." The objection was raised
that this was sectarian. Delegate
Nind called it a concept con-
trary to other faiths and that
"this would not be the case with
the Hebrews, the Unitarians, not
saying anything about the
atheists whom some gentlemen
may consider as outlaws:'
While the terms Almighty
God and Sovereign Ruler were
accepted, the words "Christian
government" and "Lord Jesus
Christ" were omitted from the
state document.
Commenting on the chang-

Continued on Page 32B

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