4 December 2014
ROOSEVELT, Theodore. Typed letter signed (“Theodore Roosevelt”), to Michael Schaap, New York, 22 February 1915. 1 page, 4to, Theodore Roosevelt stationery. Center crease expertly repaired on verso. Two-line addition in Roosevelt’s hand.
“I BELIEVE IN ABSOLUTELY NON-SECTARIAN PUBLIC SCHOOLS. IT IS NOT OUR BUSINESS TO HAVE THE PROTESTANT BIBLE OR THE CATHOLIC VULGATE OR THE TALMUD READ IN THOSE SCHOOLS”
Roosevelt opposes “compulsory reading of the Bible in Public Schools” and tells Schaap, a progressive member of the N.Y. legislature, “If I were in the Legislature or [the] Governor, I should vote against or veto” the recently introduced bill making Bible reading compulsory. “I believe in absolutely non-sectarian public schools. It is not our business to have the Protestant Bible or the Catholic Vulgate or the Talmud read in those schools.” He does not object to the citing the moral teachings of the Bible, “so long as this causes no offense to anyone.” But he denounces the “Protestant fanatics” backing this bill, saying they are “playing into the hands of the Catholic fanatics who want to break down the Public Schools system and introduce a system of sectarian schools.” He asks Schaap to keep these views private “because I have so many fights on my hands that there is no use my going into another.” He closes, however, with a hand-written suggestion to “show this letter…to Hamilton Fish, our one Progressive legislator, if you wish.” The bill went down to defeat in the 1915 session, was introduced again the following year but also defeated.
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