Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 23, 1964

Schools As Sommer Sees Them

Robert C. Welch

For many years the Sommer family has published a paper from Indianapolis entitled "The American Christian Review." B. K. Sommer now publishes it quarterly. They have been most objective to the operation of schools by Christians, supposing that they perform that which only the church is authorized to do. Their basic premise is fallacious. Many of their minor premises and conclusions have had merit. In the latest issue, as comment and explanation of his position, in response to a statement made by me in an article in the Gospel Guardian last year, brother Sommer says: "And when 'religious activity' of schools and papers leads them to dodge taxes, they present a clear-cut un-American union of Church and State."

By religious activity he must imply the teaching of religious matter in the school and in the paper. Surely, he must be aware of the fact that a private school is tax exempt by American law, whether it teaches religion or not. That is not un-American. It is established in American law. American law also exempts from taxes an institution engaged in religious activity, classed sometimes by law as non-profit organization. Perhaps he is aware of the fact that the church where he worships does not pay taxes on its property. That is not dodging taxes. Neither is it a union of Church and State. It is taking advantage of that which the law provides for all religious institutions.

When the paper so claims exemption, it is following the same type of legal grant. But, while he is thinking that such tax exemption is a union of Church and State, perhaps he will also want to consider government subsidy as union of Church and State. One may observe that his paper contained this charge of union of Church and State says that second class postage is paid for it. Neither Sommer nor his paper pays the cost of mailing the paper; the government pays most of the cost. By his own reasoning his religious paper is guilty of an un-American union of Church and State.

Actually this is a fine point of distinction which all should consider. How much opposition can a paper give to government subsidy of religious schools, or to subsidized transportation to religious schools, when it is accepting government subsidy in transporting it to the readers? We have papers organized and published for the specific purpose of combating government support to religion, which all the while are accepting a subsidy from the government. And nearly all the papers engage in this opposition to some extent. This writer would like to see a clarification of this point by publishers and other capable men.

Brother Sommer says: "Sectarian schools are divisive by reason of their peculiar 'religious activity,' rather than unifying." That is exactly right. But so is a sect divisive rather than unifying because of its peculiar religious activity. This, however, does not condemn the church's engaging in its religious activity. Neither does the evil of a sectarian school condemn the ownership and operation of a school by Christians. If they make it a sectarian school, a Church of Christ school, brother Sommer's indictment stands.

He also states: "We 'position' that it's un-Christian to establish human organizations for teaching in God's Word when He has already provided a teaching body for that Word." His implication is that the schools operated by brethren are human organizations for teaching God's word, hence, un-Christian. If his statement is accepted exclusively it appears to be conclusive. But let us consider a scriptural example. Paul taught the word of the Lord in the school of Tyrannus for two years. (Acts 19:9,10) If he could do that, then Homer Hailey can teach the word of the Lord in Florida College. It is hard to keep from thinking that, by necessary inference, some arrangements were made with Tyrannus in order to teach in that school for two years. It is conceivable then that arrangements he made with a school for teaching the Bible today; and, I am quite sure, brother Hailey has such arrangements with Florida College.

It is an honorable business to form and operate a school, it is pre-eminently American for private schools to be operated. And it is pre-eminently scriptural for men to teach the word of the Lord in schools. For such an organization to attempt to activate the churches of the Lord by receiving their support and to speak representative of the churches is neither scriptural nor honorable. Many schools established and operated by brethren today are presuming this position and prerogative. Such schools are committing the same sins as the missionary societies. Let us beware of the church-institution sectarian movement; and let us also beware of efforts to destroy individual action on the part of Christians in teaching the word and assisting the needy.

— 1932 S. Weller, Springfield, Mo.