4. Ulysses S. Grant: U.S. Grant is best known for being a hard fighting (and hard drinking) Civil War general and later a scandal-plagued president. His advocacy of church-state separation is less well known.
Grant had his share of problems during his presidency, but on the issue of church-state separation he showed true leadership. Sadly, this tends to get overlooked today.
During Grant’s presidency, the concept of tax-supported public education began to slowly spread across the nation. More and more states were adopting laws establishing public schools and even mandating attendance. But there was a problem: People could not agree on what role religion should play in the schools.
In 1844, there were riots in Philadelphia between Catholics and Protestants over what version of the Bible would be read in schools. Tensions simmered for years. Protestants insisted that since they were the majority in the country, the schools should reflect their theology. Catholics fumed that their rights were being violated and proposed that the federal government give them money to start their own schools that would inculcate Catholicism.
Just read this article. Gotta say, everyone needs to read it! Grant's speech makes the piece above, and the other four are even better. Thanks for sharing!
In his speech, Grant said [Let us] "Resolve that neither the state nor nation, nor both combined, shall support institutions of learning other than those sufficient to afford to every child growing up in the land the opportunity of a good common school education, unmixed with sectarian, pagan or atheistic dogmas."
He is clearly attempting to reassure the audience that schools will be a neutral environment promoting no belief systems at all. I'd like to know what was considered atheistic dogma in that day. It sounds like the predicessor to "Militant atheist". I wonder if it was the same at that time.
Bear in mind that President Grant is not the most beloved of presidents in Dixie, though, also the buckle of the Bible Belt.