“A New Sunday Bill in Congress” American Sentinel 12, 1, pp. 6, 7.

2nd SESSON. H. R. 9679.


December 16, 1896
Mr. Washington (by request) introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the District of Columbia and ordered to be printed.

To further protect the first day of the week as a day of rest in the District of Columbia.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That it shall not be lawful for any person to keep open any place of business or maintain a stand for the sale of any article or articles of profit during Sunday, excepting vendors of books or newspapers, and apothecaries for the dispensing of medicines, and undertakers for the purpose of providing for the dead, or others for the purposes of charity or necessity; nor shall any public playing of football or baseball or any other kind of playing, sports, pastimes, or diversions, disturbing the peace and quiet of the day, be practiced by any person or persons with the District of Columbia on Sunday; nor shall any building operations or work upon railroad construction be lawful upon said day; and for any violation of this Act the person offending shall, for each offense, be liable to a fine of not less than five dollars nor more than fifty dollars, and in the case of corporations there shall be a like fine for every person employed in violation of this Act laid upon the corporation offending.

SEC. 2. That it shall be a sufficient defense to a prosecution for labor on the first day of the week that the defendant uniformly keeps another day of the week as a day of rest, and that the labor complained of was done in such a manner as not to interrupt or disturb other persons in observing the first day of the week as a day of rest. This Act shall not be construed to prevent the sale of refreshments other than malt or spirituous liquors, or to prevent the sale of malt and spirituous liquors as now provided for by law, or tobacco, cigars, railroad and steamboat tickets, or the collection and delivery of baggage.

This bill was originated and framed by the National Sabbath Alliance of Washington, D. C.; and was presented in Congress at the request of this Alliance. After framing it themselves, and themselves having it presented, a convention was held by themselves, presided over by Bishop Satterlee, which gravely proceeded to endorse it. This convention also had a committee appointed to lobby the bill in the Houses of Congress.

Compared with former bills from the same source it will be seen that all use of openly religious words and phrases has been studiously avoided. In this respect it is probably about as taking a bill as it is possible to frame for the purpose for which it is intended: that is, to secure religious legislation under cover of something else. They may be able to make such a showing with this bill that the legislative mind shall be willing to pass it.

Yet, thought all set religious terms and phrases are studiously avoided in this bill, its essential religious meaning and intent is not one whit less than that of any other bill that has been put before Congress by the same parties. In former bills they have so fully exposed their real purpose that there can be no mistaking it, under whatever guise it may now or in future be forced to assume in order to disarm opposition.

The Sunday institution is essentially and only religious, in itself. It never can be made anything else. It is impossible to have legislation of any kind or to any degree in favor of Sunday, without having religious legislation. It is impossible for government or individuals to recognize Sunday as anywise different from the other working days of the week, without recognizing a religious institution, and conforming just so far to a religious practice. The promoters of this bill know this. They are therefore perfectly willing to tone down their proposition to any extent that will assure their adoption by Congress, knowing that as certainly as the thing is recognized or adopted in any shape, the whole field is opened, and additional steps can be taken at their leisure. We know this because we have heard them say it more than once.

But see how far they have indeed gone to give this bill an acceptable cast: “This Act shall not be construed… to prevent the sale of malt and spirituous liquors as now provided by law,” etc. That is to say, We would not have it understood that this bill shall repeal, supersede, or interfere in any way with, any law which sanctions the liquor traffic. In other words, Only give us by specific statute the national recognition of Sunday, and we will say nothing against any law providing for the liquor traffic.

How could there be made a more open bid than this is, for the support,—if not positive at least by consent—of the liquor element? How could there be a more cowardly, not to say a more tricky, compromise with the liquor traffic, than is offered in this bill? Indeed, the title Sunday Liquor Bill would be more accurately descriptive than simply Sunday bill. We are waiting to see [7] whether the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and the Christian Endeavorers will support this bill as they have all the others.

The “exemption” which this bill proffers to observers of another day than Sunday, is the worst one that has yet been inserted in any bill presented in Congress. In former bills it was proposed that the provisions of the Act should not apply to those who conscientiously observe another day than Sunday. In this bill, its provisions apply to all alike, up to the point of defense in a prosecution: only then does the “exemption” clause avail. For “it shall be a sufficient defense to a prosecution for labor on the first day of the week that the defendant,” etc. It is only when a man is prosecuted, and when he has thus become a “defendant” that this clause is of any avail. That is to say that under this Act every person who uniformly keeps another day of the week as a day of rest, and who labors on Sunday, shall be subject to arrest and prosecution. But when he shall have been arrested and is prosecuted, then being “the defendant” it shall be “a sufficient defense” to the “prosecution,” that he shall prove not only that he “uniformly keeps another day of the week as a day of rest,” but “that the labor complained of was done in such a manner as not to interrupt or disturb other persons in observing the first day of the week as a day of rest.” And as it is the established rule of the courts that “the burden of proof resets upon him who claims the exemption;” and also that such disturbance may be mental, and may be caused merely by the knowledge that the person is laboring on Sunday; it is perfectly plain that under such an act as this, the observer of another day than Sunday would be placed in a position of such difficulty as ought to satisfy the greatest inquisitor-general that ever hunted a heretic.

See also where this bill places honest industry. By the plain words of the bill, “the sale of malt and spirituous liquors,” and of course the drinking of them, may be publicly carried on on Sunday wherever “provided for by law,” without any danger of interrupting or disturbing other persons, and without any danger of any person being arrested, or prosecuted, or made a defendant in court. Whereas any quiet, sober, inoffensive Christian who engages in honest labor on Sunday is instantly subject to arrest, and prosecution, and to be made defendant in such a network of difficult circumstances as to make it practically impossible to escape.

Thus by this bill drunkenness, carousal and general deviltry are given specific sanction, hoodlumism is encouraged, and idleness is enforced, on Sunday; while honest industry is forbidden, condemned and persecuted. And they expect the national Government to put the seal of its approval upon the iniquitous proposal. It may be that they can persuade the Government to do so. But how long can a Government live that so reverses the true order of things? Honest industry is the life of the State. Idleness, even voluntary, is death to the State. And enforced idleness is the suicide of the State.

There is no room for doubt that the National Sabbath Alliance took a great deal of care in the framing of this bill. It bears the marks of this all over. Bishop Satterlee and his associates probably think that in framing and promoting the bill they are pleasing the Lord; but if they had formed a set purpose to please Satan himself, it is difficult to conceive how they could have taken a course better adapted to such purpose than they have taken in the matter of framing this bill and trying to get it enacted into law.

Probably there will be those who will say that the sponsors of this bill do not mean all that we have pointed out. We are not asking anybody to tell what they do or do not mean. We do not care to know what they mean or do not mean. We do know now what they have said, and assuredly that is enough.

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