A HEARING upon these resolutions has been arranged for January 10, 11, 12, and 13—four days—the time to be equally divided between friends of the Constitution as it is, and those who would subvert it in the interests of a religious dogma. Thus do these measures not only again open up the whole question of Sunday closing of the great Fair, but the joint resolution introduced by Mr. Durborow on the 20th ult., brings prominently before the American people the much larger and more important question of the right of Congress to legislate upon religious questions.
THIS resolution, which recites in its preamble, that provision of the Constitution which provides that “Congress shall make no laws respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” should have the hearty support of every patriotic citizen of this Republic. The leaders and managers of the Sunday law cause in general, and of this Sunday closing crusade in particular, have arrogated to themselves the titles, “The best people of the land,” and “The law abiding people of the country;” but the truth is as shown in the history of the so-called National Reform movement given in the first article in this number of the SENTINEL, that for years they have waged a persistent and relentless warfare against the Constitution—the fundamental law of the land. They should now be stripped of the garments of hypocrisy with which they have clothed themselves, and be made to stand forth in all their hideous deformity, as subverters of the Constitution, and the enemies of both civil and religious liberty.
THE supreme law of the Government of the United States,—the Constitution,—positively prohibits any legislation on the subject of religion. Yet, in spite of this, in utter disregard of the supreme law of the land, these men by threats of force—threats of the loss of votes, the only force at their command—obliged Congress to legislate upon a religious subject, to decide a religious question, and to take their side in a great religious controversy. And in this they have plainly overridden the Constitution, and violated the supreme law of the land. And they know it.
THE National Reform Association, the ringleader in this whole religious combination for political purposes, has been working for nearly thirty years for national Sunday legislation. But knowing that Sunday is religious, and religious only, its managers argued from the first that such legislation would be unconstitutional, as the Constitution stands; and, therefore, for nearly thirty years they have advocated and demanded an amendment to the Constitution which should declare this to be “a Christian Nation,” and so create a basis for national legislation recognizing Sunday as “the Christian Sabbath.” And they are demanding the same thing still.
THUS, by their own arguments for nearly thirty years, we know that the ringleaders in this Sunday closing crusade know that Sunday legislation by Congress is unconstitutional. Yet, in conflict with their own continued arguments, these men take the lead in petitioning and threatening Congress for Sunday legislation. One of their own number, who had argued for years the unconstitutionality of such legislation, spent the whole of the first session of the Fifty-second Congress at the Capitol as “a Christian lobbyist” to secure this very unconstitutional legislation. And now, having secured this legislation which they know to be unconstitutional, having thus knowingly violated the supreme law, having thus subverted the Constitution, these very men take the lead in getting up and managing mass-meetings to endorse their unconstitutional action, to prevent Congress from undoing its unconstitutional work, and vote themselves the law-abiding people of the Nation!
BUT instead of being the “law-abiding people of the land,” they are the arch law-breakers of the land. Their action is as much worse than that of the average law-breaker, as the supreme law of the land is greater and more important than the local statutes. The average law-breaker damages the individual; these supreme law-breakers damage the whole Nation. The average law-breaker invades the rights of the individual; these supreme law-breakers have invaded, and even swept away, the rights of all the people. The average law-breaker disregards social order only in the locality where he is; while those supreme law-breakers strike at the very existence of social order, by breaking down the chief governmental safeguard of a nation.
THESE facts should be fearlessly set before the committee having in charge the “resolution to repeal the religious legislation pertaining to the World’s Columbian Exposition,” and Congress should be asked to undo, as far as possible, the evil that has been done in yielding to the demands of these subverters of constitutional, republican government.
BUT it may be urged that these men represent a majority of the people of the Nation, and the majority should rule even if to do it they are compelled to subvert the Constitution, that constitutions represent simply the will of the majority, and that when they cease to express the popular will, they should be changed or overridden. The position is not, however, tenable. In the first place, the National Reformers do not represent a majority of the people; but even if they did, it would not justify them in subverting the Constitution. Constitutions are made, not to be overridden by the majority, but for the protection of the minority. The minority has rights which the majority is bound to respect; and constitutions are largely for the purpose of defining and protecting those rights.
APROPOS to this subject is the article on another page, on “Limitations to Majority Rule.” The saying that “the majority should rule” is true only of those matters which come properly within the sphere of civil government. But religious questions are outside that sphere, not by constitutional guarantee, merely, but by the law of our being which makes us individually responsible to the Creator. The Constitution of the United States did not create religious rights, but simply recognizes them. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are … endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” And of these rights, Hon. Richard M. Johnson, in his matchless report to the United States Senate on Sunday mails, January 19, 1829, said: “They are not exercised in virtue of governmental indulgence, but as rights, of which government can not deprive any portion of citizens, however small. Despotic power may invade those rights, but justice still confirms them.” The men who override constitutions and trample upon natural rights are the worst of tyrants, no matter what their profession may be.