A NEW ENGLAND journal states that the town of Sangus, Mass., “has become tired of Sunday golf, and the violators of law feel aggrieved.” The inference to be drawn is that the town has taken some action to suppress the gulf. “The question is,” it is stated further, “whether it is better to permit a few young men to break the laws of the State and outrage the Christian sentiment of the community, or to check lawlessness and protect the vital interests of good citizenship and Christian morality.”
The first and most important question with respect to the law of the State, is whether the law is just. It is a worse thing to violate justice by law than for individuals to violate the law. Justice is a law; and an unjust measure on the statute books involves the whole State in the guilt of law breaking. Ought the State to take sides in a religious controversy by decreeing that Sunday shall be observed as the Christian Sabbath, or Lord’s day? Is the law a just one?
And further, it is proper to ask why the “Christian sentiment” of the community is to be distinguished from the sentiment of non-Christians or of Christian dissenters from the prevailing religious sentiment, as something to be guarded by law. Non-Christians stand on an equality with Christians before the law, and the sentiments of the one class are to be respected by the law equally with those of the other class. Some “Christians” have their sentiments outraged by Sunday golf. Other people have their sentiments outraged by a law depriving them of this Sunday recreation, passed in the interests of a religious institution in which they do not believe. Which class is to be favored by the law? Evidently, the law, to be impartial must leave religious questions alone, and let the sentiment of the community be adjusted to religious questions by religious forces only—by conviction and not by compulsion.