“LAWS forbidding labor on the Sabbath,” we are told by those who advocate them, “are based upon the right of every man to enjoy a day of rest.” This is strange “logic” to apply to the doctrine of human rights.
Every man has a right to get married; must we therefore have a law compelling all men to marry?
Every man has a right to acquire property; is it therefore necessary that the acquisition of property should be made compulsory?
Because some one else has a right to do a thing, must I be forced to do the same thing in order that he may enjoy his right?
If so, then individual rights are not equal; for my own choice in the matter is made to give place to that of another.
But individual rights are equal. What another person does in the exercise of a right, I have an equal right to refrain from doing.
An act done under compulsion is not the exercise of a right. The basis of compulsion is duty, and the power which compels also prescribes duty in respect to the thing compelled.
When the State, therefore, compels the observance of the Sabbath, it prescribes the duty of every citizen with respect to Sabbath observance. It removes Sabbath observance from the realm of privilege to that of duty.
The duty of Sabbath observance does not grow out of the right to observe the day, but out of the relation of man to the Author of the Sabbath. The question of the duty of Sabbath observance is first settled in the mind of the individual before he considers it as a matter of personal right.
It was in the sphere of man’s duty, and not of his rights, that Sabbath observance originated.
This duty was set forth and commanded by the Creator, the Author of the Sabbath.
In prescribing Sabbath observance as a duty, the State sets itself in the place of God. It is not the business of the State to prescribe duty.
The duty does not grow out of the right, but the right out of the duty. The right of Sabbath observance affords no basis for compulsory legislation; it cannot be made the basis of any human law for Sabbath observance.
Any such law rests upon another basis, and that basis is nothing else than religious intolerance.
It is the prerogative of God alone to prescribe duty. His law prescribes for mankind, but he leaves men free to choose whether they will walk in that pathway or not. But what the State prescribes by law is taken out of the realm of man’s free choice.
And when the Sabbath observance is removed from the realm of man’s free choice, by that very act it is denied that Sabbath observance belongs within the sphere of individual rights. The law which claims to be “based upon the right of every man to enjoy a day of rest” each week, in reality denies that any such right exists.