“‘Inconvenient Citizens’ Versus Unjust Laws” American Sentinel 10, 31, pp. 242, 243.

AMONG the papers that have defended persecution of Seventh-day Adventists in the South, is the Atlanta Constitution; but evidently the Constitution would like to be fair, if it only knew how. In its issue of July 18th, occurs the following:—

The Seventh-day Adventists

Speaking of the efforts to get the Supreme Court to come to the relief of the Seventh-day Adventists in Tennessee and Georgia, who have been sent to the chain-gang for doing secular work on Sunday, the Chicago Tribune says:—

“The question of religion appears to be one of those which the framers of the Constitution deemed it best to leave entirely to the States. At the time when the Constitution was adopted Connecticut had an established church—the Congregational one—and in all the States the Sunday observance laws were infinitely more rigid than they are now. In many of them Sunday travel was forbidden, Sunday amusements of the mildest character were not tolerated, and the man who thought it wrong to work Saturday was told no one would force him to work on that day, but that if worked on that day which the majority of the people looked on as holy, he would suffer for it.

“It rather seems, therefore, as if those who complain of the religious laws of the States in which they live, will have to look to the State for redress and not to the National Government, which does not seem to have any more to do with the Sunday question than with the marriage and divorce question.”

This is a fair statement of the situation. But it is said that the Tennessee authorities will soon have another question to decide. The Adventists say that no punishment and no human power can force them to work on Saturday, their Sabbath. If they gain this point, the chain-gang will get only five days’ work in the week out of them.

Upon the whole, these scrupulous religionists are very inconvenient citizens to have in a community. When at liberty they want to disregard our Sunday, but in the chain-gang they will claim two rest days in the week; Saturday, as a matter of conscience, and Sunday, as a matter of law.

The cases will make trouble. It is impossible to deal with it justly and at the same time satisfactorily.

The statement quoted from the Chicago Tribune is doubtless “fair” in the sense, that the writer of it had no intention to misrepresent the case, or to do injustice to the persecuted Adventists. It is, moreover, probably true that the United States Supreme Court would take that view of the matter; but this does not necessarily follow from the facts stated by the Tribune. It is true, that as originally adopted, the National Constitution left the matter of religion entirely with the States; but it is far from an unreasonable proposition that the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution have very materially changed all this. The First Amendment provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The Fourteenth Amendment provides that “no State shall make or enforce any law that shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.”

Certainly, under the First Amendment, freedom from all legal and statutory interference in matters of religion, is one of the privileges of every citizen of the United States; and as such it is guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. This being true, we ask, how in the name of law and justice can any State abridge this privilege of citizens of the United States?

But the most serious and inexcusable state- [sic.] made by the Constitution is that, Adventists when at liberty, “want to disregard our Sunday; but in the chain-gang they will claim two rest days in the week: Saturday, as a matter of conscience, and Sunday, as a matter of law.”

It is very certain that no Adventist will work in the chain-gang, or anywhere else, on the Sabbath. All the tortures of the Inquisition would be powerless to compel a true Seventh-day Adventist to thus violate his conscience, either by breaking the fourth commandment or any other commandment of the Decalogue.

But it is not true that any Adventist would likewise claim the privilege of “Sunday as a matter of law.” Adventists, it is true, hold themselves under no obligation to work in the chain-gang, though thus far they have done so, when so commanded by the officers having them in charge. But they would as soon work on Sunday in the chain-gang as to work there upon any other day; and they would doubtless do so, were any State to be so inconsistent as to imprison them for doing private work on Sunday, and then require them to do public work in the chain-gang upon that day.

The Constitution says: “The cases will make trouble. It is impossible to deal with it [them] justly, and at the same time satisfactorily.”

Yes; these cases will make trouble so long as the various States insist on putting men in prison and working them in the chain-gang for exercising a constitutional, natural, God-given right; because, whether or not, it is a right guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States to work on Sunday, there is not a single State constitution but contains an even more explicit guarantee of religious liberty than does the National Constitution; and in every State this guarantee of religious liberty is violated under the operations of the so-called Sunday laws.

But why should these cases make trouble? The Sunday “law” of Georgia is violated every week in a thousand ways, and yet no trouble is made about it. The Atlanta Constitution issues a Sunday edition in flagrant violation of the statute of that State, but we [243] have not heard of any trouble over it. The railroads in Georgia ran their locomotives and trains recklessly through the so-called law, fifty-two Sundays every year, and there is no trouble about it. The writer recently saw posted in the Union Depôt at Atlanta, the announcement of a regular Sunday excursion, with tickets on sale every Sunday at that depot; and the same number of the Constitution, from which we have quoted, publishes a schedule of Sunday trains from the city of Atlanta, the capital of Georgia, a State that sends men to the chain-gang for ordinary farm labor on that day.

Why should railroad trains and Sunday papers make no trouble, and yet men be arrested for doing ordinary private work on Sunday? There is but one answer: It is because the so-called law, which is yet law, because violative of the constitution, is made the engine of persecution and oppression against those who observe another day, and are in truth persecuted, not for Sunday work, but for Sabbath rest.

The trouble which the Constitution fears can be avoided in one of three ways: either let the legislatures of the various States repeat their iniquitous Sunday statutes; or let the various Supreme Courts declare them unconstitutional, as they most certainly are; or let the citizens of the several States, each man for himself, practice the Golden Rule and cease to invoke against their neighbors these antiquated, unjust, unconstitutional, and tyrannical statutes.

Seventh-day Adventists will make no trouble if they are left in the quiet enjoyment of their God-given rights; but God helping them, they will never cease to protest against wrong and injustice, and never content to yield their consciences into the keeping of the individual, nor of the several States, nor of the United States.

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