RELIGIOUS freedom is again denied in that section of this “land of the free” constituting the State of Tennessee. At the town of Sanford, McMinn County, four persons—two men and their wives—are under arrest on the charge of “violating the Sabbath.” A letter from one of them, Mr. G. M. Powell, gives the following particulars.
Mr. Powell and his wife, both observers of the seventh-day Sabbath, went to that section of Tennessee about five months ago to work as self supporting missionaries. They secured a piece of land, on which they started a private school,—an enterprise which was appreciated by the people, as was shown by the enrollment of between twenty and thirty pupils. But there were some in the neighborhood who were opposed to Mr. Powell’s religion, and whose moral status was such as to cause them to manifest their opposition to religion by becoming enemies of the man who held it, and of all others of like religious views; thus presenting a contrast to Christianity, which manifests only love for all men, no matter what their religious views may be.
Mr. Powell writes that two warrants were sworn out against them for two different charges of the same nature. “Brother and Sister Bristol, who recently began the observance of the Sabbath, were also arrested, but we were permitted to go on each other’s bond, which was $250 in each case.” The trials will be held at the April term of court.
The prospect is, of course, that the school will be broken up; but this will not matter to the advocates of Sunday enforcement. The thing of importance with them is to vindicate the “American Sabbath.” Better is it in their view that there should be no educational enterprise in their midst, than that any person should be permitted to conscientiously disregard the claims of this traditional institution.
The Sunday law is the ever-ready instrument of religious intolerance. The whole history of Sunday legislation only reveals it in this light.
The charge brought by the civil authorities against these defendants is that of “violating the Sabbath.” How do the civil authorities in this part of Tennessee, or in any part of the country, know what the Sabbath is, and what is a violation of it? How does any man know these things? The Bible alone gives an answer to these questions. And the truths of the Bible are understood not alone by reading what the Bible says, but by the agency of the divine Teacher, the “Spirit of truth.”
What then have the civil authorities in any place to do with the settling of religious questions? And when the civil power assumes to settle the purely religious questions involved in an assumed “violation of the Sabbath,” what less can be represented in it than a union of church and state? Whether it be done by a state, or a country, or only a town, or by the whole United States, the principle is the same, and is precisely that which is embodied in and gives character to the papacy.