THE only paper in Rhea County, Tenn., that attempts to justify the prosecution of the Graysville Adventists under the iniquitous Sunday law of that State, published an article recently, in which an effort was made to show a parallel between private Sunday work and the practice of polygamy.
This is not the first time that this view has been taken of this matter. In several cases even judges upon the bench have assumed that Sunday legislation and laws forbidding plural marriages rested upon the same foundation and were of the same character; but that this is a serious mistake must be apparent to any one who will lay aside prejudice and give the subject careful thought.
The basis of Sunday legislation is the supposed sacred character of the day, and the case would not be different were the day really the divinely-appointed Sabbath. The basis of laws regulating marriage is the rights of the contracting parties and of their prospective offspring.
To permit plural marriages in any part of the nation would be to invalidate to a certain extent every marriage contract in every State. No woman would be legally secure in the possession of a whole husband, for any man by going into that State or Territory in which polygamy was permitted could take one or more additional wives, and the woman who had married him in good faith would have no redress. Thus it is seen that the State must prohibit polygamy in every case, or else fail of the very object for which governments are instituted among men, namely, the preservation of natural rights.
Again, marriage imposes upon those who enter it, certain obligations, and they must not be permitted to escape those responsibilities, for if they do, the burdens which they should bear will fall upon others.
To protect the community from the imposition of this burden, the State rightly insists that marriage shall not be transient, but permanent.
But none of these things is true of a failure to keep a Sabbath. One man’s neglect or refusal to keep the Sabbath does not deprive another of that privilege: neither does it burden the State. This is practically admitted by even the most zealous advocates of what they are pleased to term a “civil Sunday law.” In answering the question, “Should there not be a law to protect the Jew in the observance of his Sabbath?” Rev. W. F. Crafts well says, “It is not sufficiently emphasized that the Jew is left absolutely free to observe the seventh day. He can close his shop: he can refuse to work.” This is true: but it is no more true of the Jew and the seventh day than it is of the Sunday-keeper and the first day.
It must therefore be apparent that there exists no sufficient civil reason for Sunday laws, and that Sunday is therefore not, properly speaking, a civil institution, but a religious institution recognized by civil law and enforced by civil power. But this is contrary to the entire spirit of American institutions and in flagrant conflict with the fundamental law of the nation and of the several States.