“Religion vs. Rights” American Sentinel 13, 46, pp. 728, 729.

THE view which some good people take of their moral responsibilities in connection with the affairs of their neighbors, is well illustrated by the following which appears in the correspondence column of the Defender. This journal is the organ of Sunday enforcement in New England, and has been sending out through that section extracts from the Sunday laws of the New England states; and in reply once recipient writes:—

“I received your extracts from the Sunday law. We have a grocer and provision dealer, who persists in keeping open his store on the Sabbath. The day passes very rarely when he does not have from three to six customers, and often more. Some of the children from ten to fifteen years old, I have seen repeatedly come from the store with groceries or meat. Sometimes on returning from prayer-meeting I have counted four or five young boys purchasing candy and cigars.

“I have placed a copy of the Sunday laws where he could not fail to see it; but the Sabbath following, the store was opened as before.

“I have no ill-feeling against the man. He is my neighbor, I would not injure him. But I do not think it is right or consistent for me as a Christian to allow him to injure the mind of his own children and mine.”

The last sentence contains the kernel of the argument. The writer, being a Christian, feels that it would be wrong for him to allow the minds of the children and the morals of the community to be injured by non-Christian practices. Whether keeping open store on Sunday is an injury to any person or not, is purely a religious question; and he views it in the affirmative not because he is a man asserting the rights of created beings as such, but because he is a professor of religion. Because he has chosen to profess religion, other people are to be restricted in their actions by the law of the land. This is what his view, simply analyzed, amounts to.

But human liberties rest on no such narrow basis; they cannot thus be subjected to the human will. They rest upon the broad ground of the common inalienable [729] rights shared by all mankind alike, irrespective of religious belief or variations of personal condition. And this is the only proper ground of civil legislation. Based upon narrower ground, as the believers in Sunday sacredness would have it, legislation can only invade the rights which it ought to protect. The field of religious belief is properly the field of moral suasion, and of that only.

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