“Sanitary Benefits of Sunday Rest, and of Exemptions From It” The American Sentinel 6, 29, pp. 225, 226.

July 23, 1891

QUESTION and answer number four, of that Woman’s Christian Temperance Union Leaflet No. 31, which is considered by the Union of so much importance that even a funeral must be made the occasion for its distribution, are as follows:—

4. if one has conscientiously refrained from his work on Saturday, is it not oppressive to make him abstain also on Sunday?

Answer. To secure the greatest good to the greatest number is, or should be, the aim of law. If to secure this, requires a good building to be exploded to prevent the spread of fire, or compels a man to remove his slaughter house as a sanitary measure, we say it is not oppressive. If to secure a rest day for all, it were necessary to compel all to rest, it would not be oppression; but law is as lenient as possible, and the bill for the national Sunday rest law, following State laws, expressly exempts those who, having conscientiously observed another day, do not by their work disturb others on Sunday.

The governmental principle announced in that first sentence is fully worthy of the cause in behalf of which it is propounded; that is to say, it is utterly false, and the carrying out of it is only wickedness and oppression. It is the same principle that has characterized the oppressive governments of the past, and which was totally revolutionized when our fathers in their immortal Declaration announced to all the world that governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, and to secure the inalienable rights of the people who compose the government. The aim of law and government “is, or should be,” ever to secure and maintain the inalienable right of each individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The theory of the greatest good to the greatest number is simply that by which a certain class who call themselves the “good” secure control of the governmental power, and compel everybody else to conform to what those persons say is good for them. It is simply the principle of class legislation, and in practice it never can be anything but oppression.

The second sentence simply argues that honest occupations engaged in on Sunday are as dangerous as a raging fire, or as much of a nuisance as an ill-smelling slaughter house. When honest occupations are put in such a category as that, and are forbidden in consequence, then what possible fruit ever could come from it other than confirmed criminality made universal by the law; yet such is the demand that is made in order that Sunday may have free course to run and be glorified. Any institution that requires the employment of such arguments to justify it and such means to uphold it is unworthy of respect or consideration by any human being and such is just the nature of Sunday from beginning to end.

Mrs. Bateham says that “if to secure a rest day for all, it were necessary to compel all to rest, it would not be oppression.” But that does not answer the question. The question is as to whether it is not oppression to compel a man to rest on Sunday who has already rested on Saturday. The question is, When a man has rested is it not oppression to compel him to rest over again? When a man has rested to please himself and to please God, then is it not oppression to compel him to rest over again to please somebody else? Upon what sanitary principle is it that the people who observe the seventh day as a day of rest must be compelled to take an additional day of rest? while for those who do not observe the seventh day only one day of rest is sufficient for all sanitary purposes? Are the sanitary benefits of rest on Sunday so transcendent that that single day of rest is not only equal to [226] itself but to an additional day of rest by those who observe another day? It is most singular that these people do not get ashamed of that “sanitary” Sunday-rest plea. The phenomenon, however, is explained by that Scripture which declares that “The unjust knoweth no shame.”

Yet the answer says that the law is as lenient as possible, and that therefore the national Sunday bill expressly exempts those who have conscientiously observed another day. Now an exemption clause, while it continues virtually destroys the force of Sunday laws. So certainly is this true, that the Sunday laws which now exist with exemption clauses are not enforced to any material extent. In fact the exemption clause so certainly defeats the purpose of the law that the only hope which they have of securing the intent of the Sunday law is to repeal the exemption. The State of Arkansas has the most zealous Sunday observers of any State in the union that has an exemption clause. They secured the repeal of the exemption clause in 1885. Then until 1887 they persecuted those who observed the seventh day to such an extent that one of the chief lawyers of the State said it “shocked the bar of the whole State.” In the Legislature of 1887 the bar of the State succeeded in restoring the exemption clause; but in the Legislature of 1889 a strong effort was made again to repeal it, as likewise a similar effort was made in the Legislature of 1891; and although the law so far as it enforced the observance of Sunday upon others, still reads as it always did, yet no effort whatever is made to enforce it; but just as soon as they succeed in repealing the exemption clause, the Sunday will be enforced again in the same old persecuting way upon those who choose to observe the seventh day.

Mrs. Bateham herself knows that if they will have a Sunday law to prove effectual, they will have to secure the repeal of the exemption which they propose, in a very little while. This we knew that she knows because it was stated to her personally in such a way that she will never forget it. It was at the hearing before the Senate committee, December 13, 1888, and the following is the record:—

Mr. Jones.—Suppose an exemption clause were given. There are people who would profess to be Seventh-day Adventists for the express purpose of getting a chance to open saloons or houses of business on Sunday. Therefore in outright self-defense, the majority would have to repeal the exemption clause.

Senator Blair.—Call Mrs. Bateham’s attention to that.

Mr. Jones. Let me repeat it. If you give an exemption clause—it has been tried—there are reprehensible men, saloon keepers, who know they will get more traffic on Sunday than they can on Saturday, and they will profess to be Seventh-day Adventists, they will profess to be Sabbath-keepers. You cannot “go behind the returns,” you cannot look into the heart, you cannot investigate the intention, to see whether they are genuine in their profession or not. They will profess to be Sabbath keepers, and then they will open their saloons on Sunday. Then in outright self-defense, to make your position effective, you will have to repeal that exemption clause. It will last but a little while.

Senator Blair.—I agree with you there.

Mr. Jones. For that reason these people cannot afford to offer an exemption clause; and for the reason that it puts the majority in the power of our conscience, we deny their right to do anything of the kind. I ask the organizations represented here to think of this after the hearing is over. It will bear all the investigation they choose to give it.

Senator Blair.—I should like to call everybody’s attention to the point. If you need any legislation of this kind, you would better ask for legislation to carry out your purposes, and be careful that in the effort to get the assistance of the parties against you, you do not throw away the pith and substance of all for which you ask.

Perhaps some one may remark that if the exemption clause virtually defeats the purpose of Sunday laws, why does not THE SENTINEL, in its opposition to Sunday advocate an exemption. Ah! the same power that can enact an exemption clause can repeal it; and when any one advocates an exemption clause, he allows the principle; and when he allows the principle of the enactment of an exemption clause, he gives the whole case away and robs himself of the right to protest against the repeal of it. If the right to legislate on the question be recognized even to the extent of an exemption clause, then the right living been recognized, the legislative power can proceed to what-ever extent it chooses in the exercise of the right which has been conceded.

Next week we shall have a word farther to say upon the exemption which they propose, and will show why they propose it, in the face of the knowledge which they possess concerning it.

A. T. J.

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