“The Authority for Sunday Laws” The American Sentinel 4, 29, pp. 227, 228.

WE believe that every State in the Union, except California, has a Sunday law. And we believe also that in every State in the Union, except California, Sunday laws have always been held to be constitutional. California’s first decision on the question, held the Sunday law to be unconstitutional; but a dissenting opinion held it to be constitutional, and this dissenting opinion was afterward adopted by the Supreme Court, and so held until 1883, when the people, by a majority of nearly eighteen thousand, declared they would have no Sunday law.

The story of that first and proper decision, in brief, is this: In 1858, the Constitution of California said, in Section 4: “The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship without discrimination or preference shall forever be allowed in this State.” There was a statute passed by the Legislature enforcing the observance of “the Christian Sabbath,” on the first day of the week. A Jew in Sacramento kept his store open on Sunday; he was arrested, convicted, and sent to jail. He sued out a writ of habeas corpus on the ground of “the illegality of his imprisonment by reason of the unconstitutionality of the law.” The majority of the Court sustained the plea by decisions separately written, whose soundness, both upon constitutional principles and upon the abstract principle of justice itself, can never be successfully controverted. Mr. Stephen J. Field, now Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, was then a member of the California Court. He rendered a dissenting opinion, taking the same position as the Supreme Court of Arkansas as to the, omnipotence of the Legislature, and soberly maintaining that the term “Christian Sabbath” in the act was not a discrimination or preference in favor of any religious profession or worship. He declared that “moralists and statesmen,” “men of science and distinguished philosophers,” have pronounced the rule of “one day’s rest in seven” to be “founded upon a law of our race.” But he omitted to state what scientist or philosopher or moralist or statesman has ever pronounced upon what law is founded the rule of two day’s rest in seven for the man who chooses to rest some other day than Sunday!

In his written opinion, Mr. Field said that he had found that in twenty-five States of the Union, Sunday laws had been held to be constitutional. That this is so there can be no doubt. On this subject, the younger State’s, both in legislation and judicial decisions, have followed the example of the older States; these have followed the decisions of the oldest, and the oldest followed the example and the precedents of the colonies; and every one of the colonies had Sunday laws because every one had an established religion. The colonies not only followed the precedents, but they were a part, of the English system, which is wholly a Church and State system. The Church and State system of England severed itself from the papal rule when Henry VIII. renounced allegiance to the Pope, and “put himself at the head of the Church of England in the place of the Pope. The British system at that time was the papal system; the papal system was established by the mutual craft, flattery, and policy of Constantine and the ambitious bishops of his time, when the first Sunday law was enacted. This, in a word, is the genealogy of the Sunday laws of the United States. They belong with an established religion,—a union of Church and State. And in this country they have been almost universally sustained, either upon the British principle of the omnipotence of Parliament, or upon the Church and State principles of the colonies of the British Government, and of the Papacy.

The law of Pennsylvania, sustained by a Supreme Court decision, is virtually a colonial law, which was a part of the system in which nobody who did “not confess and acknowledge one Almighty God to be the creator, upholder, and ruler of the world,” could be a citizen.

The Supreme Court of New York sustains Sunday laws by at once declaring Christianity to be the established religion of that State. This is based upon Chief Justice Kent’s decision, of 1811, which cited a law of the colony which declared that “the profanation of the Lord’s day was ‘the great scandal of the Christian faith.’” That decision of Judge Kent’s made Christianity the established religion of the State of New York, by citing the precedents of the papal institutions of modern Europe and the pagan nations of antiquity.

This, again, proves Sunday laws to belong with established religions, with the union of Church and State, finding their basis in papal and pagan institutions.

In every statute book in America, with scarely an exception, Sunday laws are found under the head of “offenses against religion,” or “offenses against God and religion.” This springs naturally from the colonial legislation, where each colony deemed itself the special guardian of God and of some particular form of religion. [228]

But according to the word of unrest, the civil power has nothing to do with either God or religion, nor with offenses against God or religion. Religion is defined by Webster as “the recognition of God as an object of worship, love, and obedience.” Another definition, given by the National Reform Association itself, is “man’s personal relation of faith and and obedience to God.” Civil government has nothing to do with a man’s personal relation of faith and obedience to God. If he has no faith at all, and makes no pretensions to obedience to God, that is nothing to the civil government, so long as the man conducts himself civilly. Neither has civil government anything to do with offenses against God; the Lord himself can attend to that. A man is responsible alone to God for the offenses which he commits against God. Civil government has no business to establish a religion, and then make offenses against it criminal; nor has it any business to put itself in the place of God, and presume to declare that an offense against the governmental idea of God is an offense against God. How is the civil government to know whether an act offends God or not? The fact of the matter is, that just as soon as Sunday laws are investigated at all in the light of truth, or justice, or law, it is found that they are inseparable from an established religion,—inseparable from a union of Church and State.

This is further shown by a mere glance at the British system, as set forth by Blackstone in his chapter on “Offenses against God and Religion.” There “profanation of the Lord’s day” is classed with such things as “apostasy,” “heresy,” “reviling the ordinances of the church,” “non-conformity to the worship of the Church,” “witchcraft,” “conjuration,” “enchantment,” “sorcery,” “religious imposture, such as falsely pretending an extraordinary commission from Heaven,” adultery as an ecclesiastical offense cognizable by the spiritual court, and such confusion of civil and religious ideas as the punishment of drunkenness as an offense against God and religion. This is the company with which Sunday laws belong. The penalty for apostasy was, first, burning to death; this fell into disuse after a while. Then the penalty was that “for the first offense the offender should be rendered incapable to hold any office or place of trust.”

At such legal nonsense as this the United States Constitution struck a death blow in the clause which declares that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under this Government.” And by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States, this Government utterly separates itself from the whole system of offenses against God and religion so long maintained by the British Government, by the colonies, and, even yet by many of the States, and which is characteristic of all Church and State governments—governments of established religion—by declaring that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This is sound American principle, and accords with the word of Jesus Christ. And the effort ought to be, throughout this whole nation, to lift the Constitutions, the legislation, and the jurisprudence of the States up to the level of that of the National Constitution. But instead of doing that, and so carrying this whole Nation bodily onward in the march of liberty, enlightenment, and progress, these people go about to bring down our national system of Constitution and laws to the level of that of the States, which is the level of that of the colonies, which is the level of that of the British system, which is the level of that of the Papacy, which is the system of paganism under cover of the Christian name.

At the hearing before the Senate Committee last December, on the Sunday bill, Dr. Elliott cited Edgar, Athelstan, and Alfred; and Dr. Crafts cites Alfred, Charlemagne, and Justinian; in support of Sunday laws. To be sure! And with equal force they can cite these and many others of the Dark Ages in support of tithes to the clergy, the supremacy of the monks in civil affairs, the “holy anointing” of kings by the Pope, and for any and every other thing that belongs with the papal system. They can carry Sunday-law precedents farther back than that: they can go back to the time of Theodosius and Constantine. They can find, and so can anybody else, that as Pontifex Maximus of the old pagan system, Constantine “had the plenary power of appointing holy days;” they can find that by virtue of this power, Constantine established the first. Sunday law of all time, in honor of the “venerable day of the sun,” whose special devotee he was; and also that as “bishop of externals” of the new pagan system,—the papal,—which office he assumed by virtue of his political conversion to the political Christianity of his time, he played into the hands of the ambitious bishops by giving them in that Sunday law their coveted “use of the power of the State for the furtherance of their aims” to compel men to accept the decrees, and submit to the dictates, of the church. He, and all others, will find that this is the literal truth of the origin of Sunday laws.

All this is supported by abundance of testimony of undoubted authority. So eminent a divine as Dean Stanley declares plainly that the retention of the old pagan name of “dies Solis,” or Sunday, for the weekly Christian festival, “is owing to the union of pagan and Christian sentiment with which the first day of the week was recommended by Constantine to his subjects, pagan and Christian alike, as the ‘venerable day of the sun.’ … It was his mode of harmonizing the discordant religions of the empire under one common institution.”

This same mode of harmonizing paganism with Christianity was further illustrated by his imperial coins, bearing on one side the name of Christ, and on the other the figure of the sun-god, with the inscription, “the unconquerable sun.” This confusion of pagan and Christian ideas and practices is what made the papacy, the union of Church and State, and the confusion of civil and religious things from which, with the exception of the Government of the United States, the nations have not even yet freed themselves. That is the authority, and the only authority, for Sunday laws. Sunday has no basis whatever as a civil institution; it never had any. And the only basis it has, or ever had, as a religious institution is in that confusion of paganism and Christianity which made the papacy, with all that it is or ever was. A. T. J [229]

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