FROM statistics published by a reliable European journal, it appears that so far as concerns the cessation of Sunday work, the “Continental Sunday” will bear comparison with the “American Sabbath.”
In Germany, we are told, all employers of labor in industrial lines of work are forbidden either to compel or permit their employees to work on Sunday. This prohibition does not apply to persons working alone, or to those engaged in agriculture, fishing, or the professions or liberal arts.
In commercial establishments (such as retail stores, banking, insurance, and similar institutions) all work is prohibited during the first days of the three special holidays of Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost, and is limited to five hours on all ordinary holidays and Sundays.
The individual German States may extend these restrictions at their pleasure.
In Austria, there is a general prohibition of Sunday work, the only general exception being for work that is deemed absolutely indispensable and for commercial establishments, in which Sunday work is permitted during six hours of the day.
In Switzerland, no woman can work on Sunday except at home or in a small shop, and no minor (a person under eighteen years of age), except in a few specified industries; and adult males are allowed to do Sunday work only in some specified industries, and in certain cases of emergency, the nature of which must be demonstrated.
In England, a distinction is made between the work of adult males and that of women and minors. The former are not restricted in the matter of Sunday work, but no woman, “young person” or child can work in factory or workshop on Sunday except in certain special cases. Jews are allowed to work on Sunday provided they observe Saturday as a day of rest.
In Germany, Austria and England, much of the legislation governing Sunday work is of recent origin, as late as the year 1895.
It will be observed that the prohibition of Sunday work is more rigid in Austria and Germany than in England; yet in the latter country the Continental Sunday is not nearly as conspicuous a feature of the week as in the former. Except in the matter of open public houses, Sunday is observed quite as well in England as in the United States. The “Continental Sunday” is not therefore a product of lax Sunday legislation. It is rather the result of the general indifference of the people toward religion; and nothing can more surely foster this indifference than the idea that the Sabbath is an institution that can be properly subjected to State regulation.