A SIGNIFICANT fact in connection with the so-called enforcement of the Tennessee Sunday “law” is that, with but few exceptions, only observers of the seventh day are prosecuted. At the recent term of the Circuit Court in Rhea County, two men were tried for Sunday work who were not Adventists: but the exceptions—if indeed these cases were exceptions—only prove the rule. One of the two referred to is a young man, the only support of his widowed mother who is an Adventist. The other, though not an Adventist, attended their meetings occasionally and was supposed to be favorable to the doctrines of the Adventists. The prosecution was probably a gentle hint to him that it would be the part of worldly wisdom at least for him to let Adventism alone.
Probably a score of railroad trains, both freight and passenger, thunder through both Graysville and Dayton every Sunday, “jarring the earth,” as one gentleman in Dayton expressed it, and waking the echoes among the hills; but nobody is disturbed thereby. Sunday railroad trains are not a nuisance in Tennessee.
The great furnaces of the Dayton Coal and Iron Company are operated every Sunday, employing hundreds of men. The chimneys belch forth their clouds of smoke that can be seen for miles, a black flag, as it were, flaunted in the face of the Tennessee Sunday “law;” but nobody is disturbed; the officers who oaths bind(?) them to prosecute the Adventists, take no heed. They are blind to this patent violation of the “law.” The switch engine used to draw away the huge caldrons of melted, seething slag from the furnaces, operates every Sunday, frequently sounding its shrill whistle as though openly defying the so-called law and its minions: but nobody is disturbed; nobody is prosecuted.
But it may be said that all this is “necessary” work. This is not true however. It is no more necessary than is any work done for profit. All work is necessary in order that men may live and grow rich; but the work referred to is not necessary in a legal sense. Moreover, much work is done at the furnace on Sunday that could be done just as well on some other day. The writer saw men repairing a furnace, laying brick, etc., on Sunday; but nobody was disturbed, and nobody was prosecuted. Such work in Tennessee is not a nuisance unless done by Adventists.
Livery stables do business in Dayton on Sunday, and nobody is disturbed; nobody is prosecuted. Drugstores are kept open and sell anything called for, whether necessary or not; but no notice is taken of this violation of the “law” by the men who insist that it is their “sworn duty to enforce the law.”
Fruit growers pick, pack, and ship fruit on Sunday and are not indicted. The man probably most prominent in the prosecution of the Adventists at the recent term of court in Rhea County, a member of the grand jury that found the indictments and himself the prosecuting witness in at least one case, employed a large force of pickers every Sunday during the strawberry season, paying extra wages upon that day in order to induce people to work for him. But nobody appeared to prosecute him. His work was not a nuisance. But an Adventist saws wood on Sunday, and that is a nuisance. Another sets fence posts and that is so corrupting to public morals that nothing but a penalty of from $30 to $37.50, fine and costs, or ninety days in the county jail can atone for the offense. So tender is the public conscience when Sunday work is done by Adventists that one man is now in Rhea County jail for the heinous offense of taking a wheelbarrow from a wagon on Sunday and setting it over a fence into the yard of the owner, another Adventists. This was absolutely the only offense proved against this man, and for this he must remain in jail about seventy-five days!
As in the cases of four months ago, it was shown that the work done by the Adventists was not of a character to annoy anybody except as they were annoyed by the mere knowledge that the work was done on the day that they have been taught to regard as the Sabbath. In no case did it appear that there was any noise to distract the minds of the people from pious meditation or to attract public attention. There was no screech of steam whistles, no “jarring of the earth” by the rush of ponderous wheels, no clouds of smoke to attract attention for miles, no sound of escaping steam to annoy the passerby, no soda fountain or cigar stand to attract loafers and induce the spending of money, no attractive livery rigs to tempt the pleasure seeker, no fancy wages offered to induce men who believed they ought to keep Sunday, to work on that day; nothing but quiet, orderly, private work. Yet notwithstanding this fact the “law” holds it to be a nuisance, and the courts declare that they must enforce the “law,” and so the Adventists are in jail while the railroad men, the iron men, the livery-stable men and Sunday fruit pickers are all at liberty. And this is the policy which, according to Judge Parks, is to “compel respect for all law”! But we believe that down in his inmost soul the judge knows that such an administration of so-called law is only a travesty on justice and tends to bring all law into contempt. We believe that such a solemn mockery of justice is exceedingly distasteful to both Judge Parks and Attorney-General Fletcher. We are sure that they have no sympathy with such work and that they act their part in it only from a sense of “duty;” but we fear that such a plea will not avail them in the great and final Judgment. The martyrs of the past all suffered under the forms of civil law; but were their prosecutors and judges not responsible? Yea, verily, and they must meet the dark record before that tribunal in which every man “shall give account of himself to God.”