“‘Two Solid Grounds for Sunday Rest’” American Sentinel 9, 37, pp. 291, 292.

UNDER the foregoing heading, Sunday Reform Leaflets, for September, has the following:—

There are two solid grounds on which Sunday laws rest; one, the right of the prevailing religion of the country (be it Jewish, Christian, or Pagan) to have its day of worship free from disturbance; and the other, the right of every man to an equal share in a rest-day from toil.

As regards the first, if this were a Jewish country, the Jewish worship on Saturday should be peculiarly protected from molestation. If it were a Mohammedan country, Friday should be in a like manner protected. This is simple common sense applied to things as they are, and no action of doctrinaire theory. Where there is a conflict of sacred days, as among Jew, Christian, and Mohammedan, all can not be protected, and hence the majority must determine the question. This certainly distinguishes the sacred day, but does no harm to those who do not count it sacred. It only obliges them to be courteous. The inequality in the matter is only such as in some things must obtain among the freest people.

As regards the second ground; physiologists, physicians, staticians [sic.], and sensible observers in general, have agreed that man’s body and mind need a complete rest at an interval of about seven days. But man will not take that rest from labor unless he is obliged by law to do so. His greed for gain will make him ruin health in his own case, or (worse still) make him force his employés to ruin theirs by continuous work. The law, therefore, must make and enforce a rest-day. But what day shall it take? Again common sense says: “Take the day which the majority of the community, from religious reasons, already regard as a rest-day.” So the civil law, providing for man’s physical well-being, appoints and enforces a rest-day from labor, which is the same day on which all the Christian community worship, and in which the civil law, for other reasons, protects them in worshiping.

That it is not the purpose of Sunday laws, to keep the “day of worship free from disturbance,’ is evident from such statutes themselves. There is not a Sunday law in any State in the Union which clearly makes this discrimination. Illinois makes the nearest approach to it. But even in that State work is not prohibited alone in public places and near churches, nor are the more noisy kinds of work interdicted and the most quiet kinds permitted, as would necessarily be the case if the design of the law was to prevent disturbance; but even there the line is drawn, as it is almost universally, between “worldly employments” and “works of necessity and charity;” the former are prohibited, the latter are permitted. Moreover, the courts of the various Stats, in enforcing Sunday statutes, do not inquire whether anybody was disturbed or not, but only was secular work done, the same not being a work of “necessity or charity.”

Certainly, the farmer plowing in his own field on Sunday, even if close to a church, could cause no disturbance to any one, other than a mental annoyance. It is true that in other countries such “disturbance” is prohibited; and so in Spain everybody is required to stand with uncovered head while a religious procession is passing; but certainly the founders of this Government contemplated nothing of that sort. Of course it is a great mental annoyance to the Spanish papist to see a Protestant stand with covered head while the Host (the consecrated wafer) is borne along the street; but should the law require the Protestant to remove his that for that reason?—Certainly not; and no more should it require that the whole community respect Sunday because even a majority in the community are mentally annoyed at any disrespect to the day, in its sacred character.

“As regards the second ground,” it is no better than the first. Even granting, for sake of the argument, all that is claimed in regard to the need of stated rest (but it is not granted), the State would not be justified in requiring all to rest at the same time. Probably a very large majority of the people of this country have employment which, in a measure, renders them independent of others in the matter of when they shall work. Thousands do rest on the seventh day, “according to the commandment,” and others might do so if they would. But in a number of States even those who have rested on the seventh day are required, under penalty of fine and imprisonment, to rest also on Sunday. Thus Mr. Capps, lying in a Tennessee jail, rested regularly on the Sabbath; this certainly met fully all the supposed requirements of his physical nature. Yet under a “civil” statute, existing, as Sunday Reform Leaflets would have us believe, for civil reasons, he is imprisoned for nine months for not resting also on Sunday. The fact is, and it is becoming more and more patent every day, that Sunday laws exist only because of the religious intolerance of a majority of the people, because those having control of legislation demand them in the [292] interests of religious dogma and unscriptural dogma, at that; they would, however, be no better in principle if the dogma were true, instead of false as it is. [296]

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