“Wrong Ideas of Intolerance” American Sentinel 13, 46, pp. 733, 734.

THE Altoona Mirror (Pa.) reports that several men have been discharged by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company for refusing to work on Sunday, the work being such as the men deemed unnecessary on that day. The Mirror says that if the report is true, “the company is taking a step dangerous to one of the cardinal principles of the American Constitution—freedom to follow the dictates of conscience; and some method of halting such interference with the right of the individual to do what he believes is right, should be sought at once.”

This expresses a common idea of religious intolerance, which people who are themselves religiously intolerant are more apt to hold than any others. The idea is, in short, that a business firm or corporation is intolerant if it does not make it easy for its employés to practice the principles of their religion. If it does anything to make the pathway of obedience to conscience less smooth than could be desired, it is said to be [734] interfering with freedom of conscience, and opposing a fundamental principle of the Constitution.

At the same time it would be said by these people that a law which would compel observers of the seventh day to make a Sabbath day of Sunday, was not in any way intolerant, or opposed to the principles of free government.

A Sunday law lays the hand of force upon individuals of whatever occupation, and there is no escaping from it except by moving out of the country. There is nothing optional, or in the nature of a contract, about the operation of the law of the land. But work for a business corporation is an optional matter entirely. No person is compelled to work for a firm that will not accommodate its business regulations to the requirements of his religion. There is no involuntary servitude in this country outside of its penal institutions. Such a thing is expressly forbidden by the Constitution.

There is all the difference in the world between turning the power of the government against an individual to compel him to a certain line of conduct, and the enforcing of a business regulation which causes inconvenience to an individual on account of his religion, by a corporation which has no authority over him whatever outside of his relation to it as an employé. He may of course be thrown out of a job; but that is no interference with his rights as a individual of society. No individual has an inalienable right to a job.

People who turn from the observance of the first day of the week to the seventh day, are almost always, if employés, thrown out of work in their former positions; but they never think of complaining that their rights have been infringed thereby.

The Constitution does not undertake to say how corporations or any parties shall run their business; if it did it would be the laughing-stock of the nations, instead of commanding their respect. It deals only with the business of government; and its principles are violated by governmental interference with conscience and by nothing less.

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