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The Rights of the People

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    THE STATE A PARTISAN OF THE CHURCH

    We have proved by the express words of Christ the divine right of dissent in all religious things: that any man has the divine right to dissent from any and every religious doctrine or observance of any body on earth. So long as civil government keeps its place, and requires of men only those things which pertain to Cæsar,-things civil,-so long there will be neither dissent nor disagreement, but peace only, between the government and all Christian sects or subjects. But just as soon as civil government adopts any church institution and makes it a part of the law, it makes itself the partisan of a religious party, and sets itself up as the champion of religious observances. And just then this right of dissent in religious things is extended to the authority of the government, in so far as that authority is thus exercised. And so far there will be dissent on the part of every Christian in the government.ROP 251.3

    Let it be repeated: When the State undertakes to enforce the observance of any church ordinance or institution, and thus makes itself the champion and partisan of the church, then the inalienable right of men to dissent from church doctrines and to disregard church ordinances and institutions, is extended to the “authorityof the State in so far as it is thus exercised. The “authority” of the State in such case is just no authority at all; because no earthly government can ever by any pretext have any authority in matters of religion or religious observances.ROP 252.1

    Sunday observance is in itself religious, and religious only. The institution is wholly ecclesiastical. The creation of the institution was for religious purposes only. The first law of government enforcing its observance was enacted with religious intent; such has been the character of every Sunday law that ever was made, and such its character is now recognized to be by both churches and courts. It is therefore the divine right of every man utterly to ignore the institution, to disregard its observance, and to dissent from the authority which instituted or enjoins it. And when any State or civil government makes itself the partisan of the ecclesiastical body which instituted it, and the champion of the ecclesiastical authority which enjoins it, and enacts laws to compel men to respect it and observe it, that State does attempt to compel submission to church authority, and conformity to church discipline, and does thereby invade the inalienable right of dissent from church authority and church discipline. If the State can rightfully do this in one thing, it can do so in all; and therefore in doing this it does, in principle and in effect, destroy all freedom of religious thought and action. Men are thereby compelled either to submit to be robbed of their inalienable right of freedom of thought in religious things, or else to disregard the authority of the State. And no Christian, and no man of sound principle and honest conviction, will ever hesitate as to which of the two things he will do.ROP 252.2

    Thus it is clear that by divine right every man can, with courage, consistency, and righteousness, engage in uncompromising opposition to this movement to establish a national religious despotism.ROP 253.1

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