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    February 6, 1889

    “The Latest Sunday-law Petition” American Sentinel 4, 3.

    E. J. Waggoner

    There is now being circulated quite extensively a petition to the California Legislature, asking that body to enact a Sunday law. From some things, which it is not necessary to name here, we feel as though it is not being circulated as extensively as it might be, and we believe that there is an effort on the part of those who are behind it, to keep its contents a secret from all except those whom they are quite sure will favor it. Be that as it may, we propose to give the matter a little more publicity than it has yet had, and to that end shall give the substance of what is on the petition, with some comments.AMS February 6, 1889, page 17.1

    The fact that the petition is the work of the California Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, is no secret. It is so stated in bold letters on the face of it. Underneath this statement are the words, “Remember the Sabbath-day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work.” Exodus 20:8, 9. And by the side of this is the following text of Scripture: Hallow my Sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God.” Ezekiel 20:20. What logical connection these texts can have with a petition for a Sunday law, is more than we can imagine. They both refer to the seventh day of the week, and not to the first, and this fact is well known by every member of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. Even if they could by any possibility apply to Sunday, they would be out of place on a petition a “civil Sabbath,” as it is called, if that is what they are after; and this also they very well know. We are therefore forced to the conclusion that what they want is a law that will enable them to have Sunday treated as though it were the Sabbath which God gave to his people, and commands men to observe. In short, they want the State to enforce an act of religion on purely religious grounds.AMS February 6, 1889, page 17.2

    Next follows the petition itself, which reads as follows:—AMS February 6, 1889, page 17.3

    To the Honorable, the Senate and Assembly of the State of California:—AMS February 6, 1889, page 17.4

    “Greeting: We, the undersigned, residents of—, in the county of—, State of California, in view of the dissipation and demoralizing influences arising from the desecration of Sunday in the State, earnestly and respectfully petition your honorable body for the enactment of a Sunday law that shall give laboring men a day of rest; prohibit the carrying on of all unnecessary business; prohibit barbarous, unseemly, and noisy amusements, such as theaters, processions, concerts, games; and also the opening upon Sunday of all places where intoxicating beverages are sold; also providing, by proper legislation, for the enforcement thereof.”AMS February 6, 1889, page 17.5

    Following this is the blank space for signatures. There are a few points in this to which we wish to call the attention of the people of California, and especially of the honorable members of the Legislature. The first is the statement concerning the “desecration of Sunday.” The word “desecration” is the exact opposite of “consecration.” Nothing can be desecrated unless it has first been consecrated. But you will search in vain for any record of the consecration of Sunday. In fact, but few people presume to argue for any express divine sanction for Sunday observance. Therefore “desecration” is not a proper word to apply to Sunday labor or amusement.AMS February 6, 1889, page 18.1

    But pass by the question of Sunday sacredness. One thing is clearly shown by its use in this petition, and that is, that the petitioners propose to get such a law as will, enable them to prohibit anything that would be a desecration of the day if it were sacred. They, propose to have a law that will enable them to make people act as though they regarded Sunday as a holy day, whether they really think so or not. They want the State to make people who are not religious act as though they were, and to force their forms of religion on those who do not believe them.AMS February 6, 1889, page 18.2

    The required law must “prohibit the carrying on of all unnecessary business.” Who is to decide what business is necessary, and what is not? The man who carries on the business is the best judge of whether or not it is necessary, but it is obvious that the law would be a dead letter if he were allowed that privilege. “Unnecessary business” indefinite. Suppose a man is a mechanic. He has a job on hand which he cannot finish according to contract unless he works on Sunday. He may think that such work is necessary but our observation of the administration of Sunday laws convinces us that it would not be so regarded by those in power.AMS February 6, 1889, page 18.3

    We wish especial notice to be taken of the fact that such a law as is petitioned for would naturally lead to religious persecution. We shall prove this on two counts.AMS February 6, 1889, page 18.4

    First, take the man who conscientiously observes the seventh day of the week. If he is a laboring man, he is obliged to work six in order to support his family. His conscience will not allow him to work on the seventh day, and therefore, since he must work on Sunday in order to make a week’s work, it follows that his conscience obliges him to work on Sunday. His conscientious convictions of duty, first to God, and then to his family, will not allow him to do otherwise. Now if that man shall be punished for his Sunday labor, his punishment will be nothing but persecution for conscience sake. His punishment is solely on the ground that his religion differs from that of his neighbor. This charge cannot by any possibility be refuted. We say that work under such circumstances is necessary, no matter what the nature of the work is. Of course we except the disturbance of any congregation; that is not allowable on any day in the week.AMS February 6, 1889, page 18.5

    Second, take the man who has not rested on the seventh day. He may make a profession of religion, or he may not. It matters not whether he violates his conscience by working seven days in the week or not. If he sins against God by working on Sunday, then he is answerable to God. Now if he be prosecuted for not keeping Sunday,—that is, for not conforming in that respect to the form of religion held by the majority,—his prosecution will be religious persecution just as much as in the case of a man who in a heathen country should be punished for ignoring the gods of that country. Put them in the best light you can, it is a fact that Sunday laws do logically lead to religious persecution.AMS February 6, 1889, page 18.6

    A few years ago there was a rigid Sunday law in Arkansas. When it was enacted, it was ostensibly for the sole purpose of closing up the liquor saloons. Did it stop with that? No; it did not even begin with that. Not a saloon was closed; but quite a number of peaceable farmers were persecuted almost to the death. You may say that that persecution was only the work of bigoted persons. Granted; but are you sure that there are no bigoted persons in California? And are you ready to pass a law that will give bigots the power to persecute inoffensive citizens?AMS February 6, 1889, page 18.7

    Another indictment: The petition calls for the prohibiting of all barbarous amusements on Sunday. Under this head would be classed prize fighting, cock fighting, and bull fighting. But in this petition the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union shows itself to be far behind the times, and behind public sentiment, for there is a law prohibiting such things every day in the week. We have very distinct recollection of reading of several instances in which the police made a raid upon parties engaged in such barbarous sports. The framers of this petition may say that they know this. Then their petition is an insult to the law, in that it asks for its enforcement only on Sunday. In any case, they virtually declare by their petition that barbarous sports are not objectionable, provided they are not indulged in on Sunday. We cannot agree with them; and we believe that in this respect our legislators, even though they be non-professors; will show themselves to be ahead of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. We do not believe that they will enact a law that will virtually legalize barbarous sports six days in the week.AMS February 6, 1889, page 18.8

    One word more, concerning the matter of closing saloons. When, we urge that such a law as is desired virtually sanctions the keeping open of saloons on six days of the week, we are told that the law is demanded in a special manner on Sunday, because people are idle then, and there is more opportunity for them to be decoyed into the saloon. The fallacy of this plea may be seen by the fact that people are no more idle on Sunday than they are at night during the week, and especially on Saturday night after six o’clock. Many a laboring man spends all his wages on Saturday night, yet the petition makes no note of this. The simple fact is this, and it cannot be denied, that they want to have Sunday strictly observed as a day of rest and worship; and all the plea that the law is desired in behalf of temperance, is nothing but a blind. It has not the first principle of temperance in it. We believe that the law-makers of this State are too intelligent to be deceived by any such pretensions.AMS February 6, 1889, page 18.9

    We have made this article long enough, and have only considered the face of the petition, and that is not half of the document. We shall consider the remainder of it elsewhere, under the head of, “The Back of that Petition.”AMS February 6, 1889, page 18.10

    E. J. W.

    “Why the California Sunday Law Was Repealed” American Sentinel 4, 3.

    E. J. Waggoner

    The Oakland Tribune of January 19, in announcing a call for a meeting to be held on Tuesday evening, January 22, in the interest of a State Sunday law, used the following language:—AMS February 6, 1889, page 20.1

    “Ever since the repeal of the California Sunday law, the Christian people of the State have been dissatisfied. This is the only State in the Union wholly without law in reference to the Christian Sabbath. It is believed that if the voice of the people could have been taken at the time of the act of the Legislature repealing the law, a very large majority of the best citizens in the State would have opposed the repeal, and they would now favor the enactment of a similar law. It is known that in the Legislature now in session, a new bill, not unlike the former, will be introduced, and its enactment is not very improbable. If the people could vote, it no doubt would become law. In view of such facts, the call of a public meeting in our city is timely.”AMS February 6, 1889, page 20.2

    From the above, a stranger would get the idea that the repeal of the California Sunday law six years ago was an underhanded proceeding,—that it was sprung on the people when they were not thinking, and carried through before they had a chance to protest. As a matter of fact, the case was exactly the reverse of this. The matter was before the people for nearly a year. Following is a brief history of the case:—AMS February 6, 1889, page 20.3

    Some of the church people sought to rigidly enforce the Sunday law. They entered into it with enthusiam, and thought they saw success just ahead. Some of them made boasts of what they would do to those who had the presumption to work on their Sabbath. Arrests were made by the wholesale. A few convictions were obtained in different parts of the State, for the movement was general. One or two cases were appealed to the Supreme Court. Thus the matter attracted the attention of everybody, and the eyes of many in distant States were turned toward California.AMS February 6, 1889, page 21.1

    Of course there was opposition. It was the year of a State election, and the Republican party of California espoused the Sunday cause. At the State Convention a plank in favor of the Sunday law was adopted with the greatest enthusiasm. No other plank in the platform received one-fourth the attention or applause that that one did. When the Democratic Convention was held, that party declared for the repeal of the law. This was the sole issue between the two parties in California that year, and the campaign was a most exciting one. For months the principal topic of conversation was the Sunday law. The papers were full of it, and there was not a political speech made in which it was not discussed. The ministers all preached on it. Everywhere it was the one thing before the people.AMS February 6, 1889, page 21.2

    Of course every voter turned out on election day. The result was that a Democratic Governor and a Democratic Legislature was elected. The State Government, which had previously been strongly Republican, became by that election just as strongly Democratic. Everybody knew that it was because of the Sunday law. The Republican party well knew that its defeat was due to its espousal of the Sunday law. The first thing that the Democratic Legislature did when it convened, was to fulfill its pledge to repeal that law. The members could not in conscience do otherwise, because their promise to do so was that which accured their election. That is the whole history.AMS February 6, 1889, page 21.3

    And now for the Tribune to say that “it is believed that if the voice of the people could have been taken at the time of the act of the Legislature repealing the law, a very large majority of the best citizens in the State would have opposed the repeal,” is arrant nonsense. The one who believes that, will believe anything. If the voice of the people is not heard at the polls, especially when the main issue has been the subject of discussion for months, then we should like to know how that voice could be heard. Everybody who has lived in California for the last seven years, or who was here during the campaign of 1882, knows that we have related the simple facts. The California Sunday law was repealed because the majority of the people said that they wanted it repealed. Whether or not the sentiment of the majority has changed materially since then, remains to be seen. Let the matter have a fair trial before the people, and if the majority want a Sunday law, it will appear. But let no one seek to appeal to sympathy by pleading that a fair trial was not had six years ago.AMS February 6, 1889, page 21.4

    We are well aware of the fact that an effort is being made to push the matter of a Sunday law through this Legislature as quickly and quietly as possible; but we shall do our part towards securing a full and free discussion of it. Of the meeting to influence legislation in behalf of the Sunday law, we shall have something to say next week.AMS February 6, 1889, page 21.5

    E. J. W.

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