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    March 31, 1890

    “Another Sunday Prosecution in Tennessee” The Signs of the Times, 16, 13.

    E. J. Waggoner

    In Troy, Obion County, Tennessee, Mr. R. M. King has just been tried for working upon Sunday, and upon conviction has been fined seventy-five dollars and costs. The circumstances of the case are somewhat peculiar, and are very significant. The indictment read as follows:-SITI March 31, 1890, page 155.36

    “The Grand Jurors of the State of Tennessee, elected, impaneled, sworn, and charged to inquire in and for the body of the county of Obion, in the State aforesaid, upon their oath present, that R. M. King, late of said county, laborer, heretofore, to wit: on the 23rd day of June, A.D. 1889, and on divers other Sundays before and after that date, and up to the taking of this requisition in the county of Obion aforesaid, then and there did unlawfully and unnecessarily engage in his secular business and performed his common avocation of life, to wit: plowing on Sunday, and did various other kinds of labor on that day, and on Sundays before that day, without regard to said Sabbath-days. Said work was not necessary, nor done as a matter of charity; and the doing of said work on said day was and is a disturbance to the community in which done, was offensive to the morals of the public, and is a common nuisance. So the Grand Jurors aforesaid present and say that said R. M. King was in manner and form aforesaid guilty of a public nuisance by such work on Sunday, in a public place, prejudicial to public morals, contrary to the statute, and against the peace and dignity of the State.”SITI March 31, 1890, page 155.37

    The first and chief witness for the prosecution did not see the defendant at his work for more than five minutes, as he was not in sight of any place of public worship. On cross-examination he said that the work was very annoying to his feelings, on the ground that it was a violation of sacred and civil law. He admitted that Mr. King was in other respects a quiet, peaceable, law-abiding citizen, and a pious, Christian gentleman, but that he did not favor Mr. King’s religious views. It should be stated that Mr. King is a Seventh-day Adventist.SITI March 31, 1890, page 155.38

    The judge ruled that the questions as to the defendant’s religious character were not in order. The lawyer for the defense drew from two of the witnesses that they and certain others had bound themselves by a written pledge to prosecute every violation of the Sunday law. The defendant offered to prove that others who made no pretense of observing any other day than Sunday, did at the same time engage in reaping wheat with a machine, rating logs, etc., on Sunday, but this evidence the court would not allow. Of course this evidence would not make the defendant’s guilt any less, if there were any guilt attaching to Sunday labor, but it would show the animus of the prosecution.SITI March 31, 1890, page 155.39

    The cross-examination showed that the third, fourth, and fifth witnesses for the prosecution were themselves engaged in secular labor when they saw Mr. King at work. But they had not rested on the seventh day.SITI March 31, 1890, page 155.40

    The defendant also offered to prove, which was a fact, that he had been tried before a justice of the peace, and had been fined for the identical work which was cited as the principal offense in the indictment, namely, plowing on the 23rd of June last, but this evidence the judge would not allow.SITI March 31, 1890, page 155.41

    The speed of the prosecuting attorney was a tirade against Seventh-day Adventists, and was full of indecency, which was calculated to please the vulgar. Said he:-SITI March 31, 1890, page 155.42

    “I wish to God we had more Methodist Churches, and more Baptist Churches, and more Presbyterian Churches, and more Episcopal Churches, and more Catholic Churches, until every man was brought under the benign influence of these churches; but, in the name of God, I do not want any of these Adventist Churches, or Mormon Churches. Gitteau, when he had a revelation from God (and I expect he had a Seventh-day Adventist lawyer to defend him), took a pistol and shot down the ruler of the nation, and they hung him; and that is what they ought to do with all these fellows.”SITI March 31, 1890, page 155.43

    Much more of the same sort, and much worse, was given, all of which showed that the spirit of the prosecution was not zeal for Sunday as the Sabbath, nor for good morals, but hatred for the Sabbath, and for those who observe it. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of the State, where it will soon be heard.SITI March 31, 1890, page 155.44

    Thus we have another instance of the working of religious legislation. From the days of Constantine down, evil and nothing but evil has come from State laws in favor of any religious practice. Would that men would learn that “God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth,” and not by civil enactments. E. J. W.SITI March 31, 1890, page 155.45

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