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Civil Government and Religion

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    TWENTY-FIRST CASE. Alexander Holt, Magnet Cove, Ark

    Mr. Holt, a Seventh-day Adventist, was a medical student of the Memphis Hospital and Medical College, Memphis, Tenn.CGRAS 134.4

    In 1885 he was working on a farm in the northern part of Hot Spring Co., Ark. At the February term of the Circuit Court in 1886, he was indicted for Sabbath-breaking. The particular charge was working on Sunday, Oct. 11, 1885.CGRAS 135.1

    C. C. Kaufman was the informer. Mr. Holt had worked one Sunday near a public road, but not nearer than a mile to any place of public worship. Hearing that there had been an indictment found against him, Mr. Holt did not wait for the sheriff to come for his arrest, but went to the county seat, ten miles distant, taking a bondsman with him, and inquired of the proper officer if there was an indictment against him. The warrant for his arrest was then read to him by the deputy-sheriff. Holt gave bonds to appear at the August term of the Circuit Court, and was released.CGRAS 135.2

    At the August term of Court, the case was laid over to await the decision of the Supreme Court in the Scoles case. February, 1887, Holt’s case was called for trial at Malvern. The Supreme Court having decided adversely, Holt confessed judgment, and paid the fine and costs, amounting to $28.CGRAS 135.3

    There were a number of other cases, but they are all of the same kind,—causeless arrests upon information treacherously obtained to vent religious spite.CGRAS 135.4

    In January, 1887, a bill was introduced by Senator R. H. Crockett, restoring the protective clause to observers of the seventh day. But two men voted against the bill in the Senate, and both these were preachers. One of them, a member from Pike County, was acquainted with many who observed the seventh day, several of whom were at that time under bonds. In private conversation, he confessed that they were all excellent people and law-abiding citizens. When the vote was taken by roll-call, he asked to explain his vote, and the following note of explanation was sent to the clerk:—CGRAS 135.5

    “MR. PRESIDENT: I desire to explain my vote. Believing as I do that the Christian Sabbath should be observed as a day of worship, losing sight of this is to impede the progress of Christianity. J. P. COPELAND.”CGRAS 136.1

    The vote was a verbal and emphatic “No.”CGRAS 136.2

    The restoration of this protective section was strenuously opposed by the religious leaders. The editor of the Arkansas Methodist declared in his paper at the time, that “the Sabbath laws” as they were, without the protective section, had “worked well enough,” and were “about as near perfect as we can expect to get them, under the present Constitution.”CGRAS 136.3

    There are some points in these cases that deserve a word of comment:—CGRAS 136.4

    First, with two exceptions, all the arrests and prosecutions were of people who observed the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath. And in these two exceptions, those who were held for trial were held without bail,—simply on their own recognizance,—and the cases both dismissed; while in every case of a Seventh-day Adventist, the least bail that was accepted was $110; the most of them were held under bonds for $250, and some for as high as $500. There was not a single case dismissed, and in all the cases there never was a complaint made of that which was done having disturbed the worship or the rest of any one. But the indictments were all for the crime of “Sabbath-breaking” by the performance of labor on Sunday. If there had been arrests of other people for working on Sunday, in anything like the numbers that there were of seventh-day observers, and the law had been enforced upon all alike, then the iniquity would not have been so apparent; or if those who were not seventh-day observers, and who were arrested, had been convicted, even then the case would not have been so clearly one of persecution. But when in all the record of the whole two years’ existence of the law in this form, there was not a solitary saloon-keeper arrested, there was not a person who did not observe the seventh day arrested, with the two exceptions named, then there could be no clearer demonstration that the law was used only as a means to vent religious spite against a class of citizens guiltless of any crime, but only of professing a religion different from that of the majority. Nothing could be more clearly demonstrated than is this: that the only effect of the repeal of that exemption clause was to give power to a set of bigots to oppress those whose religion they hated. If anything was needed to make the demonstration more clear, it is found in the method of the prosecutions.CGRAS 136.5

    Mr. Swearingen was convicted upon the testimony of a witness who swore that the work for which he was convicted was done on a day which proved to be seventeen days before the law was enacted, thus by its enforcement making the law ex post facto. The Constitution of the United States forbids the making of ex post facto laws. But when a law not being ex post facto in itself, is made so by its enforcement, it is time that something was being done to enlighten courts and juries upon that subject, even though it should be by an amendment to the Constitution of the United States, providing that no law not being ex post facto in itself shall be made so by its enforcement. Then, on the other hand, several cases were tried and the men convicted and fined after the law was repealed, but for work done before.CGRAS 137.1

    Second, in almost every case the informer or the prosecuting witness, or perhaps both, was a man who was doing work or business on the same day, and sometimes with the very persons accused; yet the man who kept the seventh day was convicted in every instance, while the man who did not keep the seventh day, but did work or business with the man who was prosecuted, was left entirely unmolested, and his evidence was accepted in Court to convict the other man. For instance, Millard Courtney, the one who was the prosecuting witness against both Armstrong and Elmore, took a man with him to where these men were working, and there made a contract for roofing a school-house; and yet this man’s evidence convicted these two men of Sabbath-breaking at the very time at which he was doing business with them.CGRAS 137.2

    Third, J. L. Shockey was convicted of Sabbath-breaking upon the testimony of Hammond, who went where he was at work, and bought of him a Plymouth Rock rooster.CGRAS 138.1

    Fourth, J. L. James, who worked in the rain for nothing, that a poor widow might be sheltered, was convicted of Sabbath-breaking upon the evidence of a man who carried wood and chopped it up within seven rods of the man who was convicted by his testimony.CGRAS 138.2

    Fifth, La Fever and his wife went to Allen Meeks’s house on Sunday to visit. They found Meeks planting potatoes. Meeks stopped planting potatoes, and spent the rest of the day visiting with them; and yet Meeks was convicted and fined upon the evidence of La Fever.CGRAS 138.3

    Sixth, the second case of this same Meeks. Riley Warren went to his house on Sunday, to see him about hiring a teacher for the public school. In the social, neighborly conversation that passed between them, Meeks incidentally mentioned that he had mended his wagon-brake that morning; and yet he was convicted of Sabbath-breaking by the evidence of that same Riley Warren. And further, Meeks was thus virtually compelled to be a witness against himself,—clearly another violation of both the State and the United States Constitution.CGRAS 138.4

    Seventh, Mr. Reeves’s boys were hauling wood on Sunday. In the timber where they got the wood, they met another boy, John A. Meeks, hunting squirrels. They joined him in the hunt, scaring the squirrels around the trees so he could shoot them. Then the squirrels were divided between the Meeks boy and the Reeves boys. Then the Meeks boy was indicted, prosecuted, and convicted of Sabbath-breaking upon the evidence of the father of those boys who were hauling wood, and who helped to kill the squirrels.CGRAS 138.5

    Eighth, James M. Pool, for hoeing in his garden on Sunday, was convicted of Sabbath-breaking, on the evidence of a “sanctified” church-member who had gone to Pool’s house on Sunday to buy tobacco.CGRAS 139.1

    Thus throughout this whole list of cases, people who were performing honest labor on their own premises in a way in which it was impossible to do harm to any soul on earth, were indicted, prosecuted, and convicted upon the evidence of men who, if there were any wrong involved in the case at all, were more guilty than they. If religious persecution could possibly be more clearly demonstrated than it is in this thing, we hope never to see an illustration of it.CGRAS 139.2

    Yet further: Take the methods of prosecution. In the case of Scoles, J. A. Armstrong was called before the Grand Jury. After repeated answers to questions in regard to Sunday work by different parties in several different lines of business and traffic, he was asked the direct question whether he knew of any Seventh-day Adventists who worked on Sunday, and when in the nature of the case he answered in the affirmative, every one of the Seventh-day Adventists whom he named was indicted, and not one of any other class or trade. And in the second case of James A. Armstrong; although, when asked for the affidavit upon which Armstrong was arrested, the mayor said that A. J. Vaughn had called his attention to Armstrong’s working, and had said, “Now see that you do your duty,” yet Vaughn testified under oath that he did not see Armstrong at all on the day referred to. Armstrong was arrested at the instance of the mayor, and tried before the mayor, who acted as Justice of the Peace. This made the mayor, virtually, both prosecuting witness and judge; and the questions which he asked show that that was precisely his position, and his own view of the case. The question which he asked to each of the first two witnesses was, “What do you know about Mr. Armstrong’s working on Sunday, June 27?” This question assumes all that was expected to be proved on the trial. And then when the only witness whose word seemed to confirm the judge’s view of the case, was cross-questioned, the judge came to the rescue with the excellent piece of legal wisdom, to the effect that if the prisoner was innocent, he could prove it.CGRAS 139.3

    Nor did the unjust proceeding stop here. The Supreme Court confirmed the convictions secured by these iniquitous proceedings, and they confirmed it under a Constitution which declares,—CGRAS 140.1

    “All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry against his consent. No human authority can, in any case or manner whatsoever, control or interfere with the right of conscience; and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishment, denomination, or mode of worship, above any other.”CGRAS 140.2

    The concluding portion of the decision reads as follows:—CGRAS 140.3

    “The appellant’s argument, then, is reduced to this: That because he conscientiously believes he is permitted by the law of God to labor on Sunday, he may violate with impunity the statute declaring it illegal to do so; but a man’s religious belief cannot be accepted as a justification for his committing an overt act made criminal by the law of the land. If the law operates harshly, as laws sometimes do, the remedy is in the hands of the legislature. It is not the province of the judiciary to pass upon the wisdom or policy of legislation. That is for the members of the legislative department; and the only appeal from their determination is to the constituency.”CGRAS 140.4

    This decision of the Supreme Court is of the same piece with the prosecutions and judicial processes throughout. It gives to the legislature all the omnipotence of the British Parliament, and in that does away with all necessity for a Constitution. The decision on this principle alone is un-American. No legislative power in this country is framed upon the model of the British Parliament in respect to power. In this country, the powers of every legislature are defined and limited by Constitutions. It is the prerogative of Supreme Courts to define the meaning of the Constitution, and to decide whether an act of the legislature is Constitutional or not. If the act is Constitutional, then it must stand, whatever the results may be. And the Supreme Court is the body by which the Constitutionality or the unconstitutionality of any statute is to be discovered. But if, as this decision declares, the legislature is omnipotent, and that which it does must stand as law, then there is no use for a Constitution. “One of the objects for which the judiciary department is established, is the protection of the Constitutional rights of the citizens.”CGRAS 141.1

    So long as there is a Constitution above the legislature, which defines and limits its powers, and protects and guards the rights of the citizens, so long it is the province of the Supreme Court to pronounce upon the acts of the legislature. The Supreme Court of Arkansas, therefore, in this case clearly abdicated one of the very functions for which it was created, or else subverted the Constitution of Arkansas; and in either case, bestowed upon the legislature the omnipotence of the British Parliament, which is contrary to every principle of American institutions. Nor is the State of Arkansas an exception in this case, for this is the usual procedure of Supreme Courts in sustaining Sunday laws. They cannot be sustained upon any American principle; resort has to be made in every instance, and has been with scarcely an exception, either to the church-and-State principles of the British Government, or to the British principle of the omnipotence of the legislative power. But American principles are far above and far in advance of the principles of the British Government, in that they recognize Constitutional limitations upon the legislative power, and countenance no union of church and State; consequently, Sunday laws never have been, and never can be, sustained upon American principles.CGRAS 141.2

    That this indictment of the Supreme Court of Arkansas is not unjust, we have the clearest proof. The three judges who then composed the Supreme Court, were all members of the Bar Association of the State of Arkansas. In less than three months after this decision was rendered, the Bar Association unanimously made a report to the State on “law and law reform,” an official copy of which we have in our possession. In that report, under the heading “Sunday Laws,” is the following:—CGRAS 142.1

    “Our statute as it stands in Mansfield’s Digest, provides that ‘persons who are members of any religious society who observe as Sabbath any other day of the week than the Christian Sabbath, or Sunday, shall not be subject to the penalties of this act (the Sunday law), so that they observe one day in seven, agreeably to the faith and practice of their church or society.’—Mans. Dig., sec. 1886.CGRAS 142.2

    “This statute had been in force from the time of the organization of the State government; but it was unfortunately repealed by act of March 3, 1885.—Acts 1885, p. 37.CGRAS 142.3

    “While the Jews adhere, of course, to the letter of the original command to remember the seventh day of the week, there is also in the State a small but respectable body of Christians who consistently believe that the seventh day is the proper day to be kept sacred; and in the case of Scoles vs. State, our Supreme Court was compelled to affirm a judgment against a member of one of these churches, for worshiping God according to the dictates of his own conscience, supported, as he supposed, by good theological arguments. It is very evident that the system now in force, savoring as it does very much of religious persecution, is a relic of the Middle Ages, when it was thought that men could be made orthodox by an act of parliament. Even in Massachusetts, where Sabbatarian laws have always been enforced with unusual vigor, exceptions are made in favor of persons who religiously observe any other day in the place of Sunday. We think that the law as it stood in Mansfield’s Digest, should be restored, with such an amendment as would prevent the sale of spirits on Sunday, as that was probably the object of repealing the above section.”CGRAS 143.1

    Now the Arkansas Constitution says, “All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences.” This report of the Bar Association says, “in the case of Scoles vs. State, our Supreme Court was compelled to affirm a judgment against a member of one of these churches, for worshiping God according to the dictates of his own conscience.”CGRAS 143.2

    The members of the Supreme Court being members of the Bar Association, in that report it is confessed that they confirmed a judgment against a man for doing that which the Constitution explicitly declares all men have a natural and indefeasible right to do. By this, therefore, it is demonstrated that the men who composed the Supreme Court of Arkansas in 1885, plainly ignored the first principles of Constitutional law, as well as the express provisions of the Constitution which they were sworn to uphold.CGRAS 143.3

    Just one more consideration, and we are done for this time. The form of indictment in all these cases, was the same as that printed on page 115.CGRAS 144.1

    Thus the State of Arkansas declared that for a man to work quietly and peaceably on his own premises on Sunday, digging potatoes, picking peaches, plowing, etc., is against the peace and dignity of the State of Arkansas. This relegates honest occupations to the realm of crime, peaceable employment to the realm of disorder, and puts a premium upon idleness and recklessness. When any State or body of people declares it to be against the dignity of that State or people for a man to follow any honest occupation on his own premises on any day, then we think the less dignity of that kind possessed, the better it will be for all concerned. And when such things are considered as offenses against the peace of any State or community, that State or community must be composed of most exceedingly irritable people.CGRAS 144.2

    The fact of the matter is,—and the whole history of these proceedings proves it,—from beginning to end these prosecutions were only the manifestation of that persecuting, intolerant spirit that will always make itself felt when any class of religionists can control the civil power. The information upon which the indictments were found, was treacherously given, and in the very spirit of the Inquisition. The indictment itself is a travesty of legal form, and a libel upon justice. The principle was more worthy of the Dark Ages than of any civilized nation or modern time; and the Supreme Court decision that confirmed the convictions, rendered by judges who stultified themselves within three months, is one which, as we have shown, is contrary to the first principles of Constitutional law or Constitutional compacts. Nor is it certain that Arkansas was worse in these respects than any other State would be under like circumstances. Religious bigots in Arkansas are no worse than they would be in any other State; and if Congress should lend its sanction to religious legislation to the extent of passing any such law as the Blair Sunday bill embodies, and then its principles should be made of force in all the States, the history of Arkansas from 1885 to 1887 would be repeated throughout the whole extent of the nation.CGRAS 144.3

    In none of these cases have we given names with the intent of casting reflection upon any persons, except the “informers,” but only that those who read the account may have opportunity to verify the facts, if they choose. But in the matter of the Supreme Court, our discussion of that decision is an intentional stricture, for the reasons given. Yet we do not mean by so doing, to place the judges mentioned in any more unenviable light than that in which the Supreme Courts of New York, Pennsylvania, and other States stand. The principles of their decision have their precedent in the decisions of these other States, and were embodied in a dissenting opinion of one man who is now an Associate-Justice of the United States Supreme Court, given when he was a member of a State Supreme Court.CGRAS 145.1

    April 10, 1858, the legislature of California passed “An act to provide for the better observance of the Sabbath.” The Constitution of California declares that “the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed in this State.” A Jew by the name of Newman was convicted of selling goods on Sunday in Sacramento. Upon his imprisonment, his case was brought before the Supreme Court on a writ of habeas corpus, on the ground of the illegality of his imprisonment, because of the act’s being unconstitutional. The majority of the Supreme Court,—Judge Terry and Judge Burnett,—sustained the plea by decisions separately written, whose soundness, both upon Constitutional principles and upon the abstract principle of justice itself, can never be successfully controverted. Stephen J. Field, who is now Associate-Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, was then the third member of the Supreme Court of California. He rendered a dissenting opinion, taking the identical position of the Arkansas Supreme Court as to the omnipotence of the legislature, and soberly maintaining that the term “Christian Sabbath,” used in the act, was not a discrimination or preference in favor of any religious profession or worship.CGRAS 145.2

    The principles of this dissenting opinion, as of the decision of the Supreme Court of Arkansas, are wholly wrong, and spring from the principles of church and State, and of the supremacy of the parliament of the British Government, and are totally subversive of American principles.CGRAS 146.1

    Yet, we repeat, Sunday laws have never been, and never can be, sustained on any other principles; which is only to say: There is no foundation in justice or in right for any Sunday laws, or Sabbath laws, or Lord’s day laws, under any government on this earth.CGRAS 146.2

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