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Civil Government and Religion

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    AT the National Sunday-law convention held in Washington, D. C., Dec. 11-13, 1888, the original Blair Sunday bill was discussed by the preachers, with Mrs. J. Ellen Foster as legal adviser, and the following changes were proposed, and unanimously adopted Dec. 12. This is from the official record. The changes are indicated by stars and bold-faced letters.CGRSL 162.1

    “A Bill to secure to the people the enjoyment of the Lord’s day, commonly known as Sunday, as a day of rest, and to protect its observance as a day of religious worship.CGRSL 162.2

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That on Sunday, no person or corporation, or the agent, servant, or employee of any person or corporation, shall perform, or authorize to be performed, any secular work, labor, or business, * * * works of necessity, mercy, and humanity excepted; nor shall any person engage in any play, game, show, exhibition, or amusement * * * open to the public, or of a public character, in any Territory, district, vessel, or place subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States; nor shall it be lawful for any person or corporation to receive pay for labor or service performed or rendered in violation of this section.CGRSL 162.3

    “SEC. 2. That no mails or mail matter shall hereafter be transported in time of peace over any land postal-route, now shall any mail matter be collected, assorted, handled, or delivered on Sunday.CGRSL 162.4

    “SEC. 3. That the prosecution of commerce between the States and with the Indian tribes, * * * by the transportation of persons or property by land or water * * * on the first day of the week, * * * is hereby prohibited, and any person or corporation, who shall * * * violate this section, shall be punished by a fine of not less than ten nor more than one thousand dollars, and no service performed in the prosecution of such prohibited commerce shall be lawful, nor shall any compensation be recoverable or be paid for the same.CGRSL 163.1

    “SEC. 6. That labor or service performed and rendered on Sunday in consequence of accident, disaster, or unavoidable delays in making the regular connections upon postal-routes and routes of travel and transportation, the * * * transportation and delivery of milk before 5 A. M. and after 10 P.M., * * * shall not be deemed violations of this act, but the same shall be construed, so far as possible, to secure to the whole people rest from toil during Sunday, their mental and moral culture, and the protection of the religious observance of the * * * day.”CGRSL 163.2

    The reasons for the changes asked are, in part, as follows:—CGRSL 163.3

    For religious purposes we prefer the name Lord’s day or Christian Sabbath but as Sunday is already used in national laws, we think it better to use that uniformly in this bill, with the one exception of the double name in the title.CGRSL 163.4

    “The word promote in the title goes beyond what many, even Christian citizens, believe to be the function of government with reference to ‘religious worship,’ while the word protect (see also last line) expresses a duty which government owes to all legitimate institutions of the people.CGRSL 163.5

    “Experience in the courts has shown that the words show and exhibition should be added to the list of prohibited Sunday amusements, and the words in public, in place of to the disturbance of others has been construed as requiring that persons living in the neighborhood of a Sunday game or show must testify that they have been disturbed, in order to a conviction, which cannot be done in some cases without personal peril.CGRSL 163.6

    “In Section 2, we believe that the exceptions for letters relating to sickness, etc., are unnecessary in this age of the telegraph; and that they would be used by unscrupulous men in business correspondence, and that this would destroy most of the benefits of the law in its bearing on Sunday mails.CGRSL 164.1

    “In Section 3, we believe the exceptions made would greatly interfere with the administration of the law. The exception for work of mercy and necessary is made, once for all, in the first section. The reference to ‘the disturbance of others’ is objectionable for reasons already given, and the word willfully is an old offender in Sabbath legislation, and requires evidence very hard to get in regard to one’s motive and knowledge of the law. In other laws it is assumed that one knows the law, and the law-making power should see that the laws are well published, and leave no room for one to escape by agnosticism.CGRSL 164.2

    “In Section 3 (as in Section 1 also), we would omit the words Lord’s day, and in Section 6, Sabbath in order to preserve uniformity in using the less religious term Sunday.CGRSL 164.3

    “In Section 6, we think refrigerator cars make Sunday work in transportation of perishable food, except milk, unnecessary, and the new stock-cars, with provision for food and water, do the same for stock-trains. So many of the State Sunday laws have proved almost useless in protecting the rights of the people to Sunday rest and undisturbed worship, by the smallness of their penalties and the largeness of their exceptions, that we covet from Congress a law that shall make itself effective by small exceptions and large penalties.”CGRSL 164.4

    With a little care in comparison, the reader can readily see what changes have been made in the bill. We have omitted Sections 4 and 5 from the revised bill, because they are the same as the corresponding sections in the original bill, with the single exception that the word Sunday is substituted for Lord’s day, in the last line of Section 4. We hope that every one will study both bills thoroughly, together with the committee’s reasons for the changes are in the line of greater stringency. We note only the most prominent points.CGRSL 164.5

    1. The change from Lord’s day to Sunday, although a proper one, is in reality no change at all, since the term Lord’s day is still used at the beginning, and it is expressly stated that Sunday is used only as a matter of custom. It is understood that it is as a religious day, indicated by the term Lord’s day, that they want the observance of the first day of the week enforced; but if the term Sunday is quite generally used, it will, no doubt, “take” better.CGRSL 165.1

    2. In asking for the “protection of the religious observance of the day,” instead of the promotion of its observance as a day of religious worship, the committee threw a sop to those who are “on the fence” in regard to religious legislation. As it stands, it amounts to nothing; for there is not a State or Territory in the Union where any religious service held on Sunday would not be protected.CGRSL 165.2

    3. The most important change of all, however, is the substitution of the words in public for to the disturbance of others, in Section 1. This will certainly make the law more effective. It is obvious that if a man were to engage in work a mile from a dwelling-house, it would be quite a task for the owner of the house to convince even an ordinary jury that such labor disturbed him; but by the terms of the amended bill, the man may be convicted if he is working in a public place, provided anybody can get near enough to see him.CGRSL 165.3

    4. Notice the radical change made in Section 2. As amended, it is most sweeping, allowing of no exceptions. The mail is not to be carried at all on Sunday, even in cases of sickness and death, lest some “unscrupulous” person should mention business on that day. If the mail is not carried, of course that will make him a good man! It is no concern of ours how they propose to carry out this law, but we can’t help wondering what they will do when Sunday comes, and a train carrying what the mail is on the way from one city to another within the same State, say from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The train is owned by a corporation, and is not in a part of the country “subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the United States,” amnd therefore could not be forced to lie over. The only way out of the difficulty, under the provision of this bill, would be to dump all the mail out at the nearest station, and let it lie there till Sunday was past.CGRSL 166.1

    This, however, would not be done. What would be the passing of laws by the several States, forbidding all labor within their jurisdiction; and it is this for which these zealous people are scheming. This United States law is designed as a precedent, and as a lever with which to secure the religious observance of Sunday by all the people in the United States, whether they are religious or not.CGRSL 166.2

    5. We wish to call special attention, also, to the last sentence of the “reason for the changes asked.” It says: “So many of the State Sunday laws have proved almost useless in protecting the rights of the people to Sunday rest and undisturbed worship, by the smallness of their penalties and the largeness of their exceptions, that we covet from Congress a law that shall make itself effective by small exceptions and large penalties.” There the real spirit of the dragon exhibits itself. In that simple statement is compressed a world of bigotry and animosity.CGRSL 166.3

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