« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
Judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off ; for
THE NATIONAL RELIGIOUS LIBERTY ASSOCIATION.
1225 T St. N. W., WASHINGTON, D. C.
“The SPIRIT OF THE TIMES MAY ALTER, WILL ALTER. Our rulers will become corrupt, our people careless. A single sealot may commence persecution, and better men be his victims. It can never be too often repeated, that the time for fixing every essential right on a legal basis is while our rulers are honest, and ourselves united. From the conclusion of this war we shall be going down hill. It will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and THEIR RIGHTS DISREGARDED. They will forget themselves, but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights. THE SHACKLES, THEREFORE, WHICH SHALL NOT BE KNOCKED OFF AT THE CONCLUSION OF THIS WAR, WILL REMAIN ON US LONG, WILL BE MADE HEAVIER AND HEAVIER, TILL OUR RIGHTS SHALL REVIVE OR EXPIRE IN A CONVULSION."-- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, query XVII.
“ ' DUE PROCESS OF LAW”
THE DIVINE RIGHT OF DISSENT.
RELIGIOUS legislation is steadily gaining favor in the public mind, and is intrenching itself more and more strongly in the law of the land. In defiance of specific constitutional provisions, in violation of the fundamental principles of American institutions, and contrary to the plain words of Jesus Christ, religious observances are given the sanction of law, and in pursuance thereof are by the power of the State enforced. The chief, the most comprehensive, and the most far-reaching of all these observances is the Sunday, as Blackstone observes, “vulgarly (but improperly) called Sabbath."
From the beginning of our national history, Sunday observance has been enforced by all the original thirteen States. By these it was simply the continuation of the colonial system and legislation, when each of the colonies had an established religion ; and from these it has been copied and perpetuated by nearly all the States which in succession have entered the Union. Attempts have also been made to have it copied, established, and enforced by the national Government and authority.
This question has been touched upon several times by both the executive and the legislative branches of the national Government. By the executive branch the action every time has been favorable to the practice; by the legislative branch the action has been decidedly against it, prior to its act closing the World's Fair on Sunday. Until 1891, however, the judicial branch of the national Government had never been called upon to take official cognizance of the question. In that year the question of enforced Sunday observance was brought before the Circuit Court of the United States for the Western District of Tennessee, and was acted upon.
This being the first instance of the kind, the action of the court would be worthy of careful consideration, if for no other reason than that it is the first. But in view of the real nature of this action, and the doctrines promulgated by the court in its decision, it is made, for a number of reasons, worthy of the most diligent examination of every American citizen.
THE PROCESS OF LAW.
A statement of the case as it came before the court, will be in order. The Constitution of the State of Tennessee, Article I, under the title of “Bill of Rights," declares thus :
“Sec. 3. That all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own conscience; that no man can, of right, be compelled to attend, erect, or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry against his consent; that no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience; and that no preference shall ever be given, by law, to any religious establishment or mode of worship.”
Under this strong and specific guaranty, some of the people of that State proposed to exercise their indefeasible right to act in religious things according to the dictates of their own conscience. Among these are some of the sect known denominationally as Seventh-day Adventists. Reading the Bible for themselves, and believing it as they read it, as they have the inalienable and constitutional right to do, they believe, as the fourth of the ten commandments says, that "the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord.” Holding this as an obligation which they owe to the Lord, they render it to the Lord. Then having rendered to God that which is God's, they exercise their God-given right to work the other six days of the week.
But there are also some people in Tennessee who choose to keep Sunday, as they have the right to do. Yet not content with the exercise of their own right to do this, they desire to compel every one else to do it, whether he believes in it or not. Consequently, several of the Seventh-day Adventists were prosecuted for working on Sunday, after having observed the Sabbath. One of these was Mr. R. M. King, of Obion county. For plowing corn in his own field on Sunday, June 23, 1889, he was prosecuted before the justice of the peace, July 6, and fine and costs were assessed at $12.85, which was collected. This, however, did not satisfy the religious zeal of those who would prohibit the observance of any day but Sunday. But as the only statute on the subject in the State provides only for prosecution “ before any justice of the peace of the county ;” and provides then only that the person convicted “of doing or exercising any of the common avocations of life” “ on Sunday" shall “forfeit and pay three dollars,” they resorted to extra-statutory measures by which they might execute their arbitrary will. By these measures, if successful, they could have a fine of any amount above fifty dollars laid upon any one convicted.
Accordingly, at the July term of the State Circuit Court, Mr. King was indicted by the Grand Jury for Obion county as guilty of the crime of “public nuisance; " " to wit, that he, on the 23d day of June, 1889, and on divers other Sundays before and after that date, and up to the time of taking this inquisition, in the county of Obion aforesaid, then and there unlawfully and unnecessarily engaged in his secular