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Civil Government and Religion

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    CHAPTER VII. THE WORKINGS OF A SUNDAY LAW

    WE have shown by the literature and the logic of this whole Sunday-law question, that if the movement should succeed, it would be but the establishment of a religious despotism in this country. We have shown by their own statements that the principles held by the National Reformers are essentially papal, and that in the carrying out of these principles, they deliberately make propositions that betray the spirit of the Inquisition. But we are not compelled to stop with the principles or the logic of the case. We have some facts which show that such is the only effect of the kind of Sunday laws these people demand, as embodied in the Blair Sunday bill.CGRAS 111.1

    In 1885, Arkansas had Sunday laws reading as follows:—CGRAS 111.2

    “SECTION 1883. Every person who shall on the Sabbath, or Sunday, be found laboring, or shall compel his apprentice or servant to labor or perform service other than customary household duties of daily necessity, comfort, or charity, on conviction thereof shall be fined one dollar for each separate offense.CGRAS 111.3

    “SEC. 1884. Every apprentice or servant compelled to labor on Sunday shall be deemed a separate offense of the master.CGRAS 111.4

    “SEC. 1885. The provision of this act shall not apply to steamboats and other vessels navigating the waters of the State, nor such manufacturing establishments as require to be kept in continual operation.CGRAS 111.5

    “SEC. 1886. 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, agreeable to the faith and practice of their church or society.”CGRAS 112.1

    In the session of the Arkansas Legislature of 1885, Section 1886 was repealed, by act of March 3. The object of those who secured the repeal of that section, was, as they said, to close the saloons. It was claimed that under cover of that section, certain Jews who kept saloons in Little Rock, had successfully defied the law against Sunday saloons, and that there was no way to secure the proper enforcement of the law without the repeal of that section. The legislators believed the statements made, and repealed the section as stated.CGRAS 112.2

    The history of the repeal, according to the journals of the Senate and the House of the Arkansas General Assembly, is as follows:—CGRAS 112.3

    The legislature convened Jan. 12, 1885. January 24, Senator Anderson introduced a bill—Senate bill number 70—entitled, “A Bill to Prevent Sabbath-breaking,” which was read the first time. January 26, it was read the second time, and referred to the Committee on Judiciary. January 31, it was reported back by Mr. Hicks, chairman of the committee, with the recommendation that it should pass. February 3, it was read the third time, and put upon its passage, and was carried by a vote of twenty-two to four. Absent or not voting, six. It was then sent to the House, and was read for the first time there February 3. The rules were then suspended; it was read a second time, and was referred to the Committee on Judiciary. Some amendments were offered, which were also referred to the committee, with the bill. February 24, this committee made the following report:—CGRAS 112.4

    “MR. SPEAKER: Your Committee on Judiciary, to whom was referred the Senate bill No. 70, a bill to prevent Sabbath-breaking, beg leave to report that they have had the bill under consideration, and herewith return the same, with the recommendation that it be passed without amendment. THORNBURGH, Chairman.”CGRAS 113.1

    February 27, the bill was read the third time in the House, put upon its passage, and was carried by a vote of sixty-three to twenty-six. Absent or not voting, six. The same day, the House notified the Senate that it had passed Senate bill No. 70. March 7, 1885, the act received the approval of the governor, Simon P. Hughes.CGRAS 113.2

    Bear in mind that the object of this movement was said to be to close the saloons on Sunday; and what discussion there was on the bill in both the Senate and the House, shows that such was the object, so far as the legislators understood it. But when the act was secured, and was framed into a law, not a saloon was closed, nor was there an attempt made, any more than before, to close them. Not one of the saloon-keepers was prosecuted. And in Little Rock itself, during the session of the legislature of 1887, when the law was in full force, up to the time of the restoration of the exemption clause, the saloons kept their doors wide open, and conducted their business with no effort at concealment, the same as they had before the act was passed. But, so far as we have been able to learn by diligent investigation, from the day of its passage, the law was used for no other purpose than to punish peaceable citizens of the State who observed the seventh day as the Sabbath, and exercised their God-given right to work on Sunday.CGRAS 113.3

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