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Civil Government and Religion

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    SIXTEENTH CASE I. L. Benson.

    Mr. Benson was not at that time a member of any church, made no pretensions to religious faith, and did not observe any day. He had the contract for painting the railroad bridge across the Arkansas River at Van Buren, Ark. He worked a set of hands onm the bridge all days of the week, Sundays included. In May, 1886, Mr. Benson and one of his men were arrested on the charge of Sabbath-breaking. They were taken to Fort Smith, and arraigned before a Justice of the Peace. The Justice did not put them through any form of trial, nor even ask them whether they were guilty or not guilty, but read a section of the law to them, and told them he would make the fine as light as possible, amounting, with costs, to $4.75 each. They refused to pay the fines, and were placed in custody of the sheriff. The sheriff gave them the freedom of the place, only requiring them to appear at the Justice’s office at a certain hour. Mr. Benson telegraphed to the general manager of the railroad in regard to the matter. The general manager telegraphed to his attorney in that city, to attend to the cases.CGRSL 133.1

    Mr. Benson and his men appeared before the Justice for a hearing in their cases. It was granted, with some reluctance. The attorney, Mr. Bryolair, told the Justice it was a shame to arrest men for working on the bridge at the risk of their lives to support their families, when the public work in their own town was principally done on Sunday. A hearing was granted, and the trial set for the next day.CGRSL 134.1

    They were not placed under any bonds at all, but were allowed to go on their own recognizance. The were not placed under any bonds at all, but were allowed to go on their own recognizance. The following day, a jury was impaneled and the trial begun. The deputy-sheriff was the leading witness, and sword positively that he saw them at work on Sunday. The jury brought in a verdict to the effect that they had “agreed to disagree.” This was on Wednesday. The following Monday was set for a new trial. No bond was even at this time required. The defendants appeared at the time appointed, and plead not guilty. The Justice, after giving them a brief lecture, dismissed the case.CGRSL 134.2

    Since that time Mr. Benson has become a Seventh-day Adventist, and perhaps would not have fared so easily had he been a Seventh-day Adventist when he was indicted.CGRSL 134.3

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