Partial Report of Hearing on Johnston Sunday Bill, S. 404


Only Upon Religious Grounds

I maintain, gentlemen, that it is impossible to give preference to one day in the week over any other in the matter of legislation except upon religious grounds. I maintain that it is impossible to prefer a day, one day in seven, except on religious grounds, and I wish to call your attention to a citation in that matter. It is not the view of one who might be opposed to a certain bill, and it is not the opinion of a layman, but the view of Chief Justice Terry, of the California State Court. I will read an extract from his statement. Of the position that the Sunday law is a necessity for the benefit of the citizen’s health, and the restoration of his powers, he says:— RJSB 6.3

“This argument is founded on the assumption that mankind are in the habit of working too much, and thereby entailing evil on society, and that without compulsion they will not seek the necessary repose which their exhausted natures demand. This is to us a new theory, and is contradicted by the history of the past and the observation of the present. We have heard, in all ages, of declamations and reproach against the vice of idleness, but we have yet to learn that there has ever been any general complaint of any intemperate, vicious, unhealthy, or morbid industry. On the contrary, we know that mankind seek cessation from toil from the natural influence of self-preservation, in the same manner and as certainly as they seek slumber, relief from pain, or food to appease their hunger. Again, the amount of rest which would be required by one half of society may be widely disproportionate to that required by the littler. It is a matter of which each individual till, he permitted to judge for himself. As well might the legislature fix the and hours for work and enforce their observance by an unbending rule which shall be visited alike upon the weak and the strong.... The truth is, however much it may be disguised, that this one day of rest is purely a religious idea. Derived from the sabbatical institutions of the ancient Hebrews, it has been adopted into the creeds of the succeeding religious sects, and, whether it be the Friday of the Mohammedan, the Saturday of the Israelite, or the Sunday of the Christian, it is alike fixed in the affection of its followers beyond the power of eradication, and in most of the States of our confederacy the aid of the law to enforce its observance has been given under the pretense of a civil, municipal, or police regulation.” RJSB 7.1

REPRSENTATIVE KAHN: What is the number of that California Report? RJSB 8.1

W. W. PRESCOTT: Newman, 9th Cal., 502, if I remember correctly. RJSB 8.2

The title of the bill, gentlemen, indicates the character of the bill. The title says it is “a bill for the proper observance of Sunday as a day of rest in the District of Columbia.” What is meant by the proper observance of the day? Do we have any laws relating to the proper observance of any non-religious days? The very title of this bill, which calls for the proper observance of Sunday, shows at once the religious character of the bill, and indicates that it is designed to give preference to one day over any other, and that day is chosen for religious reasons. RJSB 8.3