Sunday Legislation



But against it all there still stands the abiding truth that Sunday legislation is unconstitutional everywhere in the United States, because of its religious character. The inventing of a “civil basis” for it in order to render it constitutional, only leaves it still unconstitutional because of its original native and inherent religious and ecclesiastical character. In other words, when the Constitution guarantees absolute freedom from all religious observances, restrictions, or provisions, by law required, then any religious character whatever attaching to any law renders it unconstitutionaI for that reason. SLOC 23.2

The Constitution is the supreme expression of the will of the people in the government. And when that supreme will excludes from legislation all things religious, then this supreme will can not be evaded by the mere trick of inventing a “civil basis” for a religious thing. By such trick every religious thing ever heard of could be made constitutional and enforced upon all; and the constitutional guaranty of religious freedom would thus he turned into a tantalizing figment. SLOC 24.1

Therefore, instead of the “religious ground of Sunday observance being nothing against but rather in favor of, Sunday legislation as a civil rule,” the truth is that this is the strongest possible objection against it: so strong indeed that this alone nullifies it, whatever might be its “civil” nature or necessity. SLOC 24.2

The Supreme Court of California has well stated this principle, as follows: SLOC 24.3

“The Constitution says that the free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference, shall forever be allowed in this. The constitutional question is a naked question of legislative power. Had the legislature the power to do the particular thing done? What was that particular thing? It was prohibition of labor on Sunday. Had the Act been so framed as to show that it was intended by those who voted for it, as simply a municipal regulation; yet, if, in fact, it contravened the provision of the Constitution securing religious freedom to all, we should have been compelled to declare it unconstitutional for that reason.—Ex-parte Newman. SLOC 25.1

The principle is that it would be impossible for as much damage to accrue to the State, to society, or to the individual, through being deprived of a desired “civil” benefit, as must certainly accrue to the State, to society, and to every individual, through the infringement of religious freedom, the invasion of the rights of conscience, and the clothing of religionists with civil power. SLOC 25.2