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in the fact that taxation is a burden. The fact is granted, and this is an important reason showing that the burden should, as nearly as possible, be distributed according to the rule of equity.
10. The courts have usually held that the exemption of Church property does not apply to special assessments for local improvements, as the paving or repairing of the street on which it stands and the like. The theory is that the property, though owned by a religious corporation derives a special benefit from such improvements, and, hence, that, like all other property enjoying the same benefit, it should be taxed to pay for it. If this be a sound theory, as we concede it to be, then why is not ordinary taxation of Church property, in common with all other property, on the ground of general benefits accruing from the protection afforded by government, an equally sound theory? If the State may and should tax Church property for local benefits, then why not also for general benefits ? The latter are certainly more important than the former.
II. The law in this country usually limits the property which a religious corporation may acquire and hold by fixing a maximum amount or a maximum annual value or income which must not be exceeded. One of the objects is to prevent large accumulations of such property in the possession of Churches. The limitation is designed to modify in the way of restraint the effect of tax-exemption. The practical difficulty, however, is that the taxexemption works in all cases, and the limitation hardly in any case. The tendency of exemption, especially in cities, is to foster and encourage an extravagant and useless expenditure of the wealth of society in Church structures, without any real benefit to the community, and with a positive damage, by releasing large amounts of this wealth from any contribution toward the expenses of government. So far as taxation is concerned, property thus invested is virtually annihilated. The law of limitation does not remedy or lessen this evil, because it is not practically regarded or practically enforced. Taxation of Church property would be a perfect remedy in respect to the general public. It would, at the same time, teach religious corporations the expediency of more economy in their arrangements and facilities for public worship, and in this respect it would do them no harm.
The conclusion to be derived from these views is that, although exemption of Church property from taxation is the general practice of the country, the argument on the merits of the question is, nevertheless, adverse to the practice. We can see no sufficient reason for exemption in any case in which a direct appropriation of the public money would be improper. The two are simply different ways of doing precisely the same thing in practical effect. If the American people would not consent to be directly taxed to extend bounties and subsidies to religious societies, as they certainly would not, then they should not consent to an indirect appropriation in aid of these societies, through the process of taxexemption. The argument which is good to prove the former proposition is just as good to prove the latter. The two propositions are essentially identical in their substance.
Religious societies, considered as civil corporations existing for lawful purposes, are entitled to the common privileges and immunities of such corporations under the authority and protection of law; and this is the sum of their just claim at the hands of government. Any legal discrimination against them would be unjust. Any such descrimination in their favor at the expense of the general public is equally unjust. Tax-exemption is such a discrimination, and is, moreover, a relic of the principle of Church and State, inherited from the past and not yet eliminated from our political system. The religious reason for such exemption would not stand the test of our institutions for a moment, and the economical and governmental reason is clearly against it. Every argument that can be urged in its favor either proves too much or is false in one of its premises. Were the American people to require religious corporations to contribute by taxation their proper share toward the expenses of government, they would not only apply to them a just theory of taxation, but would also act in perfect consistency with their own principles as a political organization.
Sunday, or “the first day of the week,” is by Christians observed as a Sabbath in the twofold sense of being a day of rest from ordinary secular labor and also a period specially devoted to religious worship. The point we propose to consider is not whether this observance is obligatory under the law of God; but what is the authority, if any, of the Christian Sabbath in this country as derived from civil government.
The only clause in the Constitution of the United States that can have any possible relation to this inquiry reads as follows: “If any bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a law in like manner as if he had signed it,” etc. This simply recognizes Sunday as one of the days of the week: and, assuming that the President would not devote it to public business, it provides that, in counting the “ ten days” referred to, Sundays shall not be includ“ ed. Here, clearly, is no law in respect to Sunday, except for the single purpose named.
The Revised Statutes of the United States con
tain four references to Sunday : In the first (section 1324), providing that cadets shall not be required to pursue their studies on Sunday ; in the second (section 1526), making the same provision in regard to students at the Naval Academy; in the third (section 5013), declaring that in computing time in certain bankruptcy proceedings Sunday shall not be counted, but, like the Fourth of July or Christmas Day, shall be excluded from the computation ; in the fourth section 1125), providing that army chaplains shall, when it is practicable, hold appropriate religious services at least once each Sunday. The first three references relate to Sunday simply as a day of rest and have nothing to do with its religious uses. The fourth reference names it as the day when army chaplains shall hold religious services, because this is the common day of rest and the day usually observed for this purpose by the people, and not because Congress intended to establish any
Sabbath law even for the army. It is the practice of Congress and of the Federal courts to suspend legislative and judicial business on Sunday; yet the practice is one of usage and not of legal requirement. The same practice extends through the whole circle of government operations, with the exception of the mail. This exception was some years since the subject of very extensive dis. cussion among the people. Numerous petitions were addressed to Congress asking for a discontinuance of the mail on the Christian Sabbath. The