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January 21, 1983 - Image 23

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-01-21

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

The Law and the Sabbath Day

By ROBERT E. SEGAL

More than 300 years after
the Puritans wrote into col-
onial Massachusetts law
strict guidelines for observ-
ing the Christian Sabbath,
the Bay State's Sunday clos-
ing law with its long string
of amendments now is se-
verely battered, tattered
and shattered.
In a last-ditch appeal to
kill the lifting of the Sunday
business ban for retail
stores, a spokesman for the
Lord's Day League of New
England declared, "The god
of the marketplace has
taken over the God of life,
sanity and peace."
Eloquently put; but time
and change, Sunday golf
and easy travel to nearby
states where access to stores
on Sunday severely hurt the
Massachusetts economy
were just too much for the
Lord's Day League to
handle.
The Puritan determina-
tion to "remember the Sab-
bath day and keep it holy"
owed its inspiration to God's
admonition to Moses. Jews
and Christians alike have
revered this pronounce-
ment. Had it not been for
Constantine's early fealty
to the Sun god, Christians
and Jews might have until
this day observed the
Jewish Sabbath as their day
of rest.
But the designation of
Sunday as the day of sur-
cease from labor proved
acceptable to pagan
Rome and Holy Roman
Empire lawmakers alike.
Saxon law followed the
tradition which crossed
the Atlantic to become an
integral part of law in this
country.
In early America, when
church and state were one,
it was unlawful to be absent
from church on Sunday.
Punishment for church
backsliders as well as for
those who dared work on
Sunday was severe. Ameri-
can history even records the
fate of a whaling captain,

who, having made the mis-
take of bringing his vessel
into Nantucket on Sunday,
compounded that error by
kissing his wife soon after
stepping ashore following a
long absence from home. He
went to jail.
Throughout the course of
American Lord's Day Laws
history, inconsistencies
have dotted the legal re-
cords. That trouble would
arise from strict enforce-
ment became evident early
in the 18th Century.
Consider the long dispute
over moving the mail on
Sunday: at one time, strong
backers of the Sunday laws
fought against the right of
mail handlers to work in the
railroad mail cars on Sun-
day. But transporting and
delivering mail was of great
importance to commerce;
and eventually it was
realized that the federal
government, charged with
getting the mail through,
was a civil, not a religious
institution.
In more recent times,
even the most devout
churchmen realized tele-
phone and telegraph
operators had to be at
their posts over the
weekend. And as com-
modities became more
plentiful, with advertis-
ing whetting the custom-
ers' desires to buy, lob-
byists pressured legisla-
tures and local town
fathers for special per-
mission to market their
goods seven days a week.
In a sense, police officers
and trolly line motormen
were breaking the law when
they covered routes on Sun-
day. Baseball and football
players were not idle on the
Christian holy day. Soon
the lists of "cans" and "can-
nots" revealed many con-
tradictions.
In some areas, you could
buy an auto tire on Sunday
but not an auto jack; pur-
chase pipe tobacco and beer
but not vegetables and un-
cooked meat. One study re-

Financier Would Still Fund
Holocaust Research Group

NEW YORK (JTA) —
Jack Eisner, the principle
financial supporter of the
recently abandoned re-
search commission on the
American Jewish commu-
nity's reaction to the
Holocaust, claims he is will-
ing to provide the necessary
funding for the reformation
of the commission.
In an interview Wednes-
day with the Jewish Tele-
graphic Agency, Eisner
warned that any attempt by
Arthur Goldberg, the
former U.S. Supreme Court
Justice and chairman of the
commission, and Seymour
Finger, a professor at the
City University of New
York and research chief of
the commission, to publish a
book on the commission's
subject with the informa-
tion already obtained,
would be challenged by
Eisner.
The American Jewish
Commission
on the

Holocaust was privately
formed in September, 1981
and was disbanded last
August. Goldberg and
Finger accused Eisner of
having failed to meet his fi-
nancial obligations. Eisner
contended that he withheld
funding for the project fol-
lowing a meeting last June,
when the key research his-
torian for the project and his
assistants resigned.
Eisner claimed he had
pledged $140,000 to the
two-year study and had
supplied $58,000 before the
commission was aban-
doned.

Toronto Museum

TORONTO (JTA) — A
$750,000 Holocaust
museum is being planned
for the Green Family
Jewish Community Serv-
ices building near the
Jewish Community Center
on Bathurst Street in To-
ronto.



vealed that Sunday, cer-
tainly the day for church-
going, was also the day that
car washes and laun-
dromats did a heavy busi-
ness.
Eventually, many cler-
gymen and Sunday wor-
shippers came to realize
that democratic practices in
a nation accommodating
many creeds and cultures
would suffer if efforts were
made to shore up religious
practices with civil
stratagems. It was clear at
last that when anyone in
America is penalized for
adhering to his religious be-
liefs or for not adhering to
any religious belief, the
bedrock principle of reli-
gious liberty is violated.
The strong arms of syna-
gogue and church grow
stronger still in a demo-
cratic environment when
the state supports the right
to worship but refuses to
dictate how and where and
when.

Friday, January 21, 1983 23

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